This is a free weekly news & information update from Courage Center Handiham System. Our contact information is at the end, or simply email handiham@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx for changes in subscriptions or to comment. You can listen to this news online: MP3 audio stream: http://www.handiham.org/audio/handiham.m3u Download the 40 kbs MP3 audio to your portable player: http://www.handiham.org/audio/handiham.mp3 Get this podcast in iTunes: <http://www.itunes.com/podcast?id=372422406> Description: Subscribe in iTunes RSS feed for the audio podcast if you use other podcasting software: http://feeds.feedburner.com/handiham _____ Welcome to Handiham World! Description: Snow covers the coils on a Butternut vertical antenna. Photo: Snow is piled up on the WA0TDA Butternut vertical. Welcome to another new year. Can you believe it? It's the last week of 2010, and we are tying the ribbons on another year here at Handiham headquarters. I can't help but notice on the television, radio, and other media that a popular activity this time of year is the retrospective. Everyone seems to want to set out their own list of significant events that happened over the past year. Why should we be any different? At the end of the year it probably makes sense to take stock of what has happened, both good and bad, and where we think we might need to go from here. Let's get the bad out of the way first so that we don't have to worry about it anymore. From our perspective, 2010 wasn't exactly an easy year to get through. The lingering effects of the Great Recession were still very evident in the world of non-profits. We had to deal with budget cutbacks and staff cuts. The economists say that we are no longer in a recession, but some of the everyday conversations I have had throughout the past year in places ranging from the barbershop to the city park while walking the dog say otherwise. The nice lady who cuts my hair at the barbershop was also cutting back on Christmas gifts for her kids. Her husband had been laid off for some time now. A fellow dog walker mentioned the involuntary furlough from his work. Nonetheless, we still hold out hope that people will come through for us and support the Handiham program, and we certainly hope that the economists have their heads on straight and that they are right about everything getting better. We consolidated our office move from Golden Valley out to Camp Courage at Maple Lake, Minnesota during 2010. Our office space is roomy and convenient for operation of the new remote base equipment available to our members via the Internet. 2010 also saw the move of Minnesota Radio Camp from Camp Courage North to our new headquarters at Camp Courage in Maple Lake. We all appreciated the new state-of-the-art cabin space, though we encountered some noise problems on the HF stations from florescent lighting fixtures. Holding the camp in the month of May didn't work out quite as well as we planned, with somewhat windy weather limiting our time available to operate maritime mobile from the pontoon boat. The volunteers of the Stillwater Amateur Radio Association stepped up to the plate and really helped get the stations set up and operate the VE session. All told, I would have to rate the office move as much more difficult than the radio camp move, but both worked out quite well in the end. Our phone numbers and mailing address remained the same as before, which made things easier. 2010 saw the addition of the second remote base station, W0ZSW, which we located at our new headquarters. The existing remote base at Courage North, W0EQO, remained in operation and will continue to do so. Since the stations are hundreds of miles apart, they can be operated at the same time with no worries about interference with each other. Station reliability has been good over the past year with minimal downtime. Our users have been resourceful and have enjoyed the stations with very few requests for technical support. Another resource added to our Camp Courage infrastructure was the W0EQO 2 m repeater, thanks to a loan of the equipment from Don, N0BVE, and installation and oversight assistance from other folks, including Matt, KA0PQW. This repeater has been in operation serving the Maple Lake area since last May. We are on track to get a new frequency pair and do some necessary upgrades. 2010 saw increased participation in our online audio lectures and a drop in cassette tape production. This is expected as Handiham members make the transition to web-based and digital audio. We made a few new Daisy book projects and we are trying to figure out how successful these were and where we will go with them in 2011. Ken, KB3LLA, helped us out quite a bit when we had Daisy questions. Our volunteers who read for us monthly, Ken Padgitt, W9MJY, and Bob Zeida, N1BLF, continued their efforts in support of making current amateur radio publications accessible to our blind members, enabling us to have material in a much more timely manner then it would be available from other sources. Band conditions improved somewhat in 2010, but so far this new solar cycle has been lagging and HF band conditions along with it. Fortunately, the Handiham EchoLink net stayed healthy and enjoyed good participation throughout the year. Regular net control assignments were developed during 2010, and that extra organization really helped keep the net on track. Our net control volunteers did a wonderful job, though, as some have noted, there have been a few bumps in the road considering that some of our net participants are relatively new to amateur radio and EchoLink. Overall, I would judge the net to be a wonderful success over the past year and I am thankful that we have it available as HF band conditions continued to be marginal. The addition of the *HANDIHAM* high capacity conference server hosted by Mike, N0VZC, was a huge help in keeping the Handiham EchoLink net organized. I would have to say that 2010 struck me as the year that Chinese handheld radios started coming into their own. Several models include self-voicing features that blind users will find helpful. One game-changer in this radio market is the low cost of even dual-band handheld radios coming from China. We will be watching this trend with a great deal of interest, especially the availability of self-voicing accessibility features. 2010 was the first year ever that a self-voicing Chinese handheld radio was demonstrated at Handiham Radio Camp, thanks to Larry, KA0LSG. When I installed a new ICOM IC-7200 transceiver here in my own ham shack early this year, I was pleased to note that it came with a speech function already in the circuitry, which meant that there was no extra speech chip for blind users to purchase. Another trend in the new radios is the USB connector at the back to provide for rig control and porting of audio between the transceiver and the computer. This will make remote base control easier than ever. It also has the potential to allow users with disabilities to control more radio functions more easily via computer software. ARRL put its excellent new website online during 2010. Overall, the availability of more amateur radio resources via the Internet was a positive trend because people with disabilities often use computers to gain access to information. We continued to keep the Handiham website updated and accessible as well, and continue to work toward simplicity of use and solid functionality so that our Handiham members will be able to make the most of everything that we put online. As far as I can recall, we had only one short web outage during 2010, which meant that the website was pretty reliable. Overall I would have to describe 2010 as a year in which the Handiham system made significant strides toward serving members in new and better ways while continuing to hold fast to our values of helping people with disabilities to earn their amateur radio licenses and be part of a vibrant amateur radio community. Those things have always been at the core of what we do, and we have all pulled together to make the past year a success, even with not so good HF band conditions and the less than ideal economic situation. I guess I would have to say that I am pretty satisfied with where we are at the moment, and I am keeping my fingers crossed and hoping for 2011 to be a year full of good DX, lots of activity on the ham radio nets, and - as always - fun and friendship combined with learning and public service here in our Handiham community. Patrick Tice, WA0TDA Handiham System Manager <mailto:wa0tda@xxxxxxxx> wa0tda@xxxxxxxx _____ Predictions for the New Year Description: Plugged in cartoon robot So where do you think the new year of 2011 will lead us in amateur radio? Will there be any stunning new technology introduced at Dayton HAMVENTIONR in May? Will the sun burst to life with impressive sunspot numbers, resulting in fantastic DX conditions? Will any new assistive technology leap to the forefront as the "must-have" new gadget of the year? I'm going to stick my neck out and share my prognostications for 2011. They may be flat-out wrong, but the weatherman is wrong lots of the time too, and he still has his job. * Chinese handheld radios and newly-introduced mobile VHF/UHF radios will continue to create interest in the amateur radio market worldwide. The low prices for these units may produce some downward price pressure in the overall amateur radio equipment market. Whether this will ultimately mean lower prices for consumers in the short term with fewer choices later on, it is hard to say. Quality will remain somewhat less impressive in these Chinese radios compared to that of the Japanese manufacturers, at least in this coming year. * The sunspot cycle will produce higher numbers, but still be sub-par compared to previous cycles when we enjoyed great HF band conditions. Still, it will be more fun to get on HF and work DX, and it will be easier to do so in 2011 than it was several years ago thanks to improving solar conditions. Bottom line: Now is the time to upgrade to General. * This is an easy prediction because it happens every time there's a change in the question pool. People will suddenly discover that they have been dragging their feet a little bit too long in studying for their General Class licenses and that they will be required to test from a completely new General Class question pool starting on July 1. I don't know why this always seems to be a surprise, but I guess people just have a hard time remembering that the question pools are changed on a rotating basis. 2011 is the year for the new General Class. Just as predictable is the likelihood of a higher demand for VE sessions in late June. If you find yourself in this predicament, study now and test as early as possible. * Remote base operation of HF stations will come back into the amateur radio consciousness as more and more equipment becomes available with easy computer connectivity, such as USB ports that can send and receive both rig control data and digital audio between the radio and the computer. This development will make it easier for people to consider setting up their own remote base stations. Meanwhile, EchoLink will remain a very strong contender, getting quite a bit of use around the world every day. These technological developments will continue to dovetail nicely with the goals and capabilities of an aging population of baby boomers looking toward retirement housing but not wanting to deal with huge antenna systems. * 2011 just could be the year when the online-only magazine Worldradio really shines as a leader in the amateur radio publishing business. As everyone knows, publishing houses are caught in a tug-of-war between print and digital. People with disabilities have a stake in digital, because it has the potential to provide much more timely accessibility to more material than print publications ever could. It may be just a little too early to predict the availability of all amateur radio publications online, but I think the unmistakable trend in the publishing business is to at least augment print material with similar if not exact duplicates available online with either an advertising-based business model or a pay-for business model or some combination of the two. This will be interesting to watch. In 2010 the ARRL made its Technician, General, and Extra Q&A books available through Amazon's Kindle reader. All of these ARRL publications have the text-to-speech Kindle option enabled, a great convenience for blind and low vision users. I will say for sure that I think 2011 will see more and more digital publications in the amateur radio realm. * Repeater systems without Internet connectivity such as EchoLink, WIRES, or IRLP will continue to be underutilized during 2011. In 2010, some of these repeater systems barely had any activity at all. Other digital repeater systems will probably hold their own, but remain regional in nature and not reach most of the amateur radio users. * Amateur radio operators may get a real public service workout this Spring as huge amounts of snowfall and heavy precipitation in March bring regional flooding here in the Midwest and in other parts of the country. There is already a great deal of snow on the ground in the upper Midwest and Spring flooding is a near-certainty. And my last big prediction: * We will be ready to deliver an exciting new year of Handiham services beginning on Monday, 3 January 2011. _____ FCC acts on Net Neutrality Description: FCC round logo Action Helps Ensure Robust Internet for Consumers, Innovation, Investment, Economic Prosperity Washington, D.C. - On December 21 the Federal Communications Commission acted to preserve the Internet as an open network enabling consumer choice, freedom of expression, user control, competition and the freedom to innovate. Chairman Genachowski voted for the Order; Commissioner Copps concurred and Commissioner Clyburn approved in part and concurred in part. Commissioners McDowell and Baker dissented. In 2009, the FCC launched a public process to determine whether and what actions might be necessary to preserve the characteristics that have allowed the Internet to grow into an indispensable platform supporting our nation's economy and civic life, and to foster continued investment in the physical networks that enable the Internet. This process has made clear that the Internet has thrived because of its freedom and openness -- the absence of any gatekeeper blocking lawful uses of the network or picking winners and losers online. Consumers and innovators do not have to seek permission before they use the Internet to launch new technologies, start businesses, connect with friends, or share their views. The Internet is a level playing field. Consumers can make their own choices about what applications and services to use and are free to decide what content they want to access, create, or share with others. This openness promotes competition. It also enables a self-reinforcing cycle of investment and innovation in which new uses of the network lead to increased adoption of broadband, which drives investment and improvements in the network itself, which in turn lead to further innovative uses of the network and further investment in content, applications, services, and devices. A core goal of this Order is to foster and accelerate this cycle of investment and innovation. (FCC) Read more on the Handiham website: <http://www.handiham.org/node/1002> http://www.handiham.org/node/1002 _____ Letters Description: FT-718 rig Daryl, AE5WX,writes about the EchoLink net: While I've heard the Net Controls announce that "if you double up, we'll be around until the end of the net to get everybody", it seems that at times there also seems to be a "mad rush" to be the first ones to check in. I've gotten to where on my nets after the Emergency and Priority Traffic, and the announcements are covered, I then ask for "mobile, portable, and short of time check-ins", before opening it up to everybody. It's not the end of the world if a station doesn't get to check in first, or if they miss a net, but so many hams seem to forget that "patience is a virtue". If I am just checking into a net, and not actually running it, I wait until the net is almost over to turn on the rig or computer, and avoid the "mad rush". But by then I may have missed important traffic passed earlier on the net. The bottom line is that stations need to be more careful when connecting to the net, to follow the instructions of Net Control, and be sure to properly disconnect with they are finished. Ken, KB3LLA, sent this link to an interesting online short story: http://hermiene.net/short-stories/haunted_space_suit.html John, NU6P, was kind enough to write me back about the availability of the ARRL Technician License Manual 2nd Edition at Bookshare.org: The license manual is available in DAISY text, and as a grade II Braille file. I am not sure how much mark up it contains, but it should be very searchable. Pierre, K9EYE, liked this link to an old army Morse Code training film on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R-petiNdCIY _____ Connecting with EchoLink Description: EchoLink screenshot In today's edition of this Connecting with EchoLink segment, I would like to point out the need for some volunteers to host semi-private EchoLink proxies for the use of Handiham members who simply cannot gain access to the routers where they live in order to forward ports so that EchoLink will work properly on their computers. This is a problem I have run into from time to time while trying to assist Handiham members as they get started with EchoLink. Remember, not everyone has the option to access the router that serves up their Internet connectivity. Some Handiham members live in assisted living homes or other situations where gaining access to the administrative settings in a home router is simply not possible. These Handiham members then have to depend on finding a public EchoLink proxy, and if you have ever tried to do that yourself, you know that sometimes a proxy is available and sometimes it is not. Most often you have to go through the entire process of finding a new proxy every time you open the EchoLink application. People with disabilities may find this quite a challenging task as they use assistive technology to run their computers. It is usually much harder for them than it is for someone who can see the screen and use the computer mouse. To help solve this problem I would like to propose that some of us with the means to do so set up semi-private EchoLink proxies for the use of small numbers of Handiham members who find themselves in the situation of not being able to use EchoLink because of their router situation. With perhaps only two or three potential users per proxy, we could help get more Handiham members on EchoLink. Believe me, if you have ever tried to help someone with an EchoLink firewall problem over the phone, you will understand that this is a good idea. There is information on the EchoLink website about setting up a proxy. Take a look at the EchoLink proxy support information and perhaps you might decide to give it a try. If you can help with this project, drop me a line at wa0tda@xxxxxxxxx _____ A dip in the pool Description: circuit board Today's dip into the question pool takes us to the Extra Class question pool: Question E6A12 asks: Why do many MOSFET devices have built-in gate-protective Zener diodes? Your possible answers are: A. To provide a voltage reference for the correct amount of reverse-bias gate voltage B. To protect the substrate from excessive voltages C. To keep the gate voltage within specifications and prevent the device from overheating D. To reduce the chance of the gate insulation being punctured by static discharges or excessive voltages Darn, this one is kind of hard, because several answers seem pretty plausible. We have to remember to look at the question itself for clues to the answer whenever we take a multiple-choice test. In this case, the phrase "gate-protective" gives us a clue. The correct answer is D: To reduce the chance of the gate insulation being punctured by static discharges or excessive voltages, and the reason is that MOSFET devices are very sensitive to static discharges and the gate insulation can be broken down by the relatively high voltage of a static discharge, even though the current is very small. The Zener diode shunts the discharge away, saving the gate. _____ Remote base progress report: 29 December 2010 Description: Kenwood TS-570 Both stations are functional. Report problems to wa0tda@xxxxxxxxx Would you like to try the station right now? If you would like to connect to the station via EchoLink to listen to the radio, you can search for W0ZSW-L, node 524906, and connect. Entering a frequency and pressing the enter key will allow you to change the radio's receive frequency from the EchoLink text box. Enter U, L, or A for Upper sideband, Lower sideband, or AM, respectively. One thing to remember is that EchoLink control only works on receive, not transmit, and it is only available if there is no control operator logged in to the W4MQ remote base software. Don't forget about our station at Courage North, in far northern Minnesota's lake country. If you would like to connect to the station via EchoLink to listen to the radio, you can search for W0EQO-L, node 261171, and connect. Just as with the other station, entering a frequency and pressing the enter key will allow you to change the radio's receive frequency from the EchoLink text box. Enter U, L, or A for Upper sideband, Lower sideband, or AM, respectively. One thing to remember is that EchoLink control only works on receive, not transmit, and it is only available if there is no control operator logged in to the W4MQ remote base software. _____ On the air Description: J-38 code key Don't forget about ARRL Straight Key Night on New Year's Eve! http://www.arrl.org/straight-key-night _____ This week @ HQ * The Handiham office will be closed on Friday, December 31. Next week we are open to tackle a new year beginning on Monday 3 January 2011. * Handiham nets continue as scheduled during the holidays. If there is no net control, enjoy an informal roundtable session. Don't drop your radio into the eggnog. * Worldradio digest audio for January 2011 has been completed by Bob Zeida, N1BLF, and is available to our blind members. * QST digest audio for January 2011 has been completed by Pat Tice and Ken Padgitt, and is available to our blind members. * Don't put it off! General Class students had better study faster. The NCVEC Question Pool Committee has completed the new General Class pool, which will be effective on 1 July 2011. We have heard that the pool questions are more difficult, and there are more total questions in the new pool. Our advice to those of you who have been dragging your feet about getting your General Class upgrade is to get busy right now and pass that General! If you wait too long, you will have to go through the new pool and take a harder exam. * A big thank you to our net control stations for "saying yes" and volunteering for this leadership role. We really appreciate your help and everyone has noticed that the nets are running more smoothly than ever. * Thanks to George, N0SBU, for getting the digest audio sent out again and throughout the entire past year! I think his dog PJ helped him out in the mailroom. . Tonight is net night. The Wednesday evening EchoLink net is at 19:30 United States Central time, which translates to +6 hours, or 01:30 GMT Thursday morning. EchoLink nodes: KA0PQW-R, node 267582 N0BVE-R, node 89680 HANDIHAM conference server Node 494492 (Our preferred high-capacity node.) Other ways to connect: IRLP node 9008 (Vancouver BC reflector) WIRES system number 1427 * We need an Echolink, IRLP, or WIRES node in Rochester, MN so that Sister Alverna, WA0SGJ, can continue to check into the Handiham net. Chris, KG0BP, has shut down his node because he has moved to the Twin Cities. * Stay in touch! Be sure to send Nancy your changes of address, phone number changes, or email address changes so that we can continue to stay in touch with you. You may either email Nancy at hamradio@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx or call her toll-free at 1-866-426-3442. Mornings are the best time to contact us. _____ Supporting Handihams - Year-end is a critical time. Description: graphic showing figure using wheelchair holding hand of standing figure Now you can support the Handiham program by donating on line using Courage Center's secure website. It is easy, but one thing to remember is that you need to use the pull-down menu to designate your gift to the Handiham program. . Step one: Follow this link to the secure Courage Center Website: https://couragecenter.us/SSLPage.aspx?pid=294 <https://couragecenter.us/SSLPage.aspx?pid=294&srcid=344> &srcid=344 . Step two: Fill out the form, being careful to use the pull-down Designation menu to select "Handi-Hams". . Step three: Submit the form to complete your donation. If the gift is a tribute to someone, don't forget to fill out the tribute information. This would be a gift in memory of a silent key, for example. We really appreciate your help. As you know, we have cut expenses this year due to the difficult economic conditions. We are working hard to make sure that we are delivering the most services to our members for the money - and we plan to continue doing just that in 2010. _____ Thank you from the Members, Volunteers, and Staff of the Handiham System Patrick Tice, WA0TDA, Handiham Manager patt@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Handiham Membership Dues Reminder: Handiham renewals are on a monthly schedule - Please renew or join, as we need you to keep our program strong! You will have several choices when you renew: . Join at the usual $10 annual dues level for one year. Your renewal date is the anniversary of your last renewal, so your membership extends for one year. . Join for three years at $30. . Lifetime membership is $100. . If you can't afford the dues, request a sponsored membership for the year. . Donate an extra amount of your choice to help support our activities. . Discontinue your membership. Please return your renewal form as soon as possible. Your support is critical! Please help. The Courage Handiham System depends on the support of people like you, who want to share the fun and friendship of ham radio with others. Please help us provide services to people with disabilities. We would really appreciate it if you would remember us in your estate plans. If you need a planning kit, please call. If you are wondering whether a gift of stock can be given to Handihams, the answer is yes! Please call Walt Seibert at 763-520-0532 or email him at walt.seibert@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Ask for a free DVD about the Handiham System. It's perfect for your club program, too! The video tells your club about how we got started, the Radio Camps, and working with hams who have disabilities. Call 1-866-426-3442 toll-free.1-866-426-3442 toll-free -- Help us get new hams on the air. Get the Handiham E-Letter by email every Wednesday, and stay up-to-date with ham radio news. You may listen in audio to the E-Letter at www.handiham.org <http://www.handiham.org/> . Email us to subscribe: hamradio@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Handiham members with disabilities can take an online audio course at www.handiham.org <http://www.handiham.org/> : . Beginner . General . Extra . Operating Skills That's it for this week. 73 from all of us at the Courage Handiham System! Pat, WA0TDA Manager, Courage Handiham System Reach me by email at: patt@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Nancy, Handiham Secretary: hamradio@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Radio Camp email: radiocamp@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx _____ Description: ARRL Diamond logo ARRL is the premier organization supporting amateur radio worldwide. Please contact Handihams for help joining the ARRL. We will be happy to help you fill out the paperwork! The weekly e-letter is a compilation of software tips, operating information, and Handiham news. It is published on Wednesdays, and is available to everyone free of charge. Please email wa0tda@xxxxxxxx for changes of address, unsubscribes, etc. Include your old email address and your new address.