Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Handiham World for 31 October 2007

40 years of the Courage Handiham SystemIn this issue you will find:

  • A Halloween scare
  • At headquarters: Server upgrade, gooseneck mic at HQ shack, more
  • Avery's QTH: Halloween snowstorm
  • Lighthouse special event this coming weekend
  • Is open-source the answer?
  • Free screenreader
...and lots of other stuff. Tune in today!

Cartoon ghoul with pumpkin and HTGreetings from my work-at-home office and ham shack!

Graphic: The Old Man pays a visit. At least the pumpkin looks happy!

Here's a Halloween scare for you: Last week's "monopolizing the airwaves" comments were not the end of the story. If you will recall, I'd gotten an earful from a Twin Cities repeater user who thought that the Handiham nets were "monopolizing the airwaves". I never believed that to be the case, and said so. I think an aggravating factor was the fact that his favorite EchoLink-enabled machine was sometimes connected during the Handiham net. Frankly, that is not something I can really do too much about, but I decided to listen on that repeater to see if there really was a problem. Guess what? No problem. Hopefully that is taken care of and everyone can live happily ever after.

A few other comments that you were not privy to also flew across the email system, though. While I'm sure offense was not intended, one fellow complained that he understood that Handiham members "are generally retired, are disabled or are otherwise not busy, the users on (repeater frequency withheld) are the opposite of that..."

Then he went on to point out how busy he and his repeater user friends were (because they were working, of course) and how important it was for them to have a nice quiet repeater to use when their busy schedules finally permitted them to get on the air.

But wait, folks. That's not all! Then he went on to scold Handihams who transmitted over the top of him while he was connected to an EchoLink repeater:

"My experience in checking in once or twice a month leaves much to be desired, as I am often keyed over and talked over during my net-control acknowledged check-in. This is disappointing, and the hams that run your net should be ashamed."

Now, let me be the first to acknowledge that some Handiham members are retired, unemployed, and certainly do have disabilities of one kind or another. But that doesn't mean they are not busy, nor does it mean that, even if they have all the time in the world, that they do not have as much right to be on the air anytime they please. I don't recall seeing anything in Part 97 (The FCC rules here in the United States) or seeing anything in any other amateur radio regulations elsewhere on the planet, that gives priority on the airwaves to people with busy lives! In the years I've been working with Courage Center's Handiham program, I have met men and women from everywhere and every occupation. I'll never forget the medical professional who reinvented himself as an Internet vendor after losing his sight, or the vice-president of a big auto company who arrived at Radio Camp in a chauffeured limousine. Homemakers, IRS agents, scientists, doctors, computer science professionals, lawyers, teachers, clergy... we have had them all in Handihams. The idea that people with disabilities or who are blind are somehow sitting at home with time on their hands is just such ignorant thinking that it does put a Halloween scare into me!

Then there is the transmitting on top of others. Yes, that is certainly bad manners, and if the stations who did this actually realized what they were doing, I am sure they would be mortified! The Handiham nets are friendly get-togethers and no one would intentionally "step on" anyone else. But what is really happening here? The Internet introduces sometimes unexpected delays, and "newbies" who are not familiar with the EchoLink system and its quirks can occasionally cause doubling when they fail to allow adequate time to compensate for these delays. Used to operating on local repeaters or on HF, they think they are listening long enough and are transmitting on a clear frequency. Add to that the complicating factor of net participants who are using screenreaders to access their computers, and the sometimes cranky space bar transmit toggle in EchoLink, and the occasional mistake is pretty much going to be the norm.

As Jerry, N0VOE, has said many times, "this is why they call it AMATEUR radio".

Jerry has a point. It really is all about getting on the air, making friends, communicating, having fun, and gaining more technical expertise. But if newcomers are made to feel that they have to walk on eggshells lest they make a mistake, they will be afraid to try anything new. We don't want that, do we?

(Knock at the door))

Oh, excuse me... I have to answer the door.


"I am the ghost of The Old Man... The legendary OM of amateur radio past."

"Are you here for trick or treat?

"No, I just wanted to remind your listeners about the Amateur's Code."

"Go for it. I'll just eat this candy while I'm listening."

The Radio Amateur is:

  • CONSIDERATE...never knowingly operates in such a way as to lessen the pleasure of others.
  • LOYAL...offers loyalty, encouragement and support to other amateurs, local clubs, and the American Radio Relay League, through which Amateur Radio in the United States is represented nationally and internationally.
  • PROGRESSIVE...with knowledge abreast of science, a well-built and efficient station and operation above reproach.
  • FRIENDLY...slow and patient operating when requested; friendly advice and counsel to the beginner; kindly assistance, cooperation and consideration for the interests of others. These are the hallmarks of the amateur spirit.
  • BALANCED...radio is an avocation, never interfering with duties owed to family, job, school or community.
  • PATRIOTIC...station and skill always ready for service to country and community.

The original Amateur's Code was written by Paul Segal, W9EEA, in 1928, and I hope your readers and listeners will pay it heed, before it is too late...

"Gosh, he's gone. Vanished without a trace. Well, more candy for me."

Listen to the podcast to hear it all!