Monthly Archive for May, 2010

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Lightning strike

Article and photo link by Mike Walker, VA3MW. Thanks Mike and keep sending us more info.

Last Saturday (May 1st, ), the Toronto FM Communications Society technical committee had the opportunity to take a crane to the top of the ski resort where the repeaters are located (south of Uxbridge Ontario).

The goal was to fix the broken 442.100 (HUB) antenna.  This antenna sits 8 meters above the top of the tower.  It is mounted on top of the 8 bay Sinclabs 224.860 VE3BEG repeater.  For the past year we have discussed how we could easily repair the 440 antenna.  We suspected that it was a bad jumper cable into the 440 vertical.  The HUB has been operating on a much lower mounted UHF antenna which resulted in much less overall range.

With the weather being so dry as of late, we got permission from the ski hill owner to bring the crane to the top since the ground was so hard.  With the use of a man (maybe that should be .. person?) bucket, we hoisted Neil VE3SST to well above the top of the tower.  In short order, he was able to remove the 440 antenna and lower it to the ground for testing.  We quickly determined that it was not a jumper problem, but that the antenna was truly ’busted’.

As Neil installed the spare (doesn’t everyone have a spare 440 vertical?), I took to cutting into the dead antenna housing.  What I quickly found out was that that rod that starts to make up the antenna in had vaporized and the bottom 6″ was totally missing.

What was also missing was the coil that made up the DC ground.  It too had vaporized.    In one of the attached pictures, I have a flashlight shining down the base to the point where the actually antenna rod should have been physically attached.   More pictures can be found at http://www.walkerphotography.ca/Hobbies/TFMCS including the high definition picture of the entire towers that is a blend of 12 static pictures.

That was one amazing lightning hit.  The antenna did die a hero and none of the equipment in the shack was damaged by that hit.

The crane  rental was expensive, however it did allow us to very easily and very safely do the work required on the top of the tower  in a difficult place.  The use of a Gin pole was not practical as we would not be able to get the sling in place above the balance  point of the antenna stack.  There was also risk of more damage to other antennas while lowering or raising the
antennas.

With the new antenna in place, the coverage for the 442.100Mhz HUB has been increased greatly.  As this is a HUB repeater, there is no ‘tail’ on the repeater should you happen to make a call on it.  That doesn’t mean that it isn’t there, it is just being stealthy.

The Toronto FM Communications Society <http://www.tfmcs.com>  has repeaters on 10M, 6M, 2M, 220, 440, 1.2G and D-Star (UHF and VHF).  As well, we are fortunate enough to have 2 repeaters located in the CN Tower on 145.41 – and 444.400 +.  We also provide linking via RF to points north of the repeater site, via IRLP and D-Star.

Girl Guides Canada 100th Anniversary GOTA

On May 15th Guides Canada will celebrate their 100th Anniversary conducting Rallies across Canada. Many of the Rally venues will be operating GOTA (Guides on the Air) stations. In Toronto over 6000 guides and leaders are expected to meet at Ontario Place and in cooperation with Guides Canada and Emergency Management Ontario, the Toronto EmComm Group will operate an Amateur Radio Station at Ontario Place so Guides can talk to Guides at other venues across Canada. Rallies expected to take place in Ontario include Toronto, Thunder Bay, Sudbury and Ottawa.

The Ontario Place station (VE3EMO) will be operational on 20 meters (14.140 -/+) and on the Ontario Public Service Reflector (IRLP) Channel 9035 from 13:00 to 20:00 UTC. (9:00 am to 4 pm ET). We would like to connect with other venues across Canada on this special day for Guiding and would like to here from other groups running GOTA stations. ( Replies to Jim VA3KU at jim.taylor@emergencyradio.ca )

Thanks to Jim, VA3KU, Amateur Radio Program Coordinator for Emergency Management Ontario for this information.

DX on 2 meters?

This Saturday (8th of May) the Saskatoon Amateur Radio Club is launching SABRE-9 a high altitude ballon that is equipped with a simplex repeater on 147.570. Amateurs in Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba and northern US states should be able to hit the machine when it is at maximum altitude. The launch takes place at 8:00 MDT (9:00 CDT).

Club members expect that the balloon will be aloft for approximately  3 to 4 hours.  What is unique with this flight is that there will be onboard a simplex repeater on 147.570.  This is a store – forward simplex repeater.  You use it by transmitting a short message on simplex at 147.570.  When you unkey you should hear your own communication back.

Anyone else withing range of the repeater will also hear that transmission from the balloon.  They can then respond the same way.  Without flying duplexes etc club members say they should be able to facilitate communication over a very long distance.  In theory once the balloon gets above 30,000 feet ( approximately 3o minutes from launch) stations from Manitoba should be able to hit the repeater and in theory communicate with stations from Alberta and the northern USA.

It may help to direct you antenna towards Saskatoon or Humboldt  Saskatchewan as this is the predicted flight path but it is very likely that a mobile unit with a 5/8ths wave will work especially once the balloon gets above 70,000 feet.

In an attempt to encourage use of the repeater the Saskatoon Amateur Radio club is sponsoring an award for communications through the repeater.

The website for VE5AA has the details of the award under the Sabre 9 link. The club would appreciate it if you would publicize the repeater on the Manitoba nets and encourage Manitoba hams to try and make a contact.

The Saskatoon Web site is for this May 8 Saturday launch is http://ve5aa.dyndns.org/Balloon/sabre_9.html and here’s a link to photos and info from Sabre 1 to 8 flights.

Documentation and images from their previous launches are here http://ve5aa.dyndns.org/Balloon/index.html

Summer’s almost here

And that’s a good thing especially if you’ve got a repeater located in Canada. This photo (thanks to Doug, VO1DTM) shows the aftermath of a March ice storm which hit the repeater site owned by the Society of Newfoundland Radio Amateurs. The antennas are located 23 Kms west of St. John’s in a community called Hawk Hill. Welcome to summer.

CG3ADML

There’s a mouthful and I’m glad I’m not sending it in CW but for new prefix hunters it’s a dream.

This is the special event callsign being used by amateurs in Portland, Ontario to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Royal Canadian Navy and to highlight the contribution of Admiral, Sir Charles E. Kingsmill, (who is buried in Portland, Ontario) in the establishment of the Royal Canadian Navy. The special event station will be located at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 231 in Portland and will be on the air on May 15 from 0900 to 1700 hours using SSB and PSK31 plus a demo of IRLP over two meters.

A  second objective of the special event is to introduce Navy League Cadets, the Vice Admiral Kingsmill Corps, to amateur radio.

More on the meeting

I’m being accused of ageism (at least at home I am) after that last blog posting. And we’ve had a couple of other comments about why didn’t we meet via a teleconference and save all that money?

The answer is obvious to any of you who have ever chaired a volunteer committee or been a CEO, sales or marketing manager at a national or international company. There is no substitute for sitting across from the folks you’ve got to work with to get things done. Not only that, but the RAC board has a national teleconference every month as does the RAC executive team thanks to a new initiative by President Geoff.

Like any group, the RAC board and executive committee have to go through the forming, storming, norming and performing model of group development. It’s like the stages of grieving.You might not like it but every group, in our case, goes through it. Here’s a link to a Wikipedia entry group development as proposed by Bruce Tuckman’s model which he developed by in 1965. Getting together in person makes this growth process actually take place.

And believe me, I’d rather have stayed home and done some contesting rather than drive five hours to Ottawa and five hours back, stay up half the night listening to off key singing of a couple of wedding parties (congratulations Bob and Sally whoever you are) and other LOUD events that went on till dawn and then sit through a day and half of meetings. Lunch wasn’t much of a break as we had a real bag lunch. I’m not kidding. My tuna sandwich came in a real paper bag. Dinner, in comparison, was downright gourmet with two trays of lasagne and make-it-yourself salad.

Yes your RAC board and executive really whooped it up in Ottawa. NOT.

But I’m not complaining because it’s for the good of amateur radio which is a legacy my father left me when he became a silent key. We both loved ham radio ever since the day we visited Ray Hunter, VE3UR’s shack in Etobicoke. Uncle Ray  invited us to attend the Skywide Radio Club. This was back in the early 1960s when sideband was just rising to prominence and tube rigs like the Drake pair or the Hammarlund Hq-170 were state of the art. I never forgot that visit.

So while I appreciate the interest and the comments I have a thought for you!

Why don’t you get involved in a RAC committee? Ham radio in Canada sure could use you and your talents. Maybe you were involved in the past. Then bring that wonderful experience with you to help us all preserve the wonderful legacy of amateur radio in Canada for all the young and old amateurs yet to join us.

The "Old Boys" Club

Yup. Over the years that’s what I called the executives of our national ham radio organizations. What a bunch of old f***ts! I gave the same name to the executive of Radio Amateurs of Canada before I was asked to join the executive. Now I am the old f**t!. When did that happen?

So I’m sitting at the table at last weekend’s annual board of directors meeting which was held in Ottawa and I looked around the room. Now I’m 61! I feel 30 but I look 50 (I’mbeing vane.) but as Ilooked around the room I realized that about half the room was younger (and in the case of our treasurer Margaret, VA3VXN, a lot younger and even I can see that Margaret isn’t an old guy. BTW That’s Margaret hard at work.) and it was obvious to me this isn’t my father’s RAC.

I’ve said this before: RAC isn’t the board. The board is six people voted in by you members. If you don’t like or agree with your representative on the board, then run for the office. (Rotation of leadership is really healthy for any organization.)

If you want to become a member of the executive, speak to president Geoff, VE4BAW. You too can be appointed a vice-president and benefit from all the perks of office. For example, I got an IARU Region 2 lapel pin from Daniel, VE2KA, our VP of International Affairs during the day and half of bored board meetings. (Joke Geoff. It’s a little humour!!)

So where do we go from here?

The post meeting emails are flying back and forth across the country. Reading the mail tells me our new RAC executive team has taken a new step towards building a better RAC and better national organization to serve our interests as ham radio operators. There’s a lot of work being done and a lot of work that needs to be done. These are good people who have volunteered their time and talents for the betterment of ham radio in Canada.

In the next few months, you are going to hear a lot more about how you can get involved (renew or take out a membership. Get at least two other hams to take out memberships as well…by the way, we’re working on making this easier to do in the future) and why you should join your national amateur radio organization and encourage your friends to follow in your footsteps (and in a future posting I’ll talk about why you must join if you want to protect the precious radio spectrum we are privileged to enjoy and defend our use of amateur radio from unwarranted and unnecessary government legislation – think Bill 118 in Ontario).

RAC isn’t perfect. The board and executive are volunteers with lots of enthusiasm but limited time and in my case limited talent. But it’s our best tool to defend and foster the growth of amateur radio in Canada. So whether you’re eight years old or 80, I want you to become an old f**t (See photo left: Just kidding Geoff. It’s more humour!!) and join the rest of us old f**ts by becoming an active, paid up and engaged member of Radio Amateurs of Canada.

The hot-button issues

So what were the hot button issues that came out of RAC annual board meeting?

  • RAC membership drive (which I am woking on and you will hear more about it very soon). If you want a stronger voice with Industry Canada and wish to maintain your spectrum space (see below), then renew your membership and convince your fellow hams to join RAC. We can build a much more robust national association by working together. A strong national voice is essential for the future of amateur radio in Canada.
  • Enhanced services to members (for a volunteer-run organization there are too many things needing to be done by too few hands but we realize that for your membership dues we have room for improvement. Stay tuned for more).
  • 60-meter frequencies for Canadian hams (RAC volunteers is working on harmonizing with US allotments)
  • Spectrum demands: The broadband communications industry values the spectrum space at $16-billion and the industry is running out of spectrum. Guess who next to the Canadian military has the most spectrum space? Ham radio! RAC President Geoff Bawden will be commenting more about this issue in a future blog. This is going to be a big issue for Canadian hams and ham radio around the world. If you’re not concerned about this issue, you should be.
  • On a secondary basis we’re going to enhance your web, blog, Facebook and Twitter contact with RAC. Plus we’re reorganizing the voluntary manpower needed to meet and greet you all at hamfests and other special events.

In addition to all the above, the RAC board and executive members created new ways to administer the organization which will result in better service to you and with lots of emphasis on communications and action. This isn’t your father’s (or mine for that matter) national amateur radio association.

Day two

The second day of the annual board meeting of Radio Amateurs of Canada got underway with a working breakfast and a full agenda. VP of International Affairs Daniel Lamoureux, VE2KA, handed out some IARU Region 2 pins and we got underway with the day’s agenda. More to come…