RADIO AMATEUR NEWS & VIEWS, April, 1999

RADIO AMATEUR

NEWS & VIEWS

April, 1999


IN THIS ISSUE...
Radio From Behind the Mic
It's Fox Hunt Time
Coming Up
Our Last RANV Meeting
The Prez Sez
Nine New Hams
Satellite Gateway
Members Cited
Welcome To RANV
Adventures in Kit Building
Contest Corner
RANV Reflector

RADIO... FROM BEHIND THE MICROPHONE
The April 13th RANV Meeting

Hams are not the only ones to regularly chat into a microphone. Some do it on other frequencies, and even get paid for it. Our special guest for our April meeting is Louie Manno, morning personality on WKDR radio. He spends most of three hours each day yakking into a microphone with co-hosts and guests and will give us insight into what it is like to engage in this avocation. Although not licensed, anyone who has heard or met Louie will agree that he is a real Ham, and we plan on having a wild time. Louie is very knowledgeable about DXing on the AM broadcast band and is quite knowledgeable about some of the old time radio shows.

Make sure you come on down to the April 13th RANV meeting and learn some tricks from a pro to make your on-air presence a lot better. Remember, Snax-at-Zacks at 6pm. Do join us!

IT'S FOX HUNT TIME!

Mark Friday, April 23rd on your calendar for the first RANV Fox Hunt of 1999. This hunt will be special in that we are taking part in National Fox Hunt Day, sponsored by CQ VHF and we will report the results of our hunt. It plans to be a challenging hunt. Why? Because that wily fox himself, W1SJ will be digging in to a fox hole somewhere. He has been known to hide in his own back yard (literally) and give hunters fits. At press time, he is not saying where he might be hidden, although our spotters caught him driving in the vicinity of Buell's Gore on Route 17.

RANV Fox Hunt rules are quite simple. The hunt starts at 7pm and is held on the 145.15 repeater. All hunters must first check in with the Fox or his designated net control (done for safety reasons). The Fox will be hidden on publicly accessible land somewhere in Chittenden County and will produce at least an S-1 signal at Exit 14 on I-89. Transmissions will be at least 10 seconds out of each minute. Check into the hunt and start listening to the repeater input of 144.55 MHz to hear the fox. Special equipment is not needed - the Fox is often found with nothing more than a simple hand-held radio. Practice and skill are more what is needed. Everyone will have a good time, even those who don't win!

COMING UP!

On the RANV Ham Radio Radar Scope we see all sorts of fun things coming up this Spring.

Friday, April 23rd is the next opportunity to upgrade your license at the VE Session at 6pm. Right after that, at 7, join us for our first Fox Hunt of the season.

May brings a truckload of activities. May 7-8th is the annual pilgrammage to Hosstraders in Rochester, NH, where it will NOT RAIN this year. If you're really crazy, consider going out to the Dayton Hamvention the next weekend (May 14-16). This year's entertainment at the Banquet will be Joe Walsh! Closer to home is the Hamfest du Quebec in Tracy, PQ. If public service is your gig, there is the Tour de Cure (May 16th), the Essex Memorial Day Parade (May 29th) and the Vermont City Marathon (May 30th).

There's no letup in June! June 4-6th is the Rochester, NY Hamfest. June 12-13th is the VHF QSO Party and June 26-27 is Field Day. Start negotiating with family members and make those plans NOW!

OUR LAST RANV MEETING

by Paul AA1SU, Sec'y

The meeting of March 9th provided us with a nice turn out of members. We started off with introductions, followed by some discussion of the Ten-Tec kits and the repeater. We sold a few kits at the Hamfest and actually made some money on the deal. We sold two more at the meeting and the rest have been sent back.

The noise on the Bolton repeater continues to be annoying, but hard to pinpoint since it is difficult to get up there to diagnose and repair it. Mitch W1SJ said that the use of a snowmobile would be useful to get up there.

In other news, the South Burlington Police Department has asked us to participate in the National Night Out Against Crime, on August 3rd.

Mark N1ZWC and Todd KB1CSR, of the Lake Champlain Transportation Company came to talk about the ferry operation on the lake. Mark is a ferry captain and Todd works on the engines. They usually work on the Plattsburgh to Grand Isle crossing. Mark has been with the ferry company since 1969. He got his Merchant Marine license from the Coast Guard in 1972. He went to college, but decided to work on the ferry, instead of behind a desk. About 20 years ago, Ray Pecor purchased the company and recently started ferry operations in the winter. This presented new challenges for the crew and studying other cold water ferry systems provided only a little help.

The newer boats that have been purchased over the years have been employee designed to meet the demanding needs of the lake operation. Thicker hulls, thicker shafts, increased horsepower, more flukes, heated decks, and bigger boilers are just some of the improvements that have been accomplished with the newer designs.

The engines, Todd tells us, are 3508 Caterpillar V-8 engines that put out 775 HP. Electricity is from a 40 kW John Deere generator that powers everything on board. Sometimes, it even powers the loading ramp during a power outage. There are two of everything on the boat and emergency steering is available on the newer ones. The engine oil pan holds 110 gallons of oil and will go 1,000 hours between oil changes. The fuel is Number 2 heating oil and the 8400-gallon tanks are topped off each week with about 2500 gallons of fresh fuel.

The radar on board can track anywhere form a 1/4 mile to 48 miles. It is usually left on the 1.5 mile setting for general use. The Vermont Expos will call the Ferry quite often before a game, to get them to track the rain. Most boats have three radios, monitoring Marine channels 13, 16, and 10. Mark's boat also includes his 2-meter hand held. He and Todd have been eyeing the masts for a place to hang a 10-meter dipole for when they upgrade.

Mark's first radio love however, is listening to shortwave radio. He listened to it for 30 years before getting his ham license. Mark recommended two clubs; the North America Shortwave Association and DX Ontario. Finally, Mark also bought along a Grundig Satellit 700 (German spelling) shortwave receiver for us to drool over, which we promptly did.

THE PREZ SEZ

by Eric N1SRC, President

Every month RANV gets mail from all sorts of folks. QSL requests (A tip - if you want QSL replies send an SASE or use a bureau), junk mail (even radio clubs get ads for shoes, insurance, and other stuff, though we miss out on the supermarket fliers), newsletters, and membership renewals. We filter through this stuff and process things. Sometimes this can take a while if the person picking up the mail has to pass things on to others. None of us live right by the post office box, though it is picked up regularly.

In any case, a lot of this mail has stamps on them. Most of them are the usual ones like H stamps, Love stamps, or even the new Malcolm X issue. Once in a while though, something really noteworthy pops up. I have before me an envelope with three eleven-cent stamps. Eleven-cent stamps have not been made in over 10 years as far as we know. The first says "US Airmail. Progress in Electronics - DeForest Audion." with a picture of the DeForest tubes. The second is the eleven-cent 1965 centennial stamp of the International Telecommunications Union. The third is another eleven-cent stamp proclaiming "Liberty Depends on Freedom of the Press." This sort of stuff makes dealing with the mail a lot more fun.

Please stay alert for public service opportunities. Ham support is expected for Tour de Cure, Vermont City Marathon, and National Night Out. Space for a demonstration at National Night Out may be available. These are good chances to show folks what ham radio is and to encourage them to try it out. Please be sure to add Field Day to the list. We will need new folks and there will be work for just about anyone. This is a great event to bring visitors to if they want to see real flat out operating. We could use folks who can explain things to visitors.

Most of all, take time to turn your favorite rig on and work some folks. The airwaves around here are quiet most of the time. There are visitors coming through and some have commented that they are not getting answers very often.

We are continuing to look for ideas for meetings. We have gotten some and are working on them (and thanks to those who sent them!). I am particularly interested in hearing from those who don't make it to meetings very often. I am always really happy when somebody volunteers a presentation, but that is a rarity.

Anyway, I really enjoyed the talk on the ferry. I learned some more about the history of the ferry, radar equipment, and how they use the radios.

NINE NEW HAMS

by Mitch W1SJ

The spring Weekend Ham Radio Class is over and nine new hams have been stamped out from the nine students attending. Please join me in welcoming:

KB1DUI Roland Jeffersonville
KB1DUJ Betty Essex
KB1DUK Roy Morrisville
KB1DUL Scott Essex
KB1DUN Jeff Colchester
KB1DUO Larry Jericho
KB1DUP John Essex
KB1DUQ Marta Essex
KB1DUR Dave Essex

As always, it was a mixed and interesting group. Roland and Jeff are interested in using amateur radio to provide communications while canoeing and sea-kayaking, which led to some discussions on where antennas are mounted on kayaks. Roy has had an interest for some time and now has that license! Scott returns to ham radio after a short stint as a Novice when he lived in Plattsburgh in 1978. Jeff joins the ever-increasing group of hams who work in fire and rescue in our area. John has been interested in ham radio for a loooooong time. How long? He still has his 1949 edition of the Radio Amateur's Handbook! Dave had to wait a little longer to get his license because illness delayed his first class - he works in the medical field. Marta is interested in using amateur radio in off-shore sailing. She is married to Dave N1HRO. Betty took the class and got her license, completing a year-long period of study. The class is challenging for most students, but particularly so when you are one of the eldest to take to ever take the course. Betty is the widow of W1OKH and plans to reactivate Lloyd's callsign soon.

Please extend a warm welcome to these folks as they take their first steps in amateur radio!

SATELLITE GATEWAY

by Mike N1JEZ

Have you wanted to try satellite operation but weren't sure how to begin? Here's a chance to try Oscar 27 (AO-27). AO-27 is one of the easiest satellites to use because it is FM. It uses 145.850 Mhz for an uplink and 436.795 MHz for a downlink.

The receiver on AO-27 is very sensitive. Transmitting with just a few watts into a rubber duck will work. The problem is hearing the downlink. AO-27 transmits with 600 milliwatts from 600 km up. For good reception, a small beam and preamp are required.

To solve the downlink problem and allow fellow hams to try AO-27 I will be running a "gateway" station on weekends. I will use my satellite station to receive the weak downlink of AO-27 and retransmit it for you on 146.45 MHz. You should hear the signal quite well within about a 10-mile radius of Burlington. Set your radio to receive 146.450 MHz with a negative offset (-600). With this offset in your radio, when you transmit, you will be on the 145.85 AO-27 uplink. Tests over the last few weekends have had great success with stations here working into Europe and all over the continental US.

Because AO-27 is a LEO (Low Earth Orbit) satellite, the passes are never longer than 15 minutes. You will need to know when the times are that the satellite is in view. There will typically be 2 or three passes per day, always in the morning or early afternoon. AO-27 tends to be very busy on weekends. I suggest listening to a few passes to get the idea of operating this satellite. It operates just like a repeater. There is an amazing amount of cooperation between operators to let everyone try and make a contact. The rule is to keep it very short and simple.

For more information, please contact me at mike73@aol.com. Have Fun!

MEMBERS CITED

by Mitch W1SJ

A number of RANV members have received honors from various contests and activities. Paul AA1SU garnered the top spot in Vermont in the 1998 North American QSO Party, besting Ron KK1L who is a regular in this contest. Paul also has the high claimed score for first place in the Rookie Class in the 1998 WPX CW Contest. He will soon make application to the ARRL for Worked All States (WAS) on CW. Paul has been licensed only 2 years and uses nothing more than 100 watts to a dipole.

I just received a certificate for the operation of WB1GQR in the 1998 September VHF QSO Party. This effort, headed up by Eric N1SRC, John N2YHK, Brad W1NT and myself, resulted in a first place Vermont and 4th place national finish in the multioperator category. And, from the ARRL Web, I've just learned that I managed a first place Vermont and 2nd place New England finish in the 160-Meter Contest. The top score in New England belonged to someone with the callsign of K1ZM. It wasn't even close!

News & Views is always looking for information about achievements of our members. Please keep us informed!

WELCOME TO RANV

Matt N1ORY, from way up in Westfield up near Jay, becomes our first member from Orleans County.

Louis, from South Hero is a neighbor of Richard WN1HJW and is working on getting his license.

Wey K1WEY, from Colchester rejoins after a year lapse, new-found General privileges and new callsign.

Frank N1LXH, from Crown Point in New York also rejoins after two relocations and a 2-year lapse.

Bob WE1U, from St. George also rejoins after a lapse of a couple of years.

ADVENTURES IN KIT BUILDING -or-
How to Get Me to GO AWAY for a Weekend

by Bob WE1U

It all started a little over a year ago when Ten-Tec introduced a line of kits called T-Kits. I drooled over the nifty little receivers and transceivers, all in their matching little black cases, and though of what fun it would be to put one together. Back in 1980 when I first got my ham license, Heathkit was still in business (only just) and I can remember looking through their catalogs as avidly as I look through an HRO or AES catalog today. Here were all sorts of ham rigs, all they needed were a little of your time to put together. I remember asking for (and receiving) several of the smaller shack accessories, like the famous Heathkit "Cantenna" (which I still use to this day), the combination RF power meter and SWR bridge, and lastly their Morse code keyer, as birthday or Christmas presents. I could barely wait to get through all the other, lesser presents. Finally after fidgeting through breakfast, my parents would tell me to go ahead and head upstairs to my room to tear into the kits. I would disappear for the rest of the day, not even coming out to eat (yes, I know that's hard to believe in my case) until the kit was finished. I wonder if my parents planned it that way, getting a little peace and quiet in the bargain?

So it was that I found myself buying the Ten-Tec 1254 SSB-CW-AM Receiver kit from the RANV table at the Milton Hamfest. I had to wait almost a whole week to start on the kit, and by the time the following Friday rolled around, I was raring to go. Anybody who knows me, knows that I get together with my friend Dan N1FYL at his house almost every Friday night to play radio. I have been known to get home pretty late from Dan's - the latest so far has been 4:30 am. Thank God for understanding spouses!

The first step was to go through all the parts (and there are a LOT of them to this kit) and count them to make sure they are all there. This is more important than you may think because when I finished the radio, I had a transistor left over which gave me fits thinking I had left one out! After I counted everything and sorted them (they come in plastic ziplock bags sorted by component type), I settled in for some serious kit building. The first night at Dan's I got through the first three stages, which included the display board, the microprocessor circuitry, and lastly the first two VCO's. At every stage, there are several progress tests at convenient stopping points. The first of these tests was to plug the front panel into the main circuit board and fire it up. The displays should light up and show 15.000 MHz (it did) and you are off and running.

Heathkits used to include VERY good instructions, even including a little pamphlet on how to solder. Ten-Tec has definitely carried on the tradition, with excellent instructions; right down to identifying all the little bits and pieces you are about to make into a working radio. As an example, here's a line from page 31:"Install the following disk ceramic capacitors: Capacitor C91, 100 pf (marked 101)." Same thing holds true for the resistors, right down to telling you what the color code should be. They even have soldering instructions on page 18 and 19 for the very beginning kit builder, although maybe not quite to the level Heathkit went to. In the reference section of the manual, there's even a description of how the darn thing works! There are reference diagrams showing where the parts go during the construction phases, and also tuning instructions for when you are all done. One VERY nice feature of Ten-Tec kits is that they only need a volt-ohmmeter to test and align them. They have nifty little built in signals to test with.

After working until nearly 1 am Saturday, I decided to call it quits for the night. Later in the day, I started in again, for about 4 hours. I got through two more stages of construction, this time building the receive audio, AM and Product Detector, 455 kHz IF, AGC, 2nd Mixer, 2nd LO, and lastly the Clarifier sections. At this point, I was able to perform several more progress tests, convincing myself that everything I had built thus far was working okay. One of the suggestions they make in the manual is after completing a section, check your work, such as making sure that you really did install a 10K resistor, instead of a 1K. This did come in handy especially for some of the work I did at 1 in the morning. I caught one or two incorrect resistor values and an incorrect transistor as well. Once you've made sure everything is as it should be, you can feel confident to power it up and proceed to the progress tests. My kit came with a power cube for the purpose, which was an unexpected bonus. It took all my resolve to leave it not quite finished.

Finally, on Sunday afternoon, I took another trip to the shack at my Pop's house to finish the radio off. After about an hour-and-a-half, I was pretty much done except for alignment. It was a little scary to have two parts "left over" though. That's why it's really quite important to count all those darn little parts at the start, so you don't have fits thinking you left something out. Turns out they had indeed given me one too many of a particular transistor, so it went into the parts box as a spare in case I blew one at a later date.

The alignment consisted of tuning to a couple of different signals and "tuning for maximum smoke", and setting a couple voltages at specific points on the dial (the VCO's). During the alignment, I noticed the speaker audio seemed to be intermittent - the plug didn't seem to be making good connection in the jack. I thought, "hell with it, I'll solder it in place." I guess I got a little ambitious with the iron, as I accidentally resoldered the other end of the jack and formed a solder bridge to ground. Next time I powered it up, there was a little hum coming from the speaker, and a puff of smoke from the audio amplifier IC. The long and the short of it is that silly mistakes can happen to the best of us (and to me too). A phone call to Tech America the following day, and two chips were on their way. With this correction made, the receiver worked great! I really enjoy the receiver I built with my own two hands (and all 4 thumbs).

I had a ball along the way building it, and learned a bit in the process too. I encourage you to consider building a kit sometime. Then you can have the satisfaction of telling your friend when he or she ask where you got the swell receiver or transceiver (or whatever) that YOU BUILT IT YOURSELF. The only problem is now I can't wait to start my next kit!

CONTEST CORNER

by Paul AA1SU

The month of March began and ended with a full moon. It also began and ended with two great worldwide contests. Both contests were full of exotic DX contacts. We started off with the ARRL International DX SSB Contest. It was fun watching the different countries pop up on the screen; some of which I never heard of in geography class. I improved over last year's score by about 35%. I heard a couple of other Vermonters working the pileups. At Milton, a few other members and I have joined the Yankee Clipper Contest Club (YCCC) and our scores will go towards that larger club instead of RANV for this contest. More on this club in a future issue.

The WPX SSB was held on the last weekend of the month. The score change for this year made it easier to work stateside stations. The exception was 40 & 80 meters, where stations working split still did not listen on their transmit frequency. This made it hard to search and pounce on these guys. I improved over last year's score by about 53%, using the old software. I'll be converting to an updated version, soon. I did not hear any other RANV members on, so if you are sending in a log, please let me know so we can enter as a club.

In the middle of the month, I worked the Wisconsin QSO Party. I took my own challenge (see March issue), downloaded some software from a web site, and beat my score from last month by 10 times. This was kind of fun to chip away at, but some hams took it quite seriously and probably trounced my score. The third weekend found me working the BARTG RTTY Contest, instead of one of the several stateside QSO parties that were on. I have no RTTY logging software yet, so after searching and pouncing on a band for several minutes, I settled in and called CQ as much as possible. I did this to avoid duping previous contacts, as I am not too handy with a dupe sheet yet. This strategy seems to have worked quite well. I worked 481 QSO's, 37 countries, and 5 continents. Although states were not multipliers, I mentioned Vermont while calling CQ to improve my QSL rate. It has had mild success.

Let's see what's up for April. On the 24th will be International Marconi Day. Listen for special event station W1AA/IMD on 10 through 40 meters SSB. I believe that last year there were several /IMD stations on the air for this commemorative event. The month is actually full of unique special event stations that will be on HF. I usually find them by accident and have sent QSL cards to most.

The airwaves will be full of several small contests that will only appeal to a select few. Of particular interest is the Michigan QSO Party on April 17th, and the Florida QSO Party on the 24th & 25th. None of these have club submissions, but they will provide lots of activity for handing out casual contacts. Check out the Contest Corral and the Special Event pages in QST Magazine for more details.

Next month, we have to work in hamfests to our busy schedule, and practice up for Field Day 1999!

RANV REFLECTOR

We now have an E-mail Reflector to use as a place to share news and views about RANV activities. Thanks to John N2YHK for setting this up.

To subscribe to the reflector, send an E-mail note to ranv-request@wpi.edu. In the body of the note, simply type the word "subscribe" and your address. For example, I would type: subscribe w1sj@vbimail.champlain.edu. If you want to get off, use the word unsubscribe. Any mail sent to ranv@wpi.edu will go to everyone who is subscribed. We plan to use this to announce and discuss club events. Give it a try!

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