Tag Archives: K9ZW Classic

REPOST: Snap Snap – Photographing Your Shack & Setup

There is nothing like a few well shot photographs to help you duplicate your shack after a loss, move or simply a good cleaning!

With digital cameras letting us shoot & store photos for nearly zero cost, we return on your time investment to have a good selection of shack photos is outstanding!

I’ve tried to capture the shack layout, the individual pieces of gear, their ID & serial number tags, how they are wired up and anything unusual.

These go with my software settings screen shots and station notes.

These photos have been handy when I repainted the shack walls, my insurance coverage should be a bit more secure through photo-documentation, and I dud use the wiring photographs when I set up my rig in the field for Field Day.

One small tip I was taught, with digital cameras you can turn off the flash and often get better pictures of faceplates, ID & serial plates.

There are a few digital cameras that response to near infrared light, making them useful to experiment with. I’m told you can sometimes find an energized short through looking at the heat shown on one of these cameras, but I’ve only worked with full industrial infrared survey cameras.

But I’ve been told it works (I wouldn’t go buy a camera just to try it though.)

Get the photos into your station documentation and make sure you have a backup file stored somewhere else!

Smile & say “Cheese!”



Tagged , ,

REPOST: Making a List & Checking it Twice – Checklists & Screen Shots for Amateur Radio

The modern Amateur Radio rig may have dozens to hundreds of user adjustable settings. The computer in the ham shack, specially if running Digital Mode soundcard software and CAT (Computer Aided Transceiver) can easily add several dozen additional software & hardware settings.

Then there are cables, antenna switches, antenna tuners, possibly amplifier settings, rotor control settings, perhaps interfaces and more to keep track of.

Not to mention simply getting the band, frequency & mode set on the radio!

Fortunately all these settings/configurations tend to fall into a few groups:

  • Those that once set almost never are changed unless the shack is upgraded
  • Those that once set, are seldom changed
  • Those that change as a group when switching operations style – say as an example switching from 15m SSB to 40m Digital
  • Those few we change a lot – such as frequency, band, volume, antenna bearing
  • Getting everything running as wanted is ususally the result of a period of adjusting, trying it out, and adjust some more.

    So what happens if our set up is lost? What if the rig needs a firmware or software update to match changes in band allocations? If that new security update changes an operating setting? If we change our computer? If we moved our shack to another QTH for field day or Emcomm reasons? If something quite unexplained happens upsetting or loosing settings? If family “fiddles” with our computer? If that demo of the lastest & greatest Radio Software/RC Simulator/Star-Gazer/MP3 or other software adjusts our “perfect settings” to something else it needed?

    If we do two simple things any of these set-backs becomes trivial.

    Checklists Help!

    Checklists: For each of the major configurations of my station I have a “cheat sheet” of what wires go where, major bits needed and what fires up in what order. This has been invaluable when taking the gear out for Field Day or even down into our local submarine for Ships-Afloat activations.

    Radio Folder

    Screen Shots:These have proven invaluable in resetting sound card and software sliders to known working settings, specially after some other software package messed with the settings. For the Windows machines the ctrl-PrntScrn and then Ctrl-V into Paint seems to work ok, or you can use one of the screen grabbers that can be added to your system. For the OS-X Mac systems Cmd-Shft-3 shoots the whole screen into a desktop placed photo file (png by default) or Cmd-Shft-4 lets you select a screen area and snap a part screen photo.

    On either system I then create & label a folder to store the related setting screen shots and checklists.

    Do remember to store a copy of your home-brew documentation someplace off the machine.

    I lost the operating system on my main shack desktop to a S.M.A.R.T. Drive failure, wiping out all my settings. I was able to use one of the copies of my setup folder of checklists and screenshots, one that was stored on another drive, to reset all the settings & software sliders when the new drive was installed.

    You might even consider emailing a copy of a zipped version of your setup checklists & screenshots to a storage account (perhaps gmail or yahoo) to get a copy safe outside of your shack. You should do teh same with software keys & registrations you would need to rebuild your shack.

    Good luck and here’s hoping you never need to consult with your stored checklists and settings screen shots!



    Tagged , ,

    REPOST: Hellschreiber – The Modern/Historic Analog/Digital Mode

    What modern Amateur Radio soundcard “Digital Mode” is nearly 80 years old?

    What Amateur Radio soundcard “Digital Mode” is really analog?

    What Amateur Radio soundcard mode was adopted by the WWII Axis Forces?

    Dr Rudolph Hell’s “Hellschreiber” is that mode!

    First we should make it clear that “Hell” was the good Dr’s surname, and that in Dr Hell’s German language it is a play on words of sort, translating as “Brightly.”

    So it is NOT a cussword in this use, nor does it have any real meaning beyond Dr Hell’s name.

    Hellschreiber sould be thought as related to the technology of a Fax machine. The message to be sent is “scanned” using a matrix or grid, much like making a halftone from a photograph for printing, and each spot in the grid is declared as either Black or White in an analog transmission.

    Here is an example of Seven and Twelve High Grid formats for Feldhellschriber (Field Hell Writer):

    7 and 12 wide Hellschreiber Layout

    Dr Hell’s orginal prototype from the 1920’s seemed to have more to do with a Ticker Tape machine than anything else:

    Hellschreiber Prototype

    This original machine used Carbon Paper (kohlepapier) and a “striker” to tap the printout tape (called Registreirstreissen in the drawing):

    7 and 12 wide Hellschreiber Layout
    7 and 12 wide Hellschreiber Layout

    The German Army gear was later refined for commercial use:

    7 and 12 wide Hellschreiber Layout

    Now we run Hellschreiber over Amateur Radio Bands using soundcard software:

    Modern Soundcard Hellschreiber running on MixW

    A good list of Hellschreiber References is:









    http://feldhellclub.org/ is the premier Hellschreiber Club – K9ZW is FH #169 (there are over 650 members).


    K9ZW (FH 169)

    Tagged , , ,

    REPOST: It’s about Time – NIST WWV Radio Reference Signals

    This is a repost of a February 2007 Article. Several of our local club members asked about WWV during a club shack session, prompting the return of this article.

    Did you know that the USA Government provides a free to use time reference that is as accurate as anything on the planet?

    Perhaps you have heard the “beep beep beep at the Tone it is X:XX Universal Coordinate Time” on the air?

    Perhaps you have an “Atomic Clock” or watch?

    Perhaps you have even done sound-calibrations using the WWV radio signal and one of the digital mode software packages?

    All use the WWV (and WWVH & WWVB) radio transmissions.

    The National Institute of Standards and Technology is the US Government Agency charged with running the radio time beacons as part of its overall charter:

    NIST’s mission is to promote U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards, and technology in ways that enhance economic security and improve our quality of life.

    NIST Radio Station WWV is the part of NIST that Radio Amateurs most use.

    Located in Colorado, the site itself is not open to the public, and looks like this:

    MIST WWV Transmitter Station

    How accurate is WWV’s time keeping?

    Less than 1 microsecond of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) at the transmitter.

    Of course the signal is delayed as it travels to your receiver.

    This delay increases with distance, and also changes with Propagation as at various times the signal is bouncing between the earth and the ionosphere which effectively changes the distance. Usually in the USA the accuracy should be better than 10 milliseconds (1/100 of a second).

    Over the telephone, acurracy drops, but WWV should still be accurate to less than 40 milliseconds (1/25 of a second).

    The Broadcast Format

    Is best explained by this NIST WWV Graphic:

    NIST WWV Broadcast Format Chart

    WWV broadcasts much more than just the time. There is so much it is best to simply check the WWV Website for more information!

    The Phone Option

    WWV shortwave broadcast, can be heard by phone at (303) 499-7111 and for WWVH time announcements from Hawaii, call (808) 335-4363 WWVB does not have a number published

    The Internet Option

    You can synchronize your computer clock to NIST using either an Internet or a dial-up, and using simple software available at the WWV site.

    Other Uses

    Using WWV to calibrate radios or other gear is quite easy, but usually equipment specific. You will need to follow the directions for your specific gear.

    WWV is a unique service. Though a few other countries have similar systems, no other has so much to offer on an open user basis.

    Remember “It’s about Time” at WWV !!!



    Tagged , , , ,

    REPOST: Going Armed during Radio Emcomm Activations – Cowboy or Wiseman?

    This article is a repost from February 2007. The issues still have not been resolved with the Emcomm community and face the Radio Amateur.

    The original article with comments is at:




    Typical 45 Pistol

    A quick look through most Emcomm (Emergency Communication) MOA/MOU (Memorandum of Agreement/Memorandum of Understanding) with served agencies didn’t find an answer to a question a group of Radio Amateurs on-line were recently discussing.

    Is it the done thing to go armed when responding to an Emcomm call out?

    Reviews of the on-line MOA/MOU didn’t discern a documented official stance – actually no mention of Firearms, Mace, Weapons or Self-Defense could be found. The issue simply is never addressed.

    The decision to go armed or not is not just personal security against violence issue, but displaced hungry/diseased aminals could well be an issue.

    Though unless duely authorized by the government, an Emcomm volunteer may NOT be a law enforcement person legally. This can affect your options for self-defense choices.

    Usually though a Served Agency expects that an Emcomm responder will be able to take care of themselves.

    In other words, the served agency expects that Emcomm (ARES / RACES / Skywarn / REACT and so on) volunteers will not by design knowningly become additional victims during the call out.

    If you are a dual-hat – such as a dual ARES/RACES & Red Cross volunteer, you may have compromised your self-defense options by the agreement with the secondary “convience membership.”

    Shotgun & Military Grade gear may suit some situations.

    A Hunting Rifle alone may suit other situations.

    An easy to carry rifle might be considered a MUST in some remote areas.

    The exact type of personal protection a situation calls for will greatly vary with the type of call out, the ability of the volunteer and the foreseeable needs.

    Where an urban situation where an Emcomm volunteer is being assigned to a stable community with the maximum foreseeable risk being problems with stray dogs and displaced vermin, a personal MACE or teargas dispenser may be more than enough.

    For a responder who will be dealing with a remote area of woodland, perhaps as part of a search & rescue, where the wildlife includes significant dangers (Wolves & Bears) something serious in the way of a rifle may be considered a bare minimum of protection.

    The pros & cons will be covered in a future article here at “With Varying Frequency – Amateur Radio Ponderings”

    Whether to go Armed or Unarmed is a Personal Decision no matter what Emcomm Leaders say, specially if there is no mention in the operating MOA/MOU or SOPs. It is YOUR life as a volunteer on the line.73


    Tagged , , ,

    Complete System Restore – OS-X Timemachine Saves My Data, Again!

    This is a screen I had hoped to NEVER see – the screen of doing a complete system restore on my MacBook after another Hitachi 160 GB Hard Drive died:

    Completely Restoring my MacBook from an OS-X 10.5 TimeMachine Backup

    Once the new drive was installed (5 minutes) it is only the matter of loading the OS-X 10.5 Disk, going just a few steps into an install until the upper menu bar shows, select “Utilities” and follow the prompts for a Restore from Backup.

    The actual backup will be timed a few hours before the Macbook’s internal disk went out.  It looks like the actual full restore will take about 2 hours.

    As the “Restore from Backup” option only offers Full Backup Images to restore from, I am hoping I can use the hourly incremental backups to later bring my system up to at most an hour off of when the failure occurred.

    This is the fourth Hard Disk in this Macbook.  I’m going to write to Apple to see if they can offer a solution to what appears to be a non-enviornmental host machine problem.

    It sure does seem that TimeMachine used with a decent external hard drive saved me from having the sort of significant data loss of the earlier disk failures.


    K9ZW Logo


    Previous TimeMachine Posts:

    Deja Vu OS-X Style – Timemachine Revisited

    First Use of TimeMachine – This Rules!

    Going Back in Time – “Time Machine” on the Macbook

    Tagged , , , ,