Monthly Archives: August 2007

iCard Series – No. 32




A Solution Looking for a Problem to Solve – ALE in use in non-channelized Amateur Frequencies

What is ALE

Where it came from

Military Channelized Operations, later adopted by some MARS (Military Amateur Radio Service), and then migrated to the General Amateur Bands

Why it works so very well with dedicated frequencies

The discipline of an automated system lends itself very well to a very well regulated and partitioned set of frequencies.   The system “knows” where to look for other ALE operations and is able to “vote” automatically for best connections.  Quite clever.

Why it is QRM and a poor neighbor in open band use

The techniques used in a channelized system depend on given channels being available to at least poll, and in the case of ALE to send out the “I’m here listening” transmissions.  Obviously other than the 60m band Amateur Radio allocations are NOT channelized and open to a huge variety of modes, frequencies, transmission bandwidth, power and even language variations.

Why it QRMs ongoing QSOs

Because the ALE system “listens” only for ALE formatted transmissions (as it expects to be operating in a protected channelized environment) it is unable to properly listen for ongoing QSOs before transmitting.  As the ALE system is greatly a QRO (higher power) operation it is particularly disruptive to ongoing QRP and lower power digital mode communications.

The effect is like a Pactor Robot blasting away, but with the added QRM of beaconing test-link transmissions on a repeated basis 24/7/365. 

What should happen

The use of ALE should be promoted ONLY in segregated channelized spectrum, such as MARS and possibly 60m, but should be curtailed in open spectrum unless the ALE operator is at their station, does the due diligence listen first, call with “Is this frequency in use?” clearing calls on each frequency on each band BEFORE transmitting in the blind.

No Non-Channelized HF ALE

In other words, the ALE operator should be expected operate and act like any other Radio Amateur operating in open to all Amateur Bands, both from a courtesy point and from an FCC rules angle.

Repeated unattended automated transmissions in the blind should be treated as the QRM they are, and also treated as unattended beacon transmissions operating outside of the coordinated beacon frequencies & beacon power limits. 

ALE in open spectrum is a “Solution Looking for a Problem to Solve” that does not “play well with others” and should be treated as the intruder it is, until (and IF) the technology can be developed to respect other uses of the Amateur Bands.



K9ZW Station Recap – Stuff that Seems to be doing Good!

The current K9ZW Shack seems to be running well.  

SSB Signal reports are excellent and usually if I can hear the DX I can work them.

Here is a run down of the current shack:

Transceiver – TenTec Jupiter
Amplifier – Alpha 78 (one of the pair I had Alpha refurbish for me)
Antennas – 20m to 10m Tennadyne T-8 Log Periodic Beam, 160m to 40m W9INN 1/2 Sloper, 6m to 1.3ghz Tennadyne T-28 Log Periodic Beam
Amplifier/Transceiver Isolation –  AmpKeyer HF
Audio Panel – W2IHY 8-Band Unit
Antenna Switch – Array Solutions RatPak 6n remote switch
Watt/SWR Meter – Array Solutions PowerMaster
Power Distribution – RigRunners (two)
Power Supply – TenTec Power Units for the Jupiter (a pair)
Coax Feedlines – Davis RF “Buryflex”Rotor – Ham IV
Rotor Control – Green Heron RT-20
Computer – Generic Dell Pent-IV Box running XP Home
Transceiver Control Software – N4PY Pegasus Version 2.37
Digital Software & Logging Software – MixW Version 2.18
Microphone – Yaesu MD-200
Headset – audiophile Sennheisers
Tuner – Palstar AT4K (Military Style Version with the Built in fan) 
Dummy Load – ex-Navy 2.5 KW surplus unit
Digital Transceiver – TenTec Pegasus
Desktop Tuning Pod – TenTec 302
Data Headsets – Heil PMHS and Logitech 350 USB headsets

Almost all of these items have sort postings about them – you can use the “search” facility in the right-hand column of this page to find what I’d previously written about the items.

I am sure a missed a bunch of stuff and didn’t begin to touch upon the backups & spares.

All in all the station is working pretty well and at the present QTH it is likely it will only be incrementally improved.



From Far Far Away – Working Remote with the TenTec Omni VII

The new TenTec 588 Omni VII is one of the few radios that allow direct connection to the Internet via a built-in Ethernet connectivity. 

 Omni VII

 First efforts to work two different Omni VIIs remotely have been partially rewarding and part frustrating.

Starting with a friend’s Omni VII we found we had to work through some fairly in depth Router configurations.  His home network is large and has evolved through several different Internet sources and overall configurations, making the actual pathways less intuitive than expected.

The Onmi VII’s connectivity focuses on having a Static IP address for the network, a on-network static IP address for the Omni VII itself and a group of UDP Ports that have been Port Forwarded & otherwise unfettered for remote use.  None of this is beyond a ham’s ability if they choose to dig into it, but we did need some professional help due to the complex configuration at the remote local network.

I was able to connect to my friend’s Omni VII fairly quickly, and had very good receive audio, but my transmit audio was rougher that the voice of an old-style Country & Western Singer after two bottles of ‘shine and half a carton of best cigs…. “Gravel” be thy name!  Certainly unsatisfactory.

Time to start working in earnest on setup. Initially I was using a Heil Pro Set Media Pro boomset that Bob Heil recommended for the application.  When I am having troubles configuring a bit of technology I have found it useful to eliminate variables caused my new gear until I get the software under control and switched to the Logitech Premium USB 350 HeadsetI have been using for Echolink/EchoMac and iChat. 

I expect to return to the more comfortable and “radio amateur like” Heil boomset once I get the system working correctly.

The computer is an older Dell Desktop Pent-IV box running XP Home that has been running my digital station for the past several years.  Connectivity is better than 2 Mbps up/down both ends.

Working with TenTec’s Gary N4CJX we decided I should connect to one of TenTec’s own Omni VII setups and check things out.  Working with Gary N4CJX I was able to greatly improve the situation, but a latency and rumble still occur.

The culprit has every sign of being the old Dell box.  I am using the on-board audio on a rather modest computer that I really had never used for voice audio work in the past.  So the next step is to try it with a decent remote computer. 

All in all the SWL side was excellent, and the final TX Audio acceptable, but below my personal standards of acceptability.  Expecting that the next round of tweaks, including substituting a “real computer” with a “real sound-card” and lots of RAM will make a difference.

Expect further reports!



iCard Series – No. 31




Well it does have Some Radios – R/C Flying with the Boys

Based on the interest of my boys we’ve rejoined the AMA (Academy of Model Aeronautics) AMA Logo 

and joined the local Radio Controlled Flying Club “Manitwo FlyersManiTwo RC Flyers Logo

We’ve had a plane for while, but I had never gotten around to reassembly. It is a built-from-kit “Ugly Stik 40” which I traded other hobby gear for with a good friend. Well built, but perhaps a bit on the hotter end of being a R/C trainer. Here is what it looks like (click on the picture for a larger view):

BigStik R/C Airplane

Our youngest, Victor (who is the only non-Radio Amateur Male in our house BTW….) has had the lessons so far. The club has excellent people and great facilities. I guess pretty soon I will have to give it some time and start lessons as well!

The Amateur Radio Connections are pretty obvious, but we need to accomplish the basics of R/C Flying first!