Watts News

Monthly Newsletter of the
Olympia Amateur Radio Society
P.O. Box 2861, Olympia, WA 98507


 June 2001
Edited by George Lanning  KB6LE 

Table of Contents

  •  From the Oval Shack
  •  May 23 OARS Meeting Minutes
  •  OARS Net Check-ins
  •  Treasurer's Report
  •  ARRL seeks FCC probe of long-range cordless telephone sales
  •  Kids and the Dark Side of the Force
  •  Out of the mouths of babes
  •  Local Happenings from the VP
  •  Packet Radio on the ISS
  •  Naming the boat
  • back to OARS home page

    Here it is the month of June. The summer solstice is just a couple of weeks away, and then we shall start another headlong rush toward winter. Hopefully we shall have some nice weather before winter arrives.

    This past weekend, my wife and I spent the weekend over in Toppenish. We went there to see the "Mural in a Day." Toppenish, as you may or may not know, has painted murals all over the town on the sides of the buildings. Some of them are quite interesting. This year it was painted at the city swimming pool. It depicted a swimming scene from the 20's. It also has the little "Coppertone" girl with the dog tugging on her shorts. It is nicely done.

    One of the reasons we went there was just to see the event. Another reason was to take my older sister, who, though she has lived in the valley for years, had never seen it. What does this have to do with Radio Communication, you ask. Well, with radio, not much. I think with communication, in a sense it has a lot. We talk about being communicators, but in how many ways do we communicate? In our radio realm we have the auditory form of communication using code or just the spoken word. We also have a visual form using packet and now some of the new modes such as PSK31 and slow scan TV as well. This weekend my thoughts were on the visual aspects of communicating. 

    We all have seen how many people are affected as their vision deteriorates. I don't think we in our daily lives give it much thought until we ourselves are involved. My sister was recently diagnosed with macular degeneration. She is a widow and lives alone. Though she has a support group nearby, her life has changed considerably. There are innumerable things in her home now that have become quite difficult for her. She can still drive, though only during daylight. Within a year or less, she will lose that ability. Reading was one of her pleasures. She can no longer enjoy that. And that point gets me back to technology. I saw in the paper an article about a program for the computer called "Read Please." This program will read written text. It is a free download at www.readplease.com. This is a large file, over a Gigabyte. I loaded it and found that it would read my notes that I wrote for the "Watts News." The voices are not perfect, but OK. It stumbled over call signs. That was one fault that I found with it; the other is that for someone who is more visually impaired it would be very hard to use. If you are interested in this, give it a try.

    The issue of OARS equipment has come up again. Who has what, and where is it. If you have any OARS items, or know where there are any, please let Lee, KI7SS; Ed, N7WW; or myself know so that we can have a record of them. 

    I hope to see you at Field Day, and at the June meeting.

    -- Dan, Kilo Bravo Seven Delta Foxtrot Lima. (The program will not stumble over this.)

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    May 23 OARS Meeting Minutes

    The meeting was called to order at 19:05. There were about a dozen people present. The members introduced themselves.

    There was no old business. 

    New Business: 

    It was moved and seconded that the club purchase two new banners to add to the ability to bring attention to the group at events. No more than $300 is to be spent on the purchase.

    It was moved and seconded that the Bylaws be amended to allow for the designation, "Honorary Youth Member." This designation would be awarded to local young people who have received their licenses, as recognition for their efforts. They would be carried on the OARS roster as Honorary Members until their 19th birthday. Larry, KC7CKO will write the amendment. 

    Events and Activities:

    Lee, KI7SS talked about the upcoming road rally and discussed the field day plans.

    The meeting adjourned at 20:30.

    -- Dan, KB7DFL

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    OARS Net Check-ins

    The following stations checked in one or more times to the OARS General Information Net during the month of May 2001:

        AA7YD   AB7NE   AB7PS   K7CEZ
        K7DBU   K7JQR   K7TAG   KB6ZBS
        KB7DFL  KB7JDL  KC7CKO  KC7FEC
        KC7FED  KC7FEE  KC7LA   KC7MNK
        KD7ISO  KD7KHE  KD7KQD  KD7LMQ
        KD7LZE  KG6EEL  KI7SS   N7AGG
        N7EIM   N7GGX   N7HWI   N7JHJ
        N7KIP   N7SSD   N7TPT   N7WW
        W3GE    W7DOY   W7SAY   W7SIX
        W7UUO   WB7TT

    The net meets at 7:30 every Tuesday evening on the 3 linked OARS repeaters: 147.36, 224.46, and 441.40 MHz. All Hams are invited to check in.

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    Treasurer's Report

    As of 5/31/01

    GENERAL FUND (checking account)
        Previous balance  $ 2,800.73
            Income            150.95
            Expenses          123.13
        Ending balance      2,828.55

    REPEATER / PACKET FUND (savings account)
        Previous balance    $ 917.79
            Income              0.00
            Expenses            0.00
        Ending balance        917.79
     

    -- Ed Fitzgerald, N7WW, Treasurer

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    ARRL seeks FCC probe of long-range cordless telephone sales 

    ARRL Bulletin ARLB020

    The ARRL has asked the FCC to investigate and "take appropriate action" against several companies it alleges have been marketing so-called "long-range cordless telephones"via the Internet. The ARRL took the action in the wake of an interference complaint and numerous reports from the amateur community about sales of the devices, some operating on amateur VHF and UHF frequencies. 

    ARRL General Counsel Chris Imlay, W3KD, said the League was seeking the FCC probe because the apparently uncertificated devices operate on amateur bands and are capable of interfering with amateur communication. He also noted that the devices are not likely to meet maximum permissible exposure levels for RF.

    "ARRL has not been able to locate any FCC certification for these devices and, based on the advertised frequency bands and ranges, it is believed that none of these devices could be certificated, or legally marketed or sold, under FCC rules," Imlay wrote.

    Imlay said the ARRL also is looking into the marketing of products such as 434-MHz video surveillance equipment and other "apparently non-certificated devices" that use amateur frequencies but are being marketed in the US to non-amateurs.

    ARRL Lab Supervisor Ed Hare, W1RFI, said he's received at least one report of actual harmful interference from a long-range cordless telephone to amateur communication. The amateur reporting it tracked the telephone to the home of a neighbor, who said he'd bought the device on eBay.

    Hare said some long-range devices are legally certificated to operate on the 900 MHz or 2450 MHz Part 15 bands. "These legal devices are only an issue if they cause actual harmful interference to the Amateur Service," he said.

    Hare requests reports of unlicensed devices causing actual harmful interference to Amateur Radio operation. Reports may be sent to rfi@arrl.org.

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    Kids and the Dark Side of the Force

    By Bob Bruninga, WB4APR
    115 Old Farm Ct
    Glen Burnie, MD 21060-425
    wb4apr@arrl.net

    This article is taken from the OP-ED section of QST. "The purpose of Op-Ed is to air member viewpoints that may or may not be consistent with current ARRL policy."

    Now that my kids are showing an interest in ham radio and have joined our local Amateur Radio kids club, I have some new perspectives on our avocation. I remember how my first CW QSOs as a Novice were devoid of real human contact. I was "talking" to my key and "listening" to the beeps. I was lucky to comprehend half of what the other guy was sending. Once I got his QSL address, TNX, QSL, BCNU or 73 was usually my response.

    But my realization today is that probably no matter what he sent, he could not intimidate, belittle or offend me. The difficulty of the medium (from a new CW operator's point of view) acted as a kind of psychological insulator to help overcome apprehension and shyness. We were both having fun just struggling with Morse. If I screwed up, the other Novice probably missed it anyway. I never knew if the other guy was man or woman, kid or adult, or even if he or she spoke fluent English. There was a friendly sense of community among the beginners.

    On the other hand, stick a voice rig and microphone in front of any kid and he or she usually freezes. Why? The insulating veil has been stripped away, exposing every vulnerability and inadequacy in plain English for the world to hear. There is no community of equals. The kids know perfectly well who and what is on the other end of the circuit -- a bunch of intimidating grownups.

    Our own local 2-meter FM commuter net includes some of the most friendly and welcoming folks you'll find anywhere. Even so, it is still populated by adults and can seem intimidating to kids.

    For example, recently I was reprimanded on the air for using my 3-letter suffix to join the morning roundtable, since it was not my complete call sign. Apparently, unbeknownst to me, this topic is a hot potato in some amateur circles (DX operations in particular). In the pregnant pause that followed, my kids wanted to know, "...what was up with that? Daddy, were you doing something wrong?" There was a definite chill in the air!

    A few days later the subject of kids and Amateur Radio came up on the net. One ham lamented that his daughter had gone from Novice to Amateur Extra in 6 months, yet within the first week of being on the air she was subjected to a hostile rant from some old barnacle. She hasn't touched the radio since. Another parent said the same thing had happened to his child. After months of preparation and support, the newly minted amateur took to the airwaves and immediately ran into a bitter Old Timer who launched into a tirade about how kids didn't have to learn the code like he did and, as a result, did not deserve to be hams. Strike two. Another licensed amateur never heard on the air again.

    And just months ago, as three of us dads were carrying our kids to school during the commuters net, we tried a few times to hand the mikes to our children in the hope of getting them to talk to each other. It worked! We were excited. After doing this for a few mornings, we thought we were on to something. The other adults in the net were more than happy to give up a minute or so to let them say "Hi" or "Bye." Inevitably, a curmudgeon appeared on the repeater and declared that kids should not be using radios until they got their licenses. The curmudgeon went on to quote rules and procedures, but by then the children were no longer listening. They retreated into their backseats and haven't shown much of an interest in our 2-meter commuter nets since. Strike three for us.

    In general, hams are a great bunch of folks. The mean-spirited minds among us are but a tiny minority. Despite this fact, when the Darth Vaders appear out of the woodwork to intimidate children, they do far more damage than their small numbers would suggest.

    One thing I have learned is that it is probably not a good idea to encourage my kids to get on the voice bands. There is just too much potential for insult, insinuation and bigoted behavior. For some voice experience, I'm probably going to put my son and some of his neighborhood friends on CB or FRS with just enough antenna to hear each other so they can talk about kid stuff and not be attacked. With years of gentle nurturing of my children's Amateur Radio interests, the investment is just too high and the risk too great to expose them to the "full body language" of voice at their young age.

    The point is that new, young amateurs need a "place" of their own, separate from the adult world. It is a place where they can feel comfortable communicating with others, a place with that "insulating" character I enjoyed with CW as a Novice. One solution we came up with was a kid's net on Thursday evenings. Encouraging CW operation may be part of the answer. On the other hand, I'm willing to bet that digital modes such as PSK31 have the best potential. Imagine local PSK31 roundtables on 80 meters, for example. Internet savvy kids would recognize them right away as wireless "chat rooms."

    To ensure the future of Amateur Radio, we need to encourage those who will eventually replace us. As part of that process, it is crucial that we shelter them from exposure to the "dark side of the force."

    Reprinted, with permission, from May 2001 QST; © ARRL

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    Out of the mouths of babes

    Police Story

    While taking a routine vandalism report at an elementary school, I was interrupted by a little girl about six years old. Looking up and down at my uniform, she asked, "Are you a cop?" "Yes," I answered and continued writing the report. "My mother said if I ever needed help I should ask the police. Is that right?" "Yes, that's right," I told her.

    "Well, then," she said as she extended her foot toward me, "would you please tie my shoe?"

    Police Story # 2

    It was the end of the day when I parked my police van in front of the station. As I gathered my equipment, my K-9 partner, Jake, was barking, and I saw a little boy staring in at me. "Is that a dog you got back there?" he asked. "It sure is," I replied. Puzzled, the boy looked at me and then towards the back of the van. Finally he said, "What'd he do?"

    Elderly

    While working for an organization that delivers lunches to elderly shut-ins, I used to take my four-year- old daughter on my afternoon rounds.

    She was unfailingly intrigued by the various appliances of old age, particularly the canes, walkers and wheelchairs. One day I found her staring at a pair of false teeth soaking in a glass. As I braced myself for the inevitable barrage of questions, she merely turned and whispered, "The tooth fairy will never believe this!"

    Dress-up

    A little girl was watching her parents dress for a party. When she saw her dad donning his tuxedo, she warned, "Daddy, you shouldn't wear that suit." "And why not, darling?" "You know that it always gives you a headache next morning."

    Death

    While walking along the sidewalk in front of his church, our minister heard the intoning of a prayer that nearly made his collar wilt.

    Apparently, his five-year-old son and his playmates had found a dead robin. Feeling that proper burial should be performed, they had secured a small box and cotton batting, then dug a hole and made ready for the disposal of the deceased. The minister's son was chosen to say the appropriate prayers and with sonorous dignity intoned his version of what he thought his father always said: "Glory be unto the Faaaather.....and unto the Sonnn .......and into the hole he gooooes."

    School

    A little girl had just finished her first week of school. "I'm just wasting my time," she said to her mother. "I can't read, I can't write, and they won't let me talk!"

    -- via KC7LA, Paul, and KD7ME, Phil in Tacoma

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    Local Happenings from the VP

    A lot has happened since I last wrote. The big items were the Capitol City Marathon and the just-completed road rally. At the last OARS meeting we planned our field day effort, which this year will be on the capitol campus. We assigned tasks to ourselves and from the looks of it, this will be a banner event. Speaking of banners, wait until you see the new OARS banner! It's three feet high and fifteen feet long, with the ARRL logo on the left, a snazzy "Ham Radio Communications" in black and white in the middle, and the OARS logo on the right. This one gets noticed -- I put it up for the road rally this past weekend and many people commented on how nice it looks. We'll have it out, advertising our mission, at field day.

    Some of you may not know much about field day, so I'll say a few words on this most special of ham events. Every June during the 4th weekend, every ham and club worth its salt sets up an "emergency power" station and spends 24 hours in friendly competition, making QSOs with like stations all over the world. The object is to get in practice actually setting up an emergency station -- (it's harder than you think), and have fun, and see what kind of communication is possible in less-than-optimum circumstances. We'll have a potluck, a hospitality table, a breakfast, lots of time for "eyeball QSOs" -- it's a true ham's weekend. I haven't missed one since 1977, and I'm already stoked for this one!

    Back to the Capitol City Marathon. Twenty ham's made this event a success this year, the weather cooperated, and we all had fun watching about 1800 runners compete. From what I heard, the announcers waxed poetic about our communications acumen, complimenting us repeatedly. We had the APRS system cranked up; we did our Health & Welfare tasks of helping the walking wounded get back home. We shadowed the last runners through to the finish, all the while keeping the many spectators apprised of course conditions. We learned that the PA system at the finish line makes understanding our communications a challenge, and we strategized on how to fix that. It was excellent, overall.

    The June 9 & 10 SCCA road rally was another tour-de-force for ham radio, demonstrating that we "amateurs" mostly do professional communications work! This two-day event used about 30 hams and once again, due entirely to our efforts, the event went very well -- although the weather wasn't cooperating, with pounding rain challenging our patience. I took our banner to the service area, to a spectator area, to anywhere I could, as I'm working on an article for QST and needed pictures of real hams doing real radio work, and this was a golden opportunity to showcase our members. The event finished up at the Shelton Community Center where a banquet honoring the rallyists heard complements from many on our communications prowess.

    I'm working on the Lakefair Parade now, lining up hams to manage several aspects of the event. We'll be assembling the parade with hams. We'll put hams with the floats, the cheerleaders, the horses, and the bands, and then guide each group into interlaced alignment at the start. As judging is done essentially at the start, we'll radio the winners of the President's trophy for best float, etc., to hams with the celebrity announcers positioned at seven announcer's booths along the parade course. I could use another half-dozen hams for this effort, if you're free July 21! Give a call, either on 147.36 or here at home, at 866-0800. (If you must use the phone, understand that with three teenagers, the phone is seldom unused.)

    I'm sure you've heard the many under-18-year-old hams on the repeater, looking for OARS members. They're competing in a contest I started, trying to see who can contact the most OARS members by the end of July. The winner get's a year's QST subscription. If you're an OARS member, please get on the repeater and help these folks rack up the Q's!

    I'm putting together a summer ham class -- the class itself will probably be in late August. If you know someone who needs a tech license, have them get in touch, please! I anticipate about 15 students already but the more the merrier!

    I could also use some help with the June program for our OARS meeting; my presenter has had to back out. Any ideas? 

    Tnx for all the help with these events! See you at Field Day June 23rd, and again June 27th at the OARS monthly meeting.

    73's! -- Lee, KI7SS

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    Packet Radio on the ISS

    The ARISS team reported to ANS that the packet system onboard Alpha has been activated. There have been several minor problems. 

    ARISS team members have been debugging issues with the packet module over the past few months. The team is fairly certain that the TNC's RAM battery backup died shortly after the equipment was commissioned. ARISS has been waiting for the Expedition crews to connect a laptop to the packet module to check out the system and re-install the packet parameters, including a callsign. To date, this has not happened due to the high workload the crews have been faced with. The bottom line is, it appears that the packet system is alive and working well (and able to support APRS), but is operating without the parameters installed prior to flight.

    The ARISS team suggests those operators who are using the ISS packet system review the packet information found on the ARISS web site at:

    http://ariss.gsfc.nasa.gov/

    The page has great pictures and written descriptions of the Amateur Radio equipment on-board ISS.

    The most common question the team has received recently is why can't we change the NOCALL to the ISS callsign? The ARISS group would love to do this. However, as stated above, the battery in the TNC has died and all the parameters, including the callsign, was then erased from the TNC RAM.

    The ARISS team plan is to install the callsign when the current crew has the time to connect a computer to the packet equipment and run a program to correct the default settings. Both the Expedition-1 and Expedition-2 crews have not had the time to accomplish this task. 

    Also asked was what happened to the Cosmonautics Day voice operations? The only place the team heard that voice operations occurred during the Cosmonautics Day event was in Russia. The crew had the times of the contacts on their daily timeline but must have been too busy to reach for the radio. The ARISS team will continue to ask the crew to do random voice contacts whenever possible.

    The ARISS team is asking Amateur Radio satellite operators to be patient. The ARISS volunteers worked very hard to bring the initial hardware to fruition. From an operations standpoint, it will take a while before things start to settle out on ISS.

    -- AMSAT News Service Bulletin 105.02

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    Naming the boat

    BOATING magazine runs a contest for clever boat names. Reeling in the honors have been:

    -- 73, David ZL3AI

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