Category Archives: Ohio Section Journal

Articles in the Ohio Section Journal.

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – May 2019 edition

One of the responsibilities of the Technical Coordinator in the Ohio Section is to submit something for the Section Journal. The Section Journal covers Amateur Radio related things happening in and around the ARRL Ohio Section. It is published by the Section Manager Scott – N8SY and articles are submitted by cabinet members.

Once my article is published in the Journal, I will also make it available on my site with a link to the published edition.

You can receive the Journal and other Ohio Section news by joining the mailing list Scott has setup. You do not need to be a member of the ARRL, Ohio Section, or even a ham to join the mailing list. Please sign up!

If you are an ARRL member and reside in the Ohio Section, update your mailing preferences to receive Ohio Section news in your inbox. cAUZRdnMNrU?start=2051Those residing outside the section will need to use the mailing list link above.
Updating your ARRL profile will deliver news from the section where you reside (if the leadership chooses to use this method).
Go to www.arrl.org and logon.
Click Edit your Profile.
You will be taken to the Edit Your Profile page. On the first tab Edit Info, verify your Email address is correct.
Click the Edit Email Subscriptions tab.
Check the News and information from your Division Director and Section Manager box.
Click Save.

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at:

THE TECHNICAL COORDINATOR
Jeff Kopcak – TC
k8jtk@arrl.net

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

Back in January of 2017, I wrote an article published in the OSJ that talked about different sources of repeater and frequency information. A couple things have changed since it was published. The ARRL no longer prints a pocket-sized directory, much to the chagrin of my dad, and prices have gone up. There is still no great source for the most current list of repeaters. The workplace required me to do some traveling earlier this year to D.C. and Dallas. The D.C. tip was going to allow for much more hamming it up time because I was driving and it was a two-week trip. Dallas required long working days so I wasn’t sure how much radio time I would have but I took an HT anyway. These trips gave me a chance to review different sources of repeater data.

For D.C., I took my HTs along with the gear I typically pack for a public service event where I’ll be riding in someone else’s vehicle. It’s pretty basic consisting of a mag-mount antenna, ICOM IC-2820H dual-band radio with D-STAR, and adapter to go from the radio’s power plug to a cigarette lighter. I take a couple extension cables: coax extension with PL-259s and a barrel connector in case the antenna coax is not long enough. I also take the remote mount cable for the display head just in case.

The cigarette lighter car adapter is more than good enough to power the radio especially when listening more than transceiving. I checked the manual, and verified on an amp meter, the highest power setting (50W) draws about 12-13 amps. Most car adapters are rated at 10A so I’m limited to low or medium power. Components of the typical car adapter are flimsy and drawing anywhere near 10A, or more if the line is fused higher, for a sustained period of time could cause failure or even fire. Low power (5W) draws 4A and medium power (15W) is about 7A (a little less on 2m). One thing that has surprised me, no reports of alternator whine where I’ve used this VHF/UHF setup.

Winterfest hamfest, Annandale, VA

Traveling to and from D.C. and to any new area, I use the band scan memories or scan edge memories. To me it’s easier than making banks of repeaters for different cities along the way. Scan edges are memories available on most modern radios. Set the start and end frequency and the radio scans frequencies in-between, stopping on any signals received. Once it hits the end frequency, returns back to the start frequency and begins scanning again. Often notated “xA/xB,” “xL/xU,” or similar memory locations for beginning and ending frequencies respectively. The 2820 is capable of dual band operation (2 frequencies at once). On the left side of the radio I had a scan starting with 144.000, and ending at 148.000 which covers the 2m band. On the right side was 440.000 – 450.000 for the 70cm band. The “step” setting determines frequency increments. A setting of 15.0 kHz will start on 144.000. The next frequency scanned will be 144.015, then 144.030, 144.045, and so on. A step of 5.0 kHz will start on 144.000, then 144.005, 144.010, 144.015, etc. Most 2m band plans are 15 kHz steps and most 440 are 25 kHz. I stick with those frequency steps. Setting the step to 5 kHz catches more frequencies in cases where a repeater might be coordinated on a non-standard frequency, but it does take much longer to scan and it will stop on a lot more interference from the car or near-by transmitters.

In this day and age, noise will be an issue and the scan will stop frequently. This can be reduced by turning up the squelch or attenuator, but you’ll miss weaker signals. Some radios have a ‘skip’ (sometimes called “lock-out”) function that will skip over problematic frequencies. I use the radio’s “scan resume conditions” to resume scanning 10 seconds after arriving on a signal. This is nice so I don’t have to keep messing around with the radio while driving. If there is an interesting conversation, I have to stop the scan in order for the radio to stay on that frequency.

I use RepeaterBook almost exclusively for downloading repeater lists at home and places I’m staying on the road. The search is straight forward but I do massage the data. I start off with a Location search with a radius of 50 miles. 50 miles is good if you want to hear distant repeaters or driving around the area. A radius of 25 miles is sufficient if you’re staying in or around one city. I export that to CSV (a portability format in plain text for databases, separating the fields by commas) and open in Excel removing anything the radios can’t receive. ATV repeaters, P25, NXDN, 900 Mhz – all get removed. The ICOM radios will get analog and D-STAR repeaters, but not Fusion or DMR. The Fusion radios get Fusion repeaters, not D-STAR or DMR. Then use RT Systems to import the modified CSV for each radio, save it in RT’s file format, and finally download data to the radio. There are entries in RepeaterBook that haven’t been updated so an analog repeater which is now DMR will slip through, for example. I remove those from the RT file later and download again if necessary. I generally don’t spend time writing a DMR code plug while traveling. I don’t find much benefit in researching repeaters static and PTT talk groups for use over a short period of time. If I don’t find a code plug browsing a couple club sites in the area, I use a hotspot.

For some reason, the RFinder application was not loading any data during most of my time in D.C. There was a fix which corrected that toward the end of the trip. I found the website of the local coordinating body for D.C. and Northern Virginia, T-MARC. The website looks like a callback to 1995 but it had information I found interesting including recent coordination actions, detailed interference FAQ, policies, band plans (including digital voice), and updated frequency lists. It should really come as no surprise because the president is a guy that did a lot of good for the Cleveland area before moving to Maryland, Dave – W8AJR. What does our repeater council website have? Complaints the ARRL is not using their repeater data anymore and the 2016/2017 Ohio Repeater Directory!

K3RTV station at The National Capital Radio & Television Museum

When looking for things to do during downtime in D.C., I discovered they had a Radio and Television museum. It was something I wanted to see because I did television production in high school and professionally in college. The National Capital Radio & Television Museum was located in a converted house. I walked in and you’re standing in a side room welcoming area, library, and gift shop. I immediately notice a SignaLink and some ham radio gear. There was a bulletin board with ham call signs next to the station. I asked the docent if he was a ham. He wasn’t but the guy in charge was the station Trustee of K3RTV and would arrive a little later. The museum had a couple of pieces from Ohio, KYW pictures and “newspaper delivered by radio” in 1939 from WLW. I hung around and talked to station Trustee Jim – N3ADF after perusing the exhibits. The museum gives him another place to operate radio in addition to another workshop. The club station at the museum does operate a couple special event stations. I’ll be looking for them on the air.

On the way back from the museum, a QSO revealed there was a hamfest coming up that weekend in Virginia. I attended the Vienna Wireless Society’s Winterfest held at Northern Virginia Community College. If you’ve ever been to NOARSfest in Elyria at Lorain County Community College, it was very similar. Outdoor and indoor flea market areas and catering provided by the college. I was happy I attended because of a couple deomonstration tables that were setup. The NoVA ARDEN Mesh (Northern VirginiA) group had nodes setup demonstrating capabilities of the network including phone and video. That area of Virginia has a lot of datacenters. AOL used to be headquartered with 3 datacenters in that area. It was good talking to those guys who could give me more of a deep-dive into technologies used on the networking side. As I’m talking to the mesh guys, I look over at this guy talking about Winlink. He looks familiar but I can’t place why. I figured it out a little while later. If you go to YouTube and search “winlink” he is the first video you’ll see. It was Greg – KW6GB whose video I had seen doing research for a Winlink writeup. I talked to him for awhile and I’m participating in his Winlink Wednesday.

In Dallas, I knew we were going to be putting in long days and since we were flying, I didn’t want to be hassled bringing ham radio equipment by TSA. I did some research and most of the comments read: ‘keep a copy of your license’ which I always have, ‘keep batteries in your carryon’ this is regulation especially for any Lithium-Ion batteries which have been known to explode in checked baggage, ‘it’s unlikely you’ll have a problem.’ This was exactly my experience in both CLE and DFW. I didn’t have large wire antennas or any HF equipment. I can’t say if you’re transporting that type of gear, you’ll have the same experience. Ship it if there is a concern.

Portable ARDEN mesh setup, Winterfest hamfest, Annandale, VA

As it turned out, I didn’t get any time to play on the radio while in Dallas. One night we did have severe storms roll through. After our work was done, our group made it back to the hotel that night while the ground was dry. Storms were threatening, alot of lightning and weather alerts were popping off. By the time we made it up to our rooms, it was raining sideways.

I was in a hurry to find local Skywarn frequencies and I hadn’t pre-programmed the radio before making the trip. I went to RepeaterBook for Dallas county, 93 repeaters were found. Didn’t have time to sort through or scan for the Skywarn frequency. I remembered something I found and noted in my 2017 article, the RadioReference database has a list of Amateur Radio frequencies for an area. The ones listed tended to be repeaters actually on the air, more popular, Emcomm, and Skywarn type repeaters. Sure enough, tuning into 146.880, the first frequency on that list was the Dallas RACES and Skywarn net. The storms blew through with no major events. More like the storms experienced on Thursday night/early Friday morning at Dayton this year. Lotta rain, flooding, and some damage depending on location.

For some reason, this new location for Hamvention and lodging is prime area for thunderstorms. Fine by me. I love a lightning show and it has become a highlight every year to see storms roll through. Sometimes they roll through during the show which wasn’t so neat. This year they seemed to happen before and after the show which was perfect. There seemed to be more people attending Hamvention which was probably attributed to the dryer weather. My dad and I spent most of our time in the flea market since it was sunny and dry. Sunscreen was a requirement otherwise you were going to be toasted. I usually don’t need sunscreen on my legs but even the backs got a little burned.

My dad and I had some excitement the first night at the hotel. About 4:30am Friday morning, all were woken up by the sound of the fire alarm. Just after being awakened, I heard thunderstorms outside. At that point, I hoped it was a false alarm and would cease before we left our rooms. While in Dallas, the fire alarm went off but it stopped 20 seconds later in the early morning. Enough to be annoying but I was now 2/2 over my last two hotel stays where the fire alarm sounded. Got dressed and left our room with everyone else. The alarm panel was showing smoke detected in the pool maintenance room. A large awning provided shelter from the storm, pouring hard but not blowing. Waited there 15 minutes or so while the fire department showed up with two firefighters. The hotel staff couldn’t get in the pool maintenance room. They finally shut off the alarm but we had to wait in the lobby. Another 40 minutes later we could return to our rooms but they couldn’t get the fire alarm to reset. That pretty much set the tone for the weekend at this hotel. *Insert Circus theme music here*

Yaesu FT3DR

At Hamvention, Yaesu was showing off a demo unit of their new Fusion HT. The FT3DR is the same as the FT2DR though a little smaller, more like the size of the FT-70DR, with a color screen and Bluetooth. Elecraft had a demo of their K4. Seems a little higher in price than other SDR radios but those who have them swear by ’em. It’s cool that it’s running Linux because many other SDR radios have been running and require Windows.

Probably the biggest news came in the Ham Nation wrap-up of Hamvention. It maybe answers the question, what happened to Mendelsons? They had the biggest tent in the flea market when the show was at Hara Arena with loads of surplus gear. Since the switch to Xenia, I think they were there in some corner one year. George – W5JDX went to visit the store location and found out they are planning to close the store. They maybe still around for visitors of Hamvention 2020 but sounded like they might be closed by next year. George shot some video but hasn’t edited it yet. It will probably appear on Ham Nation or his other show, Amateur Logic. Sad to see another Hamvention vendor go!

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – April 2019 edition

One of the responsibilities of the Technical Coordinator in the Ohio Section is to submit something for the Section Journal. The Section Journal covers Amateur Radio related things happening in and around the ARRL Ohio Section. It is published by the Section Manager Scott – N8SY and articles are submitted by cabinet members.

Once my article is published in the Journal, I will also make it available on my site with a link to the published edition.

You can receive the Journal and other Ohio Section news by joining the mailing list Scott has setup. You do not need to be a member of the ARRL, Ohio Section, or even a ham to join the mailing list. Please sign up!

If you are an ARRL member and reside in the Ohio Section, update your mailing preferences to receive Ohio Section news in your inbox. cAUZRdnMNrU?start=2051Those residing outside the section will need to use the mailing list link above.
Updating your ARRL profile will deliver news from the section where you reside (if the leadership chooses to use this method).
Go to www.arrl.org and logon.
Click Edit your Profile.
You will be taken to the Edit Your Profile page. On the first tab Edit Info, verify your Email address is correct.
Click the Edit Email Subscriptions tab.
Check the News and information from your Division Director and Section Manager box.
Click Save.

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at:

THE TECHNICAL COORDINATOR
Jeff Kopcak – TC
k8jtk@arrl.net

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

One thing about ham radio, there is no shortage of linking systems. Most are familiar with analog linking like EchoLink and IRLP but there were less popular ones such as WIRES and eQSO. Digital has many more options because when someone disagrees with an implementation, they make another. This allows for options but leads to fragmentation and incompatibilities. The AllStar Link project can link different infrastructure systems together or be a completely independent system. I learned about this linking system and accepted a challenge from one of the Technical Specialists.

Some of your Technical Specialists and I have this spirited debate about Motorola radios. They are correct claiming Motorola radios can take a lot of beating and keep on ticking. Not quite Timex but close. Commercial radios are designed to endure extreme conditions. Think police trying to wrangle a criminal or fire fighters in extreme temperatures of a working fire. You don’t want to worry about your primary line of communication being destroyed in the process. Ham grade gear won’t stand up to that kind of use and abuse. Older Motorola gear is very popular with hams as dependable FM repeaters and for use on 900 MHz. They make great repeaters because they have excellent adjacent channel rejection (selectivity) which minimizes interference from other transmitters.

Motorola CDM1250

My counter is most of this gear is not capable of VFO, a must when working with other agencies and not familiar with their frequencies. Some models are better than others getting them to transmit in the ham bands if the radio’s band split is just above or below the ham bands. A common practice is to bring a radio with the 450-512 MHz split to transmit in the 440-ham band. Aligning the radio is often needed because it has drifted off frequency. A service monitor or RIB (Radio Interface Box) cable are needed. Everyone should have a service monitor or scope, few do. Many older radios require a PC with a serial port and/or DOS application to be programmed. Serial ports are becoming harder to find on computing devices. I’ve heard USB to Serial Port adapters work, for the most part, with the help of DOSBox. DOSBox is an emulation of DOS that works on modern operating systems. Primarily designed as a tool to run DOS-based games but it also works for other DOS applications. To download a legitimate copy of the Motorola CPS programming software, the subscription cost can get ridiculous. A Radio Reference thread indicated it could range from under $200 to $400 with an increase last year for MotoTRBO equipment. As a former programmer, pirating doesn’t support developers and doesn’t allow the company to put money back into developers and adding features. If you’re kind enough, someone with a subscription maybe willing to program the radio for you or find a ham-friendly radio dealer willing to do the same or sell the software at cost. Pro tip, don’t ask about pirated software in the RR or in other forums.

Out of this debate came a challenge from Bob – K8MD to try out a Motorola radio. I eventually found a project where I need a radio but the programming wouldn’t change often. I did a lot of reading and research on BatLabs and Repeater Builder which are great resources for repurposing commercial radios and building repeaters. The used market is where these radios will be found. Advice from those sites will be very useful in not getting ripped-off, especially decoding the radio model number. My project was to setup an AllStar Link node and it was a perfect time to try a Motorola CDM1250.

AllStar Link, often called AllStar, is an Amateur Radio linking system on a Linux computer, running the open-source PBX telephone switching platform called Asterisk. An AllStar module called app_rpt turns Asterisk into a powerful, full featured, Ham Radio repeater controller, and linking package. It is theoretically capable of controlling hundreds of nodes at a time. Jim Dixon – WB6NIL (SK), developed app_rpt and is considered to be the father of AllStar. Asterisk is typically used as a SMB (small/medium business) phone system.

Like other analog Voice over IP systems (VoIP), such as EchoLink or IRLP, it links radio systems together. AllStar is flexible enough to link other infrastructures together as well. The ability to make connections on any IP network makes AllStar decentralized, meaning it doesn’t need to rely on other infrastructure. No central server for someone to pull the plug resulting in a complete collapse of the network. The concept of a node in AllStar terminology is a loose definition but they all run the same exact software. Node types are generally defined as:

  • Repeater: full duplex node and user functions accessed by DTMF
  • Simplex node: half-duplex node, also with user functions available by DTMF
  • Remote Base node: a half-duplex, frequency agile HF, VHF, or UHF remote base. Will not respond to DTMF on RF.
  • Hub node: a common connecting point (similar to Conference or Reflector) with plenty of Internet bandwidth to handle many connections at one time, has no RF connected hardware

Nodes can be public, private, or a combination of both. A public node would be accessible by any other public node on the AllStar network and requires Internet access to the AllStar infrastructure for the phonebook of public nodes. Private nodes can be limited to select users or on a completely private network, like a mesh network, where you don’t want many uses connecting over limited bandwidth links. These are great for connecting repeaters at different sites over a mesh network, point-to-point link, VPN, or public Internet. Private nodes are reserved node numbers ranging from 1000 – 1999.

A hybrid approach of both public and private nodes can be taken. Repeater 1 at location A, repeater 2 at location B, and repeater 3 at location C are all at sites with no or poor Internet. Setup Ubiquity point-to-point links between the repeater site and the Trustee’s house (for example) with a better bandwidth connection. AllStar nodes would be setup at the repeater site and use the Point-to-Point as the route to the Internet.

Say you don’t want public nodes to connect directly to the repeater over long-range WiFi, but wanted to link all three repeaters together and have controllable public access. Nodes at the three repeater sites would be setup the same except as AllStar private nodes. A fourth node would be setup with a public node number at the Trustee’s house. The three repeater nodes and any public nodes could be connected or disconnected from the fourth public node as needed. A friend of mine in Colorado, Jeff – K0JSC, has his WE0FUN “fun machine” repeater sites linked in a similar way. The 15 repeaters are private nodes connected over a private network to a central hub.

Asterisk supports standard protocols for making phone calls over IP, SIP and IAX. Using these standards makes integration easy with other systems that support similar protocols. Options range from softphones, hard phones, other Asterisk systems, to PBX systems on the Internet. A softphone app is an application which runs on a computer or smartphone providing the ability to make calls. Iaxrpt is the Windows PC softphone client and DVSwitch Mobile for smartphones. Hard phones are IP connected phones such as Cisco or Grandstream that support either protocol. A second line on the same Cisco phone used for Ham Shack Hotline is provisioned to dial into my AllStar nodes. An extension can be added to an existing Asterisk phone system allowing any handset to dial into AllStar. Last but not least, a cloud VoIP provider can add forward and reverse autopatch capability to any node! Loose autopatch ability due to new repeater hardware, an expensive addon board, or it became cost prohibitive based on use? Though an active Internet connection is required, a cloud PBX provider, such as voip.ms, adds autopatch functionality for fractions of a penny per minute (including long distance) with pay-as-you-go pricing. For younger hams, autopatches connected an amateur station (often repeaters) with the public land-line telephone system and were popular when cellphones didn’t exist or were expensive.

The first thing about AllStar I found interesting is the ability to interconnect with other ham radio systems. EchoLink support comes out-of-the-box. IRLP can be added but an existing node is needed to copy the system key. To obtain a new node number, the purchase of IRLP hardware is required. Cheapest way is to purchase the preloaded SD card with configured node on the IRLP Node Order Page for the Raspberry Pi.

AllStar has all the essential capabilities of a repeater controller, IDing every 10 minutes and adjustable time-out timer. The time-out timer can be disabled with a command – useful when broadcasting ARNewline, which can be played automatically with a script, or hosting windbag nets. The scheduler is replaced with Unix Cron. I’ve written custom scrips that announce weather conditions, PL tone, and number of connections at certain times during the hour. For a net, my node will check to see if it’s already connected to the far-end node hosting the net. If it is not connected to that node, it will drop all existing connections then connect to the remote node. Dropping all connections seems useful to avoid airing a local net over a large reflector or being booted from an IRLP reflector for being an irresponsible node operator. Some repeater owners like to place repeater objects on APRS maps showing repeater location and frequency. AllStar can inject these objects into the APRS-IS network.

DMK URIx

Not unlike the infrastructure flexibility, nearly any sound device recognized by Linux will work with AllStar. Cheap audio fobs (with a few modifications) to commercially or ham produced products are all options. The Repeater Builder site offers many options and products. The connecting device I choose was the DMK URIx. The USB connection converts data over to a DB-25 connector. Pin assignments are listed on the device itself for easy access. I wired up a connector using a Motorola connector kit I purchased off Ebay following instructions I found online from W2YMM. I’ve had a great experience and no problems with the URIx. However, it’s not cheap now running $85 including shipping. In addition, mailing lists are indicating a change in chipset is causing performance issues. I would wait awhile before purchasing this device again.

With Raspberry Pi as an option for running a node, portable nodes are popular for use in a vehicle or backpack. Open Internet ports, or port forwarding, is not a requirement for outbound connections. This is especially useful because cell phone companies make it impossible for open ports due to CGNAT. This was a big problem I talked about with WIRES-X before Yaesu introduced their portable node software. Incoming connections to a portable node on a hotspot will not be possible.

Diagram of connections to my AllStar node

There is a fork of the main project called HamVoIP. They were the first to release a Raspberry Pi image. A Beagle Bone Black image was available but it has been deprecated and no longer updated to concentrate on the Raspberry Pi image. About the time WB6NIL passed, the main AllStar project had some internal conflict, upgrades caused lengthy outages, distributions were becoming dated, and hard to setup. HamVoIP claims to pick-up that slack, improve on the project including infrastructure and code cleanup. Their assertion is having better than 70% of the AllStar market running their image. Recent strides have been made to improve the main AllStar project. I have used both distributions and feel HamVoIP does work better, has more features, frequent updates, and better documentation. Nodes running HamVoIP still utilize the AllStar infrastructure and are fully compatible with non-HamVoIP nodes.

There is a claim that HamVoIP is in violation of GPL license agreements. Again, being a former programmer and someone who publishes articles and presentations, I would be upset if someone was violating my usage terms. However, those making accusations are also making judgement calls based on lack of response – which doesn’t mean there is a violation. In addition, a claim can be filed with the Free Software Foundation or have the copyright owners of Asterisk make a decision. It does not appear either correct course of action is being pursued. Airing this grievance on social media accomplishes nothing, as usual. The HamVoIP side isn’t helping their case by not being transparent and some responses were “feeding the trolls.” A troll is a person online who posts a provocative message to an online forum with the intent of causing disruption and argument. You can read the Reddit thread (some language maybe NSFW) and HamVoIP response. I’m going to keep using HamVoIP until I see a response from someone that has standing in the matter.

AllStar is flexible but definitely a more an administrative (Sysop) system and not entirely user-friendly. Connecting to other AllStar nodes is pretty straight forward. The DTMF sequence is *3 to link and *1 to unlink. Integrations with EchoLink and IRLP can be implemented a couple ways: directly linked to an AllStar node where the AllStar and EchoLink/IRLP node act as one. EchoLink/IRLP can be setup on a different node (often private) on the same AllStar setup. Having separate nodes allows for disabling EchoLink or IRLP connections completely should those nodes cause problems. Great for control, not great for users. An RF user can link and unlink EchoLink/IRLP, not to specific nodes. It maybe possible to do with a script but would add complexity.

Having AllStar and EchoLink/IRLP on the same node allows RF users to link and unlink to those systems. Remembering the DTMF combinations is not easy, I know. Connecting to EchoLink nodes is the DTMF sequence *3 and *13 to disconnect. IRLP is *38 and *18 respectively. Example, EchoLink test node #9999 is *3009999 and *31009999 to disconnect. IRLP test node #9990 is *389990, and *189990. Not exactly straight forward, easy to remember, or the simple “73” IRLP users are used to for disconnecting. Sysops can use the Supermon webpage utility for easier control of a node and can make it read only for users.

I learned some things about using Motorola equipment. My CDM1250 is the high power (40 watt) UHF model. Radios such as the CDM have a 5% duty-cycle. This means transmitting only 3 minutes every hour. Don’t forget, these aren’t rag-chew radios – they’re designed for police and fire which only transmit for short periods of time. Two ways to improve the duty-cycle is to lower the output power and upgrade to active cooling by moving a lot of air over the heatsink. Lowering the power on mine is still 25 watts. These improvements allow the radio to operate normally for a 90-minute net, as long as the fan keeps working. The antenna connector is a Mini UHF female and very easy to break with an adapter and stiff coax. A Mini UHF male to UHF SO-239 female pigtail is a requirement. It relieves the stress on the radio’s connector.

Learning about commercial radios has been a valuable experience. AllStar Link is a very flexible and customizable system that has excellent integration with other infrastructure. I still have a lot to learn and my next goal is to use AllStar for linking all digital modes – yes ones like D-STAR, DMR, and Fusion. Stay tuned!

If you would like to make an AllStar contact, it is best to setup a sked with me via Email.

AllStar node map: http://allstarmap.org/allstarmap.html

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – March 2019 edition

One of the responsibilities of the Technical Coordinator in the Ohio Section is to submit something for the Section Journal. The Section Journal covers Amateur Radio related things happening in and around the ARRL Ohio Section. It is published by the Section Manager Scott – N8SY and articles are submitted by cabinet members.

Once my article is published in the Journal, I will also make it available on my site with a link to the published edition.

You can receive the Journal and other Ohio Section news by joining the mailing list Scott has setup. You do not need to be a member of the ARRL, Ohio Section, or even a ham to join the mailing list. Please sign up!

If you are an ARRL member and reside in the Ohio Section, update your mailing preferences to receive Ohio Section news in your inbox. cAUZRdnMNrU?start=2051Those residing outside the section will need to use the mailing list link above.
Updating your ARRL profile will deliver news from the section where you reside (if the leadership chooses to use this method).
Go to www.arrl.org and logon.
Click Edit your Profile.
You will be taken to the Edit Your Profile page. On the first tab Edit Info, verify your Email address is correct.
Click the Edit Email Subscriptions tab.
Check the News and information from your Division Director and Section Manager box.
Click Save.

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at:

THE TECHNICAL COORDINATOR
Jeff Kopcak – TC
k8jtk@arrl.net

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

Do you have your Network Radio? I do, well, maybe. Not the way most people define Network Radios. In the last number of years, outside Voice over IP (VoIP) services have found their way into ham radio. Services cAUZRdnMNrU?start=2051utilize mobile data connections like 3G, 4G, and WiFi to connect users over the Internet. The app turns a cell phone or tablet into a HT-like device, complete with PTT button. “Network Radios” has been used to define these types of transceiver and channels available on those transceivers.

Probably 4-5 years ago, and still used today, a number of hams were all abuzz about this service called Zello. Another service called IRN (International Radio Network) is built on TeamSpeak. TeamSpeak is most frequently used as an audio chat service for players in multiplayer video games. Both of these services were probably adopted by ham-radio operators because of the similarities. Use a speaker, microphone, and can carry on round-table style chats. One person talks and the rest receive. These are called “channels” – similar in ham lingo to a reflector, conference, or talk group.

The term “Network Radios” is making the rounds because devices are being sold that integrate with VoIP services and are made to look like an HT or mobile radio. Most run the Android operating system meaning they come with the Google Play store. Having the Play store means any app can be installed, such as other VoIP apps like the EchoLink app or Repeater Book repeater directory.

RFinder was the first to design and sell Network Radios. They took a cellphone and attached a dual-band VHF/UHF transmitter capable of analog or DMR. Make phone calls or phone-calls. A similar tablet version is also available. Their devices are integrated with and promote the RFinder application (digital version of the ARRL repeater directory). Running the application and using the GPS makes it easy to locate near-by repeaters. Clicking a repeater would program the radio for use with the selected repeater, including offsets and sub-audible tones. Press PTT and you’re on the air!

A store with the completely original name, Network-Radios, is selling a whole range of Network Radios including the RFinder devices. The HT Network Radios have, what looks like, an antenna but few lists the capability of transmitting in the ham bands. None of the mobile Network Radios have any kind of RF connector.

This brings up the question: is this ham radio? My definition: if a legal identification is required, it is ham radio. More-or-less, I’m looking for Internet-linked endpoints to be connected to some kind of RF transmitting device in the ham bands that follows Part 97. I would like to have all linked end points transmitting in the ham bands, but I’ll take what I can get. My reasoning: our bands continue to be under attack by commercial entities that would pay big money for our frequencies and EVERYONE always complains our repeaters and frequencies are underutilized. Actually using our bands shows whoever is out there listening (FCC, commercial interests, people scanning the bands, potential hams, …) that ham frequencies are being utilized and we’re doing stuff with our bands. Call me crazy!

I’m not opposed to hams using these Network Radio services to find a better tool. Some Network Radio channels are even linked to repeater systems. That’s OK if private channels are properly controlled, seems like a lot of extra management. However, the overarching use of these services is mobile-device to mobile-device using non-ham bands. That is not at all ham radio. One argument is that some people need a place to let loose a little more than would be allowed on a regular repeater. Whatever.

I heard, from hams, in recent Emcomm situations how great it was that Zello was being used by the public to phone in needed rescues. Other channels were created for family members looking for relatives to make sure they were OK. Great use of technology. If average people can be mobilized at a moment’s notice with boats and rescue gear through a phone app, are hams still relevant? Anyone else see the irony?

The argument is always made: “the cell network can, and will, go down.” The exact opposite argument is being made promoting Network Radios as seen at the beginning of this blog post (some language NSFW, that is “not safe for work”) on the Network-Radios site: “I get 99,99999% of cell signal no matter where I am. I wonder if you can reach a VHF or UHF repeater for 10% of the time of your travelling with a typical 4 Watt handheld with its rubber duck antenna. And if GSM is not available, I could use a global wifi hotspot.” We’re doomed. Too soon?

New Podcast

The ARRL is sponsoring a new podcast that launched March 7. “So Now What?” is geared toward those who have obtained their license and need mentoring on the next steps to get the most out of the hobby. “Topics to be discussed in the first several episodes include getting started, operating modes available to Technician licensees, VEC and licensing issues, sunspots and propagation, mobile operating, contesting, Amateur Radio in pop culture, and perceptions of Technician license holders.” I’m sure there will be ideas for new and old hams alike. Subscribe to this new podcast and get the most out of ham radio!

Networking Basics

I made a career move over a year ago from programming into a networking position and quite enjoy it. Pascal – VA2PV, has a quality Youtube channel where he frequently does product reviews, how-to videos, and shares his experiences with things like PL-259 installation and re-cabling his shack. Video and audio quality are excellent with many videos available in 4K (great opportunity to experience a 4K stream). He released a video on the basics of IP networking. It won’t go in depth to the level of things I do at work, but if you ever wanted to know how devices on your home network can communicate with devices on the Internet, what is DHCP & DNS, then his video is required viewing.

FreeDV QSO Party

A group in Australia has announced the first ever FreeDV QSO party starting on April 27th 0300z to April 28th 0300z 2019. FreeDV is an open source digital voice mode, commonly referred to as Codec 2. I’ve played around with this mode before and was impressed by the resulting audio quality in such a narrow bandwidth. I hope this will create some FreeDV activity on the bands. It does require two sound cards (or sound devices) to operate. If you have an internal soundcard and a SignaLink, you’re set. The internal soundcard records and plays voice audio while the SignaLink (or other) transmits and receives digital modulation to and from your radio. Look for you on the bands using FreeDV!

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – February 2019 edition

One of the responsibilities of the Technical Coordinator in the Ohio Section is to submit something for the Section Journal. The Section Journal covers Amateur Radio related things happening in and around the ARRL Ohio Section. It is published by the Section Manager Scott – N8SY and articles are submitted by cabinet members.

Once my article is published in the Journal, I will also make it available on my site with a link to the published edition.

You can receive the Journal and other Ohio Section news by joining the mailing list Scott has setup. You do not need to be a member of the ARRL, Ohio Section, or even a ham to join the mailing list. Please sign up!

If you are an ARRL member and reside in the Ohio Section, update your mailing preferences to receive Ohio Section news in your inbox. Those residing outside the section will need to use the mailing list link above.
Updating your ARRL profile will deliver news from the section where you reside (if the leadership chooses to use this method).
Go to www.arrl.org and logon.
Click Edit your Profile.
You will be taken to the Edit Your Profile page. On the first tab Edit Info, verify your Email address is correct.
Click the Edit Email Subscriptions tab.
Check the News and information from your Division Director and Section Manager box.
Click Save.

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at:

THE TECHNICAL COORDINATOR
Jeff Kopcak – TC
k8jtk@arrl.net

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

A couple months ago, I received a question regarding digital mode transmissions. This ham was using Fldigi and wondered about “strange” transmissions at the start of a BPSK-63 transmission. BPSK-31 looked OK.

Strange tones (circled in orange) on the Fldigi waterfall

These tones are known as RSID, Reed Solomon IDentifier, designed by Patrick Lindecker, F6CTE. RSID tones are codes used to automatically identify digital signals and often precede a digital transmission. These are a burst of tones lasting 1.4 seconds with a bandwidth of 172 Hz. They are robust being decoded down to -16 dB, which is better than most digital modes. According to the W1HKJ documentation for Fldigi, programs that support RSID are:

  • PocketDigi, Vojtech, OK1IAK
  • FDMDV, Cesco, HB9TLK
  • DM780, Simon, HB9DRV – part of Ham Radio Deluxe
  • fldigi, Dave, W1HKJ
  • Multipsk, Patrick, F6CTE

The documentation link has a table of all RSID codes. Not all variations of baud, tones, and bandwidth are assigned a code because RSID is limited to a total of 272 unique codes. The programs listed support RSID, not necessarily all modes assigned an RSID code. Typically, that means the program will not react to codes for which it does not support.

RX RSID enabled

To detect RSID alongside the desired operating mode, digital programs will run a separate detector listening for these tones while the main detector focuses on decoding the selected mode. To receive RSID tones in Fldigi, the option on the main screen in the upper-right “RxID” needs to be green (enabled).

RSID announcement

The default behavior of Fldigi, I think, is a little weird. When an RSID is received, an announcement will be displayed in the receive pane (tan box). The blue clickable text takes you back to the previous frequency at the time the RSID was received. It does not move you to the frequency of the received RSID. An example, RSID was received at 1300 Hz on the waterfall. The cursor is currently on 1500. The clickable link in the receive pane will return the cursor back to 1500. Fldigi will search for RSID in the vicinity of the cursor (about +/- 200 Hz), not across the entire waterfall.

Useful configuration options are available in the Configure menu -> Other -> IDs. The “Searches passband” option will listen across the entire waterfall. “Notify only” will display a popup box when an RSID is received. You’ll have the option to click “go to” that frequency.

TX RSID enabled

Consequently, on the transmit side, “TxID” needs to be enabled for Fldigi to transmit RSID tones. Fldigi offers an option other programs don’t, transmit RSID at the end of the transmission. I don’t see much use for this as your signal is gone but someone might want to be ready for the next station in the exchange or break-in.

Why wouldn’t a station see RSID tones for a (B)PSK-31 signal? Two reasons: PSK-31 is a common mode that most hams, who have operated digital on the air for any period of time, would encounter. No need to keep identifying commonly used digital signals. According to Fldigi, CW, RTTY, and BPSK-31 are the only supported ones that fall into this category. The second reason is bandwidth. Transmitting an RSID of 172 Hz will clobber more than a couple nearby PSK-31 transmissions.

Transmission mode list

On the same configuration page, click “Transmission modes.” This list indicates which modes have RSID enabled. Clearing the checkbox will not transmit RSID for that mode. For example, operating a lot of BPSK-63 and the RSID annoys you, but not for MT63-2000, uncheck BPSK-63 in the list.

Transmitting RSID helps ensure receiving stations are tuned and decoded for modes like MFSK. Modes like JT65 have RSID tones but they’re not used during normal operation and could throw off the timing of the exchange. JT65 is also operates in designated windows of the digital sub-bands. It’s probably meant more for identifying EME transmissions using JT65.

RSID notification

The ‘strange’ transmissions are not strange at all but rather letting others know which modes are being operated.

WWV update

There was a lot of FUD (that’s fear, uncertainty, and doubt) around the future of WWV back in September of last year. You can check my article in the September edition of the OSJ or on my website. While not yet signed, the fiscal year budget for 2019 does include funding all WWV stations. As it turns out, this year is the 100th year of operation. A member of the Northern Colorado Amateur Radio Club has met with NIST management and is planning a special event station between September 28 – October 2. I’ll be anticipating that event and hope to work WWV.

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – January 2019 edition

One of the responsibilities of the Technical Coordinator in the Ohio Section is to submit something for the Section Journal. The Section Journal covers Amateur Radio related things happening in and around the ARRL Ohio Section. It is published by the Section Manager Scott – N8SY and articles are submitted by cabinet members.

Once my article is published in the Journal, I will also make it available on my site with a link to the published edition.

You can receive the Journal and other Ohio Section news by joining the mailing list Scott has setup. You do not need to be a member of the ARRL, Ohio Section, or even a ham to join the mailing list. Please sign up!

If you are an ARRL member and reside in the Ohio Section, update your mailing preferences to receive Ohio Section news in your inbox. Those residing outside the section will need to use the mailing list link above.
Updating your ARRL profile will deliver news from the section where you reside (if the leadership chooses to use this method).
Go to www.arrl.org and logon.
Click Edit your Profile.
You will be taken to the Edit Your Profile page. On the first tab Edit Info, verify your Email address is correct.
Click the Edit Email Subscriptions tab.
Check the News and information from your Division Director and Section Manager box.
Click Save.

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at:

THE TECHNICAL COORDINATOR
Jeff Kopcak – TC
k8jtk@arrl.net

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

Technical Specialist, Eldon – W5UHQ, has been busy playing around with FT-8 when he’s not doing the Ohio Digital Emergency Net. FT-8 was developed by Joe Taylor – K1JT and is the popular successor to the JT-65 & JT-9 modes. It has grown like wildfire due to the reduced time to make a contact, 15-second transmit windows compared to a minute, and the poor band conditions we’re experiencing. Eldon created documentation about setting up and operating with the WSJT-X software. Last month he was asked to give a presentation for the combined meeting of the Central Ohio Operators Klub and Newark Amateur Radio Association. Eldon gave a very detailed presentation on FT-8 titled “DX Band-Aids for our Spotless Sun.” Nice play on words. With terrible band conditions, many believe FT-8 has kept interest in ham radio alive. His presentation is loaded with graphics and pictures – my kind of presentation. If you’re in the Columbus area and want a great presentation on FT-8, get in contact with Eldon. He’s been knocking out a lot of contacts with wanted DX entities like Ducie Island, Baker Island, and most recently Banana Island.

If you use the WSJT-X software for the JT modes, a recent update to Ham Radio Deluxe allows logging directly to HRD Logbook. I set this up recently and it makes things a breeze with the faster pace of the FT-8 exchange. There is a YouTube video on the Ham Radio Deluxe channel showing how to configure both programs.

A quick reminder, if you haven’t upgraded to WSJT-X 2.0 your software probably isn’t decoding any stations on FT-8 and MSK144. A major update to the program and protocol was released. Effective the first of the year, everyone should be using WSJT-X 2.0. The change increased error checking by 2-bits to help with special exchanges in structured messages.

A couple days ago, I got a question from a ham about recording audio from their Ham radio. I’ve done this for various different reasons including streaming to the popular online scanner site Broadcastify, a net controller wanted an audio copy of the net, and posting audio clips online. There are a couple programs I’ve used over the years depending on the situation. This is very useful when documenting malicious interference or a bozo on a repeater.

First, station setup. You’ll obviously need to be close enough to receive the station or repeater. Marginal signals or ones with static might sound “ok” when listening through the radio’s speaker but will sound worse when recorded and played back. White noise is created over all frequencies and will be recorded over all frequencies. A better gain antenna, one located higher, or a directional antenna would improve reception of the station. Trying to monitor your own signal through a repeater will require separation between the radio transmitting on the repeater input and the radio receiving on the output. Otherwise, the receiving radio will be desensed causing little-to-no signal to be received.

A base station, mobile radio, or radio scanner is best depending how long you plan to monitor the other station. An HT or portable scanner will work but will likely need an external power source. Find a radio with a 3.5mm standard headphone / speaker jack. Nearly all ham radios made in the last 30 years will have this. The speaker portion of a Speaker & Mic jack will be the 3.5mm connector. Newer modern radios utilize a soft power switch (meaning it doesn’t physically cut power to the device) but rather power state is controlled through electronics. Turn of any of these (or related) settings: auto power off, power save, and turn off display and keypad lights. APO turns off the radio when idle which will disrupt recording. Power Save reduces current drain on the radio but takes longer for the radio to respond when a signal is received. This results in a missed word or two at the begging of a transmission on the recording. Turn down or off LCDs or any display lights as there is no need to shorten the lifespan while the radio is used unattended.

A 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable is need to go between the radio and computer or other recording device. These can be found at a local hamfest, on the Internet, or look at Monoprice for good prices. Either a TRS cable or TS cable can be used, these are known as a stereo or mono cable. The radio will often output only one channel. A radio connected to an audio interface, like for digital modes, is not ideal unless you’re monitoring sideband or AM. Audio from the digital port will be un-squelched and nearly impossible to utilize VOX or sound activated features.

Inexpensive USB Sound Card

Recording to a PC is the most versatile solution. Plug the audio cable into the Line In jack of the PC. If another sound card is needed, the very cheap USB sound cards available for a couple bucks will provide another audio input. In my experience, audio out of these inexpensive USB sound cards is very noisy while the audio input is quiet. Don’t need audio out so the noise problem doesn’t matter. The audio/speaker out level from the radio will be adjustable via the volume control. Set that at about half or 50%. On the computer, go into the Sound settings in the Control Panel. On the Recording tab, find the audio device – “Line In” on most PCs, “Microphone” on the USB devices. Set the Level to 50 in Windows. Linux doesn’t seem to distort audio as much and can be set at 100%. Line In audio may need to be boosted while Microphone connections will likely need to be turned down. The setup I have with the inexpensive USB sound card is set at 7 (out of 100) with the radio at 50%.

VOX is a voice activated switch in traditional radio operation but it’s really an audio level reaching some threshold which then activates the transmitter. In this context the program would start recording. VOX is nice because it eliminates long pauses on FM. A repeater may only be used 10% a day. The resulting recording will not be 90% dead audio. VOX is useful but may miss a second or so before initiating recording. Long pauses during the transmission, where the audio would fall below a threshold, will stop recording momentarily. When the VOX threshold is set too low, you may record unwanted static bursts. HF is very difficult to set a threshold because there is no squelch on sideband. Some kind of log is useful to determine when a repeater is used or will be needed for documenting interference issues. Another option is a real-time recording. A lot of extra hard drive space is required for these extended audio recordings in real-time. A more on this later.

Audacity

For Software, Audacity is pretty flexible and free. It can do real-time, timer recording, and VOX. Once Record is pressed, it will run until it’s out of hard drive space. The Timer Recording feature will start at a specific time and continue for the duration. This is useful when recording a net. Timer is found under Transport -> Recording -> Timer Record. The VOX-type feature called “Sound Activated Recording” is found under Edit -> Preferences -> Recording. It does not have a logging feature, though.

Scanner Recorder

The program I like for monitoring a repeater is Scanner Recorder. It is a VOX program that is simple to use but configurable enough to delay a couple seconds after the signal disappeared. The clock, amount of time elapsed since recording began, and length of recorded audio is quite nice to see how busy is the frequency. It does have a logging feature showing date, time, duration, and relative time in the audio file.

Recording settings is a matter of quality tolerance and preferences. Sample rate is measured in Hz. For voice recordings, 11 kHz or 22 kHz is good. Recording raw digital signals such as MT63 or P25, use 48 kHz. Space requirements for uncompressed (WAV) mono audio at 16-bits:

  • 48 kHz: 350 MB/hr
  • 22 kHz: 170 MB/hr
  • 11 kHz: 80 MB/hr

When using VOX, the per-hour rate only applies when the program has recorded an hour of audio.

The ham asked about recording with a rolling buffer. A rolling buffer would record over itself when it reaches a specified length. I don’t know of any programs that will accomplish this but I did find an Android app called Echo that seems to meet the requirement. It’s not available through the Google Play store, unfortunately, requiring the alternative app store F-Droid to be installed first.

Do plenty of tests and dry-runs first to check audio levels for overmodulation of the recording. You can use this setup for fun, documenting interference and bozo issues, or for finding out how often a repeater is used. On second thought, you probably don’t really want to know the answer.

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – December 2018 edition

One of the responsibilities of the Technical Coordinator in the Ohio Section is to submit something for the Section Journal. The Section Journal covers Amateur Radio related things happening in and around the ARRL Ohio Section. It is published by the Section Manager Scott – N8SY and articles are submitted by cabinet members.

Once my article is published in the Journal, I will also make it available on my site with a link to the published edition.

You can receive the Journal and other Ohio Section news by joining the mailing list Scott has setup. You do not need to be a member of the ARRL, Ohio Section, or even a ham to join the mailing list. Please sign up!

If you are an ARRL member and reside in the Ohio Section, update your mailing preferences to receive Ohio Section news in your inbox. Those residing outside the section will need to use the mailing list link above.
Updating your ARRL profile will deliver news from the section where you reside (if the leadership chooses to use this method).
Go to www.arrl.org and logon.
Click Edit your Profile.
You will be taken to the Edit Your Profile page. On the first tab Edit Info, verify your Email address is correct.
Click the Edit Email Subscriptions tab.
Check the News and information from your Division Director and Section Manager box.
Click Save.

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at:

THE TECHNICAL COORDINATOR
Jeff Kopcak – TC
k8jtk@arrl.net

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

Hi. My name is Jeffrey and I am a Windows user. Yes, I migrated my laptop a couple years ago from Windows 10 to Fedora Linux and six months ago did the same for my main desktop. Windows applications are better. THERE I SAID IT. I can hear the hate mail rolling in. Anyway, I’ve encouraged readers to check out Linux as a Windows alternative. These are my experiences moving to a (mostly) Linux world over the last 6 months.

My goal was to move to Linux as my daily operating system. That is done. In that transition, find Linux programs equivalent to the Windows applications I was using. Anything I couldn’t find suitable replacements would be run in a Windows virtual environment.

In previous articles, I’ve written about the disaster that has become Windows 10 and my desire to find a less restrictive and obtrusive operating system. I settled on Fedora Linux because the virtualization worked better in my experience over Ubuntu. Moving my main desktop away from Windows was the last hurtle. This PC serves the duties of: audio & video recording (DVR mostly), ripping, editing and playing, graphics editing, web site editing, file storage and backup, virtual environment, web surfing, ham radio programming, and experimentation station. That pretty much covers it. You could throw in gaming about 10 years ago – who has the time? Also, the occasional document (image) scanning. This will become important later.

In my experience, what does work?

  • Linux works. I have not had any issues getting Fedora to work on stock laptops or my custom-built desktop machine. With few drivers to install, all hardware works including USB 3.0. Most of the pre-installed programs (graphics viewer, LibreOffice, music & video player) are very usable programs.
  • Package manager. This keeps the operating system and programs updated when approved by maintainers of the distribution. When I can, programs are installed through the package manager and I’ve accepted all updates when made available. I may have had a Kernel issue once or twice but simply selected a previous version at boot time.
  • Customization. I spent some time trying out different desktop environments because I cannot stand tablet-style interfaces in desktop environments on non-touch screen devices. Gnome, I’m
    Oh My Zsh customized terminal

    talking about you! Cinnamon is probably the closest to a Windows desktop-like feel with start menu, taskbar, and system tray. This is the one I choose. Customization tools import and apply different theme options. I replaced the bash shell with Oh My Zsh. Came for the themes. Stayed for the awesome autocomplete.

  • Virtualization works very well with VirtualBox. I’m looking at getting virt, virt-manager, and KVM working in the future.
  • Cross-platform apps. I’ve had good experience with applications that have a strong user base and are ported to different platforms. These apps would include VLC (formally VideoLAN), HandBrake, Thunderbird, Firefox, VirtualBox, and VeraCrypt. This is likely because development efforts contributed to the project benefit all platforms.
  • Web apps. Many services today are moving away from software installed on a PC to web based services. Having a modern web browser is all that is needed to interact with these services.

Where have I run into issues?
(Lack of) Popularity, including vendor support. This covers 75% of my issues. According to StatCounter Global Statistics, looking over the last two years at desktop and laptop platforms used to browse the web, Linux hasn’t passed the 2% mark and is currently holding steady at about 0.8% in the U.S. In comparison, OS X is at about 20% and Windows about 75%. Servers typically don’t browse the web so these numbers represent users running Linux to do a common computing activity, like browsing the web. When there are financial decisions to be made on developing an app or service, you’re going to go where the customers are. Linux hasn’t gained any significant market share when compared to that disaster operating system or the hardware priced out of the budget of average users (Windows & Mac).

Fedora Cinnamon spin

Vendors are simply not focusing a lot of their resources on a small segment of users when others like Windows eclipse that 2%. I’ve run into a couple examples. First being the drivers for the NVidia graphics card in my desktop. The process of getting this driver installed is a fairly complicated process. It’s dependent on system BIOS and involves editing Kernel boot options – not something average computer users are comfortable doing. If you’re lucky, you’ll magically end up with an NVidia driver that works with the installed Linux Kernel. The open-sourced driver, Nouveau, generally works for me but I notice flickering on some screens like ones with dark gray backgrounds. Nouveau has crashed a couple times when I had a bunch of applications running at once. A sinking feeling knowing how many applications I had open and not knowing when I last clicked save is not my idea of a good time.

I installed the Epson Linux image scanning driver for my flatbed scanner. The app very closely resembled the Windows application which made it familiar to use. However, though the manual indicates I should have been able to scan multiple pages and save them as a single PDF file, I did not have this option. I tried the native Fedora app, Simple Scan. It was way too simple. Automatically scanning the next page of a multi-page document after a selectable 3-15 second interval didn’t make any sense to me. Others I tried created ginormous sized PDF documents, 50MB file vs 3MB using the Epson Windows app. There is no reason to have files that large and some email systems have attachment limits of about 25MB.

In August, Dropbox announced they were dropping support for almost all Linux file systems. Many users were upset. Speculation was Dropbox had to support a wide variety of Linux distributions, file systems, desktop environments, and Kernels where they didn’t see any return on this investment. Companies often take a chance hoping users purchase paid subscriptions to support further developments in these areas. Linux users weren’t subscribing to sustain further development and support, so it was dropped. Most Linux users like free stuff because, well, the operating system itself is free.

I would say the remaining 25% of my issues are round quality of applications. While there are video ripping, editing, and authoring tools available, they don’t hold up to the Windows tools I’m using. Most users are on Windows so that’s where companies devote their time. Application authors who set out to make equally good tools in Linux may run into problems or lack of interest either in terms of downloads, support from the community, or through life, job, or family changes. Handbrake and VLC work as well in Linux as Windows. Video stream repair and splitting, DVD and Blu-Ray authoring, DVR, and audio ripping – not so much. Still using Windows applications. Not saying all Linux tools are bad because there some really powerful ones.

My desktop was the big obstacle to accomplishing my goal of getting Linux as my daily operating system. 99% of the time that system is running Fedora. I do have a number of virtual Windows machines for things like MS Office, radio programming, SDR programs, and my cord-cutter service – which says it will work in Chrome, but its only Chrome running on Windows. For applications and hardware interactions that didn’t work well in a virtual environment, I resized my original Windows partition down to about 30 GB and boot into Windows only when I need it. My shack PC is going to stay on Windows 7 because some of my ham activity is tied to programs only available on Windows.

These have been my experiences in moving away from the Windows disaster into an alternative desktop & laptop platform – Fedora Linux. These might motivate you to try Linux or some other Windows alternative. It will be like learning something new for most people. I had ideas of what the experience would look like and challenges having supported and programmed in Linux environments for the better part of a decade. The Mac platform has really become popular with great applications and great support from Apple. If you’re not willing to drop a significant amount of money on their devices, consider looking at Linux as an alternative.

Late breaking for FT8 users: if you operate either the very popular FT8 or MSK144 digital modes, please update your version of WSJT-X to 2.0 by January 1, 2019. These protocols have been enhanced in a way that is not compatible with previous versions of WSJT-X. After that date, only the new version of those modes should be used on the air.

Thanks for reading. Happy holidays, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!

73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – November 2018 edition

One of the responsibilities of the Technical Coordinator in the Ohio Section is to submit something for the Section Journal. The Section Journal covers Amateur Radio related things happening in and around the ARRL Ohio Section. It is published by the Section Manager Scott – N8SY and articles are submitted by cabinet members.

Once my article is published in the Journal, I will also make it available on my site with a link to the published edition.

You can receive the Journal and other Ohio Section news by joining the mailing list Scott has setup. You do not need to be a member of the ARRL, Ohio Section, or even a ham to join the mailing list. Please sign up!

If you are an ARRL member and reside in the Ohio Section, update your mailing preferences to receive Ohio Section news in your inbox. Those residing outside the section will need to use the mailing list link above.
Updating your ARRL profile will deliver news from the section where you reside (if the leadership chooses to use this method).
Go to www.arrl.org and logon.
Click Edit your Profile.
You will be taken to the Edit Your Profile page. On the first tab Edit Info, verify your Email address is correct.
Click the Edit Email Subscriptions tab.
Check the News and information from your Division Director and Section Manager box.
Click Save.

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at: http://arrl-ohio.org/news/2018/OSJ-Nov-18.pdf

THE TECHNICAL COORDINATOR
Jeff Kopcak – TC
k8jtk@arrl.net

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

A couple years ago, Medina county asked me to create a training session for them on how to use Fldigi specifically for NBEMS. Recently, Lorain county ARES encouraged participants to utilize NBEMS methods. NBEMS stands for Narrow Band Emergency Messaging System. It is a set of standards for the ham radio community to communicate with each other using text and E-mail type traffic. Standards are good to have so there is not a situation where different groups use different digital standards and cannot communicate between themselves.

Two hams are responsible for the NBEMS standards: Dave – W1HKJ, author and maintainer of the Fldigi suite of applications, and Skip – KH6TY, author of one of the first PSK applications, Digipan. Their idea was to have a prolific digital communication standard that followed these important principals:

  • Utilize radios, software, and hardware that are used in every day ham radio (familiarity)
  • Inexpensive. All can participate. Older computers can be used.
  • Simple. No steep learning curve in an emergency situation but flexible.
  • Independent of infrastructure

To make digital interaction possible: a radio, computer, interface between the two, and software to tie it all together is needed. An interface is typically a device like the SignaLink or RigBlaster. One nice thing about NBEMS, it’s possible to operate MT63-2KL by holing your radio up to the computer. This means a separate interface is not required. It’s great in a pinch but doesn’t provide an ideal operating situation.

Fldigi is a modem application. It modulates and demodulates – what sounds like noise – into data. Flmsg, used in conjunction, is a forms manager. It allows you to create and reply to standardized forms and verify reception through a checksum. A checksum is an algorithm used to detect errors in storage or transmission. Standard forms included are ICS, IARU, Radiogram, or the ability to send CSV data. CSV is a plain-text file that stores tabular data with each line being a single record contains one or more fields separated by commas. In NBEMS, CSV is a low-bandwidth way to transfer Excel documents without formatting and extra Meta data. As an example: a Excel document can be 17 kB in size but the same data exported to plain-text CSV is only 5 kB.

Tim – NC8OS, EC for Lorain, asked if I would give an Fldigi training session, which I was more than happy to do. A few years passed since I gave similar training in Medina. A number of changes have happened and it was time to update my presentation. Changes include much more frequent (and not always stable) Fldigi and Flmsg updates, changes in work flows – especially within Flmsg, and I have gained more experience interacting and interfacing with digital nets across the country.

Fldigi had some cosmetic changes, mostly around the menus and configurations. Workflow changes in Flmsg seem like they could be beneficial but were poorly implemented. Luckily, we can go back to familiar behavior. Most important lesson I’ve picked up: all these whiz-bang things are tools. This or any other technology needs to be played with to figure out how it can be best utilized (offering a real advantage), how it can be utilized efficiently, and have people who know how to use these tools. Groups are finding digital operators are ones who have the least amount of problems and greater success during drills than someone who hasn’t opened the application in 6 months. This, too, means someone who wants to become successful needs to practice, practice, and practice by operating, participating in practice nets or starting one if one is not available.

For my presentations and training, I feel people get much more out of a hands-on session. I encouraged participants to bring their stations or go-boxes which helped facilitate a great question and answer session to address a good number of problems. Eric – N8AUC, DEC for District 10, was on hand to answer questions as well. We accomplished a lot, answered a lot of questions, and got them on the right track.

I learned that I need to be figuring out interactions with this combination of hardware, software, and Windows 10. As more people are upgrading, replacing computers, or purchasing new devices this means more questions and issues will center on the most widely used operating system platform. Though I have stopped using Win 10 in favor of Linux, I do need to spend time with it to better answer those types of questions.

Thank you to Lorain ARES for allowing me the opportunity to pass on knowledge about digital and NBEMS. My presentation is available online on my website. Contact me about setting up a training session with myself or a Technical Specialist if you would like to host a session on NBEMS.

Speaking of Technical Specialists, another meeting night idea for your club is to hold a “Test and Tune Night.” Dave – KD8TWG hosted one of these events for LEARA. It usually ends up being a “Test and Test Night” because the operating manual does not have the information on how to make adjustments. Those are found in a Service Manual. Professional test equipment was on hand including Service Monitors, wattmeters, and analyzers to test radios, scanners, and coax. Dave could tell you if that $30 Baofeng is compliant with spectral requirements. VERY good chance it won’t be.

Dave reminded all of us that Part 97 certifies us as operators to be compliant with the rules. This allows us to build our own radios and not have to do something crazy like file a testing and compliance report with the FCC for a home brew project. Just because the radio ‘sounds good,’ ‘does everything I need,’ or ‘was cheap’ doesn’t mean it works correctly especially when transmitting. It is up to each of us as hams to make sure our equipment is compliant. Contact Dave or myself to help get a Test and Tune night for your club.

It’s that time of year again! For the 13th consecutive year, The 3916 Nets will be presenting The Santa Net on 3.916 MHz. Good girls and boys can talk to Santa Claus, via amateur radio, nightly at 8:30 PM (Eastern) starting Friday, November 23, 2018. The Santa Net will run nightly at 8:30 PM Eastern through Christmas Eve, December 24, 2018. This fun opportunity is great for connecting kids or grandchildren with the Head Elf himself. Details and updates will be made via their Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/3916santanet/.

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – October 2018 edition

One of the responsibilities of the Technical Coordinator in the Ohio Section is to submit something for the Section Journal. The Section Journal covers Amateur Radio related things happening in and around the ARRL Ohio Section. It is published by the Section Manager Scott – N8SY and articles are submitted by cabinet members.

Once my article is published in the Journal, I will also make it available on my site with a link to the published edition.

You can receive the Journal and other Ohio Section news by joining the mailing list Scott has setup. You do not need to be a member of the ARRL, Ohio Section, or even a ham to join the mailing list. Please sign up!

If you are an ARRL member and reside in the Ohio Section, update your mailing preferences to receive Ohio Section news in your inbox. Those residing outside the section will need to use the mailing list link above.
Updating your ARRL profile will deliver news from the section where you reside (if the leadership chooses to use this method).
Go to www.arrl.org and logon.
Click Edit your Profile.
You will be taken to the Edit Your Profile page. On the first tab Edit Info, verify your Email address is correct.
Click the Edit Email Subscriptions tab.
Check the News and information from your Division Director and Section Manager box.
Click Save.

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at: http://arrl-ohio.org/news/2018/OSJ-Oct-18.pdf

THE TECHNICAL COORDINATOR
Jeff Kopcak – TC
k8jtk@arrl.net

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

Digital mode access points, often called hotspots, have been in the news lately. Those are the 10mW personal devices used by digital operators to cover a relatively small area like a house, car, or hotel room. Instead of tying up a gateway repeater, which largely connects local users to the Internet, many have opted for these low-powered devices to provide similar functionality. Advantages over a repeater are the hotspot owner has complete control over which reflector, repeater, or talkgroup their hotspot is connected to. They are not beholden to the preferences of the repeater owner and have the flexibility to use their hotspot however they’d like. Many use them mobile in the car or take them on a trip allowing them to enjoy their favorite digital modes where there may not be repeater coverage.

Hotspot devices in general are about the size of a deck or two of cards and require an Internet connection, computer to run the software, application or web browser for configuration, and a radio capable of operating each mode. An Internet connection can be your home WiFi or cellphone hotspot (as in WiFi-hotspot). The original OpenSpot was the only device that required a wired Ethernet connection. A PC computer may serve as the Internet connection for USB access points. The computer could be a Raspberry Pi in many cases or might be completely self-contained. A web browser or application is needed to make configuration changes and adjustments such as call sign, transmit frequency, mode, or network. These hotspots are the RF gateway to the internet which means a radio capable of transmitting and receiving that mode is also required. Few hotspots today are single mode like the D-STAR DVAP. Nearly all on the market are capable of operating multi-mode and connecting to associated networks. To operate DMR the user would need a capable DMR radio, a capable Fusion radio for the Fusion networks, and so-on.

Hotspots can utilize the many available modes & networks:

  • DMR: BrandMeister, DMRplus, XLX
  • D-STAR: DCS, DPlus, XRF, XLX
  • Fusion: FCS, YSFReflector
  • NXDN: NXDNReflector
  • P25: P25Reflector

A keen eye might ask about Wires-X, P25net, or DMR-MARC. Those networks cater to a specific manufacturer of equipment and are often closed to other vendors. You might be able to reach resources on those networks because someone has cross-linked a closed network with an open network, usually at the point where digital signals turn into analog audio. This is how a user can be on Wires-X America Link and talk with a DMR user.

Hotspots and satellites

Not the Dave Matthews Band song Satellite either. A major issue for other hams has been caused by hotspot users. Every hotspot user and repeater owner reading this needs to verify your operating frequencies and take corrective action, if required. Under Part 97, hotspot devices are considered an auxiliary station. Auxiliary stations cannot operate within the satellite sub bands. Many hotspots are operating there illegally. Satellite sub bands for 2 & 440 are:

  • 2 m: 145.800 – 146.000
  • 70 cm: 435.000 – 438.000

If your hotspot is operating within those frequencies or near the edges, within the weak-signal sub bands, or any other sub band likely to cause issues, you need to take corrective action now!

In general, advice would be to ‘check with the local frequency coordinator’ but experience with the coordinating group indicates they won’t be of any help. What should you do? Note: this advice only applies to the U.S. band plan. Every band plan I’ve seen has the satellite sub bands defined. I do like the ARRL’s Band Plan because it spells out many details not included in graphical representations. The band plan has allowances in the following frequency ranges for simplex, auxiliary stations and control links:

  • 146.400 – 146.580. Usable (at 12.5 KHz spacing): 146.4125 – 146.5675
  • 433.000 – 435.000. Usable (at 12.5 KHz spacing): 433.0125 – 434.9875
  • 445.000 – 447.000. Usable (at 12.5 KHz spacing): 445.0125 – 446.9875

“Usable” indicates the lower and upper frequency limits that can be used with a digital hotspot. Don’t forget to stay away from the national calling frequencies of 146.520 and 446.000. Some of these ranges are shared with repeater links so remember: it is your responsibility to ensure correct operation of your equipment and find a frequency not already in use before using it! There is NO excuse for not adjusting frequency to eliminate interference with other operators and equipment! Listen to the desired frequency by setting up a radio or scanner with the volume turned up. If you hear any kind of obvious traffic, data bursts, or digital screeching, pick another frequency then rinse and repeat. Your cooperation is greatly appreciated!

OpenSPOT2

Right after Dayton I started hearing rumors that the OpenSPOT was discontinued. Not the news you want to hear if you just purchased one at Dayton. The website eventually confirmed the rumors and that another device was to be announced “soon,” which turned into months. Finally, the SharkRF OpenSPOT2 was announced. This replacement addresses many issues of the now legacy device including the need for a wired Ethernet connection, limited portability, and lack of newer digital modes.

Feature-wise it is nearly the same but includes a much-needed internal WiFi antenna and support for NXDN and P25 (two up-and-coming digital modes in ham radio). It includes POCSAG which I’m not familiar but told is a paging standard. Those under 35 have no idea what a pager is. The device operates off a USB-C cable (included) and looks to be about the size of a computer mouse. It will still have cross-mode support for DMR and Fusion radios and networks. As with the previous, you will not be able to use your D-STAR, NXDN, or P25 radio in cross-mode. Release date is expected before the end of 2018. Stay tuned to their website and social media portals for exact date.

ZUMspot review

At Dayton I added to my hotspot collection. On my shopping list was a ZUMspot or something I could use with the Pi-Star software. I picked up a ZUMspot kit and case from HRO. The kit lists for $130, $110 without the Pi board. The case adds $15. The kit came with the amazingly small Raspberry Pi Zero W (W for Wireless) and the ZUMspot modem board from KI6ZUM. You’ll need to provide a Micro-USB cable which powers both devices. I’ve seen demos and received feedback saying Pi-Star was a great application to use – and is stable. Many had issues with the DVMEGA (in particular) getting a good distribution that worked reliably with that device. Pi-Star is software written by Andy – MW0MWZ. It is distributed as a Raspberry Pi image for use with Digital Voice modems.

All configurable options are available through the web interface. It’s convenient and you don’t have to mess around with multiple interfaces or carrying around a screen for the device. Services like SSH are available but generally not needed.

Before I tried to use the image, I knew I had an issue. Since this was my first Pi device without a wired connection, I couldn’t edit the WiFi settings by wiring it to my network. Instead I mounted the SD on a Linux system and edited the /etc/wpa_supplicant/wpa_supplicant.conf to include my WiFi information. Booted the ZUMspot and it connected to my wireless auto-magically. The Pi-Star site has a utility to help create the wpa_supplicant.conf file.

I’ve primarily used the ZUMspot on D-STAR and DMR but it supports all modes and networks mentioned earlier in the article. It doesn’t do as well as the OpenSPOT when D-STAR stations are marginal into their gateway. There’s more “R2D2” on the ZUMspot in that respect but it’s a minor issue. Pi-Star can enable multiple digital modes at one time. This is a great selling point and works great if conversations happen at different times on different networks. It is a “first wins” scenario. If a D-STAR transmission ends and one on the DMR network starts, nothing will be heard on the D-STAR radio until the DMR transmission ends. In other words, parts of an otherwise interesting conversation maybe missed. The case is a bit of a jigsaw puzzle but it’s fairly easy to figure out from the picture that was provided. The ZUMspot is an excellent little device and I’m happy with it.

Technical Specialists report

Dave – KD8TWG has been very busy recently. He was again in charge of the communications and networking for the Great Geauga County Fair where they run APRS tracking of their golf carts, setup a phone system and IP cameras to cover the fair. At the Cleveland Hamfest he gave his presentation on Digital Modes. He compared and contrasted modes available to ham radio operators, including quality and radio options. Updated for this year was information on digital scanners and receiving the MARCS statewide digital system. Coming up on October 30, he and a few buddies will be putting on a “Test and tune” night for LEARA. It’s a great opportunity to check operation of radio equipment and make sure it is not transmitting spurs and harmonics (*cough* *cough* Baofengs *cough* *cough*). Contact Dave if you’re in the Cleveland area, or myself for the rest of the section, to have a similar program at a club meeting or hamfest.

If you were involved with the State Emergency Test, Black Swan exercise the weekend of October 6 & 7, you likely received bulletins from The Ohio Digital Emergency Network (OHDEN). Eldon – W5UHQ and crew gave up a good portion of their weekend to help with this event. They did a fine job of handling bulletins from the EOC and those stations that came through on the wrong communication channels. Join them for the OHDEN net on 3584.500 USB using Olivia 8-500 set to 1500 Hz on the waterfall each Tuesday at 7:45 PM eastern.

WB8APD, SK

Cleveland Hamfest – 1999, hac.org

I received word that Trustee Emeritus and past long-time Treasurer for LEARA, Dave Foran – WB8APD became a Silent Key on October 10, 2018. I knew Dave for about 10 years as a member of the LEARA board and mentor but knew the impact he made on the Ham Radio community long before I was a ham. In the time I knew him, Dave was always a behind the scenes guy – rarely getting on the radio. He was instrumental in getting repeater sites and maintaining equipment for LEARA including having an input for one of the repeaters at his house. Stories have been told that his basement was the print shop for the club’s newsletter when the club had 400+ members no-less. Dave was incredibly smart with technology and the Internet before most of us knew what it was. He worked for the phone company and the joke was “Dave had half of Ma Bell in his basement.” Internet linking was something he was into early on with his own IRLP node. He owned a server that, for a long time, served resources for the Cleveland area – not only ham radio clubs but community organizations too.

HamNet BBS before closing
Maybe you even dialed into the old HamNet BBS system located in Dave’s basement (yet another reference those under 35 won’t understand). Dave was my mentor with technologies LEARA was using as I was going to be helping or taking them over. He is the reason I’m into digital modes. Cleveland’s first D-STAR repeater was in-part Dave’s doing. Of course I had problems at first and he was my go-to for questions. The little space here covers only a fraction of his involvement and lives he impacted through his countless contributions. Goodbye and 73, Dave.

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – September 2018 edition

One of the responsibilities of the Technical Coordinator in the Ohio Section is to submit something for the Section Journal. The Section Journal covers Amateur Radio related things happening in and around the ARRL Ohio Section. It is published by the Section Manager Scott – N8SY and articles are submitted by cabinet members.

Once my article is published in the Journal, I will also make it available on my site with a link to the published edition.

You can receive the Journal and other Ohio Section news by joining the mailing list Scott has setup. You do not need to be a member of the ARRL, Ohio Section, or even a ham to join the mailing list. Please sign up!

If you are an ARRL member and reside in the Ohio Section, update your mailing preferences to receive Ohio Section news in your inbox. Those residing outside the section will need to use the mailing list link above.
Updating your ARRL profile will deliver news from the section where you reside (if the leadership chooses to use this method).
Go to www.arrl.org and logon.
Click Edit your Profile.
You will be taken to the Edit Your Profile page. On the first tab Edit Info, verify your Email address is correct.
Click the Edit Email Subscriptions tab.
Check the News and information from your Division Director and Section Manager box.
Click Save.

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at: http://arrl-ohio.org/news/2018/OSJ-Sep-18.pdf

THE TECHNICAL COORDINATOR
Jeff Kopcak – TC
k8jtk@arrl.net

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

Most hams and shortwave listeners know what the letters WWV mean. They are the call letters for the station that broadcasts the time, all the time. If you’ve never listened because you don’t have an HF radio or shortwave receiver, WWV is a shortwave radio station near Fort Collins, Colorado run by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and

WWV transmitter building (nist.gov)

Technology (NIST). WWV is the oldest continuously-operating radio station in the United States. It transmits time signals and bulletins in voice and digital formats on 2.5, 5, 10, 15, and 20 MHz AM 24/7/365.

The time and transmitted frequency of WWV is controlled by atomic clocks which are the most accurate standards due to the use of atoms as a time keeping element. Not only is the time broadcast by WWV the most accurate but the frequency of the transmitters is also the most accurate. WWVH is the Hawaiian sister station to WWV. WWVB is co-located with WWV but broadcasts a constant time code for radio-controlled clocks on 60 kHz. This is the frequency clocks that automatically set themselves listen to. Both WWV and WWVH announce Universal Coordinated Time (UTC) each minute and broadcast other recorded announcements including GPS health reports, oceanic weather warnings, and solar activity bulletins.

Cesium atomic clocks (nist.gov)

Whether you use these stations to calibrate equipment and instrumentation, calibrate ham radio digital software and hardware (Slow Scan TV or Fldigi), listen to bulletins, or use it as a beacon to check propagation, all of that is likely to end. NIST has proposed shutting down, by way of defunding, the WWV stations in their 2019 budget proposal. This means the 2011 NIST estimation of 50 million radio-controlled clocks and wristwatches equipped to receive WWVB will become obsolete. Not to mention it is an instrumental part in the telecommunications field and in scientific research. At first, WWVB was not listed in initial stories which made sense. Continuing to operate it would not obsolete radio-controlled clocks. But it too started to appear in later news stores.

In the ARRL report, the reason given for defunding these broadcast stations would be to “consolidate and focus” on other programs due to reductions in NIST funding. Taking the WWV stations off the air would save $6.3 million. The NIST FY (fiscal year) 2019 budget request for efforts related to Fundamental Measurement, Quantum Science and Measurement Dissemination is $127 million, which, the agency said, is a net decrease of $49 million from FY 2018. The administration’s overall NIST budget request is more than $629 million.

While I was distraught as I think most hams were, it gets more ridiculous when I started to break this down. Most people don’t understand huge numbers like millions, billions, and trillions of dollars because we’ll never see those numbers in our lifetimes and they’re just unrealistic. Let’s convert these figures into numbers most of us do understand. For comparison, I’m adding the published 2017 U.S. federal budget numbers: actual total revenue was $3.316 trillion and actual expenditures were $3.982 trillion. Breakdown is as follows:

15 Mhz WWV transmitter (nist.gov)
  • 2017 U.S. budget total revenue: $3,316,000
  • 2017 U.S. budget total expenditures: $3,982,000
  • NIST 2019 proposed budget: greater than $629
  • NIST 2019 proposed fundamental measurement budget: $127, which was reduced by $49
  • Shutting down the WWV stations saves: $6.30

A whopping $6.30! $6.3 million is almost 1% of the total proposed 2019 NIST budget or 0.00016% (rounded) of 2017 total expenditures. Yeah, it’s a HUGE burden!

I got pretty upset and there was noted concern over the shutdown proposal, especially amongst hams as would be expected since we utilize the service probably more than others. I figured everyone wouldn’t want their wall clocks to stop setting the time automatically. However, reality set in as the petition started at whitehouse.gov didn’t gain much traction. As of this writing, with less than 3 days before it closed, it gained a little less than 19% of the needed signatures for the White House to respond. Note: OSJ publication date will be after the petition closes.

What happens next? I haven’t heard if the dial-in phone numbers for WWV will be shut down or remain accessible: (303) 499-7111 for WWV (Colorado), and (808) 335-4363 for WWVH (Hawaii). Phone systems are converting to data services (VoIP) and there will be slight delays due to network switching, latency, and loss. If the phone numbers remain available, it will be better than nothing.

Canada has a similar time standard called CHU on 3.330 MHz & 14.670 MHz at 3 kW and 7.850 MHz at 10 kW. The 3 MHz station was strong into NE Ohio on one Thursday night as I’m writing this article. I’m also making the big assumption CHU will remain on the air. CHU broadcasts are AM with the lower side-band suppressed. Unfortunately, Canada doesn’t have the equivalent of WWVB and they relied on the U.S. for their radio-controlled clocks. Go U.S.! In other parts of the world, radio-controlled clocks rely on MSF in England and JJY in Japan.

Radio-controlled clocks will switch to some sort of other technology, likely GPS, listen for a cellular signal, or piggyback on WiFi. Radio-controlled clocks I’ve used set themselves in the middle of the night at about 3AM. Figuring most electronic noise emitting devices (like computers) would be off and longwave reception is better at night. GPS will reduce clock setup by one step. You won’t have to tell the clock in which time zone it is located. Ooohhh, yeah – that was so much work! I’m skeptical about using GPS. Any time I bring my car GPS into the house, it “lost satellite reception.” Being internal to a steel building (like an office), I do not see how this works at all without bringing the clock to the window to resync. More skepticism comes in the form of a question: what happens when the U.S. developed GPS system is unavailable? It could be unavailable because of solar flares, software bug, or an act of a nation-state. If you haven’t seen Dr. Tamitha Skov – WX6SWW’s solar reports, GPS is significantly affected by solar flares just like our HF bands, but in different ways. There are commercially available car navigation devices and smartphones that are capable of receiving both U.S. GPS and Russian GLONASS. Consider other parts of the world are developing their own global navigation systems and not relying on one single system, Europe: Galileo & China: BDS.

Computers and other Internet connected devices are not affected by the WWV shutdown. They utilize the Network Time Protocol (NTP) from publicly available time servers for syncing time.

I hope the best for WWV, WWVH, and WWVB. Maybe a private entity will buy out and continue to operate the stations. Nothing is looking too good without outrage from the public or more support than the few that signed the online petition. I’m getting tired of forced obsolescence.

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – August 2018 edition

One of the responsibilities of the Technical Coordinator in the Ohio Section is to submit something for the Section Journal. The Section Journal covers Amateur Radio related things happening in and around the ARRL Ohio Section. It is published by the Section Manager Scott – N8SY and articles are submitted by cabinet members.

Once my article is published in the Journal, I will also make it available on my site with a link to the published edition.

You can receive the Journal and other Ohio Section news by joining the mailing list Scott has setup. You do not need to be a member of the ARRL, Ohio Section, or even a ham to join the mailing list. Please sign up!

If you are an ARRL member and reside in the Ohio Section, update your mailing preferences to receive Ohio Section news in your inbox. Those residing outside the section will need to use the mailing list link above.
Updating your ARRL profile will deliver news from the section where you reside (if the leadership chooses to use this method).
Go to www.arrl.org and logon.
Click Edit your Profile.
You will be taken to the Edit Your Profile page. On the first tab Edit Info, verify your Email address is correct.
Click the Edit Email Subscriptions tab.
Check the News and information from your Division Director and Section Manager box.
Click Save.

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at: http://arrl-ohio.org/news/2018/OSJ-Aug-18.pdf

THE TECHNICAL COORDINATOR
Jeff Kopcak – TC
k8jtk@arrl.net

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

One ham in our section was having WiFi issues on his back deck. Inside was no problem. Outside the house, the WiFi signal was zero. The service provider was contacted and a technician was sent. On site, the technician tested the line and indoor modem/gateway unit, which is also his WiFi access point. All tested fine.

What does this have to do with ham radio? Nothing. Until the technician said the cause of his WiFi problem was his 160-10m dipole in the back yard. It was very suspicious to the tech and is the cause of his WiFi issues ‘according to their training.’ It got better. Because the tech didn’t have anything like this “suspicious” antenna and had WiFi in his own backyard, this must be the problem of course! This is where I was contacted to consult on the issue.

More likely they are trained that WiFi interference is caused by other sources of RF. This is true. They’re probably trained to spot other nearby transmitting services like police, fire, cell towers, or any building with antennas. Other transmitting equipment will raise the noise floor and may cause interference. The ham didn’t seem to be in the vicinity of other services and this issue was occurring even while he was not transmitting. The suspicious antenna argument was, of course, unfounded.

If you are in the same situation, here are some tips to help determine and solve WiFi problems. Two causes of coverage issues are signal strength or interference. A signal strength problem is most often the culprit where the access point reaches the device but the device doesn’t have the signal strength to communicate back to the access point. Causes could be distance to the access point or some building material is blocking the signal like metal siding or rebar.

ASUS RT-AC5300

Most obvious solution to resolve signal strength issues is move the access point closer to where you want coverage. If the living room and an office needs the best coverage, locate it in close proximity to those locations. This poses problems if the access point has to be located near a certain phone or cable drop in the house (like the basement) because it also doubles as the modem/gateway from the provider. Carrier issued devices with access points are only “OK” for coverage. Mostly because there are no external antennas. The reason access points have multiple external antennas is for diversity reception and something called “beamforming.” Some can detect where the device is located relative to the access point by doing its own version of direction finding. Using multiple antennas, it aims more signal at that device. As ridiculous as the AC5300 access point looks, this is an extreme example of a router capable of beamforming.

There are two bands for consumer WiFi in the United States: 2.4GHz and 5GHz. The device and access point must have both radios to utilize both bands. Typically cell phones and tablets made in the last 5 years are dual-band WiFi. Other portable devices like laptops probably have both but not always. The first Raspberry Pi WiFi module I purchased is 2.4 only. While 5GHz offers more channels and is typically ‘quieter,’ meaning not as many devices and access points, it does not equal coverage of 2.4GHz. 2.4 will have better comparable range.

Interference is another cause of WiFi issues. This could be from another WiFi access point or many access points in an overly saturated environment like an apartment. Since WiFi is low power, anything can easily jam it such as Bluetooth devices and microwaves. In the US, 2.4GHz access points are supposed to be on channel 1, 6, or 11. But nothing is stopping anyone from using adjacent channels. Using adjacent channels causes interference.

WiFi Analyzer (img: Play Store)

Using channel 4 will interfere with both 1 & 6 because of the bandwidth overlap. Interference is typically seen as a strong WiFi signal followed by a significant drop in signal. Things that can create broadband noise like a noisy power supply/transformer or noisy florescent ballast could be interfering near the access point or area you want to have signal.

Ideal thing to do is a “site survey” with a tool like NetSpot. It will create a signal strength heat map of your access point coverage around the house. There is a free version but it is limited. Another program that identifies the WiFi landscape (access points, devices nearby, channels used) is inSSIDer (free version is near the bottom of the page) available for PC and Mac. A similar program to inSSIDer is WiFi Analyzer for Android. These programs will give relative signal strengths but only at that moment. You could plot the signal strength readings to generate your own heat map.

To relocate a WiFi access point without moving the provided modem/gateway, first disable the WiFi in the carrier provided device. Then run an Ethernet cable to a point as close to the location where coverage is desired. Find any old router with WiFi. Configure the WiFi settings in that router, disable the internal DHCP service, then plug the older router into the Ethernet cable. Though any old WiFi router will work, there have been WiFi vulnerabilities discovered as recently as last month where bad-guys can gain access. Use devices with updated firmware.

Another option is try a WiFi range extender/booster or a look at a better access point. Extenders range from $20 to a couple hundred. They connect to your existing WiFi like any other device and re-broadcast the WiFi signal without any additional wiring. I’m a fan of ones that accept third-party firmware like Tomato or DD-WRT.

For the ham who contacted me, he decided to go with a range extender available from his carrier and placed it near the back deck. This is the best option as it would be fully supported and could get help setting it up if needed. Note there is a WiFi technical limitation with extenders that can cut transfer speeds. However, for web browsing and HD streaming, you won’t even notice any reduction.

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK