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Amateur Radio

  • Among other actions taken by the ARRL board of directors at its July meeting, it tasked its executive committee with looking into the possibility of seeking “limited RTTY/data privileges for Technician licensees on 80, 40, and 15 meters,” according to a summary in the ARRL Letter. Techs currently have only CW (Morse code) privileges on those bands. http://www.arrl.org/news/arrl-board-lauds-unforgettable-milestone-formalizes-lotw-policy-honors-award-recipients
  • ATLANTA –  Seeking reliable backup communication in a crisis, emergency managers are finding new solutions in an old technology: ham radio. “It’s just another avenue, another opportunity for us to be able to communicate,” said Herb Schraufnagel, public safety captain with Emory University Hospital Midtown. Emory HealthCare is among a growing number of hospital systems to adopt ham radio. Hospital administrators and government officials took a lesson from Hurricane Katrina, which left some Gulf Coast medical centers isolated from the outside world, as landlines and cell towers failed. When power, phone and Internet services go down, a battery-powered amateur radio and portable antenna can provide that crucial link to the outside world. “Ham radio will never die,” said Barry Thomas, Sr., a ham radio enthusiast and employee at Emory University Hospital Midtown. “The quickest means of communication is Morse Code. It’ll get out when none of this will,” Thomas said, referring to a room filled with computers and smartphones.’ “It is interesting that some of the technology that has been around for 80, 90, 100 years is still relevant,” said John Davis, a ham radio enthusiast. In addition to major hurricanes, Davis says the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 rekindled interest in ham radio as a public safety tool. The Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) has set up a permanent ham radio station in its command center. “We look at ham radio operators just like GEMA staff, just like DOT staff and Georgia State Patrol staff,” said GEMA Director Charlie English. “They are a critical partner with us.” The number of ham radio licenses is at an all-time high in the U.S. (723,182, as of April, according to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) data compiled by Joe Speroni of the Amateur Radio Education Web Site, ah0a.org. “I really hope that it stays relevant and that we can be a resource to...
  • May 15, 2014

    Hand’s On With Ham Radio

    Radio Shack’s original and core customer used to be the young man who was a tinkerer: ham and shortwave radio operators, guys who hacked telephones and built their own stereo components and even some early computer builders. Now kids are passively entertained with a cornucopia of electronic gadgets bought with mummy and daddy’s money and built in Asian factories. They would rather surf YouTube and Facebook then open up a Popular Mechanics magazine. They would rather make vine videos then make gadgets themselves. Before the internet was available in the 90’s you did not watch Netflix for entertainment you took apart your Nintendo to see how it worked. The guys who were interested in electronics did some impressive stuff. Some of you may remember Heathkits. You could build a powerful stereo system from their components for about half the cost of a store-bought version. These were very popular, and the guys who built them justifiably proud of their work. Some of the guys I knew who did this sort of thing went on to successful careers in computers and electronics. Shop classes are electives. Vocational education like automotive, electronics and computers are guaranteed jobs yet college kids pick majors where no jobs are available. Entertainment is a completely passive experience as well. Pride in something you built yourself has been replaced by pride in how far you’ve advanced in Angry Birds or Candy Crush. If kids today don’t get exposed to hands-on activities in their teens, if they’re not forced by boredom or financial need to build stuff, it’s ‘highly unlikely they’ll seek out, or have the aptitude for the ultimate in hands-on careers.
  • US Navy personnel helping to look for missing Malaysia Air Flight MH370 are using the signal-processing and analysis package Spectrum Laboratory by Wolf Buescher, DL4YHF, to analyze recently detected 37.5 kHz “pings” that may be from the missing plane’s “black box.” Some Spectrum Laboratory screen shots as seen aboard the Australian Defense Vessel Ocean Shield were shown on TV. The US Navy personnel are guests aboard the Australian ship. VLF experimenter Warren Ziegler, K2ORS, said the software is the same package Amateur Radio experimenters used recently to detect transatlantic signals on 29 kHz. “Wolf’s package is very first-rate software, and I know that there have been other professional uses, but this was quite an interesting one!” Ziegler said. The software began as a simple DOS-based FFT program, but it is now a specialized audio analyzer, filter, frequency converter, hum filter, data logger and more, and it is available for download from DL4YHF’s Amateur Radio Software site. Buescher said he was skeptical about the initial “ping” detection by one of the search vessels, but now, he says, “the spectrogram taken by the US team aboardOcean Shield is convincing.” He said a screenshot from Australian TV clearly shows the “bip-bip-bip” ultrasonic bursts or pings, “just as they should look,” rather than a “just a wobbly carrier that comes and goes.” “In slow-CW terms, it would be an ‘outstanding signal.’” Buescher said. “Now keeping fingers crossed that the [“black box”] batteries last a bit longer than specified. The experts say the pinger’s battery usually degrades slowly, instead of going QRT abruptly.” http://www.arrl.org/news/amateur-radio-developed-software-assisting-in-search-for-missing-airliner
  • Amateur Radio, Federal Government Engaged in Joint 5 MHz Communication Exercise Amateur Radio operators and federal government stations are engaged in a 12-day nationwide test of their capability to communicate with each other on HF in the event of an emergency or disaster. The High Frequency Interoperability Exercise 2014 (HFIE-2014) is running concurrently with the federal National Exercise Program (NEP) 2014. Activity is taking place on two of the five 60 meter channels. The primary center-frequency channel is 5358.5 kHz, and the secondary center-frequency channel is 5373.0 kHz. Amateur Radio is secondary to government users on the band. The joint readiness exercise that began March 27 will continue through April 7and include all areas of the US. Participants will use Automatic Link Establishment (ALE), a standardized digital selective calling protocol, to establish communication between stations. “The HFIE has been a semi-annual exercise for some years,” explained HFIE-2014 Coordinator Bonnie Crystal, KQ6XA. “Previously, HFIE has been a ham-only exercise. This year, we scheduled HFIE so it coincides with the NEP.” Participation in the interoperability exercise is open to all ALE-capable federal government radio stations and to all ALE-capable US Amateur Radio stations. A Special Temporary Authorization (STA) has been granted, giving permission for radio amateurs to communicate with federal government stations for the duration of the exercise. Crystal said ALE signaling “sounds like turkey gobble,” adding that ALE calls last about 15 seconds. Stations listening “may also hear the operators then start talking on USB voice,” she said. “The signals can be up to about 40 seconds long, if there’s texting riding on it, using a very rapid type of ARQ [automatic repeat request] handshaking.” “Once someone links with another station, they have the choice of using SSB voice or sending/receiving up to about 80 characters of text,” Crystal said. “Or they...
  • November 5, 2013

    Art Bell Leaves SiriusXM

    Dark Matter is over only after 6 weeks this was on artbell.com “Art Bell, the radio icon that joined the SiriusXM line-up on September 16th is leaving the air after just a month and a half.  While passionate satellite radio fans may not want to hear it, his reasons for leaving boiled down to three main things: – SiriusXM’s web player is notoriously unreliable, causing a loss of subscribers and a degraded listening experience for those who remain listening online. – For a “caller driven” show, the caller pool for art’s show is just too small. – International listeners have no legitimate way to hear the show. This is not the first time that we have heard issues relating to the Internet platform offered up by SiriusXM.  There have been a host of issues from the functionality to being booted off, to having longer shows reset from the beginning after an hour and a half, making it almost impossible to listen to a 2 hour show on demand. When signed by SiriusXM, Bell had only glowing things to say: “SiriusXM is the perfect fit for me and my new show Art Bell’s Dark Matter,” said Art Bell. “Though invisible, dark matter accounts for gravitational forces observed in the universe—expect these forces to be at work in the uncensored, unrestricted creative arena of satellite radio, a medium with truly extraterrestrial reach.” It would appear that after just a short period of time, second thoughts emerged. The departure of Bell, as unfortunate as it is, should be a signal to SiriusXM.  The company has a compelling product, great content, and great potential, but in some ways has lost the edge that it once had.  The frustrations of Bell can be heard on other channels as well.  Opie & Anthony, Howard Stern, Jay Thomas,...
  • “Last Man Standing” producer John Amodeo, NN6JA, reports that lead character Mike Baxter (Tim Allen) finally gets on the ham bands during the program’s Thanksgiving episode, which was shot in mid-October and scheduled to air on November 22 on ABC. According to John, Mike heads to his basement ham shack to escape a house full of guests waiting for Thanksgiving dinner to be served. This is the third “Last Man Standing” episode to include ham radio as a story element, and the first in which Allen’s character is seen operating his ham station.
  • By popular demand, Heathkit is bringing back the kit building tradition.  Successfully building your own products provides a sense of pride and accomplishment, not realized by simply buying something off the shelf. In late August, Heathkit will debut their new line of Do-it-Yourself kits for common around-the-house items.  The first kit will be a Garage Parking Assistant (GPA).  The Garage Parking assistant kit lets you build your own system that uses ultrasonic sound waves to locate your car as it enters the garage. The system signals to the driver using LED lights mounted on the wall when the car is detected and in the perfect spot for parking. The GPA-100 kit consists of two primary assemblies – The LED Display in kit form and the pre-assembled ultrasonic range module.  the kit will include everything you need to complete the project except a soldering iron and hand tools. Next on the market will be a Wireless Swimming Pool Monitor kit followed by many more.  Heathkit wants to continue to bring to its customers interesting, unique Heathkit products.  Heathkit is interested in learning what types of products kit builders would like to build.  Kit builders can submit their suggestions through this website using the Contact Us email. Read Full Article Several hams who completed the new Heathkit company’s online survey report receiving e-mails today informing them that they are now “Heathkit Insiders.” No indication of what that means and when or whether the company’s new owners will appear publicly to identify themselves and lay out their plans for the company. Read Full Article
  • “Last Man Standing,” the ABC-TV comedy starring Tim Allen, has been renewed for a third season, according to the program’s producer, John Amodeo, NN6JA. In the program, Allen’s character is a licensed amateur and has stations set up in his office and his basement, both of which are regularly seen (especially the office station). The use of amateur radio was featured on a recent episode, and Amodeo says he anticipates that it will be included in at least one episode next season as well. He also revealed that the character of Mandy Baxter, who was operating her father’s radio but did not identify with a callsign, will be properly (if fictionally) licensed next season, as KF0XIE. Amodeo brought some of “Mandy’s” QSL cards to the Dayton Hamvention® in May. An article by Amodeo on the making of this past season’s episode featuring ham radio will appear in the July issue of CQ magazine.