Monthly Archive for April, 2009

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Think your tower is big

How about a 75-meter freestanding tower? That’s what Sasha UT7UV put up in his backyard! While the text is in Russian, the photos are easy to navigate. here’s the link Sasha UT7UV’s tower and thanks to the ARRL Contest Update newsletter and thanks to Hal W1NN who sent this item in.

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 )

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.

Ham Radio on BBC

This via Allen Pitts, W1AGP, the media and pr manager for the ARRL:

BBC World News Service / News Hour will be interviewing myself and Greg (RSGB/IARU) about ham radio and emergency responses.  Linking it to World Am Radio Day.

  It will be broadcast in their News Hour on Saturday at 2100 GMT.

How to get involved in Bill 118

An email came to the RAC offices today from an Ontario ham concerned about what was RAC doing about Bill 118 (This is the proposed Ontario Bill to limit the use of cell phones in moving vehicles. There is concern that this could have a negative impact on the use mobile amateur radio use).

In my role as vice-president of public relations and as the one-man working committee working on Bill 118 for RAC I sent him a reply.

What I said was this: First I referred the amateur to this blog where I offered a synopsis of what’s happened so far. Here’s the link to the posting:

But I went on to offer some observations and I made a request. Here in part is what I said.

I suggested that the hams in Ontario (and I’m one of them) haven’t organized themselves to effectively lobby government. Some concerned individuals have launched petitions and made representation to the government committee that is drafting the Bill and while these efforts are noble and well-intentioned they leave government officials wondering if the amateur radio community in Ontario is speaking with one voice or is it fragmented.

When it comes to lobbying government, it’s essential to be seen as united, conciliatory and most of all determined. So while the efforts of individuals have been laudable, I’m concerned about their overall effectiveness.

I say this after a career in public relations where government lobbying was often a critical part of the job. I don’t say it to minimize the work of others or to be critical. I’m coming from a place of dispassionately looking at how can we as a lobbying group be more effective.

As far as petitions go, in my opinion, the time for sending petitions has not yet arrived and quite frankly I’m not convinced that lobbying the elected government officials to protect the rights of amateur radio operators will have any effect as our numbers are too small, our cause too inconsequential and our chance at swaying public opinion negligible (especially with a public which is losing its “right” to talk on their cell phones while driving).

Now having said that, I’m still very hopeful that an exemption will be granted to amateur radio mobile operation as we are likely to get grouped with all other users of mobile two-way radio transceivers such as taxis, delivery trucks, municipal vehicles and others. These groups have paid lobbyists, big budgets and time. RAC has few volunteers, no budget and limited time. Their lobbying efforts behind the scenes have been substantial and I hope effective.

On the bright side in all other jurisdictions that have passed or proposed a similar legislation, there has been some exemption for amateur radio operation.

It comes down to this: If the hams in Ontario (and again I’m one of them) want to do something effective, then we need to organize. So far, I’ve seen very little initiative coming from the ham radio community.

And when it comes down to RAC, it might help to remember that the national organization keeps running thanks to the efforts of a score of volunteers who are on the national executive team and hundreds of other hams living in communities across Canada who participate through ARES groups, RAC-affiliated clubs and other special committees and working groups.

The bottom line is this: If we want to be more effective, we need to attract more amateurs to join with us in our national organization. That (among other things like Bill 118) is my job at RAC.

I’ll try harder. You want to help? Email:

Communications collapse in San Jose, California

The ARRL has just posted the story about the collapse of the communications infrastructure in San Jose, California on April 9th and how ham radio came to the rescue.

Vandals cut four underground fibre-optic cables and the sabotage led to a widespread disruption of all phone service. Within hours, amateur radio ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Service) volunteers initiated emergency plans and their HEARNET (Hospital Emergency Administrative Radio Network) went on the air supplying vital communications links to area hospitals.

Read all about it here:

Amateur Radio has highly praised by local officials and was mentioned in news reports in The San Jose Mercury and The Daily Tech.

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 ( ). 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

It doesn’t have to be a disaster

Ham radio operators are always ready to help during times of disaster but it doesn’t have to be a disaster for ham radio to be helpful.

Case in point was a collapse of the telephone system in Morgan Hill, California earlier this month. Seems vandals cut the phone lines leaving the community without essential communications. Police were dispatched to wake up sleeping city officials and ham radio operators established essential communications links.

Read all about here at the Mercury News:

New ARRL rep

This from the Radio Amateurs of Canada bulletin service.

For more information on RAC bulletins go here:

After more than 10 years as RAC’s representative on the ARRL Contest Advisory Committee, David Shipman, VE7CFD, has stepped down.

Sam Ferris, VE5SF, will replace David.

Radio Amateurs of Canada wants to thank Dave, VE7CFD, for the many years he has served the Amateurs of Canada by being on this important committee. We also wish Sam, VE5SF, all the best in his work.

Four Days In May

That’s the name that the QRPers (5 watts or less folks) give to their annual convention that runs in parallel with the Dayton Hamvention in Dayton, Ohio from May 14 to 17 this year.

Trying to work the guy across town is tough but imagine trying to work around the world on just five watts. These amateurs do it all the time.

Here’s the link to the activity schedule for FDIM:

Contest U

It’s not too late to get educated!

Contest University is taking place on Thursday, May 14, 200DSCF22799 from 7am to 5pm at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Dayton, Ohio.

Part of the world famous Dayton Hamfest (any hamfest, convention and fleamarket that can see 20,000 plus attendees has got to be world famous) Contest University features a full-day of instruction into the esoteric arts of ham-radio contesting.

Here’s a list of this year’s presenters:


2009 CTU Professors are:

  • Mark Beckwith, N5OT
  • Dave Leeson, W6NL
  • Dick Norton, N6AA
  • Randy Thompson, K5ZD
  • Ward Silver, NØAX
  • DSCF2266

  • Doug Grant, K1DG
  • Jim Stahl, K8MR
  • Frank Donovan, W3LPL
  • Ed Muns, WØYK
  • Mark Haynes, MØDXR
  • Rob Sherwood, NCØB

If you’ve been on for any time at all on any contest you’ve likely run into one or all of these guys. To put it into ham-radio jargon, these are the “Big Boys”. Their experience ranges from huge multi-multi contesting stations to QRP (5 watts or less) micro efforts. Funny thing is it doesn’t matter, it seems, whether these guys are operating at five watts or two kilowatts, they always post amazing scores. Contest University is the place to find out how they do it and how to post better scores yourself.

The photos (from VE3HG) are from top to bottom: Inside the multi-building complex, commercial exhibitors show off their most recent products; the contest and DX forums can see overflow crowds; and this is the crowd waiting the gates to open on Saturday morning.