[handiham-world] Handiham World Weekly E-Letter for the week of Wednesday, 30 March 2011

  • From: "Patrick Tice" <wa0tda@xxxxxxxx>
  • To: <handiham-world@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 30 Mar 2011 14:58:51 -0500

This is a free weekly news & information update from Courage Center Handiham
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Welcome to Handiham World!  

Strap on your tool belt! We are jumping right into... 

Troubleshooting 101 continued: "My antenna is generating electricity and
giving me shocks!"

Description: Small tools and wire

Recap:  Last week we presented the following scenario and invited comments:

We are going back in time to when I worked at an antenna company, a job that
often involved talking directly to customers on the phone.  I would answer
questions and make suggestions about installation and troubleshooting.  One
fine day we got a call from a fellow who had installed one of our vertical
antennas.  He had ground mounted it, carefully following the instructions in
the manual.  This antenna came with an aluminum mounting post that was dug
into the ground and usually secured with a bag of do-it-yourself concrete
mix. A fiberglass dowel in the exposed end of the mounting post served as an
insulator and supported the vertical element of the antenna.  The center
conductor of an included length of a matching section of 75 Ohm coaxial
cable was connected with a stainless steel bolt to the main radiating
element and the braid was connected to another stainless bolt on the
grounded mounting post as well as to a ground rod within inches of the
antenna base.   The customer had to supply the remaining run of 50 Ohm coax
from the ham shack out to the antenna and connect it to the already
installed matching section with a barrel connector. When the customer called
us, he complained that his antenna was generating electricity and giving him
shocks.  He noticed this as he was trying to connect the two pieces of coax

Can you guess what was wrong and suggest what questions I might have asked
the customer to verify my theory?  For bonus points, what did I have to tell
him to resolve the problem? 

I got some good comments back from you, so it's time to share your
brilliance in troubleshooting with our readers and listeners:

*       From Tom, WA6IVG: Unless he'd driven the antenna's mounting rod into
a buried power cable, (unlikely) the problem just about has to be bad
station ground. Ask exactly what the coax run is connected to, and how said
equipment is grounded. If the station isn't closely connected, with heavy
wire or braid, to the electrical service ground, or better yet to a separate
ground rod and said service ground, then that's what to do. Also check that
power main connections are two standard 3 prong grounded outlet boxes. In a
totally desperate situation, of 2 prong power, maybe reversing 2 prong cords
could provide a temporary, unorthodox solution but bad idea. If all is
claimed to be as it should be, then his station and antenna must be on 2
different continents. 

*       From Mike, KJ6CBW: The customer was getting shocked when connecting
the long run of coax to the 75-ohm run from the ground-mounted vertical that
has its coax braid connected to ground rods. The two coax cables are at
different ground potentials. I think the most likely cause is that the
station is not grounded because the power line isn't grounded or a 2-wire
plug is being used where a 3-wire plug is appropriate. Another possibility
is that the ground rods at the antenna intercepted a buried telephone line
or cable-company cable, which make the antenna ground different from that of
the long coax. Please don't shoot me, I'm new at this. ..!

*       And fasten your seatbelt for this one from Kevin, [formerly: N1PKE
]: I have been pondering your *Troubleshooting 101, query, supra, and have
attempted to extrapolate a scenario that would lead to such a conclusion as
that of getting poked with an electrical current while I was hooking-up my
antenna feed-line connections; wherein initially, I would cast basic
common-sense to the literal wind, and just to make sure that things were to
be a little more interesting, I would wait until the middle of the frigid
winter season, for a night when there was very little light and there was
then, e.g., currently, a frozen sleet / snow storm with full-gale winds
occurring; just to make sure that Mr. Murphy would have all of the available
advantages to be had, at his disposal; oh, and I would purposely plug-in and
turn-on, e.g., charge my electrical circuitry with an electrical current,
just to make sure that if anything went horribly wrong, that it would be the
last time that I would ever have to address such a problematic situation.
After all, why would I want to abrasively clean-up & 'tin' any of my
integral and important electrical connections? I simply would refuse to
apply any dielectric dope-grease and/or silicon caulk to any of my in-line
electrical components and/or fixtures; and, as a matter of establishing a
ground, I would first, have several-hundred yards of my fertile, composted
soil removed, and then replaced with several hundred yards of coarse beach
sand, just to make sure that I had an earthen environment that promoted
instability of antenna constructive support and near zero ohms of
conductivity. In this way, I would have assured myself, of having an almost
completely isolated radiating antenna element, that I could then have used
to have my soaked, limpid corpse hung-up on, as an object lesson for folks
whom mistakenly believed that incessant adherence to safety considerations
were foolhardy ruminations to be utilized by keenly sensitive brainiacs,
wherein, I would think that I would in the future, be included in a list of:
"DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME or ANYWHERE ELSE Listings", those listed, right
next and/or near to, my newspaper obituary listing! 

I think I got it right?

Wow, those are all great comments.  Of course the antenna didn't "generate"
electricity.  Our wise readers and listeners know that the difference in
potential exists when all pieces of equipment in the station and out at the
antenna are not at the same ground potential. One of the first questions I
asked the customer (knowing about the possibility of that ground potential
problem) was whether he had unplugged the station equipment in the ham shack
from the AC power mains.  He had not, and because the station was not
properly grounded, there was a potentially dangerous voltage difference
between the plugged-in radio and the grounded antenna.  I felt that he was
lucky not to have been electrocuted!  Kevin's "Do not try this at home"
applies here for sure.  Always disconnect equipment from the AC mains before
doing any service on your antennas and feedlines.  This is especially
important to remember as we get warmer weather and our thoughts turn toward
doing some of that antenna work we have been putting off during the cold
winter months.  And I mustn't forget:  Although I do ground my station
equipment, I never trust the ground to protect me.  I always disconnect the
power before working on the antenna system, because I know that a grounding
system might fail.  There is no sense taking unnecessary risks when you are
working around any kind of electrical equipment. 

Another thought that was brought up is the possibility of a ground rod
hitting a buried power cable.  The way to avoid that problem is to be sure
that your antenna site is clear of underground utilities.  Find out from
your utility company what number to call to set up a free inspection and
marking of your property so that you will know where underground lines are
buried.  Here in my area we have a single number to call and they send out a
worker to mark underground lines like gas and electric with spray paint
right on the ground over the lines. "Gopher State One Call" is our system,
but you will have a similar service in your area.  Be aware, though, that
such services will not let you know about things like the location of
underground lawn sprinkling systems that are not part of the utility system.

Since the antenna in question was a vertical, one has to be especially
careful assembling it on the ground and then swinging it up into place on
the mounting post.  You have yourself a 26 foot long aluminum stick and you
are holding it with both hands, so you most definitely do not want to swing
it up into a power line!  Since my caller was in fact alive to call and tell
me that his antenna was "generating electricity", I pretty much assumed that
he didn't make that particular mistake.  Direct contact with even a
household power line in such a situation is often deadly because the current
will flow from power line to antenna through the victim's arms and through
the chest cavity, where it will likely cause the heart to stop or go into

Anyway, when you are answering customer complaints like this one, the most
likely cause usually turns out to be the right one.  He had indeed left the
rig plugged into the AC mains and was getting a shock because of some fault
in his equipment or station ground.  

Stay safe and out of the obituaries! 


More solar storminess

Space Weather News reports that "...a profusion of emerging sunspots has
kicked off a days-long radio storm on the sun. VHF receivers on Earth are
picking up loud bursts that sound like waves crashing on a beach. This
ongoing event continues a recent trend of increasing activity as Solar Cycle
24 heats up. Check http://spaceweather.com for audio and images of the
instigating sunspots." 


From the Handiham Radio Club President

Ken, KB3LLA, passed this news item along:

HAMPTON, Va. -- An award-winning NASA-produced television program, "NASA
360," is available at the online video service hulu.com at:


The site features four 30-minute episodes that show how composite materials
are changing our world, how NASA has tested space technologies on Earth and
what NASA researchers are doing to improve aviation. More programs will be
added in the coming weeks.

"It's awesome that millions of monthly Hulu users have the chance to watch
NASA 360 and learn how NASA technology contributes to our daily lives," said
the show's co-producer, Mike Bibbo. "We're proud of the programs' exciting
topics and visual content, so we know viewers won't be disappointed."

A team at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., co-produces the
program with the National Institute of Aerospace, also in Hampton. In
addition to Hulu, the program airs on NASA Television, select airlines and
450 public broadcasting, cable and commercial stations across the country.
More than five million people have watched the show at:


NASA 360 also is available on YouTube, MySpace and Facebook. Viewers also
can subscribe to the video podcast through iTunes. A Langley team also is
developing an application for mobile phones. Actor Johnny Alonso and local
TV and radio personality Jennifer Pulley host the show. For more information
about NASA TV programs and schedules, visit:


For information about NASA Langley, visit:


For information about the National Institute of Aerospace, visit:



Congratulations to:

HamventionR Award Winner Shirley Roberts, N8LX, who is Amateur of the Year.
We hope to see Shirley at the Handiham booth during this year's Dayton
HamventionR 2011, May 20-22. The theme of this year's show is "Global
Friendship".  Find out more on the official website:




Description: Dog barking at mailman. Jasper loves our mail carrier - she
gives him a treat when she stops by!

TRAINING VIDEO 1943 - Voice of Victory 

These are long but interesting to anyone interested in a bit of important
radio history, and how HAM radio contributed during WWII. Takes a total of
around 30 minutes to view both videos, so don't bother opening them unless
you have some spare time. Open the first link first as the 2nd one picks up
where the first ends. By the way, this is what a QRO rig should look like.
Can hardly imagine the weight of this thing.

73, Shel N0DRX

Here is a video of the fabrication of the Hallicrafters (HT4 / BC610)
transmitter. It is being readied for deployment in mobile units (SCR-299s).
A number a favorable comments are given to hams throughout the video with
regards to their testing and QA of the gear. They sure don't make em like
that anymore!

(Check out the 20 meter CQ about 3:00 min into it; how about that "Angel
Music" w/ the D-104?

(Part II)

Phil Temples, K9HI, sent this paragraph along from the Harvard Wireless Club
meeting minutes:

"Phil Temples, former HWC member and now ARRL EMA Section Manager, was our
honored guest. Phil chatted with us and told us it was good to see some
young faces. Phil volunteers some his time every year to "Handihams" which
is an organization that provides tools for people with disabilities to learn
Amateur Radio and technology skills, and to earn their Amateur Radio
licenses. Phil showed us a video outlining all their great work. Great Job,
Phil! I told Phil that he is always welcome here at the Harvard Wireless
Club. We are very grateful to Phil for coming down and spending some time
with us."

Jennifer, KC9AGR, recently visited New York and has this photo of her in
front of the Broadway play poster "Phantom of the Opera".

Description: KC9AGR poses in front of huge Phantom of the Opera show poster
in theater lobby.


USA Today: Ham radio operators concerned about losing band

USA Today has taken notice of the concern amateur radio operators have about
HR-607, the House bill that would allow the government to sell off 70 cm
frequencies that are currently used by amateur radio operators here in the
United States. The story begins:

"Ham radio enthusiasts nationwide are concerned about a bill in Congress
that they say would limit their ability to help in disasters and

Read the entire story on the USA Today site:


Held over by popular demand: Website makes letter writing regarding HR-607

Richard Haltermon, KD4PYR, has created a website that makes it very easy to
develop a letter for your Congressional representative regarding HR-607 (the
bill that would sell off 420-440 MHz). This is as easy as it gets folks!
Just enter your callsign and it does the rest.

Bill Morine, N2COP, writes:

"...we used Jim Weaver's software http://www.kd4pyr.net/hamletter.htm to
generate HR-607 letters this past weekend at the Charlotte Hamfest, and it
worked wonderfully."

Please get this info out to clubs and groups.


Send then to: 

John Chwat 
Chwat & Co. 
625 Slaters Lane 
Suite 103 
Alexandria, VA 22314


A dip in the pool

Description: circuit board

This week we consider the value of our UHF frequencies, such as those
threatened by HR607. 

T3C01 asks:  Why are "direct" (not via a repeater) UHF signals rarely heard
from stations outside your local coverage area? 

Possible answers are:

A. They are too weak to go very far 

B. FCC regulations prohibit them from going more than 50 miles 

C. UHF signals are usually not reflected by the ionosphere 

D. They collide with trees and shrubbery and fade out

Did you answer "C", UHF signals are usually not reflected by the ionosphere?
That is one of the characteristics that makes the UHF spectrum valuable.
Consider that you want reliable communications within a given service area.
It can be disruptive to have distant signals skipping in like HF signals!
The value of UHF lies in this reliable freedom from interference from
distant stations.  


Remote Base Health Report for 30 March 2011

Description: Remote Base Update

The W0EQO Handiham Remote Base HF station is functioning normally.

W0ZSW is back in service for the time being, but we have noticed that the
DSL circuit is a bit flaky and we sometimes lose internet. We are looking
into the problem.  The new radio, a TS-480HX, and new computer are in place.
The system now returns frequency information for our blind users, thanks to
the VGS1 speech module. 

Please let me know if the volume setting of the frequency readout is too
loud or soft or just right.  Sounds like Goldilocks and the three bears...!
We may have to temporarily kill the speech frequency output if it is too
loud.  I will have to be at the radio to do any further fine adjustments. 

*       IRB Sound has been disabled, but Echolink and Skype sound are
functioning normally. We do not recommend the use of IRB sound for either

W0EQO is at Camp Courage North, Lake George, MN, deep in the pines of
northern Minnesota's lake country. Underground power lines and an isolated
rural setting contribute to a quiet RF environment. The 100W station feeds a
G5RV up about 35'.  W0EQO location information has been added:

W0ZSW is located at Camp Courage on Cedar Lake about an hour west of
Minneapolis, MN. W0ZSW location information has been added:

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

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.


This week @ HQ

*       Nancy is out of the office for the next week & a half. I wish I
could do everything that she does with the database, orders, and
applications, but I can't.  I will do my best to keep up with as much as I
*       I will be teaching "Communicating with other Hams" on Thursday
evening at the Stillwater, MN Public Library. This is part of my local
club's Technician class series.  I hope that you will consider helping out
your club as an instructor for a class that will help newcomers learn about
amateur radio. 
*       QST digest audio for April is ready for our blind members. There is
about an hour and a half of audio.
*       George, N0SBU, reports that the March digest will be mailed along
with the April digest for our blind members who do not have computers.  
*       Radio Camp will be from Monday 8 August to Saturday 13 August, 2011.
*       Worldradio digest audio for April 2011 is available to our blind

.         Tonight is EchoLink net night.  The Wednesday evening EchoLink net
is at 19:30 United States Central time, which translates to +5 hours, or
00:30 GMT Thursday morning. 

o    EchoLink nodes:

*       KA0PQW-R, node 267582
*       N0BVE-R, node 89680
*       HANDIHAM conference server Node 494492 (Our preferred high-capacity

o    Other ways to connect:

*       IRLP node 9008 (Vancouver BC reflector)
WIRES system number 1427

*       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


Supporting Handihams - 2011. 

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&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 2011.


Thank you from the Members, Volunteers, and Staff of the Handiham System

Patrick Tice, WA0TDA, Handiham Manager

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

.         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:

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!


Manager, Courage Handiham System

Reach me by email at:

Nancy, Handiham Secretary:

Radio Camp email:


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.

Courage Center Handiham System
3915 Golden Valley Road
Golden Valley, MN  55422




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  • » [handiham-world] Handiham World Weekly E-Letter for the week of Wednesday, 30 March 2011 - Patrick Tice