HRN 315: Do NOT Call CQ on Repeaters

SERA Repeater Journal - August 2003 (cover by kn4aq)

Yes, this headline is click-bait. Bring it on, QRZ.qrmers.

Hams have been complaining about lack of activity on repeaters for well over a decade. Way back in 2003 I created a cover of a magazine I was editing (the SERA Repeater Journal) that spoofed the ARRL's Now You're Talking license manual by changing the title to Now You're Missing.  I also wrote an editorial about the phenomenon in that issue. (Download a PDF of that editorial)

Now it's 14 years later and a ham poses the same question on Reddit: Where is everybody? (I'm paraphrasing. No, I'm totally re-writing, but that's the gist of it). 

So I trot out my standard advice: make some noise. I even recommend calling CQ, because that's almost guaranteed to get someone to respond, if only to tell you that you're not supposed to call CQ on repeaters.

I don't know who made up that rule, but they're wrong. I think it happened back in the 60's and early 70's, when HF ops looked down their long pointed noses at us FM ops as something less than 'real hams.' So in retaliation we eschewed their cherished practice of calling CQ. That's my theory. 10-4?

I would have left it there, but then someone replied on Reddit that they tried my advice, and it worked! That warranted a short show (if 24 minutes counts as short, and for HamRadioNow, it does).

This is a talking-head show, and the only head talking is mine. I show the magazine and the Reddit text on screen, but I read it all to you. So this is that rare show where I'm thinking directly about the audio-audience. And if I'm doing that, I must award this show a Radio Rating of A-. The 'minus' is because I'm still really proud of that Repeater Journal cover spoof. That was a couple of hours of Photoshop, if I recall. And because you've taken the trouble to look here on the web site, you can see it in all its glory.

And BTW, I mis-speak the era that I was the RJ editor. I say 'early 70's', but it's really 'early 2000's'. 

KN4AQ is 10-10 and 10-7.

HRN 314, EmComm Extra #11: Baker to Vegas; Bike MS

Public Service Events can give hams excellent real world preparation for EmComm operations. Busy frequencies, real radio traffic, and some actual emergency communications when event participants encounter trouble.

David W0DHG and his daughter Gwen N6GMG assisted with the Baker to Vegas race, a 120 mile running event across the California and Nevada desert. Over 1000 hams and a complex communications system covered a very remote area with little permanent communications infrastructure. David brings video produced by David Ahrendts KK6DA from their small slice of the event.

Gary KN4AQ operated in another big event, the BikeMS bike tour centered on New Bern, North Carolina. Over 2000 cyclists rode up to 100 miles on Saturday and again on Sunday in the rural countryside near the coast. The operation was simpler, with about 35 hams using a single, wide-area repeater (and some simplex), but the basic communication was similar to the B2V event. Gary also produced a video segment for this show.

This program had some technical challenges as Gary's Wirecast "Studio in a Box" system crashed several times. Gary thought he lost a treasure: David's son Ian W0IHG performing a bit of Fiddler on the Roof with only a little coaxing, but then Gary remembered that it was captured on Facebook Live!

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There is a fair amount of talking-head discussion, but the documentary-style video makes up about 30 minutes of the total show, bumping the Radio Rating down to a C. Sorry, but sometimes we just gotta be a TV show.

Both video clips are available separately. Maybe you can make time for those in front of a screen:

And if you want to learn more about the B2V comm system, there are several videos of presentations to clubs and participants:

HRN 313, EmComm Extra 10: Virginia's Winter Fury

Our guest is Glen Sage W4GHS, a very engaged EmComm operator in Virginia, and EmComm columnist for the SERA Repeater Journal.

Glen wrote about digital modes for EmComm in the February issue, and also participated in a state SET called Winter Fury. We talk to him about both.

Audio listeners: we've got some pictures from Glen's web site, but mostly we're just chatting, so Yay, a Radio Rating of A.

HRN 312: Florida Repeater... Counsel?

Bryan Fields W9CR is accusing the Florida Repeater Council of being corrupt and inefficient to the point of inaction. It stems from his attempt to coordinate a 220 MHz band repeater in Tampa Bay, FL. Bryan's account is that the process went from delay to friction to outright hostility.

Bryan has launched a reform group with this web site where he makes his case. He's produced a 15-minute YouTube video that also details the story (which we've condensed into about 3 minutes and inserted at the very end of the show), and now this 90-minute HamRadioNow Episode in which host Gary Pearce KN4AQ grills Bryan mercilessly (OK, he asks a few pointed questions), and David Goldenberg W0DHG supplies the average ham perspective, asking questions that have bedeviled frequency coordinators for decades (where do they get their authority, who do they report to, who's supposed to fix this?). 

We've invited the FRC to appear on a future show to respond, and Gary realizes (again) how much we need to do a Repeater Show or two with some of the rich history of ham radio repeaters, a close look at the issues and problems repeater users, owners and coordinators face, and some predictions of the future.

 

It's another talking-head show, with just a few web sites and a little video, so it earns its Radio Rating of A.

HRN 311: California Drivin' (or... California Nightmare)

It is... or it is not... illegal to operate a two-way radio while driving in the state of California.

This isn't a multiple choice test. It's the way things are under a broad but ambiguous statute on distracted driving passed by the state General Assembly last year. The statute was aimed at cell phone/texting use, but at the last minute, and without anybody watching closely, was broadened to say:

“electronic wireless communications device” includes, but is not limited to, a broadband personal communication device, a specialized mobile radio device, a handheld device or laptop computer with mobile data access, a pager, or a two-way messaging device.

Two California hams, Jim Aspinwall NO1PC and Norm Lucas WB6RVR, are working with a state Assemblyman to revise the statute. They join hosts David Goldenberg W0DHG and Gary Pearce KN4AQ for an in-depth look at the law, what they're doing to change it, and the connection between two-way radio use (including Amateur Radio) and distracted driving. 

So that's the first 90 minutes. Then David and Gary spend another half-hour with some banter about Reddit and Gary's HamCasters sub-Reddit board, and David's upcoming Public Service event with the Baker to Vegas run in the California and Nevada desert.

Good news, podcast fans: the Radio Rating of 'A' is marred only by a little video from a TV station, and the map graphics of the Baker to Vegas run. We also show some text of the legislation, but Gary is careful to read it.

HRN 310: HamWAN Tampa Close Up (and Up High)

HamWAN is a 5 GHz high-speed data system... Long Distance Internet (or Intranet) without wires, on ham radio. HamWAN is on the air in Seattle, Memphis, and versions in Europe, and the system in Tampa that we'll see in this show. Like Broadband Hamnet, HamWAN is a high-speed data system. Unline Hamnet, HamWAN's infrastructure revolves around a few high sites, kind of like a repeater system. The similarity to repeaters, though, ends there, and you'll see why.

Our tour guides are Bryan Fields W9CR and Ryan Owens KJ4SHL, with the Florida Simulcast Group

There are lots of videos about HamWAN and similar systems on YouTube. Here are links to the HamRadioNow talks from the DCC that cover that territory:

HRN 309: $mall Fortune, from the HamCation

HamRadioNow booth at the Orlando HamCation, with neighbors Arlan Communications (left) and TuneMatic

HamRadioNow booth at the Orlando HamCation, with neighbors Arlan Communications (left) and TuneMatic

HamRadioNow had a booth in the 'high-priced' exhibitor area of the 2017 Orlando HamCation (thanks to the generosity of Chairman Peter Meijers... and a cancellation by another vendor... because I hadn't arranged for a booth this year). That's the area where they set up drapes behind and between the booths, supply AC power, and you're likely to be surrounded by truly 'commercial' vendors rather than flea-market bins. I set up the SIB (Studio in a Booth) there and recorded several interviews.

I had one of those classy neighbors on either side: TuneMatic staffed by owner Jim Trapani KA2MBE on one side, and Arlan Communications which manufacturers RadioSport Headsets, staffed by Dave Bottom WI6R on the other. They both were doing brisk business throughout the fest, but things slowed down enough late on Sunday to bring them together for a conversation about small business in Amateur Radio.

Both sell high-quality, somewhat expensive products (let's say they're more than an 'impulse buy' price), and I was a little surprised that neither had any complaints based on the general characterization of hams as 'cheap'. Their products sell well, with plenty of customers who appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into them. Dave said he has to put a cap on growth to avoid outstripping resources.

Their stories lend an insight into the origin and operation of at least these two small ham radio businesses.

Audio listeners: check out the links to their web sites for the products. Otherwise, the pictures that accompany this episode (assuming you see them) show you all you really need to see. Therefor I grant audio version a Radio Rating of A+. - Gary KN4AQ

HRN 308 BS#7: ARRL New Entry Level License Survey

The ARRL has launched a survey of members asking about maybe asking the FCC for a new Entry Level License

This show brings together a Pundit Panel of Podcasters (aka Herding Cats) to kick the ideas around. If Gary KN4AQ thought he had a plan for the show (and he sort of did), it fell before the onslaught of Neal Rapp WB9VPG (HamTalkLive), Sterling Coffey N0SSC and Marty Sullaway KC1CWF(PhasingLine Podcast), and co-host David Goldenberg W0DHG.

Many words... but probably still not the Last Word! OTOH, Skype made a freeze frame of most of the panel most of the time, helping this episode achieve a Radio Rating of A+. (The Radio Rating is for audio listeners. A+ means that other than our ugly mugs and a few web pages, you won't miss anything visual)

HRN 307, EmEx 9: CERT (and a Survey)

CERT - Community Emergency Response Team - is a FEMA program that trains and utilizes citizens in local communities in assisting emergency responders. It's not just communications, but it is a natural for a ham radio tie-in, and that's happening with CERT groups around the country.

Jeff McGrath N1SC is a new ham and very energetic CERT volunteer in Lehi UT, just south of Salt Lake City. He talks to David and Gary about all that he does.

Toward the end of the conversation, we get into the ARRL's petition asking members for comment on a possible new entry-level class of license.

HRN 306: HamCation Update with Peter Meijers AI4KM

The 2017 Orlando HamCation was a great success, thanks only in part to perfect Florida weather, but mostly to the effort of the Orlando ARC volunteers, let by Chairman Peter Meijers AI4KM.

With a Dayton-like attendance of over 17,000, Peter takes a victory lap in this short conversation.

HRN 305, EmComm EXTRA #8: Former FEMA Fugate

Craig Fugate KK4INZ was FEMA Administator for the entire Obama presidency. Now (for the moment, anyway) a private citizen... and ham... he's looking forward to attending his local radio club meeting.

But his interest and commitment to both Amateur Radio and EmComm continues. In this episode he talks with David and Gary about what hams will need to do in the future to remain a valuable public service asset in emergencies.

You may notice with apt irony that Gary's Internet service failed in the middle of the conversation (a flaky 'tap' in the Spectrum/Time Warner pedestal down the block). Gary switched to his phone's 'hot spot', which reached his preset data cap and shut the conversation down again. He persuaded Arvin to cough up the funds to buy a little more bandwidth from Google Fi.

HRN 304/EmComm Extra #7: Ham Radio @ the Women's March on Washington

The Women's March on Washington was a (pardon the expression) HUGE event the day after President Trump's inauguration. While it was politically charged, it was also an event that needed communications assistance to keep participants safe. The cell phone system worked, but it was so overloaded that even the usually reliable text messaging slowed to a crawl. 

Our guests Arthur Feller W4ART and Christine Axsmith KC3CIF put together an ad-hoc group of about 30 hams, drawn partly from the group that provides communications for the Marine Corps Marathon each year. They tell us their fascinating story, including many real-world lessons for hams participating in any large-scale event.

HRN 303: HamRadioNow 2.0

Another mash-up of two podcasts! This time we join Jason Johnstion KC5HWB's HamRadio 2.0 show for a talkfest from the Orlando HamCation. We recorded more or less first thing Friday morning, then Gary headed out with Jason to shoot some interviews that will end up on Jason's show.

Our special guest and star attraction is HRO's Katie Allen WY7YL, marking her second appearance on HamRadioNow, and her first on HamRadio 2.0. 

There's very little serious about this episode... just a lot of fun.

HRN 302: ARRL SE Division Director Recall Petition

Last year the ARRL Board's Ethics Committee recommended removing incumbent SE Division Director Doug Rehman K4AC from the ballot for re-election, and the Board did that, leaving Rehman's opponent and previous Director Greg Sarratt W4OZK the only candidate running. With no further nominations at the end of the nomination period, the Board declared Sarratt elected.

The Board and the Ethics Committee didn't make public any reason for removing Rehman from the ballot, prompting an editorial from CQ Editor Rich Moseson W2VU for more transparency on the ARRL Board, a position that Rehman had been advocating during his reelection 'campaign.' Moseson didn't take sides in the election outcome, just the opaque nature of the decision.

At the Orlando HamCation, ARRL member Jim Schilling KG4JSZ had a booth asking ARRL SE Division members to sign a recall petition against Sarratt. Gary asked Jim to come to the SIB (Studio In a Booth) to talk about the issue.

Gary also asked ARRL officials at the HamCation to come discuss it. They declined, and recommended that we talk to ARRL Media and Public Relations Manager Sean Kutzko KX9X. Sean was not at the hamfest, so we'll contact him as soon as we can.

This story isn't over...

Links:

Over the coming weeks I will pull the curtain back on the ARRL Board and the bleak future the League faces unless there is serious reform—reform that will only happen if the membership pays attention to whether or not they are being served by their representatives. I'll be posting a number of motions to address issues with governance and ethics, motions that I will make at the January 2017 Board meeting if reelected.

HRN 301: All SDR, All the Time

Sometime in the nearish future, all radios will be SDR (software defined). SDR will cease to be a feature, and it will just be a given. 

When will that be, and what will happen then? 

Gary talks about that with FlexRadio's Tim Ellison W4TME, and Flex 'booth volunteer' and enthusiast Don Baughman K7MX.

How will manufacturers differentiate themselves, and what will they be throwing at consumers in the way of data and capabilities? 

Yes, these guys are from Flex, so they've got a point of view, but they're pretty candid about this segment of the business... that's about to take over the whole business.

HRN 300! On the Road: Orlando 2017 (Parts One, Two and Three)

I didn't intend this to be a two-part episode but it worked out that way... There might even be a Part Three (or Two-And-A-Half) coming soon from a chance encounter in the parking lot...)

PART ONE

I've received a lot of requests to provide some details on my mobile installation. You've seen the radio stack, and some of the antennas in one show or another. But as I prepared to get on the road to head to the Orlando HamCation, I decided to start with a tour of the whole thing.

And I almost succeeded! Here's that "tour," but conspicuously missing will be the 'heart' of the installation - the mounting bracket from RAM MOUNTS. I fat-fingered the camera's record button, and ended up missing the footage where I described that. I'll fix that in Part TWO.

PART TWO

This part begins with that RAM MOUNT tour. Then I get on the road.

Turns out the RAV4 has two motors. One is under the hood. The other is just above my jaw ('motor-mouth,' if you didn't get it. There's quite a monologue here without a lot of operating until the end.)

PART THREE - Impromptu Show

In the parking lot of my hotel in Orlando, I ran into Phil Mc Elrath K5BBC. Phil had 5 antennas on his roof (same as me), but not as many scattered around the rest of his vehicle. So I was winning the mobile contest until he showed me his super-clean installation. Put me to shame. 

Phil is also involved with the Emcomm-1 vehicle, a privately owned truck equipped (mostly with ICOM stuff) to be an Interop bridge - connecting any RF to any other RF, in the field, where it's needed. It's based in Florida. We talk about it some and I got some B-Roll video, but we'll go in depth later on Skype. David Goldenberg W0DHG will want to get his hooks into that episode, I'm sure.

HRN 299, EmComm Extra 6: HamNauguration (plus NPOTA)

Jeff Dahn KB3ZUK, President of W3HAC, the HacDC Amateur Radio Club, is our guest. Jeff helped with communications for the National Park Service during the Presidential Inauguration and the protest Women's March in January. He was invited because of his extensive participation in the ARRL's National Parks On The Air program last year. Jeff activated most of the parks in the Washington DC area.

In this episode, he'll talk about the NPOTA activity, then his work during President Trump's inauguration.

Meanwhile, Jeff's club, the W3HAC HacDC ARCprovided communications for the Women's March on Washington the next day (while Jeff was still at the NPS comm center). We hope to have that story on HamRadioNow in a couple of weeks (the Orlando HamCation is getting in the way). 

Hosts: Gary Pearce KN4AQ, David Goldenberg W0DHC

HRN 298: Boy Scouts and Ham Radio

HamRadioNow's newish co-host David Goldenberg W0DHG wears many hats. One of them is Scoutmaster for Troop 22 in Woodland Hills, CA, where he introduces his Scouts to Amateur Radio, among many other life skills.

Scouting is one of the most effective connections between Amateur Radio and young people. In this episode, David and Gary KN4AQ explore that connection with Jim Wilson K5ND. Jim also wears many hats with the Boy Scouts. He's Chairman of the National Radio Scouting Committee; National Jamboree on the Air Organizer; a member of the World JOTA-JOTI Team; and President of the K2BSA Amateur Radio Association.

(Gary made it to Cub Scout Webelo).

Jim has appeared in two previous episodes:

HRN 297: Frontiers in Wireless - 2016 DCC Banquet

Brennan Price N4QX is the former Chief Technology Officer for the ARRL (now with the EchoStar satellite company). He spent the past few years mostly in the international arena – the ITU and the World Radio Conferences – helping Amateur Radio acquire new spectrum and defending the spectrum we have now.

Here he gives the 2016 ARRL & TAPR Digital Communications Conference 'keynote' talk at the Saturday banquet. He'll address the new technologies and millimeter wave spectrum that will be so important to Amateur Radio's Future.

Brennan has appeared on three previous HamRadioNow programs:

 

HRN 296; EmComm Extra #6: Red Cross in Depth

Do we really need to add in Depth to the title? After all, this is HamRadioNow. 

Be that as it may, David and Gary talk at length with Jim Piper N6MED. Jim is the Liaison to Amateur Radio with the Volunteer Disaster Health Services of the American Red Cross, Gold Country Division (that's the territory roughly around Sacramento, CA). They learn what the Red Cross' mission is, and how Amateur Radio can help.

All of the Emcomm related episodes are gathered together on a Playlist on the HamRadioNow YouTube Channel.