Watts News

Monthly Newsletter of the

Olympia Amateur Radio Society

P.O. Box 2861, Olympia, WA 98507


 
June 2000                                                                                                            Edited by George Lanning KB6LE

Contents of this issue

  •  Olympia Area Local Communications Activities -- recent and upcoming
  •  OARS Net check-ins
  •  Treasurer's Report
  •  FCC says Generals not allowed in Advanced sub-bands
  •  ARRL-VEC seeing light at end of tunnel
  •  Ham radio history
  •  Groaners
  •  Lithium-Ion battery development
  •  Take Your Radio Overseas

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    Olympia Area Local Communications Activities -- Recent and Upcoming

    by Lee Chambers KI7SS

    It's been a busy spring, and I'd like to take a moment to reflect on some of our efforts:

    Recent Past

    YMCA 10K Run

    The YMCA 10K run around Capitol Lake was May 9th, and as usual we Hams were there. We remotely started the clocks at the finish by transmitting the starting gun. Then, we kept the finish apprised of the progress of the leaders. We picked up a runner who had fallen and badly cut a hand, taking her to the medics. Lastly, we kept track of the last runners, so the organizers knew when to close down the stage.

    Capitol City Marathon -- using APRS

    We had an expanded role in the Capitol City Marathon May 21st. We provided, for the first time, APRS tracking of the lead and sweep vehicles, and gained valuable experience in using the new mode in a real event. We put an APRS system near the announce booth; many, many people came by to watch the progress of the race. Next year, full of confidence that APRS can be a powerful and effective tool, we'll put a monitor with the race announcers themselves, and put more trackers in the field. What we need, to make this plan work, are some people who can bicycle the course, following the lead male and female runners, both for the marathon, the half-marathon, and the five-mile event, carrying APRS units. And, we need about another four APRS-equipped sweep vehicles, so we can more efficiently transport injured runners to help. Note that there were twenty-two Hams involved in this effort, supporting the over 1200 runners as they competed with traffic over 26 miles of busy roads.

    Road Rally

    We Hams again provided the safety net that made the June 10th and 11th Road Rally possible. This one was three stages on each of the two days and we needed only about ten Hams each day. What a showcase for Ham radio! Year after year our hobby provides the tool that insures the safety of the rally teams, and they really appreciate us! If you haven't come to one of the "appreciation dinners" you've missed a real treat!

    Future

    ARRL Field Day 2000

    Field Day is June 24-25. If you haven't been involved in one of these before, it's the don't-miss activity in the Ham community. If you're on the HF bands you can't miss it; all the activity will be centered on Field Day anyway, so you might as well join in. And I do mean ALL the activity; there just won't be anything else going on! Don't plan to rag-chew with Aunt Martha in Pennsylvania on Field Day weekend!

    A little history: OARS has had a Field Day effort since the late '70s, when I first joined the club. Those first Field Days were held on Fort Lewis. You drove out toward Yelm and turned left, driving on dirt army tank roads about half a mile, to a grassy clearing with lots of trees for antennas. We borrowed a portable tower from the cable company, and we set up in tents. This was as much a party as an operating event, with community pot-lucks for lunch, dinner, and breakfast the next morning. Since those days we've had Field Days every year. We've held them at the old Civil Defense center outside Grand Mound several times, on the Capitol Campus, at the Capitol Medical Center, and at Tumwater Elementary School. Except for one year, I've been at them all, from beginning to end. What fun!

    This year we're trying a new location at the northern end of Capitol Way at the Farmer's Market. Our goal this year is less to be an "operator's Field Day," and more an "introduction to Ham Radio" to as many people as possible. We'll be either a 2-A or 2-C class project (meaning, two HF stations either on Generator (A) or Commercial (C) power. To make this work, we'll need lots of enthusiastic Hams -- that's YOU -- talking with the people who are sure to come by and ask "what the heck is going on, anyway?" We'll be ready and willing to stop "raking in the Qs" and explain what's going on! Of course we'll need Hams to operate the two stations, too -- Hams willing to be there and on the air all day and all night! We'll need Hams to help with set-up and tear-down of the stations, Hams who sit in the shade and talk about the joy's of the hobby, Hams who help log the contacts. So, get the fourth weekend of the month firmly set aside for this premier Ham event! Bring your lawn chair!

    Lakefair Parade

    Then July 15th we Hams will again help with the Lakefair Parade. We've been there twice before; this year we've earned an expanded role in the event. We'll have two, or maybe three, principle functions. First, we'll be communicating the winners of the various awards to the announcers all along the parade route -- information gathered by us Hams following the judges around. Second, we'll be coordinating the assembly of the Parade. The floats are assembled on Capitol Way, but the marchers will be on Stephen's Field, the horses somewhere else, the bands somewhere else. Each group has a position number. We'll have Hams in each area, guiding and coordinating the participants to the beginning of the event. And of course, we're always on the lookout for any health or welfare problems, communicating them to the appropriate managers.

    Diabetes Horse-a-Thon

    Lastly, August 5th will be the annual Diabetes Horse-a- Thon, wherein 550 horses and riders create a mini-town at the Evergreen Gun Club, and all those horses and riders take to the trails. This many horses in one spot is pretty amazing and a great chance to see another hobby aggressively pursued! We'll need about a dozen Hams on the trails in case a horse falls or gets lost, or ???

    So we've had a busy spring, and will have a busy summer! I'd like to thank all of you who've answered the volunteer call; without your help these activities would be much more difficult or impossible to put on safely.

    73's -- Lee



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    OARS Net check-ins

    The following stations checked in on the OARS General Information Net on May 16, 2000:

        AB7PS    K7CEZ     K7JQR     K7TAG

        KA4VVA   KB7DFL    KB7JDL    KC7FEC *

        KC7FED   KC7FEE    KC7LA     KD7HTG

        W7DOY    W7SAY

    * 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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    Treasurer's Report

    As of 5/30/00

    GENERAL FUND (checking account)
        Previous balance   $ 1,735.33
            Income             255.84
            Expenses           116.91
        Ending balance       1,874.26

    REPEATER / PACKET FUND (savings account)
        Previous balance     $ 890.32
            Income               0.00
            Expenses             0.00
        Ending balance         890.32
     

    -- Ed Fitzgerald, N7WW, Treasurer



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    FCC says Generals not allowed in Advanced sub-bands 

    The FCC says newly upgraded General class licensees may not operate in the current Advanced class sub-bands under the new amateur rules. Bill Cross, W3TN, of the FCC's Public Safety and Private Wireless Division notes that no privileges changed for any license class. 

    The Advanced class license continues to exist under restructuring, which became effective April 15, although the FCC no longer accepts applications for Novice or Advanced class licenses. Current Generals do not earn Advanced class privileges until they upgrade to Amateur Extra class, when they earn both Advanced and Extra privileges. 

    The FCC also says General class operators may hold only Group C (1x3) or Group D (2x3) call signs, as it was under the old rules. Generals remain ineligible to apply for or hold Group B (2x2) call signs.

    Newly upgraded licensees were cautioned to check the revised Part 97 rules carefully to make sure they're not operating beyond their privileges. FCC Part 97 rules are available on the ARRL Web site at: 

    http://www.arrl.org/field/regulations/news/part97/

    The FCC today released the Errata to its December 30, 1999, Report and Order on restructuring. The Errata incorporate minor errors contained in the original R&O and already made in the version of the new rules that appeared in The Federal Register earlier this year.

    -- ARRL Bulletin ARLB022



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    ARRL-VEC seeing light at end of tunnel

    ARRL-VEC Manager Bart Jahnke, W9JJ, says staff members and volunteers are making substantial progress processing the flood of amateur applications resulting from FCC restructuring. Jahnke says the initial surge of applications already has been processed, and fewer applications remain in the pipeline.

    "We're making headway fast now, as the number of applications diminishes the further we get away from April 15," Jahnke said. He reports the ARRL-VEC sent some 6700 applications to the FCC last week and has been averaging a pace of well over 1000 per day. "Last Friday was our strongest day ever -- at 1966 applications transmitted to FCC," he said. Since April 15, the ARRL-VEC has logged more than 12,000 General and more than 9500 Extra upgrades. The ARRL-VEC has logged in approximately 3800 test sessions since the beginning of the year.

    Jahnke said he anticipates the time from exam session to license grant to continue to diminish from the current five weeks or longer to just over three weeks by next week. On June 8, applications were being processed from May 12 test session receipts. Typically, the FCC processes applications within 24 hours of receipt, although there were some delays last weekend. 

    Still remaining in the queue are applications from another 507 test sessions. Jahnke estimates these will yield 600 new Technicians, 2100 new Generals, and 1400 new Extras. By the time ARRL-VEC personnel work their way through that stack, Jahnke said, the wait should be down to less than 10 days.

    Jahnke reminded applicants that the best license grant information is available from the FCC's Universal Licensing System site,

    http://www.fcc.gov/wtb/uls (click on "License Search").

    Typical Web call sign servers are at least 24 hours behind the FCC in updating license data, he said.

    ARRL-VEC staff members and volunteers have been working nights and weekends -- including Memorial Day weekend. Seven VEC staff members, two temporary employees, and a half-dozen or more HQ staff volunteers from other departments have been whittling down the stacks of applications. "We're just about ready to lift the moratorium on sick days," Jahnke joked. 

    Test session processing status is available on the ARRL-VEC Web site:

    http://www.arrl.org/arrlvec/status.html



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    Ham radio history

    -- from Clinton, AB7RG, via packet



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    Groaners

    -- from Alan G4YQQ, via packet
     




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    Lithium-Ion battery development


    This article appeared in the November 1999 edition of the "USECA Express," the newsletter of the Utica Shelby Emergency Communications Association, Joe Janules, K8OEF Editor. By Isidor Buchmann, founder and CEO of Cadex Electronics Inc., in Burnaby (Vancouver) British Columbia, Canada. © 1998.

    A few years ago, the Nickel Cadmium (NiCd) was the only suitable battery for applications such as cellular phones, laptop computers and video cameras. Since then, new battery chemistries have emerged that provide twice the energy density. One such battery is the Lithium-Ion (Li-ion). Will the Li-ion eventually replace the classic NiCd? The answer is no -- at least not for now. Every invention that solves one problem creates new ones.

    Compared to the mature and rugged NiCd system, the Li-ion is fragile and requires a protection circuit to maintain safe operation. The load current is moderate and charging must be done according to strict standards. In addition, the Li-ion is subject to aging whether used or not. Signs of reduced performance are visible after one year; a typical service life of a Li-ion is about two years from date of manufacture. 

    One major advantage of the Li-ion is the absence of memory. No scheduled cycling is required to prolong the battery's life. In addition, self discharge is less than half compared to the NiCd, making the Li-ion well suited for modern fuel gauge applications. 

    History

    Pioneering work for the lithium battery began in 1912 by G. N. Lewis, but it was not until the early 1970s when the first non-rechargeable lithium batteries became commercially available. Attempts to develop rechargeable lithium batteries followed in the eighties, but failed due to safety concerns. 

    Lithium is the lightest of all metals, has the greatest electrochemical potential and provides the largest energy content. Rechargeable batteries using lithium metal as electrode are capable of providing both high voltage and excellent capacity, resulting in extraordinary energy density. After much research during the eighties, it was found that occasional shorts from lithium dendrites would cause thermal run-away. The cell temperature would quickly approach the melting temperature of the lithium which resulted in violent reactions. A large quantity of rechargeable lithium batteries sent to Japan had been recalled in 1991 after a battery in cellular phone exploded and inflicted burns to a man's face. 

    Because of the inherent instability of lithium metal, especially during charging, research shifted to a non-metallic lithium battery using lithium ions from chemicals such as Lithium-Cobalt Dioxide (LiCoO2). Although slightly lower in energy density than with lithium metal, the Li-ion is safe, provided certain precautions are met when charging and discharging. In 1991, Sony commercialized the Li-ion and other manufacturers followed suit. Today, the Li-ion is the fastest growing battery chemistry in the world. 

    Charging the Li-ion battery

    The Li-ion charger is a voltage-limiting device similar to that of the Valve Regulated Lead Acid (VRLA) charger. The main differences of the Li-ion charger are higher voltage per cell, tighter voltage tolerance and the absence of trickle or float charge at full charge. Whereas the VRLA offers some flexibility in terms of voltage cutoff, the manufacturer of Li-ion cells is very strict about the voltage choice. The voltage threshold of the Li-ion with the graphite electrode is 4.10V whereas the coke electrode and spinel is set to 4.20V. The tolerance is +/- 0.05 volts per cell.

    Since higher voltage thresholds provide increased capacity, it is in the manufacturer's best interest to choose the highest voltage threshold possible without affecting safety and compromising service life. However, the higher the charge voltage, the greater cell corrosion. To minimize deterioration by corrosion, the charge current is cut off once the battery has reached full charge. Correct voltage setting should be observed when servicing Li-ion batteries on a battery analyzer. This task may be difficult because most battery manufacturers do not specify which version Li-ion is used. If the voltages are set incorrectly, the graphite cell will be slightly overcharged if allowed to reach 4.2V. Likewise, a coke cell will yield lower capacity when discharged to only 3.0V instead of 2.5V. At moderate temperature, little damage occurs when occasionally charging to a higher voltage threshold, but repeated overcharging will hasten corrosion and shorten service life. 

    Protection Circuit

    Commercial Li-ion batteries contain several built-in protection devices. Typically, a fuse opens if the charge voltage of any cell reaches 4.30V or the cell temperature approaches 100C (212F). In addition, a pressure switch in each cell permanently interrupts the charge current if a certain pressure threshold is exceeded, and internal voltage control circuits cut off the battery at low and high voltage points. Some batteries feature a low voltage cutoff switch which permanently disconnects the pack if a cell goes below 2.5V. This precaution is done to prohibit a recharge if a battery has dwelled in an illegal voltage state. Charging such a battery could cause lithium metal formation because the electrochemical structure of the cell has been permanently altered. 

    Most manufactures do not sell the Li-ion cells by themselves but make them available in a battery pack, complete with protection circuit. This precautionary procedure is understandable when considering the danger of explosion and fire if the battery is charged and discharged beyond its safe limits. 

    A major concern arises if static electricity or a faulty charger manages to destroy the battery's protection circuit through the battery's contacts. Such damage often causes the solid-state switches to fuse to a permanent ON position. A battery with fused switches can no longer be used safely. If charged beyond safe voltage limits, the battery may heat up, then bulge and in some cases vent with flame. Shorting the battery can also be hazardous. 

    Conclusion

    The Li-ion receives good grades in performance and reliability. Billions of dollars are invested in tooling for increased production. Delivery shortages are easing, and prices are becoming more affordable. As a result, more portable equipment is being fitted with the Li-ion battery. 

    The Li-ion has found a strong market niche with portable devices requiring long run time. Because of the aging aspect, the Li-ion is most beneficial for applications with a hectic user pattern. Where the Li-ion falls short is on high current applications and operations that require a full discharge before recharge. Typical uses that fall into this category are power tools and heart defibrillators. 

    Another field where the Li-ion has proven less favorable is in applications that require only occasional use. On a laptop that is mostly powered by AC, for example, the Li-ion battery ages in time without being able to deliver the full benefit. For these applications, other battery types may serve better. 

    The Lithium polymer systems in development are struggling to meet and surpass the performance of the Li-ion battery. Limited cycle life and high internal resistance are the main drawbacks of today's Lithium polymer. Once mass produced, the Lithium polymer is said to be lower priced than the Li-ion. In addition, the Lithium polymer can then be shaped into virtually any form. One day the battery may be part of the protective housing or serve as a soft carrying case.

    -- via ARNS



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    Take Your Radio Overseas

    by Jim KB3BYU

    In March, I will have the privilege of traveling to Ireland to watch my son Joe, and the rest of the award-winning William Allen High School marching band, perform in the St Patrick's Day parade in Dublin. In addition to the opportunity I'll have to watch the band and do some genealogical research, I'm really looking forward to taking along my 2 meter HT to enjoy some "short skip DX" on the local repeaters in Dublin and Limerick. Previously, getting permission to operate your radio in a foreign country was an involved and often an expensive process that had to be repeated for each country you visited. But all of that has changed if you are traveling to a country participating in the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT). As a U.S. Amateur, you can now operate in all of these participating European countries without obtaining special licenses, and best of all, at no cost. 

    There are two classes of CEPT licenses available to U.S. amateurs. Class 1 requires knowledge of the international Morse code, and carries all operating privileges available in the host country. U.S. license classes of Technician Plus and higher qualify for a Class 1 CEPT license. The Class 2 CEPT license does not require knowledge of code, and carries operating privileges available in the host country above 30 MHZ. The codeless Technician operator's licenses will qualify you for this class. The U.S. novice license is not eligible for any CEPT operating privileges. 

    When traveling in a participating CEPT country you must carry the following documents and show them to any proper authorities upon request: 1. Your Original FCC license. 2. Proof of U.S. citizenship (your passport), and 3. A copy of the FCC's June 7,1999 Public Notice which contains information in English, French and German.

    While operating under a CEPT license, you are only permitted to use either mobile or portable mode. No fixed base operations are permitted. So if your future plans include taking a trip to Europe, bring your radio along and add a new dimension to your travels. You'll meet other people who share your interest in the hobby and have a richer experience than the average tourist. You can find information about CEPT operations as well as rules governing other Countries by going to

    http://www.arrl.org/field/regulations/io/index.html

    I'm looking forward to experiencing the beauty of Ireland and experiencing the legendary hospitality of the Irish people. I'll give you a report of my adventures in the newsletter after I return. Even with all of the sight seeing and other activities we have planned for the trip, I still plan on taking time to go to the pub. After all, both the HT and I will need time to recharge our batteries.

    de Jim, KB3BYU

    -- This article is from the March, 2000, issue of the "W3OK Corral", the newsletter of the Delaware - Lehigh Amateur Radio Club, via ARNS
     



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