[handiham-world] Resend: Courage Center Handiham World Weekly E-Letter for the week of Wednesday, 23 December 2009

  • From: "Patrick Tice" <wa0tda@xxxxxxxx>
  • To: <handiham-world@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 24 Dec 2009 15:18:45 -0600

This is a free weekly news & information update from Courage Center Handiham
System. Please do not reply to this message. Use the contact information at
the end, or simply email handiham@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx 

You can also listen to the content online:

Listen to an MP3 audio stream:  

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Get this issue as an audio podcast:


Welcome to Handiham World!

A few little changes...
Well, we have made it almost to the end of another year of publishing your
weekly e-letter and podcast. Since I am taking a week of vacation between
the holidays, this is your last weekly e-letter for the year of 2009. When
we meet again in 2010, we are looking toward an exciting new decade in
amateur radio. Just think about it -- the next sunspot cycle, Cycle 24, is
underway and sunspot activity should begin to climb in earnest in 2010. The
10 m band, which has languished in the seemingly endless solar minimum, will
start showing signs of life again. It will be possible to work amazing
amounts of DX with low power and small antennas. Even Handiham members
living in apartments and condominiums will find that DX is within reach. 

As the decade moves forward, we will learn about new technologies. Ham radio
is about innovation and experimentation in communications, so I think that's
a safe bet!  I believe we will see advancements in accessibility for people
with disabilities, partly because of software development and partly because
of the now-assumed handshaking between amateur radio equipment and
computers. Could it also be possible that manufacturers will build
accessibility features right in instead of having users buy and install
extra modules? 

Amateur Radio education is going to be quite different in the next decade.
You can see the change coming as we can access more and better online
courses, and  instructional materials in multimedia formats that are
delivered in new and better ways. I feel confident that we are on the right
track at Handihams when we stopped reading instruction manuals and instead
began offering audio training based on a more practical method of simply
teaching our members how to use their radio equipment. In the same way, we
have stopped reading licensing manuals and instead teach online in a way
that makes sense to our members with disabilities. No one is suggesting that
books are going away, but they will be in new digital formats, available as
digital downloads on portable electronic devices. The jury is out on whether
these digital books will be accessible to readers who are blind or have
reading disabilities and require audio readout of the text.  Although it is
easy to do with today's technology, there is some fear among publishers that
users will get a free audio book when they have only paid for a print
version.  Thus, some of our biggest hurdles remain social and political
rather than technological!

Legal disputes over content management rights and patents could also cloud
the future of accessibility. If software is found to violate a patent and
must be withdrawn or changed, accessibility features within the software
might be affected. This is a complicated area where technology and the law
intersect and where breaking new ground is more likely to be the norm than
the exception. I can only hope that accessibility does not go on the back
burner in favor of time being spent to resolve other pressing issues in
software design.

Still, I remain optimistic. In the natural tug-of-war between rapidly
evolving technology and the legal system, there is enormous pressure to make
content more easily accessible in spite of the efforts of those who simply
can't change with the times and learn to work with the new technology. 

In the world of amateur radio software, rig control will become an expected
feature and manufacturers will have to meet these expectations. If
accessibility is built-in from the get go, we will not have a problem. On
the other hand, if inaccessible features are placed on the software's front
end interface just to create a "pretty" screen, we may be in for an uphill
climb. It is not, mind you, that we are insisting that software interfaces
need to be bland and uninspiring. It is just that the functions of the
software need to be accessible to people who must access computers by voice
dictation or through screen readers. Traditional menu bar features really
should be retained if at all possible. If a program presents a front-end
interface designed for users without disabilities, that is only acceptable
if there is an accessible alternative. I would like to hear from some of our
readers and listeners who are knowledgeable about software. Specifically,
what features must be designed into the software to make it accessible?
Frankly, if we do not put our expectations on the table, we should not be
surprised when new amateur radio software is designed for users without
disabilities only. Yes, I know that this is the 21st century and people
should know better, but I have learned that it is best not to assume that
everyone really knows what they are doing! It is not that software designers
purposely exclude people with disabilities. Rather, design is sometimes
driven by a marketing department that is more concerned with the "look and
feel" of the software's interface and the engineers work toward that goal,
unaware that users with disabilities may have difficulty using the software.
In short, there is still plenty of ignorance out there!

In the past few weeks, I was notified that a user could not access all of
our links in the newsletter. Even though we are aware of accessibility
issues, it does show that problems will still crop up from time to time. In
2010, improving accessibility in the newsletter, website, and podcasts will
be on our agenda. In fact, this very newsletter is now being produced using
a new, state-of-the-art HTML editor, Microsoft Expression Web. Although
Microsoft FrontPage has been a workhorse for us for over a decade, new web
standards dictate that we needed to move forward with better editing tools.
The Drupal content management system that we now use for Handiham.org also
brings us into better accessibility compliance and offers us the opportunity
to update web content more frequently and from anywhere, thus better serving
our members and the amateur radio community.

One issue that I still struggle with is maintaining backward compliance. A
reader informed me that a link would not work in Pine. I was surprised that
this would come up, but it does show that there are legacy e-mail systems
that are still in use and work perfectly well, provided that newer
technologies maintain backward compliance. The question for me is, "how do I
know what will be backward compliant?"

The answer is that sometimes I don't, and that means that I depend on our
readers and listeners to let me know when something does not work for them.
We will do our best to maintain accessibility, though there may come a time
that the new technology will become so obviously better and widely accepted
that it may no longer pay to support backward compatibility. Believe me,
this is a common problem in the world of technology. One obvious change that
is certainly coming in the next decade is the retirement of the venerable
Library of Congress four-track audio cassette. Maintaining backward
compatibility for this old system right now means that we are converting MP3
files to a cassette system that is decades old. Most of us are familiar with
a conversion from analog television to digital, a situation where the
technology changed so radically that maintaining backward compatibility
became somewhat of a political issue. In the world of radio, HD radio is now
being promoted by broadcasters, both commercial and public. In amateur
radio, you will find some communities that have really embraced D-Star
repeaters while others live firmly and confidently in the world of analog
repeater systems.

When does the big change get made? There is no firm answer to this. Taking
the example of digital repeater systems and radios, there will always be a
period of transition with people who are so-called "early adopters" leading
the way and plucking down big bucks for the latest digital technology. Most
users of repeater systems will take a wait-and-see attitude. After all, new
repeater systems are expensive and require a lot of effort to change out. A
radio club has to be able to not only pay for the cost of a new repeater
system, but they also have to promote the new digital technology to all of
the club members and prove that it is so much better that it is worth the
money that each member will have to spend for a new digital-compatible
radio.  This is a huge hurdle to overcome because most of us have perfectly
good analog equipment and many of us use their repeater system only
occasionally. This makes it hard to justify spending several hundred dollars
for new equipment. I think what needs to happen is that there needs to be a
"critical mass" of users before everyone jumps on board with new technology.
Holdouts who refuse to change at that point will simply be left behind or
find it necessary to form a new user group for the old technology.

It will be interesting to see the new ARRL website next month when it comes
online. The League has been careful to maintain accessibility on its website
and I'm looking forward to using the new website and learning how its
accessibility features compare to the current website. Most website
developers these days do not provide plain text alternatives. The reason is
that common web authoring software and content management systems provide
for accessibility as long as they are used correctly. The assumption is that
the user with a disability will upgrade his or her software system as the
technology advances. This means using a reasonably current voice dictation
system or screen reader program to access the new content or new software
interfaces. At some point there is a critical mass of users with
disabilities who are comfortable with the new technology and at the same
time the number of users with old technology who cannot access new software
and content falls below a critical mass necessary to continue support for
backward compatibility.

I am confident that sometime in the next few years the number of users of
the old four track tape system will drop below critical mass. With only a
few users left, it will no longer be economically feasible to continue to
produce materials for them. They will have to make the choice to move on to
the new technology or provide some way themselves to get the new technology
converted to the old technology format.

One thing that I would like to see in every amateur radio equipment review
is a paragraph on accessibility. I am willing to reach out to our readers
and listeners to discuss this topic and to exchange e-mails with anyone who
is writing a review of equipment. The only thing is that I am not an expert
on accessibility in the same way that our users are. After all, I can use my
hands to type or control the knobs and buttons on a radio. I can see the
radio's display and I can view the computer screen and use a mouse. That
means I'm likely to only be able to give superficial advice on
accessibility. If any of our readers and listeners can help, I would
certainly appreciate it. We will share your contributions with our audience
on the website and credit you with your name and callsign if you wish. As we
move into the next decade, let's make sure that accessibility is job one. 

For Handiham World, I'm...

Patrick Tice, wa0tda@xxxxxxxx  


WIRED: Copyright Owners Fight Plan to Release E-Books for the Blind 
Well, here we go again. In a story on the Wired website entitled "Copyright
Owners Fight Plan to Release E-Books for the Blind" we learn how technology
and common sense are perceived as threats to intellectual property. 

Read it here:


Do you have a snow story?
The big snowstorm on the United States East Coast actually closed the FCC
offices on December 21. The usual FCC bulletin that I get via e-mail was
late with the explanation that the closing was weather-related. It is not
too often that a big government office like the FCC closes because of the
weather, but it can certainly happen in the event of a huge storm like the
one that ushered in winter for so many on the East Coast of North America.
That prompted me to wonder if any of our readers and listeners have snow
storm stories to share with us. Did amateur radio play a part in your
communications when you were traveling in the storm? Or did you just say,
"to heck with going into work", and then head for the ham shack to have some
fun on the air?

E-mail your stories to wa0tda@xxxxxxxx and let me know if you are okay
having your name and callsign included with your story. If you have a good
story from a previous storm, let me know that, too. It's a shame not to
share a good story! 


UN Agencies Agree on Need for Closer Collaboration in Favor of Visually
Have you ever heard of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)?
I hadn't until WA0CAF sent me a note with a link to the WIPO website story
about advancing technology and how it comes into conflict with existing laws
and intellectual property rights, just as we discussed at the beginning of
this edition. The fact that this is a matter of concern worldwide is not
surprising, and I was happy to learn that the World Intellectual Property
Organization has created what they call the VIP Initiative, which aims to
facilitate and enhance access to literary, artistic, and scientific works
for the blind, visually impaired, and other persons with reading

VIP stands for "Vision Intellectual Property", and the VIP website is a tool
for collaboration to help strike a balance between protecting intellectual
property while still providing accessible content to people with


VIP website: 

WIPO website: 


Words of wisdom spoken to me from Handiham Radio Club President Ken, KB3LLA:

"You aren't a real ham until you read QST in the original Klingon.   Qapla',
Tice!= "


This week at Headquarters:
We are on Twitter!

Look for us on Twitter by searching for "handiham". We invite you to follow
us. Handiham web page posts are now "tweeted" automatically!

Handiham office has holiday hours this week & next

The Handiham office is open Monday through Wednesday this week. We will be
closed for the Christmas holiday Thursday and Friday, December 24 and 25. We
will reopen on Monday morning, December 28. The office will be open through
Wednesday, December 30, then close for the New Year's holiday weekend on
Thursday, December 31 and Friday, January 1 2010. We wish you all a
wonderful holiday! Breaking news will appear throughout the week and weekend
on www.handiham.org, whether the office is open or closed. 

Get the four-page year-end Handiham World print edition in audio read by
N1BLF, or in PDF, available right now as a download.
Get the Handiham World PDF download: 

In Operating Skills: 

January 2010 QST & Worldradio audio digests are available for our blind
members today.

Get the Handiham World Year-End Edition in audio, read by Bob Zeida, N1BLF: 

Volunteer reader Bob Zeida, N1BLF, has completed the Winter 2009-10 QCWA

Login to the member section of the Handiham website and find the magazine
digests in the Library. 

Our Contact information is the same, but keep watching this space for
changes:  Email addresses will not change.

Courage Center Handiham System
3915 Golden Valley Road 
Golden Valley, MN  55422
763-520-0512 (Nancy)
763-520-0511 (Pat)

Our email address (for Nancy's office) is 

Pat can be reached by email any time, including nights and weekends, at 

Minnesota Radio Camp dates for 2010, Camp Courage: 

Arrive Friday, May 21

Class days: Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday

VE Exam Day: Thursday

Depart Friday, May 28

Cost of Radio Camp: The cost of Radio Camp depends on your ability to pay,
so anyone can afford to attend. Ask for an application.

Camp Courage is west of Minneapolis.  The address is 8046 83rd St NW, Maple
Lake, MN‎.

The phone number of the Camp Courage office is (320) 963-3121‎.

If you want to receive a Camp Courage summer camp schedule, you may call for
one.  The camp schedule includes information about Handiham Radio Camp.  If
you need specific information about the radio camp or want to be on the
radio camp mailing list, you may call Nancy in the Handiham office at

VOLLI is now in service.  It stands for VOLunteer Log In, and is a way for
our Handiham volunteers to register and then enter their volunteer hours
without having to fool around with paper records.  We encourage volunteers
to create a username and password, then submit their hours spent recording
audio, doing club presentations for us, and so on. Volunteer hours are
important, because United Way funding depends in part on volunteer hours. If
you are a volunteer and need a link to VOLLI, please email me at
wa0tda@xxxxxxxxx Our special thanks to my son Will, KC0LJL, who wrote the
Java code for VOLLI. He is studying in Tokyo this semester and sends a big
"hello" to our readers and listeners.

Volunteers, get your hours in through VOLLI. You may also submit volunteer
hours to Nancy at 

The Remote Base at Courage North is in service. Please feel free to use this
wonderful member resource.  

Stay in touch!  Be sure to send Nancy your change 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. 


Echolink net news

Wednesday evenings the Handiham EchoLink net is on the air. Please join us
and check in or simply listen in, as you see fit. Since we are looking
forward to two consecutive weeks with holidays, we have at least four days
when the daytime Echolink net may or may not be on the air. Finding net
controls for Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year's Eve, and New Year's Day
will be a challenge. I would like to encourage the nets to go on normally
those days, and if there is no net control station, please just feel free to
hang out on frequency and have an informal chat and wish each other a happy
holiday season, whichever holiday you are celebrating!

We are on the air Wednesday evenings at 19:30 hours Minnesota time (7:30 PM)
GMT: Thursday morning at 01:30 Z.

Daily except Sunday at 11:00 hours Minnesota time (17:00 GMT)


145.450 MHz N0BVE repeater (Minneapolis-St. Paul) 
Node 89680 (EchoLink worldwide) 
IRLP node 9008 (Vancouver BC reflector) 
WIRES system number 1427

Everyone is welcome. You do not need to be a member, and the net is relaxed,
friendly, and informal. 

By the way, our Net Manager Howard, KE7KNN, reminds us that we need net
control stations for the Wednesday evening net and for the Monday through
Saturday morning net. If you are in the Twin Cities, all you need is a radio
that can get on the 145.45 N0BVE repeater, and if you live outside the RF
area, you can still be net control via EchoLink, IRLP, or WIRES. 


 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. 

See the image to learn how the website' "Designation" pull-down menu should

Step one: Follow this link to the secure Courage Center Website:

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

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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

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 Nancy at: 1-866-426-3442 or

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

1-866-426-3442 toll-free -- Help us get new hams on the air.

Free! 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.  
Email us to subscribe: 

Handiham members with disabilities can take an online audio course at

• 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: hamradio@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Pat, WA0TDA, Manager, patt@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Radio Camp email: radiocamp@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx


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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Courage Center Handiham System
3915 Golden Valley Road
Golden Valley, MN 55422
E-Mail: hamradio@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Toll-Free telephone: 1-866-HANDIHAM (1-866-426-3442)

FAX:(763) 520-0577 Be sure to put "Handihams" in the FAX address!

We look forward to hearing from you soon.

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  • » [handiham-world] Resend: Courage Center Handiham World Weekly E-Letter for the week of Wednesday, 23 December 2009 - Patrick Tice