Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Hopeful Signs for RadioShack


A New Jersey RadioShack gets outfitted with new Sprint
logos, showing the new partnership between General
Wireless and Sprint.

Electronics hobbyists may still be able to buy components and similar products at remaining RadioShack stores. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection earlier this year and has closed or is closing more than 2200 stores nationwide. However, 1743 of its locations have been purchased by General Wireless, Inc., which will continue to operate them under the RadioShack name (just over 1400 of those stores will be co-leased by Sprint and will be renamed as Sprint-RadioShack). In a news release announcing the purchase, General Wireless hinted that hobbyists - long a major part of RadioShack's customer base - will not be forgotten. "The stores will feature emerging technologies," the statement said, "that enhance the traditional accessories, DIY electronics and innovation for which the company is known." (See this month's "Kit-Building" column for the opportunities presented by going-out-of-business sales at those RadioShack stores slated for closing.)

FCC Cutting Back Support for Amateur Radio


The April 3 retirement of Bill Cross, W3TN, from the FCC marked the end of a long era at the Commission. Cross, who was technically a "program analyst" in the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, was for more than a decade the FCC's go-to person on all matters dealing with amateur radio. He was also the primary author of all Notices of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM)s and FCC Reports and Orders relating to Part 97 proceedings. 
 
But Cross told the ARRL Letter that there were no plans to replace him with another "Ham Guy," as he said most FCC staffers referred to him. "The plan is to divide up my work among other staff members, based on topic," he told the Letter.

Cross also said he would not be surprised if, in the future, the number of ham radio license classes was further reduced from its current three (Technician, General and Extra) to two or even one, noting that the differences between the privileges granted by each class "really are not that much." (See this month's "Zero Bias" editorial for more on this general topic.)

Ten-Tec, Alpha, Have New Owner


The Alpha Amplifier and Ten-Tec brands have been sold by RF Concepts to RKR Designs of Longmont, Colorado. RKR was formed specifically for the purchase. Its principals are Richard Gall, Ken Long (N0QO) and Rich Danielson (the R, K & R of RKR). 

Gall and Danielson have run QSC Systems, a contract manufacturer, in Longmont for over 20 years, and have been building Alpha amps for RF Concepts for the past five years, as well as boards for Ten-Tec since the company's purchase last year by RF Concepts. Long has been involved in the amateur radio and electronics industry for two decades, and will be President and CEO of the new company, according to a news release. RKR says it plans to expand Ten-Tec's and Alpha's offerings while continuing to service existing customers.

NCDXF: $50K Grant to Heard Is. DXpedition


The Northern California DX Foundation has announced a grant of $50,000 to help fund a planned DXpedition to Heard Island in the southern Indian Ocean. The VK0EK expedition is scheduled for November. The NCDXF noted that Heard Island had risen to the #5 most-wanted spot after the recent DXpedition to Navassa Island.
 
This follows another $50,000 NCDXF grant reported last month in support of a planned DXpedition to South Sandwich and South Georgia islands, and according to Newsline, brings to $175,000 the foundation's total grants in the past year. (For more on the costs of large-scale DXpeditions and the need for funding ahead of time, see May CQ's cover story on Navassa.)

ARRL: No Need to Relocate Ham Band for Vehicular Radar



The ARRL has told the FCC there is no need to modify the current amateur radio allocation at 77-81 GHz in order to accommodate expanded spectrum space for vehicular radar, and notes that neither the original petitioner nor any of the commenters have made such a request. In comments on an FCC proposal to expand the vehicular radar allocation from its current 76-77 GHz to include 78-81 GHz, the ARRL says it has worked closely with petitioner Robert Bosch, LLC, and that both groups are satisfied that vehicular radar and amateur radio can "play nicely together" on the band, according to an ARRL bulletin.
 
Acknowledging the possibility that the Commission may choose to reallocate the 4-millimeter ham band despite its protests, the ARRL requested the assignment of "equivalent spectrum" at 75.5-76 GHz and 81-81.5 GHz. The current amateur allocation at 4 mm is 77-81 GHz, with primary status in the 77.5-78-GHz segment.

WWV Keeps On Keepin' On at 25 MHz


The home of WWV in Colorado. (NIST photo)
An "experimental" reactivation of WWV's time and standard frequency transmissions on 25 MHz is continuing after a year, according to the ARRL Letter, with no plans as of now to discontinue the broadcasts. WWV had shut down its 25-MHz transmitter in 1977 but reactivated it a year ago in response to an e-mail lamenting its loss from Dean Lewis, W9WGV. The 1-kW signal provides not only exact time and frequency, but helps serve as an indication of propagation conditions on 12 and 10 meters. WWV welcomes signal reports and listener comments.

Updates, Growth for Broadband Hamnet


One of the ways in which ham radio can help fill in gaps in internet service when normal infrastructure is knocked out is via ad-hoc self-organizing RF computer networks, now referred to as Broadband Hamnet. Flying mostly under the radar so far, the technology now seems poised for a significant boost in usability, according to several reports on both Newsline and the ARRL Letter.
 
In March, the developers of Broadband Hamnet announced a firmware upgrade for users of both Linksys WRT54G and Ubiquiti wireless routers, and a group calling itself the AREDN Project introduced new software for what it calls the Amateur Radio Emergency Data Network, or AREDN. According to Newsline, AREDN is being described as a new way by which hams providing emergency communications can support needs for high-speed data transmission. The AREDN software works with the mesh networks created using Broadband Hamnet and allows the interconnection of laptops, cell phones and other wireless devices. The networks may (or may not) also connect to the Internet. More information on AREDN is available from <www.aredn.org>.

A typical Broadband Hamnet mesh network.
(From broadband-hamnet.org)
Meanwhile, the ARRL Letter reports that a group of hams in Utah successfully deployed a Broadband Hamnet mesh network in support of a Boy Scouts "Scouting for Food" project in March. The group set up a network of 13 nodes across the Salt Lake Valley, linking back to the local scout headquarters and transmitting live video and audio from each of the food drop-off points and the truck dispatch location. Described by one of the participants as "Wi-Fi on steroids," the 2.4-GHz network covered distances of more than eight miles from the central hub site.

Space Station Scatter?


Can the International Space Station be used to bounce
signals for intercontinental contacts on 2 meters? A ham
in Namibia and another in Brazil are planning to find out!
(NASA photo)
Two hams on two continents are planning to try to make contact on 2 meters by bouncing signals off the International Space Station as it passes over the South Atlantic Ocean.

 The South African Radio League reports that Namibian ham Pieter Jacobs, V51PJ, and Brazilian amateur Marcos Turbo, PY1MHZ, are planning to conduct scatter tests from the ISS on 144 MHz. 

The overall path length has been calculated as 5000 kilometers (approximately 3100 miles), with each station's signal needing to travel 2500 km (1550 miles) before bouncing off the space station. We'll do our best to keep you posted on their progress.

FCC Proposes Broadband CB Service


The Citizens Broadband Radio Service is the name bestowed by the FCC on a proposed new broadband wireless service that would be open to all, with very few restrictions on the types of applications permitted in the band. According to eweek.com, the FCC proposed the new service in a March 27 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) and planned to put it to a vote on April 17. The new service would initially operate between 3.550 and 3.650 GHz, with room for possible expansion to 3.700 GHz. Individual licensing would not be required and incumbent users would be protected from harmful interference.
 
According to eweek, the concept behind the new service is "to support activities including small cell deployments, fixed wireless broadband services and something the FCC calls general consumer use."  Apparently, the flexible structure of the plan is designed to promote experimentation by individuals as well as use by small and large wireless service providers.

The proposed new band begins just 50 MHz above the top end of the 9-centimeter ham band, so it's possible that a new market for consumer-grade equipment designed to operate at 3550 MHz could also help make more affordable equipment available for amateur use at 3300-3500 MHz. (Tnx K8RKD)

New Privileges for Hams in South Africa and UK


New rules published by South Africa's telecommunications regulators now allow amateurs there to use up to 1000 watts of output power on most bands (with Class B licensees getting a boost to 100 watts), along with an expansion of the 160-meter band all the way to 2 MHz. This, according to the South African Radio League.
 
A few thousand miles to the north, full-license hams in parts of the United Kingdom and its "Crown Dependencies" will soon be gaining data privileges on the 4-meter band, from 70.5 to 71.5 MHz. This band has long been available to amateurs in many European countries, but not those in the Americas, where 70 MHz was used for commercial television broadcasting. According to Newsline, hams in most of the UK (excluding Scotland) will be able to apply for "Notices of Variation" to permit operation on 4 meters. The allocation is not permanent and is subject to reassignment on 12 months' notice.

ATV Pioneer Don Miller, W9NTP, SK


Don Miller, W9NTP, built the slow-
scan TV station used on board the
Mir space station in the 1990s.
(NASA photo)


One of the fathers of slow-scan television has become a Silent Key. Don Miller, W9NTP, died on March 22 at age 91. According to the ARRL Letter, Miller worked closely with Cop MacDonald, VY2CM, in developing SSTV. Miller also founded Wyman Research, Inc., which built SSTV/ATV equipment for hams, including the SSTV station used aboard the Russian Mir space station. Miller wrote about SSTV on Mir in CQ VHF back in the 1990s.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Bencher Product Line Sold to Vibroplex

The Bencher BY paddle series is
part of the comapny's complete
amateur radio product line that has
been sold to Vibroplex.
(Photo from Bencher website)
Bencher, Inc. of Antioch, Illinois, has announced the sale of the Bencher Amateur Radio product lines to Vibroplex, LLC of Knoxville, Tennessee. This sale ends Bencher’s presence in the amateur radio field.

The product lines sold include the Bencher BY series of Iambic Paddles (the world’s best selling iambic paddle, with over 150,000 sold), as well as the ST series of single lever paddles, the Bencher Hex Paddle, the N2DAN Mercury Paddle, and the Bencher RJ series Hand Keys. Also included in the sale are the HK-1 Universal Hook-up kit and the YA-1 Low Pass Filter.

Vibroplex has agreed to honor the manufacturer’s warranties of all covered products, and to offer parts and support for these products as well. Vibroplex will continue to offer the Bencher products through existing marketing channels.Vibroplex may be contacted at http://www.vibroplex.com, or at (865) 309-5073.

K3LR, W5KUB, G3RJV, Orlando ARC, Receive Dayton Honors

The Dayton Amateur Radio Association has announced the winners of its 2015 Hamvention Awards.

Noted contester Tim Duffy, K3LR, has been named Radio Amateur of the Year in recognition of his work as founder of Contest University, as well as moderating the Dayton antenna forum every year since 1984.

This year's Special Achievement Award goes to Tom Medlin, W5KUB, in recognition of his 14 years of providing live streaming video on the Internet of various amateur radio events and activities, including the Dayton Hamvention.

The 2015 Technical Excellence Award winner is the Rev. George Dobbs, G3RJV. Dobbs is a leading authority on low-power ham radio operating, founder of the G-QRP Club, longtime editor of its journal, SPRAT, and QRP columnist for multiple British radio magazines.

Finally, the Orlando Amateur Radio Club was named as Club of the Year, in recognition of its wide variety of activities, including sponsorship of the annual Orlando Hamcation hamfest.

All award winners will be honored at this year's Dayton Hamvention, May 15-17, in Dayon, Ohio.

U.S. Ham Licensing Numbers at All-Time High


The ARRL-VEC reports that the ham radio population in the United States hit an all-time high of 726,725 as of the end of 2014, and has continued growing to more than 727,000 in the first two months of 2015. According to the ARRL Letter, ARRL-VEC Manager Maria Somma, AB1FM, said the number of licensed amateurs in the United States has grown by more than 8 percent in the past decade. In addition, she said, there were 33,000 new licensees in 2014, an increase of 15% over 2013. Plus, Somma added, the ARRL-VEC conducted a record 7216 license exam sessions last year, crossing the 7000 threshold for the first time.

HR 1301 New Bill Number for Amateur Radio Parity Act


Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) is the
prime sponsor of HR 1301, which
would extend FCC limit on amateur
antenna installations to include
private land use agreements.
(U.S. Congress photo)
A bill to require the FCC to extend the “reasonable accommodation” requirements of its rules regarding amateur radio antennas and support structures to private land use contracts has been re-introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. H.R. 1301, the Amateur Radio Parity Act of 2015, is identical to a previous bill that died at the end of the last Congressional session.

Introduced by Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) with bi-partisan support from a dozen co-sponsors, the bill would include homeowner association rules and deed restrictions (commonly known as CC&Rs) under the protections currently granted to amateurs from overly-restrictive state and local zoning laws and ordinances. Those protections include requirements that any restrictions on amateur antennas and support structures must “reasonably accommodate” amateur operation and must represent the “minimum practicable” restrictions to accomplish the regulatory authority’s legitimate purposes.

The ARRL encourages all amateurs to urge their representatives in Congress to support and/or co-sponsor the new bill.

“Totally Remote” Multi-Op Contesting


A team of contesters believes it may have broken new ground with a remote multi-op effort in February’s ARRL DX Contest CW weekend. A half-dozen different hams operated contest station K4VV in northern Virginia (using the call sign K3TN) from several different locations scattered from Maryland to Florida. According to the ARRL Letter, members of the group each activated the contest station from their homes in Virginia and North Carolina, while one started the competition from his home in Maryland and finished the weekend at his condo in Florida. It was pointed out that, due to a snowstorm, the K4VV station was inaccessible during the contest weekend.

ARRL Seeks Input on HF Band Plan Changes


The ARRL is looking for member comments on a variety of proposals aimed at limiting the frequencies on which wideband digital modes are permitted and expanding the HF operating privileges available to Novices and Technicians. Some of the proposed changes would affect only the voluntary band plans that informally structure the HF amateur allocations. Others – such as expanding the CW/data/RTTY subband on 80 meters or granting RTTY/data privileges to Techs and Novices on 80 and 15 meters – would involve petitioning the FCC for rule changes. Details of the proposed changes and a form for submitting comments may be found on the ARRL website at < www.arrl.org >. Member comments are due by April 19.

Proposal to Cut FCC Enforcement Resources


The ARRL reports that it has obtained an internal FCC memo in which the Enforcement Bureau lays out plans to ask the full Commission to close two-thirds of its field offices and to cut in half the current number of field agents. In their place, the bureau is proposing the formation of flexible “Tiger Team” strike forces that could be deployed as needed to deal with enforcement issues.

ARRL CEO Dave Sumner, K1ZZ, was troubled by the plan, noting that enforcement already appears to be a low priority at the FCC and that reducing its “geographic footprint and number of field agents” is the wrong path to follow.

RadioShack Makes Deal to Sell More Than Half its Stores


Working under the reorganization rules of Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy laws, RadioShack reportedly has reached an agreement with General Wireless, Inc. to purchase as many as 2400 its 4000+ company-owned stores. Many others will be closed. 

According to the ARRL Letter, General Wireless – which is affiliated with RadioShack creditor Standard General – has reached an agreement in principle with to open “store within a store” Sprint wireless retail locations in up to 1750 of its newly acquired RadioShack stores.

There is no indication of whether these stores would continue to operate under the RadioShack name or if they would continue to sell electronic components and other products favored by hobbyists.

ARRL to MITRE: Don’t Mess With HF Ham Bands



MITRE Corporation headquarters
(from mitre.org)
The MITRE Corporation has an FCC experimental license to test wideband communication techniques on a variety of HF frequencies between 2.5 and 16 MHz. 

The ARRL Letter reports that ARRL Chief Counsel Chris Imlay, W3KD, has sent the company a letter asking that it either structure its tests to avoid HF amateur bands or, at minimum, to provide advance notice of times and frequencies of planned transmissions. 

The ARRL’s concern, according to the Letter, is that “with the operating parameters proposed, it will be impossible to conduct your tests … within the Amateur Radio allocations and … avoid harmful interference.” A further concern is that due to the nature of the transmissions, “amateur licensees will have no way to determine the source of the interference or know to whom they might complain.” At press time, there had been no response from MITRE.

German Hams Become Shortwave Broadcasters


(From www.channel292.de)
A group of hams in Germany has received a license to operate a shortwave broadcast station on the 49-meter band frequency abandoned two years ago by that country’s premier international broadcaster, Deutsche Welle. “Channel 292” is now broadcasting around ten hours a day, generally from about 0700-1700 UTC, on 6070 kHz, using a 10-kilowatt transmitter built partially from parts of the old 500-kW Deutsche Welle transmitter and a dipole antenna. The station’s signal covers much of western Europe, but has also been heard in Russia and North America, according to the ARRL Letter.


Privately owned by a group of German hams, the station has a business relationship with Germany’s national ham radio organization, the Deutscher Amateur Radio Club, and is also known as DARC Radio. The DARC produces a weekly ham-oriented magazine show in German. The ARRL Letter reports that the Radio Society of Great Britain has expressed interest in contributing English-language segments.

Other programming on the station is leased, with programs airing in a variety of languages. Reception reports will be QSLed via the DARC outgoing QSL bureau. For more information, visit http://www.channel292.de.

Space and Satellite Roundup


A series of spacewalks in late
February caused delays in a scheduled
ARISS contact and space station
SSTV transmissions. (NASA photo)
Imagine having your “sked” delayed by a spacewalk! That’s exactly what happened to a school group in Florida that was scheduled to have an Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) contact on February 25. A series of spacewalks in late February to prepare the station to dock with commercial U.S. rockets also resulted in a cutback of planned slow-scan TV transmissions from the station. According to the ARRL Letter, all ham transmissions are suspended for during spacewalks for crew safety.

Speaking of ARISS, the program is now accepting applications for school contacts in the first half of 2016, with a focus on educational organizations with the potential to draw large numbers of participants and integrate the contact into a well-developed educational plan. The application deadline is April 15.

AMSAT-NA’s Fox-1A satellite is ready for launch, having passed its Mission Readiness Review in late February. Integration with the launch vehicle was scheduled for March 25, with
a tentative launch from California in late August of this year.

The European Space Agency is offering a ride to deep space for as many as six small cubesats and is hosting a competition to select those projects that will be accepted. The AMSAT News Service says the small satellites will be launched in 2020 along with Asteroid Impact Mission. The judges are looking for projects that will “produce meaningful scientific return” from deep space.

Finally, NASA is making available a collection of soundbites from space that are suitable for use as ringtones. Among the available files, according to the ARRL Letter, is one of the Juno spacecraft sending “HI” in Morse code during a flyby of Earth in 2013.

NCDXF Grants $50k to DXpedition Group



The Intrepid-DX Group is the recipient of a $50,000 donation from the Northern California DX Foundation (NCDXF), in support of its planned DXpedition early next year to South Sandwich Island (VP8S) and South Georgia Island (VP8G) .

The group anticipates that the 10-day visit to the two islands in the southern Atlantic Ocean will cost more than $400,000. They are British overseas territories and very high on most DXers’ most-wanted lists.

U.S. to Propose More Sharing of 10 GHz at WRC-15


The U.S. government is working on its proposals and positions for this year’s World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-15). Among them is a proposal to add 600 MHz to the spectrum currently available to the Earth Exploration Satellite Service (EESS) in the vicinity of 10 GHz, also known as “X-band.” Amateur radio currently has a secondary allocation from 10.0-10.5 GHz, with a specified segment for the Amateur Satellite Service between 10.45 and 10.5 GHz. The ARRL Letter says the proposal would consider amateur satellites already in service at the time of the change to have co-equal status with the scientific satellites, but that any launched after that time would have secondary status. The ARRL has been involved in the discussions and is monitoring them closely.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Nominating Period Open for 2015 Newsline Young Ham of the Year Award

Amateur Radio Newsline is seeking nominations for its 2015 Young Ham of the Year Award. CQ is a long-time corporate co-sponsor of the award.
 
 For consideration, a nominee must have used amateur radio in some way that has benefited his or her community or encouraged technological development directly or indirectly related to communications.

Nominees must be 19 years of age or younger, and reside in the United States including Hawaii, Alaska, Canada, and Puerto Rico or any of the Canadian provinces.. The individual must also hold a currently valid United States or Canadian amateur radio license.

This award is not a contest. The person selected as "Young Ham of the Year" is judged on his or her overall accomplishments and contributions. Any prizes awarded are secondary in nature.

For example, a youngster whose only claim to fame is that of being licensed as an extra at age 5 would not necessarily be judged as having made a significant contribution to the Amateur Radio Service. On the other hand, a 14 or 15 year-old Technician running a Net during a major disaster or whose experimentation has advanced the state of the art in science, technology or electronic communications would definitely be given consideration.

The deadline for submitting an application is May 30th 2015 and the decision of the judging committee is final. To obtain an application, send a self addressed, stamped envelope to:
 
2015 Young Ham of the Year Award 
c/o Amateur Radio Newsline
28197 Robin Ave. 
Santa Clarita, CA 91350. 
 
You may also download a form in Microsoft Word format by going to  www.arnewsline.org/yhoty/ and clicking on the word "here". Basic instructions on what documentation is required and how to file are included on the nominating form.

Presentation of the 2015 Amateur Radio Newsline Young Ham of the Year Award will take place the weekend of August 15 ­ 16 at the Huntsville Hamfest in Huntsville, Alabama.

(Tnx ARNewsline)

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Bye-Bye Paper Ham License


Waiting to receive your ham license in the mail is now a thing of the past, unless you have specifically requested it. As of February 17, the FCC stopped routinely issuing paper license documents to amateur licensees, noting that inclusion in the Commission's online database has for several years been the official record of a ham's authorization to operate. 

Licensees may print out official copies - as well as unofficial "reference copies" - of their licenses via the FCC's Universal Licensing System (ULS) database, or may request the issuance of a paper document. 

According to the ARRL Letter, the ARRL had asked that new licensees continue to receive paper licenses, along with instructions on how to set up their ULS accounts for future license renewals and upgrades. But the FCC declined, saying applicants or licensees who include e-mail addresses with their applications will receive an official electronic authorization via e-mail. The Commission says the change will save it over $300,000 a year.

BBC Unplugs Millions

The BBC in early February abruptly dropped all of its Windows Media and AAC/AAC+ encoded internet radio streams in favor a limited number of streams only compatible with devices that can handle new codecs (HDS/HLS) from Adobe and Apple. Short term lower quality MP3 feeds have been substituted for some of the lost streams. 

The plans to drop WMA were announced in an obscure blog six months ago but the AAC decision was not. No over-the-air announcements were made in advance. The result was that many users were suddenly unable to stream the BBC and did not know why. Support for “on-demand” feeds is expected to end later in the month. Limited support for podcasts, probably in MP3, will go forward for an interim period before all MP3 support will also end. 

BBC managers posting to one of their blogs have said this is a cost-saving measure and an attempt to adopt state of the art technology. Users haven’t been mollified and hundreds of critical comments have been posted on the BBC web site. Some users have filed complaints with British regulators over the unexpected changes. 

The changes have cut off users of most standalone internet radio devices (including very recent high end stereo receivers and Sonos devices) in favor of codecs that work on some but not all smartphones and most PCs with current version browsers and operating systems. Aggregation services such as TuneIn, vTuner, and Reciva have been scrambling to substitute the low quality and apparently unreliable MP3 feeds the BBC is offering instead. Most devices for the visually impaired have been rendered useless by the change as well. 

Hardware manufacturers are also scrambling but many are unable or find it prohibitively expensive to make changes to their hardware already sold or in the pipeline. Most users won’t know how to apply the firmware fixes even where available. For retailers, if the product can’t stream the world’s largest public broadcaster, it has to be a big negative on sales in many parts of the world.

(Tnx CQ Contributing Editor Rob de Santos, K8RKD)

ARRL Broadens DXCC Criteria for Remote Operation


The ARRL board of directors has eliminated the long-standing DXCC award rule that remotely-operated stations must be in the same DXCC entity (country) as the operator. 

The ARRL Letter reports that the change "acknowledges the reality of the technology enabling remote operation" and says it is now up to the operator to make sure he or she is "applying that technology ethically and responsibly."

CQ recently addressed remote operating with a different approach, creating a second track of award categories for remote operation.

ARRL to Allow Self-Spotting in VHF Contests



 
The ARRL board of directors also made some changes at its January meeting in the rules for League-sponsored VHF and UHF contests. Specifically, according to the ARRL Letter, the board decided to allow the use of assistance in all categories, to permit self-spotting in all categories and to allow single operators to transmit on more than one band simultaneously.

Hamvention to Remain at Hara Arena




The Dayton Hamvention® will remain at Hara Arena for the foreseeable future, despite local news reports (circulated widely in amateur circles) about the facility's financial woes. 

According to the ARRL Letter, 2015 Hamvention General Chairman Jim Tiderman, N8IDS, said both the Hamvention and the Dayton Amateur Radio Association "have absolute confidence" that the arena's owners will succeed in "guiding their corporation through the steps in the plans in place to keep Hara operating for years to come," adding, "we simply stand by them and repeat, 'the show will go on.' " 

In December, a Dayton TV station reported that the arena owners were facing financial problems and had laid off several full-time staff members in order to reduce expenses.

AuxComm Returns to Dayton



The Dayton Hamvention® reports that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will again offer its Auxiliary Communications (AuxComm) course in Dayton just before this year's Hamvention.

 The course, offered by DHS's Office of Emergency Communications, "trains qualified amateur ration operators to assist their local, county and state governments with emergency backup communications," according to an announcement from the Dayton Amateur Radio Association. More than 1000 amateurs have already completed the course. 

It will be offered from May 12-14, with a registration limit of 50 students. Details are available on the Hamvention website at < www.hamvention.org >.

End of the Line for RadioShack?



RadioShack has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, which allows it to continue operating while reorganizing and working out arrangements with creditors. The chain also announced plans to close over 1700 stores, and to sell many others to cellphone carrier Sprint. 

There had been no indication at press time as to whether the stores that remain open will continue to operate under the RadioShack name or whether they will continue to sell electronic components and other items of interest to do-it-yourselfers, including hams.

Could Your Car's Radar Displace a Ham Band?



Vehicular radar systems that help with parking and collision prevention are becoming more and more common, increasing the need for spectrum on which to operate. The FCC, which already has allocated 76-77 GHz to the radar systems, is now looking at the entire 76-81 GHz band, which is currently a shared-use ham band, with amateur radio having a primary allocation at 77.5-78 GHz. 

The FCC action is in response to a petition for rulemaking by Robert Bosch LLC. Bosch said in its filing that it had met several times with ARRL technical staff and, according to the ARRL Letter, "is unconvinced … that there is any 'significant incompatibility' " between current amateur operations on the band and its short-range radar system. 

The FCC, however, notes that it had previously suspended amateur operation at 76-77 GHz to prevent interference with radar systems and wants to be sure that any rules affecting amateur use of the full band are applied "in a comprehensive and consistent manner." It is looking for input on possible alternative spectrum in the same frequency ranges for amateur use. The proceeding is ET Docket 15-26.

Fox-1A Scheduled for August Launch



AMSAT reports that the first in its upcoming series of "Fox-1" satellites has been scheduled for launch in late August, sharing a ride from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California with a satellite being orbited by the National Reconnaissance Office. Fox-1A will have an FM transponder with uplink on 70 centimeters and downlink on 2 meters. 

Additional Fox-1 series launches are tentatively scheduled for later this year and 2016. The first two launches are part of a NASA-funded program, but the Fox-1C launch is being paid for by AMSAT, which is currently raising funds to cover those costs. More information is available on < www.amsat.org > and on the FundRazr crowdfunding site.

Like a Ham in Mud?



Four satellites carrying amateur radio transponders
were launched together from California on Jan. 31.
(NASA Photo)
Four NASA satellites carrying ham radio transponders were launched on January 31 from California, along with NASA's "Soil Moisture Active Passive," or SMAP, satellite. SMAP is designed to map the amount of moisture in surface soil (a.k.a. mud) around the globe. According to the ARRL, its synthetic aperture radar will operate at 1.26 GHz, within the 23-centimeter ham band (ham radio is secondary on the band). 

The four other satellites all are studying various aspects of space weather and operate on 437 MHz, within the 70-centimeter amateur band. Hams will be able to monitor their telemetry but there is no indication that any of them include transponders for two-way amateur communication.

QRP Ham Radio Balloon Nearly Makes it Around the World


Launch of a picoballoon
(Courtesy Amateur Radio Victoria website)

A foil "party balloon" carrying a tiny amateur radio transmitter flew from Melbourne, Australia across the Pacific Ocean to South America, then across the Atlantic and southern Africa before landing off the coast of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. 

The ARRL Letter reports that the balloon carried a 25-milliwatt transmitter, sending out telemetry via the WSPR and JT9 digital modes on 20 and 30 meters during its 20-day flight. It was launched December 27 by Andy Nguyen, VK3YT, in hopes that it might make it all the way around the world, and was tracked by many hams as it traveled eastward.

ARRL, QRZ Logbook, to Share QSO Data


The ARRL and QRZ.com have begun sharing contact data between the League's Logbook of the World (LoTW) system and QRZ Logbook, the callsign-info site's online log system. But it's only one-way, at least for now. The ARRL Letter reports that QRZ Logbook users are now able to download their LoTW contacts into the QRZ system, along with their confirmation status. 

There is no reciprocal upload of QRZ Logbook contacts to LoTW, and as yet, no major award programs accept QRZ Logbook listings for award credit.

PRB-1 Law Now on Books in Michigan


(Courtesy USGS National Atlas)
Michigan in January became the 31st state to codify the FCC's limited pre-emption of amateur antenna restrictions (commonly known as PRB-1) into state law, according to ARRL Michigan Section Manager Larry Camp, WB8R. Including the FCC's requirements for "minimum practicable regulation" and "reasonable accommodation" of amateur antennas in state law is helpful to hams because state, county and local governments are directly regulated by state laws, and any questions about state vs. federal jurisdiction are eliminated.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

IOTA OC-045 (Tutuila Is.) Activation January 12-19

DX/IOTA News...

Afono Village on Tutuila Island. (National Park Service
photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Zorro, JH1AJT, will be active as KH8Z, from Tutuila Island (IOTA OC-045) in American Samoa between 12 – 19 January 2015, after his business trip to KH6. 
 
His activity will be mainly SSB on 10 – 40m bands, 600W using verticals; holiday style operation. QSL via JH1AJT direct or JA Buro. 
 
Tnx JA1TRC

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Tune in Christmas at the bottom of the world... SWLing opportunity on Christmas Eve

Tune in Christmas at the bottom of the world... the following is from Nathaniel Frissell, W2NAF/KC4, currently in Antarctica:

Each year, the residents of McMurdo Station, Antarctica celebrate Christmas by singing Christmas Carols to the remote, Antarctic field camps on the HF radio. This year, we are asking ham radio operators around the world to listen in and e-mail short wave listening reports telling us how far away the carols are heard. 

Listen on 7995 kHz USB on 24 December 2014 2300z (December 25 1200 New Zealand Time) and e-mail reports to w2naf@arrl.net.

For a Christmas in Antarctica SWL QSL card, please send an SASE to my Blacksburg address (see qrz.com). Special cards will be made for this event.

Please share this information with as many hams as possible. It would be really interesting to know how far we are heard. I believe we will be running about 1000 W for this.
Merry Christmas!

73,
Nathaniel, KC4/W2NAF

Monday, December 15, 2014

Hitchin' a Ride. . .
Interplanetary satellite Shin’en 2
A Japanese space mission to visit an asteroid launched in early December included two hitch-hikers, amateur radio satellites Shin'en 2 (JG6YIG) and ARTSAT2:DESPATCH (JQ1ZNN), the two latest ham satellites to venture beyond Earth orbit (a recent Chinese moon mission also carried a downlink-only ham satellite). According to the ARRL Letter, the two satellites will have an elliptical deep-space orbit around the sun, between Venus and Mars. The satellites should remain in Earth's equatorial plane and their orbit will take them between 65 million and 121 million miles from the Sun.

Shin'en 2 carries a CW beacon and a telemetry transmitter, as well as a digital store-and-forward transponder with an uplink on 2 meters and a downlink on 70 centimeters. ARTSAT2:DESPATCH carries a sculpture built by a 3D printer as well as a 7-watt transmitter sending out CW on 437 MHz. The satellite carried only batteries and no solar panel, so its estimated operating time was only about one week. One of the first reception reports, according to the AMSAT News Service, came from Michal Zawada, SQ5KTM, who reported monitoring both satellites two days after launch from a distance of approximately 1.1 million kilometers, or 683,500 miles, from Earth.


A third satellite, called SpinSat, was launched November 28 from the International Space Station. Built by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, its prime mission is to test new nicro-thruster technology. But it also carries an amateur packet radio store-and-forward system on 437.230 MHz. It was expected to operate for approximately six months.