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[l] at 7/6/24 2:29pm
Here are a trio of recent announcements from the ARRL: LOTW back online On July 1, the ARRL returned Logbook of The World (LoTW) to service!  They noted that during a brief LOTW opening 6600 logs were uploaded, but not processed until they were sure that the system was  functioning properly. They also ask that you not call ARRL Headquarters to report issues you are having with LoTW. Instead,  contact support at LoTW-help@arrl.org. They conclude the announcement with, We appreciate your patience as we worked through the challenges keeping LoTW from returning to service. We know the importance of LoTW to our members, and to the tens of thousands of LoTW users who are not ARRL members. Personally, I think that they did a pretty good job with getting LOTW back online. It was definitely a difficult task. ARRL Foundation Club Grant Program July 25 The ARRL Foundation Club Grant Program—funded by Amateur Radio Digital Communications (ARDC)—is an opportunity for clubs to apply for grants up to $25,000 to fund projects in areas that will motivate and develop active radio amateurs, with an emphasis given to projects that are of a “transformational” nature. The application period is NOW OPEN and runs through Friday July 26, 2024 at 4:00PM Eastern Time. Clubs across the country are encouraged to apply, even if your club is not an ARRL Affiliated Club or not a 501(c)(3) organization—all are welcome to apply. Grant recipients will be required to share progress reports and updates with ARRL. It seems like the ARRL should have made this announcement a lot sooner to give clubs a better shot at meeting the deadline, but perhaps those clubs who have been working on big projects have been working on their proposals all along.  We’ll see. ARRL developing performance analysis program for NTS Amateur Radio Daily reports that: The National Traffic System (NTS) will soon be evaluated with new tools to help improve system performance. The ARRL is developing a web-based Performance Analysis Tool (PAT) to ultimately improve speed and accuracy of the traffic system. Additional training materials will also be developed to improve NTS performance. Once the new tools are complete, the ARRL will hold a test exercise to measure their effectiveness. Source: July 2024 ARRL NTS Letter I don’t know about this one. Maybe I just haven’t kept up with what’s happening with NTS lately, though.

[Category: ARDC, ARRL, Club Grant Program, lotw, NTS]

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[l] at 7/5/24 6:48pm
The latest episode of the ICQ Podcast features a discussion between Martin, M1MRB, and yours truly share our experiences with troubleshooting electronic equipment. Our discussion starts at 59:40 of the podcast. I think you’ll enjoy it. I’d love to hear your troubleshooting tips. Please comment below.

[Category: ICQ Podcast, troubleshooting]

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[l] at 7/4/24 12:28pm
Tuesday, my friend Paul, KW1L, texted me, and asked if I could come over to his house and help him with his new antenna. He had just purchased and installed a Cobra Ultra-Lite Junior, and he didn’t think that it was performing as well as it should. The suspect jumper wire. I won’t go into all of the details, but one of the checks he had made was to measure the continuity of the feed line, which is 80 feet of 18-gauge, 450 Ω ladder line. To do this, he connected the jumper wire in the photo at right across the ladder line in his shack and then measured the resistance at the antenna feed point. The measurement that he came up with was 16 Ω. Well, the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) says that the resistance of 18-gauge solid wire should be about .0064 Ω/ft. Using that figure, the resistance should be somewhere near 1 Ω. So, Paul asked me to bring over my DMM, which I did yesterday. We dropped the antenna, put my Fluke 79 across the feed point, and measured close to 16 Ω. It didnt make much sense, but the only reasonable explanation was that the problem with this measurement was the jumper wire. This was somewhat troubling to Paul, as he had a sentimental attachment to this jumper wire. It was given to him by a fellow who worked for him at Xerox, and he pointed out to me how well-made it was. He noted, for example, that each end of the wire had been tinned before it was screwed to the alligator clip. I agreed that it was well-made, but certainly one or both of the connections could have oxidized, resulting in a high-resistance connection. And guess what? When I measured the resistance of the jumper, it turned out to be about 15 Ω! I then unscrewed the wire at one end and measured again. It measured 15 Ω. I unscrewed the wire at the other end, and voilá, I measured 0 Ω. I screwed the alligator clips back on, and the overall resistance was near 0 Ω again. My guess is that the second connection was a little loose, and that over the years, some oxidation built up on both the wire and the alligator clip. Whenever we do something like this, Paul likes to ask, “So, what did we learn from this?” In this case, I think what we learned is that even jumper wires can go bad. It’s also a validation of the KB6NU Theory of Electronic Failures, i.e. at least 80% of the problems associated with electronic equipment are problems with cables or connectors.  

[Category: Antennas, Gear/Gadgets, Test Equipment, KW1L]

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[l] at 7/2/24 12:53pm
Yesterday, I operated from the Silver Lake Day Use Area of US-3322, Pinckney State Recreation Area. This is a great park, and in many respects, I like it a lot more than US-3315, Island Lake Recreation Area. It’s just a little further from my house than Island Lake, and I think I’ll be spending more time at US-3322, now that I’ve hit 1,000 QSOs at US-3315. One of the 40 contacts I made was with Jim, N4JAW. He’s not only a very active POTA operator, but also very active on Mastodon. Yesterday, after I returned home, I was pleasantly surprised to find this video posted to Mastodon. I’m re-posting it here with Jim’s permission. Not so twisted anymore As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been contemplating ditching the twisted-pair feedline I have been using on my POTA doublet antenna, after having such good success with my friend Paul’s Cobra antenna. That antenna uses 450 Ω ladder line. I happened to have a 100-ft. roll of high-quality, 300 Ω twinlead, so I thought I’d give that a go. I’ve used this antenna twice now, and while it’s hard to prove conclusively that the antenna works better with with the 300 Ω feedline, it “feels” as if it’s working better. Of course, it could just be that band conditions have been better during my last two activations. That’s why I’d like to actually make some measurements. It’s not that easy, though. There are a couple of articles online that explain how to use an antenna analyzer to do this (1, 2), and I’ll give these a go once I’ve read and digested this material. The downside to using 300 Ω twinlead is that it’s bulkier and less flexible than twisted-pair wire. It also seems more sensitive to environmental factors, such as touching the ground. But, taking a  little care when setting up the antenna takes care of those issues. QRN?? At the park? It wasn’t all good news yesterday, though. There’s something at the park generating a hellacious noise on 20 meters. The noise is so bad that the band is practically unusable. This noise is somewhat noticeable on the other bands, but just barely, and certainly not enough to make the bands unusable. That being the case, every one of the 40 contacts I made yesterday were on bands other than 20 meters. I started out on 40 meters, then jumped to 17 meters, which fortunately was open and active. I tried 15 meters, too, and made a few contacts there, but it wasn’t very active, so I moved back to 17 meters. This noise is new. Last Thursday was the first time I’d noticed it. I would have made a recording of it, but I didn’t have an audio recorder handy on my phone. I will do next time I get to that part of the Pinckney Recreation Area. On Mastodon, someone suggested that the noise was coming from a solar inverter. I hadn’t thought about that at the park, so I wasn’t really looking for solar panels, but I’m guessing that this is correct. Next time I’m there, I’m going to have to walk around and see if I see any.  I might bring a small radio, too, to see if I can pinpoint the noise source. Even if I do find the noise source, I’m not sure what I can do about it. I suppose that I can point this out to the park officials, but I’m not sure what, if anything, they’ll be motivated to do about it. Stay tuned for more on this. If you have any ideas of what I should look for, please let me know.

[Category: Antennas, Parks on the Air, US-3322]

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[l] at 6/29/24 7:06am
A couple of weeks ago, I received an email with a link to the draft agenda for the second meeting of the ARRL Board of Directors. It reads: Draft AgendaARRL Board of Directors2024 Second MeetingJuly 19-20, 2024 Roll Call Moment of Silence Courtesies Consideration of the agenda of the meeting Receipt and consideration of financial reports Motion to Adopt Consent Agenda Receipt of Officer’s reports Consideration of items removed from Consent Agenda Consideration of recommendations of the Standing Committees Consideration of additional recommendations as contained in reports Proposals for amendments to Articles of Association and Bylaws Directors’ motions Any other business Closing courtesies Adjournment If you can figure out what they’re going to discuss from reading this, you’re a better ham than I am. So, I contacted my director, Scott Yonally, N8SY. I wrote, “I bet you guys received a more detailed agenda than this. Anything that you’d care to share? He wrote back: For full “Transparency” (sic) there’s very little difference between what I get to what you get. I’m sure that you are aware of the issues Headquarters has had recently, and I’m sure that particular topic will consume a huge slice of the Board’s time this time around. This response is hardly transparent, if you ask me. I tried a second time to get more information out of him, especially item 11, Proposals for amendments to Articles of Association and Bylaws.” If you recall, it was an issue with proposed amendments to the articles of association and bylaws that raised a big stink last time. Unfortunately, he went silent on me. If it really is true that the directors don’t get much more than this draft agenda, then that means the directors are going into this meeting very much unprepared. That doesn’t sound good to me. I’m guessing—and this is only a guess—that N8SY isn’t sharing because I’ve been critical of the ARRL in the past. If so, I wish he’d just say that. Anyway, if you have concerns that you’d like the ARRL board to consider, be sure to get in touch with your division director. If you have concerns about the proposed amendments to the articles of association and bylaws, perhaps you can cajole more information out of your division director. By the way, if you are an ARRL member, you can have meeting agendas and minutes sent to you. First, log in to the ARRL website, then go to www.arrl.org/opt-in-out and check the box next to “ARRL Board meeting agendas and minutes.” You can also email ARRL Members Services at members@arrl.org.

[Category: ARRL]

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[l] at 6/26/24 1:09pm
My  No Nonsense Extra Class License Study Guide is finally available in all formats, including: PDF. You can read this version on practically any device. ePub. You can sideload this version to Kindles, Nooks, and read it with ePub applications. Kindle. Purchase this version to have it appear in your Amazon digital library and read it on Kindle readers or tablets. Print. Get this version if you want to read it in print.

[Category: Classes/Testing/Licensing, study guides]

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[l] at 6/21/24 7:15am
Yours truly after working #1,000 at US-3315. Photo: Paul, KW1L. One of the genius things about Parks on the Air is the awards program. There are all kinds of awards to choose from, and they are all automatically awarded. You don’t have to submit QSL cards or pay fees. They just appear on your awards page, and you can pick and choose which ones mean something to you. I’ve never been much of a wall paper chaser, so, aside from the Rhino Rover award that my friend, Tom, W8TAM, helped me achieve, the 24 awards that I have somehow managed to accumulate don’t really mean that much to me. Yesterday, though, I reached a milestone that brought a smile to my face (as you can see by the photo at right). I hit 1,000 contacts from US-3315, Island Lake Recreation Area. It’s been very hot here in the Midwest, but somehow, I managed to cajole Paul, KW1L, and Rick, K8BMA to accompany me to the park. We left my house just before 9 am, and despite some slow traffic, we managed to get to the park and get set  up by 10 am. Yesterday, instead of using my 66-ft. doublet, we set up Paul’s new Cobra antenna. Despite its claim to being “ultra light,” it was a bit heavy for my fiberglass mast. We solved that problem by not using the top two sections of the mast. Our antenna for this activation was a new Cobra antenna. Photo: Paul, KW1L. I don’t know if it was band conditions (I was calling CQ on 14.062 MHz), or the antenna, or a combination of both, but I began working them one after another right off the bat. I made the first 10 contacts in less than 10 minutes. I made the 45 contacts I needed to reach 1,000 in just a little over an hour, and I was up to 55 contacts at 11:25, at which point, we decided to eat lunch. The contacts we made were literally all over the map. Somehow, the skip was short enough to work into New York and Pennsylvania, but also south to Florida, east to Prince Edward Island, and west to British Columbia. QSO map for my June 20, 2024 activation of US-3315, Island Lake Recreation Area. After lunch, we switched to 15 meters to see what band conditions were like there. Right away, I got a call from an OK2 station, but not much afterwards. We pounded out another six contacts before calling it quits. It was starting to get hot out there, and any extra contacts would just be anti-climactic. Paul likes to ask, “So, what did we learn from this?” One thing I may have learned is that using twisted-pair wire may not be the best feed line for my POTA antenna. I think that I have to give some credit to the Cobra antenna for the good results we had yesterday, and its feed line is 450 Ω ladder line. The feed line loss for 450 Ω ladder line has got to be less than the feed line loss of my twisted-pair feed line. I think I’ll try to find some 300 Ω twin lead and see what kind of results I get. Is there an easy way to measure feedline loss? Has anyone already measured the losses of 300 Ω, 450 Ω, and twisted pair feed lines and compared the results? As for POTA, it’s onwards and upwards. I have 315 contacts from the Pinckney State Recreation Area (US-3322). It’s only a little further away from my house than the Island Lake Recreation Area, and in some ways, is a nicer park. I’m thinking that if I can get out 2-3 times a week, I can get to 1,000 contacts from there by the end of the season.

[Category: Awards, Parks on the Air, US-3315]

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[l] at 6/20/24 9:32pm
At Dayton this year, I learned that ARDC’s Technology Director had left the foundation. Now, my former employer is in the market for someone to replace him. You can find all the details on the ARDC website. This is a challenging position. The web page reads: ARDC seeks an experienced Technology Department Manager to join our team and lead all technology efforts. These include, but are not limited to, overseeing the following department initiatives and personnel management: Activities of 44Net, and IPv4 address space allocated to amateur radio; Open-source software development projects; and General internal IT system administration, including streamlining existing systems and helpdesk. In addition to having solid management experience in a technical field, this person must also be an excellent communicator – able to write policy, wrangle volunteers, and manage open-source technology development that includes staff, volunteers, and contractors. The ideal candidate will have demonstrated the ability to effectively communicate with executive-level management on a regular basis. It is expected you will prepare management reports and complex technical documents that are well written, appropriately and effectively organized, accurate, and comprehensive, meeting all professional standards. The page also notes: Experience and history with amateur radio and the Internet is required. Many of the people we work with, projects we take on, and communities we make grants to are rooted in amateur radio, and our particular realm of focus intersects heavily with the information technology and hacker communities. Applicants without an active amateur radio license will not be considered. Experience working with nonprofits and/or open-source technology projects is required. There are nuances of working in nonprofit and community-driven environments, including participation in open-source technology projects, that can only be learned through experience – such as collaborative decision-making and best practices in engaging with open-source development. Experience in one or both of these areas is required for this role; applicants without such experience will not be considered.

[Category: ARDC]

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[l] at 6/17/24 8:19am
My operating position on Friday, 6/14 at US-3315. It’s a good thing that I’m a better operator than I am a photographer. Where: US-3315, Island Lake Recreation Area (near Brighton, MI) 
When: 3:00 pm – 6:00 pm (1830 – 2230 UTC) 
Who:  I was solo today. Weather: Sunny, low 80s, BEAUTIFUL! Rig: Elecraft KX-3, 66-ft. doublet antenna The traffic was really bad on the way to US-3315 on Friday. Part of the reason for this is that I got started a little later than usual. I didn’t leave the house until 2:00 pm. As I sat in traffic, I hoped that this wasn’t a bad omen for this activation. Fortunately, it wasn’t. I started on 40 meters for this activation, but there didn’t seem to be a lot of activity, so after one contact, I switched to 20 meters. 20 was open, so that proved to be a good move. I made my first 10 contacts in less than a half hour. After about an hour and 15 minutes, I decided to try 15 meters. I made a couple of park-to-park (P2P) contacts and was spotted on ReverseBeacon Network (RBN) by several Europeans. I kept banging on 15 meters for a while and made some more contacts, including F5SGI, my first POTA DX contact in a while. About 2035Z, I switched to 17 meters. I made a couple of contacts there and then went back to 20 meters to finish out the day. Overall, I mad 45 contacts in about three hours of operating time. For most of that time, my rate was over 16 contacts/hour. This beat my previous rate of 14/hour last time. As far as total contacts go, I’m now just 45 away from 1,000 total contacts at US-3315. I hope to hit that sometime this week.  

[Category: Parks on the Air, US-3315]

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[l] at 6/16/24 1:22pm
In this episode, I joined Martin Butler M1MRB, Caryn Eve Murray KD2GUT, Edmund Spicer M0MNG, and Ed Durrant DD5LP to discuss the latest Amateur / Ham Radio news. The topics we discuss in this episode include: ARRL Affiliated Club in MS Donates 3D Printer, Books, to Local Library In Midst of Cyclone, Man Missing for 4 Years Returns Home Changes to the Four-year Planning Rule in England PRESENTER One-Day Tech Class a Success ARRL Gives Its Account Of Recent Network Shutdown Russia Withdraws From Worldwide Flora & Fauna Fair waring….This episode kind of long, even for us. We think you’ll enjoy it, though. The feature for this episode includes interviews from the Dayton Hamvention.

[Category: ARRL, ICQ Podcast, Podcasts]

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[l] at 6/10/24 6:36am
My latest One-Day Tech Class took place on Saturday, June 1. There were only 13 in this class, fewer than most classes that I teach. I think the main reason for this is that the university school year had already ended, so there were only a couple of students in this class. Students in my June 1, 2024 one-day Tech class taking the license exam. Nine of the thirteen passed the test. This is a little lower than usual, but one of the students was a ten-year-old who seemed more intent on playing with a yo-yo than actually getting a license. Another was a young man who didn’t miss by much. He took the test again on Saturday, at our club’s regularly-scheduled test session. So, if you don’t count the ten-year-old—and I generally don’t count anyone that young—then the final result is 10/12, which is much closer to my usual pass rate. I got a kick out of one guy in the class. He was so afraid that he had failed the test. As he was waiting for his exam to be scored, he asked me about one of the questions. Unfortunately, he had chosen the wrong answer, and when I told him this, he got even more anxious. In the end, all of his worrying was for naught, though. He passed with a score of 30/35. As always, thanks to the VEs who came to administer the test. These included (in alphabetical order by call sign) Dinesh AB3DC, Ed AB8OJ, Don AC8TO, Steve AC8YA, and Mark W8FSA, I’ll next be teaching at Hackers on Planet Earth (HOPE) in New York City in July. If you know someone who would like to take the class, have them contact me, and I’ll email them when the date is set. After that, I’ll be teaching at DEFCON in Las Vegas in August.

[Category: Classes/Testing/Licensing]

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[l] at 6/9/24 7:33am
A couple of days ago, it occurred to me that I hadn’t backed up my computer log or uploaded to Logbook of the World (LOTW) for a while. The backup went well, but when I tried to upload my latest contacts to LOTW, I got an error message. It puzzled me for a bit, but then I remembered that the ARRL had been hacked about a month ago, and that LOTW probably was still down. I tried just now to log in to LOTW via the ARRL website. There was no notice on the LOTW home page, but when I clicked on the login link, nothing happens, and the attempt just times out. I think it would be a courtesy to note that LOTW is still down and that you can’t log in just yet, but it’s not that big a deal. Lots of dahs I recently worked Miloš, OM0MM. If you’re a CW operator, you know that’s a lot of dahs (14, to be exact). I actually had to listen to it a couple of times before I copied the call correctly. Being a Slovak-American, whenever I work an OM station, I like to send them an email. I asked Milos if this was a vanity call sign. He replied: Ahoj Dan, Thank you for nice QSO and for an email.  Sorry for my bad English. About my call, yes I requested for this call sign and I lucikly get it My father (OM0EE) recommended it to me because I am only a CW operator, and I liked the idea of all dashes. So you have a Slovak roots? Very nice to hear that. You are the first Slovak ham in USA I have met. Miloš OM0MM Of course, Miloš’ English is a lot better than my Slovak, so no worries there. In making this off-air contact, I feel that I’m doing my part to enhance international goodwill” as describe in Part §97.1(e). Pro tip While it is sad that more Americans don’t know more than one language, it would be difficult for U.S. hams to master all the languages out there. Having said that, when I want to gauge how well a ham that I’ve contacted is comfortable with English, I look at their QRZ.Com page. If it’s written in English, then I reach out to them in English, as I did with Miloš. I have also tried doing a Google translate to send an email, but my results have been mixed. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m sending a Google translation (I always note that I used Google to translate the message) or what, but I get fewer replies with a translated email.

[Category: ARRL, DX, lotw, OM0MM]

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[l] at 6/6/24 7:03am
I’ve quit Twitter/X, and am now part of the Fediverse. There are quite a few radio amateurs in the Fediverse, and if you’d like to follow me there, you can follow @kb6nu@mastodon.radio. Mastodon.radio is a space for radio amateurs and SWLs, but it’s not the only radio-focused Fediverse server. It connects with the servers listed on fediverse.radio, including mastodon.hams.social, a server here in the U.S. Mastodon seems to have a much higher signal-to-noise ratio than Twitter. Here’s a few links I found and things I learned on Mastodon last night: K8CX Ham Gallery. K8CX has an interesting collection of photos from Dayton, DX sound clips, and a QSL card museum. I’ve submitted a couple photos of me and the ICQ Podcast crew at Dayton 2024. M17 Users mailing list. The  home page for this mailing list says, “The primary assumption of this mailing list is that M17 is (in June, 2024) in usable (enough) form for actual deployment and use in amateur radio.” They believe that all the pieces are there now.  Typically, to use M17, youll have to be somewhat of an experimenter to work around the inevitable glitches in using M17, but in the opinion of this list founder, all the pieces are there now. 44-foot doublet. Last night, there was some discussion of portable antennas, mainly the 44-ft. doublet antenna. This is the antenna that L. B. Cebik describes on the web page, 1 Wire, 7 Bands, 2 Directions, or The 44 Doublet as a 40-10 Meter Antenna.” There’s a similar antenna out there called the NorCal Doublet. The NorCal Doublet uses ribbon cable as the feedline to reduce weight. These two antennas look like they’d be worth experimenting with. The NorCal Doublet. See you in the Fediverse!

[Category: Antennas, Digital Modes, On the Internet, doublet, gallery, M17]

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[l] at 6/4/24 6:31pm
I received this from Fred Hopengarten, K1VR, yesterday via the CWops mailing list: While ARRL suffered on other fronts recently, the ARRL Legislative Activities Committee enjoyed a big win. On May 14th, the Vice-Chair of the relevant subject matter committee in the U.S. Congress (Rep. Randy Weber, R-TX-14) signed on as a co-sponsor of H.R. 4006, our bill to aid HOA residents. We now hope to get others on the relevant sub-committee of the House Energy & Commerce Committee to co-sponsor (“to sign on to”) our bill. Can you help? To find a list of the members of the Sub-committee on Communications & Technology, see https://democrats-energycommerce.house.gov/subcommittees/communications-and-technology . Do you know any of these people? Even if you don’t live in a district listed, if you are member of a club based in that district, please let me know. If you would like to see a copy of the bill, just ask me. Your two ARRL volunteer lawyers engaged in lobbying this bill in Washington are Gulf Director John Robert Stratton, N5AUS, and me. The bill has already been introduced in the Senate with both a Republican and a Democrat as co-sponsors. If you can help us lobby another member of the House Communications & Technology subcommittee, please let me know. CWOps #57 Fred Hopengarten, Esq. K1VR Hopengarten@post.harvard.edu

[Category: Antennas, HOAs]

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[l] at 6/3/24 6:39am
It was sunny, but a little cool Thursday morning at the Island Lake Recreation Area (US-3315). Photo: KW1L. Where: US-3315, Island Lake Recreation Area (near Brighton, MI) When: 10:30 am – 1:30 pm (1430 – 1730 UTC) Who:  Paul, KW1L, came with me today. Weather: It was sunny, but a little cool in the morning. As you can  see, I’m wearing a sweatshirt. The temperature eventually got in to the low 70s, with very little humidity. Rig: Elecraft KX-3, 66-ft. doublet antenna On Thursday morning, Paul and I decided to set up on a hill overlooking the lake. There were very few people at the park Thursday morning, so we almost had the whole park to ourselves. There were a few swimmers. Brrrrrr. That water must have been cold. As you can see from the photo at right, the operating position is in the sun. It was a bit cool in the morning, and being in the sun, made it feel just right. It was just before 11:00 am when I made my first contact. I chose 40 meters to start, and I quickly made the 10 contacts needed for a legal activation. I then moved up to 20 meters, where I had decent success. I even tried 15 meters, but I only worked one station on 15—Russ, K5TUX of Linux in the Ham Shack fame. We brought our lunches with us, and we broke for lunch about noon. After lunch, we decided to give 20-meter phone a try. We made a couple of phone contacts, including KC4DSV, who was operating from a spot that qualified as two parks: US-3924 and US-2935. We decided that that was a great way to end the activation, so we packed up and headed home.  

[Category: Parks on the Air, US-3315]

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[l] at 5/29/24 7:35am
The FCC recently released this public notice: PUBLIC SAFETY AND HOMELAND SECURITY BUREAU SEEKS COMMENT ON THE IMPACTS OF THE MAY 2024 GEOMAGENTIC STORM ON THE U.S. COMMUNICATIONS SECTOR PS Docket No. 24-161 Comments Due: June 24, 2024 The Federal Communications Commission’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau (PSHSB or Bureau) seeks comment on any observed impacts to communications that resulted from the May 2024 severe geomagnetic storm. On Thursday, May 9, 2024, the National Weather Service Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) issued a severe (G4) Geomagnetic Storm Watch, forecasting a series of coronal mass ejections (CMEs) that merged with the Earth’s electromagnetic fields between May 7-11, 2024.1 On May 11, 2024, the storm reached extreme (G5) conditions, the first time this severity has been observed since 2003.2 According to the SWPC, CMEs are large expulsions of plasma and magnetic field from the Sun’s corona.3 Electromagnetic currents generated by CMEs, when merged with the Earth’s electromagnetic fields, may distort the propagation of radio frequency waves. On May 11, 2024, the FCC High Frequency (HF) Direction Finding Center, which supports the public safety community and federal partners by locating interference to radio spectrum below 30 MHz, observed significant disturbance in the propagation of HF radio signals. This disturbance resulted in the disruption of voice and data communications passed over HF frequencies. To better understand the impacts of the geomagnetic storm on the U.S. communications sector, the Bureau is requesting information from communications service providers and the public regarding disruptions in communications between May 7 and 11, 2024, that it believes to be a result of the storm. The Bureau is encouraging commenters to provide any available evidence, particularly electromagnetic spectrum analyses, imagery, or chronological logs relating the storm’s impacts. Where possible, the Bureau asks that commenters include the description of the impacts; make and model of affected communications equipment, which could include transmitters, receivers, transceivers, switches, routers, amplifiers etc.; make, model, and type of affected antennae and their composition; frequencies affected; type and composition of cable adjoining communications equipment and the antennae, if applicable; duration of the impact; and any residual effects observed in the hours following restoration. You can find the entire document, including footnotes and instructions on how to file a comment, at https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DA-24-493A1.pdf. It will be interesting to see a report on this after the comments are in.

[Category: Propagation, FCC, solar flare]

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[l] at 5/28/24 1:29pm
Where: US-3315, Island Lake Recreation Area (near Brighton, MI) When: 2:30 pm – 4:30 pm (1830 – 2030 UTC) Who:  I was accompanied on this activation by my lovely wife, Silvia. Weather: The skies were overcast, and it looked like it was going to rain. It was also very windy. The temperature was in the upper 70s, and very little humidity. Rig: Elecraft KX-3, 66-ft. doublet antenna Yours truly making a Q at US-3315. Photo: Silvia Ruiz. On this activation, I set up in the Bluebird shelter at the Island Lake Recreation Area. It was a bit of a hike to get there, as the road was closed for repairs. That worked in my favor, though, as I had the shelter all to myself. True to its name, I spotted a bluebird perching on the volleyball net near the shelter. To the dismay of my wife, I spotted a lot of spiders, too. I started out on 20 meters, but there was so much contest QRM, I decided to try 30 meters instead. Unfortunately, there wasn’t that much activity on 30, so I decided to try 40 meters. I had much more success there. Conditions were good, and I was getting  good Reveres Beacon Network spots. I made 12 contacts in less than a half hour. After that, I tried 17 meters, and I made a couple of contacts there, but eventually wandered back to 20 meters. Instead of operating around 14.060 MHz, though, I saw some POTA spots above 14.090 MHz, and worked a park-to-park, then started calling CQ up there. That worked out OK, and I ended up the activation with 25 contacts total. Then, it was off to dinner with Silvia.  

[Category: Parks on the Air, US-3315]

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[l] at 5/26/24 5:49pm
If you regularly read this blog, you know that I often criticize the ARRL. I can’t help myself. They make it soooo easy. Despite that, I still think that all hams should be members. The biggest reason I think that all hams should belong to the ARRL is that they really are the only organization advocating for amateur radio with the FCC, Congress, and local and state legislatures. You can criticize them for perhaps not doing enough, but without the ARRL, very little would get done. I also think that the ARRL is the only organization with the wherewithal to provide the leadership necessary to move amateur radio forward. They haven’t done nearly enough, but there are some programs worth noting, such as the Clean Signals Initiative and the youth programs that Steve, K5ATA has been running. With more members, we could see more programs like this. A declining membership might mean that these programs and even more get cut.  Membership isn’t cheap, but ARRL membership isn’t cheap, but amateur radio isn’t a cheap hobby. How much do you spend on amateur radio per year? Chances are that $60/year is just a small fraction of that. (If it’s not, then I’ll forgive you for not being a member.) The way I look at it, I would have no right at all to criticize the League if I wasn’t also a member. They may still blow me off, but at least they can’t say that my opinion means nothing to them because I’m not a member. Of course, that opinion doesn’t hold water with everyone. On a mailing list discussing the future of amateur radio, one fellow wrote, The one tiny thing I can do is to choose not to continue helping to fund ARRL’s “same old, same old” operation . They don’t notice my opinion, but they may notice the absence of my financial support… but probably not. Actually, I think that they do notice. It doesn’t happen overnight, but if you keep poking them, sometimes things do change. For example, for a long time, I criticized them about not supporting clubs enough. Well, in November 2021, they started publishing the Club News  email newsletter, and recent changes in the club commission program make it more profitable for clubs. At one point, they were talking about offering training for club officers—another of my ideas. Unfortunately, it appears that this program never got started, as I can’t find any mention of the training on the ARRL website. This is disappointing. I suspect that part of the reason this never got off the ground is a lack of resources. The ARRL is working to make ham radio better I think that the ARRL really is working to make amateur radio better. They may not be doing the best job that they could be doing, but quitting the ARRL isn’t going to make the situation any better. The only way to get the ARRL to change is by organizing ourselves, finding good candidates to run against board members we don’t think are doing a good job, and helping  those candidates run effective campaigns. You can’t do that if you’re not a member. This approach may or may not work, but the only option is to just give up, and I don’t think that giving up will make ham radio better. If you’re on the fence about renewing your ARRL membership, I would encourage you to do so. If you’re not a member, please consider joining. Then, let’s figure out a way to make the ARRL truly the “national association for amateur radio.

[Category: ARRL]

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[l] at 5/25/24 2:12pm
Where: US-3315, Island Lake Recreation Area (near Brighton, MI) When: 1:00 pm 4 pm (1700 2000 UTC) Who: On this activation, it was just me. Weather: Beautiful day.  Sunny skies, temperature in the low 80s, and very little humidity. Now that I’m back from Dayton, it’s time to start enjoying the summer. For many hams, that means Parks on the Air! I’ve already made a couple of activations, and plan to make many more this summer. I’ve also decided to blog about each activation. My operating position at US-3315 on Friday, May 24, 2024. Yesterday, I activated US-3315, Island Lake Recreation Area, the park closest to my house. They’re doing some renovations at the two spots where I usually set up—the Bluebird and Hickory picnic areas—so I set up at the Kent Lake beach area. There isn’t a shelter close to the parking lot, but there are plenty of trees to provide shade. Notes I chose kind of a public place for this activation. Public places are good for attracting visitors, but you have to be more careful with your antennas. I put some caution tape on both legs of my inverted V antenna, but even so, you should keep an eye on the antenna. A family with small kids claimed a couple of picnic table near me, and at one point, one of the toddlers decided it might be fun to play with the antenna. Overall, I think that I prefer a more secluded spot. I’ll just have to hike a bit further from the parking lot. Having said that, the young(ish) father of the toddler came over when I started tearing down and inquired about what I was doing. He said that he was thinking of getting an SDR, so that he could start monitoring different services. I gave him my card and encouraged him to contact me if he developed an interest in amateur radio. I spotted my first sandhill crane of the year. Last year, they were regular visitors, and I’m happy that they’re back this year. 20 meters sounded kind of dead, even though I was getting some decent spots on Reverse Beacon. I’m thinking that there are fewer hunters in the early afternoons, for whatever reason. I was getting a weird, intermittent, man-made noise that I had not heard before at this park. I thought it might be from passing cars, but I couldn’t really figure out where it was coming from. I have some fancy banana plugs that I’m using on the radio end of my twisted-pair feedline. These do provide a good connection, but for some reason, the screws holding the wire in place are coming loose. I’m hoping a little LocTite on the threads will cure that problem. Immediately after going QRT, I downloaded the log to Evernote. I didn’t do this last time, and unfortunately, my phone completely died and I lost that log. Next time, I’ll bring a rag or a brush, to brush and dirt or branches on the table before I begin operating.

[Category: Parks on the Air, Island Lake Recreation Area]

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[l] at 5/24/24 8:38am
Amateur radio is supposed to be all about public service, but it doesn’t always have to include radio. At this year’s Ann Arbor Creativity and Making Expo, I ran into Dale Grover of Maker Works, a non-profit makerspace here in Ann Arbor, MI. He mentioned that he’d recently gotten a grant to repair assistive devices for people with communication and access needs. These devices are used in schools that generally don’t have a big budget for repair. It seemed like a good opportunity for ARROW members to use their electronic skills for a good cause, so I told him that I’d try to find some volunteers to help out. I got a great response to my call for volunteers, and yesterday afternoon, four ARROW members met at Maker Works to fix assistive devices. Shown below is Paul, KW1L; Rick, K8BMA; and Ron, K8RCF. Yours truly is taking the picture. Typically, devices have a big switch that the user presses to play a pre-recorded message. The problems are generally easy to diagnose, and the repairs are generally simple repairs. Rick, for example, replaced the plugs on several of the devices, and Paul and Ron replaced the speakers in several of the units. One of the devices that I tackled came with a note that read, “Won’t play or record, even with a new battery.” As we all know, the first step in troubleshooting is to verify the problem. So, I obtained a new battery and opened the battery compartment. As shown in the photo at right, it was clear that the problem was a defective battery clip. Somehow, someone managed to tear the negative contact off the clip. I replaced the battery clip and brought the device back to life! Overall, we probably fixed close to ten devices, including the pushbutton switches. We probably could have fixed more, but it took us some time to learn how to disassemble and then reassemble the devices. Even though the fixes are usually simple, they can also be a bit frustrating. For example, the device that I replaced the battery clip on wouldn’t go back together very easily. It looked to me as though the screws holding the device together just aren’t long enough. Other devices had similar design issues. Our first repair session was a fun and interesting exercise, and we plan to go back in the future. There are many more devices to fix. I asked Dale, our contact at Maker Works, if we might schedule an evening session so that our members who are still working can attend. After all, why should us retired guys have all the fun? Having said all that, I have to believe that there are public-service opportunities like this in your community that your clubs could help with. Keep your eyes open and get your clubs involved. If there’s an expense, for say equipment or replacement parts, you can always apply for a club grant from the ARRL or ARDC. I’d be happy to help you write the proposal, if you need help. If you do find similar opportunities, please let me know, and I’ll spotlight them here on my blog. These kinds of projects provide a real public service even if they don’t involve radio.

[Category: Emergency Communications / Public Service, Equipment Maintenance, makerspace, troubleshooting]

[*] [+] [-] [x] [A+] [a-]  
[l] at 5/24/24 8:38am
Amateur radio is supposed to be all about public service, but it doesn’t always have to include radio. At this year’s Ann Arbor Creativity and Making Expo, I ran into Dale Grover of Maker Works, a non-profit makerspace here in Ann Arbor, MI. He mentioned that he’d recently gotten a grant to repair assistive devices for people with communication and access needs. These devices are used in schools that generally don’t have a big budget for repair. It seemed like a good opportunity for ARROW members to use their electronic skills for a good cause, so I told him that I’d try to find some volunteers to help out. I got a great response to my call for volunteers, and yesterday afternoon, four ARROW members met at Maker Works to fix assistive devices. Shown below is Paul, KW1L; Rick, K8BMA; and Ron, K8RCF. Yours truly is taking the picture. Typically, devices have a big switch that the user presses to play a pre-recorded message. The problems are generally easy to diagnose, and the repairs are generally simple repairs. Rick, for example, replaced the plugs on several of the devices, and Paul and Ron replaced the speakers in several of the units. One of the devices that I tackled came with a note that read, “Won’t play or record, even with a new battery.” As we all know, the first step in troubleshooting is to verify the problem. So, I obtained a new battery and opened the battery compartment. As shown in the photo at right, it was clear that the problem was a defective battery clip. Somehow, someone managed to tear the negative contact off the clip. I replaced the battery clip and brought the device back to life! Overall, we probably fixed close to ten devices, including the pushbutton switches. We probably could have fixed more, but it took us some time to learn how to disassemble and then reassemble the devices. Even though the fixes are usually simple, they can also be a bit frustrating. For example, the device that I replaced the battery clip on wouldn’t go back together very easily. It looked to me as though the screws holding the device together just aren’t long enough. Other devices had similar design issues. Our first repair session was a fun and interesting exercise, and we plan to go back in the future. There are many more devices to fix. I asked Dale, our contact at Maker Works, if we might schedule an evening session so that our members who are still working can attend. After all, why should us retired guys have all the fun? Having said all that, I have to believe that there are public-service opportunities like this in your community that your clubs could help with. Keep your eyes open and get your clubs involved. If there’s an expense, for say equipment or replacement parts, you can always apply for a club grant from the ARRL or ARDC. I’d be happy to help you write the proposal, if you need help. If you do find similar opportunities, please let me know, and I’ll spotlight them here on my blog. These kinds of projects provide a real public service even if they don’t involve radio.

[Category: Emergency Communications / Public Service, Equipment Maintenance, makerspace, troubleshooting]

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