[handiham-world] Handiham World Weekly E-Letter for the week of Wednesday, 9 February 2011

  • From: "Patrick Tice" <wa0tda@xxxxxxxx>
  • To: <handiham-world@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 9 Feb 2011 16:04:10 -0600

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

Description: Three ARRL Handbooks, 1944, 1989, and 2011. 

We're all familiar with cartoons showing evolution with a sea creature
crawling up onto the land and evolving into a succession of higher
creatures, finally ending up with a guy talking on a cell phone or some such
silly thing. Books go through an evolutionary process, as is shown in the
accompanying photo.  I lined up three editions of the ARRL Handbook, one
from 1944, when World War 2 was still a year from winding down, another from
1989, when my son Will, KC0LJL, was born, and the very newest one, the
2011edition. I thought it would be fun to take a look at how this
long-standing, highly respected reference book evolved through the post-WW2
era.  Of course with only three samples, this is anything but a scholarly
assessment. Still, it will be fun to compare these three books, so let's get

How they look

For those of you listening on the podcast, the 1944 edition is titled "The
radio amateur's handbook". It's a paperback edition with a red cover and a
large blue ARRL diamond logo. It stands out from the other two books
immediately because of its much smaller dimensions. It's probably just over
one half the dimensional size of the others, and has far fewer pages, under
500. The edition year, 1944, is featured in white letters on the red
background. Below that is the real shocker, the $1 price. 

The 1989 "ARRL Handbook", renamed to make the title simpler and showcase the
ARRL, is a bigger hardcover book, blue at the top and fading down to green
at the bottom. A montage of color cover pictures tell the story of amateur
radio's many different facets, including Field Day operation, VHF/UHF, a
circuit board with integrated circuits, a rocket taking off, satellite
tracking software, and on the air operation. The familiar ARRL logo is still
there, but smaller.  I'm going to guess that there are probably 1200+ pages.
The price in the upper right corner says $21.

The 2011 "ARRL Handbook" looks to be about the same size as the 1989 model,
but has in excess of 1400 pages, perhaps on slightly thinner but higher
quality paper. It's a sedate monochrome blue hard cover but has a flashy,
attractive full-color jacket with a montage of a high-power transmitting
tube, what looks like a construction project for a small rig, a guy climbing
a tower while silhouetted against a fiery sunset, an SWR meter construction
project, and a picture of the CD that is enclosed.  More about that later.
The ARRL logo is still there, up near the top. The price? $49.95. It's no
longer on the front, but found in small type on the back along with the ISBN
and bar code. For bookstore browsers, there's a handy simplified table of
contents right on the back cover of the jacket. 


1944: Microscopic print size is arranged into two columns per page. There
are line drawings and schematics sprinkled throughout, along with black and
white photos. The text describing the figures is in a font that's even
smaller than the text in the body of each section.  They must have had
better eyes back in 1944 to see that fine print!  (I wouldn't know, since I
wasn't even born yet.)  One standout feature of the older handbooks is the
pages of vacuum tube diagrams near the back of the book.  This edition also
includes many pages of ads for various radios and components of the day. If
there is interest, I can take a look at some of those another time. One
theme that seems to hold in every Handbook edition is the construction
articles.  They are always practical, well-written, and useful. Of course
they are all vacuum tube projects, where point to point wiring was very
common, as opposed to the circuit boards we use today. The construction
article authors didn't do too much hand-holding. You had to know how to read
the schematics and were left to your devices as to the final circuit layout
and enclosure, though the photos offered ideas. 

1989: We are now clearly into the era of solid state electronics. At least
the typeface is a little more readable. Like the 1944 book, this one
features black and white line drawing and photos. Both the tube diagrams and
the advertising section have disappeared from the back of the book. There
are some templates that might be used in various construction projects -
always a mainstay of the Handbook. Although the projects are as exciting and
useful as ever, many still require a fair amount of builder savvy.  It's not
like putting a kit together!  

2011: The very newest, most current Handbook doesn't disappoint!  As big
dimensionally as the 1989 version, it runs in excess of 1,400 pages and has
black and white line drawings, schematics, and photos throughout. The print
quality is excellent probably because the paper has a smoother finish.  This
makes the photos sharper and the line drawings and graphs stand out. The
typeface is still on the smallish side, but the comments that accompany the
figures are in a bold Arial-family font that is easily read. The cover is a
subdued blue, but the paper jacket is a full-color glossy montage of a
high-power transmitting tube, the "2011" in huge letters, a couple of
construction projects, and a delightful photo of a guy on a tower with
stacked beams, silhouetted against a fiery sunset.  The ARRL diamond is
there, too, as well as the phrase " The Comprehensive RF Engineering
Reference", which is a clue to the excellent selection of need to have
available material inside.  It also proclaims, "Expanded and Revised
Edition!"  Notice the exclamation point, because it really is the best, most
useful (and accessible) version of the ARRL Handbook ever. This book is for
those of us who want to know how things work.  Sure, you can skip past the
manufacturer's specs when you shop for a transceiver and just look at the
knobs and buttons on the front panel, but if you would like to learn more
about what those specs mean, the Handbook will help you out. The many
construction projects include some that are pretty easy, and others that
will keep you busy all winter long. Best of all, everything in the book is
included on a searchable compact disk that is in a disk envelope at the back
of the book. The file format is PDF, but since the entire text is
searchable, that means that the embedded text should be available for
reading with accessibility tools like screen readers. At Radio Camp this
summer we will put this disk to the test, as we will have several really
experienced JAWS users, and perhaps some Window-Eyes users as well.  A
folder on the CD even includes companion software.

It is interesting to follow the evolution of the Handbook, because it is a
mainstay of amateur radio and can be used as a mirror into which we look to
see ourselves!  The amateur operator of 2011 operates more modes and uses
new technologies, but still has the same spirit of friendship,
communication, public service, and fun!

Patrick Tice, WA0TDA
Handiham System Manager <mailto:wa0tda@xxxxxxxx> 


New block on Handiham.org

Description: Screenshot of Remote Base Status block

What is a "new block", anyway?  Well, the Handiham website uses the
open-source content management system called "Drupal", which was recommended
a few years ago by Phil Temples, K9HI. Among Phil's volunteer duties is
helping with our website maintenance.  Drupal has proven to be a very good
system, since I can place stories online from any computer that has an
internet connection. One of the features of the Drupal system is that a
"block" containing special website features or information can be placed on
the site and remain independent of the regular website content.  The
"members only" log in is a block, as is the "Tek Talk Audio" block. A
sighted user will find these blocks on the left or right sidebar, with the
main news content of the site down the center. Mobile users will not see all
of this sidebar content, but will see the callsign lookup block. 

The new block we have added is called "Remote Base Status", and it appears
in the right sidebar at the top. It is designed to provide a quick link to
the current posted status of the two Handiham remote base internet stations,
W0EQO and W0ZSW.  If you checked early this morning, you would find out that
W0ZSW is offline, while W0EQO is working normally. The block also includes
HTML that I have written to "Report a problem" in case you find that one of
the stations is not working.  Clicking that link will open your email
program and start an empty email addressed to me at wa0tda@xxxxxxxx with
"Remote Base Problem Report" already filled in as the subject. Since I only
check the systems once or twice a day, I may not know when there has been a
failure, so I appreciate your help in letting us know when something is not
working right. 

The remote base status page is located at node 1005.  Drupal keeps web
stories in a database and each story has a node number. Thus, if you wanted
to go directly to the status page, you would follow the link to node 1005:

Beneath the Drupal system, we also maintain a static website that is
optimized for our blind users. I edit it with Microsoft Expression Web and
FrontPage. The index, or starting page, on this members site also has a
remote base status report, but it may not be updated as frequently because
it must be done from my main computer, where I maintain copies of the files
that I edit each week. 

Description: Screenshot of Members Only Section block in Drupal.

Getting to the members section requires logging in on the Drupal website,
and there is another "block" called "Members Only Section", where you will
find a place for your username and password if you are a Handiham member.
This is a member service and is set up by staff only for our members with
disabilities.  It is not possible to create your own username and password
as can be done on some other websites. Once a Handiham member logs in, the
Members Only Section block will display links to the Book & Tape List, Daisy
Materials (which has just been added to this block), Manuals, and the
Members Only Website. This block appears to sighted users in the upper part
of the left sidebar.  Mobile users will see it near the top of the page.
Some blind users prefer the mobile version of the Handiham website for its
ease of navigation. It works great on an iPod or iPhone, where you can use
the VoiceOver screenreader.

As we work to keep our website accessible, I would like to hear how things
are working for our users.  Please email me anytime at wa0tda@xxxxxxxx with
suggestions. I will put them in a folder and Phil and I can then try to
figure out how we can make things even better. 


Troubleshooting 101: Coax

Description: Small tools and wire

One of my many faults is forgetting how newcomers to ham radio might not
know even the most basic of practical troubleshooting skills. Since I've
been a ham since 1967, I've pretty well run into enough problems to build up
at least basic troubleshooting skills. In fact, most "seasoned" ops know
this stuff and we tend to just assume that everyone else should know it,

Of course that is wrong. Everyone needs to learn new things, and we have to
understand that what is old hat to us might be brand-new to someone else. It
is with that thought in mind that I am going to take a minute to explain how
to check a piece of coaxial cable for continuity.

To run this test, you need: 

*       a piece of coaxial cable
*       a multimeter with a continuity buzzer or ohmmeter
*       a short clip lead with an alligator clip on each end

It is always suspicious when your SWR readings jump up and down or change
radically when you haven't changed frequencies.  Perhaps you are listening
on a frequency and the signal cuts out and then comes back in as if a switch
were being turned off and on.  These symptoms could mean that you have a
feedline problem.  Troubleshooting a piece of coaxial cable, the most common
feedline used by radio amateurs, is easy, but you have to know how to do it.
You can practice on a short piece of coax, perhaps a jumper cable that you
have in your junk drawer.  

Start by making sure you have a working multimeter (with an audible
continuity buzzer if you are blind) and a clip lead. Both can be found at
Radio Shack.  Before you test the coax, you are going to test the multimeter
and the clip lead! Select the "continuity" or ohms setting on the multimeter
and make sure it is turned on if your meter has an on/off switch. Then take
the clip lead and connect one clip to the positive lead on the meter and the
other to the negative lead. You should hear the familiar tone or buzz that
indicates that there is a short between the meter leads.  If you don't hear
the tone (or see the needle swing to indicate a low-resistance short), check
to make sure that the meter is working by touching the positive and negative
probes together.  If there is still no sound, check the settings on the
meter and the condition of the meter's internal battery. If the meter works
but there is no continuity between the clips on the clip lead, find another
clip lead.

Once you are satisfied that the meter and clip lead are good to go, take
your test piece of coax, which should not be connected to anything on either
end, and touch one meter probe to the center conductor pin on one end of the
coax and the other meter probe to the outer shield of the body of the
connector.  You should hear nothing and the connection should be open. If
there is a sound and the meter indicates a short, try again and make sure
you did not accidentally short the two meter probe to each other while
trying to touch one to the center pin and the other to the outside of the
coax connector. If there is still a sound and the meter indicates a short,
then the coax is shorted.  Usually this happens when a PL-259 connector is
installed improperly and a thread of coax braid shorts to the center
conductor inside the plug's housing. The connector may need replacement.

But let's say that your coax passes this first test and you have no short
between the coax center conductor and the shield.  Your next step is to take
the clip lead and short the coax on one end by connecting it between the
center conductor of the PL-259 to the outer shield.  Once that is secure,
test again on the other end of the coax by using the multimeter.  Connect
one probe to the center conductor and the other to the shield.  You should
hear the buzzer and see the meter indicates a short.  If there is no short,
this indicates that the coax is open somewhere along its length, or else you
have not connected the clip leads securely or made a good contact with the
probes. Check both of these and try again just to be sure. If you still have
no short in this test, then the coax has an open circuit.  Perhaps the
center conductor broke, but more likely the problem is in or near one of the
two PL-259 connectors.  These are the typical spots where a connection
either shorts or opens because that is where we handle the connectors when
connecting and disconnecting the cable and that is where most of the stress
and flexing of the cable is likely to take place.

If your test cable passed both tests, you are not quite home free yet.
Sometimes cables are intermittent, and may short or open when you flex them.
If you can perform both tests while flexing the coax, you may be able to
determine if the cable is intermittent. 

Now that you have learned the basic procedure, there are some things to know
about before you test feedlines that are in daily use in your ham shack.  

*       Always eliminate shock hazards by disconnecting all equipment from
the AC power mains by unplugging it from the wall outlet before starting.
The reason is that if there is an equipment defect, you can get shocked when
you place one hand on an antenna connector and the other on equipment that
is plugged into the AC outlet or otherwise connected to some accessory that
is also plugged in. Remember that the shield side of an antenna system's
feedline may be grounded, and leaving equipment plugged in can place you
between ground and AC voltage, which could be very dangerous.
*       If you are testing an antenna feedline, think about what is
connected on the far end, at the antenna.  Remember that a balun will show
up as a short when you do the multimeter test. Some antenna matching schemes
also show up as a DC short. If you place the test probes across a feedline
connected to a balun on the other end, you can expect to find a short.  If
there is an open circuit instead, you can then start checking to find out
where it is.  However, you cannot be sure the coax isn't shorted somewhere
other than where it should be at the balun.  
*       To complete the test, the coax may need to be disconnected from the
antenna. Once that is done, the test can proceed as you performed it with
the test piece that we first used to practice. 

Most failures occur at the ends of the cable, near the plugs, as we already
said.  But failures where cables run outdoors can also happen when rabbits
or rodents decide to nibble on your feedline for lunch. Other failures can
happen when the constant flexing of the cable in the wind breaks the
connection to the antenna or balun.  

Once you finish troubleshooting and have made the necessary repairs, the
coax should be connected to the radio equipment and then the equipment
should be plugged back into the AC plug as a final step. 

Of course coax can fail in other more subtle and hard to diagnose ways.
Water entering the coax from a broken seal can be harder to detect with the
multimeter method.  Careful inspection may be required to look for the
distinctive corrosion and deterioration of the copper braid that is
associated with moisture inside the coax jacket. The coax may have also just
deteriorated over time, especially if it has been exposed to the weather
over many years. Telltale signs of oxidation or cracking of the jacket
indicate that it's time to replace your feedline, even though it may pass
the multimeter test.  Remember that you are basically just testing a DC
connection with your multimeter.  When the feedline carries RF energy it
will behave differently, especially if it has deteriorated due to age and

You will be surprised at how much basic troubleshooting can be done with
simple tools like a multimeter and a clip lead!


2011 ARRL DX Contest

Looking for some winter fun that doesn't involve anything like boots,
mittens, parkas, emergency rations, helicopter rescues, wolves, trips to the
emergency room, or hot chocolate to thaw yourself out? Well, then - It's
time to get ready for the 2011 ARRL DX Contest! It begins with CW: Third
full weekend in February (February 19-20, 2011). Then, once your radio gear
has had a chance to cool down, it is time for the phone contest! 

*       Phone: First full weekend in March (March 5-6, 2011).
*       Contest Period: 48 hours each mode (separate contests).
*       Starts 0000 UTC Saturday; ends 2359 UTC Sunday.
*       Rules and more available here:

We hope to hear lots of Handiham members on the air!



Dick, WA0CAF, sent me a note from an NFB newsletter that mentioned how new
cars will no longer have cassette players.  Actually, that has been the case
for most models for at least 5 or 6 years, but the point of the article was
that you can digitize tapes by taking the audio out via a cable and putting
it through an interface to turn it into MP3 sound. What you really don't
need, however, is to spend any money at all on those gadgets because you can
input the audio directly into a PC's sound card and use Audacity to record
and convert it. But the article does remind us that as formats for our media
change, you can actually lose what you thought you had saved.  Another
example is the 3.5 inch floppy disk, right?  Most computers have no drive
capable of reading those old disks, and those of us who have saved our
family home movies on videocassettes are also wondering what to do!  Your
best bet is that when media begins to change, figure out a way to transfer
it to the new format before it's too late. 

Thanks also to WA0CAF for a link to the NFB Braille Monitor, which has a
great article introducing readers to the DAISY format.  I recommend the
article, because we have just put my latest revision of the Extra Class
Daisy Question Pool (only correct answers version) online. It is a zip file
format Daisy book.  Handiham members who want a link should email me at
wa0tda@xxxxxxxx and request it. 


A dip in the pool

Description: circuit board

Today's dip into the question pool is from the Extra pool. I thought since
we talked about troubleshooting coax, we would ask a question about coaxial
cable.  It is this:

E9F03 asks, "Why is the physical length of a coaxial cable transmission line
shorter than its electrical length?"

The possible answer are:

A. Skin effect is less pronounced in the coaxial cable.
B. The characteristic impedance is higher in a parallel feed line.
C. The surge impedance is higher in a parallel feed line.
D. Electrical signals move more slowly in a coaxial cable than in air.

Did you know that electrical signals move more slowly in coax than in air?
It's true, and that's why coaxial cables have a "velocity factor" rating
that is always less than 1.0. A typical solid polyethylene dielectric
coaxial cable has a velocity factor of about .66, which means that the
signal travels about 2/3 the speed of light while traveling in the cable. 


Remote base progress report: 9 February 2011

Description: Kenwood TS-570

W0EQO is working, but W0ZSW is offline because the internet has failed at
our headquarters DSL link. Our Echolink repeater is also off line. 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

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

*       Radio Camp will be from Monday 8 August to Saturday 13 August, 2011.
*       CQ, QST, & Worldradio digest audio for February 2011 is available to
our blind members. 
*       A new Technician lecture will be ready on Friday. 
*       George, N0SBU, has completed & mailed the February digest. Thanks,
George & PJ!

.         Our nets have really been running well. I have to complement our
net volunteers for doing such a great job, and our net participants for
joining us on the air often and showing such good support for our on the air
activities.  A special thanks to pinch-hitters who have stepped in when the
regular scheduled NCS could not make it. 

.         Tonight is EchoLink 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. 

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

*       We need an Echolink, IRLP, or WIRES node in Rochester, MN so that
Sister Alverna, WA0SGJ, can continue to check into the Handiham net. There
is no one to take on this project at the moment.  
*       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.



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  • » [handiham-world] Handiham World Weekly E-Letter for the week of Wednesday, 9 February 2011 - Patrick Tice