Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Handiham World for 23 April 2008

Welcome to Handiham World!

Pat celebrates Earth Day with a cup of coffee in the ham shack.April 22 was Earth Day, which is supposed to remind everyone that we should try to live as “green” as possible, producing less waste, using only the energy we need, and generally doing our part to make the environment around each of us a better place.

All of the Earth Day stories prompted me to take a look around the ham shack here at WA0TDA.

Because the ham shack is in the basement, there is no natural light. I have to use artificial light, and the best light I can find for the shack’s configuration is a traditional 4-foot florescent fixture with two bulbs and a movable desk lamp with a metal shade and a clamp that allows me to clamp it right on the edge of the desk. The lamp then hinges and pivots to provide task lighting right where I need it. A spiral compact florescent bulb in this task lamp takes little energy and has the additional advantage of not making the lamp’s metal shade too hot to touch. Before I switched to the compact florescent to save energy, I used traditional incandescent bulbs in that lamp and often burned my fingers. Ouch!

Lighting in my ham shack uses a lot less power than it used to. Sometimes I just use the task light, which is plugged into its own old computer UPS, or uninterruptible power supply. If the power goes off, my computers and at least one radio, as well as the task lamp, will all stay operational until I can do an orderly shut down or switch to alternate power. Using energy-efficient lighting has both a benefit to the environment and a solid technical benefit in an emergency.

You are probably not in the habit of checking FCC Part 97 every other day, but you might remember that part about using only the level of power you need to make a contact, right? Using QRP isn’t always necessary, but there may be times when emergency conditions dictate that limited power be used – whether it is to minimize interference to stations operating in the immediate area or to conserve battery power. In any case, you are operating “green” when you learn to get by with less energy consumption, and you are preparing for the day when power may be limited during emergency conditions.

Another energy consumer in the ham shack is the computer system. Practically all ham stations have at least one computer, and often there may be more than one, each of them dedicated to specific functions. I have two computer systems, and split various ham shack functions between them. You can make your ham shack computers more efficient by switching to low energy consuming LCD screens, having just a single monitor and controlling its use by a KVM switch between each computer, and by changing the power options feature of each computer by using the operating system’s software control. In Windows, the power options are found in the Control Panel. A computer that must be in operation to control an Echolink node may need to have the power saving settings at “always on”, so be careful setting these options. It wouldn’t do to have your node drop because the computer decided to take an energy-saving nap! On the other hand, computers that are not in use constantly may be set to hibernate during periods of inactivity. Although this might seem that it wouldn’t save much power, many computers around the world hibernating instead of running at full power can really save a lot of energy.