Monthly Archive for May, 2009

Canadian astronaut using ham radio in ISS experiment

Canadian astronaut Bob Thirsk reached the International Space Station last week thanks to a ride on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. While on the space station, Thrisk is scheduled to operate a small rover-type vehicle nicknamed “Red” which is parked and waiting for his commands in the backlot of the Canadian Space Agency in Montreal. The big news for hams is that Thirsk will using amateur radio to communicate with Red. The experiment which is using almost off-the-shelf technology will test several remote and navigational technologies which have been developed in Canada. This is the first time an earthbound robot has been controlled from space.

Solar Cycle 24

NASA has released a new prdiction for Solar Cycle 24 and there’s good news and bad news.

First the good news: Solar Cycle 24 will peak in May 2013.

The bad news: Solar Cycle 24 could peak with the lowest peak sunspot number (90) of any cycle since 1928!

The NASA site goes on to talk about the “Carrington Event” of 1859. This solar flare, seen by astronomer Richard Carrington took place duirng a below-average solar cycle. The resulting solar flare electrified transmission cables, set fires in telegraph offices and produced spectacular Northern Lights. A similar storm today could cause $1 to 2 trillion in damages that would require two to 10 years to fix.

More thoughts on Bill 118

It’s the morning after the stakeholders’ meeting held at Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation in regards to the anti cell-phone while driving Bill 118.

Here, in no particular order, are some musings:

  • Hams in Ontario generally favour Bill 118 as it will make driving safer
  • Ham radio was never part of the problem which is distracted driving
  • There is no documented evidence (or any anecdotal information) that suggests that the use of a two-way radio has ever been an issue for anyone using two-way radio in their moving vehicles
  • Currently police officers can use the charge of careless driving (under the Highway Traffic Act) or dangerous driving (under the Criminal Code) to charge anyone who is distracted while driving
  • Of all of the stakeholders at yesterday’s meeting, hams (I think) are the only group that actually understands the technical nature of the problem and, dare I say, the technical nature of the solution
  • Also, of all the stakeholders, hams (I think) are the only group that actually passes a rigorous examination that includes practices and procedures on how to use a two-way radio in a mobile situation
  • Unlike the commercial interests who were at the stakeholders’ meeting, hams have no commercial agenda to defend
  • Our arguments are based on our historic ability to provide emergency communications services to our communities, our regions, provinces and country
  • Around the world, governments in other countries with the exceptions of Yemen and North Korea actively encourage the growth of amateur radio as a resource of technical knowledge and international goodwill
  • Here in Canada, amateur radio is considered a service and not just a hobby
  • However, the use of radio as a hobby ensures two things:
    • (A) We have a trained cadre of volunteers that numbers in the thousands and who can be deployed with hours (if not minutes) in times of need
    • (B) Hams voluntary put out hundreds, even thousands, of their own dollars to equip their vehicles with modern communications equipment
    • Radio Amateurs of Canada has a memorandum of understanding with The Canadian Red Cross Society to provide emergency communications assistance as needed during times of disaster
    • We are asking for a complete exemption from Bill 118 in a similar manner to legislation being considered in Hawaii
    • Bill 118 will be introduced in the Fall of 2009. It will be up to all the hams in Ontario to ensure that it does not unreasonably affect the Amateur Radio Service in this province
    • And how do we do this? I’m (VE3HG) going to keep saying this until someone throws me out of my volunteer position as VP of PR for RAC: Join RAC. Do it today and bring at least two other local hams with you.
    • If, and it’s not certain yet, but if we need to organize to help government create a more effective Bill 118 we are going to need you and your fellow hams to work together
    • Individually we will have zero effect on government and public policy. Collectively we can be a much more persuasive and effective participant in this process of making Ontario’s roadways safer

RAC speaks to MOT

Today was the second of two stakeholders’ meetings held by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation in regards to Bill 118 which will ban the use of handheld cell phones while driving in the fall of 2009.

Of course the great concern to the amateur radio community is that we could get swept up in the legislative process. Thankfully at today’s meeting all Ontario amateurs were ably represented by myself, VE3HG, in my position of vice-president of public relations for Radio Amateurs of Canada; Alasdair Robertson, VE3RAA, the executive director of the Canadian Association of Rally Sport; and Neil Macklem, VE3SST, a member of the board of directors for the Toronto FM Communications Society. Both Alasdair and Neil are to be commended on their passionate and persuasive arguments in support of amateur radio. They have done us proud and I could not have been in better company.

So where do we stand?

First, the representation from the amateur radio community was the sole delegation, compared to the many high-powered commercial delegations, which actually understood the technical nature of the issues facing the ministry. And, as such, for some weeks now RAC has been supplying the ministry staff with background information which they used today to explain the overriding technical issues at today’s meeting. We were very pleased to have been able to offered such assistance.

The commercial interests, of which there were many, all came well equipped to argue their economic and safety cases and all made the point that they should be exempt based at least on the economic impact such legislation could have on their industries.

We in the amateur radio community offered forceful comments that the use of two-way mobile radios in any form was a distinctly different form of communications when compared to cellular telephones in both aspects of content of the conversation and in the actual use of the equipment.

We also offered clear and compelling arguments concerning the use of amateur radio during times of community and national need. We spoke of the historic manner in which amateur radio operators in Ontario, across Canada and around the world are prepared to volunteer their time and equipment. We made mention of how we work together through ARES and CANWARN and other organizations. And, how all this and more would be put into jeopardy by Bill 118.

The next step in the process

The ministry staff will be creating specific exemptions (if any). We should have some idea of where we stand in the next 30 to 60 days.

Until then, the best counsel I can offer is to sit tight and let’s let the staff produce a document that will serve the people of Ontario while respecting our rights to operate mobile two-way radios in our motor vehicles.

If more needs to be done, we will call upon the greater amateur radio community at that time. In the meantime, it would help our position immensely and would strengthen my hand at the bargaining table if more hams in Ontario became members of Radio Amateurs of Canada.

Nothing speaks so strongly as one representative who can stand up and state: “I speak on behalf of Canada’s 50,000 federally licensed amateur radio operators.”

We need this kind of strength in numbers and we need it now. And, I’ll admit RAC may not be perfect but we’d be a heck of better association if you and your fellow amateurs were members.

Sign up here:

https://www.rac.ca/store/membership-form-e.htm

 

Ontario hams & cell phone legislation

The formal public consultations in regards to Ontario Bill 118 (the anti cell phone in a moving vehicle Bill) takes place in Toronto later this week. Radio Amateurs of Canada will be there as will representatives of several other ham-radio related organizations including The Toronto FM Society and the Canadian Association of Rally Sport which uses amateur radio during their road rallies. The association also fought for and won an earlier exemption protecting their members from prosecution under the Ontario street racing laws.

In addition to the interest by amateur radio operators across the province there are other large commercial lobbyists also advocating for an exemption for their associations.

So what can we expect?

There are several possible outcomes:

  1. Amateur radio use in moving vehicles in Ontario could be granted a complete exemption. An exemption for the use of amateur radio use has been granted in several other jurisdictions;
  2. Mobile amateur radio use could be limited to the use of equipment that has a microphone and loudspeaker. The issue for some legislators in other jurisdictions has been the issue of a communications device being held up to the ear;
  3. This issue could also have legislators insisting that all two-way radio communication be hands free in a moving vehicle. This would necessitate the use of a headset or Bluetooth type interface;
  4. We could face a complete ban on the use of amateur radio equipment in a moving vehicle.

So what should we do now?

First: We should wait the decision of the committee. Bill 118 is not yet in the hands of the politicians and to calling individual MPPs or launching petitions would be counterproductive right now. It may come down to this sort of action but now is definitely not the right time.

Second: We should continue to organize our response to this Bill and other future Bills that may adversely impact our ability to serve our communities and enjoy our use of amateur radio.

Third: We need to encourage our fellow amateurs to join Radio Amateurs of Canada. Governments from the national level down to your local town respond to the needs of their constituents. Individual protests or attempts to influence legislators don’t have nearly the impact that an organized campaign by a recognized national can have.

So if you want to do something to save your ability to operate your amateur radio equipment in a moving vehicle in the province of Ontario get your local club involved by having every member join with you as an active member of Radio Amateurs of Canada.

Here’s the challenge: If every member of Radio Amateurs of Canada encouraged one or two other Canadian hams to join RAC, our collective ability to influence legislation that had the potential to impact our enjoyment of amateur radio and our ability to serve our communities would be multiplied many times over.

RAC at Dayton Hamvention

Several of the RAC executive and scores of RAC members attended the Dayton Hamvention in Dayton, Ohio earlier this month. The rainy weather held off and the crowds in the fleamarket on Friday were huge. There were some great bargains to be had with prices down on many items. It’s estimated that over 20,000 hams from all over the world regularly attend the largest hamfest in North America.

ARRL PIOs

One highlight of the trip (for me, VE3HG) was a chance to attend the ARRL Public Relations forum held in conjunction with all the other activities. Here’s a photo of the public information officers (PIOs) who attended. At the back, far left, is the ARRL media and PR manager, Allen Pitts, W1AGP, and at the far right, Bill Morine, N2COP, the chairman of the ARRL PR committee.

For more images from Dayton, go to my photoblog site at www.peterwestphoto.ca and look under the hobbies category.

Bill 118 update

Consultation with stakeholders affected by Ontario’s Bill 118 (the anti-cell-phone-while-driving legislation) is scheduled to take place next week in Toronto. Radio Amateurs of Canada has requested time to address the session.

While there has been some political talk about not granting exemptions for anyone with the sole exception of emergency responders, this is likely just political talk. It would be unwise to react to these sort of statements at this time.

In reality there are many stakeholders, including Radio Amateurs of Canada representing the interests of all amateurs in Ontario, who will be making compelling arguments at these sessions.

The Ontario amateur radio community has a long and proud history of serving the citizens and communities of this province since the days of Marconi. Countless hours have been volunteered by ham radio operators serving in ARES and local club community activities and these facts and other compelling arguments will be offered at these upcoming sessions.

As more information becomes available, it will be posted here.

Canadian Submarine Onondaga will soon hit the airwaves !!!

Members of the Club de Radio Amateur du St-Laurent in Rimouski, Quebec are restoring the radio room onboard the Onondaga submarine museum with a scheduled completion coming Friday 12 June 2009.

The permanent call sign assigned to the Onondaga submarine museum is VA2GNQ but a special 4-letter suffix call sign VA2CGNQ has been authorized for the weekend of June 12-14, 2009 to celebrate the inauguration of the new submarine museum.

All naval sparkers out there will remember that CGNQ was Onondaga’s international call sign during her active service.

Here’s a link to the Project Onondaga webpage: http://www.radioman.ca/submarine28.htm

Qualified Ham Radio operators who visit Rimouski will have the opportunity to operate the radio equipment onboard Onondaga and to promote the museum among the international Ham Radio community. Ham Radio Operators onboard Onondaga will also have the opportunity to communicate with other ship and submarine museums around the world.

If you are a Ham Radio operator and you want more information, please communicate with Club de Radio Amateur du St-Laurent VE2CSL. Here are the links to their website:

Club de Radio Amateur du St-Laurent VE2CSL    Website:    http://www.ve2csl.ca

Club de Radio Amateur du St-Laurent VE2CSL    Email:         loic.cavarroc@gmail.com

Site historique maritime de la Pointe-au-Père      Website:    http://www.shmp.qc.ca/

Ham Operators might also be interested in communicating with another submarine five days before the opening of the Onondaga museum.

The Radio Room onboard USS Cobia, call sign NB9QV, will be looking for contacts from 1400Z to 2200Z on Sunday 7 June. Frequencies are 3.900 MHz in the 75-Meter Band, 7.250 MHz in the 40-Meter Band and 14.260 MHz in the 20-Meter Band. (+/-30 kHz). For more information, go to:
http://www.w9dk.com/html/uss_cobia.htm

The "USS COBIA" is a Gato class submarine that served in WWII and is now docked in Manitowoc,WI. as a floating museum. During its six war patrols she sank 13 Japanese vessels to account for a total of over 18,000 tons of Japanese shipping.

Made in Groton,CT. the USS COBIA was towed from Milwaukee,WI. where she was used as a training sub to Manitowoc,WI. on August 17,1970 and dedicated as a memorial to Submariners throughout the world and to the people of Manitowoc who constructed 28 submarines during WWII.

Thanks to the efforts of Club de Radio Amateur du St-Laurent VE2CSL, radio station VA2GNQ onboard HMCS Onondaga in Rimouski, Quebec will be able to join USS Cobia and up to 35 other memorial subs for Ham

Radio activities during the Memorial Submarine Radio Room Weekend in April of each year and the Museum Ships Afloat Weekend in June each year.

Thanks to Donald Courcy VE1CY – VE3ECW for this information. here’s a link to his website: The Radioman at http://www.radioman.ca

RAC new LF/MF/HF Band Planning Committee Chair.

RAC Bulletin 2009-017E –

The Radio Amateurs of Canada President has recently appointed Jim Fisher, VE1JF, as Chair of the LF/MF/HF Band Planning Committee. Jim will take over from Bob Nash, VE3KZ, who resigned after a few years holding the position.

RAC wants to thank Bob Nash, VE3KZ, for the hard work he did on the committee. During his tenure, a complete revision of the Canadian HF Band Plan has been done and the process for an ongoing revision was implemented.

Jim brings with him an excellent and long experience on the bands that the committee is working on.

Midwest director steps down

This from RAC Bulletin (2009-015E)

Due to increased demands on his personal and career schedules, Midwest Director Devon Racicot, VE5DWR, has regretfully submitted his resignation from the Radio Amateurs of Canada Board of Directors. The RAC Board and Executive extends sincere thanks to Devon for his past service, and best wishes for the future.

As required by the RAC Constitution, a call for nominations to fill the remainder of the director’s two-year term will appear in the July-August 2009 issue of The Canadian Amateur magazine, as will nomination procedure details. Qualified RAC members who reside in Manitoba or Saskatchewan are encouraged to take the necessary steps at that time to fill the post and ensure representation for all Radio Amateurs in the Midwest Region.

Here’s a link to RAC Bulletins: http://www.rac.ca/en/news/bulletins/