Archive for the 'Tech info' Category

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100 years of tradition

Coincidental to the post below that features images of bugs comes word from the ARRL that The Vibroplex Company is being sold by current owner Felton “Mitch” Mitchell, W4OA to Scott Robbins, W4PA. The turnover will happen at the end of the year and Scott says he’ll be relocating the company to Knoxville, Tennessee. For more information on the sale here’s a link to the ARRL news bulletin.

Are you in band?

The W1AW Frequency Measuring Test takes place on Nov. 12 at 0245 UTC (remember that’s this is Wednesday evening, Nov. 11 at 9:45 EST). For anyone who hasn’t participated in this unique contest, the FMT can be a real eyeopener. The basic techniques are described here in the Oct. 2002 issue of QST.

Today’s modern digital transceivers are pretty accurate when compared to the old days when our tube-equipped receivers needed a half an hour just to warm up and stabilize. We used 100 kHz crystal calibrators (they put out a signal every 100 kHz) to calibrate the radio dials (which often consisted of a pointer that was moved by strings on pulleys).  Back in the 1960s my dad, VE3FWR and later VE3HG owned an HQ170 hq170which if memory serves me had 17 tubes. Along with his Heathkit tube transmitter the basement ham shack was always a warm and cosy place.

So if you’re one of the brave (or is it foolish) folks who think they can operate within a few Hz of the band edge, this might be the test for you.

On the air at 500kHz

This from RAC Bulletin 2009-034E – Canadian Experiments at 500 kHz
authorized – 2009-10-30

After months of negotiations between RAC and Industry
Canada over the details of the licence applications and
reporting conditions, the first two licences granted
to Canadians for experiments at 504 – 509 kHz in preparation
for WRC-12 have been issued by Industry Canada (see RAC
Bulletin 2008-29).

Jack Leahy, VE1ZZ, has been assigned call sign VX9PSO in
the Developmental Service for his experimental transmissions.
Joe Craig, VO1NA, has been assigned call sign VX9MRC. Both
of these stations have been on the air already, with
VX9PSO having been reported at 504.6 kHz and VX9MRC at
507.77 kHz. Signal reports can be addressed to the operators
at their call book addresses.

Two more authorizations, in Ontario and British Columbia, are expected soon.

Richard Ferch, VE3KI
Vice President, Regulatory Affairs – Radio Amateurs of Canada

Want to get on the air?

Having problems getting on the air? Then watch this teenager and learn how it’s done:  “How to set up an HF portable radio while hiking.”

CARESS demo in B.C.

This post thanks to Neil King, VA7DX.

Saturday July 18, 2009 the CARESS (Coquitlam Amateur Radio and Emergency Services Society) satellite emergency communications trailer was successfully demonstrated to members of the Cross Border Communication Group at Green Timbers, the Provincial Emergency Program (PEP) South West Region Headquarters. The CBCG is an informal group of volunteers from both sides of the border representing various amateur radio clubs, ARES, RACES and various other organizations such as BCWARN (BC Wireless Amateur Radio Network) and the Blaine and Ferndale Police Departments. Sat Demo 1 July 18 2009

The demo consisted of establishing a high speed digital communications link to the Internet via the Intelsat Galaxy 18 commercial satellite Ku Band transponder and to demonstrate email and data access, web browsing, VOIP telephone service and streaming video. A wireless bubble was extended from the Sat trailer to provide these digital services to the PEP building and surrounding area.

In addition, UHF/VHF voice and data packet services were in operation as was HF Pactor3 Winlink email on 80m connecting via the VE7SCC EMCOMM PMBO. Use of a 30’ telescopic mast to support the UHF/VHF/1.2 antenna and 40/80 meter dipoles ensured excellent coverage on all of these bands. Testing included accessing various VHF and UHF repeaters in the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island and Washington State.

This prototype vehicle was developed to demonstrate the ability to provide a suite of complimentary communication VOIP phone services, data access and other Internet accessible resources when conventional communications infrastructure is destroyed or non-functional due to a major disaster such as a major earthquake. In a disaster, the ability to communicate quickly and effectively is essential as is the ability to operate for extended periods of time on self generated power. Saturday’s demonstration was performed using a 1KW generator and no other source of power. Sat Demo 2 July 18 2009

Additional capabilities will be added to the trailer over the coming weeks including a portable EMCOMM PMBO providing Winlink email services, a UHF repeater system, IRLP, an Asterisk VOIP telephone switchboard and auto-patch capabilities to interconnect UHF radio and the VOIP telephone services over the satellite link.

The vehicle will be demonstrated to other municipalities and interested groups on both side of the border as an affordable example of providing a basic suite of communications capabilities to incident command sites, remote sites and between stricken communities and the outside world in the event of significant disaster affecting traditional forms of communications.

The development of this prototype communications vehicle was possible due to the tremendous support of the City of Coquitlam who provided a grant to fund the trailer and satellite equipment, and to Russ Montgomery, president and owner of DishPro services, who has provided tremendous technical direction and guidance and is graciously providing the funding to operate the satellite access links for demonstration purposes and testing. Without the support and partnership of both organizations this project would not have been possible.Sat Demo 3 July 18 2009

Many people from CARESS and BCWARN have been involved in the development and construction of this vehicle over the past year.

In the days leading up to this demonstration an incredible amount of work was expended in a short period of time to bring the vehicle to operational status. Special thanks is extended to Ian Procyk VE7HHS, David Sinclair VA7DRS, Ryan Stelting VE7STK, Duncan Meakins VE7NEO, Wayne Galaugher VE7ZNU,  Russ Montgomery of DishPro Services and the folks from General Dynamics who selflessly burned the midnight oil more than a few times over the past couple of weeks to make this demonstration possible!

Not in my backyard

I’m going to apologize for the length of this posting but I believe this information could prove useful for those amateurs contemplating the erection of an antenna and antenna supporting structure.

Every so often I get asked what we amateurs should do when a neighbour writes a letter to the editor complaining about the erection of an antenna supporting structure in their neighbourhood.

There is a natural tendency to want to write a letter in response but coming from a public relations point of view I’d caution against doing so without a closer examination of the situation.

I come to this conclusion from my own experience as a long-time newspaper editor, public relations practitioner and also from my personal experience erecting my antenna structure here at VE3HG.

As federally licensed amateur radio operators we have a right to erect antennas and supporting structures on our privately owned property. (See Tim Ellam, VE6SH’s suggestions about erecting towers on the RAC website.  This information has been somewhat superseded by newly approved federal government guidelines that now offer that if the antenna structure does not exceed 15 meters above ground it may be exempt from the public consultation process. See Industry Canada’s document CPC-2-0-03 Radiocommunications and Broadcasting Antenna Systems. Especially note section six.)

Don Hudson, VE7SOX, has written an excellent article on his issues with successfully erecting his antenna in the July/August 2009 issue of The Canadian Amateur. My own situation here at VE3HG in Oakville was featured in TCA back in 2003 or 2004 when I faced strong opposition from two neighbours who opposed my erection of my antenna structure. (One neighbour moved and the other was warned by police at my request about his harassing behaviour.)

So what to do if someone writes a letter to the editor of the local newspaper?

I’d suggest that after the letter is published if there are no further letters or articles written by the newspaper then it might be most prudent to take no further action.

Often these letters to the editor are more emotional than factual. Any attempt to correct the errors by sending a letter in reply is likely to just keep the issue in the public eye and to further inflame the original writer.

If the complainant has involved local politicians and they are speaking out in public it might be useful to send them a letter or go and visit them in person.

In a respectfully worded letter I’d suggest pointing out that the antenna support structure you propose is being erected on private property and complies with all aspects of Industry Canada’s document CPC-2-0-03. It would be useful to contact the local engineering department and determine if there is a local “policy” about TV, satellite or amateur radio structures and, if so, include that in the documentation.

(Here in Oakville, I was informed by the town engineer during a very friendly one-on-one meeting that so long as my antenna structure was within 16.6 meters in height then the town of Oakville would have no issue. He also told me unofficially that if I applied for exemption, there was no way in heck I’d get it passed by council has there had been an unfortunate incident some months before when another amateur erected a 48’ tower on a townhouse-sized lot without availing himself of the benefit of the consultation process. In my situation, after numerous attempts by one neighbour to involve town council, a letter was hand-delivered to him written by town staff telling him that my structure met town policy and that was the end of their involvement.)

If the situation has become a public issue and local politicians are involved I’d recommend creating a document that does address the misconceptions. For example, in a recent case, the letter writer made several erroneous statements that should be addressed.

For example, the writer claimed that her neighbour was erecting a “radio broadcasting tower”. The term “broadcasting” should be explained. Broadcasting implies the continuous transmitting of a “high powered” radio signal. This is not how an amateur radio station works. We all know that but local politicians would benefit from understanding that most amateur radio transmissions are brief, intermittent and absolutely safe.

In this case the writer went on say that the top of the tower would be “over 25-feet across”. Of course this description is incorrect and leaves the wrong impression. The top of the tower ends in mast which holds the antenna which (in the case of a standard three-element beam) has a turning radius of around15 feet. I’d compare the installation to looking like a standard television structure with a slightly larger antenna affixed on the top.

The letter states that the antenna will hang over the neighbour’s roof. I’d hope that this wasn’t true and if it was I’d reconsider my installation as this could be an issue with future neighbours and would likely draw unwanted attention from local politicians.

The writer says that “It will be capable of sending radio signals around the world.” I’d want to point out that millions of amateur radio operators around the world communicate with other hams using simple, safe equipment that often uses less than five watts of energy (less than a light bulb) and this is not an issue of concern.

Here we get more to the point when the writer states that “this tower is an eyesore”. This of course is a matter of opinion and should not be commented upon. In my own situation I did what I could to move the installation to the rear of my property. A similar installation to mine just a few blocks away was erected right behind the house and is much more visible from the street and yet solicited no adverse comments from neighbours there.

The next statement that “it will devalue our homes” can be contradicted. There has yet to be a case where this statement was proven true. When my neighbour claimed this to be true I asked her to supply me with the supporting information signed by her authority (which I discovered was a real estate agent friend of hers). No documentation was ever produced and the claim went away.

The writer goes on to say “of much more concern to me, is that there is still unknowns about the health effects of radio frequency fields.” This statement allows us to reiterate the overall safety of our low-powered intermittent radio transmissions and to include information about how raising an antenna above ground is such a good and safe practice.

In the letter the writer says that “the transmitter has been compared to a cell phone in its power output, but you wouldn’t put your kids to bed with a cell phone turned on under their pillow?”

Well! Lots of kids do keep their cell phones close to their heads and I would allow my kids to do that. Again statements like the one above give us an opportunity to clarify how the transmitter doesn’t radiate the signal but the antenna does and how radio wave energy falls off so quickly over short distances.

The writer continues by saying “this antenna it will be broadcasting only 60 feet away from my 10-month old’s bedroom.” Again here’s an opportunity to talk about how the intermittent strength of an amateur radio signal decreases so quickly over short distances and that like radio signals from AM, FM and TV transmissions which are present everywhere amateur radio signals are totally harmless.

The writer again goes on to claim that the amateur radio transmitter will be transmitting 24/7 which of course is nonsense.

The writer claims that the amateur transmitter will emit more electrical radiation (a word I would stay away from in talking with the public as non technical people don’t
understand the concepts of frequency, power and distance. If they did they’d understand that their microwave produces “radiation” too and I bet most of them would be appalled to learn this fact.) than a new 3G cell tower. I’d love to know her expert for this statement. She goes on to say it will have at least five times the output. Again our writer is obviously unfamiliar with power/frequency issues and so is the public. I’d not debate her directly but I would point out the errors, if necessary, to local politicians. You might want to quote your own local authority on this erroneous statement.

If this issue became part of a larger public debate, I’d book a visit with the local news editor and explain these errors that were contained in the letter and how they are not factual. Newspaper editors absolutely hate to have published information that isn’t true and constitutes what is essentially propaganda. The only caveat is they might write a news article which again would just inflame the opponents however, if there is an ongoing public debate, now would not be the time to stay silent.

So we come to the heart of the writer’s issue when she states that “this tower may be within our bylaws. These bylaws must be changed – they are inadequate and do not protect us from anyone erecting a large, tall and powerful source of electro-magnetic radiation within our close, residential areas.”

It is entirely likely that the tower does fall within municipal “policy”. (Because the erection of tower support structures falls within federal jurisdiction local municipalities are limited to passing “policies” which do not have the force of law — and might be subject to legal challenge). Such policies are a way for local politicians to find a way to accommodate the federal guidelines on antenna structures while at the same time appearing responsive to constituents’ concerns.

The writer concludes her letter by a call to action for readers to contact a local councillor (who she names) and tell her that “XXXX is a wonderful community to raise a family. Don’t let someone’s hobby change that.”

I would consider going to see the named councillor and ask if the letter is an issue. If so, I’d produce a point by point rebuttal of the letter much as I have here in this posting. I’d be reassuring the councillor that I wanted to do everything I could to ease the concerns of my neighbour but as those concerns are so unfounded in fact and so emotional in content that I am trying to do what I can to address these issues in a reasonable and factual way.

After all was discussed and a fact sheet shared, I’d point out that just like everyone else in the community I have a right to my hobby. If amateur radio was disallowed what would be next: TV antennas and satellite dishes on private property? Or gardening if someone objected to my plants? Or pets? And the list goes on….

From my own experience I found Industry Canada (Burlington office) did not want to become directly involved in my situation but they certainly were aware of it.

Prior the installation of my tower I supplied them and the Town of Oakville with complete documentation of my installation. The Town of Oakville (engineering department) made it perfectly clear that if I stayed within town “policy” then they too would have no issue with my antenna support structure and they stayed true to their word.

Due to the guidelines of the day I did notify twelve neighbours (which exceeded the recommendations) and heard back from just the two who complained. (BTW I kept all of the written responses and replied to all including a note that I kept a copy for my own files as I was anticipating a possible legal challenge from one neighbour.)

If my situation had reached the level of public discussion I would have done what was needed to provide my local politicians and the editor of my local newspaper with sufficient factual and quotable material as necessary to raise the discussion from one of emotional nimbisim (not in my backyard) to reasonable discussion and accommodation for all interests.

Public Consultation on Allocation to the Amateur Radio Service at 2200 metres

Industry Canada has announced a public consultation on proposed revisions to the Canadian Table of Frequency Allocations – Gazette Notice DGTP-003-09, http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/smt-gst.nsf/eng/sf09460.html.

This proposal contains a total of 17 changes, including one proposal to make a secondary allocation to the amateur service in the 135.7 – 137.8 kHz band in conformity with the WRC-2007 decision on AI 1.15.

The Radio Advisory Board of Canada (RABC) will be submitting comments on the entire proposal, and RAC Vice-President Industrial Liaison Norm Rashleigh, VE3LC, will be on the RABC working group that prepares the comments.

RAC will also submit separate comments on this particular item. The comment period closes August 10, 2009, after which all comment will be posted on the Industry Canada web site. Subsequently, IC will decide on the final revisions and issue a revised Table of Frequency Allocations.

If all goes well, we hope that this revised table will include an amateur allocation at 2200m, possibly by late 2009 or early 2010.

Malicious interference

I’d like to see posted in the Blog, a statement by Industry Canada in response to this question from RAC. What official guidelines are place as to how Industry Canada responds to reports of ongoing malicious interference to an established Amateur Radio network activity ?
Currently in Toronto, the ARES Group has had to shut down several repeaters used in its daily city-wide network activity. Three or four individuals with Amateur Radio equipment have undertaken to seriously disrupt the group’s daily activity. Recording playbacks and interfering cross-band repeating are now daily occurrences.
Is Amateur Radio a service that Industry Canada is willing to safeguard or is Amateur Radio at the lowest priority level ? I’d like RAC to solicit an official answer from Industry Canada in Ottawa. I’d like to see that answer posted in this blog so that all Amateur Radio operators in Canada know what protection they have from misfits who will destroy Amateur Radio public service if they go on interfering unchallenged. Most Amateurs do not have the time, resources or the power to shut the scofflaws down. So what now ? Bring back the Licence fee ? Take up another hobby ?
Joe, VE3OV
ARES EC, Toronto North York

Lake Simcoe Repeater Association membership drive

(If your club is on a membership drive send me a note and I’ll post it here. Email ve3hg@rac.ca )

The Lake Simcoe Repeater Association is inviting members to renew their memberships and new members are always welcome.

Here’s what’ been happening for the club:

Over the past year we have moved the repeaters and packet radio equipment from our old site at the Adult Rehabilitation Centre (former Edgar Radar Station) to the Point-To-Point tower.  We are leasing an underground bunker (approximately 10 feet by 20 feet) which has been stripped of it’s old wiring and equipment, cleaned and painted out, and completely rewired to current standards.  The bunker is equipped with 7 19-inch racks for the equipment, which will shortly be modified with additional racks to reconfigure the multiplexer.

While the move is not complete yet due to tower climbing restrictions, we do have the two 2-metre and the 440 repeaters on air and multiplexed into antennas at or near the top of the 400 foot tower.  These are new (to us ;-) MSR-2000 machines.  We also have the packet radio user ports (145.07/145.710/445.950) operational using the tower antennas and the backbone link to VA3BAL operational using a temporary yagi on the bunker roof.  The 6-metre repeater and the remaining packet equipment will go on-air as soon as arrangements can be made with PTP and an authorized service agent.

The most recent news is that a DSTAR package is to be installed, likely within a month to six weeks.  The 2m and 440 machines should be on-air as soon as the anticipated frequency pairs are confirmed and the cans tuned.  Decisions on the 1.2 GHz voice and data components very much depend on funding for an antenna, etc.

We were given a very strong indication by the Government of Ontario that we should leave the former site prior to last Nov.  We’ve fallen on our feet with respect to the quality of the shack, the replacement of the repeaters, and the significant increase in antenna altitude (125 > 400 feet).  The down side is that our costs have also increased, from approximately $500 per year to an estimated $1200 to $1500 dollars per year — some of the costs will not be known until the end of our first operating year.

If you would like to continue supporting the Association I invite you to send a cheque for $20.00 to the Lake Simcoe Repeater Association, 42 Eileen Drive, Barrie, ON  L4N 4L6.  Please include your current mailing address, phone number and e-mail address.  If you are a RAC member your membership number would be appreciated (the percentage of RAC members determines our insurance costs).

Thanks Ian VA3QT for sending us this information.

To boldly go…

What’s the next step in your emergency preparedness? Back in my father’s day (early ‘60s), you were considered reMinolta DSCady to respond if you had an 2-meter AM (amplitude modulation) rig (remember the Heathkit Twoer?) and a BIG gasoline generator to power the Hammarlund HQ-170 and Viking Ranger CW (Morse code) rig. Oh yeah, they both used tubes…lots of tubes. There wasn’t much single-side band on the bands and AM was king even on HF (high frequency).

Boy have things changed in 50 years. Here’s a YouTube video (use the HD version) of the Coquitlam Amateur Radio Club’s…wait for it…satellite communications trailer!!!4177

Here’s what organizer Neil King, VA7DX, had to say about the setup:

“I will be updating the video next week to include footage of additional equipment installed the day after and of its first use coming up at the Vancouver Sun Run on Sunday April 19th. Local Ham Clubs provide course communications for this event which will see over 55,000 runners this year.

We installed a bunch of other equipment in the trailer the following day including a portable backup PMBO to the VE7SCC EMCOMM PMBO servicing BC and the Pacific North West with Winlink/Airmail services on HF (40 & 80m). In addition we installed a full complement of VHF/UHF radios for provision of voice and packet services including PACLINK.

We are strongly committed to the concept of multiple layers of communications capabilities to support disaster communications. Therefore this vehicle will also integrate into the BCWARN system backbone ( www.bcwarn.net ). BCWARN provides a high speed (11mbs) digital backbone throughout the high density population areas of the Greater Vancouver Area and as of last weekend a link over to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island to link into the Island backbone network we expect to evolve over the next couple of years.

The satellite Internet feed will provide a minimum of 4mbs download and 1mbs upload speeds and will have a CIR – a committed information rate that guarantees we get contracted bandwidth in an event that can’t be taken by CNN or Fox etc…such as happened to the folks using consumer internet sat systems for EMCOOMM during Katrina.

The real benefit to our Sat system is that it can stand on its own and provide essential communication services even if the complete telecom infrastructure is gone.

In addition to HF/VHF/UHF/SHF voice services the prototype will provide VOIP telephones service to the outside world as well as via BCWARN to any fixed locations or incident command sites that are serviced by BCWARN. Imagine pulling up to an incident command site and handing out a bunch of wireless phones with dial tone to key people when conventional phones and cell phones don’t work…..pretty powerful stuff…..

This vehicle will be able to create a Wi-Fi bubble around an incident site or ESS centre……it can also be installed at a high point to function as a communication hub for providing high speed Wi-Fi backbone services to LOS accessible areas in entire communities in addition to VHF/UHF/SHF voice repeater and dig-peater services.

This is a prototype built with grant funding and tremendous support from the City of Coquitlam and from Russ Montgomery, President of DishPro Media Service who have provided the technology advice and crafted creative solutions to bandwidth packages that make it possible for us to gain access to CIR protected bandwidth.  DishPro provide similar solutions to the movie industry and have leveraged that knowledge to provide an optimal solution for providing stand-alone cost effective emergency communication services.

We believe this project will demonstrate that Amateur Radio can provide cost effective and innovative solutions to the provision of essential communications in times of disaster with a full suite of options. Our intention is to prove the concept, introduce other clubs to the value proposition it provides and promote them to work with their municipalities to fund and commission similar vehicles. There is no question that the more of a critical asset you have spread over a wide area, the stronger the likelihood that some will survive a major disaster like an 8.0 earthquake…something we face in SW BC. 

The side benefit of this use of advanced satellite and digital technology in innovative ways is that it’s attractive to younger people who may not realize that Amateur Radio does in fact cover a wide range of exciting areas of interest and is relevant in today’s “Internet Age”.

How cool is this?

(If you or your club have special events or new projects in the works, why not tell the world. Email information to Peter West, VE3HG, at ve3hg@rac.ca