Monthly Archive for March, 2010

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What the heck is the IARU?

You may have heard about it but what is the IARU?

The IARU was created in 1925 in Paris, France. The Union serves as the watchdog and spokesman for the world amateur radio community. The current president is a Canadian Timothy Ellam, VE6SH. The Union is broken down into tree regional organizations that correspond to the three radio regions of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).

Canadian hams are represented by the IARU Region 2 which represents hams in the area encompassed by the American Continent. Here’s a directory of member societies including Radio Amateurs of Canada. One of the founding members of Region 2 (which was formed in Mexico City in 1964) was another Canadian, Noel Eaton, VE3CJ, SK who went on to serve as IARU president worldwide.

IARU Region Two has a long list of objectives which can be found here.

Representation on these regional and world-wide organizations is just one of the benefits of membership in Radio Amateurs of Canada. By keeping your membership up to date you are directly contributing to the continuation of amateur radio here in Canada and around the world. Thank you for joining with your fellow amateurs from around the world. Amateur radio thrives thanks to your contribution.

The ARRL PR Committee

One of the fun things I get to do every month is participate in the ARRL’s national public relations committee teleconference. It’s a tremendous kick of me to represent Radio Amateurs of Canada on the teleconference and I have to thank the ARRL’s Media and Public Relations Manager Allen Pitts, W1AGP and Committee Chair, Bill Morine, N2COP for allowing me to participate.

It’s also a kick to realize that the PR committee serves the around 450 public information officers (PIOs). These volunteers help publicize ham radio by letting local media know what’s new.

The ARRL with its 160,000 or so members creates a lot of publicity and good ink for ham radio. Just check out QST (the ARRL’s excellent monthly magazine) which runs a column of PR activities.

Just like Radio Amateurs of Canada, the ARRL is involved in tons activities behind the scenes. We’re in for a very interest decade in ham radio across North America.

Satellite phones during emergencies

There’s quite a bit of chatter on the RAC ARES group about the relative worth of expensive (around $800/month) satellite phone service for use during wide-spread emergencies such as the Haitianearthquake. Seems one of the systems (and this may or may not be true of all systems now and in the future) do not provide 24-hour communications. According to several users of the systems, the problem is the very limited time that communications can take place before the satellite moves out of range. Reports of concerns about using the satellite-based system by search and rescue teams during emergencies have been voiced by ARES coordinators from across Canada.

Field Day 2009

It’s not too soon to start planning your Field Day activity! Just ask the operators from the Oakville and Burlington Ontario clubs who did a joint club effort last year. I’m a member of the Oakville Club and have worked many multi-operator contests including several Field Days with these guys. (That’s my photo of Mike, VE3QSK, Greg, VA3GGF and Rod, VE3RHF working from the SSB tent at the Field Day site.)

Over the years we’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t work especially when it comes to Field Day. Much depends upon whether your effort is aimed at holding a “field-day” activity or working the “Field Day” contest. The reason I put it this way is Field Day is both a get-on-the-air activity and a contest. Some years we’ve gone all out contesting (which means two or three transmitters on the air at all times running on CW and SSB) and some years we’ve gone more toward let’s get everybody on the air (kids, XYLs, visiting politicians, neighbours, friends, CBers) and use as many modes as possible and as much equipment as we can dust off and have a ton of fun. Either way works great.

Looks like the two-club effort paid off for Oakville/Burlington in a third-place win in the 3A low power (100 watt) category with 1059 QSOs resulting in a score of 3942 points. The TCA listing shows they had 35 participants!

I’ve been attending Field Days for almost 50 years now (That’s not an uplifting thought. It’s right up there with how many 11-year sunspot cycles I can look forward to.). Back in the old days the Skywide Club in Toronto owned a massive noisy gasoline generator (affectionately called “The Moose”) which sat on its own trailer and powered the two or three transmitters. BTW we’re talking tube transmitters and receivers. One of the guys used an ARC-5 transmitter running 75 watts on 40 meter CW into a ZL Special (it was a two-element wire beam that looked like a trapeze and got out like crazy) and I think the receiver might have been my Dad’s (VE3FWR back then) Hammarlund HQ-170A which was state of the art in those days. The actual “field” was located in what is now the heart of downtown Streetsville, a busy part of Mississauga, Ontario. Back then, it really was a field.

If you want more information about Oakville/Burlington Field Day activity have a look at the March/April issue of The Canadian Amateur. Visitors are always welcome. Field Day 2010 is scheduled for the June 26-27, 2010 weekend and more information is available from the ARRL here.

HF improving

Ham radio contest email reflectors are abuzz this morning with results pouring in from the contests on the weekend. One of the more unusual and popular contests was the Radio Society of Great Britain’s Commonwealth Contest. This CW only 24-hour contest runs only on 80, 40, 20, 15 and 10 meters and is limited to members of the RSGB in the UK and amateurs operating in any former or current Commonwealth or British Mandated Territories. Canadian contesters report working stations in Australia, New Zealand, former Commonwealth nations in Africa and the Caribbean as well as India and the Asian areas.

Next weekend, it’s the Russian DX Contest where we expect to see as many as 4,000 participants from around the world all trying to exchange a score with a Russian station. Last year, 737 logs were filled from 56 countries containing over 368,964 QSOs. (This means 3,818s stations reported making at least two QSOs during the 24 hour contest where you can work anybody anywhere and still score points. Oh yes, the contest is also mixed mode so you can operate CW and SSB or both. This is a pretty good contest even if you’re running 100 watts (or even 5) to a dipole and you can get on 40 and 20 meters.

The weekend after that sees the CQ WW WPX SSB contest (The CW portion comes May 29-30.). One of the really interesting aspects of this contest is the WPX Contest Records going back for 25 years are available online. You can search your geographic region to determine if there’s a category you might want to enter and win. For example, I hold first place in the  CQ World-Wide WPX Contest….15 meter Single Operator QRP category for CW. I have gone unchallenged since 2002! So anybody who can get on next May and work more than 92 QSOs will take it. :) In SSB (which is much harder on SSB than CW), you’d need more than 408 QSOs on 15 meters to break VE7SBOs’s 1998 record of 408 QSOs.

CQ WW WPX attracts more than 30,000 participants with over 4,000 actual contest logs submitted in the 2009 contest. BTW the two top Canadian scores where held by Ron, VE3AT at VC3A (you get some really weird prefixes popping up in this contest) who beat John, VE3EJ, by less than one half of one per cent. Wow.

Comments about costs

Nobody likes to spend money needlessly. And nobody should spend somebody else’s money carelessly.

That’s why Radio Amateurs of Canada is governed by its Constitution. The Constitution is a rule book upon which we’ve all agreed to play by and the rules we use are found in Robert’s Rules of Order and are called parliamentary procedure. We might not like everything that’s decided by the members, but we can rest assured the decisions came forward thanks to due process.

Sometimes members question the results. This is a welcome part of parliamentary process. Here’s a case in point: A comment came up recently on this blog and at least one other about the cost of having the RAC books audited. The writer suggested it would be so much less expensive to have a “review” of the books as compared to an “audit.” The author of the comment said that the charges for legal and accounting costs were “outrageous.”

When I read that someone has categorized something as outrageous I have to ask compared to what? The RAC Constitution calls for an audit. An audit isn’t cheap and nor should it be. I’m a dues-paying member of RAC and I want to be reassured that my $50 was well spent by our volunteer board and executive. If our Constitution calls for an audit, then, like it or not, that’s what it’s got to be.

Now having said that, I know that every executive of any club or organization where I have served appreciates the opportunity to address a member’s concerns. Radio Amateurs of Canada is no exception. The volunteer board and volunteer executive will be meeting next month and you can bet that cutting costs will be right up there with increasing membership benefits as our top priorities.

Keep those comments coming in :)

Never a dull moment

Wondering what to do this weekend? How about getting on the air? Here’s a list of the contests that are coming up this weekend. I got the list from the ARRL’s members only DX newsletter (this information is available on any ham radio online contest calendar):

THIS WEEKEND ON THE RADIO.

The North American RTTY Sprint, NCCC Sprint, HA3NS Sprint Memorial Contest, RSGB Commonwealth CW Contest, AGCW QRP CW Contest, ARCI HF Grid Square CW Sprint, Feld Hell Sprint, EA PSK31 Contest, Elecraft QSO Party, SOC Marathon CW Sprint, Idaho QSO Party, SKCC Weekend CW Sprint, UBA Spring 6-Meter Contest, NSARA Contest and the Wisconsin QSO Party will certainly keep contesters busy this upcoming weekend.  The Bucharest Contest is scheduled for March 15.  The NAQCC Straight Key/Bug CW Sprint is scheduled for March 18.

So let’s see: teletype, a quick contest called a sprint, CW, QRP, digital, QSO parties, 6-meters and more. BTW the NSARA Contest promotes amateur radio in Nova Scotia. It’s an eight-hour contest broken up into two four-hour sessions and runs only on 80 meters phone and CW. Neat stuff.

March 20th sees the annual Russian DX Contest that geos for 24 hours starting at 1200Z Saturday. With conditions verging on spectacular somedays, this might be a really fun contest. Here’s the rules in English.

Emergency frequencies cleared

Doug Mercer, VO1TDM has passed on this message to Canadian hams:

Release of Emergency Frequencies
2010-03-11

Emergency frequencies 7050, 7095, 3738 and 14200 MHz are now released from emergency use by the Radio Club de Chile (RCCH).
Dr. Galdino Besomi CE3PG, President of the RCCH and Dr. Cesar Pi Santos HR2P, IARU Emergency Communications Coordinator Region 2, offer sincere gratitude to all Hams Worldwide for their understanding and cooperation during this difficult time for the citizens of Chile.

Via IARU Region 2 News Service

Canadians get 137 kHz!

RAC Bulletin 2010-007E – Canadian Amateur Radio Access to 137 Khz.

2010-03-10

Industry Canada has approved access by Canadian radio amateurs to the Low Frequency (LF) band 135.7 ? 137.8 kHz, subject to certain conditions. The Revised Canadian Table of Frequency Allocations, promulgated in December 2009 to incorporate changes arising from decisions taken at World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC) 2007, permits amateur use on a Secondary basis subject to Footnote 5.67A.

The Footnote states: “Stations in the amateur service using frequencies in the band 135.7-137.8 kHz shall not exceed a maximum radiated power of 1 W (EIRP) and shall not cause harmful interference to stations of the radionavigation service operating in countries listed in No. 5.67. (WRC-07)”. Industry Canada has advised that Canadian radio amateurs may now use the band and that Schedule I of RBR-4 Standards for the Operation of Stations in the Amateur Radio Service will be amended in due course.

Richard Ferch VE3IAY/VE3KI

Vice President Regulatory Affairs RAdio Amateurs of Canada

Bulletins RAC 2010-007F – Accès à 137 kHz. pour la radio amateur au Canada

2010-03-10

Industrie Canada a approuvé l’accès par les radioamateurs canadiens à la bande basses fréquences (BF) de 135,7 à 137,8 kHz, sous certaines conditions. Le Tableau Canadien Révisé des Allocations de Fréquences, promulgué en décembre 2009 pour incorporer les changements découlant des décisions prises à la Conférence Mondiale des Radiocommunications (CMR) 2007, permet l’utilisation radio amateur sur une base secondaire sous réserves de l’annotation 5.67A.

La note se lit comme suit: «La puissance rayonnée maximale des stations du service d’amateur utilisant des fréquences dans la bande 135,7-137,8 kHz ne doit pas dépasser 1 W (p.i.r.e.) et ces stations ne doivent pas causer de brouillage préjudiciable aux stations du service de radionavigation exploitées dans les pays énumérés au numéro 5.67. (CMR-07)». Industrie Canada a annoncé que les radioamateurs canadiens peuvent maintenant utiliser la bande et que l’Annexe I des Standards IPR-4 se référant aux opérations de stations dans le service radio amateur seront amendées en temps opportun.

Richard Ferch VE3IAY/VE3KI

Vice-président Affaires Réglementaires – Radio Amateurs du Canada

(Traduction par Serge Langlois, VE2AWR)

RAC President joins the conversation

“To blog or not to blog, that is the question”… William Shakespeare must be turning over in his grave at the number of times that the famous soliloquy from Hamlet is misused and abused to make some kind of point. I am blogging for the first time so I have answered the question that I posed to myself some time ago. There is a first time for everything. [Hopefully I won’t end up like the proponent in a Shakespearean tragedy].

RAC has a number of instruments to reach members [and non-members], there is TCA (a quality journal that punches above its weight), the e-mail Bulletins (Don’t hesitate to subscribe!), the website and the blog.

Someone said to me “the blog is a way to have a conversation with amateurs” and I like conversations.

Anyone reading the website and this blog is a person who is an amateur or has an interest in amateur radio. My kind of person. If you are not an amateur, RAC can steer you in the right direction to become one. If you are an amateur then you know that RAC is “amateurs helping amateurs”. We amateurs need to stick together, and help others… and we do help others… but you knew that. We also talk to the word and you know that too.

You also probably know that many people are no longer impressed that we can talk to the world. One fine day, after I had proudly contacted a Spanish station through a wall of static on SSB during solar minimum, my teenage son noted that he was playing on the internet with team members from Australia, Great Britain, and Germany on an internet game [with full quieting]. He was not impressed with my static filled chat with Barcelona.

Hmmm … once amateurs had a virtual monopoly on long distance and portable communication. That is no longer true and because that is no longer true we don’t have the same respect of the public which means that we don’t have the same influence on government which means that we have become subject [sometimes as an unintended consequence] to restrictive regulations from the various levels of government. Consider the distracted driver legislation passed in many provinces and the fact that the regulatory net scooped amateur radio. It was a fight in many jurisdictions to become exempt. In one jurisdiction [despite its large number of amateurs] the battle was lost [at least temporarily].

What is my point? We need to consider how we can positively impact public opinion. I am not an expert in this by any means. Touting our horn is not our style but …Anyway, I was told a blog is a conversation. Perhaps I am reading the public landscape incorrectly [my wife points out that I occasionally make errors].

Geoff   ve4baw President RAC