Monthly Archive for November, 2009

Interested in handling traffic?

Back in the days before phone (some of us go back to the days before SSB) there was only CW. And sending was done with astraight key (try that for an hour) and, if you were really modern, you used a bug. Unlike modern electronic keyers which send perfectly spaced code, straight keys and bugs had personality.

If you were a regular on the air, you could be known by your sending (good or bad) and others would know it was you before you signed your callsign.

Back in those days all amateur radio traffic was sent by Morse Code. There were no phone nets and packet systems were a long way off. But every night, the airways were filled with traffic nets sending messages as a public service via ham radio. Of course, these days those nets have largely been replaced by phone and digital communications but the idea of using amateur radio to pass traffic still exists and, yes, some traffic is still sent my CW.

If you’re interested in joining a net, in any mode, here’s a primer on traffic handling (thanks to the ARRL) you might find interesting. BTW learning how to handle formal traffic is a great skill for ARES participants.

Nov/Dec TCA in the mail

What a treat when The Canadian Amateur arrives in the mailbox. This bilingual 74-page national magazine is a treasurer
house of news and ideas. It’s one of the primary benefits of being a member of Radio Amateurs of Canada. Tons of technical articles along with all the regular operating columns, departments and news from the RAC executive make TCA a welcome addition to every Canadian amateur radio station.

BTW did you know that you can use rain to make your signal go farther on the 10 GHz band? It’s true an Barry Malowanchuk, VE4MA, shares some of his thoughts and experience about this challenging band that most of us have never tried. Barry’s portable station (see photo on page 33) looks pretty manageable and even comfortable with his folding chair setup beside what looks to be a highway.

And, if truth be told, I didn’t understand everything in the article but that’s nothing new for me in ham radio. Back in the late 60s when as a teenager with my dad I attended the Skywide Amateur Radio Club in Toronto’s west end there were many technical meetings. I can remember Ray, VE3UR (think he was VE3CCR back then) talking about getting on RTTY with the Model 60 printer. Didn’t understand all of what was being said but it was thrilling nonetheless.

Now we’re able to communicate using rain. Next thing you know it will be smoke signals but I think that’s already been done :)

GlobalSET 2009 one week away!

This from Doug Mercer VO1DTM (RAC CEC), Vice President Field Services, IARU Emergency Communications Coordinator Region 2

Many thanks to those of you who have registered for GlobalSET 2009. We are just a week away! Remember the event takes place on Saturday, November 14 from 1800 – 2200 UTC. Frequencies are the IARU Center of Activity frequencies which are:

15M – 21,360
17M – 18,160
20M – 14,300
40M – 7,060
80M – 3,760

all +/- QRM

As a general comment, 14.300 will likely be used by the Maritime Mobile Service Net (MMSN) during the SET, so stations in Region 2 who are unable to contact Region 1 stations may be able to relay formal traffic through this net.

If you’re not participating why not monitor the activity and see how a global SET works?

Official notice of New Executive

Here’s the RAC official bulletin in regards to the announcement of our new executive team.

(BTW if there’s any question about why the blog announced this news ahead of the official bulletins, the official bulletins need to be translated in both official languages. It would be great if this blog was in French and English but your humble servant flunked out of high school French, a failure which I have always regretted.)

RAC Bulletin 2009-035E –  New Executive Announced.
2009-11-03

During a RAC Board of Directors’ teleconference meeting  held by the Nomination Committee Chair Bj Madsen, VE5FX,  on October 29th, 2009, the following new members of the Executive were elected:

Geoff Bawden, VE4BAW – President
Paul Burggraaf, VO1PRB – Secretary
Margaret Tidman, VA3VXN – Treasurer

These individuals will assume their respective responsibilities on January 1, 2010.

Subsequent to the October 29th meeting, the following Directors and Officers submitted their resignations:
Bob Cooke, VE3DBD (former President) – effective October 31, 2009
Geoff Smith, VA3GS (former Ontario South Director) – effective  November 1, 2009
Noel Marcil, VE2BR (former Quebec Director) – effective November 1st, 2009

The remaining positions on the executive will be unchanged as the current officers were acclaimed.

First Vice-President Ian MacFarquhar, VE9IM, pursuant to the RAC By-laws, will assume the duties of President until December 31st, 2009.

The Board and Executive extend their most sincere thanks to Geoff and Noel for their past service to RAC and wish them
all the very best in their future endeavours. The Board also extends its thanks to Bob Cooke for the time he has devoted to RAC as a past Director, Past Vice-President of Field Services and as President during rather challenging times. Bob’s involvement with RAC began in the early 1990s as an Assistant Director. He was elected as Ontario South Director in 2001 and served in that capacity until January 2005. Bob was subsequently elected as Vice President, Field Services in January 2006 and served in that role until February 2009 when he was asked by the Board to assume the responsibilities of President of RAC.

The dedication and commitment of volunteers like Bob, Geoff, Noel, and many others, result in Canadian Amateurs having a voice which is heard locally, provincially, nationally and internationally, and they are to be congratulated for their outstanding contributions.

Emergency planning

Canada’s Auditor General Sheila Fraser has slammed the federal government’s lack of emergency planning that puts the country’s actual infrastructure in jeopardy. Following 9/11, millions of federal dollars were spent to develop interim emergency response plans but now, nine years later, nothing has been endorsed let alone implemented.

Especially worrisome was an expressed desire to create a radio system capable of connecting all police, fire and other emergency responders during times of national or regional disaster. Of course, every amateur radio operator knows how difficult this is to implement and complex to maintain. On the other hand, putting trained (and often training happens on the job) ham radio operators with handi-talkies at the local police, fire and ambulance station with other hams dispatched to the Red Cross shelters, city hall and regional centres can create a functional emergency communications network.

halloween-pumpkin

And yes I know this is a utopian viewpoint but here’s how it starts. On Hallowe’en, I invited my wife Marion, VE3HEN, to accompany me on the Halton ARES Goblin Watch. Conducted in conjunction with Halton Regional Police, the ARES group mustered about a dozen vehicles which simply drove around communities in Halton Region ready to report any vandalism or other issues associated with the night.

Thankfully not much happened during the evening (one intoxicated underage youngster found his way home and a couple in a suspicious vehicle were left alone to do whatever it was they were doing at the back of a school parking lot) but being out driving around wasn’t the main objective. The hidden agenda included making another connection with senior police officials who approved of the activity as well as officers on the street who likely had never heard of amateur radio before that night. The event also gave the net control operators of VE3HAL practice in running a formal, directed net. I’ve run nets in the past and it’s not easy to strike the right tone of efficiency yet be friendly and fun. The controllers at VE3HAL did a great job. Several mobile stations were also outfitted with APRS equipment which made for some fun when one of the operators drove out of his assigned area to get a coffee. Car 54 where are you?

So here’s the point: While the government works to fix this issue of emergency preparedness, we have work to do as well. Part of the work we need do is help the federal government realize the role that ham radio can and does play in emergency response and community service. So how do you get involved? Join your local ARES group and support their efforts in your local community. Lobby your provincial governments in regards to upcoming or existing distracted driving legislation. In other words, get involved and invite new hams in your communities to get involved.

And, the Halton Goblin Watch gave Marion her first opportunity to fully participate in a formal working net. And she did pretty well. There were a few lessons learned — like make sure you haven’t accidentally changed the repeaters split when you respond to a call from net control and you can’t figure out why they don’t hear you :) — and this event was perfect for learning these sort of lessons.

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.

More additions to RAC executive

This is a follow-up to yesterday’s post. In my haste I left out congratulating Paul Burggraaf, VO1PRB, who will be the new RAC secretary as of the new year as of the new year and Margaret Tidman, VA3VXN, will take over as treasure.

Margaret has worked in the field of accounting for nearly 10 years and currently is working as a financial analyst. In March of this year she studied the RAC Hamstudy Basic Guide and passed her basix exam on May 23, 2009.

Paul has been licensed since March 2003 and holds a basic qualification. His interest in radio was peaked from his military background in Army Cadets and as an officer in the Canadian Forces Reserves during the 1970s. Since joining the Society of Newfoundland Radio Amateurs and obtaining his license Paul has held several executive positions in the organization and is currently its vice president. Paul currently works for the Office of the Auditor General, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador as a network administrator.

Election results & new president's bio

Following elections for executive positions at Radio Amateurs of Canada,Geoff Bawden, VE4BAW will become the President of RAC on January 1, 2010. Following the announcement of the election results Bob Cooke, VE3BDB submitted his resignation as President of RAC effective October 31, 2009.  Bob had stepped in at a difficult time for Radio Amateurs of Canada and allowed his name to stand as president. The board of directors appreciated his efforts over the last while to guide Radio Amateurs of Canada through a difficult period. Also following the announcement of the election results directors Noel Marcel, VE2BR, director from Quebec and Geoff Smith, VA3GS, director from south Ontario tendered their resignations effective October 31, 2009.

So as we await Geoff, VE4BAW’s induction to the office of president, First VP Ian MacFarquhar, VE9IM has assumed the Presidents chair.

For those of you who don’t know Geoff, I (VE3HG) had a great conversation with him over the weekend and he seems like a pretty good guy to have leading RAC. His bio goes on…and on :) but here in brief are some of the highlights:

  • Head of Manitoba’s Workplace Safety and Health Division
  • Chair of the Canadian Association of Labour Legislators Occupational Safety and Health sub-committee
  • Chair of the Hazardous Materials Information Management Commission
  • Assistant Deputy Minister of Property Management with Government Services
  • Assistant Deputy Minister of Accommodation Services
  • and most recently General Manager of the Manitoba Housing Authority

As for ham radio (When did you have time Geoff?)

  • Received his amateur radio certification in 2004
  • Director of the Winnipeg Amateur Radio Club
  • President of the Winnipeg Amateur Radio Club (three-year term)
  • His current station (which he operates mainly from his cottage near Kenora, Ont.) consists of an FT857D where he operate mainly on SSB and PSK 31 on 20 and 40 meters

Geoff will be taking office during an interesting time for amateur radio and Radio Amateurs of Canada. We wish him well.