|Computers in the Shack
|Our Last RANV Meeting
|The Prez Sez
|Veterans' Day Parade
|Marathons & Terrorists
|Fox Wins Fox Hunt
|DFing the Fair II
|Eight New Hams
|FD 2001 Results
Gadgets and gizmos. There seems to be an innate instinct in virtually every amateur radio operator that draws us to them. It's these same instincts that also peak many folk's interest in the personal computer. So, it's only natural to find both of these devices, the radio and the computer, sitting side by side in many radio shacks around the world. And just as amateur radio has gone through many changes, from spark gap and AM to miniaturization and DSP filters, so has the personal computer. Although the PC is only about 20 years old, it has changed quite a bit since its inception.
Join us on for our meeting on November 13th, when Fred N1ZUK will bring us up to date on many of the ways people are using personal computers to enhance the hobby of ham radio. We'll discuss the latest twist in uses of computers you may be familiar with, and some you may never thought about. Looking for QSL information? Did you make the log of the latest DXpedition? Where can I find information on the latest model radio, or the 30-year-old amp you picked up at the last hamfest? Need a new logging program, or want to try a new operating mode? We'll try to give you some new ideas, and help you with resources to find what you need.
Meetings always go better when there's show and tell, so we'll have set up an operating station with a working computer interface. We'll demonstrate several logging and digital mode programs, and put W1NVT on the air.
The RANV meeting starts at 7PM sharp on Tuesday, November 13th at the O'Brien Civic Center, 113 Patchen Road, South Burlington. Join us for eats at Zach's Pizza on Williston Road starting at 6.
Mark Tuesday, December 11th on your calendar! That is the date of the Gala RANV Holiday Party. The Party will once again be hosted by Mitch and Debbie at their Essex QTH. RANV will be providing the eats. The menu will include a large deli platter, cocktail meatballs and franks, desserts and anything else you tell us to get. Activity will get underway at 5:30PM and will include eating, telling tall tales, eating, playing with radios, eating, watching videos and eating. Over the next few weeks please let Mitch know who is coming and what you would like to bring. See you at the Holiday Party!
Pursuant to the By-Laws of the Radio Amateurs of Northern Vermont, enclosed in this month's newsletter is your ballot for election of officers. Families receiving one newsletter will receive the correct number of ballots. Nominations for officers come from the membership, or (much of the time) people are asked to run. We have found one candidate for each office. However, any club member in good standing, who agrees, can be written in.
Paul AA1SU has agreed to continue as president and Brian N1BQ will continue as VP/Treasurer. And for Secretary, Charlie W1CHG, veteran of many public service events, has agreed to run for Secretary.
Please show your support for our officers by voting. Either bring your ballot to the meeting, vote by E-mail, or immediately mail your ballot.
And remember our motto, vote early and vote often!
The last RANV meeting started at 7:15pm, October 9th at the O'Brien Civic Center. I counted 14 hams that turned out. At the start of the meeting, club president AA1SU introduced some new business. The club voted in favor of spending $100 to buy food and drinks for the holiday party that is held annually each December at Mitch's house. Members were encouraged to join the the ARRL through RANV, since RANV gets a $15 commission. Next, we moved on to taking nominations for club officers for 2002. Paul AA1SU, was again nominated for the position of president, and Brian N1BQ was nominated for Vice-president/Treasurer for a second term too. Charlie W1CHG, was nominated for Secretary. The ballot for elections of club officers can be found in this newsletter and will be counted during the November meeting.
The main presentation for the evening was from Dave Pierce WX1C on the topic of antenna modeling. Dave gave us a great introduction to the antenna construction experience by describing his personal history of antenna experimentation. Back when Dave was first licensed, he began trying out a 5/8-wave vertical on 20 meters. At the time, no computer modeling was available, and the extent of his understanding was an article in CQ magazine on verticals written by Paul Lee. After awhile, Dave realized that his antenna would work better if he added some radials which would decrease the resistive losses. Soon he discovered that he could work more and more DX with each alteration to his system. Dave described for us that he began to understand all the things that effect an HF antenna's performance. Things like: ground conductivity (Vermont ground is lousy!), antenna impedance, height, length-diameter ratios, etc. could play a significant part in the operation of an antenna system. However, it was difficult to quantify exactly how much of an effect each of these parameters had on the overall effectiveness. Furthermore, to do any comparative analysis between different designs, he would have to build it, and then see that it MAYBE worked!
Enter the antenna modeling program! Recently, several computer programs have been made available to the ham community that allows decent modeling of various antenna systems. For example, with detailed information about the construction of Dave's vertical, he could learn what his gain and 3D radiation pattern looked like. Also, he could easily see how his antenna was improved when he added more radials or changed its height or terrain properties.
Dave gave us a brief overview of the different modeling programs out there. NEC, which stands for Numerical Electromagnetic Code, is a program sponsored by the US Department of Energy. Many of the modern programs are based on this. For example, EZNEC is a Windows-based program that is free and available on the web. It allows modeling of up to 30 elements; so most wire antennas are definitely within its capability. For more complex modeling, such as for yagis, a program with more capability (not free) may be needed.
Thanks to the information in Dave's presentation, I got interested in experimenting with a demo version of EZNEC to design my own antennas. Through modeling, I now know the benefits in directivity of a 160-meter four square. Now if only I had the room on my lot for one!
It has been a busy four plus years for the club and me. I joined RANV right after taking Mitch's course in April, 1997. I have enjoyed it ever since, and I am looking forward to my third term as Club President, if I am elected. As many of you know, I try to stay active on the ham bands as much as I can. It has been difficult these past eight months to enjoy the hobby as much as I once did, because I am now working more. However, I still love to take the time to answer an E-mail request for a CW sked. People still yearn to get Vermont for their awards. In fact, I have done this myself for those last few QSOs needed for a certificate.
As the year goes on, I enjoy meeting and making new ham friends, as well as staying in touch with the current ones. I do this, not only by attending club meetings, but also by volunteering for various events during the year, where hams are needed. They occur throughout the year, and vary in size and scope. Some you hear about, some you don't. If you would like to participate in such an event, I would highly encourage it, as it helps with that preparedness thing that we are talking about more and more lately. It gives one the opportunity to evaluate their operating capabilities. Things such as antenna gain, signal quieting, battery life, self-stamina, weather protection, food and net terminology all could be marked for evaluation during and after these fun events.
As I mentioned last month, ours is a very strong club, and I am proud of that. Please continue to support amateur radio and Elmer (guide) others as you go along in life. We will be talking more about emergency preparedness in the months to come. In the meantime, stay radioactive.
On Saturday, November 3rd, Essex Junction hosted the 3rd Annual Green Mountain Council Statewide Veterans Day Parade. The theme was "Passing the Torch of Freedom". When the local organizers heard that they would be hosting this event, they did what only made sense: they called Mitch W1SJ. Mitch always helps out with the Essex Junction Memorial Day Parade in May, and does an outstanding job. The only problem was Mitch would be in New York for the NYC Marathon. So Mitch did what only made sense: he called me.
I agreed to do it, and proceeded to evaluate how many hams would be needed for the event, by contacting Ann Gray, the organizer. I also contacted Richard WN1HJW to see if he would be willing to use his Dodge Caravan for the RANV float. Richard was honored. Ann told me that there would be six divisions; A thru E plus a lead division. Richard's position would be A-95. I thought A-95? That sounds either like a really long division or maybe I did not understand the sub-divisions.
I gathered together nine hams, plus Richard. We had one for each of the six divisions, one shadow, and one at the Five Corners. During the planning meeting at 7:30 in the morning, I learned that Division A would take up five columns on the lawn during the staging process. This made the parade look like it really had ten divisions to me. The parade was three times larger than the Memorial Day Parade! Did I panic? Of course not. I did the only thing that made sense. I put John N1LXI in charge of Division A. Because of previous parade experience he, and the rest of us did an outstanding job. All of us were involved with passing changes to the Five Corners. The non-ham Parade Marshals had their own radios once again, but they still relied heavily on us for the nuts and bolts of the operation.
Once underway, the parade went very smoothly. Division E, my assignment, accepted all of the latecomers. So, even as the Lead Division was reentering the Fairgrounds, I was still adding on to the end of the line. This year, we actually had two medical emergencies that the Essex Rescue had to respond to. The team was in the last Division with me, so I had to contact them, and then clear the way as they made their way down to Route 2A.
I kept this event a RANV function, and it worked out well. The parade now rotates around the state from town to town. If and when it comes back to Essex, we will naturally be ready. I wish to thank the following participants: Richard WN1HJW, Bob KB1FRW, Glenn N1WCK, Scott AA1VF, Leo KB1EZE, John KB1EZC, John N1LXI, Sara W1SLR, and Dave W1DKL. Great job guys.
On the first Sunday of November, I provide communications for the New York City Marathon. This is easy to plan, since I have been doing this for the last 18 years. However, in the post-September 11th world, there was much to be considered. The Marathon is a high profile event the world over, and great numbers of people are concentrated in small places. Those qualities which make this an exciting event also make it an event ripe for terrorism. The State Department warning about terrorist action that week did little to provide assurance. I remain steadfast in doing what I what I always do and will not let a threat dissuade me. However, I also think it utmost to survive the event as well. Debbie had a clearer picture when she said, "let's not go."
I felt better when, on TV, I saw 3 World Series games in Yankee Stadium, one with the President posing as a pitcher and nothing happened. If they are willing to put the President, the Governor and Mayor in a high profile place, that told me that the powers that be had a handle on things. I also learned that the start and finish lines of the race were declared no-fly zones and were to be defended by F-16s. The bridges used in the race were also carefully searched, checked and sealed prior to the event. With that knowledge, I went to work on providing communications for the race.
Security was the watchword for everything we did. Simply getting to the finish line required proper credentials (which has always been the case). New this year was metal detectors use to screen all people who entered after 7AM on Sunday. The only people in the park before that were volunteers, and perhaps, terrorists. This year, we had all sorts of contingency plans to move the communications nerve center or even to stop or divert the race, if these became necessary. After doing the Marathon for many years, many of us do it with our eyes closed (literally, since the day begins at 6). However, there was a rush of adrenaline this year, as a situation, although unlikely, was clearly possible.
I dug into work on the Logistics South Net, a net which handles everything, except medical problems and dropouts (we often handle those too) for the first 16 miles of the course. With 2 million cups, 720 water barrels, 682 tables, 3200 volunteers, and other assorted equipment, there are major logistics to be considered. I have done this net because it was the peacetime equivalent of the ARRL Sweepstakes. For hours, you were constantly talking, constantly being screamed at, constantly being jammed and always dealing with problems. These days, with everyone having cell phones and the race sponsor having their act together, the net is a lot tamer. We still get our share of lost tables, potholes in the streets and missing volunteers, but we handle these items much more quickly.
When all was said and done, the day was very quiet. The few supply problems were fixed quickly. The weather conditions were supposedly warm, yet course records were broken and the amount of medical activity was down. And nothing blew up or crashed, which made us all very happy.
What happens when the Fox, during a Fox Hunt, throws a party and no one shows up? That was the situation we ran into at the Fall RANV Fox Hunt held October 12th. I started the hunt at 6:40 and finally, at 10:00, well over 3 hours later, called the hunt when it was apparent that the 2 hunters remaining were not getting any closer. This is the first time in our series of hunts, dating back 9 years, where the Fox ended up winning by default!
How did I find such a dastardly spot which put our 6 hunting teams to shame. There was no planning - really! I decided on hiding in Westford, since it has never been done before. The last 3 hunts I have hid in areas fairly close to the Lake or Burlington, so being way out in Westford would be a nice change. The foliage was real nice, before it got dark - very dark! The only real concern was the ability to place an adequate signal into Burlington so that all could hear me. After poking around a few roads, I chose a short dirt road up a hill east of the center of Westford. However, to get there from Westford, you had to go south 0.4 mile on Route 128, turn off onto Osgood Hill Road and go 1.4 miles Southeast and head up Stoney Ridge Road for 0.4 mile. I actually found a nice spot to pull off the road - a luxury on most back roads. As it turned out, I didn't have any problems being heard, over wide areas of Chittenden County and our hunters wasted no time in spreading out all over the place.
After the first roll call of hunters, it appeared that KB1EZC and family were on the right track to the Fox as he reported in from Old Stage Road - certainly heading in the right direction. However, subsequent roll calls found them heading south, going the wrong way! During the hunt, we got down to business of transmitting and entertaining the troops. Debbie emerged with a book of corny jokes (ugh, were they bad). I thought the etiquette article she did in August 2000 was better. I pulled out an old reliable - the Wetlink CB Radio News, a spoof of the old Westlink Report . I know we transmitted an awful lot. The radio (Icom IC-228) was so hot that it would easily cook dinner - something we both thought about a lot!
It was very lonely up there. The only activity was a guy going by on a 4-wheeler just as we started. After some of the roll calls, it became apparent that many of the hunters were glued to the Route 15 corridor in Essex and Jericho. By 9:00 it was getting late, so I announced that we were north of the Winooski River, East of I-89 and not in Essex, Jericho, Colchester or Milton. A little later I added the a clue for those geographically challenged. The clue was "Go West, Henry", which should have lead everyone to West-Ford. Two hunters took the hint and the rest stayed in Essex, not believing me. I heard remarks like, "you're strong on the paper clip in Essex Center, so you must be here!" You can't change the mind of a determined hunter!
I have some ideas why everyone had trouble. The location was moderately high, which put a strong signal into Essex Center. The trick in DFing is to know if a strong signal is immediately nearby or from a high station off in the distance. There is no surefire way to determine this. Playing hunches is a big part of the game. You learn to quickly test a hunch and continue if it is wrong. Another problem was found by the hunters who reached Westford. The village is in a valley with hills on either side. Climb out of the valley and the signal comes up - even if you go the wrong way! During the Fox Hunt off-season, take the time to practice often!
Not only have we entered Fall and hunting season, but we have also entered Contest Season. Starting at the end of October, six out of seven weekends have major contests happening. If you weren't on for the CQ Worldwide two weeks ago, you missed a great one! Several of us were operating a multiop station at KK1L and were treated to excellent conditions, particularly on 10 meters. Rates ran upwards of 150 per hour at the peaks, and that is in a contest where Vermont is NOT a multiplier. All sorts of juicy DX was worked, including YA in Afganistan (not sure if he was a bootlegger!). Last weekend was the ARRL Sweepstakes CW and this weekend is clear of any contents!
Then, the fireworks really begin! November 17-18th is the ARRL Sweepstakes Phone and based on the all the people vying for high scores, it promises to be every bit as exciting as the 7th game of the World Series! Everyone should get on and participate, since a simple station will still make a lot of contacts. For those new to the Sweepstakes, look up the rules in QST or on the ARRL Web Site. The exchange is rather complicated, but challenging and fun!
Think there is a break after the SS? Not a chance. Just after the Turkey is digested, the CQ Worldwide CW kicks into full swing on November 23-25th. Ron KK1L mentioned something about running a multiop effort for this one as well. Start practicing CW!
There is a rare skipped week on the first weekend of December. Then on December 7-9th, we have the ARRL 160 Meter Contest, which is a CW contest. Love to stay up all night, get no sleep and listing to static all night? Then this one is for you. Between all that static, I usually find a way to work around 1000 people, with a bunch in Europe.
Then, on December 14-16th is the ARRL 10 Meter Contest. You definitely do not want to miss this one, as 10 meters will not get any better. In particular, get on early in the morning for the Europe run - you'll have a blast. If you don't have a station, there are usually some hams in the area who set up multiop stations and are looking for people.
Why contest? You can work new states, work new countries, sharpen your skills, make new friends and simply have a load of fun. However, it doesn't happen unless you turn the radio on!
RANV Jackets is a topic that has come up several times over the years. The time has come to finally get together and get them. WearGuard is having a great sale. First, we can have our logo embroidered on our jackets without paying a set-up fee. The set-up fee is normally $140, so that is a substantial savings. Also, all embroidery is half price, another big savings for us. In order to have our logo embroidered for this fantastic bargain price, we need to have orders for either six jackets or twelve shirts. Once we meet the minimum, say, six jackets, we can then order however many shirts with our logo that we would like. Of course, anyone is free to order a call sign shirt or jacket anytime. It just won't have the special RANV logo embroidered on it! To get our logo digitized for embroidery free of charge, we need to act fast.
Here are the options we are working with. All include the RANV logo and your personal call sign embroidered on the front of the garment. To have the RANV logo also embroidered on the back of the jacket, add $8.00.
1) Tough & Lite Jacket - water-resistant 100% nylon shell, moisture-wicking lining. Rib-knit cuffs and waist seal out wind. Tunnel collar zips all the way up for extra protection. Color: blue. Sizes: Small, Medium, Large and XL - total cost: $49.86; Sizes: 2XL and 3XL - total cost: $56.18
2) Chamois Shirt - soft, 100% cotton chamois cloth, wear as a light coat or layer in brisk weather. Weight:6« oz. Combed cotton is brushed smooth on both sides. Full cut and made to layer with a henley or a thermal top. Double needle stitching throughout for long wear. Two expandable, button-flap pockets. Machine wash and dry. Color: slate blue. Sizes: Small, Medium, Large and XL - total cost: $38.50. Sizes 2XL and 3XL - total cost: $42.50
3) Heavy Duty Work Shirt - Arasoft fabric for a softer, more comfortable feel, easy-care, 4.2-oz. 65% polyester/35% cotton blend, reinforced seams, buttons and pockets, soil-release finish. Color: light blue. Sizes: Small, Medium, Large and XL - total cost: $24.50. Sizes 2XL and 3XL - total cost: $28.75
The catalog will be available at the November meeting, so bring your checkbook and be ready to place your order. Orders take approximately eight weeks to process as our logo must be created for embroidery, and the holiday season will soon be getting underway. Wouldn't it be nice to have RANV jackets or shirts at the next event?
It appears that information on listening to other radio services generate great interest. Past articles included a piece on listening to aircraft frequencies and on listening to radio activities at the Champlain Valley Fair. I returned to the Fair this year to collect data for those interested in the spectrum beyond ham radio.
The most listened to frequency, the police channel, was dead whenever I was listening. The police at the Fair are hired from Essex and various departments and use a simplex channel, which only can be heard in the immediate vicinity. Since everyone was behaving themselves (at least while I was there) there was no activity. I had an idea about causing a ruckus at the beer tent to get someone to call on the radio, but thought better of it. Another simplex channel, 464.55 MHz, was used by Lemieux Security, I believe, for internal Fair security. There was a lot of traffic in the late evening concerning the locking down of buildings. Fair employees had their own frequency, 467.75 MHz, to handle logistics. I heard real crucial things like moving around bales of hay and cleaning up the expected messes left behind horses and cows.
The best fun was finding the frequencies used by the myriad of performers, commercial pitchmen and carnival barkers using wireless microphones. Not everyone uses wireless mikes; quite a few older wired mikes were in use as well. For example, the Clown in "Drown the Clown" used a wired mike, probably because they can't find a wireless mike which would hold up after repeated dunkings. Locating wireless mike frequencies are tricky because they don't radiate very far - about 100 feet maximum when listening on a Narrow FM receiver (like a scanner) or about 25 feet when listening with a Wide FM receiver. Most wireless mikes are used within 10 feet of the receiver. Fortunately, the VX-5R has both modes and I was able to switch back and forth. Most of the mikes transmitted in the 170-185 MHz range, leading me to wonder what they do if there is a nearby TV transmitter on channel 7 (174-180 MHz) or channel 8 (180-186 MHz). There didn't appear to be any frequency coordination done - two carnies were using 171.045 MHz within 250 feet of each other on the midway. And in DX, the booth with the darts was on 184.4 MHz and was heard clear out to Pearl Street! Some of the transmitters were not particularly clean. The "Fat Albert" booth was using a different mike than last year and was heard on 60.04 and 180.08 MHz. The 60 MHz signal was a little stronger, so that must have been the real frequency - I think.
People ask me how do I know that I found the right frequency. Without divulging any trade secrets, let's just say that some strange noises were occasionally heard coming from the carnival games when I was around.
For those of us interested in scanning frequencies, a project, which is long overdue, is an updated concise list of frequencies in the Chittenden County area. Every list I have seen lately is woefully outdated or is simply a list of licensed frequencies, containing many frequencies no longer used. This would be a nice side project which could be then posted on the Web Site for all to share.
The Fall Weekend Class had eight students. One student came in with a Novice and now is a General, the remaining seven all have their Technician licenses and 3 have passed the General written test and are busy studying for the CW exam.
Just like last year's fall class, this was another class of ringers! Quiz and exam scores average around 95%, which made for a very easy and enjoyable class.
This was a very interesting mix of students. Tom KB1HGP is the older brother of RANV member Shel KC1MP. Shel told me that he taught Tom everything about ham radio and after the class, he didn't know a darn thing. I guess the class is a great way to clear one's mind! John KB1HGQ is a active in Car Rallies. He is heavily involved in the Race to the Clouds on Mount Washington each Field Day weekend. Sally KB1HGS and Kris KB1HGR are wife and son of Ken W1KMH in Pittsfield, down near Rutland. Ken is very active. How active? Every time I call him on the phone, he is on the repeater having a QSO! Dick KB1HGT is involved in boating and Claudio and Henry have wanted to be hams for a long time. Phil has had his Novice license for a quite a long time and now is enjoying his new General priviledges. Congratulations to all!
The next Weekend Class will be March 16-17 in Essex. Also, stay tuned here for an announcement about an upcoming weekend CW Class!
Here are the graduates of the Fall Weekend Class:
The results are out on the Web and RANV and W1NVT had another strong showing. No, we didn't finish first! We knew that a day or so after Field Day when it was learned that scores from groups out west and down south were much higher. They had the propagation - we didn't. It's as simple as that. We ended up with 10092 points and 8th place in 2A. A few more CW contacts and that could easily jump up to 5th since the point spread was real close at that spot. Last year we had around 10,000 points and finished first - this year we'll settle for 8th. That's the unlevel playing field which HF propagation provides. Either way, we turned in a tremendous job!
Looking at the scores, it appears that East Coast stations did about the same as last year, but southern and western stations had overall higher scores. There also seemed to be a few less Field Day groups in Vermont and New Hampshire.
Here is a listing of the Field Day groups in Vermont and nearby. Since it is impossible to compare scores across categories, the place, total number in category and overall percentile is shown to show how each did in their respective category.
CLUB CALL CAT QSO PTS # TOT PCT RANV W1NVT 2A 3304 10092 8 393 .98 Udder Club W1MOO 5A 3598 11592 2 89 .98 SOVARC WT1B 3A 1613 4940 47 322 .85 Twin State (NH) W1FN 4A 2137 5648 23 150 .85 GMWS N1VT 2A 1106 3916 110 393 .72 NVQS N1QS 2Abat 366 3185 27 82 .66 Tesaro (NH) W1IM 2Abat 417 1558 53 82 .37 CVARC W1BD 3A 181 962 281 322 .13 STARC KD1BL 3A 111 698 291 322 .10