Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Handiham World for 14 January 2009

Welcome to Handiham World!

Remote Base and Morse Code

Remote Base Update: Morse Code operation

Screenshot: W4MQ Remote Base CW pop up window

Did you ever own a gadget, a radio, or a piece of software that you really understood completely? I must say I had a bit of a surprise earlier this week when using the handiham remote base software by W4MQ. I had been using the remote base as a beta tester for a number of months now, but I had never really had occasion to use the CW mode setting, even though I had tuned around in the CW portion of various bands a number of times in the past. In fact, Avery, K0HLA, had asked me if it was possible to operate using Morse code with the remote base.

"Heck, I think it must be possible, but I'm not sure how you would hook up a key and whether you would use some kind of modulated audio or just how it would work", I replied.

After all, the radio obviously received very well in the CW portion of the bands, and some of our handiham members would likely be interested in operating Morse code from time to time if such a thing were possible. Well, as Lyle, K0LR, and I worked through a number of beta testing issues, one thing that came up was something called "auto mode". This is a setting made by the administrator of the system that causes the radio to go back to whatever default mode is set for a given portion of a ham radio band. For example, on the 20 m band if you were using a frequency of 14.280 MHz, the auto mode would place the radio in the USB mode automatically, so that you would be on the right side band. The user can, however, control the mode manually. It is assumed that this will sometimes be necessary. Anyway, this setting was not being changed automatically when I did my testing, so I noticed that the radio would typically just keep the same mode that I had been listening in on single side band whenever I went to the CW portion of the band. Only this week did I think to manually change the mode to the CW setting. The first thing that I noticed was that the audio filter was automatically changed to a much narrower width that would be more appropriate for Morse code operation. The second thing I noticed was that the radio no longer said "no transmit". And the third thing was that a little pop-up window appeared that would allow me to simply type into a text window and send Morse code automatically! Because I had already logged on to the software using my own call sign, this handy little application already knew who I was. It has several shortcut buttons that allow me to send CQ, call QRZ, call a specific station just by entering the station's call sign in a form field and pressing the call button, and probably even more that I haven't discovered yet. So here I was, using this software for months, and only this week discovering a major feature.

I don't know whether to be a little bit embarrassed by this, or whether I should just chalk it up to the fact that there was so much other stuff to test that a fellow might be expected to miss a thing or two here and there. I will readily admit that I seldom have an actual QSO using Morse code, but I do listen to code rather frequently just to see what band conditions are like, mostly on 20 and 40 m.

Discovering this new Morse code feature (new to me, anyway) was almost like discovering a gift that I had forgotten to open up at my last birthday party. Who knows what else the remote base might serve up as a really fun and useful feature? We are still hoping to open the remote base and get it out of beta mode within the next few months. It has been doing extraordinarily well surviving the cold Minnesota temperatures in its unheated ham shack. Already this week Courage North has had an early-morning low temperature of -35°F. I think I can almost feel the cold radiating back at me right through my own computer when I connect to the remote base!

For Handiham World, I'm Patrick Tice,