Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Handiham World for 03 December 2008

Welcome to Handiham World!

WA0TDA: Remote Base Update

WA0TDA: Why nets are important - Pat with coffee mugAs we have been reporting, the Handiham Remote Base HF station is on track to go live to member use in early 2009. Stan, W4MQ, is working on some software updates to make the process of setting up and operating the rig control software easier for our blind Handiham members. Our thanks to him and to our beta testers, and especially to Lyle, K0LR, project engineer, and Joe, N3AIN, our expert JAWS volunteer and TS-480 user, for working with Stan to identify issues with the accessibility of the system.

One concern that Lyle and I have had is what would happen to the TS-480, the system computer, and the related interface electronics when the temperature dropped in the "shack", which is unheated. Temperatures have not fallen below about 10 degrees Fahrenheit (-12 Celsius) outdoors yet, but we have had no problems thus far. The station is located in the attic of the Courage North dining hall, and the entire building is unheated. In northern Minnesota, which is near the center of the North American continent, dense, cold Arctic air often settles in for long periods of time. It is not unheard of for this part of North America to reach morning low temperatures far below zero. International Falls, Minnesota is used as a testing spot for cold weather operation of new cars. This cold spot was satirized in the Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoons as "Frostbite Falls". How true to life that is!

At any rate, we will no doubt experience our coldest temperature at the remote base site sometime in January, about two weeks following the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, which is December 21. That is the day of the least sunshine, but there is a two week lag as the atmosphere catches up, which I guess would be because of thermal inertia. Thus, the really telling cold weather should arrive around mid-January and likely linger for several weeks. It is during this period that the station will be most severely tested as we reach the bottom of the operating temperature envelope.

Now, here is another development: We would like to invite you to use EchoLink to log on to the remote base in receive only mode. Look for the station callsign, W0EQO-L, node number 261171. Connect to the remote base, and you will turn the radio on automatically, and the audio stream will begin. If you happen to do this while the radio is in use, you may hear stations on frequency immediately. If the radio is in use through the W4MQ software, there may be periods while the control operator is transmitting where you do not hear anything, but upon receive you will hear the other signals. If there is no control operator logged in via the W4MQ interface, you can use the EchoLink text feature to control the radio's frequency. Simply enter a number like 5 into the text box and press enter. The radio will respond by changing the VFO to 5 MHz, and you will hear WWV if conditions are favorable. If you want to listen to PICONET on 3.925 MHz, enter 3925 and press enter. The system does not require you to enter the decimal point. If the radio is in the wrong mode, simply sending a U will change the mode to USB, L to LSB, C to CW, A to AM, and so on. When you log on via EchoLink, there is a possibility that there will be other users logged on already, and they may be listening to a frequency they chose. Be respectful of others and don't change the frequency unless you think the other station might be finished. On the other hand, don't hog the station when someone else wants to use it. Up to five users can listen at once. Oh, and one more thing: Since our TS-480 is equipped with blind-friendly speech frequency output, you will hear the radio tell you what frequency it is on as soon as you make a change. Please give the Handiham Remote Base a try and let me know what happens, and I will share your comments with our engineering team, and possibly even with our e-letter readers and podcast listeners!

For your Handiham World, I'm...

Patrick Tice, WA0TDA
Courage Center Handiham Manager