Tag Archives: Amateur Radio

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 – July 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-Jul-18.pdf

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

Around the time of Dayton, the FBI asked everyone to reboot their routers. Why would they do that? Over the last two years more than 500,000 consumer and small business routers in 54 countries have become infected with a piece of malware called “VPNFilter.” This sophisticated malware is thought to be the work of a government and somewhat targeted with many of the infected routers located in Ukraine.

Src: Cisco’s Talos Intelligence Group Blog

Security researchers are still trying to determine what exactly VPNFilter was built to do. So far, it is known to eavesdrop on Internet traffic grabbing logon credentials and looking for specific types of traffic such as SCADA, a networking protocol controlling power plants, chemical plants, and industrial systems. Actively, it can “brick” the infected device. Bricking is a term to mean ‘render the device completely unusable’ and being as useful as a brick.

In addition to these threats, this malware can survive a reboot. Wait, didn’t the FBI ask all of us to reboot our routers? Won’t that clear the infection? No. In order for this malware to figure out what it needs to do, it reaches out to a command-and-control server. A command-and-control server issues commands to all infected devices, thus being “controlled.” C&C, as they are often abbreviated, allows the bad guys in control a lot of flexibility. It can allow infected devices to remain dormant for months or years. Then, the owner can issue commands to ‘wake-up’ the infected devices (called a botnet) and perform intended tasks. Tasks can range from attack a site, such as DynDNS which I wrote about in November of 2016, to steal logon credentials for users connected to the infected router. Back to the question, the FBI seized control of the C&C server. When an infected router is rebooted, it will try to reach out to the C&C server again but instead will be contacting a server owned by the FBI. This only gives the FBI a sense of how bad this infection is. Rebooting will not neutralize the infection.

Affected devices include various routers from Asus, D-Link, Huawei, Linksys, MikroTik, Netgear, TP-Link, Ubiquiti, Upvel, and ZTE, as well as QNAP network-attached storage (NAS) devices. There is no easy way to know if your router is infected. If yours is on that list, one can assume theirs is infected. As if that wasn’t bad enough, many manufactures don’t have firmware updates to fix the problem. The ones that have fixed the problem did so years ago. Since no one patches their routers, that’s why there’s half a million infected.
First thing to do is gather information about the make, model, and current firmware of your router. Then check for announcements from the manufacturer about affected firmware versions or preventative steps. The only known way to clear this infection is to disconnect it from the Internet, factory-reset the router, upgrade the firmware (if one is available), and reconfigure it for your network – or simply throw it away.

If those last couple words strike fear into your heart, there are a couple options:

  • See if your ISP has a device they will send or install for you. It can be reasonably assumed that devices provided or leased by the ISP will be updated by the ISP.
  • Find someone in your club that knows at least the basics of networking to help reconfigure things
  • Many newly purchased devices come with some sort of support to get you up and running

If you’re a little more advanced and want to learn more about networking:

  • EdgeRouter-X
    Use 3rd party firmware. Currently they are not showing signs of being vulnerable to VPNFilter or other infections. 3rd party firmware projects are often maintained by enthusiasts. They are updated LONG past when the manufacturer stops supporting their own products and updates often happen quickly. Some of those projects include: OpenWRT/LEDE, DD-WRT, or Fresh Tomato.
  • A Linux box could be setup with Linux packages to mimic router functionality or use a distribution such as pfSense or OPNsense.
  • Another great device to use is the Ubiquity EdgeRouter-X for $49.
  • Check the “Comparison of Firewalls” for other ideas.

That $5 hamfest deal isn’t sounding so great anymore. It’s the law of economics for these companies too. $10, $30, or $100 for a device isn’t going to sustain programmer’s time to find, fix, troubleshoot, test, and release firmware updates for a 7-year-old device. It’s a struggle. I think it will come down to spending more on better devices which will be upgraded longer or spend $50-$100 every 3-5 years to replace an OK one.

The Department of Commerce released a report on the threat of botnets and steps manufactures could take to reduce the number of automated attacks. It hits on a number of good points but lacks many details. “Awareness and education are needed.” Whose responsibility is it to educate? I can write articles in the OSJ but I’m not going to be able to visit everyone’s house and determine if your devices are infected. “Products should be secured during all stages of the lifecycle.” Automated updates could take care of this problem but doesn’t address what-ifs. What if the update fails or worse yet, bricks your “Smart” TV as an example? Who is going to fix or replace them? Will they be fixed if it’s out of warranty? Not to mention operating system “updates” are bundled with more privacy violations and ways to monetize users.

There’s a lot of work to be done. I wish I had the answers. Regardless, we all need to be good stewards of the Internet making sure ALL attached devices are updated and current.

More technical details on VPNFilter and citation for this article: https://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2018/06/router_vulnerab.html
https://blog.talosintelligence.com/2018/05/VPNFilter.html

Finally this month, thank you to all the clubs and groups that sent messages to this station via WinLink or NTS over Field Day weekend. It was the most I’ve ever received, about 12 – 15 messages altogether.

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – June 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-Jun-18.pdf

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

The Wood County Amateur Radio Club (which I’m a member) has a Fusion digital net on Thursday nights. Longtime club member Phil – W8PSK, posed the question: can I operate a Wires-X node mobile from my RV?

A little background about Wires-X setups. Wires-X is part of Yaesu’s System Fusion and is a closed Internet linking system. Only Yaesu hardware is allowed. Other digital devices like the OpenSpot, DVMega, and Pi-Star are not permitted. The obvious answer, if it were a viable choice, would be to use a digital hotspot but Yaesu doesn’t allow them. Wires-X hardware requirements include: a Yaesu FTM-100D or FTM-400XD radio or Fusion repeater, Yaesu HRI-200 interface between the radio and PC, a Windows 7 or 10 PC (yes, it must be Windows machine), and an Internet connection with a global IP address. A common example of a global IP address is one provided to you by your DSL, Cable, or Fiber provider. This IP is accessible from anywhere on the Internet and (generally) unrestricted. Lastly, another radio is required to use the Wires-X node locally.

Having setup my own Wires-X node in addition to LEARA’s repeater node, my first assumption was Phil would be able to connect out from his node in the RV to any other Wires-X node, but no other node could connect to him. This theory was based on the need to open or “port forward” 7 ports from the Internet to the PC running the Wires-X software. Port forwarding is a computer networking method used to allow data to bypass a firewall which would normally block that communication. Those that run websites from their network or have access to IP cameras while away from home will have these port forwards configured in their router.

Phil planned on using his smartphone as the Internet connection to the PC. Modern Smartphones have the ability to use the cellular network to serve an Internet connection to other devices like a laptop or Raspberry Pi via Wi-Fi connection. This is labeled something like “Mobile Hotspot” or “Personal Hotspot” in the phone. Standard disclaimer: check with your provider first in case there is an extra charge for this service or bandwidth cap. Bandwidth is standard for a Voice over Internet system at about 60kpbs/connection or about 30 MB/hour/connection with constant TX/RX. Port forwarding is never allowed on consumer cell plans. The unknown was can the Wires-X software connect without the port forwarding outlined in the configuration.

I tested my theory to see if the Wires-X software functioned by modifying a known working Wires-X configuration. I closed (temporarily disabled) the forwarded ports on my network. This meant communication over those ports would now be blocked, similar to that of a cellular connection. Then restarted the Wires-X software and hoped for the best. Was my theory correct? Drumroll please… the answer was: no. Wah waaaah. Not having the required ports forwarded to the PC did not allow the software to receive data from the Wires-X network. That result almost killed any hope of Phil using Wires-X mobile in his RV.

Phil was determined and we looked further into different solutions. VPNs were an option because they can often bypass network restrictions. However, a small number of VPN providers allowed forwarding ports as part of their service. Reviews weren’t positive and VPNs tend to easily fail with unstable data connections as one might have while mobile. Not something to be messing around with while driving. It introduced another point-of-failure in this setup. Hilariously enough, there were applications that touted the ability to ‘open ports on your phone.’ These wouldn’t work because it might open ports on the phone, almost assuredly the provider was blocking any ports upstream to the phone. Verizon offers a business account which allows port forwards but there is a one-time setup cost of $500 plus the service. Yeah, no. I suggested asking in the Yahoo group. John – N9UPC, Fusion representative for Yaesu, reinforced the conclusion I came to: operating mobile wasn’t possible because wireless providers don’t provide a global IP. Though Phil posted his question in late April, oddly enough John did not give any indication to an announcement at Dayton. One solution that looked promising used AMPRNet which is block of Internet routable IP addresses for ham radio operators. It could give us the global IP address we needed. After finding out more, someone else’s data center was being used and we weren’t sure Phil would have permission to use it as well.

Sensing no way to get around the port forward restriction, an announcement came during the Fusion forum at Dayton that (we hope) will solve Phil’s problem. Yaesu is going to release an update in the coming months that will allow the FT2DR, FTM-100D, as well as the FTM-400XD to operate as a portable node. With additional cables, these radios would connect directly to a computer for Wires-X operation without the need of an HRI-200. This was created specifically for mobile setups and users who don’t have the ability to forward the necessary ports (like in a hotel). Ding, ding, ding, we have a winner!

A couple caveats: purchase of an HRI-200 is still required. To use the portable node, you still need to register on the Wires-X system which requires a serial number from an HRI-200. The portable setup will not have ‘all of the features’ of the traditional setup such as hosting a Room (round table-type node) or messaging. Purchase of two cables is required to make the necessary connections: an SCU-19 USB and CT-44 audio cable. It wasn’t clear if both are needed for the 100/400 radios. There are no plans “at this time” to integrate any other Fusion radio other than the three listed above.

It would have been nice to have a heads-up about this new option before we spent time researching a solution. I think this will solve Phil’s problem and get him mobile with Wires-X. Announcement from the Fusion form, Dayton Hamvention 2018.

Speaking of digital hotspots, my favorite has been discontinued: the openSPOT. Saw it disappeared form dealer sites just after Dayton. June 8th it was removed from the SharkRF website with an announcement that a new product was going to be introduced soon. What could it be??! If you need a digital hotspot device today, I really like the ZUMSpot with the Pi-Star software. I picked up one with a case at Dayton. More info in future articles.

The next big ham holiday, Field Day, is right around the corner. Get out and join your club or find a club to join if you’re not a member of one. It’s a great time to bring friends and get them excited about ham radio. Hams that come out get bitten by the bug to expand their station or learn a new mode. Check the Field Day Locator for operations taking place near you. Sending 10 messages over RF from your site gets you 100 points – including Winlink messages. I love to receive messages about your setup, stations operating, or social activities taking place. These can be sent via the National Traffic System (NTS) or Winlink – K8JTK at Winlink.org – to my station. Winlink post about Field Day points.

With July around the corner, two of my favorite events will be kicking-off soon. The 13 Colonies Special Event is coming up July 1 – 7, along with the RAC Canada Day Contest on July 1st only.

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – May 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-May-18.pdf

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

Another Hamvention has come to a close. My dad (N8ETP) and I were able to make it again. We were joined by my mom (N8GTK) this year too. This was her second Hamvention. She got to experience one at Hara Arena and now one at the Greene County Fairgrounds. Last year my dad and I parked on site at the fairgrounds. We didn’t get stuck but took about 3 car washes to get the mud off. This year we decided to park off-site and were bussed in. I remember being able to fit in the isles and seats last time I was on a school bus – not so much this time. Off-site parking was the better decision. Our site at Young’s Dairy was not nearly as muddy as the fairgrounds parking lot was this year or last. Other off-site locations offer a paved lot if parking in a field is not your thing.

On Friday, the busses dropped off and picked up in a remote area away from the main entrance. Farm tractors transported Hamvention goers to the main entrance with hayride trailers. This lasted a day because rain combined with heavy machinery and grassy fields turned it into – you guessed it – a mud wrestling pit. Saturday, the busses dropped us off in one of the parking lots and then we rode golf carts to the main gate. Beats being stuck.

Being the second year at the new location, it’s still a work-in-progress. Improvements have been made over last year and there is still more in the pipeline. An addition to the flea market was crushed asphalt and gravel isles. This should have improved conditions in the flea market though I can’t say for sure. We started in the flea market on Friday but about an hour later it started raining buckets and we headed indoors unfortunately not to return. Rearranging the indoor facilities provided a much larger covered eating area. The tent used for outdoor vendors was much nicer. The ground might have gotten wet underneath but I don’t think occupants got the rain coming in through the sides as they did last year. Another building is expected to be constructed for next year.

Despite the wet weather, it still seemed like attendance was up. It’s kind of a bummer not being able to walk away with a new purchase at the hamfest. A couple purchases needed to be shipped because vendors didn’t have the room but it’s a good problem to have as Hamvention continues to bring in vendors from around the world. According to the conversations I had, next year will be dry and all the problems will be solved! Don’t hold me to the ‘being dry’ part.

VOA Bethany Relay Station (Wikipedia)

For a couple years, one thing I’ve wanted to do while in Dayton was visit the Voice of America (VOA) museum. This year, with the three of us, we made it a point and it was well worth a visit. I believe the first time I ever heard of Voice of America was in a college Telecommunications class. We had an assignment to listen to VOA over an evening and write our thoughts about what we heard in the broadcast. This was in the mid-2000’s and the VOA was available as an online stream. Grated many people have not heard of VOA which is understandable because its target audience isn’t U.S. citizens. The primary intent of VOA was broadcast programming to be consumed by foreign audiences to help influence public opinion abroad regarding the U.S. Propaganda, if you will.

My primary operating interests are digital modes and using computers but I have a healthy respect and am very interested in the history of radio. There’s a lot of radio history in our own backyard. Down in West Chester, Ohio are two very famous transmission facilities: WLW and the Voice of America Bethany Relay station. WLW is famous for being the highest power transmitter ever used in the U.S. on broadcast AM radio. Between 1934 and 1939 WLW operated at a power output of 500 kW. The transmitter they operated was serial number 1. In 1938, a congressional resolution was introduced which limited broadcast AM transmission to 50 kW, which is still the current maximum power output. The WLW tower is also rare featuring the unique “Blaw-Knox” diamond shape.

Adjacent to the WLW tower is the VOA facility known as the Bethany Relay Station. In 1944, the facility began transmitting American programming on shortwave frequencies primarily into Europe during World War II. They could broadcast into Africa and South America as well. The site had 6 transmitters built by the same company that operated the WLW transmitter, Crosley Radio. Four stations were 200 kW and two were 50 kW. Originally the facility sat on a 625-acre site built inland so it couldn’t be easily attacked like other VOA sites close to the ocean might be. Due to a shift to satellite technology, the station was decommissioned in 1994. Much of the property was turned over to the Metroparks and is now a recreational park. The transmission towers and antennas have all been demolished. The transmission building and antenna switching facility is all that remains which is now home to a museum and ham radio club.

WLW Engineering Azimuthal Projection Map

The National VOA Museum of Broadcasting and the West Chester Amateur Radio Association, WC8VOA, preserve and care for the Bethany Relay Station. The museum chronicles the history of VOA and how it played key roles in forming public opinion of the U.S. during wartime. It featured a fitting tribute to the last known surviving engineer for WLW and VOA, Clyde Haehnle, who passed away last month. An azimuthal projection map, which Clyde drew, is featured in many places. This map shows the distance and angle from Cincinnati to any point on the globe which was used to direct VOA antennas to any part of the world. Another room features the history of the Crosley Broadcasting Corporation with tubes on display used in the WLW 500 kW transmitter and types of radios consumers would have used in their homes. A radio timeline shows the history of radio from the spark gap to the iPad. Opposite those displays are the broadcaster’s museum which featured a couple pieces of history from the Cleveland area, which I was surprised to see.

Of the old VOA facility, there is still a shortwave transmitter on display complete with control panel, the newer of the two control rooms where operators could select programming broadcast over each transmitter, and the antenna switching matrix. If all that isn’t enough, you can operate the WC8VOA club station in the old control room of the VOA.

We could have easily spent a half-day there because there was so much to look at, watch, and listen. This was an amazing facility with a lot of history between WLW and VOA. The VOA Museum of Broadcasting and West Chester Amateur Radio Association where such gracious hosts. They were around to answer questions and pass along the history of this station. If you’re in the area or if not, make plans for Hamvention next year to spend [more than] a couple hours at the VOA facility. It’s open every Saturday and Sunday 1 – 4pm with extended hours during Hamvention.

More information and videos on the VOA:
West Chester Amateur Radio Association (WC8VOA): http://wc8voa.org/
National Voice of America Museum of Broadcasting: http://www.voamuseum.org/
Voice of America Museum Special (AmateurLogic.TV): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3w_ZXRJol_4

Clyde Haehnle, Remembering WLW & VOA (AmateurLogic.TV): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lnw-STvoj20

1992-04-24 Voice of America Bethany (Mason) Ohio Relay Station [in operation]: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PiGmEjH4dKE

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – February 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-Feb-18.pdf

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

Have a bunch of odds and ends for everyone this month.

Ham Cram Sessions

I received a piece of feedback worth sharing from December’s article on the “ham cram” type training sessions. One group in the section is working on a cram session for new licensees. That will be followed up with a “now what” session. The follow up session would have mentors and elmers available to help get new hams on the air. Depending on the success, this may be followed up with a General class too.

I think it’s a great idea to follow up with the “now what” session in a more relaxed environment for learning and getting them comfortable being on the air.

Digital Communications in Amateur Radio

Operating PSK31

I’ve been working on my Digital Communications in Amateur Radio series for the Wood County Amateur Radio Club. The series started with an overview of Ham radio digital modes and how to get your station setup with different interface options. From there I’ve been taking an introductory look into specific modes, though mostly ones used on HF. My articles are available in the club’s newsletter, CQ Chatter, found on the Wood County Amateur Radio Club Website (past years are on the CQ Chatter Archives page) or available on my site as well. Check them out to get an introductory look at digital modes.

Latest additions:

  • Conversational Digital Modes like PSK, RTTY, MFSK, Olivia (February 2017)
  • Narrow Band Emergency Messaging System or NBEMS (August 2017)
  • Winlink (February 2018)

Yaesu Fusion Announcements

After the New Year, Yaesu released an announcement with regard to their Fusion C4FM offerings.

  • The DR-2X purchase program will continue through June 30, 2018.
    • A trade-in program is available for current DR-1X repeater owners (they will not accept the beta version) towards the purchase of a DR-2X. $300 if you are trading in a DR-1X and only want the DR-2X repeater. If you wish to include the IMRS IP linking option in the DR-2X, the price will be $500.
    • Buying the DR-2X outright is $900. $1100 to include IMRS.
  • New Firmware will be released for DG-ID and DP-ID functionality in the DR-1X repeaters. Much like the Wires-X upgrade, it is very likely the repeater will need to be sent back to Yaesu for this firmware upgrade.
  • They are releasing the DR-1X FR. The DR-1X FR is a “factory refurbished” DR-1X for $400. It will have the DG-ID and DP-ID firmware already installed. The DR-1X FR cannot be used for the trade in program towards a DR-2X.

The discounted prices listed for the DR-2X and DR-1X FR require an application available from Yaesu. Firmware upgrade details or applications can be obtained by contacting John Kruk – N9UPC (Sales Manager for Yaesu USA) at j.kruk@yaesu.com or through the Yaesu Service department.

Yeesh. Lost yet? I won’t rehash my thoughts on Fusion (see August & September 2017 editions of the OSJ) but I think this announcement only further fragments their offering.

Tom Gallagher – NY2RF to Retire

Tom Gallagher – NY2RF is going to retire after 2 short years as CEO of the ARRL. For me the cliché is true: it only seems like yesterday. I appreciated Tom’s articles in QST and his behind the scenes look at the ARRL. As an MBA, I loved his explanation into some of the financials and reasons for the league raising membership dues in 2016 (July 2017 QST, Mythbusting: ARRL Not “A Big Radio Club”). The League may have $14.7 million in assets but that doesn’t mean that is money lying around. It goes toward programs and services to benefit members and non-members alike. Despite the non-profit status our government affords the organization, they need to pay competitive wages to employees and authors – otherwise they will go elsewhere. I also had the privilege to correspond with Tom on, I think, an excellent direction to get Makers into the ham radio hobby.

I wish Tom well in his retirement. Announcement: http://www.arrl.org/news/arrl-ceo-tom-gallagher-ny2rf-to-retire

Tinkercad

Speaking of Makers, I saw a video on the Amateur Logic podcast that demonstrated TinkerCAD electronics. If you’ve done anything with 3D printing, you’ve probably used Tinkercad. Tinkercad is a product of Autodesk, makers of software for architecture, engineering, and construction manufacturing. As Tommy demonstrates in the video, Tinkercad has an electronics section to simulate building electronic circuits and projects. This can be used as a great introduction into electronic circuit building for students and kids. The simulator has many types of electronic components: switches, capacitors, Arduinos, diodes, power supplies, oscilloscopes, potentiometers, resistors, ICs, breadboards, motors, servos, sensors, and of course – wires!

Tommy duplicates a simple blinking LED project he built in a previous episode using the simulator – even using the exact same Arduino code. I wondered if there was a product available to simulate circuit building and was quite impressed how well the simulator worked. Check it out in Amateur Logic episode 113. To sign up and start “tinkering,” go to: https://www.tinkercad.com/. 6 years or so ago, they were charging for the service. It appears when Autodesk took it over, it’s been free to use.

Scanner Anti-encryption Bill

Lastly for this month, I’m a scanner listener and I’m intrigued by the State of Ohio’s MARCS-IP public service safety system (Multi-Agency Radio Communications over IP). In short, it’s a state wide P25 digital communications system that allows users to be anywhere in the state and communicate with their agency. Once of the selling points for any commercial digital system is the ability to encrypt. Only those authorized can “unscramble” the transmission, meaning scanner listeners are locked out of listening to that particular group, or system in a few cases. Agencies love it and scanner listeners hate it.

Robert Wareham – N0ESQ

Our friends in the Colorado section made headlines last month when State Government Liaison and Section EC Robert Wareham – N0ESQ participated in drafting what is being called the “anti-encryption Bill.” With the backing of Colorado State Representative Kevin van Winkle (R), the bill outlaws blanket encryption by state and local governments striking a balance between transparency and the public’s right to monitor public agencies. Legitimate needs of confidential investigations and tactical operations are not protected under the bill. There are criminal penalties for those who monitor these communications to further a criminal enterprise, avoid arrest, detection, or escape capture.

While this bill only applies to Colorado, it could set a path for other states to draft something similar. Encryption for public radio systems is always a hot topic with completely valid points on both sides. There is a 51 page thread on the topic in the Radio Reference forums debating reasons both ways.

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Digital Communications in Amateur Radio: Winlink

This article appeared in the The Wood County Amateur Radio Club newsletter CQ Chatter February 2018 edition.

Read the rest of the series in the Digital Communications in Amateur Radio articles category.


Hurricane season wasn’t particularly fun in 2017. We had both extremes. Houston got hit with Hurricane Harvey which required little response from the ham community. Infrastructure stayed online. Disruption to communication systems and Internet was minimal. This left many hams wondering, ‘are we at the point where our infrastructure is stable enough to survive a category 4 hurricane?’ ‘Are hams still relevant since we were not needed for this type of event?’ We got the answer to those questions over the next month with two category 5 hurricanes. Irma impacted the state of Florida and Maria devastated the relatively poor U.S. possession of Puerto Rico. We went from wondering if ham radio was still relevant in emergency situations to rethinking training for extended deployment scenarios, all within a matter of weeks.

Ham radio news sources pointed out many communication techniques were utilized getting traffic in and out of affected areas. An ARRL press release indicated “Maxim Memorial Station W1AW at ARRL Headquarters is monitoring the HWN, 60-meter interoperability channel 2, and Winlink for any traffic.” Winlink gained prevalence in ham news media due to these disasters, gained popularity in emergency communications circles, and became an operating requirement for hams that assisted in Puerto Rico. Winlink is a very powerful and flexible system for exchanging all types of messages.

“Winlink (also known as Winlink 2000) is a worldwide radio messaging system that uses amateur-band radio frequencies to provide radio interconnection services that include email with attachments, position reporting, weather bulletins, emergency relief communications, and message relay” (Wikipedia). In other words, Winlink is a global email system via radio. The backbone uses the Internet for communication but users do not need an Internet connection. This makes the system popular in Emcomm when the Internet is not available. Winlink was first used recreationally by mariners, RV campers, and missionaries. The entire system is run by volunteers and a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization. Though similar in name, the “WIN System” is a popular IRLP repeater system based in California and entirely different.

https://www.winlink.org/content/getting_started_winlink_and_winmor

The Winlink system consists of multiple Common Message Servers (CMS) on multiple continents thought the world. The CMS servers form a “star” network configuration to coordinate traffic and provide services like email, webmail, telnet, bulletins, and reporting. Each CMS is a mirror image of the others for redundancy, failover, and outage situations. The Internet, by design, can work around outages. To date, there has been no global outage of the Internet – only regional. Having multiple servers, with redundant copies of the same data, means one or more could be affected by an outage and the system still functions. As of November 1, 2017, the CMS servers have been moved into the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud for greater redundancy.

Remote Message Servers (RMS) are scattered throughout the world and are the RF connection into the Winlink system. RMS gateways access the resources of the CMS servers via the Internet. These nodes are provided by hams familiar with the system and are setup on many ham bands (HF, VHF, UHF). On VHF/UHF, connectivity is limited to local clients. HF gateways serve a wider area but depend heavily on band conditions.

Finally, your computer runs the client software which interacts with services provided by the CMS, most often through an RMS gateway. The client software sends and receives messages. Size is limited to 120KB maximum, including attachments. Winlink uses a “store and forward” approach to messaging meaning clients are not constantly connected to an RMS or CMS gateway.

There are currently 6 client software applications available for Winlink. A feature comparison is available at: https://www.winlink.org/ClientSoftware. Winlink Express (formally RMS Express) is the preferred client because it’s developed by the system administrators and supports all features of the system. The software is well supported and frequently updated. The application looks and operates much like a stripped-down email client. Using a familiar email interface makes the application easy-to-use. Though free to download and use, Winlink Express is nagware. It will frequently prompt to purchase a key supporting development of the system. Registration of $24 is encouraged but not a requirement to use Winlink.

Winlink Express interacts with a wide selection of transceivers, provides different operating modes (PACTOR, Packet, Telnet, WINMOR Virtual TNC), and offers different connection methods (relay over mesh and D-STAR networks). It can be operated in any of four general methods:

  • Winlink: access messages on the CMS via an RF connection to an RMS gateway using the Internet.
  • Peer-to-Peer (P2P): messages exchanged directly with other users over RF, Internet, or mesh without the use of a RMS or CMS.
  • Radio-only: messages transferred between HF RMS gateways – without use of the Internet.
  • Telnet Post Office: connects to the CMS directly over the Internet.

A growing library of forms is available for ARES, RACES, SHARES, or MARS organizations including ICS, ARRL, and form types used in Ohio. The advantage of Winlink versus NBEMS is the ability to exchange messages over the public Internet. A form could be emailed directly to a government official instead of relayed via another ham. Winlink Express makes it easy to fill out or reply to forms by utilizing the local web browser. When composing a message, these forms are found under “Select Template.”

A “Query Catalog” accesses services provided by the CMS such as weather and marine forecasts, news, and propagation reports. Location coordinates can be reported through Winlink as well.

Winlink Express will work on a modern computer or Windows tablet running Windows Vista or later. The WINMOR Virtual TNC requires a 700 MHz or greater processor and 512 MB RAM or more due to the Digital Signal Processing (DSP) needed. An Apple or Linux version of Winlink Express is not available but it can be run using a virtual machine or dual-boot configuration. A Linux client is available but does not support all features.

This series primarily focuses on soundcard modes over HF and I will be discussing the WINMOR Virtual TNC. WINMOR is a low-cost interface utilizing the SignaLink USB for $120 as opposed to a PACTOR 3 dedicated hardware modem which can run $1,100 – $1,600. Low-cost hardware means tradeoffs. WINMOR is not anywhere near as fast or reliable as a PACTOR 3 modem, but it does a very good job.

To get started, first go to: ftp://autoupdate.winlink.org/User%20Programs/. Download two programs from the list of files: latest itshfbc program and Winlink_Express_install. ITS HF Propagation is prediction software to provide a rough estimate of the signal path quality between your QTH and remote RMS. Install both applications, order doesn’t matter. Click “next” through both installs, accepting defaults.

An Internet connection is required on the computer for initial setup. After starting Winlink Express, a “Winlink Express Properties” configuration will be seen. If not, click Settings, Winlink Express Setup. At a minimum the following fields must be completed: callsign, choose a password, enter a non-Winlink password recovery email, and grid square. Under Service Code, if you plan on using EMCOMM channels, make the code read: PUBLIC EMCOMM

I recommend checking Display list of pending incoming messages prior to download. This will display incoming message details prior to download allowing the user to select or reject messages based on size or sender. Click Update. An account will be setup on the Winlink system. The Winlink email address won’t become active until a message is sent through the CMS gateway. Click Remind Me Later on any Winlink Express Registration screens.

To create a message activating the Winlink email address, click the New message icon or click Message, New Message.

In the To field, enter your real email address. In the Subject field, enter something like “My first Winlink message.” In the message body, enter something like “This is my first Winlink message, whoo hoo!”

The message is ready to send, but wait! There is no “send” option. What gives?!? Since this system is store-and-forward, messages are Post to Outbox and appear in the “Outbox” System Folder. Messages in outbox can still be edited but will be sent when connected to a CMS.

Next to “Open Session,” in the drop-down select Winmor Winlink. Click Open Session.

Two more boxes will appear: “WINMOR WL2K Session” and “WINMOR Setup.” The WINMOR WL2K Session box is where an RMS gateway is selected and it displays the connection status.

You will be prompted to select the Capture and Playback soundcard devices in the WINMOR Setup box. For the SignaLink, select USB Audio CODEC. Leave all other settings at their defaults. Click Update. A third “WINMOR Sound Card TNC” box will appear. This window shows a waterfall along with transmit and receive state of the virtual TNC. Ignore this box for now.

On the SignaLink, begin with the TX and RX volume knobs set to the 12 o’clock position. Set delay (DLY) to the 2nd tick-mark (8 o’clock position).

If you have a way to control your radio through CI-V commands or equivalent, click Settings, Radio Setup, and configure the settings for the radio. Radio control makes it much easier when selecting different RMS gateway stations. Selecting a different station will automatically change the radio’s frequency and mode. With a VOX device like the SignaLink, for “PTT Port” select External. Click Update.

Back in the WINMOR Winlink Session box, click Channel Selection. An “HF Channel Selector” window will open. A message will ask to ‘update the channel list and recompute the propagation estimates now?’ Click Yes. If not asked, click Update Table Via Internet. This table will update with the current list of Winlink RMS gateway channels on HF. The list can be updated over radio in the future if desired.

Once updated, the presence of color in the “Path Reliability Estimate” and “Path Quality Estimate” columns mean the ITS HF Propagation predictor program is installed and working. Calculations are based on your grid square and solar flux index. Update the current grid square in Winlink Express setup and this table often when traveling. “Mode” is the bandwidth of the RMS node. A higher number means faster transfers are possible. “Hours” means the hours each day the node is online. “00-23” is all day, “02-13” is 02:00 – 13:00. The rest is self-explanatory.

To select a particular RMS gateway, double-click that row in the table. Gateways in green are good choices but ones at the top of the list may not always provide the best connection. Reliable gateways are found by trial and error and can be added to the “Favorites” list. If Rig Control is enabled, the radio should tune to the dial frequency of the RMS gateway and enter USB mode. If not, tune the radio’s display frequency to the “Dial Freq” (VERY important!) shown in WINMOR. Warm up the Tuner if it needs it. Remember to use no more than 30% power. Click Start.

If WINMOR thinks the channel is busy, it will prompt to verify you still want to connect because your transmissions maybe interfering with another station. Your radio will start pinging the remote RMS gateway station. In the WINMOR Sound Card TNC, above the receive indicator will be the “Measured T>R Latency” value. This measures the transmit/receive turnaround time. This should be less than 250ms and adjustable in part by the SignaLink DLY knob. Higher values will cause problems receiving from the RMS gateway. While receiving transmissions from the gateway, adjust the RX knob to a level that falls within the green portion of “Rcv Level.”

With any luck, your client will connect and your first Winlink message will be sent! There will be A LOT of back-and-forth (TX/RX switching) between your radio and remote RMS gateway. These are handshaking and acknowledgments or sending/receiving messages. When all messages are exchanged, the client will automatically disconnect from the RMS gateway. Clicking “Stop” will gracefully disconnect and ID at any time during a session. “Abort” should only be used when something is very wrong because communication is terminated immediately (without ID). Attempts will be made by the RMS to reestablish communication with the client before eventually timing-out.

Once the test message is received in your actual email, your new callsign@winlink.org email address is now active! Send a reply to the test message through your real email. To call a different RMS gateway, click Channel Selection and select a different station. Wait 5 minutes or so for the reply email to reach the Winlink CMS. Click Start in the WINMOR Winlink session box. You will see your reply downloaded to the inbox! When replying to lengthy messages, I will keep a few sentences (paragraph at most) of the original message. This keeps the transmission time down. The original sender can look at the full message in their client sent folder.

Before going crazy telling people to send messages, there is one crucial piece to this system. Winlink uses a “whitelist” (approved senders list) approach for external email addresses. This keeps abuse and spam to a minimum. As a Winlink user, you are free to send messages using your Winlink address to other Winlink users. Other Winlink users can do the same, freely contacting you.

External email addresses are handled very different. An external email is any mail system other than Winlink (Gmail, Outlook, DACOR, Buckeye Cable, BGSU, etc.). If you first send a Winlink message to someone@someprovider.com, that email address is automatically added to your Winlink whitelist. That means email from someone@someprovider.com will be delivered to your Winlink inbox.

For an external email address to send you a message unsolicited to Winlink, there are two options: add that email to your whitelist ahead of time or the sender must put “//WL2K” in the subject line. Example: “//WL2K Holiday Meeting.” Anything with //WL2K in the subject is considered a deliverable message and will not be flagged as unauthorized. By default, all outgoing messages have this inserted automatically by Winlink Express. When some individual replies to your message, which would have //WL2K in the subject, it will be accepted. Any non-whitelisted (blacklisted) addresses or messages without //WL2K in the subject, the sender will receive a bounced error message saying “Sender not authorized for any recipient.”

Whitelists can be managed by logging on to the Winlink My Account page and click My Whitelist. That page will provide details how to update the whitelist using client commands, if desired.

Another important detail to remember, there is no expectation of privacy with the Winlink system. RMS gateway owners and Winlink administrators can read messages exchanged through the system. They are looking for Part 97 violations and inappropriate usage of the system. Violators will be blocked. I’m sure they would find details of your camping trip fascinating, but they really don’t care.

Email messages through this system are considered 3rd party traffic under Part 97. The email message resides on the CMS until you (a ham) make a connection to another ham’s station (RMS) to retrieve your messages. This is similar in nature to passing messages over the National Traffic System (NTS).

The list of services available through the Winlink system is extensive. Winlink is quite flexible allowing many different ways to access the system over RF, APRS, or Internet. Feel free to send a message to my Winlink email address, K8JTK—at—winlink.org. Replace “—at—” with the appropriate email symbol. Don’t forget to include //WL2K in the subject!

Find out more information:

Winlink website: https://winlink.org/

Introduction presentation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UTx9pY1Akl8

Resource for beginners: https://www.winlink.org/content/getting_started_winlink_and_winmor

System tutorials, documents, and FAQs: https://www.winlink.org/content/winlink_book_knowledge

Terminology of the system: https://www.winlink.org/glossary

Winlink over APRS: https://www.winlink.org/APRSLink

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – December 2017 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/OSJ-December-17.pdf

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

I’m touching on a third-rail topic of ham radio this month, licensing and education. I’ve heard any number of hams state something like this about new hams: ‘ham’s today only study the answers to pass the test.’ ‘I don’t like so-and-so’s teaching method because their students don’t know anything.’ They don’t approve of the “boot-camp” style training sessions for many of the same reasons. Certainly their thinking is one school of thought: learn the question pools, know the reasons, learn the theories and be able to provide reasonable explanations before taking the test.

I saw a presentation by Dan Romanchik – KB6NU on the Ham Radio 2.0 podcast (http://www.livefromthehamshack.tv/2017/05/25/episode-97-teach-1-day-technician-class-kb6nu-dayton-hamvention/). His presentation caught my attention because he publishes the “No Nonsense Study Guides” (http://www.kb6nu.com/study-guides/) which is a text-book approach to learning the question pools. Dan is sold on and teaches one-day Technician training classes (also called “Ham Crams” or boot-camps). He teaches the answers to the questions and teaches to the test. At the end of the class, follows up with the Technician exam. Why? To get people into the hobby. As a Volunteer Examiner, I can appreciate that. Getting people into the ranks is always important. Dan claims students will learn something from his class and retain at least enough information to pass the exam. This means students don’t have to make multi-week commitments to attend class. How often does something come up in real life during a 6-week training class? More often than you’d think. Our school systems have been teaching to standardized tests and college entrance exams for decades. Iowa Tests, SATs, and ACTs anyone? The reason for Dan’s teaching methodology is because the real learning happens on the radio.

After watching his presentation, I realized this is exactly how I learned things in ham radio. When I was studying, my dad mentored me with electronic theory because that is his area of education and he worked in the industry. Electronic theory wasn’t necessarily something I cared a whole lot about as a freshman in high school. I knew the Part 97 FCC rules from seeing him operate or explaining them to me and from generally being around the hobby. His interests didn’t cover the HF bands. Even by the time I took my General and Extra, I probably couldn’t hit 40 meters with a shotgun. When the opportunity came and I found myself interested in HF, that changed. Being around mentors and absorbing everything I could, I think, made learning the material on the General exam easier. That learning happened over the better part of a decade after taking my Novice & Technician exams and when I decided to upgrade to General & Extra.

Ham Radio isn’t the only hobby where you receive a license to learn. A roommate in college had his pilot’s license. He was always taking aviation classes and getting flight hours in between his other classes. You have to get a pilot’s license even before you can begin learning to fly an aircraft. The State of Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles requires an applicant for learners permit to pass a knowledge test about regulations and traffic signs. Then the real learning begins – hours of driving and education. Ham radio isn’t necessarily different. Sure, many students will get their license and may not ever become a pilot or ever get on the air, but that’s up to them. I believe the ARRL was trying to accomplish something similar by exploring an introductory license: http://www.arrl.org/news/arrl-board-explores-entry-level-license-options-ways-to-face-future-challenges

Hams will argue about skills. Skills needed to build a radio or operate CW are the usual examples. These are seen as relevant to ‘separate men from the boys.’ Yeah, OK. At this point, neither of those ‘skills’ are my interests. Can those same operators write a program from scratch or write an article on take-your-pick of an HF digital mode? Maybe yes, maybe no, but I can. Does that make anyone less of a ham because of different skill sets or interests? I don’t think so. The hobby is incredibly diverse with people from different backgrounds, levels of experience, and interests not even necessary related to being on the air. Such examples would be scholarships, enforcement, advocacy, public relations, regulations, laws, education, spectrum defense, and publications.

On the other hand, the ham community needs to help those hams who want to learn. I think many new hams give up because they don’t get the mentoring they are seeking. They may contact a club or two asking for help and get no response. It’s not fun when you have to constantly beg for help or get talked down to. We are all volunteers, have families, and other commitments too.

Club meetings may spark some interest on a topic but aren’t typically good places for extensive hands-on training. Many clubs focus on similar (related) topics for their meetings. Holding regularly scheduled classes and training is usually an issue due to time commitments, availability, or lack of regular interest. Other places for training might be evening classes at a local university or look at offerings of a local makerspace. Partnering with makerspaces could facilitate a place for demonstrations and training as well as bringing those with radio building skills into the hobby. Work ham radio into topics such as WiFi and Bluetooth transmitters. Don’t focus exclusively on operating demonstrations. Working with other clubs to form special interest groups, utilize subject matter “experts” to share their experiences for an extended hands-on session, or a “program your HT” evening are some other ideas. I would like to hear ideas that have been met with success welcoming newcomers into the hobby.

Retired ARRL CEO Dave Sumner – K1ZZ was on the QSO Today podcast. Dave talked about his 44 years with the League. He started as an intern in the 1970’s. The podcast starts out talking about how he got into ham radio, his antenna farm, and operating interests. Dave covered experiences with the IARU and other radio conferences during his tenure at the ARRL. He talked about programs and history of the ARRL including the Spectrum Defense fund and IARU intruder watch program. Check out QSO Today episode 172: https://www.qsotoday.com/podcasts/k1zz

In some unfortunate news, one of the largest electronics distributors headquartered in Ohio for 40 years and frequent vendor at Hamvention, MCM Electronics, is partnering with Newark element 14. Two plants will close and more than 90 workers will be laid off before end-of-year. MCM sold all kinds of tools, 3D printers, parts, wires, speakers, Arduino and Raspberry Pi computers. As of September 1, their website redirects to the Newark website. I knew the name element 14 from the Raspberry Pi computers I’ve purchased over the years. I had the opportunity to visit the MCM facility during a recent trip to Hamvention. The store was quite small compared to the massive warehouse. I couldn’t believe the size. Hopefully they’ll keep the warehouse open for parts distribution. ARRL News story: http://www.arrl.org/news/mcm-electronics-shutters-two-plants-announces-merger-with-newark-element-14

Finally, don’t forget the HF Santa Net running through Christmas Eve. Starts daily at 8:30 pm Eastern and can be found on 3916 kHz for the little ones to have a chance to talk with Santa! http://www.3916nets.com/santa-net.html. The Santa Watch Net will kick off at 6:00 pm Eastern on Christmas Eve as Santa delivers his presents. The Watch Net can be found on the *DoDropIn* Echolink conference node #355800.

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

73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – November 2017 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.
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Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at: http://arrl-ohio.org/news/OSJ-November-17.pdf

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,
I’ve been playing around with a couple new radios. With the holidays approaching, these will make great gift ideas.

Cheap radios for new or young hams are hard to come by. Many opted for the under $30 Baeofung (or Pofung) UV-5R and for good reason. They’re cheap. Perfect options for new hams, young hams, or public service events were radios are prone to damage and misuse. Destroy it and its $30 vs a couple hundred, or 7, to replace. Cheap radios could replace older radios that maybe didn’t have PL, were lower power, or single band. You got what you paid for though. Inconsistencies in firmware versions lead to differing sets of features, programming software wasn’t easy to use, neither was installing the programming cable, complaints about the lack of support, and lack of a usable manual. I stopped using these radios because of the many tests proving they were good about transmitting everywhere at once (across the entire band). As hams we are given plenty of leeway in how we use our frequencies. It’s up to each of us to make sure our radios comply with Part 97 and do not interfere with other licensed radio services. The ARRL published their findings in a November 2015 QST article. Ohio Section Technical Specialist Dave – KD8TWG demonstrated this with a couple of radios he had purchased: https://kd8twg.net/2015/10/17/a-quick-and-unscientific-spectral-analysis-of-two-baofeng-radios/.

Ok, so don’t use these radios. What radio, that meets Part 97 requirements, is available for the price? This was a problem. There was no real option. About the cheapest dual-band radio was $150. DMR radios competed on price and features but, until recently, were only single band. I finally found a better option. Unfortunately, the company has “Baofeng” in the name which makes things even more confusing. A company called “Baofeng Tech” or BTech, is a US based company offering a similar radio called the UV-5X3 for under $60.

The radio looks and acts like a UV-5R. Baofeng Tech updates the firmware, modifies the radio installing better filtering on the transmitter, and includes an easy-to-read nicely printed 85 page manual. The UV-5X3 comes with all the same accessories including belt clip, antennas, charger, and ear piece. All original Baofeng accessories work too. To my surprise, they even squeezed in the 220 MHz (1.25m) band! Baofeng Tech assured me their radios meet spectral requirements for Part 97. I had mine tested at the Cleveland Hamfest by KD8TWG. On VHF the 3rd harmonic was a little higher than 40db down, UHF was spot-on. The CHRIP free programming software is the only programmer that currently works with this radio. RT Systems UV-5R programmer for the original Baofeng radios does not work with the UV-5X3.

Now there’s no excuse to get a very reasonably priced radio compliant with Part 97 spectral requirements. It even comes with free shipping if bought through Amazon. For someone looking to play around with 220, this is a great tri-bander radio. Check out this radio as an option, from a US company, for new or young hams: https://baofengtech.com/uv-5×3. Product images from Baofeng Tech.

I’ve wanted to install a dual-band DMR mobile radio in the shack. Yeah, all the DMR repeaters in the area are UHF. I like to have the flexibility of a dual-band. Connect Systems was one for the first, if not the first, to release a dual-band DMR mobile radio earlier this year. Talking with Jerry at Dayton (President of Connect Systems), they had just shipped the first batch of CS800D radios and were expecting to get another batch ‘in a couple months.’ I heard very good things from hams that have purchased from Jerry’s company previously. Connect Systems is accessible via email and social media for support, they worked to fully resolve product issues, fixed issues with firmware quickly, and let customers try out their new equipment while seeking feedback. I didn’t hesitate to get on the waiting list.

I finally got the radio at the beginning of August and I like it a lot. The radio itself looks like a Motorola CM300D or nearly identical in layout, including microphone, to the Kenwood TM-281A. Radio covers VHF: 136-174 @ 50W, UHF: 400-470 @ 45W. The head and microphone are removable and extendable with a cat5 Ethernet cable. It will hold 4,000 channels and 130,000 contacts with firmware updates – more contacts than the ENTIRE DMR-MARC user database! It’s got a couple quarks which I’m told are to be fixed in future firmware releases. Biggest annoyance being the display doesn’t always update after a button is pressed. The programming software is straight forward if you’ve ever programmed a DMR radio before. The Ohio Section website has a pre-built codeplug: http://arrl-ohio.org/digital/digital.html. N0GSG makes a great codeplug editor and codeplug converter that I found useful: http://n0gsg.com/contact-manager/. His editor now supports the CS800D, TYT MD2017 & MD9600.

The Connect Systems CS800D was a little pricey when I bought it ($399 + $15 for the programming cable) but has since dropped in price to $299. I feel this radio could have been more popular if the radio was not released in batches. Jerry was great about communicating and explaining the situation. Like any distributor, they were beholden to the timetables from their manufacturer. Nothing they could do about it. I think that allowed other options to enter the market sooner and resulted in lost potential sales. It’s a great radio and recommended for someone looking for a dual-band DMR mobile radio from a US based company. CS800D product page: http://www.connectsystems.com/products/top/radios%20CS800D.htm.

If you’ve picked up a CS800D, check the Software page for recent firmware updates: http://www.connectsystems.com/software/software%20CS800D.htm. Product image from Connect Systems.

Technical Specialist reports

Dave – KD8TWG has been busy as usual. In addition to testing radios at the Cleveland Hamfest, he tackled the issue of “operational security.” This has been a topic of discussion in the area as of late and on social media. He was seeing arguments that operational frequencies needed to be obscured for the purposes of “securing” an operation. Without encryption, there is no such thing. As Dave points out, any modern scanner can scan VHF and UHF bands within seconds. It’s even easier with SDR receivers that allow you to look at the entire band scope at once. Check out his post about Hiding Frequencies for “Operational Security”: https://kd8twg.net/2017/08/14/opsec/.

In October, another Section Technical Specialist, Jason – WG8B, gave a presentation to the Dayton Amateur Radio Association about his area of expertise: bike mobile operations. Jason provided feedback on his program:

The briefing focused on using bike mobile capabilities to support public service events and covered topics such as

  • Suitable antennas. Bikes are not good ground planes, and dual band antennas are important when supporting public service events from a bike since carrying extra antennas and swapping them out is not easy.
  • Speakers and microphones that work while bicycling while allowing you to safely operate a bike.
  • Properly mounting equipment to not only protect the equipment but also protect the bicycle and rider.
  • APRS operations from a bicycle

Most of the questions revolved around antennas. I won’t repeat specific questions to protect the innocent so to speak, so I’ll just clarify what I think good antenna requirements are for VHF/UHF bicycle mobile operations. First and especially when supporting public service events, omnidrectional antennas are absolutely required. On a bike, there is no practical way to steer antennas with directional patterns whether they be gain antennas or magnetic loops. You will be changing direction quite frequently, and you need to hit repeaters from any aspect. Second, high-Q antennas such as magnetic loops require precise tuning, something that’s not possible while on a bicycle. Stick to an antenna that does not require tuning. Your radio should be working for you while on a bike during public service events not the other way around. There’s already enough going on, and safety is first. Third, any antenna bigger or longer than a bicycle flag is not likely safe. There are balance issues with weight above the bike’s center-of-gravity, and just about the worst shape aerodynamically is an antenna. So how hard do you want to pedal? Also, I’ve had problems with low hanging branches with just a bicycle flag. Anything taller is going to be problematic. My recommendation is still to use a dual band J pole like Ed Fong’s DBJ-2 taped to a bike flag or a single band half wave dipole like Larson’s NMO 150B HW. While not the absolutely best antennas performance-wise, they will still hit every repeater in my local area and then some with a 5W HT. And these are very simple and small form factor antennas that just work and won’t get in the way when on a bike.

Finally, if you would like to see the briefing, I’ve made it accessible here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B2Yn-_hki2v0blFnNVVRbW9kc3c

Jason’s presentation has lots of tips and pictures for making a bicycle mobile installation a success. If you would like to have Jason at your meeting, drop him a note!

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – September 2017 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/OSJ-September-17.pdf

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

Last couple articles have been features so this month is a lot of odds-and-ends…

System Fusion

Last month’s article covering many System Fusion issues sparked some feedback as one might imagine. It was split.

One group in the section was using an external controller and was having a DR-1X repeater lock-up problem. They troubleshot the issue and with “additional circuity” resolved their issue. One disputed my assertion the repeater is two FTM-400 radios, but didn’t provide any details to the contrary. Having opened up LEARA’s DR-1X and upgraded the firmware, one radio looks exactly like the 400 (minus the speaker). Additionally, the firmware upgrade process was identical to my 400. Arguably, the transmit radio could be different but it’s hard to really tell with the heatsink mounted on top.

On the opposite end, a club in the section is completely frustrated with how Yaesu treated them as customers. They’ve attempted to call and email no less than 6 Yaesu representatives asking for details on promotions, hardware specifications, or answer to questions but never heard a word. They believe ‘Yaesu has lost any competitive edge they had by flooding the market with Fusion gear.’ Though I agree, I have not experienced this particular problem with my inquiries to support. My emails have been answered within a day or so – usually confirming suspicions I heard elsewhere. Seemingly ignoring customers is bad for business. Though customers feel they are being ignored, it may be a management attempt to better coordinate internal communication before going public. You’re doing it wrong, but it is a possibility. As pointed out previously, statements of fact made countless times are suddenly reversed and changed at release.

To clarify a point, the FTM-400 radio does operate both A & B sides of the radio simultaneously. My issue is, for their high-end offering of a mobile radio, it should be able to operate Fusion from both A & B sides of the radio at the same time. It does not. The A side can operate Fusion digital or FM. B only operates FM. Operating Fusion digital from both sides is one nice feature of the FT2D.

It didn’t take long before I started hearing the DMR arguments. DMR does have issues too but I see them as growing pains. It’s not: ‘this crashes, this locks up in transmit, this doesn’t work until you get a factory upgrade, need to spend $$$ to work around a shortcoming, upgrade to get the full power output, something can’t be fixed because there is no published specification…’ the list goes on. I’ve covered DMR issues here before and have noted most of them in my DMR Terminology and Programming a Code Plug learning series: http://www.k8jtk.org/category/amateur-radio/dmr-in-amateur-radio/.

Background checks, public service, & saving lives

The era of submitting to a background and credit check before helping out with fund-raising public service events is upon us. The local Multiple Sclerosis Society in Cleveland hosts a 150 mile (or so) bike ride every year. This used to be called “Pedal to the [Cedar] Point” but was renamed “Buckeye Breakaway” when the ride changed destinations to Ashland University. Last year, the MS society pushed for all volunteers to run a full background check. This included all ham, SAG (Support and Gear), and medical units – whether they were mobile or stationary at rest stops. Failing to complete the required check or failing the check would mean that person couldn’t volunteer or participate. This request was sprung on the ham and medical coordinators a few weeks out form the event. Citing time constraints and the amount of push back from volunteers, eventually the required check was no longer required but not after some had already completed the investigation.

This year, the MS society required a background investigation and proof of liability insurance for SAG drivers. Though I was not transporting riders, I too had to submit because I was the shadow of an MS staff person for the event. The investigation service stated a ‘credit check’ would be part of the reporting, though the society said it would not be a factor for eligibility.

Like many organizations, the MS Society is going through its share of layoffs, reorganizations, and centralization. The Cleveland chapter had little recourse since the background check was mandated from HQ. I suspect this will become the norm rather than the exception in the legal, CYA, society we live in. It sure takes the fun out of doing a public service event and not sure I want to give up that much personally identifiable information again for a fundraiser event. Then again, Equafax hands out PII data to anyone who can gain access to their systems.

That issue aside, a real life threatening event happened. Ham and medical volunteers dealt with a roll-over accident involving one of the cyclists in the event, a utility pole, and a parked car – all because of an impatient driver. This happened in Medina County near Valley City. The accident was radioed in by a ham volunteer. Other hams were on scene along with the Northeast Ohio Medical Response Corps to triage the situation. NEOMRC is a group of volunteers who provide medial support services for events and nearly all are licensed hams. The injured cyclist was life-flighted to a nearby hospital. The driver, who caused the accident, left the scene. By late afternoon, the story was all over the local news: http://fox8.com/2017/08/05/cyclist-struck-by-car-during-race-in-medina-county/. Fortunately, no one was killed. Img: Brunswick Hills Firefighters.

ISS SSTV

To commemorate the 20th anniversary of Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS), a slow scan TV event was held July 20th and ran for 3 days. During these events, SSTV transmissions originate from the International Space Station as it orbits in space. No special setup is required to copy the images. To receive the best images, Yagi antennas on a tracking tripod is best. I just use my external VHF antenna and let the radio listen for transmissions. Images sent featured different ARISS activities over the past 20 years. Check out the images 34 images I received: http://www.k8jtk.org/2017/08/03/sstv-transmissions-from-the-international-space-station-july-2017-edition/. If you want to get started in SSTV, check out the links to my getting started tutorial of MMSSTV in that post. I will also be giving my SSTV presentation at the Geauga Amateur Radio Association meeting on September 25, 2017 at 7:30 in the Geauga County Emergency Operations Center. More on the meeting: https://geaugaara.org/.

2017 Eclipse & WSPR

I contributed to the radio sciences taking place around the solar eclipse. I didn’t get to travel to an area of totality or even take off work. Instead I worked a number of the special event stations in the surrounding days. Still have to send away for my certificate. Since I didn’t take off work or do anything unusual, my contribution to the “eclipse QSO party” was to leave WSPR decoding signals and upload the spots. Scientists are hoping to learn more about eclipses and effects they have on the atmosphere and radio propagation from those spots.

WSPR stands for Weak Signal Propagation Reporting Network. If you have WSJT-X installed, WSPR is included in that package. WSPR is intended to be a QRP mode because each receive and transmit window is 2 minutes. It works like a beacon network based on timed transmissions like JT65, JT9, and FT8. Each band has 200 Hz of bandwidth designated for WSPR. A transmitting station will digitally transmit their call sign, grid square, and dBm (power output). Similar to the JT’s, the signal report (DB), time difference between the two clocks, and drift are calculated by the receiving station. Decoded signals are uploaded as spots to the WSPR Net website. The data is crunched and used to draw real-time maps of propagation. More: http://wsprnet.org/

Technical Specialist Reports

In Technical Specialist news, Dave – KD8TWG held a “Test and Tune” night for LEARA. Communications and spectrum analyzers were brought in to tune radios that might be off frequency or show how much those Baofeng radios do transmit everywhere at once. Contact Dave or a section Specialist to bring this educational and eye-opening experience to your club meeting.

In addition, KD8TWG would like to thank everyone who came out and worked the 195th Great Geauga County Fair. Dave was in charge of the communications and networking for golf cart drivers who transported fair goers to and from their cars. Golf carts were equipped with APRS for location tracking. A WiFi network based on the Mikrotik NV2 protocol was built for two weeks. NV2 is a proprietary WiFi protocol based on TDMA in the 5.1-5.8 GHz range. The advantage of TDMA wireless is better throughput and lower latency in point-to-point or point-to-multipoint networks. Traditional WiFi is built on a Carrier sensed collision avoidance system where nodes transmit only when they sense the channel is idle. Dave points out, this is NOT mesh. Over the wireless network, they ran a phone system and IP cameras. The Sherriff’s Office was impressed with the video coverage and wants to run more cameras next year. By the numbers: 60 volunteers worked 1,284 hours, with just under 700 golf cart transports. Dave ate approximately 47,000 calories in fried food. Imgs: KD8TWG.

Technical Regulation Reform

An ARNewsline report (#2080) points out the FCC Technical Advisory Council is looking for opinions and suggestions to update existing technical regulations or to adopt new ones. “The FCC wants the council to single out any rules that are obsolete or in need of being brought up-to-date. The Council also wants comments on how the agency’s regulatory process on specific technical rules could become more efficient. The agency stresses that the issues being considered are those of a technical nature.” Thoughts or opinions can be filed in ET Docket 17-215 or with the ARRL. October 30th is the deadline. More: http://www.arrl.org/news/fcc-technological-advisory-council-investigating-technical-regulations

Foxhunts

I’ve only participated in two Fox Hunts. The first time, I came in dead last. Second time, came in second. No idea how that happened because no skills were honed at all. The Ham Radio 360 podcast had an episode with Larry Jacobs – WA7ZBO talking all about Fox Hunts. Surprising to me was the Tape measure antenna is very popular even among serious hunters. As for gear, an antenna, attenuator, and radio are needed. In the absence of an attenuator, your body could be used to attenuate signals. Larry talked about some dos and don’ts. He encouraged hamfests to hold hunts to ‘whet the appetite.’ The most popular hunts are races with mileage and time restrictions to keep things safe. Don’t make the hunt too hard where participants get discouraged and don’t want to ever participate again. Always use public property. Use common sense and don’t be a wise guy. For example, a convention had the fox located near the hotel pool. When someone asked what everyone was doing with antennas around the hotel, someone responded with ‘a Soviet Satellite with a radioactive payload went down near here.’ Guests couldn’t check out of the hotel fast enough. The hotel asked this group not to return. While funny, don’t be that guy. Instead have ARRL handouts and pamphlets about ham radio when someone asks. The episode can be found at: http://hamradio360.com/index.php/2017/07/25/ham-radio-360-fox-hunting-transmitter-bunnies-too/

Last Man Standing & Frequency TV shows

Many have heard by now the Tim Allen show “Last Man Standing” was canceled by ABC and possibly looking for a new home. Tim Allen plays a fictional ham radio operator using the call sign KA0XTT. The show was popular among politically conservative individuals and ham radio operators. According to ARNewsline (#2069), talks fell through for the show and it will not be returning with new episodes. The show will soon be removed from Netflix as 20th Century Fox struck a deal with Hulu for exclusive rights to their catalog, which includes Last Man Standing. Hulu is a premium service for streaming TV and moves. Channels carrying reruns include: CMT, Hallmark, Freeform, and The CW. Also on CW was the TV spinoff of the move Frequency, it too was canceled.

TYT MD-2017 Broken Antenna Connectors

If you purchased an early Tytera MD-2017 DMR dual-band radio and the antenna connector broke, contact your dealer. This appears to be a first-run issue and TYT has shipped replacement connector parts to their dealers. Replacing the connector requires opening the radio and soldering. If you’re not comfortable, ask if the dealer will do the work or swap the radio.

Thanks for reading, 73, and Go Tribe!… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – August 2017 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/OSJ-August-17.pdf

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

DSCF5081 K8JTKHey gang,

Yaesu and System Fusion. I’ve talked about it before and mentioned the DR-1X repeater promotion some time ago. My recent dealings are leaving me more disappointed in the quality of the offering. With the announcement of System Fusion II, I hope they take time to finally fix problems with their implementation.

Around the beginning of 2015, Yaesu, in an effort to get their digital mode into the ham radio market, offered a promotional deal for their Fusion repeater at a cost of $500 (~$1,700 retail). The logic behind this is the shaver and blade principal: sell the repeater for cheap and make up the cost in selling radios. The repeater is dual-mode capable (C4FM digital and analog) featuring high power (50W) transmitter, switched commercial power and battery backup, integration with an existing repeater controller, all in a standard 2U rack unit. Not only could a club or individual purchase a digital repeater for cheap, it wasn’t a requirement of the promotion to enable any of the digital Fusion features. This meant it could replace aging analog repeaters. I’ve even heard old tube repeaters were being replaced as a result. Now, I’m sure they hoped owners utilized the Fusion features but either way, the program ended up being a huge success. In the Cleveland area, there are about 10 in operation that I’m aware of. Yaesu brought affordable and a somewhat-hackable (AllStar, MMDVM) repeater package to the market.

Then came the complaints. First being the DR-1X is two FTM-400 mobile radios linked with a basic controller. For some reason, many are surprised by this setup and thought better radios should be used. This is a common design that D-STAR and DMR commercial repeaters also rely on. However, this setup had a problem; the radios used were not designed to operate high power. Either through component design or improper cooling, the radios are not capable of operating 100% duty cycle at 50W. I have not heard of this being a wide-spread problem with D-STAR and DMR repeaters running high power. Yaesu updated their promotional form and website to say “Duty cycle is 50% at 50 Watts, 100% at 20 Watts in a climate controlled environment.” To get 50 watts or more, external amplifiers are needed.

Automatic Mode Select was one of the great selling points – a single repeater could switch between digital and analog depending on the signal. But reports of repeaters in AMS where locking up in a transmit state. It was discovered when the repeater had a signal on the input (digital or analog), if another signal was detected of the opposite type, the repeater would lockup in transmit. To reset, the power had to be cycled. A work around was to set the repeater in either analog or digital only mode or install a remote power switch. To my knowledge, this was never acknowledged and was deemed to be “environmental site issues.” That might be true or related to reports of poor selectivity on the front-end of the repeater. Filters and firmware upgrades helped solve some of these issues.

Other known problems include: external controller support is complicated – at best, receive PL decode problems, repeater identifications being cut-off, and the firmware. The firmware is absurd. There are three firmware “channels” (or tracks) for the DR-1X repeater. Each completely separate and not compatible with the other – that is you cannot upgrade the repeater firmware from one channel to another. For reference, these are the 1.00b, 1.00f, and 1.10D channels. Upgrading to a newer version (on the same channel) requires taking the machine out of the cabinet, unscrew about 18 screws to access the data port inside, upgrade the firmware, and put it all back. It is nearly a two person job as the thing weights 22 lbs.

My club in Cleveland, LEARA, purchased a DR-1X. I got it on the air with some help from Bill K8SGX (a section TS). It was on the air at 20 watts in digital only mode. We didn’t have any issues. One of the club members suggested “let’s connect this to the internet.” This is where my perception of Fusion got much worse. As confirmed by Yaesu support, to directly connect an HRI-200 Wires-X node, the DR-1X must have firmware 1.10J or later. Owners with 1.00-anything firmware MUST ship the DR-1X back to Yaesu for an upgrade at owner’s expense. 22 lbs shipping plus box and insurance, it was not cheap. Specific situations may vary and return shipping is covered. They will not let you swap anything yourself because they felt upgrades where beyond most owners’ ability. Owners on the 1.10D channel just need to apply firmware upgrades.

To be fair, an RF link to the repeater can be established with any firmware version. This entails setting up a HRI-200 on a Windows PC with an additional FTM-100 or FTM-400 radio at a location with a strong signal into the repeater. This setup acts like a local user of the repeater. Transmissions from the Internet are transmitted on the repeater’s input. Local repeater transmissions are relayed to the Internet by listening to the repeater’s output frequency. LEARA decided to directly link the HRI-200 Wires-X device to the repeater. Other devices like an OpenSpot or MMDVM could be used but would not provide Wires-X access as it is a closed network.

I haven’t followed the radio issues too closely. There have been 2nd generations of two Fusion radios this far. The FT1-DR was replaced by the FT1-XDR and FTM-400 by the FTM-400XDR because the GPS chip used had problems locking on to signals. I have the FTM-400XDR and picked up a FT2DR at Dayton. Both radios work and get the job done but I’m not blown away by either radio. To put the 400 over the top, it would need to operate Fusion from both A & B sides of the radio, at the same time. I’m underwhelmed by the FT2 screen as it’s not very sharp. I’ve always found Yaesu menu groupings and labeling confusing. The much-loved bank link feature of their analog radios, such as the VX-8, is missing.

Word of warning to anyone using Yaesu Fusion radios and is especially important for repeater owners and Wires-X node operators, keep up-to-date with firmware and program updates! It has been confirmed in the Yahoo Group, every time an FT-70 radio is keyed on a Wires-X node with software version v1.2 or earlier, the Wires-X node will crash.

In addition to all these issues, no full specification has been released for Fusion or Wires-X. Meaning if Wires-X gets shutdown, all nodes are offline. With an open source specification, a new network could be developed or rolled into the FCS reflector or YSFReflector networks. In true hacker fashion, much of Fusion has been reverse engineered so it’s probably more of a reality than I know.

A Reddit posting appeared proclaiming “System Fusion II” is coming with an accompanying info graphic and FAQ posted on the Yaesu System Fusion Yahoo Group. The info graphic states ‘firmware upgrades will enable System Fusion II compatibility with all existing C4FM products.’ I gather this doesn’t mean the radio needs to be sent back to Yaesu. The FT1-(X)DR is discontinued but the FAQ reiterates all existing radios will receive a Fusion II firmware upgrade.

At the center is the new DR-2X repeater – which supposedly resolves most problems of the 1X – and includes many new features. Originally, Wires-X was not supported at all on the DR-2X. This was stated many times by Yaesu. The FAQ indicates the 2X will support the HRI-200 (direct connect) OR IMRS (Internet Multi-site Repeater link) option. It will not support both. The IMRS option sounds a lot like DMR IP Site Connect where repeaters are linked over the Internet using Talk group-like functionality. There is another promotional program offering a trade-in path from a DR-1X to a DR-2X for $300 without the site linking option and $500 with site linking. See the Yahoo Group as I don’t see this promotion information anywhere else.

DSQ (Digital Squelch, squelch code) is replaced by DG-ID (digital group ID). DSQ has caused controversy even locally because it is a global setting in the radio, not per channel. This is a real pain if two repeaters in the area choose different DSQ codes. I left it disabled on LEARA’s allowing any Fusion user to use the repeater. A DG-ID use-case example on a repeater: use the repeater locally might be DG-ID 71. To use two IMRS sites might be DG-ID 90, and all sites DG-ID 99. A DP-ID is a priority override or used for remote control of the system on the 2X only.

Fusion up to this point seems rushed, untested, and like most companies today, driven by marketing. The mentality being: ‘get it out now, fix it later.’ I really hope Yaesu gets their act together soon if they want Fusion to survive. This will likely require drastic business and management changes within the company. As I see it, Fusion survival requires fixing its perception, fixing the software issues, producing better quality devices/radios including extensive testing, and showing commitment to the community and developers by releasing protocol specifications or open-sourcing the technology.

Reddit post: https://www.reddit.com/r/amateurradio/comments/6t8t5z/yaesu_system_fusion_ii/

Yahoo Group (membership requires approval): https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/YaesuSystemFusion/info

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK