Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Handiham World for 30 April 2008

Welcome to Handiham World!

Pat celebrates Earth Day with a cup of coffee in the ham shack.I don't know how many of you have lived in a small town as I once did, but perhaps you know about how there is always a favorite restaurant where the locals get together for a cup of coffee. It's a place where friends meet and chat, not the sort of fancy coffee chain with $4 coffee that you find in big cities!

Ham radio nets can be much like the small town coffee shop, because you meet at a regular spot, most likely over that first cup of coffee, and share stories and news. The only difference is that you are sitting in your ham shack, not across the table or at the counter in the diner. But the experience is much the same, because you are among friends.

I never felt that way more than I did this morning when, on a regional HF net, the net control station told us about the death of a regular net participant's spouse. The NCS announced a moment of silence, which everyone dutifully observed, before moving on to the regular net business. In the course of the day, news like this will keep us all connected in a circle of friendship, in which our shared experience as amateur radio operators is really the one thing we all have in common when we first begin checking into nets like this one, but soon becomes only one shared experience of many as we learn more and more about our new friends; their families, their other hobbies, the kind of work they do, and so on.

This is the cement that holds a strong Amateur Radio Service together. It's important to get on the air and participate, and to do so as much as you can. Yes, yes, we are all busy and time and circumstances may keep us from checking in with our radio friends as often as we can, but I remind myself of my "DOTA" goal: Daily On The Air.

I first announced "Daily On The Air" in October of 2006, but have updated the story online on our new beta website:

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Handiham World for 23 April 2008

Welcome to Handiham World!

Pat celebrates Earth Day with a cup of coffee in the ham shack.April 22 was Earth Day, which is supposed to remind everyone that we should try to live as “green” as possible, producing less waste, using only the energy we need, and generally doing our part to make the environment around each of us a better place.

All of the Earth Day stories prompted me to take a look around the ham shack here at WA0TDA.

Because the ham shack is in the basement, there is no natural light. I have to use artificial light, and the best light I can find for the shack’s configuration is a traditional 4-foot florescent fixture with two bulbs and a movable desk lamp with a metal shade and a clamp that allows me to clamp it right on the edge of the desk. The lamp then hinges and pivots to provide task lighting right where I need it. A spiral compact florescent bulb in this task lamp takes little energy and has the additional advantage of not making the lamp’s metal shade too hot to touch. Before I switched to the compact florescent to save energy, I used traditional incandescent bulbs in that lamp and often burned my fingers. Ouch!

Lighting in my ham shack uses a lot less power than it used to. Sometimes I just use the task light, which is plugged into its own old computer UPS, or uninterruptible power supply. If the power goes off, my computers and at least one radio, as well as the task lamp, will all stay operational until I can do an orderly shut down or switch to alternate power. Using energy-efficient lighting has both a benefit to the environment and a solid technical benefit in an emergency.

You are probably not in the habit of checking FCC Part 97 every other day, but you might remember that part about using only the level of power you need to make a contact, right? Using QRP isn’t always necessary, but there may be times when emergency conditions dictate that limited power be used – whether it is to minimize interference to stations operating in the immediate area or to conserve battery power. In any case, you are operating “green” when you learn to get by with less energy consumption, and you are preparing for the day when power may be limited during emergency conditions.

Another energy consumer in the ham shack is the computer system. Practically all ham stations have at least one computer, and often there may be more than one, each of them dedicated to specific functions. I have two computer systems, and split various ham shack functions between them. You can make your ham shack computers more efficient by switching to low energy consuming LCD screens, having just a single monitor and controlling its use by a KVM switch between each computer, and by changing the power options feature of each computer by using the operating system’s software control. In Windows, the power options are found in the Control Panel. A computer that must be in operation to control an Echolink node may need to have the power saving settings at “always on”, so be careful setting these options. It wouldn’t do to have your node drop because the computer decided to take an energy-saving nap! On the other hand, computers that are not in use constantly may be set to hibernate during periods of inactivity. Although this might seem that it wouldn’t save much power, many computers around the world hibernating instead of running at full power can really save a lot of energy.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Handiham World for 16 April 2008

Last night I had a chance to visit a radio club in my local area and give a talk about Handihams, my early years with Butternut Electronics, and grounding basics for vertical antennas. With all of those topics, you can bet I found plenty to talk about!

The interesting thing is that this particular radio club is sponsored in part by a large multinational corporation that is headquartered near my house here in Minnesota. To be a member of the club, you have to work for the company or be related to a person who works for the company. It is a bit different with this kind of a specialty radio club because the members obviously share a common employment experience. While this might seem somewhat limiting, the club members obviously worked well together and the club's ham shack was to die for! Besides, this club partnered with another local club every field day, and the other local club was open to general membership, so things really did not seem all that exclusive to me.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The Handiham World for 09 April 2008

Cartoon family

Welcome to Handiham World!

the deck of the dining hall complete with beach umbrellas at radio campSpring just seems to be teasing us here in Minnesota. We will get a few warm Spring- like days, then snow. I saw a cartoon pasted up on a wall and it showed mittens sticking straight up out of a huge snowbank. The caption read, "If you are sick of winter, raise your hand". I can guarantee that we are all sick of winter and sick of having to wait to get out into the yard to get our antenna work underway for the season. My vertical antenna has a broken capacitor and the radial field needs to be redone this season, but I'll be darned if I'll go out there to work on it if I have to take a snow shovel.

Similarly, the sun seems to be teasing amateur radio operators worldwide with its on again -- off again sunspot activity. Now it seems that the sun can't decide whether it is finishing off the old cycle 23 or starting the new cycle 24. I guess you can't predict solar weather any better than the prognosticators can tell us when Spring will arrive in Minnesota.

Still, we have faith that Spring, and ultimately Summer, will arrive and that outdoor amateur radio activities will be as much fun as ever. Field Day activities are being planned right now, there is the warm weather VHF DX season, and Handiham Radio Camp in northern Minnesota during late August.

It is this last Summer ham radio activity that I want to bring to your attention: Minnesota Radio Camp.

I know that all of us share a common goal: we would like to help more people learn about amateur radio and become licensed operators. That is why the Technician class at Radio Camp is so important. People who are not amateur radio operators at the beginning of the week will hopefully be eagerly awaiting FCC license grants at the end of the week. But there is a problem.

Not enough people know about the availability of the wonderful opportunity to get licensed through Courage Center's Handiham program and the radio camps that we offer for people with disabilities. We need some help recruiting campers -- YOUR help, I might add. All of us know how much fun amateur radio is and how you become part of a community of life-long learners where friendship and public service go hand in hand. All of us also know people with disabilities, right? Why not let those people know about Handiham radio camp?

In fact, we are going to ask you to help us sell people with disabilities on the idea of amateur radio. In order to help you out, we have a free DVD about our program that you can request and use to help spread the word. But wait, folks, that's not all!

Radio campers who pass their first license exam and earn their Technician at Minnesota Radio Camp will be rewarded with a new 2 m handheld radio to get them started off right in amateur radio. How about that?

Campers come from anywhere and everywhere. At the last Minnesota camp we even had a Handiham member from Germany. For people with disabilities, there is often a concern about meeting personal-care needs while away from home. Rest assured that we are equipped to handle these needs so that campers can enjoy what they really came to camp for: a wonderful ham radio experience in a safe, comfortable environment.

The most frequent concern we hear about from people who have not attended the radio camp in the past is that they don't think they can travel. However, campers who make the trip learn that we will be waiting for them at the airport or bus station nearby camp and that there was never anything to worry about in the first place. Once a person has attended camp, they often get home and immediately mark their calendar so that they don't miss the next year's camp.

So what do you say? Can you help us out? We really need to recruit new people into amateur radio. With a resource like radio camp and the Handiham program, people with disabilities can be on an equal footing in licensing classes and become part of our wonderful amateur radio service. Ask them to call us, toll-free, at 1-866-426-3442 or to send us an email at

By the way, did you figure out that last week's stories about Avery climbing Devil's Tower and the Antenna worms were both April Fool's Day jokes? Have you found the April Fool's article in QST yet?

Patrick Tice
Handiham Manager

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The Handiham World for 01 April 2008

Welcome to Handiham World!

Last week we told you about a ham radio operator making his way across the Pacific from Hawaii to Japan in a wave-powered boat.

The skipper is Kenichi Horie, age 69, and we now know his callsign thanks to John, G0DPC. It is JR3JJE. Let us know if your hear or work JR3JJE.

John also writes:

"Hi Pat, I've recently added your Handiham audio to HamInfoBar. In case you've not come across HamInfoBar, it is a free browser toolbar that specializes information for radio hams and SWLs. Potentially, this means that your broadcasts are readily available to thousands of hams around the world who have downloaded this free toolbar. Plus, I have included a link to your site. Perhaps some folks will discover your broadcasts for the first time. Please feel free to check out the HamInfoBar website, which gives full details. If you feel this will benefit your readers and listeners, kindly pass this info on - perhaps you would consider putting a link to HamInfoBar on your links page as well."

Thanks to John for this great resource! here's our web story on the Info Bar: