December 23, 2011

HRD DM780 Macros: Curse or Blessing?

The Ham Radio Deluxe DM780 software is unquestionably a wonderful product - large number of digital modes, powerful features, and easy to use.  There is no mystery as to why DM780 has such a strong following among hams.

Monitoring 40m PSK31 activity with DM780

One of the convenient features of DM780 is automation of the QSO with macros.  You can think of macros as an automated form letter.  This allows for quick exchanges of routine information.  There are several very good reasons for using macros in DM780 or any other similarly enabled ham radio software:
  • Macros relieve the burden of typing the same information over-and-over again.  No fun typing CQ CQ CQ .... over and over again.
  • Speed up the QSO and allow the operator to multitask.
  • Provides an assistant to people with physical disabilities which limit their use of a keyboard.
  • Provides a structure to the QSO.
  • Macros are very useful with the hyper-fast modes like PSK-125.  Most people simply can't type fast and accurately enough to keep up with the mode.
  • Macros are a great way to make an exchange in a language you don't speak (see our article, "HRD DM780 - variations of the 73 macro").
Some hams are put off by macros.  Some even to the point that they avoid using digital modes like PSK31 due to what they perceive as inappropriate overuse of macros.
  • Some hams feel that macro driven QSO are like form letters lacking the human touch.
  • Some hams prefer a short efficient QSO.  They don't enjoy receiving macro-driven unsolicited extensive information about the contact's station, detailed accounts of the weather, long lists of awards, ...
We really enjoy using digital modes and macros definitely have a place in our operation.  We enjoy using digital modes for rag chewing and award hunting.  Sometimes we use macros, other times we don't and sometimes we combine both macros and typing.  It all depends on the context of what we are doing and who we are communicating with.  Here are a few tips for macro use:
  • Don't send station details, weather conditions, or award information unless asked for this information.
  • Keep macros lean and efficient.  Avoid loading them up with unneeded information.
  • Consider combining both macro and typed information together to give the exchange a human touch.
  • Don't use macros for very simple exchanges.  For example, the minimum exchange for a SKED is often call sign and report.  We typically choose to simply type the exchange during a PSK31 sked QSO.
  • Avoid the use of macros during a rag chew QSO and give your communication the human touch.
  • As an alternative to providing unsolicited details, consider sending a simple Internet link to your information.  This allows people to decide for themselves if they want to learn more about your station, awards, etc. by following the link.
We don't agree with those that abandon digital modes because of a few well-intentioned hams who overuse macros.  The art of amateur radio is communication.  We are in the glass-is-half-full camp thus we believe the art will continue to improve as we all gain experience with digital modes and grow with the hobby.  Also, operating digital modes are simply too much fun to just stand on sidelines.  It is much more fun to fire up the rig and get into the middle of the game.

See our related articles:
HRD DM780 Calling Macro
HRD DM780 - variations of the 73 macro



© Michael W. Maher and NJ2X.COM, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael W. Maher and NJ2X.COM with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

December 18, 2011

3D Xmas Tree Kit - Velleman

The return of cold weather means less time in the field and more time warming the workshop with a soldering iron.  Winter 'tis the season of father and son kit building!

KC2VSR had a great time building this Velleman 3D Xmas Tree Kit.  The holiday theme really put us into the holiday spirit too.

The kit comes with a set of detailed instructions.  No issues understanding what to do.

The first thing we did was to layout the parts to make sure everything was included. We found the kit had all the parts and enough extra LED's to make the trees solid red or a combination of red, yellow, and green. KC2VSR chose to go with the multicolor design.

The parts are all through-the-hole which made soldering a breeze.

KC2VSR used this handy project vise to hold the circuit parts steady during installation and soldering.


KC2VSR demonstrating proper soldering technique - heat the part first (not the solder) and let the solder flow.  Nice work!

Voila!  The finished 3D Xmas Tree.  It worked the very first time powered up.  We like the clever design of using the 9V battery as the based of the tree. 



There is something about blinking LEDs that really makes a project come to life - the LED fun factor. 
The 3D XMas Tree looks great in the dark too.

Pros
  • Great kit for anyone interested in developing soldering skills
  • LED adds a "fun factor" to the finished product
  • Clear instructions
  • Low cost
  • Creative design
  • Exposed components show off the builder's skill - conversation piece
  • Possibilities for experimentation - e.g. changing values of capacitors, trying different transistors, ...
Cons
  • None!
This is an all-around wonderful little kit.  It would make a nice gift for any kit builder you know.  It would also be a fun project for anyone interested in learning how to solder.

Happy Holidays from KC2VSR and NJ2X







Be sure to checkout our related articles:

© Michael W. Maher and NJ2X.COM, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael W. Maher and NJ2X.COM with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

December 17, 2011

NTSB Seeking New Laws Against Portable Electronic Devices

The number of criminal laws in the US has exploded in the last 50 years.  We have reached a point where it is beyond the capability of the citizenry to live free in confidence that they are also obeying the law.  There are simply too many laws and good people are being ensnared and their lives trampled.  The real tragedy is that we have traded away our freedom in exchange for the false security of being ruled by a large and powerful government.
Here they go again....

The brilliant lawyers and freedom fighters in Washington (yeah right) have come up with another way to make us all safe from ourselves.  Can you guess how?  If you answered, "more laws" then you win the golden fleece award.  Not a fair question you say?  True, they didn't come up with another way to make us safe.  Piling on the laws is the ONLY way for these people - its how they bread their butter.  When all you have is a hammer then everything looks like a nail.  Feeling a little safer and less free yet?  If not, read on it gets better.



The National Transportation Safety Board is seeking to justify their existence by seeking new laws to be made effective across the 50 states of the U.S. banning the use of portable electronic devices while driving.

"The safety recommendation specifically calls for the 50 states and the District of Columbia to ban the non-emergency use of portable electronic devices (other than those designed to support the driving task) for all drivers. The safety recommendation also urges use of the NHTSA model of high-visibility enforcement to support these bans and implementation of targeted communication campaigns to inform motorists of the new law and heightened enforcement."

Ban the non-emergency use of portable electronic devices
Amateur radio has been used safely by hams in vehicles for decades.  A 2m rig in your vehicle certainly fits the definition of a portable electronic device and is used most of the time in non-emergency situations.  Under the definition above, hams will either have to stop using their mobile equipment or become criminals.  Enjoy operating 2m, 200Mhz, 220Mhz, or HF while mobile?  These people are targeting YOU and your portable electronic device.  Feeling less like a valued good neighbor and more like a miscreant?

High-visibility enforcement to support these bans
Can't have more laws without more enforcement right?  Enforcement will likely include being pulled over for being spotted with something in your hand.  Cup of coffee, donut, GPS, or a Blackberry all look similar at 65 miles per hour.  How about a 2m hand-held microphone in your hand?  The bar will be so low that the police won't be expected to offer any evidence of just cause.

All this enforcement and nanny state re-education will require larger budgets, more spending, increased deficits, and all at a time when the country is deep in debt.  Guess who pays?  Hint... not the brilliant lawyers and freedom fighters in Washington.  "High-visibility" equals high cost equals high taxes equals fewer jobs equals a poorer you.

What is odd is that we already have mountains of laws that were passed under the same guise of public safety.  For example, in most places it is against the law to lose control of your vehicle, crash into a tree, and die.  It is also already illegal to run over pedestrians crossing the road.  Sadly, people still do these things.  Apparently, we pass laws to make ourselves safe but then find we are not safe so we pass more laws to make ourselves safe, and on and on...  Incrementalism brings the pot to boil without disturbing the frogs bathing in the water.

Laws against stupidity
Is it illegal to be stupid?  Apparently it soon will be as Washington incrementally makes another common sense personal decision a matter of law.  Eyes down and texting in heavy traffic at 70 miles per hour is indeed a potentially life shortening decision.  Risky?  Yes.  Foolish?  Yes.  Could earn you an entry into the Darwin Award competition?  Yes.  Do we need laws to protect ourselves from ourselves?  No.

It is the role of our mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, friends, and everyone else dependent on us to help us be accountable and take personal responsibility for our decisions.  If someone chooses to put their children's lives at risk by texting while their kids are in the back seat then yet-another-law will be of no consequence to them.  However, that same law diminishes our general freedom and promotes a culture where personal responsibility is seen as passe.  Frivolous laws also dilute respect for the law.

Call your congressman and respectfully ask them to preserve freedom, reduce the size of government, don't touch mobile amateur radio, and don't let the NTSB legislate away personal responsibility.

December 12, 2011

Radio Teletypewriter AN/GRC-46 (RTTY)

We take "texting" for granted today as new technology; however, wireless texting has been in use since early radioteletype experiments dating back to 1922.  Radioteletype technology was put to use by the US military in 1930s and use expanded during World War II.  The US Navy called radioteletype RATT (Radio Automatic Teletype) and the Army Signal Corps called radioteletype SCRT (Single-Channel Radio Teletype).

Radio Set AN/GRC-46

This in an excellent 1963 Department of Defence film explaining the Radio Teletypewriter set AN/GRC-46 in terms of:
  • Components
  • Electronic Function
  • Capabilities
  • Operation
The AN/GRC-46 operated on HF (1.5Mhz to 20Mhz) and employed Frequency Shift Keying (FSK) for either half-duplex or full-duplex RTTY tactical communications (up to 80km).  The radio could also be used for CW and phone operations.  One interesting feature was the ability of the operator to simultaneously transmit both RTTY and phone.  Funny to think that this was state-of-the-art for portable "texting" device at the time.
A few interesting details to look for in the film:
  • Automatic transmitter tuning
  • Automatic antenna tuning
  • Leg clamp key KY116U for morse code
  • Paper tape storage
  • Modulator and demodulator (aka MODEM)
  • Cryptographic machinery mentioned though conspicuously absent
The film runs about 27 minutes.

Be sure to check out:

 

PP34SZS2E5X8

December 10, 2011

Portable Rotatable Dipole

For our portable operations, we have been using a portable rotatable HF dipole from EmComm-Products (model RADS 9-11/A) since 2008.  This antenna is rated for up to 200W UHF/VHF / 250W PEP HF.  In our setup we run no more than 50W on UHF/VHF and 100W on HF.

One particularly useful feature of the antenna is that it provides HF and a second VHF/UHF antenna on top of the dipole which is fed by a separate cable.  This allows the operator to run both a HF radio and VHF/UHF radio concurrently on one mast.

The mast is sectional fiberglass, guyed, and goes up very easily with two people (takes about 15 minutes).  The Velcro cable ties used to neatly store the cable double as ties between the mast and cable.

To rotate the antenna we simply give the mast a twist.  This is usually enough to cause the dipole to turn in the in the desired direction.  We have also used a light line tied to one end of the dipole to guide the rotation.
Dipole that can be rotated manually
NJ2X's Rotatable HF Dipole Antenna on the beach in Hattaras Island, NC

The dipole sections can be changed out and manually "tuned" for all HF bands from 160m to 10m and also VHF on 6m.  Tuning is accomplished by adjusting the telescopic sections.  A roll up tape measure and guidebook in the bag helps with the adjustment for specific bands and frequencies.

The entire antenna system packs up neatly into a heavy duty military green water resistant bag.  This makes it our preferred field day antenna.  We have also used it for mini-DX expeditions.  Pictured above is the antenna setup overlooking the beach on Hatteras Island, NC.

Emergency communication rotatable dipole antenna packed up in its go-bag

This antenna system has been a real pleasure to use and we look forward to breaking it out again for Field Day 2012.  Now only to decide where we will take it...

73,

NJ2X


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© Michael W. Maher and NJ2X.COM, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael W. Maher and NJ2X.COM with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

December 9, 2011

ARRL 10 Meter Contest - December 10/11, 2011

The ARRL 10 Meter Contest is the second full weekend of December.  Starts 0000 UTC Saturday; runs through 2359 UTC Sunday (December 10 – 11, 2011).  This contest is sure to be a big draw since the 10 meter band has been open daily worldwide.  ARRL 10 Meter Contest Rules.



December 7, 2011

Amici Probantur Rebus Adversis

We recently encountered the latin phrase, "amici probantur rebus adversis" which is attributed to the Roman philosopher Cicero and translates to, "friends are proved by adversity".  This gave us pause and we were reminded of the corollary, "a fair weather friend changes with the wind".  Together these two sayings mean that we can judge who are our real friends (versus acquaintances) in difficult times.

Time and again radio amateurs have proved that they are indeed good friends to their communities facing adversity.  Hams provide emergency communication services to help those in need.  The Amateur Radio Service is there when all else fails.  So too are the radio amateurs.

Kudos to you friends.  We are grateful knowing you will be there when the going gets tough.



December 4, 2011

Hunting Shortwave Broadcast Radio Stations

A common pattern among amateur radio operators is to have developed an interest in radio from having access to a shortwave radio.  Sadly the trend over the last decade has been a decline in the number of shortwave broadcasters.  However, there are still stations on the air and shortwave listening (SWL) has remained a wonderful way to enjoy "playing radio" and experience the "magic".

As a youth, we would simply turn on the radio and tune up and down until finding an interesting station.  It was mostly a random process.  Over time, we learned to identify stations and programs and could tune to the right place at the right time.

Yeasu FRG-100 50Khz to 30MHz Receiver
We still do spend time tuning up and down the bands on our Yeasu FRG-100 or Sangean ATS-909X.  We also take advantage of the power of the Internet for improving our ability to locate radio programs and identify shortwave radio stations.  An excellent SWL resource is the website short-wave.info

This site offers several useful tools including:
  • World map identifying the location and frequency of stations currently on the air
  • A query tool for finding stations transmitting in English (or any other language) at a given time
  • A query tool for finding stations presently transmitting on a certain frequency
short-wave.info is easy to use and enhances the shortwave radio listening experience with information.  It can help you spend more time listening and enjoying and less time randomly tuning.

If you are interested in becoming a shortwave listener, checkout the Monitoring Times article, "Getting Started in SW Listening" by Ken Reitz for some helpful information.

If you are ham, checkout our related article, "Hunting LoTW Stations",

December 3, 2011

The Amateur's Code


The Radio Amateur is:

CONSIDERATE...never knowingly operates in such a way as to lessen the pleasure of others.

LOYAL...offers loyalty, encouragement and support to other amateurs, local clubs, and the American Radio Relay League, through which Amateur Radio in the United States is represented nationally and internationally.

PROGRESSIVE...with knowledge abreast of science, a well-built and efficient station and operation above reproach.

FRIENDLY...slow and patient operating when required; friendly advice and counsel to the beginner; kindly assistance, cooperation and consideration for the interests of others.  These are the hallmarks of the amateur spirit.

BALANCED...radio is an avocation, never interfering with duties owned to family, job, school, or community.

PATRIOTIC...station and skill always ready for service to country and community.

-The original Amateur's Code was written by Paul M. Segal, W9EEA, in 1928

December 2, 2011

2st EPC Ukraine DX Contest This Weekend

One of our favorite modes is PSK.  There is an interesting contest this weekend, "2st EPC Ukraine DX Contest."  BPSK63 is a fast mode so there will be plenty of action to keep it interesting.  Here are a few of the details:

The Ukrainian Section of the European PSK Club has the honour to invite radio amateurs from all over the world to participate in the 2st EPC Ukraine DX Contest (EPC-UKR-DX).

Rule overview
  • The contest will be held from 20:00 UTC on Saturday, December 3, 2011 until 19:59 UTC on Sunday, December 4, 2011.
  • This is strictly BPSK63 contest, no other modes are allowed.
  • The output power shall not exceed 100 watts in all categories.
  • Category SOAB-24, SOAB-12, SOLF, SOHF, MOST.
  • Contest call for all participants is «CQ EPCUR TEST».
  • Ukrainian stations should send RSQ plus conventional code of the Ukrainian Administrative Region. Example - 599 UR25.
  • Other stations should send signal report plus QSO number, starting 001. Example – 599 001.
Scoring
  • Stations in the same DXCC Country are worth 1 point.
  • Stations on the same continent but different DXCC Countries are worth 2 point.
  • Stations on different continents are worth 5 points.
  • Contacts with Ukrainian stations are worth 10 points.
The rules and other information can be found at the contest website in English, on Russian. You should send your log via E-mail: contest@ut7fp.kiev.ua.