Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Courage Center Handiham World Weekly E-Letter for the week of Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Courage Center Handiham World Weekly E-Letter for the week of Wednesday, 12 December 2012

This is a free weekly news & information update from Courage Center Handiham System. Our contact information is at the end, or simply email for changes in subscriptions or to comment. You can listen to this news online.  
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Welcome to Handiham World.

Meet the 75 meter band - A reliable friend year in and year out.

3.925 MHz is displayed on an Icom IC-7200 radio.

This week we are taking a look at a band that is useful during the entire 11 year solar cycle.

The 80/75 meter amateur band covers 3.5 to 4.0 MHz.  The ARRL Frequency Chart shows us that this band is clearly a more complicated place to operate than the 160 meter band, where everyone with a General license or above has the same privileges and modes are not restricted to band segments. On 80/75 meters there are restrictions by license class. Novice and Technician licensees have 200 watt CW privileges in a limited portion of 80 meters, while General and Advanced licensees have their own respective limitations in both the CW and phone segments of 80/75. 
CW, RTTY, and data are allowed below 3.6 MHz.  Phone and image are allowed from 3.6 to 4.0 MHz.  
A typical dipole antenna used on the 80/75 meter band is about a half-wavelength long, but because this band extends along a fairly wide portion of frequency spectrum, we do sometimes talk about an "80 meter dipole", which is tuned for the CW portion of the band and is thus a bit longer - around 130 feet (39.6 meters).  Note that this is about 40 meters, or a half-wave on the 80 meter band.  Many operators prefer to spend more time in the phone segment of the band, so they would prefer a "75 meter dipole".  This antenna is cut for a slightly shorter wavelength and a higher frequency, perhaps around 123 feet (37.5 meters). 
What can you expect to hear if you tune around the 80/75 meter band?  If you are listening during the daylight hours, you can hear distant stations until the sun gets higher in the sky and absorption kills any chance of DX.  The band will still often be useful for shorter distance regional communications, perhaps a statewide net. A dipole antenna with a high angle of radiation is ideal for this kind of communication. Once the sun sets, 80/75 starts to "go long".  Stations from many hundreds, even sometimes thousands, of miles will now be heard. You can count on hearing stations in the southern states from here in Minnesota with no problem at all.  As is the case with 160 meters, the winter months tend to be best for using 80/75 because there are more hours of darkness and the band will be open for long distance skip more hours, and because in the winter there is less interfering static (QRN) from thunderstorms.  
You can work all states on 80/75 more easily than you can on 160 m, but those who prefer to meet on a less-crowded band for a casual roundtable conversation are heard every day and through the night and early morning hours. 
A 125 foot dipole that might not fit a city lot can shrink to a much more manageable size just by installing it in an inverted vee configuration.  This requires only one tall supporting structure for the very center, which will be the apex of the antenna, right at the feedpoint. This will allow you to run the feedline up the supporting structure, thus taking the weight of the feedline off the center insulator.  The ends of the antenna angle downward toward the ground and terminate at supporting structures that are convenient but that keep the wire out of the way so that people won't walk into it. I have used everything from trees to fence posts. Assuming a 125 foot antenna with a center support that allows each leg to angle downward at 45°, the inverted vee will only take up about 90 feet of space. It also has several other advantages. Because the center support holds the feedline, it cannot whip around in the wind and possibly come loose or break from the center insulator as easily. The center support structure makes the inverted vee design much more stable and sturdier, allowing it to stand up to icing and wind.  The part of the antenna that carries the highest current is right near the feed point, and the feed point is at the highest elevation of any part of the antenna, making for more efficient communications.  One thing to watch out for is how you locate the ends of the antenna. As with all half wave dipoles, there will be high RF voltage at the end insulators. That means that you will want to keep them away from any tree branches or anything else that might cause a short and away from reach of any person who might inadvertently come in contact with that part of the antenna. Always use high quality insulators in your antenna systems.
I know that antennas for the 75/80 meter band can be challenging to fit in, but it is possible to have a a lot of fun on the band using a multiband vertical antenna. Many models cover 75/80, and most of us can fit a vertical antenna nearly anywhere, assuming that you can keep it away from power lines. Many days I enjoy using a vertical to work stations on bands like 20, 15, and 10 meters, but I also am able to press the vertical into service for a regional 75 meter net with no problem at all. Sure, it isn't my first choice for 75, but I know it will work and sometimes the conditions actually favor vertical polarization over horizontal.  Another antenna you might consider is the simple end-fed wire. As with the end-fed wire for 160, you will want to feed it against an excellent ground system with some radials for the highest effectiveness. Of course you will need a tuner.
If you are interested in working all states (WAS), you really should consider 80/75 this winter. On this band alone, you can work the majority of the states simply by learning about propagation on the band and listening for nearer states during the daylight hours and distant states at night. Remember also that both Handiham remote base HF stations are equipped to operate on 80/75.
Next time:  The 40 meter band. 
Let's get out there and enjoy HF!
Email me at with your questions & comments.   
Patrick Tice, WA0TDA
Handiham Manager

What kind of microphone are you using?

Logitech desk mic and monitor showing w4mq software interface.
Bring up the subject of microphones and you are sure to get plenty of opinions from amateur radio operators. Most of us are probably content to stick with the microphone that came with the transceiver, at least for some of our on the air activity. Others prefer some kind of a specialized microphone costing hundreds of dollars because they find that it is more configurable to their needs and makes operating more efficient and comfortable. Sometimes you will hear on the air comparisons as microphone geeks run A-B tests to compare one microphone with another one. I have always been one of those operators who has been content with the microphone that came in the box with the rig, but when the Handiham remote base HF stations came online, I was introduced to yet another option – the computer microphone.
I had always assumed that the microphone that came with the radio would always do a better job than some less-than-expensive computer microphone, but once I got on the air using the HF remotes, I began getting good signal reports that included unsolicited mentions of "nice audio". Usually people don't comment on audio quality spontaneously unless there is something really, really wrong and your signal sounds like a spoon that fell into the garbage disposal. Anyway, the long and short of it is that you can produce fine audio for amateur radio communications use when the input device is a simple, inexpensive computer microphone. In the accompanying photo, you can see a Logitech USB desk microphone that is used with the computer running the W4MQ remote base client software. This combination allows me to make nice, clear contacts using the HF remote base stations and gives me the convenience of a desk microphone. The Logitech even has a pushbutton toggle switch in the base to mute the audio, a feature that is convenient if I get a phone call or am using the computer for some other application, just to make sure that I don't transmit accidentally. I was first introduced to this microphone when we received the donation of one for the Handiham program from Howard, KE7KNN.  I liked it so much that I bought one for myself to use at my own station. There are other desktop microphones out there, and there are many excellent  headset-boom-microphone combinations. The one thing I would recommend is that you get a USB microphone instead of trying to depend on the analog microphones with the three and half millimeter audio plugs. Having the USB microphone allows you to tailor the audio specifically for the application of the remote base station so that you don't have to worry about messing up the settings for your internal computer soundcard.  It is like having a second specialized soundcard, which is especially useful if you are blind and using a screen reader that depends on having soundcard resources.
Is there a computer microphone that you should not use? Although I have not had any real problem making contacts with the built-in microphone on a laptop computer, these built-in microphones do have some serious disadvantages. They are generally not able to cancel noise and are likely to pick up sounds that are some distance from you somewhere else in the room. In other words, if the dog starts barking that will completely obliterate your voice as the AGC circuit in the computer tries to reset the level. The sound can also be hollow or the level may vary enough to be annoying. I have heard people getting good results from extremely cheap microphones simply plugged into the computer's sound card. You have to be careful doing this with remote base operation because if you happen to be multitasking with the computer and some other application begins calling for sound card resources, you can mess up the settings or inadvertently send the wrong audio to the rig. That can be embarrassing!
The long and short of it is that you can get excellent audio for HF operation using a computer microphone. You don't have to spend a fortune on a high-end microphone, either.
Next time: We talk a little bit about the VoIP software Skype, which we use for the audio in remote base operation.

Thoughts on FCC Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in WT Docket No. 12-283

By Patrick Tice, WA0TDA, Handiham Manager 

On October 2, the FCC released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in WT Docket No. 12-283. In the November 7 edition of your weekly Handiham World we heard from ARRL Dakota Division Director Greg Widin, K0GW, seeking input from his Division:

In October, the FCC released a Notice of Proposed Rule-Making proposing changes to the Amateur Service rules. The FCC proposal includes:
  • granting Exam credit for expired amateur operator licenses; 
  • shortening the grace period for renewal of amateur licenses from 2 years to 6 months; 
  • reducing the required number of Volunteer Examiners from 3 to 2; 
  • permitting remote test administration; and 
  • allowing amateur stations to transmit TDMA using FXE phone and FXD data emissions.
Here's a link to the ARRL Web story: 

And here's the link to the FCC's NPRM: 

Comments are due to FCC by December 24, 2012. I would like to hear your comments and feedback on any of the FCC proposals in this NPRM.
Thanks es 73, Greg Widin, K0GW ARRL Dakota Division Director ARRL--of, by and for the Radio Amateur

ARRL Dakota Division Director: Gregory P Widin, K0GW  

Here are our thoughts on this NPRM:

On lifetime exam credit:

In recent years there has been a trend toward making processes simpler and easier. Rules that have been in place for decades need to be reviewed to assess their effectiveness and relevance, and the discussion does recognize the interplay of one rule with another - the license renewal window of two years could change if lifetime exam credit were to be granted, or if a long (10 year) renewal window replaces the existing two year window, then perhaps there is no need for lifetime exam credit.  On the other hand, what is to be done with callsigns that should not sit in limbo for years? The question is one of balance.  The process needs to be reasonable and fair, be consistent with good service to citizens, and not add to the costs and overhead of administering the VE program or the related FCC processing and record keeping.
We believe that the best balance is in the granting of lifetime exam credit with a corresponding reduction of the renewal period from two years to the proposed six months. I know that people are used to a two year "grace" period, but come on - if you are so disengaged from Amateur Radio that you need two years to figure out that you need to renew, you are probably not going to care one way or the other if you keep your callsign.  Six months is more than enough, and way more than most other renewal periods for nearly any other license or certification. In any case, even after the grace period passes, one would be able to get a new license by proving previous exam credit rather than by taking the tests again. This would help to free up inactive callsigns while still maintaining a pathway back into the Amateur Radio Service for those whose licenses have long expired. Thus, the FCC proposes that the vanity callsign wait also be set to six months. Another reason cited by the FCC is to keep the licensee database accurate. These seem like reasonable changes that would make the system more efficient.

On reducing the number of required VEs:

The FCC states, “We believe that reducing the number of required VEs can increase the availability of examination opportunities (by enabling VEs to offer more frequent examination sessions, or examination sessions at more locations, or both), while not compromising the reasons the Commission decided that more than one VE is necessary. This in turn would reduce the difficulty and expense that some examinees and VEs experience in traveling to an amateur radio license examination session.”
On the face of it, this goal is a worthy one that could indeed help VE teams in sparsely-populated areas offer more VE sessions.  I know there is a tradeoff between having three VE team members to better assure exam integrity and the very real need to address the relative difficulty of offering timely VE sessions in rural areas.  We talk with Handiham members who have to travel long distances to test, and people with disabilities often face a much more complicated and sometimes expensive travel day because they may not have access to a personal vehicle.  I have to come down on the side of supporting this change - but a smaller two member VE team should only be used when three VE team members are simply not available and the exam could otherwise not be administered in a timely fashion.

On remote VE testing:

The FCC opens the possibility of remote testing using audio and video “to provide that, at the option of the administering VEs and the VEC coordinating the examination session, the VEs may be ‘present and observing’ an examinee for purposes of the rule when they are using an audio and video system that can assure the proper conduct and necessary supervision of each examination. Commenters should address what, if any, specific requirements should be incorporated into the rule (such as requiring one VE to be physically present at the examination session) and whether remote testing should be permitted everywhere, or only for examination sessions at less accessible locations (and how to define such locations). We believe that permitting remote examination administration can increase the availability of examination opportunities, which would reduce the difficulty and expense that some examinees and VEs experience in traveling to an amateur radio license examination session.”
Remote testing appeals to me, because I am used to operating remotely in my work for the Handiham program. Giving examinations remotely is an obvious way to make a VE session available in an isolated area. However, the FCC would also like to know if remote examinations should be available everywhere.  We have no objection to its wider application, but the devil is always in the details of such things. It will be necessary to figure out a process to ensure exam integrity, and this will certainly take some time. What constitutes being ‘present and observing’ must be clearly defined.

On emission designators and TDMA:

We support the changes recommended by ARRL. ARRL states, "The ARRL will file an amended waiver request immediately in the hope that it can be quickly granted in light of the strong support for the ARRL’s Petition that is reflected in the comments filed on RM-11625.”


cartoon robot with pencil

George,  NB9R, writes seeking participants for ARES:

My name is George Geotsalitis and I'm one of the Assistant Emergency Coordinators for the ARES Group in DuPage County, Illinois. I'd like to talk to someone in Handihams regarding the existence of any Handiham members who live in or around our county. We have a definite interest in training Net Control Stations for our ARES nets.
George Geotsalitis, NB9R
Public Service & Emergency Communications Manager
DuPage County ARES Assistant Emergency Coordinator
NWS Severe Weather Ham Team
We have withheld George's contact information to prevent junk mail and telemarketers, so please contact the Handiham office for his phone number and email address if you live in the Chicagoland area, especially the northwestern suburbs, and wish to participate in ARES NCS training.  Please email for the contact information.

Handiham Nets are on on the air!

TMV71A transceiver
We are on the air daily at 11:00 USA Central Time, plus Wednesday & Thursday evenings at 19:00 USA Central Time.  
Join us on the Thursday evening Handiham Radio Club TechNet.  The frequency in the local Minnesota repeater coverage zone: 145.45 FM, negative offset with no tone and 444.65 MHz with 114.8 Hz tone in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul Minnesota. The UHF repeater will be heard more easily in the Eastern Twin Cities.  You will find our daily net on the air at 11:00 hours USA Central Time, with a Sunday roundtable session for a change of pace. A Wednesday evening session at 19:00 hours USA Central Time also offers a chance to take a guess at a trivia question (offered by some Net Control Stations) and visit with your friends on the air. Ideal for those who can't make the daily morning session! Then Thursday evening at 19:00 hours return to the Tech net and learn something new.
EchoLink nodes:
*HANDIHAM* conference server Node 494492 (Our preferred high-capacity node.)
*VAN-IRLP*, node 256919
KA0PQW-R, node 267582
KA0PQW-L, node 538131
N0BVE-R, node 89680
Other ways to connect:
IRLP node 9008 (Vancouver BC reflector)
WIRES system number 1427

A dip in the pool

It's time to test our knowledge by taking a dip in the pool - the question pool, that is! 

Let's go to the General Class pool and take a look rectifiers:

G7A06 asks: "What portion of the AC cycle is converted to DC by a full-wave rectifier?"
Possible choices are:
A. 90 degrees
B. 180 degrees
C. 270 degrees
D. 360 degrees
Think of a wave as a complete circle of 360 degrees.  In a sine wave, as we proceed through time, we begin at 0º, proceed to the first peak at 90º, return back down to the baseline at 180º, dip to a low below the baseline at 270º, and finally return back up to the baseline at 360º, ready to start the next cycle.  D, 360 degrees, is the right answer because a full wave includes 360º.
Please e-mail to comment.

Remote Base health report: W0EQO is on line. W0ZSW is on line. 

W0EQO remote base at Courage North, Lake George, MN.
Work continues on the remote base software.  Both stations are accessible via Echolink for receive.  Look for W0ZSW-L and W0EQO-L using the search function in your Echolink application.  Please note that it is not allowed to connect through RF to the two remote base Echolink nodes, you can only use the Echolink application of a computer or smartphone.
If problems show up, please email
Keyboard commands list updated:

Solar Activity Forecast: Solar activity is expected to be at very low levels with a chance for C-class flares on days one, two, and three (12 Dec, 13 Dec, 14 Dec).
Credit: NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center:

This week @ HQ

Cartoon guy carrying ham radio study books
The December Audio Digest is completed and digital DAISY cartridges are in the mail. All December DAISY files are available in the DAISY section of the website following member login. Please let me know if you have trouble using the DAISY files, because this is an important member service and we want you to take advantage of it.
Another member service is the audio lectures for Technician, General, and Extra.  All courses are available on line for your use whenever you want to study or review. Teaching is done with thoughtful attention to descriptions for those who are blind, and we promote understanding concepts rather than simply memorizing the question pool.  If you would like to use this service but do not understand how, please contact us.  We can also put the audio lectures on your DAISY digital NLS cartridge if you prefer that method instead of downloading or streaming audio from the website. Our latest audio lectures cover concepts like resonance from the Extra Class course. Please join us in whatever course you need, and also please let us know if you would like a specific topic covered in our Operating Skills lecture series.
Don't forget that Courage Center is a registered non-profit and your gifts to Handihams are tax deductible.  We appreciate your support!
Plan now to contact the Handiham office with your news or address changes, stories to share, or anything else that needs to be completed before year's end.  The Handiham office will close for the week of Christmas through the end of the year and will reopen after New Year's Day.  That means that once Nancy leaves the office at 2pm USA Central Time on December 20, any business you have left until the last minute will have to wait for the first week in January! Please plan ahead - it will not be possible to get in touch with us during the last 10 days of the month!  During that time we will keep the website up to date and assure that the remote base stations are operational. The nets will continue on a regular schedule most days, but family holidays are special and sessions may be simple open round tables if no net control shows up. 
Change in address for equipment donations:  Please contact Pat, WA0TDA, before making any donation of equipment. My phone number is 763-520-0511 and my email address is The address is now the same as our postal mailing address. This should simplify our contact information.
Courage Center Handiham System
3915 Golden Valley Road
Golden Valley, MN  55422

Equipment change: We no longer accept antennas, except small accessory antennas for handheld radios. We do not accept donations of cassette tapes or tape equipment or used magazines. 

No more tape digests and manuals

Please remember that the cassette tape digest ceases following the mailing at the end of November!  After that all audio is in DAISY digital format or on line through the members only section of The Library of Congress 4-track tape system will no longer be supported in any form after 2012. 
George, N0SBU, reminds us that the final tape digest mailing is out and we will no longer support cassette tapes. We do not accept donations of cassette tapes or tape equipment. 
Digital mailers are important: If you do mail a digital cartridge to us, please be sure that it is an approved free matter mailer. Otherwise it will quickly cost us several dollars to package and mail out, which is more than the cost of the mailer in the first place. We don't have a stock of cartridges or mailers and not including a mailer will result in a long delay getting your request back out to you. 
DAISY audio digests are available for our blind members who do not have computers, playable in your Library of Congress digital player.  Handiham members who use these players and who would prefer to receive a copy of the monthly audio digests on the special Library of Congress digital cartridge should send a blank cartridge to us in a cartridge mailer (no envelopes, please), so that we can place the files on it and return it to you via free matter postal mail.  Your callsign should be on both the cartridge and the mailer so that we can make sure we know who it's from. Blank cartridges and mailers are available from APH, the American Printing House for the Blind, Inc.
Digital Talking Book Cartridge Catalog Number: 1-02610-00, Price: $12.00
Digital Talking Book Cartridge Mailer Catalog Number: 1-02611-00, Price: $2.50
Order Toll-Free: (800) 223-1839.
The Library of Congress NLS has a list of vendors for the digital cartridges:

Get it all on line as an alternative:  Visit the DAISY section on the Handiham website after logging in.

Stay in touch

Cartoon robot with cordless phone
Be sure to send Nancy your changes of address, phone number changes, or email address changes so that we can continue to stay in touch with you. You may either email Nancy at or call her at 763-520-0512.  If you need to use the toll-free number, call 1-866-426-3442. 
Handiham Manager Patrick Tice, WA0TDA, may be reached at or by phone at 763-520-0511.  
Mornings Monday through Thursday are the best time to contact us. 
The Courage Handiham System depends on the support of people like you, who want to share the fun and friendship of ham radio with others. Please help us provide services to people with disabilities. We would really appreciate it if you would remember us in your estate plans. If you need a planning kit, please call. If you are wondering whether a gift of stock can be given to Handihams, the answer is yes! Please call Walt Seibert, KD0LPX, at 763-520-0532 or email him at  
Call 1-866-426-3442 toll-free. -- Help us get new hams on the air.
Get the Handiham E-Letter by email every Wednesday, and stay up-to-date with ham radio news. 
You may listen in audio to the E-Letter at
Email us to subscribe:

That's it for this week. 73 from all of us at the Courage Handiham System!
Manager, Courage Handiham System
Reach me by email at:

Nancy, Handiham Secretary:

ARRL is the premier organization supporting amateur radio worldwide. Please contact Handihams for help joining the ARRL. We will be happy to help you fill out the paperwork!
The weekly e-letter is a compilation of software tips, operating information, and Handiham news. It is published on Wednesdays, and is available to everyone free of charge. Please email  for changes of address, unsubscribes, etc. Include your old email address and your new address.

Courage Center Handiham System
3915 Golden Valley Road
Golden Valley, MN 55422