Monthly Archives: July 2008

REPOST – Agreeing to Disagree – The Wonders of the “Big Tent” of Amateur Radio

“With Varying Frequency” before the blog had active RSS feeds, when it had a readership a small fraction of what it has now, before WordPress added Tags to search content and were never archived properly.

I’ve selected a handful of popular articles to repost as a response.

If you read them back at the beginning, my thanks for your patience with the reposts. If they are new to you I’d love your feedback!






Recently I’ve had several fellow amateurs come across as rather heated in their emails, comments & list postings, apparently agitated that I didn’t share their opinion.

We participate in a “Big Tent” hobby, where no matter what you honorably hold as your beliefs you are welcome.

Of course there is that temptation in all of us to “push the button” – to try it on/out and see what happens.

Trying it on! Yes, we just “try it on!”

Unfortunately that “trying it on” is often at the expense of the feelings of others & the understanding that it our a shared hobby that brings us together in the first place.

Several of the various lists & forums have regularly posting members who forget not only the “Golden Rule,” but also forget that it is neither necessary, nor even very likely that we all share exactly the same opinions.

Amateur Radio is a “Big Tent” with room for all interested licenced Radio Amateurs!

Catch ALL of you on the bands! Hear you there!



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D-Star – a Delight or a Disaster? – Another Perspective – Guest Author

Jeff WA4ZKO has been kind enough to pen a guest article on the D-Star scene:






I’m a repeater sysop myself and know many others. The going trend across the country is that most analog repeaters set silent 99% of the time. I can’t count the number of sysops that have told me they are going to run current gear till a major repair comes up, then it will fade away. Even SERA had an article in their journal magazine about “where have the users gone” not so long ago.

So? Conventional repeaters are fading away one by one due to lack of activity. I just don’t see that the introduction of DSTAR repeaters is going to change this trend. We’ll just have more repeaters, even more expensive to install/maintain, setting around idle most of the time. Sure, you might get a burst of usage in the beginning that quickly fades as the “new” factor wears off. DSTAR has been around for several years now…nearly a decade?

I find it interesting that only ICOM offers DSTAR gear and none of the other manufacturers have joined in after all these years. Plus when you factor in the poor quality of most ICOM gear of late, not good. In fact I gather DSTAR gear sales have been so poor they recently started all kinds of promotions. The only DSTAR system in my area is, interestingly, heavily sponsored (read subsidized) by the local ham radio gear dealer and ICOM.

I’m also disturbed by the misinformation (outright lies at times) and exaggerations often used by the DSTAR crowd when it comes to “is this a repeater or not,” and the comparisons with APCO25.

Then to build this on another proprietary CODEC is, IMHO, a big mistake. Why reinvent the wheel when a well defined digital standard already exists. It would of been much wiser to use a interoperable standard (ah, APCO25 anyone).

Yeah, I know the codec is still proprietary JUST LIKE DSTAR’s. At least this would offer INTEROPERABILITY options for those that want to have commercial/ham channels in one rig..legally. Plus it would allow hams a great deal of choice in terms of obtaining commercial grade gear to be used for the repeaters…just like we do today with analog repeater hardware. ICOM’s repeaters have never been known to be a very good value and reliable.

From what I’ve seen of it, DSTAR would be an administrative nightmare to use in a typical real world emergency. This is especially so if you’ve got users coming in from out of the area to assist and they are not already setup on the system. Not to mention the potential for system failure with such a setup. The audio quality of DSTAR leaves a lot to be desired in comparison to just about any P25 radio I’ve used. The P25 commercial gear is unarguably much more durable than ICOM’s toys anymore.

In many cases, APCO25 gear can do both analog and digital. DSTAR repeaters (sorry, a repeater is a repeater) are digital only. Yes, the mobiles/handhelds can do analog FM and DSTAR, but not the repeaters. Granted you probably wouldn’t want to be doing both on the same system on a daily basis, but it’s a nice fall back option to have there. AKA, flexibility.

Before someone comments that APCO25 locks you in to Motorola gear, it just isn’t so. You can buy all kinds of APCO25 gear from a multitude of manufacturers. APCO is a public safety group that defined the standard, a standard created with a lot of thought towards the future, interoperability, and preventing vendor lock in. We hams don’t know it all and could learn a lot from today’s communications leaders and pros.

Most hams are just glorified appliance operators anymore. That’s not always a bad thing, everyone is in the hobby for their own reasons. Problem is that many need to learn just how far behind the rest of the communications world we are. A great example was the hoopla created when SERA tried to get the 2m repeater owners to adopt PL tones (something public safety adopted decades ago). Yeah, the way SERA went about it didn’t help, but to read the rational behind the resistance to it was an eye opener for many as to why our hobby stands where it is today. Even Riley Hollingsworth made comments that made it clear we needed to get at least halfway in sync with the rest of the communications world!

Many of your repeater owners are going to want to carry commercial gear on their hip, not a 2nd radio just to work DSTAR. It would of been much better to take the existing digital standards and design for interoperability. I’ve been around a lot of this group and they are not impressed the DSTAR gear and choices made. Digital is the future for sure, but implementation is key.

If they wanted a data layer, then strap it on top of an existing standard and allow backward compatibility to APCO25. This layer should be completely open and extensible. Let us hams do what we used to do best…innovate. Seems we didn’t learn much from Katrina and 911.

No I’m not saying that the average ham needs to be able to access a local public safety system via APCO25 using ham gear. In most, if not all cases this would be illegal for a variety of reasons. But what many need to realize is just how many hams that are active in public service are also employed in public safety. As radio systems are upgraded across this country, guess what’s replacing them? APCO25 gear. Many of these guys/gals are already carrying high quality APCO25 gear on their side are not going to go for yet another expensive digital radio because ICOM couldn’t go with a standard. Hence ICOM immediately lost themselves a good chunk of users, users that are often the front and center face of ham radio to the agencies we serve. Give this some thought folks.

From what I gather from my travels and talking with other repeater sysops, most hams going digital are deploying P25 commercial grade gear. These P25 repeaters are seeing more interest/usage than comparable DSTAR repeater systems, but even they admit that usage is nothing compared to the 80’s and 90’s. In general the attitude from these guys is that if you’re going to do digital repeaters, then you do it right and use an open standard like P25. Yeah, P25 stuff is expensive, but DSTAR isn’t cheap either. Both will come down over time and P25 surplus gear is already pretty easy to find on ebay.

Many other concerns about DSTAR exist, but I think just the above will prevent it from ever being anything more than a niche toy. The sad part is that if it had been done right, we wouldn’t be closing in on nearly a decade of DSTAR with so little actual usage beyond a few highly vocal niches.

Both DSTAR and APCO25 are interesting technologies with pros and cons both ways. In the end things will have to stand on their own merit, not hype. I predict ICOM and the DSTAR folks are going to regret their choices.



Link to Jeff’s Web Blog 

WA4ZKO’s Ham Radio & IT Weblog

I find myself agreeing with Jeff WA4ZKO’s take – D-Star has too many issues to be a viable Emcomm tool and remains a limited Amateur Radio experiment after years of full scale pushing by Icom.`



Original Article: D-Star – a Delight or a Disaster?

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Robby-the-Robot comes to CW Contesting – CW Skimmer and Contest Classifications


Robby The Robot

Robby The Robot

Imagine a passband scanning Automaton robotically able to listen to the contest traffic just Your Station can receive, presenting its results in realtime on a computer screen with callsigns?

Welcome to the world of CW Skimmer

CW Skimmer has moved the bar significantly in CW contesting – perhaps more so than packet, auto-keyers and panadaptors combined, by offering the CW operator a comprehensive, real-time station-customized band analysis useable in a point-shoot-and-forget fashion.

Pretty Cool stuff!


CW Skimmer in Operation

CW Skimmer in Operation



Of course it does change the dynamics of CW contesting from being operator skill, location, and station design confined, to being influenced to a greater extent by CW Skimmer use & integration.

The CW Contests usually have several classes of operation – operator number (going solo or team), assisted/unassisted (station helpers and data feeds) and power levels.

In the assisted/unassisted separation the use of external data feeds – packet & internet spots – customarily moved a station to the Assisted Category.

There is a huge debate as to whether the use of CW Skimmer is Assisted Operations, the same as packet & internet spots, or as it locally generated without additional human intervention if it is better described as Unassisted.

The strongest argument for remaining as Unassisted is that everything CW Skimmer presents is what your station heard and no other human hands touched anything to do it.

CW Skimmer is a major slide down the slippery slope to automatic station contesting.

In the case of CW Skimmer it may be a ham shack “Robby the Robot” only carrying out a finite set of computerized calculations.

But it does more than a team of dozens assisting a contester could ever do.

I’ve suggested elsewhere that the Unassisted category be split into a “Traditional Unassisted” and “Automated Unassisted” categories to more accurately reflect the actual percentage of the contest done by the operator and by the shack computers.

These TU and AU (“Traditional Unassisted” and “Automated Unassisted”) classes would be defined by whether a station is running an agreed level of station automation.  

The AU class might be a better place for remote operations, spread-antenna location diversity operations, and the other very cool experiments some stations are working at.

The TU class would be an operator, his conventional station and his keyer.  

Of course the exact division between the two would take some working out – there is a continuum being divided up between the classes – but the contest community can work it out.





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Hilberling PT-8000 Production Canceled – My Wallet Cries in Relief while my Planned Shack has a Void

Very unhappy to learn that the PT-8000 project has been canceled:


Array User’s,


I am sorry to learn the following from the Hilberling factory today.


Message from Hans Hilberling

I regret to announce today that Hilberling GmbH has cancelled the production of the PT-8000 series of transceivers.I am really sorry that this will cause disappointment on your side. Let me explainbrieflywhat had led to this decision: 

Hilberling had to counteract continuously obstacles to meet EU wide requirements. This has forced us multiple times to change the design of this high-end transceiver which often has been in conflict to our design goals. We finally could meet all our design numbers within a few prototypes but we and the numerous suppliers were not able to guarantee these numbers for the line production. Measures that would have to be taken to guarantee the specifications are in no way cost effective. All this has led to the a.m. decision to put everything on hold.

Hilberling apologises for any inconvenience you had. We deeply appreciated the confidenceyou demonstrated for the PT-8000 series of HF/VHF-Transceivers.

Hans Hilberling  July 24, 2008



Jay Terleski
Array Solutions
972 203 2008
Military Communications Systems, Phased Arrays, RF Switches, Antennas & Towers



My Wallet Cries in Relief while my Planned Shack has a Void.

More as this develops.



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Constitutional Matters (Club Level) – The Importance of Having the Same “Sheet of Music”

What an interesting process.  Our Local Club, Mancorad W9DK, has a difficult to use piecemeal Constitution & By-Laws.

The document includes everything from citations from 19th Century Court Rules of Order (Luther Stearns Cushing’s short Manual of Parliamentary Practice – 1844, usually known as Cushing’s Manual) to various bits & pieces added over 60 years of club existance.

The process of bringing the Constitution & By-Laws up to date involves relooking at almost every aspect of the club, and requires resolving differences in opinions on these various aspects.

Board meetings, Constitution Committee Meetings, digging through documents & old paperwork, and seemingly endless discussions are the result!

The reward to staying the course will be a document suitable for the club’s use for the next sixty years, as well as correcting numerous technical & legal issues with the old document – many which developed over time as needs evolved, but the document lagged behind.

Expect more written about the process, and I should offer kudos to those clubs & the league who have made various actual & model radio club constitutions available on line.

And of course a huge thanks to the Mancorad Members who are working so hard to make the new document an inclusive & adaptive reflection of the best of Amateur Radio in Club Form.



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A Little Island Time – WI-001L for the Day

The day Saturday was was glorious sunny and blue skies as Tom KC9JGD and I made our way to Washington Island (WI-001L) by car to their Lion’s Club annual Fly-In and Fish Boil.

We met Susan & George W9EVT at the airfield, and later stopped in at Greengate Farm to see the progress on the Ham Mansion.

The Main Operating room has had all of its flooring completed and currently George W9EVT is operating with a minimal setup.  It only took a few minutes to sort out getting him back on the air for 160 to 40 meters, and the other bands will be back up in a few days when the operating counsels can put put back in the usual locations.

I’m planning another visit in a few weeks, and we talked about what we might get up to at that time.  

We’re hoping to have another WI9DX Washington Island DX Club Meeting in early August.

WordPress is fighting me on adding photos, so the few pictures I have of the day will wait for another day.



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