2021 Tri-Cities Hamfest, May 1st

The Spout Springs Repeater Association Hamfest will be held in the Tri-Cities at d’s Wicked Cider House located at  9312 W. 10th Ave., in Kennewick on May 1, 2021 at 10:00 am.

***Vendors/Sellers*** You MUST Pre-Register! Email The SSRA HERE

*** Parking Limited – Carpooling Highly Recommended ***

  • Outdoor Swap Meet – Seating Available, Picnic Tables
  • Indoor FCC Testing Sessions  9 AM/  Noon / 3 PM (Electronic/Paperless) Get your call sign in as little as 2 days! Pre-Registration Required HERE.
  • Foxhunting Tape Measure YAGI Workshop
    • Non-SSRA Members – Pre-Register and contribute HERE (Deadline 4/20/21) to build your own YAGI, all of your materials provided for a $40 contribution, which includes your 1 Year Membership in the SSRA!Current SSRA Members – Want to participate? Please click HERE to donate.
  • HF Get on the Air Station / Demonstration
  • Tri-Cities $5 Foxhunt Hunt begins at 4 PM (1st Place Grand Prize valued at $180, Plus Runner-Up prizes!) $5 cash donation accepted prior to start of the hunt to be eligible for prizes.
      • Food / Drink Available On-site. D’s Wicked Cider House offers Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner- Biscuits & Gravy, Sweet & Savory Waffles, Woodfired Pizza, Adult Beverages, etc.
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  • SCHEDULE OF EVENTS
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  • 0800- Vendor Access 
  • 0900- FCC License Testing Session 
  • 1000- Public Access 
  • 1030- HF Seminar 
  • 1200- FCC License Testing Session 
  • 1330- Fox Hunting Seminar with Yagi antenna build clinic 
  • 1500- FCC License Testing Session 
  • 1615- “$5 Fox Hunt” Briefing 
  • 1630- “$5 Fox Hunt” w/Grand Prize provided by D’s Wicked Cider ($180 Value!) 
  • 1800- End of Events 
  • 1830- Prizes Awarded at D’s Wicked Cider House/Conclusion of Events
  • *** Dinner Available at D’s Wicked Cider ***

Click here to download a PDF flier for the event.

Comm Academy, Apr. 10 & 11, 2021 – Online

The 2021 Comm Academy will be held online this year on April 10 & 11, 2021. In the past this has been an excellent venue for learning more about emergency/disaster communications, especially with amateur radio.

Two days of training, talks, and information on emergency communications on this year’s theme:
Disasters Here, There, and Everywhere – Are We Ready?

Headquartered in Seattle, Comm Academy is two days of training and information on various aspects of emergency communications. Organizations attending include:

Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES©)

Auxiliary Communications Service (ACS)

EOC Support Teams

Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES)

Civil Air Patrol, Coast Guard Auxiliary

REACT

CERT

All those interested in emergency and amateur radio communications are welcome. Learn, network, and share your experiences with others.

As it has in all of its 22+ previous iterations, the conference will feature expert speakers on a wide variety of topics, from radio and messaging technologies to communications techniques to tales from the “trenches.”

More than just a collection of online presentations, Comm Academy 2021 will be an interactive event, with participants able to converse with presenters and other attendees.

Registration link.

Link to schedule

OH8STN: Grid Down Ham Radio Texas

Amateur Radio operator OH8STN, Julian, talks about grid down ham radio and the recent Texas winter/ice storm and power outages.

Hello Operators.

Today we are talking about grid down ham radio communications, while the Texas power outage is fresh in our minds. This short film should add some much needed context about our grid down communications preps, training, and ultimately sustaining ourselves while supporting our group, during a grid down scenario.

73 Julian oh8stn

For more preparedness related content about the power outages in Texas, also listen to the Survivalist Prepper podcast Lessons Learned From Texas With Sara

OH8STN: Effective Communications

Amateur radio operator and vlogger Julian, OH8STN, has a short post up on Effective Communications, especially in emergency communications.

Hello Operators.
As the field of content creators increases each day (a good thing), it is still important to separate the bull-hockey, from what’s real.
Here are two areas any preparedness comms related content creator, should be able to demonstrate:

  • How can we as a community, measure the effectiveness of our communications plan?
  • Are you able to get messages in or out “at will”,, without grid power, from any location, at any time of day or night?

The fact is, It may be a nice and fun to watch distraction, but we can’t bet our lives on buzzwords, the “I’m not an expert” disclaimer, or on content created solely for entertainment purposes. Preparedness communications related content should be educational, and MUST add value to the discussion. If it doesn’t, we certainly shouldn’t be modelling our own comms strategy, based on what we see in a staged video or post.

So how can we combat this? I believe most content creators come to this topic, with the best intentions. However, to keep us on the straight and narrow, it is important that you the readers, viewers, followers consuming this content, constantly (but politely) call out creators. Challenge us to explain, to demonstrate, to show the process of discovery, and to answer the questions “how & why?”. Any honest Elmer with good intentions will welcome the challenge, since it helps us improve our own communications preparedness, over the long term. Anyone showing resistance to this idea is probably just a parrot, emulating what he or she sees from those who are actually putting in the work.

A true measure – Someone recently said their comms gear was “effective”, because they were able to have a QSO with a random operator. An operator who probably did most of the heavy lifting, for the modest QRP station. In this example, station effectiveness is a misconception.

A random, unplanned QSO will never be an example of station effectiveness, unless that contact can be consistently repeated, any time of day or night, from any location, without pre-scheduling. This is our number one goal for EMCOMM & Preparedness comms.

This is the reason I don’t rely on Parks on the air, Summits on the air, RaDAR, or contesting field days as a measure of communications preparedness. They are nice as a method of practice for setting up or tearing down a field station, but not for preparedness. Even this might be a stretch, since these events are rarely done in poor weather conditions. We can tweak these events to make them more effective, for our own needs (recommended).

The reality is, Ham radio as a “hobby” is generally about meeting other operators by chance, over the air. In contrast, communications preparedness or EMCOMM is more about reaching out to a specific station, from any location, despite the time of day or night. Reaching that specific station is much more difficult, than having a QSO with someone you happen to meet on the air. We might not even know which station is “the station”, until we are knee deep in mud, trying desperately to get those messages in or out. When we can do this with a great percentage of success, we are on the right path.

So, make us work for your views. Content creators will thank you for it down the line.

73
Julian oh8stn
YouTube http://www.youtube.com/c/oh8stn
TipJar https://paypal.me/oh8stn/1USD

OH8STN: Portable Ham Radio Motivation

Julian, OH8STN, has a new video created to try to inspire radio operators to create their own portable/off-grid stations in Portable Ham Radio Motivation. Julian has written and vlogged a lot about off-grid emergency radio communications as well as portable radio operation as their much overlap between the two.

Hello Operators.
These are a series of portable ham radio station clips. Their purpose is inspiring and hopefully motivating ham radio operators, to build & ultimately deploying portable off grid ham radio stations for themselves.

With increasing limitations placed on our ham shacks, freedom of movement, personal liberties, … operating an off grid ham radio station might just be one way to take back our passion for ham radio emergency communications, and communications preparedness.

American Partisan: Commo Questions Answered

NC Scout at American Partisan answers some radio communication questions from readers, including one about terrain/vegetation and the effect on signal in Commo Questions Answered.

I’m starting up a regular post series where I field your questions on communications-related topics. There’s a TON of questions I get emailed every week that normally revolve around the same concepts or topics, so this is going to be a good way to get them out there for more people to index and use. Keep in mind none of this is a replacement for what you’ll get in the RTO Course, where I literally take you from basement-level knowledge and build you up to creating communications infrastructure where there otherwise would be none, taking it up a notch in the Advanced RTO Course teaching you techniques on operating in non-permissive environments.

MT01 asks:

I know we practice the jungle antenna in the scout course, and course graduates talk a lot about using it. I’ve attached a photo that shows they type of terrain and vegetation that covers the majority of the area where I live, aside from agricultural fields/orchards. It seems like the jungle antenna is not the ideal choice in this terrain. Should we consider ourselves lucky that our signal won’t be blocked by trees? Should be use portable yagi antennas like the Elk antenna line? Is it better to just keep with the rubber ducks? My assumption would be rubber ducks for intrasquad comms and yagi for squad to HQ. We’re also experimenting with some AREDN mesh for certain digital/computer network communications, but aren’t to the point of using it portably, yet. Just wondering your thoughts. I know that most of your posts are going to be tilted toward your local terrain and vegetation, but if you need an idea for a post maybe one on radio or scout operations in more open terrain.

This is an outstanding one. Taking it from the top, vegetation absolutely has an impact on your signal. The higher in frequency you go, the worse it gets. (reference: PRC-64 report in Jungle conditions and tactical jungle communications study) This is one of the reasons why VHF is a better choice in rural terrain over UHF. But then again, that might also be a reason to choose UHF in a rural area. Your signal won’t be blocked completely, but it will get scattered, and possibly to the point it won’t be readable. This makes a big difference when using digital modes, especially DMR. Either way, as you know from the RTO Course, a 4-5w handheld radio can do much when coupled with an antenna purpose-built for the frequency. Jungle antennas are omni-directional, meaning they transmit in all directions at once (as well as receive), so they’re best suited for two tasks:

  1. When you’re needing communications over an entire area, such as a retreat setting.
  2. When your patrol is literally lost (can’t get a fix on your location) and you need to make communications with a Recovery team.

Regarding directional antennas, this is ALWAYS the preference when transmitting to mitigate the DF threat. Not to jump on a rant here, but there’s a reason patrol planning takes as much time as it does in the real world (usually a week, sometimes longer). Among those tasks is mapping out transmission sites and planning the azimuths to transmit your communications. Yeah, its a lot of work. Yeah, its hard. This ain’t for everyone. And if your life depends on it you learn to do it right. You know this, but a lot of other people reading this probably don’t (and will LOVE to comment about exactly how much they don’t know). But long story short you should always be communicating with directional antennas provide you have the ability to do so. In your environment (sagebrush), it’d be a good idea to add a cheap camera tripod to the mix and run your antennas off that.

Inter-team communications are at the Tactical Level– meaning they’re immediate in nature, coordinating fire and maneuver in real time. The range needed is usually short, less than 1km or so, and the standard duck antenna is fine in this role. And contrary to popular belief, only one person on the team needs a radio- the element Leader. That’s it. Anything more than that leads to a breakdown in the command and control capabilities. When you’re going beyond that, to relay critical information to and from a central command point, such as a Tactical Operations Center (TOC) in a Guerrilla Base, this is where the directional communications become a requirement.

On the mesh networking topic…this is a good one. For a local use setup, its good for linking. Just keep in mind you’re not gonna get a ton of range out if it- its meant for a local area, such as a retreat or G-camp. And the second someone attempts to link it to the regular internet, its potentially compromised.

YT asks:

Check the answer in the last paragraph above.

Another topic that I would like to learn about: covert antennas (at home and on vehicles). I live in a subdivision that has nosy neighbors and a restrictive home owners association, so Ham antennas aren’t allowed.

Are there relevant use cases for remote transceivers? If we don’t want to radiate from home, but our gear’s at home, how can we transmit without undue DF risk?

This is actually a very common question. Check out this reference: https://amzn.to/3pvVUQx
It was one of the references we used when learning about HF antennas in non-permissive environments and one that I still reference today. That’s the central idea behind teaching students to build antennas in class, so they understand the underlying concepts behind them. Couple that with John Hill’s excellent work on wire antennas: https://amzn.to/3mQZ4fC
And finally, Sandman sends:

So I’ve been thinking about adding a man portable 11m rig to my signal repertoire to add a way for field ops to establish comms with a fob or hq. Also been thinking about fldigi over 11m. Do you have any experience with this?

11m, also known as Citizen’s Band (CB) radio in the US, is quite a capable tool for use in the field and one that won’t attract a ton of attention when used for underground purposes. FL Digi absolutely is capable over it, especially with some of the narrowband modes such as PSK-31 or RTTY.

If I were rigging up a manpack, I’d bypass kludging a mobile unit into service and simply run a handheld. They fit fine in a surplus MBITR pouch. Just make sure you build a REAL antenna for it. The stock rubber duck on handheld CB antennas are garbage at best. To run FL Digi over them it can be as simple as holding the mic up to the audio on the mobile device and transmitting, but its much cleaner (and less headache) to rig up a dedicated audio output to audio input (on the radio). We so this in the RTO Course with Baofengs using the APRS K1 cable, which makes it pretty simple. I’ve never built one for a handheld CB (or any CB for that matter), but they’re plentiful for a MARS/CAP modded Amateur radio rig (and I have done that).

Anyhow- great questions and as always I look forward to hearing from y’all.

American Partisan: 2 Meter Radio – A Primary Tool

2 Meter Radio – A Primary Tool is a brief primer on the utility of amateur radio use in the 144-148 MHz range. It has considerably more utility than a phased plasma rifle in the forty watt range.

Son of Thunder: 2 Meter Radio: A Primary Tool

Originally appeared on Signal Corps Ministry. – NCS

2 meter band radio (referring to the electro-magnetic wavelength) for amateur radio operators are the frequencies between 144.000 mhz and 148.000 mhz. The modulation most commonly used today is FM. and packet (data). There are amateur radios that are capable of SSB which is permitted but not as widely used. The band (part of the VHF range of bands) is divided into segments for different uses phone (voice), packet, and repeaters being the most common. In emergency radio communications (referred to as ECOM) the 2 meter band is often called the ‘first mile/last mile’ band, meaning it is the communication link between local events and personnel on the ground to their command and control centers (2 meter band for public safety and first responders is more commonly referred to as the public safety spectrum, starting where the amateur radio band ends at the top end) . For local amateur radio operators and first responders, it is probably the most used and most valuable resource for communications in the community. It is also the one of the primary bands you get access to with the easiest and entry level Amateur Radio Technicians license. Most 2 meter amateur radios available today include the public safety spectrum along with the amateur portion but without the ability to transmit on the public safety spectrum unless the radio is modified for use by authorized persons. For situational awareness in your community, having public safety frequencies programmed in the radio’s memory allows one to monitor events, especially using the scan setting most radios today have. While a strictly 2 meter/public safety spectrum radio is highly useful, many people get radios that also include the 70cm band (in the UHF range, also typically used with FM and phone signals). These radios typically add a broader range of frequencies that can be received and monitored but not transmitted on, such the AM airband and other agencies and utilities that use the remainder of the upper VHF range and the lower end of the UHF, sometimes including the 1.25 meter amateur band which a small segment of frequencies from 222Mhz to 225Mhz. Radios that have 2m and 70cm capability are commonly called ‘dual banders’; less popular are ‘tri banders that include 2m, 1.25m, and 70cm.

Having a 2m radio in your vehicle is a must, a dual bander is even better. It is extremely popular and versatile. You can communicate and move in real time, an essential capability in responding to your community’s needs. Having one in your home is almost as important, to be able to make calls for assistance, and to be the reciprocal base station to the mobile stations. In fact I would highly recommend having 3 radios to fully take advantage of 2m and 70cm bands: a home/base dual bander radio, a mobile dual bander, and a HT dual bander (HT is short for handheld transceiver, also more well known as a walkie talkie.) With each household having a base station, mobile vehicle, and a handheld for each individual, you are more prepared to handle any situation by magnitudes. Repeaters for the 2 meter band and 70cm bands are quite literally everywhere (see the Repeater Directories entry on the resource library page of this site). If your interest in this site’s articles were to stop after reading this article, you would have awareness of one the most important communications tools available for maintaining safety, security, community interdependence and cohesion there is, one that is strictly maintained by the community and will work in a grid down situation which would deny cell or internet traffic.

Generally speaking, the 2 meter frequencies are a ‘line-of-site’ radio wave which means exactly as it sounds: a FM 2 meter signal will propagate through clear air until topography interferes or it goes out into space. If you imagine a tangential line from a point on a circle, that point being your antenna and the circle being the surface of the earth, that is how this signal basically works. A FM signal can, potentially, follow the curve of the earth over the horizon by as much as 15% as the bottom of the radiowave drags on the surface of the earth. Transmitter height, signal strength and atmospheric conditions are always a factor as well. 70cm signals have less range, but do have a particular advantage of being more viable inside building and structures. They are a good choice for shorter range communications (shorter than 2 meter) which can be used for the advantages of security and privacy in conjunction with other practices. Antenna polarization plays an important role in FM transmissions: the vertical antenna transmitting a signal is best received by a vertical antenna. Although there is a significant loss in power, a horizontal antenna will better picked up by another horizontal antenna. It is not commonly done, but this technique also can create a security advantage. In an area with a lot of topographical changes, a 2 meter FM radio wave will drag, reflect, and bounce; this can result in an elliptically polarized wave. This can be best observed when holding a HT radio: while receiving a transmission, slowly rotate (up and down, left and right) your antenna to see if your reception improves. Also requesting the transmitting party to ‘better their position’ can improve how well their signal is getting out, the major adjustment is holding up the HT higher. A HT held directly in front of your body restricts transmission and reception by 180 degrees; this could be desirable, but if you’re trying to get help from anyone available, holding your HT high and using a speaker/mic can incredibly increase the reception of your signal.

Quick recommendations: the Yaesu FT-2980R is an incredibly robust and powerful radio. See my field deployment radio ‘Go’ Box:

It also has a packet TNC and USB interface but more on that later. It is a great mobile unit and base unit. Kenwood also makes a great 2 meter only radio: TM-281A

I also use the FT-60R and in my truck a FT-8900R Quadbander as well as the FT-7900R in my shack. Again, there are many good models out there, I just have used these mostly and can recommend them based on my use of them, not for any other reason.

As a member of the Body of Christ in your community, a person whose role is to acquire the skills and capabilities to serve, lead, and minister to your church, it is imperative to get the licensage and radios necessary. Action item: lead your community by studying for your Technicians license, get your license, and budget your resources to get radios. Then help others to do the same. Train and use these tools regularly. When you train, do not just chat on the radio; practice all the skills you would use in a very bad day scenario. As an autonomous communication infrastructure in your community, any member may have to respond to an urgent need, and so everyone needs to have the complete skillset at their fingertips and be able to use it competently. This is no light matter as radio use and net discipline (to be discussed further in another article) can be the difference between life or death, no joke.

If you are called to serve then let nothing stand in your way of being a proficient and professional radio operator (this applies to any role and function in your community; this is the fallen world and corruption abounds, the great opposer is always working to deceive and mislead. We must be out front. Put on the Armor of God and stand!). It is incumbent on each of us to acquire the skills and hardware, learn and train how to use it, and teach and train others how to use it. Then continue training regularly.

Brushbeater: Antenna Polarization and COMSEC

NC Scout at Brushbeater has an article on Antenna Polarization and COMSEC (communications security).

So you’re out there on a patrol, the commo window is open and you need to make a Cyril Report back to your TOC. Your RTO sets up the yagi getting ready to make contact, checking and rechecking the azimuth. He glosses back over the transmit and receive frequencies to make sure everything is set, double checking the report to make sure nothing was missed, and getting the approval from you, the Team Leader. You notice one small thing- the Yagi is horizontal, not vertical, and a slow grin grows on your face.

You’ve got a good man on the Team who paid attention.

There’s one element to small unit communications that usually gets zero attention- antenna polarization. Let’s take a look at our most common denominator at the basic level- the Baofeng UV-5R. Its a VHF and UHF FM two-way radio. FM nearly always uses vertical polarization, meaning in simple terms, the antenna is straight up and down.

In a conventional environment we do this for two reasons. First, pretty much everyone else is vertically polarized when communicating via FM, and second, there’s 9db of loss between a vertical polarization and horizontal polarization. Wait, what?

Like how we measure light in Lumens, signal strength radiating from an antenna is measured in decibels (db) of gain or loss. With each 3db of gain, we double our effective radiated power (ERP) in terms of signal strength. With each 3db of loss, we cut our strength in half. This is measured in orders of magnitude, meaning that with each 3db, the strength doubles on itself (4w x 2= 8w x 2= 16w, etc). Taking that into account, the difference in strength between horizontal and vertical polarization is 9db- quite a difference. If someone is using a vertically polarized antenna to attempt to intercept my transmission, they’d likely be using vertical polarization. After all, why wouldn’t you? Nearly all FM transmissions are vertically polarized, its common practice. But if I change my operating practice to account for this, now they’re going to have a harder time both intercepting and getting a bearing on me.

Not impossible, mind you. But much harder. And that’s on top of my other operating practices, such as transmitting on one frequency and receiving on another, keeping my transmissions as short as possible, and making sure I’m always using directional antennas. It goes without saying that your intended receiving station should be matched in polarization. Its a basic practice that, when coupled with my other techniques, turns inexpensive equipment into much more formidable gear for clandestine or unconventional forces operating in the field.

ARRL: Comment Deadline Set For Proposed FCC Amateur License Fees NPRM

From the ARRL NW Division Director:

In my September 2020 Northwest Division Newsletter we discussed newly
proposed FCC mandated fees for amateur radio licenses and other
transactions.

A refresher: Under the proposed fee structure amateur radio licensees
would pay a $50 fee for each amateur radio license transaction.
Included in the FCC’s fee proposal are applications for new licenses,
renewal and upgrades to existing licenses, vanity call sign requests,
and even for official copies of amateur licenses. Excluded are
applications for administrative updates, such as changes of address. The
FCC proposal is contained in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in
MD Docket 20-270, which was adopted to implement portions of the
“Repack Airwaves Yielding Better Access for Users of Modern Services
Act” of 2018 — the so-called “Ray Baum’s Act.”

The Act requires that the FCC switch from a Congressionally-mandated fee
structure to a cost-based system of assessment. In its NPRM, the FCC
proposed application fees for a broad range of services that use the
FCC’s Universal Licensing System (ULS), including the Amateur Radio
Service that had been excluded by an earlier statute. The 2018 statute
excludes the Amateur Service from annual regulatory fees, but not from
application fees.

The ARRL has been notified that the NRPM was formally published in
yesterday morning’s Federal Register (https://tinyurl.com/yyk8f2yp).
The Register notes the deadline for comments on the NPRM is November 16,
and the Reply comment deadline is November 30.

I would highly recommend that all amateurs submit comments to the FCC
regarding this repressive NRPM. Not only our wallets, but the possible
long term viability of this wonderful hobby depends on it!  If you would
like to submit a comment on this proceeding, the official FCC website
address is: https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/filings.  Where it asks for:
Proceeding(s), type in: 20-270.

ARRL FCC Counsel, David Siddall, K3ZJ has provided us all information
and suggestions that would be very helpful for those submitting
comments:

“Arguments against FCC Fees for Radio Amateurs:

Amateurs contribute to the public good. In many areas they provide an
emergency communications backbone capability at no taxpayer cost.
Consistently we have witnessed storms and natural disasters completely
wipe out internet, cellular, and other means of communication.  Radio
amateurs often fill that void on an unmatched, flexible basis when
needed.  One recent example is the California wildfires.

Unlike operators in other FCC licensed services, Amateur Radio operators
by law – domestic and international — must eschew using their license
for any pecuniary interest.  Amateurs are prohibited from earning or
charging any money for any communications activity.  The expenses for
their equipment and activities come out of their own pockets, with no
opportunity for reimbursement or payment of any kind.

The United States is experiencing a severe lack of RF engineers and
expertise at the very time it is needed by the burgeoning wireless
industries.    Amateur radio is helping to meet the deficit, but much
more is needed and youngsters (High School and College-aged) are least
able to afford licensing fees.  RF knowledge and related digital
expertise is needed to maintain U.S. leadership in wireless industries.
At a minimum, young people (below the age of 26) should be exempt from
the proposed license fees.

Amateur radio is self-regulating.  (a) Amateur examinations are written
and administered by radio amateur volunteers.  (b) Examination results
and paperwork most often are submitted electronically to the FCC.
Electronic submission could be required if there would be a cost savings
to the Commission. (c) Amateur radio educational classes are conducted
by volunteers who by-and-large do not charge fees or tuition for
teaching.  (d) The amateur service, in cooperation with the FCC’s
Enforcement Bureau, has a volunteer corps that monitors the amateur
airwaves, and has programs that try to prevent their misuse before FCC
involvement might be needed.  The amateurs also observe non-amateur
signals both within amateur spectrum and outside it, and report unusual
or suspicious signals.

Amateur radio continues to be a source of significant technological
innovation that should be encouraged, not discouraged.”

More comments from David, K3ZJ:

“I do not recommend arguing that the $50.00 fee every 10 years, which
amounts to $5.00 a year, will “kill” amateur radio, even though as
proposed this is for each covered application, which includes upgrade
applications.  Tech-General-Extra could be $150, if the exams are taken
at different sessions, a substantial amount.  But it “rings” the
wrong way to say the whole service turns on $5.00/year for each
licensee.

The Commission argues that the charges are required by the statute.  The
word used is “shall”, which is mandatory, not optional.  But the
statute does not set the amount, nor does it prohibit reasonable
exceptions – evidenced by the Commission’s proposal to exempt from
fees administrative update applications based on policy grounds.

This is not “aimed at amateur radio to kill it.”  There is a long
history and precedent on charging fees for the licensing service
involved, just as there is for passports, green cards, driver’s
licenses (issued by states), etc.  Better to make pertinent arguments on
why the fees would impair the public benefits of the amateur radio
service than argue that the whole service might die as a result of a fee
that, in fact, is less than the fee many of us paid in the 1960’s and
1970’s, including myself as a struggling high school and college
student (if adjusted for inflation).

For background: this proceeding is being handled by staff unfamiliar
with amateur radio.  It is being handled in the FCC’s Office of
Managing Director (OMD), not in the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau
where the amateur-specific Part 97 matters are handled.  The focus of
OMD is accounting – budgets and the like for the entire Commission.
The fee proposals cover every FCC license and service across the board
and the consideration was directed by Congress.  I recommend keeping
“ham jargon” out of comments, it won’t be understood by the
intended recipients.”

I think that David is right on target here. I recommend, and also urge,
that arguments submitted for this petition are both thoughtful and
respectful.  To do otherwise leaves a very poor light on the hobby we
all love. Take what you see here, re-word as necessary so it comes from
your heart, and let’s get this defeated, (or at the very least,
mitigated)!

Off Grid Ham: Discussing Vertical And Wire Antennas

Here’s an article from Chris Warren of Off Grid Ham, writing about options for DIY antennas – Discussing Vertical And Wire Antennas

A topic so deep and wide.

I messing around with you. There is no such thing as an antenna specifically for off grid radio. But since off grid amateurs tend to be practical, do-it-yourself types, some vertical and wire antennas are more more appealing than others. What are the options, and how well do they work? We can’t possibly cover everything in one article, but we’ll go over the most popular types of antennas for off grid hams and talk about the function of each of them. vertical and wire antennas

Two basic flavors. vertical and wire antennas

There are two basic types of antennas for off grid radio: Vertical and wire. Yes, I am aware that there are many others: Beams, loops, etc. But remember we’re trying to keep it simple, practical, and relevant. A vast majority of hams end up using either a vertical or a wire antenna.

The reasons why are clear. These antennas are easy and inexpensive to build, and (for the most part) really do work. Think about all the advancements in technology. Radios have gone from massive tube farms to computerized communications centers with color displays and features that would have been Star Trek-ish just ten or twelve years ago! But at the other end of the coax, antennas have not fundamentally changed over the entire history of radio. You can compare a 50 year old ARRL Antenna Book to a 2020 edition and find nearly the same content in each of them. vertical and wire antennas

About the ARRL Antenna Book. vertical and wire antennas

It would be worth your while to own a print copy of the ARRL Antenna Book. It can be very technical and deep, maybe more than what the average ham is willing to digest, but wow, what a wealth of information. When you need to answer an obscure antenna question or look up a way-out-there math equation, the Antenna Book will come through. New copies can be quite expensive. I suggest buying an older used edition for a fraction of the cost. It doesn’t really matter because the information essentially never changes. My personal Antenna Book is nine years old and I have no plans to update it.

I don’t have a real high opinion of ARRL books in general, but the Antenna Book is an exception. It’s stellar. Every ham should own one.

The vertical antenna.

My very first antenna was a vertical, a Hy-Gain 14AVQ to be exact. I bought it used because, well, when you’re fourteen years old cobbling birthday & odd job money together for radio gear, that’s how you roll. The 14AVQ has been in production since at least the 1970s and is still available on the market today. I had a blast with that antenna and made many solid contacts on it. vertical and wire antennas

Vertical antennas offer an omnidirectional signal pattern, take up very little space, and are easy to install. They do not necessarily require support structures such as trees and buildings (I mounted my 14AVQ to a pipe pounded into the ground). Functionally they have a low angle of radiation, which is favorable to DX. There is also some evidence that vertically polarized antennas are better for short range (ground wave) communications.

The cons of vertical antennas. vertical and wire antennas

On the negative side, vertical antennas are harder to home-build and tune compared to wire antennas. Complicating that, commercially made verticals can be expensive. The Hy-Gain 14AVQ of my youth sells new for about $230.00. That’s a lot of money for what is essentially just an aluminum pole with some coils in it. The research & development costs, which I acknowledge can be very high, were amortized off the books decades ago. With that debt long paid off, the 14AVQ represents huge profit center for the manufacturer. This pattern can be repeated for almost any commercially made vertical antenna. Once the R&D costs are recovered, these antennas are basically money presses for the manufacturers.

Lastly, vertical antennas usually require ground radials. Where will you put them? If your antenna is mounted at ground level, you can just bury them in the dirt. Roof mounted verticals may be more tricky. There is no absolute rule for how many ground radials are needed, but more is better.

Wire antennas.

vertical and wire antennas

PUBLIC DOMAIN GRAPHIC

There is little to dislike about wire antennas. They can be easily made from materials most hams already have around the shop. Wire antennas done right really do work! The dipole is the “Mother antenna,” the antenna all others are based on. Wire antennas can be bent and shaped to fit your space. If you have to bend or droop a wire, it’s generally not a problem. Horizontal wire antennas also have a low angle of radiation, but it is dependent on elevation from the ground. This is why amateurs interested primarily in NVIS communications should not mount their wire antennas more than 30-50 feet up. There is such a thing as “too high”.

The bad news.

Wire antennas have two main disadvantages. First, they usually require two or more support structures. For a fixed station, this means having buildings or trees in the right places to hold your antennas up. For portable use, it means picking a site with trees or other tie points, or bringing a support system with you. By the way, many public parks prohibit affixing anything to natural features, even temporarily. Be respectful and verify what you’re allowed to do before you start tossing wire up in the trees.

Although wire antennas can sometimes be bent and shaped to fit a defined space, doing so may affect performance. Antennas are designed to be a certain shape for a reason. Anything that messes with the physics of an antenna is going to change the way it works. Changing the original shape of a wire antenna does not necessarily degrade performance, but it may result in a situation not favorable to your operating needs, such as when the radiation pattern is altered. Many hams have no choice and must do some antenna gymnastics to make their stations work. Although imperfect, these alterations are usually tolerable.

What about store-bought wire antennas?

I generally advise against buying commercially-made wire antennas. They do work well, but with a few exceptions they are not a good value for the money. One well known company is offering a portable “tactical dipole” for $400.00. Granted, it’s very well planned with a slick carry case and other handy features, but in the end it’s still just a dipole. A four-hundred dollar dipole! This illustrates a trend in the prepper/survivalist community where including the word “tactical” in a product name makes that product cost 3-5 times as much as it should.

The “Hail Mary” random wire antenna.

Wire antennas have one more big plus. A “Hail Mary” antenna can be any available length of wire. In more formal language, they’re called random wire antennas and they are exactly what the name implies. In an emergency, you can literally toss a random length of wire out the window, correct it to 50 ohms as best you can with an antenna tuner, and go. It won’t be very efficient, but you will get a signal out.

I have a random wire antenna as part of my go-kit. It works surprisingly well with my 5 watt FT-817. It would never be my first choice, but I’d be very happy to have it as a last choice.

Resources.

QSL.net has this amazing wire antenna reference that lists nearly 400 different wire antennas and diagrams on how to make them. Some of the designs are kind of way out there and I’m not sure they would work, but experimenting is part of the fun. The website cuts out complicated math and lengthy explanations; it just gives short & simple recipes on how to make some great antennas.

WA2OOO has a very cool calculator to determine the size of several popular wire antennas.

Communications Daily: Amateur Radio Operators Get Temporary Waiver for Hurricane Communications

Communications Daily reports on a digital transmission waiver that has been given to amateur radio operators using PACTOR 3 and 4 for hurricane relief.

The FCC Wireless Bureau approved an American Radio Relay League request for a 30-day waiver to permit amateur data transmissions at a higher symbol rate than permitted under commission rules so amateur operators can assist in hurricane relief. “Hurricane Laura has the potential to cause massive destruction states along the Gulf of Mexico, and communications services will likely be disrupted,” the bureau said in a Thursday order: “The waiver is limited to amateur radio operators in the continental United States using PACTOR 3 and PACTOR 4 emissions who are directly involved with [high-frequency] hurricane relief communications.”

ARRL: Hurricane Watch Net Re-Activating as Isaias Approaches Carolinas

Update 8/3/20 from ARRL: Hurricane Watch Net Reactivates as Hurricane Warning Posted for the Carolinas

With the National Hurricane Center (NHC) expecting Tropical Storm Isaias to become a hurricane again later today and make landfall this evening, the Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) reactivated at 1600 UTC on 14.325 MHz. HWN Manager Bobby Graves, KB5HAV, said the net will shift operations at 2300 UTC to 7.268 MHz, where it will remain until no longer needed by the NHC. A hurricane warning is in effect from the South Santee River in South Carolina to Surf City, North Carolina.

“The center of Isaias will then approach the coast of northeastern South Carolina and southern North Carolina within the hurricane warning area later today,” the NHC said. The center will then move inland over eastern North Carolina tonight, and move along the coast of the mid-Atlantic states on Tuesday and into the northeastern United States by Tuesday night.”

The HWN initially activated on July 31 at 1500 UTC, when Isaias was about 245 miles southeast of Nassau. “During the next 41 hours, we relayed the latest advisories to those in the Bahamas, south Florida, as well as mariners and shortwave listeners, Graves said. “Because Isaias was forecast to regain strength to a Category 1 hurricane, and hurricane watches and warnings remained in effect for the Florida coast as well as areas in the Bahamas, the Net remained activated.” After the NHC dropped all hurricane watches and warnings on Sunday morning, and the storm was no longer believed to become a hurricane, the HWN secured operations on Sunday, August 1.

“During the course of 41 hours, we never received any reports from the Bahamas,” Graves said. “We did hear from many south Florida stations, but the storm was not yet close enough at the time for [that area] to be adversely affected.

As of 1500 UTC, Isaias is forecast to make landfall tonight as a Category 1 hurricane and is expected to bring strong winds and heavy rainfall from the eastern Carolinas to the mid-Atlantic coast tonight and Tuesday. The storm was some 90 miles east-southeast of Brunswick, Georgia, and some 220 miles southwest of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Maximum sustained winds are 70 MPH, just a shade below Category 1 hurricane strength.

“We are slowly moving into the heart of the 2020 Atlantic Basin Hurricane Season, so, please do not drop your guard,” Graves advised. “If you haven’t done so already, now would be a good time to review your Family Emergency Plan and review your Emergency Supply Checklist. We have links to download both on our website.”

South Carolina Amateur Radio Volunteers Ready

Although Isaias hasn’t turned into a monster hurricane, radio amateurs from all over South Carolina have been preparing for days as the South Carolina Emergency Operations Center geared up for the storm. Isaias was predicted to make landfall on the border of North Carolina and South Carolina.

“We have been in direct communication with our emergency support function (EFS-2) partners along with many other organizations to ensure our level of readiness is sufficient. Radio checks have been performed at SCEMD (South Carolina Emergency Management Division) and more conference calls among ARES leadership are planned,” said ARRL South Carolina Section Emergency Coordinator Billy Irwin, K9OH. Irwin said information about frequencies in use may be found in the Tactical Guide on the South Carolina ARES website.

From the American Radio Relay League on 7/31/20, Hurricane Watch Net Activating as Hurricane Isaias Approaches US East Coast:

The Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) activated on 14.325 MHz on July 31 at 1500 UTC as Hurricane Isaias [pronounced: ees-ah-EE-ahs] heads toward the US on an uncertain trajectory.  The Volusia County, Florida, and State emergency operations centers were reported at a Level 3 (Monitoring) status.

“For years I’ve said, ‘Just when you think you have Mother Nature figured out, she changes her mind,’” HWN Manager Bobby Graves, KB5HAV, said. “Shortly after Advisory 11 for then-Tropical Storm Isaias was issued [at 0300 UTC], an Air Force Reserve hurricane hunter aircraft found that the tropical storm had strengthened to a hurricane. The maximum winds had increased to 80 MPH with higher gusts making the storm a Category 1 hurricane.”

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) forecast for 0900 UTC called for Isaias to strengthen into a Category 2 hurricane during the next 24 hours.

“Unfortunately, Isaias appears to be taking a somewhat similar track along the US east coastline, such as Matthew in 2016 and Dorian in 2019,” Graves said. “Interests throughout the Bahamas, Florida, Georgia, South and North Carolina, and farther north need to keep a close watch on Isaias. This means the Hurricane Watch Net could be running another marathon activation.”

An NHC Advisory issued at 1500 UTC included a Hurricane Watch for portions of the Florida east coast from north of Deerfield Beach northward to the Volusia-Brevard County Line. A Tropical Storm Warning has been issued for portions of the Florida east coast from north of Ocean Reef northward to Sebastian Inlet and for Lake Okeechobee.

As of 1500 UTC, the NHC said the center of Hurricane Isaias was located near latitude 21.7 N, longitude 74.5 W, moving toward the northwest near 16 mph (26 km/h), and a general northwestward motion with some decrease in forward speed is expected for the day or so followed by a turn toward the north-northwest.  On the forecast track, the center of Isaias will continue to move near or over the Southeastern Bahamas today. Isaias is forecast to be near the Central Bahamas tonight, and move near or over the Northwestern Bahamas Saturday and near the east coast of the Florida peninsula Saturday afternoon through Sunday.

“On the forecast track, the center of Isaias will continue to move near or over the Southeastern Bahamas today. Isaias is forecast to be near the central Bahamas tonight, and move near or over the northwestern Bahamas on Saturday and near the east coast of the Florida peninsula Saturday afternoon through Sunday.

“Tropical storm conditions are possible along portions of the Florida east coast beginning Saturday, and a tropical storm watch remains in effect. While storm surge watches are not currently needed for this area, they may be required later today, if the forecast track shifts closer to the coast. Heavy rains associated with Isaias may begin to affect south and east-central Florida beginning late Friday night, and the eastern Carolinas by early next week, potentially resulting in isolated flash and urban flooding, especially in low-lying and poorly drained areas. Isolated minor river flooding is possible in the Carolinas early next week,” the NHC said. “Hurricane conditions and dangerous storm surges are expected in portions of the Bahamas today and Saturday, and hurricane warnings are in effect for these areas. Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion.”

The HWN seeks “observed ground-truth data from those in the affected area,” including wind velocity and gusting, wind direction, barometric pressure, and, if available, rainfall, damage, and storm surge. “Measured weather data is always appreciated, but we do accept estimated,” Graves noted.

QSO Today Virtual Ham Radio Expo, Aug. 8-9, 2020

QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo

Participate in this ground breaking, virtual international amateur radio expo. Packed with world renowned speakers, exhibitors, and special conference rooms built on a virtual reality platform. Attend from the convenience of your desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.
Coming to your laptop, tablet, and smartphone on:
​ August 8 and 9, 2020
Hours
August 8th, 0100 Zulu (GMT) – Keynote by Dr. Scott Wright, K0MD
August 8th and 9th,  1500 Zulu USA Speaker Tracks Start
Check individual Exhibitor Booths for their hours – most will open a 1500 Zulu on Saturday and Sunday.

Despite the current Covid-19 situation, ham radio operators are more active than ever and want to continue to learn and engage with their community.  To meet this need, we’ve organized the first of its kind, virtual ham radio expo designed to allow everyone interested in amateur radio to engage with amazing speakers, leading suppliers of equipment, parts and services, and fellow attendees.  Our virtual expo platform provides a visually captivating and easy to navigate user experience that recreates the look and feel of a physical amateur radio convention.

Attendees have the opportunity to:  

  • Listen to and engage with 70+ internationally recognized ham radio luminaries that have committed to lead expo sessions. Click here for the speaker list.
  • Walk through our virtual exhibit hall filled with popular amateur radio suppliers. Watch new product demos, interact directly with booth staff using video, audio, or text conferencing.
  • Engage with fellow hams without leaving your home ham shack. And save thousands of dollars since you don’t have to worry about travel, food, and lodging!
  • Return over the next 30 days to re-visit, explore, and re-engage exhibitor offerings.

Continue reading “QSO Today Virtual Ham Radio Expo, Aug. 8-9, 2020”

OH8STN: Portable Power and Field Communications

Julian, OH8STN, has another good post up about using portable power during field operations and a couple of radios with versatile power options – Portable Power and Field Communications.

Hello Operators.

This is just a short post about the relationship between field communications, and portable power. Ham radio manufacturers would have us believe our goal is to go out and operate a couple of hours at a time, then recharge our batteries back at home. This may be true sometimes, but it’s not always true.

Ham radio manufacturers don’t recognize the importance of a decent operating run time from internal batteries, or the ability to recharge those batteries, without grid power. For example Elecraft offers one of the most amazing portable radios on the market, the kx2. Did you know it’s impossible to recharge the kx2 in the field without the Elecraft proprietary smart charger, connected to AC mains? This means if you’re off grid without additional batteries, or the ability to plug in a smart charger, you’ll have to use an external battery anyway. Despite how awesome the radio is, having to use that external battery diminishes its lightweight field utility of the radio.

The Yaesu ft-818 is another example. Its internal AA battery pack can power the radio for about an hour or two. Unlike the Elecraft kx2, the ft-818 can be recharged in the field from any DC power source 9 to 15 volts, (AWESOME). It’s Achilles heel is that it takes 8 to 10 hours to recharge its internal battery pack. What the heck is the point of having 2 hours runtime, and 8 to 10 hours recharge time? It’s freaking ridiculous! This means in practice, we need to use an external battery pack anyway.

Some operators have offered alternatives to these problems.

  • Carrying additional battery packs.
  • Using an inverter to power the smart charger.
  • Ration the radios usage so batteries last longer.

All of these ideas come from operators without a solid understanding of communications off grid. Off-grid communications requires us to be grid and energy independent. So when manufacturers tell us the only way to recharge the internal battery of their radio, is using their proprietary AC powered smart charger, we should tell them to go lay an egg. We should also tell manufacturers who have an 8 to 10 hour charge time on a relatively small internal battery, to do a little bit more engineering.

From where I’m standing, it looks like popular ham radio manufacturers have become complacent. We have become such Fanboys, that we continuously make excuses for why these functionalities are not built into their radios. Why don’t we demand amateur radio manufacturers create radios, which are grid independent!? Why do we still accept double AA packs inside our rigs, when a lithium ion or lithium iron phosphate pack are a fraction of the physical size, weight, and offer much higher capacity!? These ultra energy dense packs are standard in everyones mobile phones, tablets and laptops, so why not ham radio!? Why should I buy an Elecraft smart charger, when it’s simply a 3s lithium ion battery pack inside the radio!?

Most of the battery research and projects done on the channel, are in response to ham radio manufacturers not stepping up to offer viable solutions for the off-grid operator. Certainly Elecraft gives us low current draw, but what good is that when your battery is dead, and there’s no way to recharge it?

Although much of the research going into off-grid portable power on the channel, has been done for off-grid and field communications, some of the previous and upcoming projects, exists purely because ham radio manufacturers don’t understand our needs.

Yesterday I tried a new radio for the first time. It’s only the second time I’ve seen this functionality in a commercial radio. The functionalities are

  • Powering the radio from external power supply while
  • Simultaneously recharging the internal battery pack in a reasonable amount of time.

The two radios I’ve seen with this capability are the Icom IC-705, and the Xiegu X5105…(continues)

Click here to read the entire article at OH8STN.