A fairly short medley of stories from my local hamfest:
Radio Rated C+. A fairly visual episode. But mostly interviews with B-roll.
Antenna Testing is a big part of the various VHF conferences held around the US and the world. They set up an antenna range and compare antennas against a known reference for gain and pattern. Results are published, and while there's little head-to-head competition, there are bragging rights.
Gary KN4AQ visited the antenna range at the Southeastern VHF Society conference, held this year (April, 2017) in Charlotte, NC. He poked around with his camera for a while, then talked to the guy who's been setting the range up for the past decade, Al Tirevold WA0HQQ.
Before and after the interview segment, Gary and co-host David W0DHG talk about the niche phenomenon of SSB and CW on VHF/UHF (and above). Yes, there is more to 2-meters than FM (and DV) and repeaters! Gary's ham-history goes back to the 60's, just before repeaters filled up most of the 144 and 440 bands. He recalls that there was a little SSB and a little more AM activity around 145.0, but mostly it was vacant space.
You might have noted the word camera in the description above. So yeah, this is one of those mini-doc videos, and you'll miss some with just the audio. There's plenty to get from the talky-talk, but those 40-element Yagi's and Loops are impressive. Gary's included all the raw B-Roll footage at the end of the YouTube video.
And that leaves a Radio Rating of C. Hey, it's not a D or an F. Let us know if you think our rating was fair!
Gary KN4AQ, David W0DHG and Marty KC1CWF just ramble on for 90 minutes.
There are a few graphics showing Hamvention® layouts and that's about it to try to steal from the Radio Rating of A. Maybe otherwise it would be A+. Might as well be - Skype freezes make David and Marty into a slide show.
Get all that Dayton stuff on HamRadio 2.0 Episode 82: The Future of Dayton
The bulk of this episode is an on-location interview with two Raleigh NC area hams who gave a couple of live demonstrations of operating through satellites at the Raleigh Hamfest in April 2017. There's some banter between hosts David Goldenberg W0DHG and Gary Pearce KN4AQ back in the studio. And toward the end Gary announces a Viewer Challenge that we'll detail down below.
The satellite hams are John Brier KG4AKV and Tucker McGuire W4FS. At 19 years old, Tucker is a relatively new ham who first started operating satellites last summer, and quickly jumped into the deep end. John's been around longer, but ham radio satellites and space operation captured his focus, too. He produces videos about it on his YouTube channel, Space Comms.
Gary talked to John and Tucker after they completed their second demo, and he edited a little of each demo into the interview.
There's video of all of both demonstrations on YouTube. John shot himself operating through 'Saudi-Sat' SO-50, a "Mode J" (145.850 MHz uplink and 436.795 MHz downlink) FM crossband repeater. John used three cameras (including a GoPro on a headband for a unique view). Gary edited the video and put it on the HamRadioNow YouTube channel as an extra bit if video. See it here.
Gary added two more cameras to the mix to shoot Tucker operating through FO-29, a Japanese satellite that uses a 100 kHz wide 'linear translator' for mostly SSB and CW (and no FM, please) between two meters and 70 cm. There's a few minutes of that demo in this episode, and the whole thing is on John's Space Comms channel.
The 'Incompatible' Challenge
Regular HamRadioNow listeners and viewers have heard Gary's mildish rants about the proliferation of incompatible Digital Voice modes on VHF/UHF (D-STAR, System Fusion, DMR, etc.). His beef isn't so much that there are several modes (that's progress, and will never stop). He's unhappy that the majors don't make radios that operate on multiple modes - just their own (plus analog FM). While we're waiting for the DV4mobile and a Connect Systems HT (both delayed), there are no radios doing 'multimode'.
So he says inspiration struck the other day in the way of a song parody. Check out these new lyrics to the tune of the old Nat King Cole classic, Unforgettable:
Incompatible, that's what you are.
D-STAR, System Fusion.. DMR.
Just buy three HTs instead of one,
So that you can talk to everyone.
Which mode will it be,
When you're calling me?
Incompatible, in every way,
Marketing demands that's how they'll stay.
They could write a little software code,
Make a radio that's multi-mode.
But it seems that's nothing they'd ever do.
Incompatible, they drew the line.
You're in your walled garden, I'm in mine.
I guess we could just go analog,
Leave the future in a misty fog,
FM's not so bad - it's tried and it's true.
The challenge? Produce a video of you (or someone) singing the song, and post it on YouTube. Provide your own music (piano, guitar, kazoo), don't use an instrumental or karaoke track. And let us know (email firstname.lastname@example.org).
No prizes. We don't plan on picking a 'winner', but we will play some of the entries on the show. All fame. No fortune.
By the way, we (and you) don't have a license to rip off this song (written by Irving Gordon). And we've learned that it's not technically a parody, which would qualify it for Fair Use. It's satire. (A parody would make fun of the original song. Satire uses the song to make fun of something else). Satire has a weaker claim to Fair Use. It has a little claim, because doing this will clearly not deprive anyone from earning income off the song, and it's all very small potatoes.
Nobody's going to sue you. Worst case, if a music industry robot sniffs out a copyright infringement in your video, YouTube will either monetize it (put ads on it, and the copyright holder gets the pennies that it will generate), or they'll make it silent, or take it down. Don't monetize it yourself!
So if you're game for a little risk on YouTube (and a bigger risk of people judging your performance), belt it out, croon it sweet, jazz it up or tone it down, but sing it! Maybe it will spur IKenSu to make a true multimode radio some day (don't forget CODEC 2).
After all that, our Radio Rating is... B-. Oh, the video's fun to watch, but not vital. It's radio, after all, so the story is in the sound. Don't tell Gary we said that, though. He spent a lot of time editing that video.
Hams have been complaining about lack of activity on repeaters for well over a decade. Way back in 2003 I created a cover of a magazine I was editing (the SERA Repeater Journal) that spoofed the ARRL's Now You're Talking license manual by changing the title to Now You're Missing. See the art for this episode if it shows up in your podcast feed. I also wrote an editorial about the phenomenon in that issue.
14 years later and a ham poses the same question on Reddit: Where is everybody? (I'm paraphrasing. No, I'm totally re-writing, but that's the gist of it).
So I trot out my standard advice: make some noise. I even recommend calling CQ, because that's almost guaranteed to get someone to respond, if only to tell you that you're not supposed to call CQ on repeaters.
I don't know who made up that rule, but they're wrong. I think it happened back in the 60's and early 70's, when HF ops looked down their long pointed noses at us FM ops as something less than 'real hams.' So in retaliation we eschewed their cherished practice of calling CQ. That's my theory. 10-4?
I would have left it there, but then someone replied on Reddit that they tried my advice, and it worked! That warranted a short show (if 24 minutes counts as short, and for HamRadioNow, it does).
This is a talking-head show, and the only one talking is mine. I show the magazine and the Reddit text on screen, but I read it all to you. So this is that rare show where I'm thinking directly about the audio-audience. And if I'm doing that, I must award this show a Radio Rating of A-. The 'minus' is because I'm still really proud of that Repeater Journal cover spoof. That was a couple of hours of Photoshop, if I recall.
And BTW, I mis-speak the era that I was the RJ editor. I say 'early 70's', but it's really 'early 2000's'.
KN4AQ is 10-10 and 10-7.
Public Service Events can give hams excellent real world preparation for EmComm operations. Busy frequencies, real radio traffic, and some actual emergency communications when event participants encounter trouble.
David W0DHG and his daughter Gwen N6GMG assisted with the Baker to Vegas race, a 120 mile running event across the California and Nevada desert. Over 1000 hams and a complex communications system covered a very remote area with little permanent communications infrastructure. David brings video produced by David Ahrendts KK6DA from their small slice of the event.
Gary KN4AQ operated in another big event, the BikeMS bike tour centered on New Bern, North Carolina. Over 2000 cyclists rode up to 100 miles on Saturday and again on Sunday in the rural countryside near the coast. The operation was simpler, with about 35 hams using a single, wide-area repeater (and some simplex), but the basic communication was similar to the B2V event. Gary also produced a video segment for this show.
This program had some technical challenges as Gary's Wirecast "Studio in a Box" system crashed several times. Gary thought he lost a treasure: David's son Ian W0IHG performing a bit of Fiddler on the Roof with only a little coaxing, but then Gary remembered that it was captured on Facebook Live!
There is a fair amount of talking-head discussion, but the documentary-style video makes up about 30 minutes of the total show, bumping the Radio Rating down to a C. Sorry, but sometimes we just gotta be a TV show.
Both video clips are available separately. Maybe you can make time for those in front of a screen:
And if you want to learn more about the B2V comm system, there are several videos of presentations to clubs and participants:
Glen wrote about digital modes for EmComm in the February issue, and also participated in a state SET called Winter Fury. We talk to him about both.
We've got some pictures from Glen's web site, but mostly we're just chatting, so Yay, a Radio Rating of A.
Rex Harper W1REX (Tuna Tin Kits), Glen Popiel KW5GP (not the Pocket Fisherman guy), and Craig Behrens NM4T talked QRP with us at the 2013 Huntsville Hamfest.
Radio Rating B+ is marked down only a little because I've got a lot of web capture of stuff these guys have done.
Some of you will be able to see this picture I'm embedding in the RSS:
Jeff and Gary talked to (not a) Podcaster Randy Hall K7AGE back at the 2013 Hamvention®. Randy continues to crank out mostly how-to videos for his YouTube channel and Ham Nation. You've probably seen some of them. If you haven't met Randy, though, here's your chance to get to know one of the nicest guys in Ham Radio.
Radio Rating: A
Here we are on the final day of March with some use it or lose it storage space, so we're pulling out a few ARCHIVE episodes from the vault.
This is our talk with Former Hamvention General Chairman (and current Official Spokesman) Michael Kalter W8CI. The episode aired in 2013, just three years ago. Even then, the big question was about a potential move from the Hara Arena. It's interesting to see what Michael had to say about it back then
Bryan Fields W9CR is accusing the Florida Repeater Council of being corrupt and inefficient to the point of inaction. It stems from his attempt to coordinate a 220 MHz band repeater in Tampa Bay, FL. Bryan's account is that the process went from delay to friction to outright hostility.
Bryan has launched a reform group with this web site where he makes his case. He's produced a 15-minute YouTube video that also details the story (which we've condensed into about 3 minutes and inserted at the very end of the show), and now this 90-minute HamRadioNow Episode in which host Gary Pearce KN4AQ grills Bryan mercilessly (OK, he asks a few pointed questions), and David Goldenberg W0DHG supplies the average ham perspective, asking questions that have bedeviled frequency coordinators for decades (where do they get their authority, who do they report to, who's supposed to fix this?).
We've invited the FRC to appear on a future show to respond, and Gary realizes (again) how much we need to do a Repeater Show or two with some of the rich history of ham radio repeaters, a close look at the issues and problems repeater users, owners and coordinators face, and some predictions of the future.
It's another talking-head show, with just a few web sites and a little video, so it earns its Radio Rating of A.
It is... or it is not... illegal to operate a two-way radio while driving in the state of California.
This isn't a multiple choice test. It's the way things are under a broad but ambiguous statute on distracted driving passed by the state General Assembly last year. The statute was aimed at cell phone/texting use, but at the last minute, and without anybody watching closely, was broadened to say:
“electronic wireless communications device” includes, but is not limited to, a broadband personal communication device, a specialized mobile radio device, a handheld device or laptop computer with mobile data access, a pager, or a two-way messaging device.
Two California hams, Jim Aspinwall NO1PC and Norm Lucas WB6RVR, are working with a state Assemblyman to revise the statute. They join hosts David Goldenberg W0DHG and Gary Pearce KN4AQ for an in-depth look at the law, what they're doing to change it, and the connection between two-way radio use (including Amateur Radio) and distracted driving.
So that's the first 90 minutes. Then David and Gary spend another half-hour with some banter about Reddit and Gary's HamCasters sub-Reddit board, and David's upcoming Public Service event with the Baker to Vegas run in the California and Nevada desert.
Good news, podcast fans: the Radio Rating of A is marred only by a little video from a TV station, and the map graphics of the Baker to Vegas run. We also show some text of the legislation, but Gary is careful to read it.
HamWAN is a 5 GHz high-speed data system... Long Distance Internet (or Intranet) without wires, on ham radio. HamWAN is on the air in Seattle, Memphis, and versions in Europe, and the system in Tampa that we'll see in this show. Like Broadband Hamnet, HamWAN is a high-speed data system. Unline Hamnet, HamWAN's infrastructure revolves around a few high sites, kind of like a repeater system. The similarity to repeaters, though, ends there, and you'll see why.
Our tour guides are Bryan Fields W9CR and Ryan Owens KJ4SHL, with the Florida Simulcast Group.
There are lots of videos about HamWAN and similar systems on YouTube. Here are links to the HamRadioNow talks from the DCC that cover that territory:
The Radio Rating for this show is a little iffy. It is sort of an in the field documentary, but a good deal of it is just Bryan, Ryan and Gary talking. We'll go with a B-, but that may be a tad generous. You'll get a lot... just not all of it.
HamRadioNow had a booth in the 'high-priced' exhibitor area of the 2017 Orlando HamCation (thanks to the generosity of Chairman Peter Meijers... and a cancellation by another vendor... because I hadn't arranged for a booth this year). That's the area where they set up drapes behind and between the booths, supply AC power, and you're likely to be surrounded by truly 'commercial' vendors rather than flea-market bins. I set up the SIB (Studio in a Booth) there and recorded several interviews.
I had one of those classy neighbors on either side: TuneMatic staffed by owner Jim Trapani KA2MBE on one side, and Arlan Communications which manufacturers RadioSport Headsets, staffed by Dave Bottom WI6R on the other. They both were doing brisk business throughout the fest, but things slowed down enough late on Sunday to bring them together for a conversation about small business in Amateur Radio.
Both sell high-quality, somewhat expensive products (let's say they're more than an 'impulse buy' price), and I was a little surprised that neither had any complaints based on the general characterization of hams as 'cheap'. Their products sell well, with plenty of customers who appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into them. Dave said he has to put a cap on growth to avoid outstripping resources.
Their stories lend an insight into the origin and operation of at least these two small ham radio businesses.
Check out the links to their web sites for the products. Otherwise, the pictures that accompany this episode (assuming you see them) show you all you really need to see. Therefor I grant a Radio Rating of A+. -Gary KN4AQ
The ARRL has launched a survey of members asking about maybe asking the FCC for a new Entry Level License.
This show brings together a Pundit Panel of Podcasters (aka Herding Cats) to kick the ideas around. If Gary KN4AQ thought he had a plan for the show (and he sort of did), it fell before the onslaught of Neal Rapp WB9VPG (HamTalkLive), Sterling Coffey N0SSC and Marty Sullaway KC1CWF (PhasingLine Podcast), and co-host David Goldenberg W0DHG.
Many words... but probably still not the Last Word! OTOH, Skype made a freeze frame of most of the panel most of the time, helping this episode achieve a Radio Rating of A+.
CERT - Community Emergency Response Team - is a FEMA program that trains and utilizes citizens in local communities in assisting emergency responders. It's not just communications, but it is a natural for a ham radio tie-in, and that's happening with CERT groups around the country.
Jeff McGrath N1SC is a new ham and very energetic CERT volunteer in Lehi UT, just south of Salt Lake City. He talks to David and Gary about all that he does.
Toward the end of the conversation, we get into the ARRL's petition asking members for comment on a possible new entry-level class of license.
Gary tosses in some maps and web sites, but mostly it's a standard talk show with a Radio Rating of A.
The 2017 Orlando HamCation was a great success, thanks only in part to perfect Florida weather, but mostly to the effort of the Orlando ARC volunteers, let by Chairman Peter Meijers AI4KM.
With a Dayton-like attendance of over 17,000, Peter takes a victory lap in this short conversation.
Radio Rating: A+.
Craig Fugate KK4INZ was FEMA Administator for the entire Obama presidency. Now (for the moment, anyway) a private citizen... and ham... he's looking forward to attending his local radio club meeting.
But his interest and commitment to both Amateur Radio and EmComm continues. In this episode he talks with David and Gary about what hams will need to do in the future to remain a valuable public service asset in emergencies.
You may notice with apt irony that Gary's Internet service failed in the middle of the conversation (a flaky 'tap' in the Spectrum/Time Warner pedestal down the block). Gary switched to his phone's 'hot spot', which reached his preset data cap and shut the conversation down again. He persuaded Arvin to cough up the funds to buy a little more bandwidth from Google Fi.
This is a 100% talker, with a Radio Rating of A+. Listen away....
The Women's March on Washington was a (pardon the expression) HUGE event the day after President Trump's inauguration. While it was politically charged, it was also an event that needed communications assistance to keep participants safe. The cell phone system worked, but it was so overloaded that even the usually reliable text messaging slowed to a crawl.
Our guests Arthur Feller W4ART and Christine Axsmith KC3CIF put together an ad-hoc group of about 30 hams, drawn partly from the group that provides communications for the Marine Corps Marathon each year. They tell us their fascinating story, including many real-world lessons for hams participating in any large-scale event.
This is an all-talk show that earns its Radio Rating of A+
Another mash-up of two podcasts! This time we join Jason Johnstion KC5HWB's HamRadio 2.0 show for a talkfest from the Orlando HamCation. We recorded more or less first thing Friday morning, then Gary headed out with Jason to shoot some interviews that will end up on Jason's show.
Our special guest and star attraction is HRO's Katie Allen WY7YL, marking her second appearance on HamRadioNow, and her first on HamRadio 2.0.
There's very little serious about this episode... just a lot of fun. And being a talkfest, it would normally earn a Radio Rating of A, but the video shows us having all that fun. OK, it translates to the audio pretty well. Hopefully your podcast app lets you see the poster, and you can imagine the rest.
Last year the ARRL Board's Ethics Committee recommended removing incumbent SE Division Director Doug Rehman K4AC from the ballot for re-election, and the Board did that, leaving Rehman's opponent and previous Director Greg Sarratt W4OZK the only candidate running. With no further nominations at the end of the nomination period, the Board declared Sarratt elected.
The Board and the Ethics Committee didn't give any reason for removing Rehman from the ballot, prompting an editorial from CQ Editor Rich Moseson W2VU for more transparency on the ARRL Board, a position that Rehman had been advocating during his reelection 'campaign.' Moseson didn't take sides in the election outcome, just the opaque nature of the decision.
At the Orlando HamCation, ARRL member Jim Schilling KG4JSZ had a booth asking ARRL SE Division members to sign a recall petition against Sarratt. Gary asked Jim to come to the SIB (Studio In a Booth) to talk about the issue.
Gary also asked ARRL officials at the HamCation to come discuss it. They declined, and recommended that we talk to ARRL Media and Public Relations Manager Sean Kutzko KX9X. Sean was not at the hamfest, so we'll contact him as soon as we can.
Meanwhile, here's our talk with Jim Shilling. The talker gets a Radio Rating of A, especially if you follow the links to the web pages with more detail, or do some digging yourself.
This story isn't over...
Over the coming weeks I will pull the curtain back on the ARRL Board and the bleak future the League faces unless there is serious reform—reform that will only happen if the membership pays attention to whether or not they are being served by their representatives. I'll be posting a number of motions to address issues with governance and ethics, motions that I will make at the January 2017 Board meeting if reelected.
In the parking lot of my hotel in Orlando, I ran into Phil Mc Elrath K5BBC. Phil had 5 antennas on his roof (same as me), but not as many scattered around the rest of his vehicle. So I was winning the mobile contest until he showed me his super-clean installation. Put me to shame.
Phil is also involved with the Emcomm-1 vehicle, a privately owned truck equipped (mostly with ICOM stuff) to be an Interop bridge - connecting any RF to any other RF, in the field, where it's needed. It's based in Florida. We talk about it some and I got some B-Roll video, but we'll go in depth later on Skype. Dave Goldenberg W0DHG will want to get his hooks into that episode, I'm sure.
So there's a lot to see, but most is pretty well described in our dialog. I'll give it a Radio Rating of B, but note that it's pretty short for a HamRadioNow episode. You just might have time to watch the video!
Sometime in the nearish future, all radios will be SDR (software defined). SDR will cease to be a feature, and it will just be a given.
When will that be, and what will happen then?
Gary talks about that with FlexRadio's Tim Ellison W4TME, and Flex 'booth volunteer' and enthusiast Don Baughman K7MX.
How will manufacturers differentiate themselves, and what will they be throwing at consumers in the way of data and capabilities?
Yes, these guys are from Flex, so they've got a point of view, but they're pretty candid about this segment of the business... that's about to take over the whole business.
The Radio Rating is A+. This is a pure talker, recorded at the Orlando HamCation in HamRadioNow's famous Studio in a Booth. If you get a custom picture with this podcast, you'll see Tim (right) and Don (left) and the booth, and that's pretty much all you need to see.
We begin by recovering from the faux press of the RECORD button to show the RAM mount Then we're on the road.
The RAV4 has two motors. One under the hood. The other just above Gary's jaw.
At least this 3-hour tour won't leave you stranded on a tropical island. It'll just feel like it.
Radio Rating-wise, the first few minutes are like PART ONE - you'll miss a lot without pictures. But after that, there's really not a lot to look at. The NC and SC tourism boards might not agree, but I-40 and I-95 are mostly strips of pavement bordered by trees (and billboards). We even failed (again) to get to the top of the Sombrero at Pedro's South of the Border. So this episode gets a Radio Rating of A-. The minus is mostly because of those first few minutes of the show, and probably somebody likes Interstate highways and trees.
I've received a lot of requests to provide some details on my mobile installation. You've seen the radio stack, and some of the antennas in one show or another. But as I prepared to get on the road to head to the Orlando HamCation, I decided to start with a tour of the whole thing.
And I almost succeeded! Here's that "tour," but conspicuously missing will be the 'heart' of the installation - the mounting bracket from RAM MOUNTS. I fat-fingered the camera's record button, and ended up missing the footage where I described that. I'll fix that in Part TWO (yet to be shot). I did record a lot of on-the-road of Day One of the drive, but ran out of time in the hotel to edit it. I'll get to it all as soon as I can. But meantime, enjoy Part ONE.
This episode is so visual that I almost decided to skip the audio podcast. But it's the start of the epic Episode 300. So Part ONE here gets a Radio Rating of D- (the lowest grade I've given!). The actual on-the-road parts, coming soon to a podcast near you, will make up for that.