Watts News

Monthly Newsletter of the

Olympia Amateur Radio Society

P.O. Box 2861, Olympia, WA 98507

Edited by George Lanning KB6LE      360-866-2185      glanning@worldnet.att.net

Watts new in February 2000

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Local dish placement dispute

Richard Koch, at his Summit Lake home, has been cited for a zoning code violation. The county hearing examiner ruled that the dish placement is in violation of Thurston County's Zoning Code. Koch is appealing the citation on the grounds that the dish placement is in compliance with the Federal Telecommunications Act and that federal law takes precedence over county ordinances. This is a case that, as I understand it, could have considerable impact on many of us amateurs who have antennas that do not meet local approval. I am in the process of acquiring hard data on this subject.

My personal experience in obtaining building permits for my new station has raised grave doubts about the practical, engineering basis of some of the local building codes.

As an example, I've been required to pay a $44.25 fee for a permit to run a 12 volt, 2amp circuit to the top of my collapsible tower. The rationale -- unknown!

Koch's case is scheduled before the County Commission, February 14. As an active amateur satellite operator, I think it is essential that we operate from a solid knowledge and data base, and follow this case from the point of view its impact on the larger community rather than a technical legal dispute between individuals. I'm attempting to look at the ARES/ RACES approach to the community's health and welfare, and how this case may impact on the larger question of community communications in times of trouble. I believe it would be of considerable value for us to have an OARS Club forum on this case, and subject.

The ARRL Letter, Vol 19. No5, Feb 4, 2000, reported on a case having a direct bearing on this subject, and noted that "Congress intended the FCC to have exclusive jurisdiction over RFI matters, leaving no room for local regulation."

-- Gard Forester, KF6GAQ

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Class for upgrading to General license

OARS member Lee Chambers, KI7SS, will be conducting a class for those who wish to upgrade to General before the new exam pool questions go into effect.

This will be a weekend seminar type of class, similar in structure to the Novice / Technician classes Lee has conducted in the past.

The class will be held on the weekend of April 1 and 2, at the Emergency Operations Center. For further details, contact Lee at 360-866-0800.

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First impressions of APRS

by Jeff Withers, W3GE

A few days ago, I decided to find out what all the fuss about APRS was about, so I typed APRS into my internet search engine, and went to look at the various web pages. I found three major sites: aprs.rutgers.edu www.aprs.net and www.aprs.org.

I downloaded the program WinAPRS, unzipped and installed it on my computer. I double clicked and opened the program, and was presented with a USA map. After I set my lat/long, my station appeared on that map, with a Microsoft/Windows icon beside it.

I clicked settings, and then an icon which read "connect to APRS Serve network." Being adventurous, I clicked that too. My telephone modem connected again to the internet, and other APRS stations across the country appeared on the screen with a popping sound. On the USA map, they were too dense to read, so I selected a Washington state map, and zoomed in to the Puget Sound. Now I could read call signs of people I know, and watch them move around on the map -- at least those that were mobile.

I thought to myself, do people know that they don't need a radio, antenna, and TNC to do APRS? This was news to me, because the shareware and my internet connection had gotten me on the APRS network. I wondered what the catch was; this was too easy -- and found out that the shareware would not save my settings without the $60 dollar registration fee. Oh well, no big deal.

I took the same shareware on floppy disk out to my shack computer and loaded it onto my normal packet radio computer, then called Allen W7SAY on the 2 meters to find the APRS frequency of 144.390. Since packet was already set up here, I loaded the software and did some settings and was on the air in no time. Prominent on the screen was a permanent node by Fred W7SIX and a station from Miles KB7OHO and both the home and jeep of Keith N7JSK. Keith was moving north on the freeway coming back from the Longview/Kelso APRS meeting. This was pretty cool. As he passed my station on the map, I noticed that W3GE was appearing twice, once with a little house icon for my ham shack and once with the windows icon for my internet connection. I sent N7JSK a message which he responded to later, over the air, and my computer rang out the familiar AOL theme "you've got mail."

I sent myself a message, posted to the icon that represented my internet presence, and it was delivered in good time. This did not work in reverse, that is, internet message to packet network, until I registered the software; because that proves I am a ham, legal to initiate a radio transmission even from the internet.

I stopped and thought again, this could be the number one strength of APRS, that is, message connectivity with the internet. This is the major thing that is new here.

Sure, it is cool to see geographic positions plotted on the map, but messaging is what drives ham communications, especially emergency services. Folks are now using APRS with HF gateways, direction finding, weather warning, home automation, and it should carry any short telemetry commands you can dream of.

My thoughts after the first few days of playing with APRS is that it has some strengths and some weaknesses. The strengths, connectivity with the internet, and operability from either the RF side or the TCP/IP side is a big plus. Ease of installation, at least for those with Windows, is way better than the old packet modes, especially if you use KISS mode.

APRS is an unproto mode, meaning there are no connected packets, everyone transmits to everyone on the same frequency, which brings up an APRS weakness. APRS will transmit messages one line at a time, and will keep trying to do so virtually forever. There is very little receipt checking; it is virtually impossible to assure your message was received at the far end, or if you chose, distributed in a wide bulletin.

Another problem is verifying stations' existence in current time. APRS will show a station on the air long after they have signed off, but on the bright side it will attempt to re-deliver your message if the remote station reappears. This effect is more pronounced across the internet, than it is on-the-air.

In many ways the standard TNC mailbox did a far better job of handling traffic, and APRS is nowhere near as functional as the old DX cluster that I used to sysop for. But it is the new thing, so lets move on.

Let me make an editorial remark at this point, which is that, an unconnected mode relies on each operating digipeater equally, there is no backbone. The NT7H station at the EOC needs to be on the air 24 hours for it to do anyone any good. Shelton's EOC is on the air, let's do the same with ours.

Anyway, back to my APRS experiences. Let me mention that the maps that come with the shareware are junk, they have no definition to speak of. You can interface APRS with a "precision mapping" CD-ROM product, which I am looking for, but you can also download some very good maps from the internet sites I mentioned. I found maps with street names and geographic detail for free, as well as maps to show worldwide APRS activity. You can download overlays to put voice repeaters on the map, or Radio Shack stores, or Civil Air Patrol and grid squares, or anything else hams dream about.

Some repeaters have gone to microphone encoding so that users auto re-transmit a burst on the APRS frequency, and I can think of many more ways to use this medium. APRS appears to be just beginning.

Finally, in my initial APRS odyssey, I wanted to see if I could find a site that would paint live APRS traffic on the Net, using only my netscape browser and no installed software. Many of the sites promise to do that, but few deliver. This is when I found the Northwest APRS web page (just type NWAPRS into your search engine). They gather live APRS data locally. I had success at a site called LINUS.CHEMEKETA.EDU, and saw my own station on the web, using nothing but a browser.

To conclude, I want to point out that I have never even owned a GPS receiver, you don't even need a radio or TNC to enjoy APRS, but if you do have a packet setup that is looking for something to do, I heartily recommend that you download WinAPRS and give the Puget Sound some representation to the world on the APRS network. 

-- 73 de Jeff

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OARS Net check-ins

The following stations checked in with the OARS General Information Net on 2/8/00:

   AA7YD    K7UE    KA4VVA    KB6LE


   KD6ZBS   KD7N    KF6GAQ    KI7SS

   N7EIM    N7JHJ   N7WW      W3GE

   W7LWB    W7SAY   W7UUO

* net control station

The net meets at 7:30 every Tuesday evening on the 3 linked OARS repeaters: 147.36, 224.46, and 441.40 MHz.

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ARRL Board endorses certification program

The ARRL Board of Directors has approved the development and implementation of an initiative to promote self-education by radio amateurs. The new ARRL Certification Program will aim to inspire amateurs to continue acquiring technical knowledge and operating expertise beyond that required to become licensed, and give them a chance to test their own limits. Following up on the "2010 Vision" discussions at last July's Board meeting, ARRL Executive Vice President David Sumner, K1ZZ, presented the broad strokes of the Certification Program during the Board's January 21-22 meeting in Memphis. 

At this point, the Certification Program only exists as a concept, with the details to be worked out, but plans call for having the program in place by later this year. The first step in putting the program in place will be to solicit the ideas of ARRL members, via a Web-based message board, on appropriate topics to be included in the initial rollout. "The idea is to make this program what members want it to be, and not something imposed from 'on high,'" Sumner said.

"Many ARRL members believe there is a widening gap between what the FCC requires amateur licensees to know and what it takes to be truly knowledgeable about Amateur Radio," he continued. "Whether or not you agree, it's certainly true that those of us who took our FCC exams years ago have never had to demonstrate an understanding of current technology. We could use a new challenge."

The new Certification Program will offer participants an opportunity to earn credentials at various levels of depth and difficulty in different courses of study -- perhaps in such areas as ionospheric propagation, receiver design, and Morse code proficiency. Sumner said the ARRL should and will continue to encourage the development of Morse code proficiency beyond the basic HF licensing requirements. He observed that the standards for ARRL certification could be more stringent and more uniform than those used for FCC exams.

Sumner said he sees the certification program not only as a welcome opportunity for individual self-development but a response to the perceived "dumbing down" of Amateur Radio qualifications -- especially in the aftermath of the FCC's recently announced license restructuring plan. While the plan was not developed directly in response to restructuring, its timing could not be better, Sumner said, conceding that the restructuring debate "has moved it up the agenda."

As envisioned, the program would be largely self-supporting, but startup costs would be funded from the Exceptional Merit Stipend established by the late Ethel Smith, K4LMB. The Certification Program will be dedicated to her memory. Smith -- who helped found the Young Ladies Radio League and served as its first president -- died in 1997, leaving the bulk of her estate to the ARRL.

Sumner says a Web-based message board will be set up in a few weeks to gather input from members in terms of specific programs and areas of study or skills development they would like to see become part of the voluntary certification program. The League plans to seek outside expert input to assist in setting the knowledge or performance threshold at the optimal level.

The program likely will include some professional development aspects and could include the granting of Continuing Education Units -- CEUs. The League also is seeking cooperative arrangements with related professional organizations. It already has a memorandum of understanding with the National Association of Radio-Television Engineers and has approached the Society of Broadcast Engineers for a similar agreement.

The voluntary certification program dovetails neatly with goals expressed by the League's new President Jim Haynie, W5JBP. Following his election January 21 in Memphis, Haynie said he favors even greater promotion of Amateur Radio, especially among youth and in schools, as well as programs to rekindle interest and activity among current licensees.

-- from the ARRL Letter, Electronic Edition

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Treasurer's Report

As of 1/31/00

GENERAL FUND (checking account)

Previous balance     $ 607.38
Income               1,087.67
Expenses               692.00
Ending balance       1,003.05

REPEATER / PACKET FUND (savings account)

Previous balance     $ 883.60
Income                   0.00
Expenses                 0.00
Ending balance         883.60

-- Ed Fitzgerald, N7WW, Treasurer

If you haven't paid your 2000 dues yet, now is the time!

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A different kind of math quiz

[This appeared without answers, and I certainly didn't get all of them. If you can solve all, or most, e-mail or send me your answers and I will publish a combined list -- Ed.]

Instructions: Each question below contains the initials of words that will make it complete. Find the missing words.

Example: 16 = O. in a P. -- ounces in a pound

1. 26 = L. of the A.

2. 7 = W of the A.W.

3. 1001 = A.N.

4. 12 = S. of the Z.

5. 54 = C. in a D. (with the J's)

6. 9 = P in the S.S.

7. 86 = P. K.

8. 13 = S. on the A.F.

9. 32 = D.F. at which W.F.

10. 18 = H. on a G. C.

11. 90 = D. in a R.A.

12. 200 = D. for a P.G. in M.

13. 8 = S. on a S.S.

14. 3 = B.M. (S. H. T. R.)

15. 4 = Q. in a G.

16. 24 = H. in a D.

17. 1 = W. on a U.

18. 5 = D. in a Z. C.

19. 57 = H. V.

20. 11 = P. on a F. T.

21. 1000 = W. That a P. is W.

22. 29 = D. in F. in a L. Y.

23. 65 = S. on a C.

24. 40 = D. and N. of the G. F.

Few people solve more than half on the first try, but the others (most of them) will come.

-- from the 'Gray Matter Group' posted on OlyZone

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What is it about Amateur Radio?

See if you can guess who made this speech, and on what occasion.

The question that is most often propounded to me in connection with amateur radio is this: "What is it about amateur radio that maintains such a hold on its followers?"

It is a question which I have often asked myself. What peculiar force is it that affects alike the boy of 16 and the man of 70; the wealthy man and the poor man; the college graduate and the uneducated boy? What is it about their common interest that can bind together such diversified classes and types?

Perhaps the "urge for distance" has something to do with it -- but there was a time when distance meant but ten miles, or less. The joys of accomplishment might exert some influence; yet there are many other things to which a man can turn his hand if the thrill of accomplishment is his only aim. The pleasure that comes from friendships made over the air, perhaps? Yes, and yet friendships can be made by personal contact and correspondence.

No -- while including all of these, there is something bigger that constitutes the charm of amateur radio -- the Spirit of Adventure!

Friendships Over the Air

Many a time, as I have sat down before my own set preparatory to a night's work, I have paused to wonder where my signals would go that night and into what countries of the world they would carry my thoughts. Each night has been an adventure -- an adventure into space. No two nights are the same; today I talk with a friend -- whom I have never seen -- on the Pacific Coast; tomorrow it is an explorer deep in the heart of a tropical forest; the next night it is someone in Europe or South America or Australia. Perhaps, instead of calling someone else, I listen for other signals and hear an amateur in France or in Germany or Japan. Sitting in my study, I answer those calls, and by internationally agreed upon code groups I converse with the Frenchman, the German and the Japanese. Here, surely is high adventure!

It was about the year 1913 that amateurs awoke to the fact that there were a lot of them scattered over the country. The thing that woke them up was the Federal radio law of Aug. 13, 1912. This law provided a call book that contained the names of all the amateurs who had passed the necessary tests to secure a transmitting license. The astounding number listed in this book was a revelation, for it showed that instead of a few isolated individual experimenters there were several thousand highly enthusiastic amateurs in the United States.

Birth of Relay League

With this realization a large number of radio clubs came into existence. The value of these clubs in the early days of amateur radio -- or amateur wireless, as it was then called -- was very great, for there were at that time practically no books that adequately handled the subject. By providing a meeting place where members could gather and exchange ideas and practical information, the early club did much to further the art.

The organization of the clubs was an organization having the characteristics of young men. The methods were positive and direct. I have attended a great many of these radio club meetings, and I can truthfully say that I have never attended a meeting of any of my engineering societies which can compare in efficiency and interest with those radio club meetings of those young men.

It was in the Radio Club of Hartford that the relay idea which finally became the American Radio Relay League first took form.

I remember the evening very well. One young man had electrified the meeting by saying that he had established communication with the neighboring town of Windsor Locks. If Hartford could reach Windsor Locks, why could not Windsor Locks reach Springfield, Mass., and if this could be done, why would it not be possible for an amateur in Hartford to send a message by relay to Springfield and possibly receive the answer back inside of an hour? The idea fired the imagination of every person in the room and aroused a determination to go home and sit up the rest of the night improving and perfecting the efficiency of his apparatus so that the next night he might be the first one to start a message to Springfield. It was a great conception in those early days. The intensity of purpose which was built up was destined to exert the most powerful influence on the whole art of radio communication. I do not hesitate to say that most of the great advances that have been made in radio during the last ten years have come from this inspiration of the amateurs.

It was but a logical thing to take the next mental step, and that was to go beyond Springfield. Why not continue the scheme to Pittsfield, Mass., and even to Albany? And why might we not expect the Albany fellows to work it out with the fellows of Utica? And what would stop them from getting all the way to Buffalo? And then a wonderful conception came into the minds of these young men. Why not apply the relay idea to the entire United States?

They went ahead with this idea, and in 1915 the American Radio Relay League came into being as the national organization of all the radio clubs of the United States that stood for good organization, good government and good radio. A board of directors was organized, and shortly afterward publication was started of a magazine which should be the mouthpiece of organized amateur radio and the clearing house of the ideas and experiments of the members. This magazine was called QST.

In order to further the handling of messages between members, a traffic system was devised, and the regular handling of traffic began. By the Summer of 1917, messages had been relayed across the continent, and it was no unusual thing for an amateur to communicate directly between New York and Chicago and to points in the far Southwest.

Turning Point in 1923

Gradually the amateur realized that 200 meters was not going to turn the trick. And so, early in 1923, a group of amateurs started some tests whose results have been far-reaching. These tests were to find out what could be done with the entirely neglected waves near 100 meters, and they had not progressed very far before it became apparent that in this new region lay the key to the ultra-long-distance communication problem, for the signals transmitted on 100 meters were received many times louder than simultaneous signals on 200.

Quick to adapt himself to the new conditions, the amateur began to construct apparatus to operate on the lower waves and to collect data on set and tube operation at those wavelengths. In the fall of 1923 a special test was arranged between an American station and a French station on 100 meters, and on the night of the test the two stations, for the first time in amateur history, talked with each other across the Atlantic! The theories regarding the short waves were proved, for each station reported the signals of the other as being received with remarkable strength!

The development of the short waves is another of the outstanding examples of amateur endeavor. The success of the transatlantic test lent impetus to the short-wave-movement, and by the summer of 1924 most of the amateurs of the country were operating not only on 100 meters, but still lower on 80 and 40 and even 20 meters. It was during these experiments that John Reinartz, prominent amateur, made the discovery that certain shortwave signals were actually stronger in daylight than at night over given distances. Daylight communication across the United States on low power became a fact, where ten years before night communication over the same distance was regarded as a wild dream!

Today the amateur can truthfully say that there is no earthly distance over which it is not possible for him to communicate!

What of the future?

It is a difficult question to answer. In the line of scientific development it would appear that the next immediate step is a further investigation of the properties of the waves on the order of five meters and less. Beyond this point, however, it is impossible to predict with any degree of assurance.

To me, however, amateur radio has a more important destiny to fulfill than mere scientific attainment, and that destiny is the furtherance of world peace.

In case you could not guess, these words were written by Hiram Percy Maxim, first President of the American Radio Relay League, on the occasion of the 1926 Radio World's Fair in New York City. It was published in the New York Times on September 13, 1926. A copy was forwarded to Watts News by an OARS old-timer who thinks he was at the Radio Worlds Fair, but can't remember for sure.

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Thoughts on licensing restructuring

I suppose I should comment on the biggest issue in ham radio now; folks keep asking me how I feel about licensing restructuring. Some of my peers are saying that it cheapens the Extra Class license, which they copied 20 word per minute to achieve, and I feel a little of that, too.

That feeling is more than offset, however, by the excitement of knowing how many more folks are going to be joining me on the HF bands. Think about it, I am a DXer, I have worked a decade to bring myself to within three QSOs of the DXCC Honor Roll. I have 323 countries confirmed. What licensing restructuring means, is that a whole bunch of new folks will get to enjoy HF, and I'm here to tell you that HF is all about DX. Sure, you may start, by checking in to your ARES net on 80 meters, but sooner or later you will drift up to 20 meters and catch the DX bug.

More people on HF enhances my DX achievements, it will mean more, because it really wasn't earned by copying fast morse code. All I can say is a big WELCOME ABOARD to my new HF friends, come and enjoy the DX; I guarantee it is the most fun you will ever have with Ham Radio. 73.

-- Jeff Withers, W3GE

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Publishing in Watts News

What are your ideas on restructuring? Send them to Watts News if you would like to have them published.

Send any material to be considered for publication to:

George Lanning KB6LE
4129 Green Cove St. NW
Olympia, WA 98502

or email to glanning@worldnet.att.net

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