|El Cheapo Antennas||Milton!||Ten-Tec Kits|
|Our Last RANV Meeting||The Prez Sez||RANV Contesting Activities|
|New Ham Companion||El Cheapo Antennas I've Met ||Repeater News|
|VT QSO Party||W1B Special Event ||VHF Sweepstakes |
|Computer News||Technical Coordinator||VE Session Schedule |
|Welcome to RANV|
For our January outing, we are most fortunate to have none other than our President Eric N1SRC talk about El Cheapo antennas he has made. Unbeknownst to many, when his RANV Executive duties allow the time, Eric can be found out in the yard or in the shack (the whole house is the shack) building and tuning antennas with his trusty MFJ analyzer. Many discussions have been carried on E-mail over the merits of the W6RCA mangled loop and how many dB of gain or loss are created by bends in the wire. Eric will talk about other antennas he has built, such as the Direct Feed Beam, Reworked FM beam and the KM1Z Tiger tail dipole. And, before our very eyes, he will construct a working J-pole antenna for 2-meters.
Antenna building is the last great bastion of amateur radio experimentation. It doesn't take a PHd to experiment with antennas (although it certainly helps!). We hope that our antenna night will inspire you to play with antennas in the upcoming winter antenna season.
All this and more can be found at the next RANV meeting, Tuesday, January 12th, at 7 PM at the O'Brien Civic Center, 113 Patchen Road, South Burlington. Attitude readjustment and general debauchery will start at 5:30 at Zachery's Pizza on Williston Road.
There are only 57 more shopping days until Milton! The Northern Vermont Winter Hamfest, a.k.a. the ARRL Vermont State Convention, will take place on Saturday, February 27th. Admission is still $3, the best bargain in ham radio! And tables are still offered to sellers for no charge. Such a deal! Doors open at 8 AM, but get there early to get the goodies. The usual cast of hamfest characters will be sporting their wares. Even if you are not in the market for a radio, we'll have plenty of books to perk up your interest. The program will include a larger ARRL Forum, where amateur restructuring and other key topics will be discussed. We are also looking to expand the Contest Forum into a regional meeting. We'll have the entire program printed here next month.
If you are reading this, whether in the newsletter or on the Web, please do us 2 favors. One, be there at the fest. Two, tell everyone you know, including non-hams. Tiny, poorly attended hamfests stink. I don't like them. No one does. Well-attended hamfests, with lots of people and stuff, are great and they make us all feel great afterwards. So, make a point to get on the radio and tell everyone you talk to about Milton. Send E-mail. Make phone calls. Let's get everyone out and show them all that ham radio is thriving!
RANV has received an offer from Ten-Tec to offer their line of radio kits on consignment. We are considering offering these at the Milton Hamfest to further increase the variety of items. Some of the more well known items are the 6-Meter transverter, QRP transceivers and short wave receivers, all selling for $100-150. Because Ten-Tec requires money up front for these items, RANV can only offer a limited selection. However, if you know if you would be interested in any of these kits, please let us know and we will adjust the order accordingly. For details, consult a current catalog or visit www.tentec.com.
The meeting of December 8th was a cozy affair at the home of Mitch, W1SJ. I arrived fashionably late, with cookies (some burnt), to find several hams in the kitchen enjoying food and radio chit chat. As we stood there talking, we all enjoyed cold cuts, chicken wings, knishes, soda, cookies, etc.
I also brought along some goodies that arrived from the League that day, to share. The items included a new book on the thrill of DXing on 160 meters, a CQ Radio Classics Calendar with pictures of restored radios and the dates of major contests, a prefix book from the RSGB (Radio Society of Great Britain), a log book, the DXCC Countries List, and the World Grid Locator Atlas. I decided to leave my new maps of the World and the U.S. at home - not much new there.
After we had our fill, we retired to the living room to watch videos of Field Days past. The 1998 recording was not available yet, but watching the antennas and the scores go up was most enjoyable. Some clips were so old that the operators were shown using paper logging - wow! Any non-ham passersby would have thought the movies quite boring and strange, I'm sure. In fact, some members did indeed go back into the kitchen after watching the constant weaving and zooming of the camera operator proved to be too much for them.
At the Steering Wheel meeting, thoughts turned to future events, as we discussed the upcoming Milton Hamfest on February 27th. We batted around ideas for featured speaker topics and we are considering RFI & DX. This is still in the planing stage and if there is a topic that you would like to see offered, please let Mitch know. Also, we need help from club members with the operation of the hamfest. Please make plans to help out for the day, if you can. If you're planing to come for the festivities only, maybe you could allow yourself some extra time to relieve someone from their post, so that they may have fun and shop for an hour or so, too. Please consider it.
The sun is doing its magic on 10 meters. I am still pretty wet behind the ears, particularly on HF, so all this is new to me. During the 10-Meter contest I did not do a whole lot, only about a dozen contacts in spare moments. I heard some really fun stuff but could not break the pileups. However, there have been some really nice openings to Europe in the mornings. On a weekday morning there is not a lot of competition and I was able to work Estonia off the null of my loop with no trouble. Gives me a little more incentive to study code some more.
We are looking for help with the Milton Hamfest on February 27th. We will need help in several areas and we already know that staffing will be harder this year. It should be a fun day for all as long as we all pitch in. Save up some money and come participate.
We have an opportunity to sell some Ten-Tec kits (ad on page 131 of the January QST). I have been eyeing their 6-meter transverter because I want to get back on 6 meters and these look like the least expensive way to do it given that I have access to an HF rig. The club will get some compensation for selling the kits but we can't afford to get very many on pure speculation. We will need to get an idea what kits you might be interested in. I think this is a good opportunity for us to have some fun and promote radio. We will need somebody who can take charge of the paperwork and sales for these. We can discuss this further at the January meeting where we will need to vote on this idea. They have some great little QRP and receiver kits that might be good for getting started in HF or SWL activity.
I am off now to see if I can get a 10-meter station on the air at my father's house. This should be interesting. We plan on setting up one of the infamous loop antennas fed with some leftover coax. We'll tune it up and see how it goes.
For what it is worth, the FCC appears to be getting more serious about enforcement with over 30 actions in the last month, compared to only a few all last year. They are initiating some actions on their own as well as responding to complaints. This should be helpful for those who want to play by the rules. Thanks to W1SJ for his efforts to keep the repeater on the air. It takes quite a lot of effort to keep it running. The noises on it are annoying, but fixes are in the works, they are just hard to implement. Have a great New Year!
Contesting activity was hot in Vermont in the month of December. In the ARRL 160 Meter CW Contest, I heard 8 Vermonters, including 6 club members. Two won't be sending in logs, but that still leaves 4 members who turned out a fine effort for the top band. As many of you know, 160 meters is a nighttime band and is plagued by static, storms, and poor propagation. Antennas used were probably dipoles and windoms that have a tendency to take up more real estate than most other HF antennas. Sticking it out through the night is a must for a good score. Top scorers in this event tend to start right at the starting time of 5 PM, and run until around 8:30 AM local time. Starting up again at 3 PM Saturday, a few close-in stations can be worked, then it's another all-night session.
The following weekend was the ARRL 10 Meter Contest. I heard 9 Vermonters, including 4 club members who are sending in logs. As many of you know, 10 Meters is a daytime band plagued by fading, local noise sources, and sometimes poor propagation. Sticking it out through the day is a must for a good score. We had a mixed bag of modes and power levels within our club. I ran low power CW, while Tom W1EAT competed with QRP CW. Mitch W1SJ was high power SSB and Bob N1MEZ stuck it out as a mixed mode, multi-operator station. Could this mean certificates for all of us? Maybe! Antennas used were beams, delta loops and dipoles. Friday night started out quiet, but Saturday and Sunday were booming from sun up to sun down.
Upcoming events for the month of January include another wide variety of modes and sponsors. The North American QSO Party is only 12 hours long with a maximum operating time for single ops of 10 hours. Power is limited to 150 watts and only North American locations count as multipliers. The CW portion starts at 1 PM on Saturday, January 9th and the Phone portion starts at 1 PM on Saturday, January 16th. The shorter operating time will give you the opportunity to get other things done around the homestead.
On Friday, January 29th, we return to the top band for the CQ WW 160-Meter Contest, CW. This is another monster all-nighter type contest, but with more worldwide participation. (The ARRL version did not score DX to DX contacts.) There is no time limit because the band is closed during our daylight hours anyway. Propagation at twilight may provide the best DX.
For those of you not on 160, or shy about contesting, try the Kansas QSO Party on the same weekend. You'll get to practice your search & pounce skills and you will find all sorts of interesting DX and Special Event Stations on the bands while looking. I learned the ropes of contesting by participating in various state QSO parties. They always love to get Vermont. On the few times that I remembered to send in a log, I came in first place for Vermont and received a certificate; even with just a handful of contacts! Of course, it helped that I was the only Vermonter to send in a log. Give it a try. It's a good way to break yourself into the fun mode of contesting.
The main event is the Vermont QSO Party, which runs 48 hours from 7pm Friday night, February 7th until 7pm Sunday night, February 8th. In this contest, you need to call CQ. Search & pounce may get you a few counties, but not likely many states. New Hampshire and Maine will also be holding their QSO parties on this weekend. We New Englanders are maniacs. Complete rules are on the RANV web page. The rules in QST are often in error, so use the web page instead. W1OFW/M (Old Farfels Wireless) or W1B (Snowflake Bentley Special Event) are worth a one-time bonus of 5,000 points and VT, NH, & ME counties count as multipliers. We really need to put Vermonters on the air in force for this one and do more than just hand out a few contacts.
For those of you not able to contest on HF or VHF SSB, please visit the Special Event Station W1B, mentioned elsewhere in the newsletter. No-code Technician operators are welcome to come by and get on any portion of the HF bands and work the pile ups, as there will be higher class hams right there in the room with you. This is an excellent way to visit one of the premier multi-op stations in the area and to actually work from the best February Special Event Station yourself.
Next month, heavy duty DX or Novice Round-Up? Your choice.
Are you looking for well-rounded information regarding all aspects of amateur radio? Try the New Ham Companion, by the ARRL. This 66-page source book is sent to all newly licensed amateurs, but is also available for $2. It has the format of a mini-QST, with information on repeaters, autopatch procedures, public service, building antennas, VHF contesting, satellites, HF packet, QRP transmitters and even a crystal radio. Whew! It just might be the thing to spark a renewed interest in amateur radio.
After blowing your allowance on a fine HT, you get home and find that that rubber duck antenna in the box has a really awful signal. The repeater trustee is complaining about some noise source (you) on the local repeaters that he suspects comes from your neighborhood. You are embarrassed but if you spend much more money you may get in deep trouble. You look at the $100 beams and base station whips and wonder when you can afford a real antenna. Or your real antenna just got wrecked by ice. What do you do? I can recall the incredible frustration of trying to work somebody who was out and about with an HT and rubber duck. I might have done better with a bullhorn.
Real hams learn how to fudge things. I have made some fudged antennas that you might be want to consider. Perhaps you can bring some examples and we can trade some ideas. Most of these can be scaled for HF use as well. The J-pole is the VHF version of the ancient end fed Zepp. In the usual form, you have an end fed half wave antenna that can be rolled up for storage. These are handy because the half wave antenna tends to concentrate the power towards the horizon better than a quarter wave antenna and much better than a rubber duck. They are not too hard to make and adjust.
If you have a rubber duck, you can get somewhat better results with a tiger tail. The tail is a quarter wave wire that acts as a ground plane or the other half of a dipole, depending on how you look at it. You can take an expendable piece of coax with a suitable connector and make a rugged dipole the way KM1Z showed me. This is a good compromise between the convenience of a rubber duck and the performance of a full sized whip.
When I wanted to fox hunt, I figured a beam would be a good idea. I picked up an old FM antenna at a yard sale for a buck and hacked it into a real 2-meter beam antenna, complete with a gamma match. Old TV antennas can be a nice source of parts. Now I have found a simpler design for a 3 element direct feed beam that uses the element positions in a compromise to get a 50-ohm feed with only a slight loss of gain. This one could be the basis for a number of portable antenna designs.
Bring your rubber ducks and we can see how many of them actually radiate. One report I read found that many public service radios are sitting under rubber ducks that have bad connections. This may seriously limit your range. They are good for close-in fox hunting only. I checked one of ours and found it was tuned nicely for something way out of band and adds a bad match to its other failings. I will have a field strength meter and SWR meter along for the occasion.
For this month, we got some bad news. A few weeks ago the tone squelch system failed. The result of this is that we can no longer go to tone to mask out those annoying noises. When this occurred, Murphy, right on cue, dropped even more noise into the soup. The latest one is a buzzing, humming concoction, seemingly whipped up in a Hollywood sound editor's studio. It is quite obnoxious! There are several theories of what this is, but the most plausible seems to be reradiation. This nasty effect occurs when an area of dissimilar metals or corrosion starts behaving like a diode. Diodes, among other things, mix radio signals, which then form many more radio signals. It is believed that the repeater transmitter is being mixed with something else (source unknown), and dumps garbage on the input, which then opens the squelch and we then hear, Ta-Da, noise! As the weather cycles from dry to wet, the diode comes and goes. That's a theory anyway. Proving this theory and then finding the source of the problem takes a lot of time and equipment. Noise sources are like crickets - they shut up when you get close to finding them.
You will hear the repeater making this noise on occasion. You can talk over it - please do. When I get an opportunity, I will replace the tone squelch and we can then keep things tolerable. At times, the tail of the repeater (the 3 seconds of transmitter time after you unkey) is removed and this sometimes reduces the amount of time that the noise is on. Otherwise, the other two options are to tolerate the noise, or turn the repeater off. The control operator will make this decision based on the severity of the noise and number of users on channel.
With these problems, it is imperative that we get 100% user cooperation. Don't kerchunk the repeater - ever! When the tail is removed, you won't hear the repeater come back to you. Go ahead and make your transmission, whether if it's to call someone or to say you are listening. Sometimes, I'll turn off the repeater but listen on the control frequency, turning the system on if someone makes a call. If the repeater is kerchunked, I will turn it off. Please remember that the repeater is not a toy.
In December, someone's transmitter (Radio Shack HT) locked down and it stayed that way all night. I had to shut the repeater down, making it unavailable. Considering that we can and do get emergency traffic at night, this was an inconsiderate and dangerous thing to do. The signal was not in the Champlain Valley or Central Vermont and may have been way over in New Hampshire, for all we know. But we have had enough instances of lock-down around here. Please inspect your station and operation and make sure that a lock-down cannot occur. ALWAYS turn off mobile and HT radios when you are not present - many problems occur in these types of installations. Always place your microphone in a safe place so items in the car cannot sit on the PTT switch. At home, if you are monitoring, get in the habit of checking the transmitter light, particularly if the repeater is "quiet" for a long time. It simply is not acceptable to have this event occur any more.
he Vermont QSO Party will take place on the weekend of February 5-7th. The contest will start Friday night at 7pm and run until 7pm Sunday night. You can operate as much of this 48-hour period you want.
The purpose of the Vermont QSO Party is to put Vermont on the map. We are looking for stations all over Vermont to get on the air and hand out contacts. If you search & pounce, you will find very few stations calling CQ in this contest - there just aren't that many of us here in Vermont! Simply find a clear spot on your favorite band and call CQ yourself. You just might create a small pileup.
The goal of the contest is to work as many stations as possible in as many places as possible. You can work stations on phone, CW, RTTY or other. Collecting multipliers in this contest is a lot of fun. You can shoot to work all 50 states, all 12 Canadian provinces, all 14 Vermont counties, all 10 New Hampshire counties, all 16 Maine counties (that's tough!) and as many DXCC countries you can scare up. In addition, all Vermont club stations count as multipliers, so keep a careful look out for some esoteric calls like W1PU (Roadkill ARC), W1ASS (Worcester Amateur Student Society) and, of course, WB1GQR (Vermont Contest Radio). Who knows, perhaps W1NVT might make a cameo appearance.
Working some of the Vermont counties can be difficult, but Dave W1KR, operating as AA1VT will probably give us a chance as he goes mobile around the state hitting each county. He can be very difficult to hear with a weak mobile signal on the QRM-ridden messes of 20 and 40 meters, but it is the best way to collect counties. When you work 13 of the Vermont counties you qualify for the coveted WVT award!
For technicians, while there is some activity on 146.55 MHz, your best bet is to hook up with a multiop station. W1B is a good choice, as it will be on during the QSO Party. Work them first, as they will add 5000 points to your score.
Full Vermont QSO Party Rules can be found on the RANV Web Page, http://www.ranv.together.com.
It's time once again to make plans to attend the Snowflake Bentley Special Event Station W1B. Now in its third year, W1B has become the premier winter operating event in Vermont.
W1B will operate from 9 AM Saturday until 7 PM Sunday on the weekend of February 6-7th. It is located at Bob N1MEZ's QTH in Jericho. From the Burlington area, take Route 117 out of Essex Junction to Barber Farm Road. Take this road to Fitzsimmonds Road, where you should see a large W1B sign directing you to go a little bit further. Contact John N1PDV for scheduling information. A lot of operators are needed to keep several stations on the air for the weekend. There will be something for everyone - all bands 160-2 meters, high power, big yagis, medium power, dipoles, QRP rigs, satellite equipment and a load of amateur operators in attendance. Last year, there was quite a spread of food, munchies, pizza and the ever-present coffeepot. I'm sure a similar lineup of eats will also be available. All this to celebrate the joyous occasion of Snowflake Bentley's 134th birthday. If you cannot make it to W1B, then look for them on the air on all bands. Info can be found on the RANV Web and also on 145.15 and 146.61 Mhz during the W1B weekend.
The ARRL VHF Sweepstakes will take place on January 23-24. This is one of the big three of ARRL VHF/UHF Contests and, of course, is open to all Technician class and higher amateur operators.
The contest starts on Saturday at 2 PM and runs until Sunday at 11 PM. The key areas to look for activity are:
|50||50.125 MHz||52.525 MHz|
|144||144.2 MHz||146.55 MHz|
|222||222.1 MHz||223.5 MHz|
|432||432.1 MHz||446.0 MHz|
Those with SSB and sizable yagis will be able to work distant stations over 100 miles away. Otherwise, your plan will be to work as many local amateurs as possible. Make a point of getting on the air, particularly at the start of the contest, and at 6-9 PM each day. Don't have a good antenna? Then, make sure (uh-oh, here comes a gratuitous plug for the club) you attend the January RANV meeting where Eric will show us how to make El Cheapo antennas.
ere is an update on the computer woes at the editorial offices of News & Views. It looks like the old computer will require a complete rebuild of the hard drive. In the meantime, I have a new 300 MHz system on line. It took some work to reinstall the publishing programs and to move over the rest of the information from the old computer. Thanks to Mike N1JEZ and John N2YHK for their help in getting some of the programs on line. With more publishing tools available, look for some minor changes in upcoming newsletters.
This month, Section Manager Bob WE1U has appointed me Technical Coordinator. My goal in this job is to raise the technical awareness of all amateur operators in Vermont as well as providing a resource for technical problems. I cannot do a great, if I do it alone. I am working on putting together a list of amateur operators who can also help out with technical guidance. Ideally a list of people with E-mail and phone numbers, sorted by area of technical expertise would be a nice touch on the Web and in club newsletters.
To raise technical awareness, I considered lots of ideas, including classes and meetings, and finally settled on occasional technical articles placed in the various club newsletters around the state. That would reach far more people than a single meeting or even series of meetings. Now all I have to do is to figure out what I'm going to write about.
Of course, you can always approach me with questions, and I'll come up with a reasonable answer, or make up a good story. Seriously, I'll pass you off to someone who knows, if I don't. I can be reached at 879-6589 in the evening or at email@example.com.
The VE Exam Session Schedule for 1999 has been announced by the Burlington Area Volunteer Examining Team. Due to much lower numbers of candidates throughout last year, the number of sessions have been cut back. Sessions are now offered on the 3rd or 4th Friday of each even-numbered month. The sessions start at 6 PM and are held at the Essex Town Office, 81 Main Street, Essex Junction. Candidates must contact the team leader (Mitch at 879-6589) to advise him of their attendance and should bring two forms of identification, pens, pencils, upgrade certificate and the exam fee of $6.45.
A special VE session will be held at the Milton Hamfest at 9 AM and 2PM in lieu of the February exam. Other special exams will be held from time to time. Also, this team offers FCC Commercial Examinations, for licenses such as the General Radio Operator License and Radiotelegraph Licenses. Contact the team leader for details.
In other VE news, the Question Pool Committee, the folks who manage the pool of questions on amateur examinations, has decided to not change any pools this year so as to await the expected changes in the restructuring of the amateur service. The Advanced Class Pool (element 4A), scheduled to expire in July, will continue to be used until further notice.
CURRENT VE SCHEDULE
|Sat||Feb 27||9 AM||Milton|
|Fri||Apr 23||6 PM||Essex|
|Fri||Jun 18||6 PM||Essex|
|Fri||Aug 27||6 PM||Essex|
|Fri||Oct 22||6 PM||Essex|
Mark KB1DBR of Milton, got licensed this year, and lists radio controlled aircraft as his interest. His E-mail address "metalhd" might indicate some interest in heavy metal music, but we're not really sure!
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