Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Handiham World for 04 May 2011

Welcome to Handiham World!

Vertical antenna with small American flag on top at Field Day site with tent and picnic table in foreground.

It's May, and for many amateur radio clubs, the end of the regular meeting schedule. The summertime months are filled with other activities, and ham radio meetings are not really right up there on our list of priorities. When the weather finally gets nice, we want to head outdoors and forget about meetings.

That said, it does not mean that amateur radio disappears in the summertime. Consider the following ham radio highlights:

May and June are the traditional months when the six meter band perks up and band openings make it a lot easier to collect 6 meter QSOs toward "WAS", or "Worked All States". Listen on 50.125 MHz USB. Wikipedia tells us more: The 6-meter band is a portion of the VHF radio spectrum allocated to amateur radio use. Although located in the lower portion of the VHF band, it nonetheless occasionally displays propagation mechanisms characteristic of the HF bands. This normally occurs close to sunspot maximum, when solar activity increases ionization levels in the upper atmosphere. During the last sunspot peak of 2005, worldwide 6-meter propagation occurred making 6-meter communications as good as or in some instances and locations, better than HF frequencies. The prevalence of HF characteristics on this VHF band has inspired amateur operators to dub it the "magic band". In the northern hemisphere, activity peaks from May through early August, when regular sporadic E propagation enables long-distance contacts spanning up to 2,500 kilometers (1,600 mi) for single-hop propagation. Multiple-hop sporadic E propagation allows intercontinental communications at distances of up to 10,000 kilometers (6,200 mi). In the southern hemisphere, sporadic E propagation is most common from November through early February. Read the entire article on Wikipedia; just search for "6-meter band".

Dayton Hamvention® is in May, and will attract tens of thousands. Get details on This year's show is May 20-22. The summer may bring other shows and fests, or perhaps ham radio flea markets near you!

ARRL Field Day is the last full weekend in June, which turns out to be the 25th and 26th this year. There will be many clubs, small groups, and individuals participating. Find a club or group with Field Day goals that fit your own idea of having fun, and go for it! You can always run your own single op station if you have an independent streak.

Ducting and Sporadic E propagation can come and go all summer long, and are usually surprising when they pop up unexpectedly. You may hear a two meter repeater from hundreds of miles away, or even farther. Communications beyond the line of sight are possible.

Public service events like parades and races are common in the summer months. They may provide opportunities for you and your radio club to provide volunteer communications.

Summer ham radio events like hidden transmitter hunts can combine being out of doors with ham radio direction finding fun.

Radio Camp! It's August 8 through 23. Even if you can't attend camp yourself, you can work us on the air and get a QSL card.

Vacation time? Take ham radio along. If you are taking a road trip, learn to use the tone search feature in your radio so that you will be able to find the repeater subaudible tones. The ARRL Repeater Directory is a must, too.

Skywarn! ARES®! The hot, humid summer days bring those dew points into the danger range and severe weather is a real possibility. Generally the severe weather season begins in the southern United States in the Spring and migrates northward, reaching the northern states in late Spring and early summer. Severe weather or other emergency situations can happen anytime, though. Amateur radio operators can make the difference in providing vital communications services.Guy climbing tower

Antenna projects: The best time is in the summer, not during a sleet storm in November or a blizzard in January. Get those antenna projects out of the way when the gettin' is easy!

Back indoors... Yes, there will be some days when it is hot and humid outdoors, or raining buckets. Might as well get the ham shack cleaned up or work on a kit or other building project.

Those lazy days on the deck or patio? Spend at least part of them studying for your license upgrade. You folks studying for General will have to test using the old pool before July 1.

With all the potential ham radio stuff going on in the summertime, who needs radio club meetings? Take some notes on the things you do all summer and you can give a report at your September radio club meeting: "What I did on my summer vacation."

For Handiham World, I'm...

Pat Tice

Strap on your tool belt! It's time for...

Troubleshooting 101: Technology and obsolete media - some further thoughts.

Small tools and wire

Last week we posed this dilemma:

Help! My old computer died - and it really wasn't that much of a surprise, since it was nearly 10 years old and didn't really owe me anything. I love my new, faster replacement machine, but recently I decided that I needed to set up the memories in my trusty HT, and two things were pretty much deal-killers:

  1. My rig software was installed on the old machine, which is now dead, and the original installation disk is a 3.5" floppy. My new machine doesn't have a floppy drive!
  2. The interface cable that came with the rig uses a DB-9 serial interface, but my new machine doesn't have one of those, either.

What can I do?

Several of you wrote to remind us that USB sticks are really coming down in price and going up in storage capacity. They make good substitutes for old media like floppy discs and can easily substitute for compact discs or DVDs when you are using netbook computers that don't have DVD/CD drives. In addition, you can buy USB extension cables and "hubs" that add multiple USB jacks in case you have more USB devices than jacks to plug them into. USB stands for "universal serial bus", and this type of serial port has overtaken the less-versatile DB-9 serial jack on many new machines. Universal means that there are technical standards applied across a broad range of uses for USB cables. You can get USB to DB-9 converters.

Our readers are correct - those little USB storage sticks are a substitute for traditional disc media. But there are some potential "gotchas":

Easy to lose because of small size, which can result in data loss with possible security and privacy implications.
Hard to label because of small size.
Because they stick out of the side of a laptop computer, they are easily bumped and that can result in the computer's USB jack being damaged.
Prone to damage (such as going through the washing machine because of being forgotten in a pocket.)
The computer will attempt to reinstall drivers for the USB storage device if you plug it into different USB ports. This isn't a big deal, but it can be annoying.