Tag Archives: SHF

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – May 2022 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 Tom – WB8LCD 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 Tom has setup. You do not need to be a member of the ARRL, Ohio Section, or even a ham to join the mailing list. Please sign up!

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

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at:

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

Hey gang,

70 years of Hamvention. Themed the “Reunion” after 70 years have passed since the first Hamvention on March 22, 1952. This year also marked the return after a two-year hiatus. Thousands of hams, family, friends, and enthusiasts descended on the Greene County Fairgrounds and Expo Center in Xenia, Ohio for the convention, May 20 – 22nd. The ARRL Letter states this event brings $30 million to the economy of Dayton and surrounding region.

According to the DX Engineering recap, the count is 31,367 attendees this year. Down 1,075 from 2019, which for the crap we’ve had to put up with the last two years, still quite the showing of attendees. I was hopeful the crowds would be huge and worthwhile for vendors and flea market. My dad – N8ETP and myself attended Friday and Saturday. The Friday crowd seemed like a Saturday crowd, especially at lunch time around the food trucks! We hit the indoor exhibitors. Saturday seemed a little on the lighter side. Could have been the storms and rain Friday night into Saturday morning that kept some away. Hamvention wouldn’t be complete without spring storms! We hit the flea market Saturday and might have missed the larger indoor crowds. If you did the indoor exhibitors just right and found shaded seating areas to rest, I was able to skate by without sunscreen Friday.

Hamvention Friday lunch crowd

The ARRL had their large exhibit area as per usual. There I got to talk a moment with our previous Section Manager, now Vice Director of the Great Lakes Division, Scott Yonally – N8SY. While talking with Scott, a ham stopped by and said he really enjoyed my articles right here in the OSJ. Always appreciate that. I asked if he wanted to see anything and he commented about SDR. It has been awhile since I talked about Software Defined Radio or used them for any projects. Stay tuned. Had a good chat with the Ohio Section Public Information Coordinator and Editor of the ARRL Letter, John – KD8IDJ.

I popped in and talked to Tony Milluzzi, KD8RTT, Advisor for the ARRL Collegiate Amateur Radio Program. I became licensed when I was in high school. One of the things I looked for in a college was a university that had a ham club or, at least, one associated with the university. Still wanting to be radio-active, I wasn’t going to have mobile or base station radios on campus. Only being a Technician back in those days, no HF either. An HT was going to be it so having a repeater close-by was my way of communicating. I found the Wood County Amateur Radio Club, which has support from the university with rooftop space and Internet resources from BGSU Information Technology Services. The club now has three repeaters, including a Fusion digital, as well as an APRS IGate on campus. Additionally, while at school, I was involved in efforts to keep college radio clubs active and on the air. Participated in the College Amateur Radio Club and collegiate Echolink nets (both defunct). I’m a big proponent of getting college students, such as engineering students, exposed to and active in amateur radio.

I asked Tony, ‘what is something the rest of the ham radio community can do to make sure collegiate clubs thrive and survive?’ I wasn’t quite as clever with rhyming at the time. He suggested a couple things that might help college clubs such as donating equipment. They may not receive much, if any, funding from the school for radio gear. The bigger benefit, he felt, would be to simply get involved. A few hams can help Elmer and teach students how to setup a station, maintain equipment, or simply teaching new operating modes such as digital. This would help faculty advisors keep the club going as advisors are often a single staff member and they may need time for other responsibilities and career goals. The link to the ARRL Collegiate Amateur Radio Program has resources to find college radio clubs, ways to participate in events, and example constitution and bylaws to get a club started.

ICOM SHF module and control head

ICOM booth was on my to-do list to checkout their SHF module prototype I mentioned last month. It was there, not a lot is known which was disappointing. The non-functioning prototype was “under glass” (couldn’t touch or play) shown mounted to a pole, presuming it can be mounted outside close to the antennas to minimize line losses. There was an Ethernet cable from the SHF module plugged into a device that looked like an IC-705. The ICOM representative pointed out that it’s not labeled as a 705 nor could a 705 reach the frequency displayed on the unit (5.780 GHz). The Ethernet cable carries PoE (power over Ethernet), presumably from the control head to the SHF module since the control head was powered. When asked what applications might this be used for or anticipated use cases, the representative didn’t have any. I didn’t know if they’re producing the hardware and leaving it to the ham community to figure out uses. They didn’t have answers so purpose still remains unclear. D-STAR was mentioned, so maybe they’re looking to do RF links that’s not the 10 GHz links they were originally hoping for in the early days of D-STAR repeaters. With a control head that can operate different modes, has filters, speaker, and a waterfall, to me it looks like they’re thinking some kind of operating in or around the Wi-Fi bands – maybe not necessarily for ham radio only.

Early the next day, I got to have an eyeball QSO with AmateurLogic.TV‘s own George – W5JDX. It was the first time we’ve met after helping out with their weekly Sound Check net. We talked about forums that were on-tap and treasures found the first day. We got a picture together so there’s evidence we were there and in the same place. I later got to meet the “Cheap Old Man,” Emile – KE5QKR. Amateur Logic has a weekly net on my DVMIS interlink system that bridges 12 ham radio voice networks.

Saturday’s start was preceded by early morning showers. The paved remote parking lots of the high school and town square really helped out instead of parking on soft grass. Quickly though, the sun came out and it was pretty brutal as temperatures reached the mid-80’s. It was flea market day and we spent the day meandering the inner horse track for some treasure. Want to build a repeater? Want to fix up an old radio? Looking for cheap finds? Want to make new friends? Looking to do something new in ham radio? It’s all out in the Hamvention flea market.

Since getting locked down, I have been playing with commercial gear in the ham bands, mostly NXDN and P25 radios. I was looking to find VHF counterparts to some UHF gear I already own. I found a VHF Motorola CDM1250 for $60 with hand mic. Tried it out, after returning home, on some local frequencies and it seems to work great. Don’t know if I’ll use it as a spare or maybe reignite my interest in APRS. I did find a VHF XTS but the seller was firm on the price, more than I wanted to pay.

We managed to survive a little longer than 4 hours in the flea market. We kept hydrated and layered on sunscreen twice. That was a good call. I thought I got burned after returning to the hotel but it was just some slight redness. Festivities were abruptly interrupted about 2:15p with an announcement of approaching storms known to produce hail and had cloud-to-ground lightning. We missed most of what hit Xenia but got our share at the hotel in Dayton. Rains were coming down horizontally for about 15 minutes and had pea sized hail. Please, for the love of everything sacred, double-check your equipment. There were stations squawking APRS during Skywarn nets. Yes, we’re called “amateurs” but most people look to us as professional operators. Lidding up emergency nets with APRS squawks is neither.

Whether because of the slight possibility of not having the show or the economy and supply chain issues, big names did not make the show. Radio manufacturer Kenwood did not have a booth at the show, neither did Heil Sound. Maybe due to last minute changes and lack of commitments for the reasons above, there was no formal list of vendors in the program. Big tents outside the forum rooms were not present this year. While Heil Sound was not present, I received their mailing indicating they still had specials for the weekend and allowed vendors like DX Engineering, HRO, and R&L to make deals on their products. A mainstay, W5KUB, in the past, streamed his entire trek from Tennessee to Dayton and streamed the entire event. Tom was still there but not streaming. I didn’t see any videos about Hamvention posted to his channel either as of this writing.

K8JTK (left) and AmateurLogic.TV host George – W5JDX (right)

Vendors I know were located in specific areas at past shows were also missing. They weren’t there or maybe cut back their presence. Things were different over previous years at the fairgrounds. That leaves more opportunity for other vendors to make their presence known.

Congratulations to DARA and the 600+ volunteers on a job well done and reunion for Hamvention. If you’ve never ridden the school buses from the parking lots, you probably didn’t know that Xenia Community Schools do not have school the Friday of Hamvention. This is such a big event for the area that school children have the day off. Michael Kalter – W8CI mentioned on the DX Engineering video many did not know that fact. Most, including myself, do not realize how much of an undertaking this event really is. The DARA Hamvention YouTube channel has forums if you missed them or want to review a presentation.

The day before the hamfest started, Ham Radio Crash Course’s Josh – KI6NAZ streamed a Voice of America Hamvention Tour. It is jam-packed tour with lots of history of the station, engineering, model of the antenna arrays – the VOA antennas are no longer standing, and the switching matrix which is still standing. This tour is a fantastic history lesson and a must see for any radio buff on a future visit to Hamvention. Tours were given on Thursday for those that arrived early.

With Field Day coming up, sending 10 messages over RF from a site garners 100 bonus points. This includes Winlink messages. I love to receive messages about 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. The Field Day rules state messages must leave via RF from the site (7.3.6). It does not state “formal messages” be in any particular format or utilize any particular network. A message to the SM or SEC must be in radiogram format and leave via RF or no credit will be given (7.3.5). If there are any questions about sending or format, send the message using the NTS network or Radiogram form in Winlink Express. Copies of messages must be included with the Field Day report submission for credit.

Thanks for reading and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK

Ohio Section Journal – The Technical Coordinator – April 2022 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 Tom – WB8LCD 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 Tom has setup. You do not need to be a member of the ARRL, Ohio Section, or even a ham to join the mailing list. Please sign up!

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

Now without further ado…


Read the full edition at:

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

Hey gang,

Solar Cycle 25 is here. The previous solar minimum was reached around 2018-2019 with the official end of Cycle 24 marked as December 2019. Being locked at home for the last two years didn’t line up with great propagation. I used the solar minimum to catch up on many non-ham radio related projects and things I’ve been putting off, many I’ve written about in these pages. Now that solar activity is on the rise, so goes my operating time – making contacts great again.

I did not have an operational HF station until mid-2014. I upgraded to General and Extra in 2008. Only used these privileges to be an Extra class VE. When my HF station was operational, it was at the peak of Cycle 24. I could hear both sides of a QSO, all check-ins during a Net, and was making sideband contacts with the Middle East. All with 100 feet of wire between some trees in the backyard at 100 watts max. Then 24 started to decline and the bands turned to crap. It was hard hearing all stations on a net aside from a moderately strong net control station. Nets lasted only a fraction of the time. Zero 10-meter contacts made where I had previously spent good parts of weekends operating there. This was my first experience with solar maximums and minimums.

Our nearest star, the sun, goes through cycles of activity that typically last 11 years. Scientists give these cycles numbers. Cycle 24 wrapped in 2019, signaling the start of Cycle 25. Periods of low sunspots are called minimums, while periods of many sunspots are maximums or peaks. Sunspots are areas of reduced temperatures caused by the rising of magnetic fields below the sun’s surface.

What does this have to do with propagation? When the sun is inactive or quiet, the electron density of our ionosphere decreases. This makes contacting DX stations more challenging, even impossible. The ionosphere is responsible for refracting signals, HF especially, over greater distances. When the sun is active with sunspots, it charges the ionosphere making it easier to contact DX stations.

Starting around 2021, I noticed bands were picking up. Meaning it was easier to make longer distance contacts and generally more activity on the bands was observed. These early beginnings of Cycle 25 offer a preview of what’s in store for the remainder.

It’s been very beneficial for me. As of this writing (end of April), I’ve racked up nearly 250 FT8 contacts this month. Many flock to popular watering holes: 20, 40, even 80-meters. I will spend time on the not-as-popular bands here in the US: 12, 15, and 17m. I do this mostly to rack up Logbook confirmations for Worked All States on each band and working toward achieving DXCC in general. One evening on 12-meters this month, I worked 16 FT8 DX stations in under an hour. I can’t ever recall it being that active. It’s hard to find an open spot on the waterfall while operating on 20 & 40 at times.

On the side of sideband, I frequently check into the Cincinnati Liars net. This net is hosted by the West Chester Amateur Radio Association, the same group which has a club station at the VOA museum and gives tours during Dayton. This should be a stop for every Hamvention visitor. I’m able to hear all stations that check-in from the opposite side of the state very well, including a station that frequently checks in from Cedar Rapids, IA. The net typically runs about 8 to 10 check-ins. The net assembles starting at 8pm eastern on Tuesdays around 3.835+/-. Exact frequency can be found using the NetLogger application.

12, 15, and 17-meters typically shutdown by the time I get on the air in the evenings. Recently, they’ve been open hours past sunset. I worked Jersey (the island of) and Kenya which are all-time new ones for me on 17 and 12 respectively.

While sunspots were down, I would have terrible luck at times connecting to Winlink gateways. One time, I was halfway down the list of available gateways before I made a successful connection – well into the yellow of reliability for those HF Winlink users. Last six-months, I’ve had very good luck connecting to Winlink gateways while sending messages using the network. Check out my February OSJ article for information on Winlink nets. Direct peer-to-peer messages to stations in West Virginia and Virginia have been very easy to accomplish as of late.

QRP operators (5w or less) will benefit from these improved conditions. I’ve seen many stations operating Parks on the Air. These stations typically have to operate lower power due to portability requirements of operating on battery or, at least, without amplifiers. It will be easier for QRP and portable operators to make contacts with improved propagation.

It’s a perfect opportunity for regular operators to look at improving their stations as well. New and improved antennas for 10, 12, 15, and 17-meters are relatively inexpensive to acquire or easy to build. Don’t forget about 6 & 10. I’m looking forward to making more sideband contacts with DX entities, which I apparently did early on after setting up my station, though I operate mostly digital now.

Propagation predictions are used to determine the best time of day and frequency to contact a DX station. I use VOACAP to estimate the best time for finding new DX entities/countries. I’m not a contester, however these predictions are used by contesters to point their antennas, taking advantage of best propagation in order to maximize number of contacts and score. A quick tutorial for those unfamiliar with using the VOACAP site:

  • Circuit Reliability graph of my Kenya FT8 contact on 12m (VOACAP)

    Drag the red marker to roughly the TX station location (your location)

  • Drag blue marker to roughly the RX station location (DX station)
  • Alternatively: input location/grid/latitude & longitude along the top
  • To the right, select the mode and power desired
  • Click Antennas and select antennas that closely match those at the TX and RX locations. If RX station antennas are unknown, leave at defaults.
  • Check Settings for any specific characteristics to be included in the circuit calculation. I leave them at default.
  • Finally, click Prop Chart

This presents a Circuit Reliability graph noting probability of reliable communication on a certain band given a time of day. Chart option selects a specific band. The REL (reliability) and REL LP (reliability via long path) lines predict times of reliable communication. More details about VOACAP is available on the main page with a downloadable Windows application for more accurate predictions using specific antenna modeling.

It’s not easy to predict how Cycle 25 turns out, even scientists are not sure if it will be good or bad. If my experience is any indication, it’s looking verrry good. I’ve confirmed a handful of DXCC entities and all-time-new ones for myself. Optimists hope for a return of Cycle 19 from the ’50s. I wasn’t around however an article in the April 2021 edition of QST on Cycle 25 indicated it was spectacular. I’ll be happy with a repeat of mediocre Cycle 24. One thing is for sure, all license classes can benefit and join the fun. Novice and Technicians have access to: CW on a couple HF bands, parts of digital & FM on 10-meters, and of course all of 6-meters. If you’re fortunate to hear our Section Manager speak at a hamfest or forum, he’s stated ‘this might be the last solar cycle that I’ll be around for.’ I’m hoping for many more beyond 25. Either way get on the bands, operate, and have fun!

SHF module (ICOM Japan)

One of my favorite radio vendors, ICOM has announced the SHF Project. This project is building RF modules for the 2.4 and 5.6 GHz bands with embedded GPS receivers. This means ICOM is likely creating devices used for ham radio mesh networking. Those bands are commonly used for Wi-Fi networks with some non-shared allocations for ham radio. It’s nice to see ICOM is still devoted to the ham radio community buy innovating and coming up with different types of devices. Currently, inexpensive mesh devices from commercial vendors are readily available. Replacing the stock firmware with modified firmware, these devices are easily re-purposed for use with ham radio mesh networks. The ICOM site states there will a demo available in their booth at Hamvention this year. I’m looking forward to seeing their offering.

Speaking of Hamvention and Dayton, assuming governments don’t try to sequester us to our homes, again, I look forward to seeing everyone at Hamvention. It’s been two long years and it will be a welcome return as hamfests have been making a comeback over the last year.

Thanks for reading, get on the air, and 73… de Jeff – K8JTK