HRN 330, EmComm Extra #12: Auxcomm... Explained

What is Auxcom(m)? 

Well, no surprise that a somewhat generic name (and ambiguous spelling) got applied to a few different concepts in auxiliary communications. HRN hosts David W0DHG and Gary KN4AQ wondered about it aloud in a few episodes.

That caught the attention of Steve Shroder KI0KY, an Assistant Emergency Coordinator for Colorado ARES Region 8. Steve explained it to us in an email, and we brought him on the show to explain it to you, assuming you were as confused as we were.

And since that only took a few minutes, we talked about how ARES, Emcomm and Auxcomm worked in his area, in the western mountains of Colorado.

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Radio Rating: A! Woohoo. Gary hits a few web sites that might leave you in the dark (he tried to remember to say what they were). Here's the one you might really want to visit:

http://www.publicsafetytools.info/training/training_auxcomm_info.php

HRN (PhasingLine) 329: No morePOTA

Phasingline podcaST . COM

Phasingline podcaST . COM

This is officially a PhasingLinePodcast, recorded in the SIB that we shared with Marty KC1CWF (the Chicken With Fries). So if you subscribe to their show, you've probably already heard this show. All we can add is the video.

Emily Saldana KB3VVE is (was) a self-described NPOTA addict. NPOTA is National Parks On The Air, the ARRL's year-long on-air celebration of the centennial of the USA National Parks system. It was a follow-up to the ARRL's own centennial celebration with W1AW stations operating from each state the previous year. While the W1AW event stations were limited to a select few in each state, NPOTA allowed for every ham who wanted to activate a national park to get out and create pile-ups.

Emily activated 53 parks, including the Statue of Liberty and several parks in the Washington DC area. That made her one of the top activators, as well as being one of the top chasers working as many parks as they could.

Emily documented her year with lots of pictures on her QRZ.com page. Gary stuck a bunch of them in the video.

And the Rapid Response activity that Gary fumbles to remember is actually the RaDAR Rapid Deployment of Amateur Radio group. They don't have a web site per se that we've been able to find. The link is a Google Group.

This talking-head show is another Radio Rating of A+If you go look at Emily's pictures yourself.

HRN 328: Carl Laufer's RTL-SDR (from the 2017 Hamvention)

Carl Laufer isn't a ham (yet), but he got caught up in the RTL-SDR craze in his home town, Auckland NZ, as he was completing his PHD. He began writing about them, and selling them, on his blog at www.RTL-SDR.com, and soon discovered that the little SDR receiver dongles could stand some improvement. So he designed ways to make them work better, and contracted a Chinese manufacturer to build them with his mods. That just about doubled the price, from $10 to about $20. Yeah, big deal.

TAPR invited Carl to come to the 2017 Dayton Hamvention to talk about them at both their Friday Forum (part of HamRadioNow Episode 324) and as the main speaker at the TAPR/AMSAT Banquet.

And we got him for a conversation with HamRadioNow's KN4AQ and PhasingLine's Chicken With Fries in the SIB back in Tent City.

Podcast listener's celebrate: this is another talking-head show with just a few graphics to spoil the perfect score. Makes you wonder why Gary even bothers with the cameras, doesn't it? Radio Rating: A+.

HRN 327; EmComm Extra #12: Rick Palm K1CE

Rick Palm K1CE writes the Public Service column in QST Magazine for the ARRL. He also publishes the monthly ARRL E-Letter, with a compilation of ARES and other public service Amateur Radio activity. In this EmComm Extra, Rick joins HamRadioNow hosts David Goldenberg W0DHG and Gary Pearce KN4AQ for what's basically an EmComm Bull Session (but we stuck with the EmComm number, not a BS number, in a futile attempt to keep it simple).

Not only is this mostly a talking head show, but Rick – brand new to Skype – couldn't get his camera going. David was at lunch in a borrowed conference room with a hard cutoff time, so we went with a still picture of Rick from the mid-90's. So the only thing you'll miss is Gary's 80's-vintage graphics at the top of the show (you'll hear what they're for, so just think crappy TV and you'll be close enough).

That yields a Radio Rating of A+. Nothing to see here... move along....

HRN 326: What's Coming from D-STAR (from the 2017 Hamvention)

Robin Cutshaw AA4RC (left), co-inventor of the DVDongleDVAP, and the D-Plus networking system for D-STAR, and John Hays K7VE, co-founder and Marketing Director for NW Digital Radio join Marty (Chicken With Fries) and Gary KN4AQ for a discussion of digital voice radio, with a decidedly D-STAR focus.

If D-STAR is 'dying,' you couldn't tell it by these guys.

Radio Rating: A+. Oh, it's kind of fun to see Gary scrambling to pick up the power cords as a thunderstorm rolls by, and watch as the tent gets really dark during the peak of the storm. But otherwise this is a radio show with pictures. So plug in for your commute.

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HRN 325: Amateur Television

This episode was recorded in the SIB* at the 2017 Dayton Hamvention, thunderstorms and all!

Mel Whitten K0PFX brought over Mike Collis WA6SVT, editor of ATV Quarterly, the magazine for Amateur Television, and that's what we talked about.

This is as general a conversation as a bunch of geeks can have, which means it lapses into the jargon and details of ATV now and then. But if you're not one of the ATV ops (and odds are strongly that you're not), you'll still get the flavor of this niche mode that everybody seems to mention when they tell the general public about ham radio ("Oh, and we have television!").

The big thing in ATV these days is the transition to digital. While FM voice operators can argue the merits and demerits of the digital voice modes (D-STAR, DMR, Fusion, etc.), Digital ATV is all upside. But there is still a lot of analog out there.

This show is 99% talking heads, so the Radio Rating is a big fat A. The only thing that robs is of a + is how loud the rain gets in the middle. 

You know, since this is all about television, you'd think Gary would have slugged in a bunch of ATV video as Mike and Mel talked about it. And while there is a lot of it on YouTube, Gary couldn't find any that came from the guys we were talking about. So if you want to see it, head to YouTube and search for Amateur Radio Television ATV. (Just plain "Amateur Television" will get some interesting results, but not what you're looking for).

*Studio In a Booth

HRN 324: TAPR Forum at the 2017 Hamvention

Here's the TAPR Forum from the 2017 Dayton Hamvention.

And here's the breakdown of the segments, with links to the specific points in the YouTube video:

  • 00:00 Studio introduction by Gary KN4AQ
  • 9:20 Opening remarks by moderator Scotty Cowling WA2DFI and TAPR President Steve Bible N7HPR
  • 17:25 Low Cost, Open Source Spectrum Monitoring by Michael Ossmann AD0NR and Dominic Spill.
  • 40:39 Advanced SDR Algorithms for Noise Blanking and Noise Reduction by Warren Pratt NR0V.
  • 1:07:08 Introduction to RTL-SDR: Ultra cheap software defined radio by Carl Laufer.

AUDIO ONLY? This is a typical forum with Powerpoint slides. This group had more graphical slides than usual (so less 'just reading the slides'), which is good for the audience and the video, but it means you'll miss some useful stuff as you listen. They are generally well described. So as usual, go fill in from the YouTube video if you need it. Radio Rating: C.

By the way, sorry about the background noise. The lectern was right in front of a massive air conditioning intake, and it was pretty loud.

HRN 323: Hamvention Wrap-Up (or, Here's Mud in your Eye)

Gary, David and Marty (the podcast wannabees) review the recently concluded Dayton Hamvention and Mudfest. 

This episode included a little more video, mostly of the mud, and an interview with Hamvention spokesperson Michael Kalter W8CI.

Spoiler alert: we declare it a (slightly qualified) success. And we'll be back next year.

AUDIO ONLY? Radio Rating: A- (the minus is because the mud video is pretty good). You can subscribe and get audio downloads to your phone. We're available on iTunes and pretty much any podcast app.

HRN 322: Hamvention Friday, Part TWO

This wraps up our 2017 Hamvention Tour, recorded Friday, May 19. Gary checked out new stuff from FlexRadio (Gerald Youngblood K5SDR) and ICOM (Scott Honaker N7SS)... Marty was mad that Gary interviewed ICOM without him, but Marty was off exploring the hamfest.

Gary also serenaded Ward Silver N0AX, and caught up with his Indiana Stalker.

Marty returned to rant about Yaesu (no new products), then checked out some big Loop Antennas and Elad accessories.

On Saturday, we recorded four interviews in the SIB (Studio In A Booth) amid thunderstorms and small rivers under our feet. Those will be coming out soon. And with more bad weather rolling by on Sunday, we packed up and bailed out early. Tent City was not a good place for delicate electronics.

We'll be doing a Skype session with Marty and a very jealous David Goldenberg W0DHG to wrap things up. That'll include a little more B-Roll of the muddy flea market and parking lots, and an inpromptu review with Hamvention spokesman Michael Kalter. So stay tuned!

And just like Part ONE, this episode is pretty visual. Another Radio Rating of C-. Hang in there. The Saturday interviews are all talking-head.

HRN 322: Hamvention Friday, Part ONE

On Friday, Gary KN4AQ spent the morning shooting the TAPR Forum in the nice, air-conditioned forum building. He went in and set up the cameras before the 'fest opened. He emerged to a full-fledged Hamvention, already in progress.

Gary and the Chicken With Fries (aka 'the Kid') toured as much of the hamfest as they could on Friday afternoon, talking to lots of people as they went. Gary even got Don Wilbanks AE5DW from Newsline and Ham Nation to do an interview for him. Give Don a mic and you don't even need to wind him up. 

Gary edited (and edited, and edited) until the next Friday afternoon hit. At the 45-minute point of the program, he called it Part ONE and pushed the render button. Part TWO will come out as soon as he gets it done, and not a minute sooner.

So... this is a TV show. Yes, there's a lot of talking, but there's also a fair amount of look at that. Which is really hard to do from this audio file. But by now you're used to that. Hit the YouTube when you can, if you want to. Radio Rating: C-.

And the picture some of you see? Hey, if you've got Don Wilbanks on your show, you're gonna use him!

HRN 321: Dayton Setup Day

Thursday is the day most vendors arrive and set up at the Dayton Hamvention®. And because it was in a whole new place, we showed up early, got the booth we'll share with the Phasing Line Podcast ready, and then PL's Chicken with Fries and HRN's KN4AQ headed out to take a look around.

HRN 320: The Free Dating Show*

Gary KN4AQ had a massiveish technical failure on his Wirecast system that records and switches the video for the shows (you audio listeners don't care, but it records the audio, too...). So Marty KC1CWF (Chicken With Fries) stepped in to put the show on Facebook Live (on the HamRadioNow Group). That meant Marty took over and declared the show a PhasingLine Podcast.

HamRadioNow co-host David Goldenberg W0DHG and HamTalkLive's Neil Rapp WB9BPG joined in for this free-for-all.

There's really nothing to see except Marty's mad switching of our faces, and a quick look at the tent that the Hamvention is setting up to house Building 6, where the HamRadioNow/PhasingLine booth will be. Just a big, white circus/wedding tent, so use your imagination. And be glad you can't see Marty's mad switching.

Radio Rating: A

* This was supposed to be the Pre-Dayton Show, but Gary used voice-recognition on his phone to enter the title into Facebook, and Google decided to call it the Free Dating Show. Who are we to argue with Google?

HRN 319: Hamfest Fun... Redux

A fairly short medley of stories from my local hamfest:

  • Packet is Back. A new take on packet networking. Tadd Torborg KA2DEW describes the 'little' packet network he's developing in the Raleigh area.
  • Smoke & Solder. Engaging new hams in a useful construction project. Justin Pinnex AJ4MJ shows how a very popular J-Pole building project has been refined over more than a decade.
  • Reddit Spy. Gary infiltrates a Reddit meetup. 

The original Hamfest Fun from 2012: https://youtu.be/jxBOOH_usOU

Radio Rated C+. A fairly visual episode. But mostly interviews with B-roll.

HRN 318: Home on the (Antenna) Range

Antenna Testing is a big part of the various VHF conferences held around the US and the world. They set up an antenna range and compare antennas against a known reference for gain and pattern. Results are published, and while there's little head-to-head competition, there are bragging rights.

Gary KN4AQ visited the antenna range at the Southeastern VHF Society conference, held this year (April, 2017) in Charlotte, NC. He poked around with his camera for a while, then talked to the guy who's been setting the range up for the past decade, Al Tirevold WA0HQQ.

Before and after the interview segment, Gary and co-host David W0DHG talk about the niche phenomenon of SSB and CW on VHF/UHF (and above). Yes, there is more to 2-meters than FM (and DV) and repeaters! Gary's ham-history goes back to the 60's, just before repeaters filled up most of the 144 and 440 bands. He recalls that there was a little SSB and a little more AM activity around 145.0, but mostly it was vacant space.

You might have noted the word camera in the description above. So yeah, this is one of those mini-doc videos, and you'll miss some with just the audio. There's plenty to get from the talky-talk, but those 40-element Yagi's and Loops are impressive. Gary's included all the raw B-Roll footage at the end of the YouTube video.

And that leaves a Radio Rating of C. Hey, it's not a D or an F. Let us know if you think our rating was fair!

HRN 317: BS #8

Gary KN4AQ, David W0DHG and Marty KC1CWF just ramble on for 90 minutes.

There are a few graphics showing Hamvention® layouts and that's about it to try to steal from the Radio Rating of A. Maybe otherwise it would be A+. Might as well be - Skype freezes make David and Marty into a slide show.

Get all that Dayton stuff on HamRadio 2.0 Episode 82: The Future of Dayton

HRN 316: Look! Up in the Sky! (and a musical viewer challenge)

The bulk of this episode is an on-location interview with two Raleigh NC area hams who gave a couple of live demonstrations of operating through satellites at the Raleigh Hamfest in April 2017. There's some banter between hosts David Goldenberg W0DHG and Gary Pearce KN4AQ back in the studio. And toward the end Gary announces a Viewer Challenge that we'll detail down below.

The satellite hams are John Brier KG4AKV and Tucker McGuire W4FS. At 19 years old, Tucker is a relatively new ham who first started operating satellites last summer, and quickly jumped into the deep end. John's been around longer, but ham radio satellites and space operation captured his focus, too. He produces videos about it on his YouTube channel, Space Comms.

Gary talked to John and Tucker after they completed their second demo, and he edited a little of each demo into the interview.

There's video of all of both demonstrations on YouTube. John shot himself operating through 'Saudi-Sat' SO-50, a "Mode J" FM crossband repeater (145.850 MHz uplink and 436.795 MHz downlink). John used three cameras (including a GoPro on a headband for a unique view). Gary edited the video and put it on the HamRadioNow YouTube channel as an extra bit of video. See it here.

Gary added two more cameras to the mix to shoot Tucker operating through FO-29, a Japanese satellite that uses a 100 kHz wide 'linear translator' for mostly SSB and CW (and no FM, please) between two meters and 70 cm. There's a few minutes of that demo in this episode, and the whole thing is on John's Space Comms channel.

The 'Incompatible' Challenge

Regular HamRadioNow listeners and viewers have heard Gary's mildish rants about the proliferation of incompatible Digital Voice modes on VHF/UHF (D-STAR, System Fusion, DMR, etc.). His beef isn't so much that there are several modes (that's progress, and will never stop). He's unhappy that the majors don't make radios that operate on multiple modes - just their own (plus analog FM). While we're waiting for the DV4mobile and a Connect Systems HT (both delayed), there are no radios doing 'multimode'.

So he says inspiration struck the other day in the way of a song parody. Check out these new lyrics to the tune of the old Nat King Cole classic, Unforgettable:

Incompatible

Incompatible, that's what you are.
D-STAR, System Fusion.. DMR.
Just buy three HTs instead of one,
So that you can talk to everyone.
Which mode will it be,
When you're calling me?

Incompatible, in every way,
Marketing demands that's how they'll stay.
They could write a little software code,
Make a radio that's multi-mode.
But it seems that's nothing they'd ever do.

Incompatible, they drew the line.
You're in your walled garden, I'm in mine.
I guess we could just go analog,
Leave the future in a misty fog,
FM's not so bad - it's tried and it's true. 

The challenge? Produce a video of you (or someone) singing the song, and post it on YouTube. Provide your own music (piano, guitar, kazoo), don't use an instrumental or karaoke track. And let us know (email kn4aq@arvn.tv).

No prizes. We don't plan on picking a 'winner', but we will play some of the entries on the show. All fame. No fortune.

By the way, we (and you) don't have a license to rip off this song (written by Irving Gordon). And we've learned that it's not technically a parody, which would qualify it for Fair Use. It's satire. (A parody would make fun of the original song. Satire uses the song to make fun of something else). Satire has a weaker claim to Fair Use. It has a little claim, because doing this will clearly not deprive anyone from earning income off the song, and it's all very small potatoes.

Nobody's going to sue you. Worst case, if a music industry robot sniffs out a copyright infringement in your video, YouTube will either monetize it (put ads on it, and the copyright holder gets the pennies that it will generate), or they'll make it silent, or take it down. Don't monetize it yourself!

So if you're game for a little risk on YouTube (and a bigger risk of people judging your performance), belt it out, croon it sweet, jazz it up or tone it down, but sing it! Maybe it will spur IKenSu to make a true multimode radio some day (don't forget CODEC 2).

AUDIO ONLY? After all that, our Radio Rating is... B-. Oh, the video's fun to watch, but not vital. It's radio, after all, so the story is in the sound. Don't tell Gary we said that, though. He spent a lot of time editing that video.

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.