Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Handiham World for 24 September 2008

Welcome to Handiham World!

Don't count Morse code down & out just yet!

Yes, yes, we've all heard about how Morse is completely outdated and should be hidden away like that crazy old uncle who lives in the attic. But once in awhile we are reminded that code is still a viable mode of operation, and can even be pretty handy in an emergency. Just such a scenario unfolded last Sunday in the rugged terrain of Glacier National Park in Montana, in a mountain pass where cell phone service is problematic, if it exists at all. A look at a map of Glacier shows winding roads, and plenty of places where there are no roads at all. If you look at a map of Kansas, you see straight roads, because there are no mountains in that mostly flat state. People who live in mountainous territory learn quickly that VHF and UHF signals cannot be counted upon to travel great distances as they do in Kansas! HF signals, on the other hand, can make the trip over hills and mountains, bouncing off the ionosphere to come down hundreds of miles away. In recent years, portable HF transceivers have become popular backpacking rigs, and can accompany hikers on wilderness trips without weighing them down. A length of wire to throw over a tree can serve as an easy and effective antenna. Sideband can be a bit of a challenge with these portable QRP rigs, but CW (Morse) is a natural, since it is a very effective low-power mode. Read the following story and then get out that code practice oscillator!

map of rugged Glacier National Park (US National Park Service)

Ham radio to the rescue - Morse code message gets through

Morse code and a small, portable, battery-operated transmitter came in pretty handy for a man with a broken leg in Glacier Park. The accident happened in Buck Creek Pass east of Glacier Peak.

According to the HeraldNet news, "Six hundred miles away in Bozeman, Montana, Robert Williams was testing his ham radio Sunday when he heard the call signal W-7-A-U."

A man in the hiking party had broken his leg and needed help. Williams followed through with a call to authorities for assistance.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Handiham World for 17 September 2008

Welcome to Handiham World!

Report from Texas - Damage from Ike extends far inland

Map of south Texas showing a location 300 miles inland on I-20.

We got hit hard; 300 miles from coast, and still got clobbered.

About 80% power still out - some will be out up to 90 days. Running most street light signals off generators or welding machines with power plants. Mine’s been running at home since Friday night. All EOC’s on generators – hospitals, too.

I rode around with the fire chief, I’ve never before seen power poles just jerked out of the ground; even the steel ones were broken off at ground level.

It gets worse the further south you go. All power is out within 60 miles of the coast.

Got to get back to work with the county police and fire so we don’t run out of people. 7 A.M. Saturday to 7 A.M. Sunday we ran fire, EMS, calls power lines down -- you name it, it came in!


Thanks to Ken for that report. I purposely put his news up front to remind those readers and listeners who were not in the path of the enormously destructive storm called "Ike" just how bad and how extensive the damage was... and still is! In fact, damage from the storm extended well into the Midwest, with flooding and power outages in places like Illinois and Kentucky. I heard from relatives in Louisville that they will be out of power for days due to all of the storm damage. This morning I heard from a handiham member in Houston, Texas, where power is still out. She contacted a mailing list of friends via the Internet, because her phone and DSL service had come back to life. Even so, if she had not been prepared with a portable generator to run the computer equipment, she would not have been able to send out her message. She did lament how she wished that her ham radio station had been better organized and prepared.

Last night I watched on the TV news and saw the long lines of cars clogging the freeways of South Texas as people tried to return to the coast to assess the damage to their homes and businesses. I was somewhat surprised at this, because my understanding is that there is so little infrastructure left in places like Galveston that people are still trying to get out. It is a terrible situation that will take a very long time to straighten out. It is also a cautionary tale for amateur radio operators who have not really been too careful about preparing "go kits" for their own personal use during such emergencies. Remember, a well-planned go kit can be useful for yourself and your immediate family as well as for assisting in a public service communications capacity. Having a radio and extra batteries along with you in the car or on the bus as you are evacuated from the danger zone could come in very handy indeed. We have all heard of situations where cars have stalled or run out of fuel on the jammed interstate highways during an emergency evacuation.

In an emergency, especially a widespread one like a hurricane, police, fire, and medical response cannot be counted upon in the same way that we do in normal times. A radio and charged batteries will at least provide an alternative means of communication that could be a life-saver. Here in Minnesota, we seldom have enormous weather events of such a destructive nature, but we do get widespread blizzards and much more localized destructive storms like tornadoes. While the immediate response may be different since evacuation from a huge metropolitan area is not likely for those events, the go kit is still a vital part of our amateur radio emergency planning.

Large-scale terrorist attacks are not out of the question. While no major world metropolitan area has yet experienced such an attack requiring a mass evacuation, if such a thing did have to take place it would be vital to have a working go kit so that you could use an alternative form of communications. As I have stated before, cellular phones cannot be counted upon in wide-area emergencies. The reason is that the cellular system is designed with limited capacity that assumes not all users will try to make calls at the same time. In a wide-area emergency situation, people are likely to pick up their phones to check in with relatives and friends. Even a relatively localized disaster here in the Twin Cities area, the Interstate 35 bridge collapse, caused significant congestion of the cellular phone system. Can you imagine what would happen to the cellular system in a much bigger, more widespread disaster situation? Your amateur radio equipment might turn out to be the only practical way to communicate!

Station in go kit as displayed at SATERN booth, HamventionEmergency responders learn something very important in their training: how to deal with complacency. While some of us are better at learning than others, everyone is affected by complacency. A perfect example of how we become complacent is that we go a long happily for many years without having to deal with a disaster, in the meantime failing to keep our radio equipment in good working order, failing to keep our go kits up to date, failing to have a family plan for dealing with emergencies, failing to stock extra water and batteries, and so on. It is really hard work to fight complacency. Things have gone well for so long that we simply assume the rest of today, tomorrow, the next day, and the next week will all go just as perfectly well.

That may not be the case. I'm not telling you to worry all the time, but I am telling you that you need to be prepared. And the best way amateur radio operators can be prepared is to follow the basic philosophy of having equipment that is ready to go, even in an emergency and even on short notice.

Patrick Tice
Handiham Manager

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Handiham World for 10 September 2008

Welcome to Handiham World!

remote base computer and radio
Photo: TS-480 remote base at Courage North

Our remote base project continues to work well and we are learning as we go and are making refinements. We are that much closer to bringing the system on line as a member service. The latest is that members logging in on the members only website will find "Remote Base" in the menu links, which can be followed to learn about how to install and set up the software, who will be considered for user status, and so on.

User status will be initially be restricted to a small group of beta testers. We need to do this to work out the bugs in the system and to give us time to make the system as user-friendly as possible. This Handiham Radio Club station will then enter a "beta 2" testing phase, during which I will need several Handiham members with excellent computer skills and plenty of operating experience to join the testing group. Once we complete the beta 2 phase, we will then add qualified users.

The question will certainly come up about who is a qualified user, right? I know that most everyone feels that they know how to be a good operator, but running the remote base is a little different - well, really a LOT different - than talking on a two meter handheld radio or even running an HF radio that is sitting on the desk in front of you. I welcome your comments on this topic, which you may send directly to

To jump start the discussion, I would ask you to think about and comment on the following:

  • Our first operators will have to hold their Extra Class licenses. I don't want to exclude competent General or Advanced licensees, but we are going to be looking at more experienced hams who will know the rules and be able to act as competent control ops.
  • These users will have to be able to follow directions, install the software, and pretty much figure out things for themselves if they are going to be successful as remote base operators. The last thing we need as we get this project started is a lot of tech support questions about stuff that everyone should already know, like how to operate their computers and what the band edges are!
  • There are also requirements about the user's Internet connection and computer hardware. Users must own and control their own computers, and not try to use a public computer like a school or library machine. The system requires a high-speed Internet connection. It will not work with a dial up Internet connection. The computer must be running Windows XP or Vista.

We are looking forward to a great new member resource that can open up the world of short-wave amateur radio operation to people who cannot have large antennas. Let us know what you think about how we are getting started, and please make suggestions as to how we can train our newer hams to use this technology responsibly.

Patrick Tice
Handiham Manager

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Handiham World for 03 September 2008

Welcome to Handiham World!

My wife Susie and I are celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary today. What a fine and patient lady she is for putting up with my ham radio hobby all these years!

Since I am out of the office today, we will go right ahead with Avery's QTH, and we plan to return with the usual audio lectures in this Friday's educational mailing.

Patrick Tice
Handiham Manager

Welcome once again to my Humble QTH:

Minnesota Radio Camp, in the tall Pines, is now over for another year. What a camp this was. Many of the people who were just a voice on the radio were right there in person talking to each other and having meals with each other. It was so peaceful and quiet in the early mornings and late in the evenings that one could hear the Loon out on the lake and the raccoons fighting over some fish they caught. Above, high in the sky ,circled an eagle. The mist burning off the lake made it look as if we were on some science fiction planet in Star Trek or some other Science fiction show. During the day time , however, it was a different story as the radios were running full blast and the classrooms were going strong with people learning Amateur Radio to get or up-grade a license. For those with a license there were operational skills classes to learn proper procedures on the air. For practice we checked into both the PICONET on 80 meters and the Handiham net on the N0BVE repeater ( Node 89680 ) every day using Echolink. People on both nets were nice enough to let us take over as net control so everyone in operational skills class had several turns at being net control. It would be very safe to say that everyone in the operational skills class will feel right at home checking into their local net when they get home or even taking over as net control if necessary.

One of the interesting activities that took place was a "Fox Hunt" Two transmitters were hidden by our camp engineer, Lyle, K0LR, and people attempted to find them. Well, to make a long story short, no one located them. Lyle did too good of a job of hiding them. People were very close at times and must have gone by them several times with out locating them. There were some odd signal bounces off cars and other objects which made it a bit confusing as to where the actual transmitters were.

Even though sometimes the wind was causing some rough water and the boat captains kept the boats in there were times when the winds died down and the boats were out on the lake. Ah! The Icom IC-718 on the pontoon boat was used on 80 and 20 meters. They even checked into the PICONET on 3925 and became a net first. It was a first time a boat checked into the net. And! to top that off the boat even talked to the people in the operational skills class on HF. VHF was used before.

For a break some people took a field trip over to Itasca State Park (about 15 miles away ) to visit the Headwaters of the Mighty Mississippi River. The water is only about ankle-deep and you can walk across it in about 4 or 5 steps. It is very clear and clean at that point. The bottom can be easily seen. Also, some of the group went into the town of Lake George to look around and purchase items to take back home.

Can't believe some of the talent of some of the Amateurs at camp. In the evening, for example, we had our own guitar and piano concerts.

For those that wanted we had go to people to teach the Kenwood TH-F6A , TM-V71A, and the TS-2000.

The week just seemed to fly by and before you know it it was the last full day of camp and time for the VE's to give those that wanted it the exams.

Until next time 73 es DX de K0HLA Avery

You can reach me at:

Or call my direct line at 763-520-0515.