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[l] at 6/21/19 10:42am

This arrived in the mail on Wednesday. It was a gift from the CWOps, whose website I maintain. The CWOps are the guys that run the CW Academy.


The post CW Forever! appeared first on KB6NU's Ham Radio Blog.

[Category: CW, CWOps]

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[l] at 6/20/19 9:34am

The National Institute of Standards and Technologies has its fingers in many different pies. The electronics buffs among us know them for their work in electronics standards, such as voltage standards, and the WWVx time and frequency standards stations.

In addition to these activities, amateur radio operators should also know about their work with emergency communications. A recent blog post, “Mission Critical Voice Communications: Your Life May Depend on It!” discusses some of the latest work being done by the  Public Safety Communications Research division (PSCR) in Boulder, Colorado.

The PSCR’s Mission Critical Voice team is developing methods to measure the performance of voice communications systems such as radio and push-to-talk over cellular networks. The team includes five electronics engineers and three mathematicians. The electronics engineers — myself among them — provide voice communications and systems knowledge, whereas the mathematicians focus on more of the data-processing analysis and measurement uncertainty calculations.

The blog post says:

Currently, our group is developing a series of measurement methods to quantify the performance of voice communication systems with the end-user experience — in this case, the first responder — in mind. These quality-of-experience measurements differ from traditional quality-of-service measurements because they focus on the external events that describe the user interaction with the system. For example, end-to-end access time is a measurement based on the receiving user hearing an intelligible voice. In contrast, quality-of-service measurements focus on the technical, internal system-specific measurements and may not be a good indicator of the actual user experience.

I’d suggest that if amateur radio was really serious about emergency communications that we’d get connected to groups like this. At the very least, someone in the amateur radio community should be aware of this research and be responsible for evaluating it with regards to the communications services that we provide.


The post NIST Measures Mission Critical Voice Comms Performance appeared first on KB6NU's Ham Radio Blog.

[Category: Emergency Communications / Public Service, NIST]

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[l] at 6/19/19 1:48pm

It was recently reported that  Maker Media, the company behind MAKE: magazine as well as the Maker Faires, has laid off all of its 22 employees and pausing all operations. Now, I’m no business man, but this is almost incredible to me. According to reports MAKE: has more than 125,000 subscribers (and subscriptions aren’t cheap) and the Maker Faires drew nearly 1.5 million attendees last year. How can they not make a profit with those kind of numbers?

All I can think of is that the business operations must have been incredibly wasteful. It’s a shame, too, because MAKE: magazine really was the voice of the “maker movement.” Dale Dougherty, the head of Maker Media said, “It works for people but it doesn’t necessarily work as a business today, at least under my oversight.”

In its report, SparkFun noted that the Maker Faires had recently lost major sponsors, including Intel, Microsoft, and Disney. That’s definitely not a good thing, but these aren’t the only companies that would be interested in sponsoring maker faires.

I can’t imagine that this is the end for MAKE: magazine or the Maker Faires. Any products with such a devoted following and the numbers they have is likely to continue in some fashion, and indeed, in an update to their story, TechCrunch reports on some interest by the head of Oculus. Stay tuned.

The post Maker Media, the company behind MAKE: magazine and the Maker Faires calls it quits appeared first on KB6NU's Ham Radio Blog.

[Category: Books and Magazines]

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[l] at 6/18/19 7:07am

As I’m sure most of you know, Field Day is this coming weekend. I often describe Field Day as a combination emergency preparedness exercise/club event/PR opportunity. Indeed, you score points by sending out a press release to local news outlets.

Increasingly, I find that many of these press releases are being picked up and reported on. Here’s a sampling of the stories I’ve found over the last week or so:

Sending out a press release is a relatively easy way to score points on Field Day. If your club hasn’t done this yet, there’s still time. And, for sure, make it a point to do it next year.

The post Field Day 2019 makes the news appeared first on KB6NU's Ham Radio Blog.

[Category: Amateur Radio in the News, Operating, Promotion & PR, Field Day]

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[l] at 6/17/19 2:36pm

The minutes of the May 20, 2019 ARRL Board Executive Committee were released a couple of days ago. Here are a few comments:

  • In his report, President Rick Roderick, K5UR, is noted as being “concerned about the disconnect that Technician class licensees make up over half of the Amateur population, but only make up about 16% of ARRL membership. He emphasized that we need to focus on increasing ARRL membership and perhaps explore some new initiatives to enhance recruiting members.” Ya think? How about setting some membership goals? 
  • There were a couple of mentions of the Lifelong Learning project. In fact, the CEO’s report referred to it as the “Mintz + Hoke lifelong learning project.” Is Mintz + Hoke driving the project or is the ARRL?Kris Bickell, K1BIC, has been the ARRL’s Lifelong Learning Manager for a year now, but we’ve yet to see any progress on this project. As I’ve said before, without member participation—and I’ve yet to hear of any members being involved in this project—I doubt that it’s going to have the impact that the ARRL is hoping for.
  • Apparently, the number ofVolunteer Counsels and Volunteer Consulting Engineers is diminishing. Directors are being encourage to recruit more of these folks.
  • The board is still working on some kind of antenna restriction legislation. The minutes note, “Mr. Tiemstra updated the Executive Committee on the efforts to reassess the Amateur Radio Parity Act. The Legislative Committee of the Board is working on a plan of action to be presented to the full Board at its July meeting.”
  • How about this? “Mr. Abernethy discussed the topic of a graduated life membership dues reduction after an individual had reached a certain age. The committee referred the topic to the Administration and Finance committee for consideration, asking for a recommendation to be presented to the full Board in January 2020.” I proposed this back in 2008.
  • The board has established the “Ad Hoc Committee on Communications with ARRL Members, to review communications with members and member perceptions of League communications.” Their charter is to “consider which areas require enhancement, ways in which such communications might be enhanced and propose concrete changes in communications processes and methods by which improvements may be accomplished.” This ought to be interesting.

The post ARRL Executive Committee discusses membership, FCC issues appeared first on KB6NU's Ham Radio Blog.

[Category: ARRL, executive committee, minutes]

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[l] at 6/14/19 4:19pm

A couple of days ago, I managed to work the OJ0AW on Market Reef on 30m. Market Reef is a small piece of rock in the Baltic Sea between Sweden and Finland.

This is Market Reef’s 50th year as a DXCC entity and, so I’ve read, many DXpeditions will be made to this piece of rock in 2019. So, if you don’t already have it in your logs, now’s the time.

I worked OJ0AW on 30m after calling for only about five minutes. Good thing, too, given my short attention span. :)

More DX (gray line)

I’ve been noticing a lot of gray line propagation on 30m lately. Around 8:30 – 9:00 pm here, I’ve been hearing Central and South Americans. For example, I work HK1MW regularly, as well as a couple of KPs. Listen for it around twilight in your area.

Sky wave or ground wave?

Speaking of propagation, here’s a puzzler. On June 9, I worked VE3CWP on 40m. He was booming in, easily 20 dB over S9. Now, Ontario covers a lot of ground, and I thought that he might be near Buffalo, or even further west, or maybe north, past Michigan’s upper penninsula. Well, as it turns out, he was about 35 miles away, according to QRZ.Com.

That got me thinking about how his signal was getting to me. It seems too strong for ground wave, but a sky wave would have to be almost completely vertical to get from here to there. What do you all think?

The post Operating Notes: Market Reef!, gray-line propagation, ground wave or sky wave? appeared first on KB6NU's Ham Radio Blog.

[Category: DX, Operating, Propagation, gray line]

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[l] at 6/13/19 12:07pm

Do you need a unun with an end-fed wire?

I get a fair amount of email about my earlier posts. Recently, a reader asked:

I was reading your post about end-fed, long-wire antennas, I think it was from 2016. I have a couple questions about end feds.  Do you mind if I ask?

I replied:
Feel free to ask, but I don’t claim to be an expert at all. My blog posts were just reports of some playing around that some of us did with end-feds.

So, he asked:

Thanks and I understand you are not an RF engineer or anything like that. This is my situation.  I have a KX3 which I run exclusively 5 watts with CW.  It has an internal antenna tuner.  I have a 6 foot piece of RG58 that goes through a second story window and the center conductor connects directly to a wire about 135 foot long.  At that same point the shield is connected to a wire that is about 35 foot long and it goes to a grounding rod.  I don’t have any types of coils etc installed.

Depending on the RF gods, of course, this antenna can do an excellent job.  For example I have a confirmed QSO to VK land, 5 watts via CW.  Other times I hear nothing.

So this is what I am wondering.  Am I missing something not using a unun?  Is there an optimal length the wire should be for this situation?  All bands except 80 tune up super.  Eighty gets about 3.2 – 1.  Leave well enough alone?

Any thoughts?

I replied again:

Personally, I don’t think you’re missing anything by not using an unun. All the unun does is bring the impedance down to a value where a lesser tuner can match the impedance to the transmitter. If your antenna tuner can do it without the unun—and the Elecraft tuners can really match just about anything—then why use an unun? It’s just adding some loss into the system.

As for as optimal lengths go,  I think that the longer the wire you can string up the better—as long as you stay away from lengths that are exactly halfway multiples. Mike, AB3AP explains this pretty well. If you take a look at his figures (see below), it looks like 132 – 135 ft. is a length to stay away from.
That’s a half wavelength on 80, and I think that’s why you’re having trouble getting a decent SWR there. Try coiling up about 5 feet to make it shorter, or add 5 feet to the end and see how that works.
So, what do you think? Any more advice for my friend here?

The post A reader asks about end-fed antennas appeared first on KB6NU's Ham Radio Blog.

[Category: antennas, end-fed, unun]

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[l] at 6/12/19 5:28am

A friend of mine emailed me this morning about his outing at the race track over the weekend:

Bet a hunch that paid nicely.. the reason  I mention is that it has to do with radio.. the horse’s name: Marconi In the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival finale,  Marconi led at every point of call en route to a half-length victory in the Grade 2, $400,000 Brooklyn Invitational at Belmont Park. Breaking from the rail under jockey Jose Lezcano, Marconi led the field into the first turn of the 1 ½-mile journey over the fast main track with stablemate You’re To Blame tracking in second through an opening quarter-mile in 25.16 seconds. With the half-mile in 50.16 seconds, Marconi maintained his lead and kicked away from his stablemate with one mile of the race covered in 1:16.17. Rocketry, who made a wide move on the outside, but he was unable to catch Marconi who held on by a half-length in a time of 2:28.97. Pasted from <https://www.horseracingnation.com/news/Marconi_found_his_niche_wins_Belmonts_Brooklyn_Invitational_123#>
My question to him was, “Shouldn’t that have been Marconi by a half wavelength?”

The post Marconi by a half wavelength? appeared first on KB6NU's Ham Radio Blog.

[Category: Everything Else]

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[l] at 6/10/19 12:48pm

These two items from Microwaves&RF showed up in my inbox a couple of days ago:

What Does a Coaxial Cable Look Like? (2014)

Coaxial cables are one of the most common interconnection solutions for RF/Microwave/Millimeter-wave devices. Transverse-electromagnetic (TEM) mode waves are conducted through a coaxial cable with very low loss compared to free-wave radiation, and are resistant to outside signal interference.Read more »

Basics of Modulation and Demodulation (2017)

Radio waves can carry audio, video, and digital information over great distances by using changes in a carrier wave’s amplitude, frequency, or phase to represent the information being transmitted. Read more »

I suspect that most hams will find these interesting.

The post Two classics from Microwaves&RF appeared first on KB6NU's Ham Radio Blog.

[Category: Everything Else, coax, demodulation, modulation]

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[l] at 6/9/19 1:35pm

I found this on reddit and love it so much that I asked permission to blog it. This guy’s girlfriend’s family got vanity plates with the grandfather’s call sign to honor his memory. How great is that?

I know several hams who have their father’s or grandfather’s call signs, and it’s such a great tribute. If WA2SHE had been my father or grandfather (or mother or grandmother, for that matter), I would have his (or her) call sign and a vanity plate with that call sign.

The post Vanity plates honor SK grandfather appeared first on KB6NU's Ham Radio Blog.

[Category: Everything Else, People]

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[l] at 6/8/19 11:42am

A friend of mine recently pointed me towards Tony, K3NG’s latest blog post, “It’s Not About Hara.” In this post, he says:

What bothers me is that some dismiss any commentary or criticism of the Xenia location as merely Hara Arena fanatics sore over the loss of Hara, or simply as complainers.  That’s not the case.  I’ll acknowledge that Xenia was likely the best choice out of a few choices at the time, but it’s just not well suited long term for the Hamvention.   There’s a lack of major highways and hotels nearby. The mud pit parking has become legendary.  The buildings are more suited to host livestock than technology.  The flea market is in the grassy track center, because, well, there’s no where else to put it.  And last, the venue doesn’t feel like the largest amateur radio gathering in the western hemisphere.  It feels like a county fair with amateur radio.

While I must say that the Greene County Fairgrounds (I hesitate to call it an “expo center”) is a much better venue for Hamvention than the crumbling Hara Arena, and I have very much enjoyed the past three years there, Tony’s points are well-taken (by me, at least). The first year, the flea market was absolutely impossible. Last year, the addition of the crushed ashphalt made the flea market pathways passable, but I’m glad that I wasn’t trying to sell stuff there. This year was much better, but only because we didn’t get much rain. A heavier than normal rainfall will once again turn the flea market and parking lot into a mud bowl.

Tony notes that the buildings are more suited to livestock than technology, but I really feel for the exhibitors that are relegated to the tents. I spent the first year at a booth in one of them, and while there have been some improvements, they’re still not what I’d call “professional” in any way. I noted that many of the booths in the tents were vacant this year.

Another example is the “classroom” that I was assigned for my one-day Tech class. It’s an odd, poorly-ventilated room underneath the bleachers, that during the rest of the year is used as a storeroom. I even have to bring my own whiteboard! At least this year, it was moderately clean. Last year, I had to vacuum the rug and clean the dust and dirt off the tables.

So, no, Tony, I am certainly not dismissing your comments about Hamvention. I don’t know what the Hamvention organizers’ long-range plans are, but I would also encourage them to think about whether or not Xenia should be the permanent home for Hamvention. It’s good where it is, so think about how much better it could be in a more modern venue.

The post Should Xenia be the permanent home of Hamvention? appeared first on KB6NU's Ham Radio Blog.

[Category: Hamfests, Hamvention, Xenia]

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[l] at 6/7/19 12:11pm

A couple of days ago, an interesting article popped up on reddit’s /r/amateurradio: 20 reasons why intelligent radios like Gotenna Mesh / Pro have some serious advantages over Tactical Ham / walkieTalkies for short range tactical unlicensed volunteer use in disaster zones (in concert w HF): #ares #races #cert #redcross #arrl #ham #amateurRadio #elmers #disasterrelief #ics #nims. This post linked to an article on Medium.

A couple of the 20 reasons include:

  1. Gotenna Mesh is the only radio asset capable of encrypting and transmitting encrypted private medical information and thus being technically legal for hospital to shelter or Emergency Operations Center HIPAA health-related transmissions.
  2. Gotenna is the ONLY radio asset that any civilian, loved one, or volunteers without an FCC ham license may legally use.
  3. Gotenna provides out of the box offline TEAM map integration, aprs, ctak, civtak, atak, gps and SMS message sharing with confirmation of receipt .
  4. Gotenna is the only radio asset that provides 100% auditable record keeping, information sharing, and situational awareness / handoff for DHS / FEMA Incident Control ICS National Incident Management NIMS purposes. Showing all Tx / Rx and confirmations.

The reddit post contains some interesting comments defending ham radio. The bulk of the comments seemed to say something along the lines of “Well, we have all this functionality, too,” and then go on to bash the proprietary nature of the devices. While this may be true, I think that these commenters are missing the point that this system can be used with little or no training and configuration.

I’m not really qualified to comment on the technical arguments here, but it does seem to me that the Gotenna Mesh/Pro does have some advantages over what hams currently use for emergency communications. What we offer is really not good enough anymore. I have said this before, but what we need in amateur radio is someone to drive the technology for emcomm. If someone doesn’t do that, then we’re just going to get further and further behind and less and less relevant.

The post Where is emcomm technology going? appeared first on KB6NU's Ham Radio Blog.

[Category: Emergency Communications / Public Service]

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[l] at 6/4/19 12:04pm

About a month ago, my friend, Rick, K8BMA, turned me on to a program called Anki. Anki is an app for developing and studying “smart” flash cards. These aren’t traditional flash card that simply grill you on the questions and answers. Instead, Anki uses a technique called active recall testing. Anki will ask you a question from the question pool and then wait for an answer. Research has shown that active recall testing is far more effective at building strong memories than passive study. There are two reasons for this:

  • The act of recalling something strengthens your memory, increasing the chances you will be able to remember it again.
  • If you are unable to answer a question, it tells you that you need to return to the material to review or relearn it.

In addition to active recall testing, Anki uses a technique called spaced repetition. Every time you answer a question, you tell the program how easy or difficult you found the question. The program uses this feedback to decide the optimal time to show you the question again. Since a memory gets stronger each time you successfully recall it, the time between reviews gets longer and longer. When you’re just starting out, you may want to see certain questions more frequently in the future. As you learn the answers, you can tell Anki to ask those questions less frequently. This lets you concentrate on the questions that you’re difficult with.

And, if that wasn’t enough, each card contains an explanation taken directly from my No Nonsense General Class License Study Guide. This set includes a flash card for every question in the 2019 – 2023 question pool, and you can get it now for only $5.

The post No Nonsense General Class Exam Flash Cards appeared first on KB6NU's Ham Radio Blog.

[Category: Books and Magazines, Classes/Testing/Licensing]

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[l] at 6/3/19 6:47pm

A couple of days ago, I worked AC3EK. When he said his name was Harry, I did a double take. I couldn’t remember ever working a Harry, and sure enough, a search of my log failed to turn up anyone named Harry in my log. And, I have more than 22,500 QSOs in my computer log.

It seems like more and more operators are beginning to reply to my CQs with only their call signs, as if they were working a contest or calling a DX station. Not only that, they usually just send their call once. That’s doubly bad because not only am I not 100% sure that they’re calling me, but I don’t always get the call sign on the first go.

I usually reply with QRZ? to get them to send my call sign, but sometimes I get lazy and just reply to them. I do wish that they would follow the correct operating procedure, though.

Finally, I had a QSO with Chris, N8AI earlier this evening. He’s one of the monitoring stations in the Reverse Beacon Network (RBN). RBN connects a bunch of stations who are always monitoring the bands for signals. When they receive a station, they automatically report the callsign, frequency, and a signal-to-noise radio (SNR).

Sometimes, you get a lot of spots, but no return calls. This was happening just before Chris answered my CQ. I was getting spotted by stations in Europe as well as here in the U.S., but no one returned my call. The SNRs ranged from 3 dB to 19 dB.

My question to Chris was how to read the SNR reports. At what level should I consider my signal strong enough to hold a decent QSO. He told me that the generally accepted level was about 20 dB. If your SNR is below that, you’re not likely to get calls.

That seems kind of high to me. 20 dB would be 3 S units above the noise level. It makes me wonder if hams are getting lazy about calling stations even though their signals might be a little weak. What do you think?

The post Operating Notes: My first Harry! appeared first on KB6NU's Ham Radio Blog.

[Category: Operating, ReverseBeacon]

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[l] at 6/2/19 10:47am

Saturday evening, as I pulled up to the AirBNB where I was staying in Dayton, I got a phone call from my wife. She told me that my dad had been taken to the hospital. It was late, and I was more than 250 miles away. Not wanting to fall asleep at the wheel, I stayed the night and left early Sunday morning.

When I got to the hospital, he was already unresponsive. Apparently, one of his artificial joints had become infected, and the infection spread into his blood system. He’d already had one operation, and on Tuesday, he was to undergo a second to remove the artificial shoulder he’d gotten just last fall. Unfortunately, that surgery—and the antibiotics he’d been receiving all along—failed to improve his situation.

He never regained consciousness, and on Wednesday, my brothers and sisters (there are six of us in all), decided to remove the tubes and move him to hospice care. My brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews (there are lots of them, too) set up a schedule so that someone would be with him at all times. I stayed with him overnight on Saturday. He passed away Sunday afternoon.

This was a shock to all us. My mother passed away just last December, but he seemed to be dealing well with that. He was planning to golf this summer and sell his house and move to a condo. My wife and I had taken him out to eat a week before, and he seemed to be in good health and good spirits.

But, my purpose for writing this is not to tell that story. It’s to show you what kind of a man he was. He was an incredibly loving and supportive man. We have a big family, but I don’t think that he and my mother missed a single baseball game or play or whatever that my nephews and nieces were a part of.

As for me, I wouldn’t have gotten an amateur radio license or become an electronics engineer if it wasn’t for him. When I was a kid, he was into hi-fi equipment and built a bunch of kits. As a result, he subscribed to Popular Electronics and Electronics Illustrated magazines, which fueled my interest in electronics and amateur radio. At one point, I took over his basement workshop, even sleeping on a cot down there. I don’t ever remember him complaining about that or prohibiting me from doing so.

When I got my ticket, he helped me dig a hole and pour the concrete for the eight-ft. pipe that held up my 14AVQ vertical. He also drilled the hole in the wall through which I routed the RG-8 coax.

He didn’t complain at all when I mounted a tripod on the roof to support the 2m halo I built to work the guys in the Hazel Park Amateur Radio Club on 2m AM. And, when I needed some transformer oil for the Heathkit Cantenna that I built, a five-gallon drum of the stuff appeared a couple of days after I spoke to him about it.

He was a graduate of the engineering school of the University of Detroit, and he helped me navigate my way there after I graduated from high school. I was incredibly naïve about college admissions, but with his help, I was able to get a partial scholarship to attend U-D.

He helped me in so many big and little ways while I went there. For example, one year, I blew the head gasket in my 1968 Mercury Montego. I needed that car to get to school and to my coop job. Over the Christmas holiday, he helped me replace that head gasket, giving up whatever plans he had. (I say that he helped me, but of course, he did the bulk of the work, so I should really say that I helped him.) We’d run out there, work on the car for ten to fifteen minutes, come back inside and warm up our hands, then repeat the process.

I’m really going to miss him. I’m 64 now, but I’d often rely on his advice, for things big and small. At the funeral, the priest said something that I’d been thinking about the past few days. He said, “When your parents die, you realize that now you have to be the adult.” I hope that I can now be the man that my dad was.

The post Michael J. Romanchik, 1932 – 2019 appeared first on KB6NU's Ham Radio Blog.

[Category: People]

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[l] at 5/30/19 5:35pm

IARU Resolution 17-1, posted today, calls on IARU Member Societies to remember the policy of not holding contests in the bands that amateurs have access to on a secondary basis, and in the bands that are narrow in their spectrum. There bands include:

  • 135.7 – 137.8 kHz
  • 472 – 479 kHz
  • 5,351.5 – 5,366.5 kHz
  • 10.1 – 10.15 MHz
  • 18.068 – 18.168 MHz
  • 24.890 – 24.990 MHz

IARU R2 strongly encourages all radio amateurs to observe the respective regional band plans for these and all other amateur allocations.

I’m not sure of the reason behind this resolution. I haven’t heard of any contests on these bands. Have you?

The post IARU reminds member societies to NOT hold contests on WARC and other bands. appeared first on KB6NU's Ham Radio Blog.

[Category: Contests]

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[l] at 5/29/19 12:33pm

I call my study guides the “No Nonsense” amateur radio license study guides because I try to explain the concepts in a straightforward, easy-to-understand way. As I found out recently, I’m not the only one to use this approach. There are a number of No Nonsense guides to different topics:

There are a bunch of others. If you’ve read a particular good “no nonsense” guide to a topic, please comment below. I’d love to hear about them.

The post No Nonsense isn’t just for amateur radio appeared first on KB6NU's Ham Radio Blog.

[Category: Everything Else]

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[l] at 5/28/19 10:18am

I’m reprinting this from an email I got from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) today. It’s not 100% ham radio, but I think it should be of interest. Who knew that there was an “official” NIST periodic table?….Dan

By Ben P. Stein

This is the International Year of the Periodic Table, and while I’ve been (accurately) accused of being a physics fanboy, I’m here to tell you that this famous chart isn’t just about physics, chemistry and the other sciences. It’s also about mathematics and engineering and even nonscientific areas of knowledge including history, geography and the origins of words.

First, a quick review of what the periodic table is. It’s a chart of all the chemical building blocks of matter. To date, humans have observed 118, both natural and artificially made. Each of these building blocks, known as atomic elements, contains a positively charged core (known as the nucleus) that is (usually) surrounded by a cloud of negatively charged particles called electrons. Zooming in on the nucleus a little more, we find positively charged particles known as protons and neutral particles known as neutrons.

The one feature that defines an atomic element is its atomic number, that is, the number of protons it has in its nucleus. Hydrogen has one proton, so its atomic number is 1, and uranium has 92, so its atomic number is … 92. If there are an equal number of electrons and protons, the atom is electrically neutral. If there are fewer or more electrons than protons, the atom is electrically charged and known as an ion.

The official NIST periodic table. Download a print version.

Each atom can have several different versions, known as isotopes, in which there are different numbers of neutrons in the nucleus. For example, hydrogen usually only has one proton and no neutrons, but an isotope known as deuterium or “heavy hydrogen” also contains one neutron.

The deuterium isotope helps create heavier elements inside stars, makes certain drugs more effective, and could be the key ingredient for making clean fusion energy. It was discovered in the 1930s at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST, then known as the National Bureau of Standards), where it was identified by Harold Urey of Columbia University, who won a Nobel Prize for the feat.

(Alas, no prize for NIST’s Ferdinand Brickwedde. That’s fine.)

So, already you can see this one isotope’s importance in astronomy, pharmaceuticals and energy. And, yet, despite its importance, it’s a rarity compared with ordinary hydrogen, the most abundant ingredient in water, most stars and the universe in general. It’s amazing how one element in the periodic table is found in so many different kinds of stuff in our world.

In 1869, Dmitri Mendeleev, a Russian chemist, created the first periodic table by arranging the atomic elements into columns and rows. Atomic elements in the same columns and rows have certain properties in common. For example, atoms in the rightmost column, known as the noble gases, may differ greatly in mass from light (helium) to heavy (such as radon), but what they have in common is that they don’t ordinarily participate in chemical reactions.

The genius of Mendeleev was that he left spaces for elements yet to be discovered, and in so doing he predicted their existence, such as gallium in 1875 and germanium in 1886. As you may have guessed, the latter was named after Germany (the home country of discoverer Clemens Winkler). As for the former, Paul Emile Lecoq de Boisbaudran named the element “gallia,” after Gaul, the Iron Age region that includes present-day France.

So, if you love history, literature and words, the periodic table is for you. Some elements are named after towns: Strontium comes from the Scottish village of Strontian, where the mineral containing the element was found. Some take their names from mythology. The element vanadium is named after the Norse goddess Vanadis. More recently discovered elements have tended to be named after real people, such as meitnerium (Austrian-Swedish physicist Lise Meitner was a co-discoverer of nuclear fission). Naming elements after places has also been trending. For instance, tennesine comes from the state of Tennessee, the home of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which performed key work to produce this particular element.

If you like engineering, the periodic table is the ultimate canvas for innovation. The semiconductor industry has used the periodic table to go beyond standard silicon-based devices. Semiconductor engineers have used different combinations of elements from the III and V columns of the periodic table to create new semiconductor alloys, such as gallium nitride (GaN) and indium nitride (InN), each having different advantages. For example, gallium nitride can produce light over a large number of wavelengths, including the blue light used in smartphone screens. Indium nitride can absorb light over a narrower range of wavelengths, making it a great candidate for solar cells, as it absorbs the specific wavelengths of light most common from the sun.

And, of course, there’s materials engineering, too. Engineers like to combine the lightweight metal titanium with other elements such as aluminum to create alloys for aircraft and other vehicles. Alloys of magnesium and other elements such as gold are finding use in medical implants for bone repair. The cool thing about these alloys is that they are biodegradable, so they disappear after serving as scaffolding for new bone growth.

NIST’s Materials Genome Initiative is a modern embodiment of the spirit of the periodic table, using the power of computing, including artificial intelligence, to combine the elements into new materials for desired applications, such as less-expensive-to-make nickel coins and “metallic glasses” for stronger building materials.

Precision timekeeping may not be something you associate with the periodic table, but for NIST researchers who build cutting-edge atomic clocks, it could be the first thing that comes to mind. Since 1967, the second has been defined by atomic clocks using cesium atoms. If cesium atoms are exposed to microwave radiation at a frequency of 9,192,631,770 hertz (cycles per second), they will change quantum energy states. Using an electronic detector to measure if the atoms have changed states, NIST scientists keep the generated frequency locked to the atomic transition, making a very stable frequency output.

Atomic clocks allow us to precisely divide the second into billionths of parts and beyond. Precise time measurements are useful for time stamping financial transactions, synchronizing communications and data, and navigating using the Global Positioning System (GPS). More recently, NIST researchers are making clocks with other atoms such as strontium, ytterbium, mercury and aluminum. The researchers change the quantum states of these atoms using optical radiation, with frequencies of hundreds of trillions of cycles per second (much higher than the microwave radiation used in cesium clocks). These “optical clocks” enable the second to be split into even smaller intervals that could be useful for things such as detecting underground geologic deposits and even dark matter.

If you love numbers, well, of course, the periodic table is filled with them. Each atom on the table has a bevy of quantities. Besides atomic number, there’s atomic weight and ionization energy (the amount of energy it takes to remove an electron from that atom).

How did we get such accurate numbers? As physicists developed quantum theory, they made highly precise (and remarkably correct) calculations for the energy levels of electrons in atoms. Among so many other things, chemists determined how the arrangement of electrons in atoms influences chemical reactions. All this work by the scientists involved state-of-the-art mathematics.

Once scientists developed the fundamentals, however, there was still a lot of work to do in understanding the properties of each of the elements. Who is involved? Measurement scientists, such as the people who work at NIST.

NIST mathematician Jim Sims explained to me: “As the ‘standards’ people, we are the ones who collect the world’s experimental and theoretical data on atomic properties of the elements and critically evaluate it to come up with the best estimate of the numbers in the table at any time. Mathematics certainly goes into that analysis, and more fundamentally any atomic structure calculation relies heavily on both math and computational science.”

I asked Jim what developments in mathematics led to the periodic table that we know today. “Rather than any specific example,” he said, “all I can come up with is the fact that modern physics, chemistry and mathematics are intimately entwined.”

And I’ll take things a step further by saying that so many other fields are intertwined in the periodic table. One small chart is both a source of knowledge and a springboard for creativity, in so many fields. It’s so much more than a poster in your high-school chemistry class; it’s a roadmap for the future.

The post The Periodic Table: It’s more than just chemistry and physics appeared first on KB6NU's Ham Radio Blog.

[Category: Everything Else, chemistry, periodic table]

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[l] at 5/26/19 10:59am

Here are a couple more videos produced by the ICQPodcast team from the 2019 Dayton Hamvention.

The first video, called the RigPi, is a Raspberry Pi-based shack computer that allows you to operate remotely using any web browser on your mobile phone, iPad, tablet, laptop, desk-top or even Kindle. It’s available from MFJ, and in this video, Martin, M1MRB/W9ICQ, interviews Martin F. Jue, the founder of MFJ and Howard, W6HN, the developer of the RigPi.

In the second video, Chris, M0TCH/N4CTH, interviews Andy from SDRPlay. They discuss updates to SDRUno, their SDR software. This new release includes scanning, which our presenter, Chris, has found to be a really nice feature.

The post More Dayton 2019 videos from ICQPodcast: MFJ, SDRPlay appeared first on KB6NU's Ham Radio Blog.

[Category: Computers, Software-Defined Radio (SDR)]

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[l] at 5/25/19 9:30pm

On the CWOps mailing list the other day, one of the guys apologized for his bad “fist.” A CW operator’s fist is his or her method of sending. Someone is said to have a good fist if his or her sending is easily readable. Someone is said to have a bad fist if he or she is sending poorly.

The fellow who apologized wrote:

I want to apologize about my bad fist yesterday. Yesterday morning, I used my1949 Allis Chalmers tractor,  which is 70 yrs old and has NO POWER STEERING  to bush hog some of my 13 acre plot. My arms and hand muscles were cramping and shaking for the rest of the day! This was the first mow this spring and I am outta shape for that kind of work. I’m only in my early 60’s too. Thanks for putting up with that and all the contacts!

That got the folks to start talking about bad fists in general. One guy commented:

Remember CO2BB? Talk about a banana boat swing … :-)

A “swing” is a distinctive method of sending using a semi-automatic key or “bug.” The swing refers to the difference in length between the dits and the dahs. To this, another replied:

Now that is a blast from the past. I only worked Bruno twice, both times in early 1966 on 40m CW. At that point, I was a 16-year old impressionable new ham who had only been licensed for 2 years.

Finally, a third person chimed in:

There seems to be interest in an after-market unit that would produce chirp, buzz, etc. options that could be selected and added to an otherwise clean CW signal. Once in the late 60’s I was present when someone altered the tone on a code practice oscillator and injected the audio into the phone patch audio of an 32S3. The resulting transmitter output made it easy to bust a DX pileup. Modern digital techniques should make it easier to produce a wide variety of output choices. Just a thought.

I kind of like this idea. While I’m a big proponent of using a paddle and a keyer, I do recognize that the code sent this way can be impersonal. A device that could personalize one’s fist, even when using a paddle and electronic keyer, could be a decent seller. It could have several pre-programmed fists, such as the Lake Erie swing, as well as the South American swing. It could even insert some extra dots randomly, as some operators are wont to do when using a bug or a paddle.

What do you think? Should we petition Elecraft, or maybe FlexRadio, to add this to their feature set?

The post Does a swing give you a bad fist? appeared first on KB6NU's Ham Radio Blog.

[Category: CW, fist, swing]

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[l] at 5/24/19 8:01pm
qz's avatar Quartz @qz

Learning Morse code is a valuable skill—even in the 21st century ow.ly/4uiS30oOEan

hackaday's avatar hackaday @hackaday

Way to improve your frequency counter’s accuracy. hackaday.com/2019/05/23/imp…

pe4bas's avatar

Bas   @pe4bas

Proppy HF propagation circuit prediction tool dlvr.it/R5LL48

The post Cool stuff in my Twitter feed today appeared first on KB6NU's Ham Radio Blog.

[Category: CW, Propagation, Test Equipment]

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