Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Handiham World for 13 June 2012

Welcome to Handiham World.

We are back after a week at Radio Camp. There are lessons to be learned.
But first, I want to take you back to the early 1990's, when interest in public service communications saw a real growth following the 9/11 attacks. Ham radio operators dusted off their VHF/UHF handheld radios and headed to training sessions. It was at one such event that many of us in my own local radio club found out how little we actually knew about operating our radios. In an embarrassing exercise that really only called for some very simple operations to be performed on the handheld radios, we discovered that many - maybe most - of us didn't know how to enter frequencies, set offsets, and enter subaudible tones. In a real public communications emergency all of these things might leap to the fore as necessary skills. After all, plans change, interference happens, and repeaters can fail. We have to be ready to deal with all of these things - and more.
Matt, KA0PQW, talks on an HT while Phil, K9HI stands by.
Photo: Matt, KA0PQW, talks on an HT while Phil, K9HI, leads a critique of the emergency communications exercise.
Now fast forward to Handiham Radio Camp 2012. Our scripted emergency exercise, written and led by volunteer Phil Temples, K9HI, called for a post-tornado communications response. Handheld radios and one mobile rig (for the net control station) were programmed and ready to go. Unbeknownst to the participants, a scheduled "repeater failure" took the camp repeater off the air mid-exercise. There was a good deal of scrambling to figure out a workaround during that part of the exercise. As a result, the mobile rig at the net control position was so out of whack from random button-pushing that it required a hard reset to return it to the original factory settings. Some participants had not programmed their handheld radios at all prior to the exercise and were left scratching their heads or borrowing radios from someone else.
This happens at virtually every camp, so we came up with an idea to test for HT skills. (Thanks, AB8WF.) We will be letting you know what is going to be involved in this skills test, more about which will be featured in the August Worldradio Online. In addition, we also are mulling over an operating skills exam in written format and an HF skills exam. This would give our Handiham members some new goals to work toward. We would provide an actual certificate for each "element" of our new skills testing. It would be fun to earn each certificate, but it would also help operators to focus on really learning their equipment.
We also had a VE session at camp, so here's a photo of Rachel, KC0VBV, receiving her certificate of successful completion of examination from Dr. Dave Justis, KN0S. Congrats, Rachel! Our thanks to the Stillwater Amateur Radio Association (SARA) for fielding the VE team, and to VE Team Leader Shel Mann, N0DRX, and all the VEs. Following the VE session Shel and XYL Mary, N0DXH, stuck around to help us take down the wire antennas.
Rachel, KC0VBV, receives her CSCE from Dr. Dave Justis, KN0S, after successfully passing General.
Photo: Rachel, KC0VBV, receives her certificate of successful completion of examination from Dr. Dave Justis, KN0S. 
Bill Vokac, K9BV, points out a sine wave during his General Class course.
Photo: Bill, K9BV, teaches the General Class. Here he points out a sine wave. "What goes up must come down." 
Lucinda, AB8WF, at the notebook computer.
Photo: Lucinda, AB8WF, taught one on one computer lessons and brought computers up to date, which included installing Microsoft Security Essentials. She also taught remote base operation with JAWS. Lucinda also suggested the operating skills certification and will continue to work with us on the lessons and testing. 
Of course old man Murphy is not ever far from any antenna project, so the center insulator and 450 ohm feedline got REALLY stuck in the tree we used as the dipole antenna's center support. We did have some wind during the week, so we will blame it on that rather than any of our expert antenna wranglers! Here is a photo of Dr. Dave attaching the remnants of the 450 ohm line to the back of my Honda CRV so that I can drag the feedline out of the clutches of the greedy tree with some serious horsepower. This proved successful, and although the feedline was somewhat the worse for wear Dr. Dave did collect the pieces for use back at his home QTH. He isn't afraid of splicing the somewhat ragged pieces together!
Dr. Dave, KN0S, attaches the ladder line to the towing hook on the WA0TDA CRV.
Photo: No, we are not going to run 450 ohm open-wire ladder line to a mobile W0OXB Special antenna!
Although we foiled Murphy's antenna tangle, he wasn't through with his mischief. On Thursday evening I discovered that the Drupal-powered website had gone down and that problem persisted through Friday and the weekend. Here's the story: returns to service following SQL failure
The database failure at has been resolved. Our thanks to the kind technical support people at Network Solutions for their assistance.

The SQL database required by Drupal failed due to a problem with the table structure. This proved to be a bit beyond the pay grade and capabilities of your humble Handiham Manager to figure out, so I had to ask the folks at Network Solutions, our hosting service, for assistance.

The problem surfaced on Thursday, June 7, while we were at Handiham Radio Camp and as a result of being very busy at camp I didn't notice that anything was wrong until very late Thursday night. Friday was travel day, so everyone was getting their travel back home underway and there was really no time to think about the website until later on Friday afternoon when I myself got back home. By that time it was quite late in the week and when I called Network Solutions I knew it would probably mean a weekend wait for a regular business day crew to be back on board - unless the staff could help me with a relatively simple problem. I spoke to my tech support guy, another ham who of course knew all about us, and we scheduled the service for this week. I am happy to report that the site has been restored to service as of this Tuesday morning, right on schedule. Good work, Netsol!

Of course we apologize for any confusion or inconvenience this outage may have caused. I guess one good thing about it happening in the summer was that everyone seems to be so preoccupied with summer outdoor activities that not too many people noticed!
*HANDIHAM* Echolink node guy visits camp!
Matt, KA0PQW; Susan Tice; Pat, WA0TDA, and Handiham volunteer Mike, N0VZC.
Photo: Left to right - Matt, KA0PQW; Susan Tice; Pat, WA0TDA, and Handiham volunteer Mike, N0VZC, who hosts the excellent *HANDIHAM* conference which makes the worldwide Handiham net run smoothly on a single high-capacity node. Mike and Don, N0BVE (not pictured) visited to help the camp with some networking. I think he's the guy who took this photo. 
Post-camp cute puppy alert!
Jasper saws some logs
Photo: Jasper takes a well-deserved snooze after a week at Handiham Radio Camp. He was an enormous hit among the campers and staff, probably due to his overwhelming super- cuteness. Thankfully he only uses his amazing powers for good. 
Email me at with your questions & comments.   
Patrick Tice, WA0TDA
Handiham Manager