Tag: Amateur Radio

An addendum on the Great Blizzard of 2013

One thing that worked consistently throughout the ordeal was my Yaesu VX-7rb handheld transceiver. In fact I have it on right now, tuned to the N1JBC network on 449.225MHz based in North Providence, RI. I get a full scale (S9) signal from that repeater so it’s one of my hangouts.

Plus it’s accessible via Echolink. But I like using the radio more so than the Echolink app if only because the Echolink app gets interrupted by voice calls on the phone, text notifications, etc.

And the phone battery wasn’t quite up to the storm. I had to cut the phone off frequently. But I knew the battery pack on my radio was good for 6 hours of transmit so receive only went for quite a while.


Issues sync’ing Yaesu VX-7r with VX-7 Commander

So I was having hit or miss results synchronizing my repeater and frequency list with my Yaesu VX-7RB. (The B means black annodized case.)

So I mucked around and I recalled that I had some issues setting up a com port below 8. It was because Windows had allocated the first 8 com ports. Grrrr!

Thinking this may have something to do with it I also went into VX-7 Commander and changed the port setting for delay from 15 to 25. Now it synchronizes just fine.

This brings up another point – why do amateur radio handhelds still hold to the old fashioned keypad and fudged data connection? Surely the SDR inherent in these radios has USB capability or even FTDI. And the buttons – touch screens have become very reliable.

But then it hit me – no need. My phone has the features I mention above and it has the Echolink app installed on it. I do need to find an IRLP application though.

But as I said in another post – Echolink depends on the network connection being available. In any type of widespread emergencies wired and wireless networks go belly up. They weren’t designed for emergency communications for all. In fact on all telecom switches there is a think called Class of Service and Class of Access. (COS/COA). Higher COS means you get priority through the phone system. But almost all of us have a lower COS. High COS is usually reserved for government.

So I’ll keep the radio – just in case.

A New Android App I love

It’s called Echolink. If you didn’t know I hold not only my Amateur Extra class license, but also my Commercial Radiotelephone license.

There are two ways to link amateur radio repeaters together on the net, one is IRLP (Internet Repeater Linking Protocol) and Echolink.

Echolink connect screen
Echolink connect screen

Echolink search
Echolink search

If you have your FCC issued license – go ahead and download it and check it out:

Just scan to get Echolink

It is available for IOS and Android devices. Requires Wifi, and a minimum of 3G cell service.

In RI there are a few repeater networks that are on Echolink. But not just that – it’s repeaters on EVERY band and all over the world. So for instance I can talk to a friend out in the Seattle area just by tapping the 7 zone in the search and then selecting a repeater near him. It’s pretty damned cool.

But not all repeaters in the area are on Echolink yet. So I still need to have my Yaesu VX-7RB. It’s a rugged MIL-STD and submersible quad band radio. It coves the 6m, 2m, 1.75m, and 70cm bands plus has a general coverage receiver.

VX-7R underwater
VX-7R underwater

I chose the one in black:

VX-7RB Black
VX-7RB Black

And I suppose I’ll keep it around since while it’s nice to be able to hit my favorite repeaters on my phone, that requires either WiFi or digital phone service. And in the SHTF scenarios, digital phone services go belly up mighty fast.

Getting the Volunteer Examiner Group Together

So back on the 13th of this month I mentioned how I was trying to get some Volunteer Examiners up for a testing session on September 15th. And maybe do a quarterly session too.

I got my buddy Mike, KH6HZ to sign on. And I goaded another member of DC401/Braintank into getting his Extra class license.

So it looks like we’ll have our three Amateur Extra Volunteer Examiners. Yippe!

Trying to get an amateur radio testing group together

What a chore. People I knew who were VE’s have lapsed. I find it odd – I checked my status on the ARRL’s web site and can see I’ve been a Volunteer Examiner at three sessions in the past.

This all came up at a DC401 meetup the other night. DC of course stands for Defcon. We’re having a big event in September and one of those is an amateur radio license testing session.

At the meeting we had at least three hams, but I’m the only extra in the group with VE credentials from both the ARRL and W5YI Group. One of the tech licensees has his VE credentials but can’t really administer an exam. I told him to try to get upgraded in advance of the meetup – all he has to do is 70 questions in elements 2 and 3 to get his extra, no code required. I sent him the question pools and link to a testing site end of this month but he won’t be in town. So we’ll try August.

I asked a buddy of mine who I know had his VE creds at one point but I can’t find him in the database and he thinks it lapsed.

So any amateur extra VE’s in RI want to help out?

Coronal Mass Ejections: What you should know

If you have watched any television news program or visited any of the news sites online you have probably seen the gloom and doom warnings about the latest CME (Coronal Mass Ejection) that was hurtling a plasma made up of particles toward earth.

You then heard it could affect GPS, communication systems, electric distribution, etc.

Well, they had predicted a category 3 solar storm, in reality it was only a category 1. But even still, the Earth has what is called a magnetosphere. Has something to do with that mass of molten metal in the core of the planet generating a huge protective magnetic bubble around us. We experience that magnetic activity using a compass.

Look at the image below:

That little ball in the middle, that is Earth. See how the magnetic field deflects particles coming from the sun?

What this means is that terrestrial networks, particularly the wired kind are relatively protected. But if you get a particularly strong particle storm, it can induce currents in a wire and that can cause issues. For example, the electrical grid in the U.S. is synchronized for frequency. Induced currents in the line will trigger protective mechanisms in the network.

And those same particles can play with RF gear too. Hence GPS satellites. But let me put it this way, GPS was originally for the U.S. military. I’m pretty sure that even back when they shot those satellites into orbit, they knew that they’d be a bit exposed out there. So they developed methods to shield the electronics, to harden them. If you’ve ever owned anything rated MIL-STD you’ll see what I’m talking about. My old Yaesu FT-2500 was a MIL-STD radio. Built like a tank!

I sold the FT-2500 and a Kenwood TH-27 to a friend and got a Yaesu FT-5100. And that was a very modifiable radio. I actually submitted a couple of the mods.

But here is the part that interests me. You probably know from reading the above that I not only have my amateur radio Extra license, I also hold a commercial radio license too.

And we amateurs and radio people know that the sun goes through about an eleven year cycle from solar maximum to solar minimum. When the sun is in solar max (or a couple years before and after the actual maximum) the E1 and E2 layers of the atmosphere do get charged by particles coming from our star, Sol, the Sun. And when those E1 and E2 layers are charged, a magical thing happens in the world of HF amateur radio. HF being High Frequency but the reality is today it isn’t so high when we’re slinging signals in the GHz range all over the place.

But what happens is that signals BOUNCE off those charge layers. So using an antenna that radiates outward some of your signal will hit the E1 or E2 layer and bounce across the globe.

So if you are an amateur, get on 10m, 20m, 40m and up and make those DX contacts. For while the news will spell gloom and doom, we know that a charged upper atmosphere is good for propagation.

So there you have it. Yes solar storms can cause some havoc but we’ve known about them for a number of years now and we actually build to accommodate the occasional hit.