Contact us at:
Courage Center - Handi-Ham System
3915 Golden Valley Road
Golden Valley, MN 55422
Greetings from my work-at-home office and ham shack!
Image: In this picture, you can see that Avery is instinctively holding the microphone close to his mouth, even though it is a desk microphone. Leaving the desk microphone on the desktop would mean that Avery would have to lean over uncomfortably to speak into the microphone element properly. That's why a desk microphone is silly.
If you're like me, you like gadgets and you most probably have plenty of them in your ham shack. I can't get along with just one ham radio computer. Oh, no... I have to have at least two. And of course both of them are connected to the Internet because so many amateur radio applications demand connectivity these days. As you might expect, this situation leads to a certain amount of web surfing while I am doing my usual hamming and office work. Sometimes this can result in some rather unexpected but useful and even fun information.
Yesterday I ran across an article on the eHam website that made me smile and think about good operating practice. It was written in 2004 by Steve Katz, WB2WIK/6, and is entitled "It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!". You can quickly get the drift of the article by this quote:
There are the over- processed guys who have fallen victim to AKTR* Syndrome, and as long as they believe what they do, will never, ever sound good. (*AKTR = All Knobs To Right. This is a method where the operator simply turns all the knobs on his transmitter fully clockwise, keeping adjustments very simple.)
Steve goes on to mention various other characters and their quirky microphone and audio methodologies, from Wi-Fi audio guys, radio dispatchers, mumblers, drawlers, and people with various speech impediments that are simply a matter of not realizing how one sounds because one never listens to her recording of one's own voice!
Now, I know from experience that there are people with physical disabilities that prevent them from speaking perfectly clearly at all times, and these are not the kind of operators Steve is talking about. No, he is talking about people with bad operating habits and poor (maybe we should say lazy) speaking habits. A person with a disability can often compensate for a speech impediment with practice and enunciation and do an excellent job on the air, but there are plenty of operators out there who don't even know how bad they sound and who could benefit from a few basic pointers, and Steve is able to list some that I have never even thought about before!
For example, he recommends not using a desk microphone. I have to think back over my amateur radio career to the various stations I have owned or operated as a guest operator to recall if and when I was ever comfortable using a desk microphone. There have been a couple of stations with desk microphones, but for the most part I have gravitated to handheld microphones or headset microphones. Why is that? As Steve suggests in the article, a desk microphone is silly because when it rests on the desk in front of you it is almost invariably in the wrong position to provide the best audio input. You will have to lean over (uncomfortably, I might add) to get your mouth close to the microphone element. Do this enough, and do you will end up with back and neck problems for sure. The problem with a desk microphone is that when it sits on the desk and you are sitting in a chair, the microphone element is way too far from your mouth and you are likely to end up having to shout, crank up the gain, or else lean over to get your mouth into the proper position. All too many operators using desk microphones simply sit back and talk, allowing the microphone element to pick up all kinds of room noise. A far better solution is simply to use the hand microphone that came with the rig or to get a headset microphone that allows you to free up your hands if you have really heavy-duty operating and need to do a lot of typing or writing to take notes while you are talking. Another consideration, of course, is that desktop microphones invariably cost a lot of money -- and never sound any better. Why waste money?
If you want to read more of "It's Not Your Microphone -- It's You!", go to the article on eHam:
In other amateur radio media news, I was surprised to see that the March, 2008 issue of QST is the annual antenna issue -- always one of my favorites. Surprised, because it seems to me that March is earlier than usual for this issue. It's a good idea, though, because operators in more temperate climates than Minnesota can start their antenna work in March quite easily. Those of us up here on the frozen tundra will need to be content with reading through the antenna issue and making plans for the return of warmer weather in, oh, I don't know... maybe May! As usual, the annual antenna issue has something for everyone from beginner to seasoned Extra. With the sunspot cycle on the way up, QST is a great resource as we start thinking about high frequency operation in the coming years. Hint: if you have a thousand bucks to spend and have to choose between a linear amplifier and a better antenna system, take the antenna. And be sure to keep up your membership in ARRL -- they do good work.
Avery's QTH: Avery is not writing this week. Maybe you should send him more funny ham radio stories or ask him some questions to jump-start his weekly column.
Avery did send me this item from the CQ Newsroom: Ham Named Director of National Hurricane Center:
"Veteran meteorologist Bill Read, KB5FYA, has been named the new director of NOAA's Tropical Prediction Center, which includes the National Hurricane Center..."
"Read, who was an on-board meteorologist with the Hurricane Hunter aircraft while serving in the U.S. Navy, has worked with the National Weather Service since 1977. In 1992, he was appointed director of the service's Houston/Galveston forecast office, and led the local NWS response to Hurricane Claudette when it hit the Texas coast in 2003. In announcing Read's appointment to head the Hurricane Center, NOAA Administrator Conrad Lautenbacher cited his three decades of experience with the agency and his reputation as "a trusted consultant to emergency managers" in the Houston area. Read holds a Tech Plus ham license. The National Hurricane Center has worked closely with hams for decades and has a dedicated amateur station on-site, W4EHW."
Thanks to Rich Moseson, email@example.com, for these excellent and timely CQ Newsroom alerts.
You can email Avery with your funny stories or anything else at:
|AIR Foundation: Free screenreader access |
|You may be able to afford using a computer! If you are blind and have despaired that you would never be able to afford a screenreading program, think again. Help is at hand - all you need is a computer and Internet access. Handiham members who have been putting off this major step in technology can now consider a computer without having to worry about buying a thousand dollar screenreader package. |
Here is information from the press release from the ATIA Conference:
The AIR Foundation, a nonprofit organization headquartered in Minneapolis, MN announced the screenreader today at a press conference held during the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) 2008 National Conference in Orlando, Florida. The mission of the foundation is to promote universal accessibility so that every blind and low-vision person in the world has access to digital information over the Internet and Worldwide Web.
The foundation’s executive director, Art Schreiber, also announced that the organization’s first offering will be free usage of a Web 2.0 accessible screen reader. The product is provided through an exclusive license in perpetuity granted to The AIR Foundation from Serotek Corporation, the leading provider of Internet and digital information accessibility software and services. The screen reader is called SA To Go and is powered by Serotek’s award-winning System Access software which provides immediate text to speech, magnified visual, and Braille access to digital information presented through the Web or other means, while the user is directly connected to the Internet. The software does not remain resident on the user’s computer when the connection to the Internet is interrupted or terminated. Users can obtain access to the free software by calling 877-369-0101 or visiting
“The basic tenet of The AIR Foundation is that accessibility is a fundamental human right, regardless of financial or geographic constraints” said Art Schreiber, executive director of The AIR Foundation, “by allowing the blind and visually impaired to have equal access to computer and Internet information through the free use of an advanced screen reader like SA To Go, we have already taken great strides toward our mission.”
The AIR Foundation will solicit funds and contract development of product enhancements including availability in other languages. The organization’s first priority is to make SA To Go available in Mandarin Chinese.
“SA To Go is highly intuitive and requires minimal training to use,” said Serotek CEO, Mike Calvo, “the user not only has access to information displayed on Web pages, but to Web-based applications such as Internet telephone service, and to applications resident on the host computer. The user can also access PDF files, fill out forms, and otherwise interact with information with the same facility as a sighted person.”
The AIR Foundation will operate through the generosity of organizations donating their time, expertise, and funds. It invites other nonprofits, assistive technology vendors, mainstream hardware and software companies and anyone interested in promoting accessibility as every person’s right, to align with the AIR team.
The AIR Foundation is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to advocate, teach, and deliver information accessibility tools. We focus on the accessibility needs of blind and low-vision people. Our mantra is “accessibility is a right” and we work with corporations and agencies worldwide to deliver free accessibility to all. For more information, call 877-369-0101 or visit:
Serotek Corporation is a leading technology company that develops software and manufactures accessibility solutions. Committed to the mission of providing accessibility anywhere, Serotek launched the first online community specifically designed to meet the needs of people with disabilities. Since then, Serotek has introduced several powerful, affordable solutions that require minimal training and investment. For more information, visit:
When you visit the Accessibility Is a Right website, you will be greeted with an easy to understand audio message. Simply follow the directions and you will be logged in and using SA To Go in just a couple of minutes. You may wish to create an account, which is free, to save your settings if you are not satisfied with the default settings of this online screen reading system. I must say that I was really impressed with the audio quality and the ease of use. I am not sure how many of the keystrokes are similar to those used in other screen reading programs, but when the program was talking a little too much for me I quickly made it silent by hitting the control key. Perhaps many of the other keys share similar common functions with other screen reading software. What I'd would like from you, our Handiham readers, is a report on how well this free online screen reading system works for you. I know that some Handiham members already use this product from Serotek Corporation, and I am especially interested in hearing from them. Also, if you use some other screen reader like Jaws or Window-Eyes, I would like to hear how this product compares and whether it is as intuitive as the press release suggests. Let me know at:
ARRL to Offer Award for 6 Meter Operations (ARRLweb, Feb 4, 2008)
Attention 6 meter operators -- there's a new award to work toward! The ARRL Board of Directors approved a new award honoring the late Fred Fish, W5FF, the only amateur who worked and confirmed all 488 grid squares in the 48 contiguous United States on 6 meters. The Fred Fish Memorial Award will be granted to any amateur who duplicates Fish's accomplishment.
Read the full story on:
Reminder: Handiham renewals go to monthly schedule
Image: Meet our new dues collection agent! A huge alligator grabs Pat, WA0TDA. "Sure wish I'd renewed my Handiham dues sooner."
For years Handiham membership renewals were done each July. This year, we are going to a monthly system. If you renew in February, your membership goes until the following February, for example. You will have several choices when you renew:
- Join at the usual $10 annual dues level for one year.
- Join for three years at $30.
- If you can't afford the dues, request a sponsored membership for the year.
- Donate an extra amount of your choice to help support our activities.
- Discontinue your membership.
Return your renewal form and get entered in a drawing for a free Handiham coffee mug! There is a postage paid envelope provided, and of course we will do a drawing from each month's returned renewals. And you won't get a visit from you-know-who.
FCC: Reading through the forfeitures.
One of the things that I do for you so that you don't have to do it yourself (and you should be really glad for this) is that I read through the FCC daily bulletin. Most of the time, I simply skim over the text to see if there is anything related to amateur radio. Most of the time, the bulletin will report various actions on the telecommunications industry and things like that, but once in a while there will be a momentous amateur radio decision like the one related to the Morse code requirement. Most often, though, amateur radio is not mentioned in these daily bulletins unless there is some kind of enforcement action. In a recent bulletin, I noted that a Washington state station was subject to a forfeiture, which is a monetary fine, for a station violation of some kind.
"This", I thought, "might be a teachable moment. Maybe we can remind ourselves why it is important to follow the rules."
So let's take a look at an example of publicity that we would definitely want to avoid. Here is a quote from the FCC Daily Digest:
JAMES J. GRINTON. Issued a monetary forfeiture in the amount of $7,000 to James J. Grinton, licensee of Amateur station K7VNI, in Bellingham, Washington, for willfully and repeatedly violating Section 97.113(b) and Section 97.119(a) of the Commission's Rules.
Holy cow! $7,000 is a lot of money. The FCC doesn't say specifically in its digest exactly how the rules were violated, but they do provide a helpful link to a document with the details. An examination of that document shows that:
The noted violations involve Grinton engaging in the transmission of one-way communications and his failure to transmit his assigned call sign in the Amateur Radio Service.
Further detail is given in the document, and reference is made to a previous document called a "NAL", or Notice of Apparent Liability, that was sent to the station licensee earlier but was never responded to.
Got that? Okay, now here is what we are going to learn from this sad example. First of all, we are going to follow the rules set forth by the FCC (or if you are in another jurisdiction, by the regulating authority in your country), because these rules maintain order, safety, and efficient operation on our shared spectrum. Sometimes it is easy to forget to identify our stations, and everyone messes up a time or two. What we want to avoid is getting into a bad habit of failing to identify our stations in a timely manner according to the rules. Here in the United States, that means identifying with our call signs every 10 minutes and at the end of a series of transmissions. This is an easy requirement to follow, and we should all be in the habit of regularly and frequently using our complete call signs to accurately identify our transmissions. Most of us know that it is a good idea to identify at the beginning of a series of transmissions as well as at the end, simply to cut down on confusion and to let other stations know who we are.
Then there is the part about one-way communications. There is a name for one-way communications, and that is called "broadcasting". Broadcasting is not allowed in the amateur radio service. I won't go into detail about what constitutes broadcasting, but in general terms, we are allowed to speak with other amateur radio operators, communicating back and forth with each other, rather than sending out one-way communications intended for a general audience. The FCC does allow us to transmit communications intended for an amateur radio audience, such as Morse code practice, The ARRL Audio Letter, Amateur Radio NEWSLINE, and so on. Because these are intended specifically for amateur radio operators, they are not considered broadcasting to the general public.
But wait folks, that's not all! When the FCC decides to act upon a violation, it is the usual practice to send a Notice of Apparent Liability. This is one piece of paper you do not want to ignore! Even though this station was given notice, failing to respond with a plan to change the behavior that was in violation of the rules ultimately resulted in a large fine. Even if, heaven forbid, you should ever get a violation notice, please, please respond to it with a polite and clear apology acknowledging that you will do specific things to make sure that the behavior that prompted the violation notice will not occur again. In most cases involving the Amateur Radio Service, this will be enough to satisfy the FCC. Failing to respond to an official Notice of Apparent Liability will almost certainly result in a fine.
I don't want you to get the impression that only amateur radio operators are listed as violators in the FCC Daily Digest. Frequently, commercial radio stations, private companies running business or other radio equipment, and even nonprofit organizations are cited. For example, take this paragraph referring to a violation by a church-run radio station:
On November 28, 2007, the Tampa Office issued a Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture to First Baptist in the amount of fifteen thousand dollars ($15,000) for the apparent willful and repeated violation of Sections 11.35(a) and 73.1125(a) of the Rules. First Baptist submitted a response to the NAL requesting a reduction or cancellation of the proposed forfeiture.
Responding politely and with a plan to the FCC's notice paid off for the church, as we can see here:
Issued a monetary forfeiture of $2,000 to First Baptist Church, Inc., licensee of non-commercial FM station WAKJ, DeFuniak Springs, FL, for willful and repeated violation of Sections 11.35(a) and 73.1125(a) of the Commission's Rule.
In case you are curious, the station was left unattended and was not available in the proper manner for inspection by FCC personnel. The station had also failed to install emergency alert system equipment. Naturally, the station now has a plan to properly staff the station during business hours and operate with emergency alert system equipment installed and operational. By cooperating and having a plan, First Baptist Church avoided a much larger fine.
Nothing makes the people at the FCC happier than NOT having to enforce the rules and regulations using fines. Believe me, FCC staff prefer to work with all of the entities they regulate in a spirit of cooperation and helpful advice. Although anyone can make a mistake, all of us who operate in the amateur radio service should know the rules and follow them, developing good habits that lead to enjoyable and safe use of the amateur radio bands. Furthermore, we should be willing to let other stations know when a violation of the rules appears to be taking place. That other operator may be unaware that a violation is occurring. Perhaps they misunderstand the rule involved, or there may be a problem with their equipment that they don't know about. In any case, helpful advice given tactfully is almost always appreciated. When mentioning a potential violation over the air might be embarrassing, perhaps a phone call or a note in the mail or an e-mail would be more appropriate. Let's see if we can help each other be the best operators that we can be!
|February Events |
Image: A view of a beam antenna with the ocean sparkling in the background.
|I hope each of you is finding interesting amateur radio activities to help make the winter pass a little quicker. |
You will find several interesting events in this month’s update. Please be sure to forward to me any updates that you have or any events that you would like to share with other members.
Please send your information to the email address shown below. Happy February!
Laurie Meier, N1YXU
Read More at
This week at Headquarters
We have a weekly e-letter and podcast as usual this week, but with Radio Camp in California starting at the end of next week, you can expect some changes in our schedule. I will try to get a weekly e-letter out next Wednesday, but it will likely be short because I'll be busy getting ready for camp week. During the actual week of camp, between February 16 - 22, there will be no weekly e-letter or weekend audio lectures. I am the only Handiham staff member who will be at camp, which means that Avery, Jerry, and Nancy will all be in the office as usual. During camp week, those of you who request email address changes on the mailing lists or changes in members only passwords will probably have to wait. I am the one who does that stuff, and I expect to be very busy at camp, so it is probably best to not make promises about getting my usual work done until after I return to the office.
Handiham members can take a look at a sample blind-accessible Daisy book which is an article on antennas from Worldradio magazine. I suggest downloading everything in the book's directory to your hard drive in a special folder. Here is the link to the folder:
You will need a DAISY book reader like AMIS, which you can find here:
February QST audio digest is here:
February WORLDRADIO audio digest is here:
California Radio Camp registration has closed, but you can contact the camp station, W0EQO, during the week of camp. Here you can see Camp Costanoan from Google Earth. Here we are looking south as we would if approaching from the air along Stevens Canyon Road. Click the thumbnail for an eagle-eye view!
The popular Handiham EchoLink net is on the air!
- The net will continue to meet Monday through Saturday at 11:00 CST. That means the time shifts one hour by GMT.
- Minnesota local time: 11:00 (AM) GMT (London): 17:00 hours
- Frequency: 145.450 N0BVE repeater system (Twin Cities) Internet: EchoLink node number 89680
- There is a Monday evening session, too. It's at 19:00 USA Central Time, or 01:00 Tuesday GMT.
- Join us for a fun, informal net! You need not be a Handiham member - all are welcome.
Elmer is not writing this week.
Elmer's email address is:
The Fred's Head Database from APH in Louisville, KY contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people:
TS-2000 tutorials by KA0PQW are here:
Thinking about EchoLink? Worried that you might not be able to use it if you are blind? Check out the EchoLink FAQ and get the good news about this well-designed software that can connect you to hams all around the world:
Your support is critical! Please help.
The Courage Handiham System depends on the support of people like you, who want to share the fun and friendship of ham radio with others. Please help us provide services to people with disabilities. We would really appreciate it if you would remember us in your estate plans. If you need a planning kit, please call. If you are wondering whether a gift of stock can be given to Handihams, the answer is yes! Please call Nancy at: 1-866-426-3442 or email:
Ask for a free DVD about the Handiham System. It’s perfect for your club program, too! The video tells your club about how we got started, the Radio Camps, and working with hams who have disabilities. Call 1-866-426-3442 toll-free.
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• Operating Skills
That's it for this week.
73 from all of us at the Courage Handiham System!
Manager, Courage Handi-ham System
Reach me by email at:
- Nancy, Handiham Secretary: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Jerry, N0VOE, Student Coordinator: email@example.com
- Avery, K0HLA, Educational Coordinator: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Pat, WA0TDA, Manager, email@example.com
- Radio Camp email: firstname.lastname@example.org
ARRL is the premier organization supporting amateur radio worldwide. Please contact Handihams for help joining the ARRL. We will be happy to help you fill out the paperwork!
The weekly e-letter is a compilation of software tips, operating information, and Handiham news. It is published on Wednesdays, and is available to everyone in a choice of formats. To administer your subscription to the HTML version, go to:
The text-only version is at: