Monthly Archives: November 2010

Looking to 2011 Early – Loss of Clubs, Gains of Opportunities and Spending Time on the Air

Here I am giving some time to looking forward to 2011 early, especially in terms of my Amateur Radio hobby.

Though I haven’t said very much directly, lest my comments inadvertently hasten the clubs demise, for all practical purposes our local radio club has withered. The reasons are typical – losing focus of what matters to the membership and internal frictions. While 2010 saw the club finally gain its long desired 501c3 status the loss of members disaffected by the loss of club “mojo” has basically finished it off. In 2011 it would have started its 65th year, so perhaps it isn’t all the inappropriate that it “retires” while ahead.

So a Loss of the Local Club has an affect on forward plans – what to do with the Hamcram efforts and with the local email reflector being unsubscribed by the area hams, how to keep in touch.

Or is it even important? It isn’t like clubs really fire a person up – it is more that they put like minded people in proximity. And that isn’t always all that much either. I’ve found as much interaction with distant clubs with people more closely sharing interests than with geographically defined clubs. Guess I’m not all that taken with clubs who make discussions of spending trivial sums of money – sums that wouldn’t cover the car gas for the attendees who have shown up – as a “feature” of their business. Lame. Unless the interaction is intellectually stimulating and socially fun, why go in teh first place? Perhaps that our local club had only one regular member attend its last meeting (and a total of four or five depending if you count board members and a Skype-In person or not) attend total hits the nail on the head. People don’t want to “do business” and hear “club woes” – they want to learn something, have fun and mingle.

Enough on clubs in the death throws….

On the plus side there are some significant Gains of Opportunities for my Amateur Radio involvement for 2011. With Dale N6JSX I have one technology project in the works, with Scott W9JSB plans to do some Satellite work, and with a core group of area amateurs we’re into a new special project (NOT a new club! But watch for a detailed announcement in 2011).

A couple travel opportunities may hold some operating time as well! I’m also considering putting aside time for a mini-Dxpedition balanced with some more serious fishing.

All should increase my chances of Spending Time on the Air operating and spending time coaching other & getting them on the air.

Sometime in 2011 I’d like to move my actual operating position into the main portion of the house, and have some quotes coming on doing the work to make that happen. Whether Mrs K9ZW will oblige is a later hurdle.

I’ve been a partner in a working boat which seems to be an ideal candidate for some operating time as well. Perhaps I can finally get out on the boat (never have been) and do some HF off it. BTW it is a 31 FT ex-US Coast Guard boat which is leased to an area marina as part of the TowBoatUS program.

I’ve also at least four portable HF antenna set-ups to field test, and a whole pile of gear to field test. Not to mention four or five kits to build….

Well as winter looms, guess it is good to start planning!

73

Steve
K9ZW

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Sometimes there is Magic in the Air – Demonstrating the K9ZW Shack

Earlier this week I wanted to demonstrate the K9ZW Shack’s capabilities to our young friend Jorge, a Basque lad visiting from Spain, and I would have only a few moments to show off the Flex-5000A.

First we looked over the last hundred or so QSL cards that had arrived from the W9 Bureau, which piqued Jorge’s interests.

Showing Jorge how I power up the shack – everything from warming up the Rb-Frequency Source to starting the software in sequence – I knew I had only a few minutes in his tightly packed schedule to either “make an impression” or “make excuses.”

Sometimes there is Magic in the Air!

Almost immediately after power up I started looking for Caribbean stations – I usually have a good luck working the Islands on 20m and rather quickly we caught PJ2/K8ND in the Netherlands Antilles.

Now I had a guest in the shack who was asking questions and very interested in what could this small station do?

A quick check of the DX spots showed that the Japanese Amateur Radio League Antarctica club station had been heard & worked – could we do it from my station?

Well… it did take three calls because of the pile up… and I worked 8J1RL – some 16,000 KM distant – with a very solid 59+20 both ways!

What a wonderful five-minute demonstration – several quick solid contacts and then an exotic DX – 8J1RL – so solid as if to be in the next room! Jorge was very pumped with the contact and another friend of Amateur Radio was made! With the questions he asked on how to become licensed, maybe Jorge will join our hobby’s ranks in the years to come?!

Sometimes there really is that magic in the air!

73

Steve
K9ZW

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Thoughts on Amateur Radio Travel in a TSA Controlled World

Over the next six months I’ll have several opportunities to travel via airlines.

A few of the places work and recreation will take me to are beyond my personal “Drive if it is less than a 16 hours drive”  guideline.

For several years I have generally driven if a destination could be made in 16 hours behind the wheel or less, simply to be able to have my own schedule, being able to have my own airline-unfriendly test gear with me, and avoid the delays/hassles of airline travel.

In practice I would bend this rule to basically drive whenever I could, even if it would be a somewhat longer drive.

I should explain that my construction profession usually requires showing up at the client’s facility in full PPE (Hardhat, Safety Boots, Safety Glasses, Hearing Protection, possibly Hi-Viz outer wear and fall-protection harness/gear in some cases), with roof access gear (ladders) on occasion, and usually sampling (roof test cut & patching) & testing gear.  So I am usually traveling heavy.

Also the idea, at my height, of putting up with much time with knees crushed into the back of the next row of airline seats seems enough justification alone to drive rather than fly.

For a few years I flew my own personal airplane for some of the longer trips, though the economics didn’t work out and I found the love of flying I had for hours piloting disappeared when I “Had” to fly to make a trip.  What was fun on a Saturday morning as a getaway from work had become part of work, and hence much less fun.

Internationally one is usually stuck flying, though I have made several inter-country sea trips, either personally on commercial cruises or for professional travel on ferries or working boats.

Over the years while flying commercially I have had undue attention on numerous occasions.  I’ve managed over the years to be interviewed by New Scotland Yard’s airport team, spend a few hours in special examination by the friendly (not) folk in Canada, have TSA agents insist on detaining me while they scanned their own class ring claiming my gear had hidden metal in it, be counseled by Her Majesty’s finest that I needed to pay a huge fee & have my passport taken away to transfer visas (didn’t do it, and it has continued to work just fine every trip, though I expect the moan each time), and dozens of other hassles by officialdom domestically & internationally.

What would set them off?  Anything from paying cash for an international ticket (don’t do it – I was naive and I had a funeral to make), traveling with stuff that twigs their systems – firearms, masses of computer disks back in the day, traveling with no luggage (wonderful Transport Canada was crabby about that), traveling with tools (Transport Canada again wigged out, as the common tools to nurse back  car left in Canada set them off – I should have bought the spares & tools once I arrived I guess), asking the wrong questions (NEVER ask the TSA folk were you selected for further screening by “profile or count” – whether you matched some sort of risk profile or simply were the x-number person through – as they go nuts when you ask about their procedures), … and crime of crimes, traveling with radio gear.

Internationally I had SWL and Amateur gear “earn” me extra scrutiny in & out of the UK, Spain, Canada, Mexico and a couple of the Islands.

Domestically I’ve earned an extra “looking over” or had hand luggage checked because of radio gear perhaps a half-dozen times.

I should clarify that my Military days included extensive security training, perhaps leaving me a bit more attune to when I have attracted extra security attention.  Perhaps some of the ramp-up security responses – simple things like two supervisors coming over with the questions starting might escape some travelers, though of course the “invite to the windowless hell of an interview room” would register with everyone!

So how to travel with the radio gear I would like to have AND not become a TSA training exercise in route?  With the TSA currently prone to illegal warrantless searches – their claim that you agree to be their victim by having bought a ticket is dubious at best, and as far I can tell I buy a ticket from the Airline, not the government…- why attract attention?

Working plan is to repurpose a spare Pelican case, outfit it with one of my back-up radio kits (transceiver, power supply, antenna, cables & accessories) and ship it ahead by UPS or FedEX.

With airlines charging for an extra bag, this looks to be cheaper and gets my gear out of the way when playing the TSA game.

As long at the kit is insured, and I have a ready way to ship back, this should work.

So the current debate is whether to up-scale the kit to include push-up masts and a “dream list” or keep it at a more Zen-like minimum kit?

Should I keep it a portable transceiver (say a SGC-2020 or an IC-7000 size class) or scale up and send a TenTec Jupiter or perhaps an IC-745 class rig?

My thoughts are the small-scale.  Target of under 50 lbs of kit and less than $1000 in insured value.

Tentative list is:

  • SCG-2020 Transceiver
  • SCG 237 Antenna Coupler (though they seem to weigh more than it should).
  • Gamma Power Supply
  • End-Fed Antenna lik the LnP offerings
  • Cables, connectors & Coax
  • Grounding wire with clamp/stake termination
  • Welz SWR/Power Meter
  • Rigrunner Power connector box, with spare fuses
  • NUE-PSK Diginal Modem & USB keyboard with interface cables

Should be able to put together the kit mostly from gear in my spares, and meet the weight & value maximum targets.

Have a few weeks to test the set-up and set-up the case.  Would like to do a hand-cut foam insert to best protect the gear in the case.

More to follow….

73

Steve
K9ZW

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Information Overload – Archiving Your Amateur Radio Literature Stacks?

Very curious what other radio amateurs do for keeping a handle on all the magazines and other information they receive?

Having stacks of QST, CQ and NCJ (National Contest Journal) magazines, with another set of stacks of great web-articles, project manuals and eBooks, is just not working here.

I mean, “where is that matching network article I saw last year in… hmm… well maybe in QST?”

And where did I put that cool web mini-eBook on Russian Phrases for the Radio Amateur???

One of my sons has suggested scanning anything of interest (or keeping it electronic if it was that way) and creating a private web-archive. Wouldn’t thank just become an electronic version of the same – albeit one that could be burned to a few disks?

Of the archivists among us, what do you suggest?

As for disposition of the stacks I have, I’m going to follow the idea of “spreading the wealth” and start dropping them off at hospitals, schools and waiting rooms – after I trim my address information off.

What do you do?

Suggestions?

73

Steve
K9ZW

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GUEST POST: N6JSX on “How to Kill a Ham”

Guest Post by Dale N6JSX on observations of what kills a club & an a ham’s enthusiasm with advice on what seems to work to keep thing healthy:

How to Kill a HAM
by N6JSX

I’ve seen HAMs come and go.

The cause of their silence is NOT due to becoming a “Silent Key” but that their HAM spirit was killed by other HAMs.

Occasionally, the reason for a HAM’s silence is discovered.

The common causes are:

  • “I’m tired of listening to the b_ llsh _ t!”
  • “I’ve been black-ball by the repeater’s ‘click’!”
  • “I’m tired of hearing false innuendo’s about me or others!”
  • “I did a project and then got trashed by the ‘click’!”

Additional causes of a broken spirit: burned out and frustrated Club officer, discriminated by manipulated elections, NO recognition of efforts given, being the subject of off-air character assassinations, asked to do a project to get NO officer support, not allowed to participate in technical projects when you’re one of the most knowledgeable, giving your time/effort to obtain requested training to never get activated, watching do-nothing suck-ups getting rewarded for none efforts!

When a HAM decides that Amateur Radio is NOT worth the personal aggravation they usual just turn off their radio and fade away into in-activity pursuing non-related HAM adventures.

The quickest way to get, totally, BURNED out on HAM radio is to become a REPEATER Club officer or a member volunteering to work Org/club projects.

Some HAM’s see becoming an Officer fulfills a personal ego ambition in giving them their first taste of perceived ‘power’ – often becoming tyrants and fracturing the Club.

However, most HAM’s become Club officer to make a “positive” difference and to improve the club.

But an officer with integrity, practices equality, and willing to run the Club as a democracy, will surely rock-the-boat making you a target for political character assassination by the inside “click.”

As an ethical officer, nothing you do will be good enough – NO matter how reasonable or how logical your actions – YOU DID NOT DO IT RIGHT per some member!

An ethical officer may survive a term in office but do NOT expect to receive the appropriate ‘thank you’ for your services.

However, if you are a gutless follower, that allows the “click” to control your actions, you can be an officer for years – receiving HIGH praise for your lethargic non-efforts!

Another way to reach burn-out is to become a volunteer for a National HAM organization, like ARRL, ARES, Red Cross, SkyWarn, HLS-EMA, RACES, etc.

Then you can be used, abused, and discarded, merely, for trying to improve their SYSTEM or (heaven forbid) you question the logic of their illogical methods.

Involvement in these organizations can give you great insight on how much false recognition goes to politically positioned “do-nothing suck-up HAMs.”

In time you may discover that you were merely used to further the organization’s financial goals or management’s salaried gains.

Remember, NO National organization stays in business without money!

If you want to make HAM radio a life long hobby then ONLY accept a HAM leadership position or project with your eyes wide open.

HAM radio has much to offer and many various modes of communication.

Take your time to learn, keep your ears open, and get your feet wet in HAMdom BEFORE you decide to get involved in Org/Club politics/projects!

Then ONLY get involved with guarded expectations.

Being an ethical officer requires you to put on a helmet, flack jacket, and toughen up your emotions.

NEVER expect the recognition you deserve.

Be prepared to see political insiders take credit for your work and berate your efforts.

Remember, for some HAMs it is easier to hurl negative slurs than to give “positive” complements!

To ALL ethical HAM’s and Club OFFICERS – GOOD LUCK!

All good thing to think about!

73

Steve
K9ZW

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Show and Tell Video – How to set up an HF portable radio while hiking by Diana KC2UHB

Make:Magazine is a personal favorite, and I had missed this great Youtube when it first posted:

“Fall is the perfect time for hiking, it’s not too hot and not too cold. Last weekend I took a day trip to hike up High Mountain in New Jersey and activate SOTA summit W2/NJ008. It’s really easy to set up an HF portable radio and not a whole lot to carry up the mountain. This video shows how to get set up including how to hang the antenna in a cluster of trees and making contact with Italy.”

]

http://blog.makezine.com/archive/2009/10/how_to_set_up_an_hf_portable_radio.html

(SOTA is Summits on the Air (SOTA) is an award scheme for radio amateurs and shortwave listeners that encourages portable operation in mountainous areas. SOTA has been carefully designed to make participation possible for everyone – this is not just for mountaineers! There are awards for activators (those who ascend to the summits) and chasers (who either operate from home, a local hilltop or are even Activators on other summits).

SOTA is now fully operational in many countries across the world. Each country has its own Association which defines the recognised SOTA summits within that Association. Each summit earns the activators and chasers a score which is related to the height of the summit. Certificates are available for various scores, leading to the prestigious “Mountain Goat” and “Shack Sloth” trophies. An Honour Roll for Activators and Chasers is maintained at the SOTA online database.) – http://www.sota.org.uk/

Thank you to Make:Magazine and Diana Eng KC2UHB for the fine work!

73

Steve
K9ZW

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