Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Handiham World for 28 July 2010

Welcome to Handiham World!

KA0LSG holds Wouxun HT

Update: Larry Huggins, KA0LSG, Handiham Volunteer, holds the Wouxun HT on cover of Worldradio

Last week's mention of the Wouxun talking dual band handheld radio created quite a stir, so we are devoting some time to a follow up. I heard from a number of our readers and listeners who said that the PDF online version of the "With the Handihams" article was difficult to read because of the PDF layout. Although the magazine has done a great job making the layout easy to follow for sighted readers, I have heard that there is a need for a more straightforward text version for our blind readers and listeners. I have placed the text of the article on the Handiham website, as well as a link to an audio version of the article read by Bob Zeida, N1BLF, who reads for us and for The Talking Information Center of the Massachusetts Reading network. Since we didn't specify retailers, we also provide you a link to some sources.

Those of you who listen to this podcast will hear Bob reading "With the Handihams".

Before we get to those resource links, there is word that Wouxun is interested in developing a talking dual-band base/mobile rig. I read about this on a discussion thread on the Blind-Hams mailing list. At this point, they are interesting in learning what accessibility features are most needed, so this may be a rare opportunity for anyone who wants to have a say in the early design of a radio to get their voice heard. To comment on this, you may email Ed at Wouxun: sales@wouxun.us. That is also the address to request a price list and ordering information. The Wouxun.us website states "Due to having minor surgery, I will not be shipping orders between July 26 - Aug 7. During this time I will answer emails and take orders." With this in mind, I would guess that you may need a bit of patience in communicating with Ed, especially if you have questions. I would urge our readers and listeners to keep the questions simple and don't ask a bazillion of them. In fact, the website is easily navigated and you can find the answers to your question there. The pricing is under $110 + shipping, and a variety of accessories are available. Remember that you can get this radio in a dual band version that includes 2 meters and either 70 cm (440 MHz) or 1.25 m (222 MHz.) The pricing is the same for either combination.

Please see the Handiham.org website for the story & resource links.

Our thanks to CQ Publications and the Blind Hams Mailing List for helping us get the word out about accessible technology.

For Handiham World, I'm...

Patrick Tice

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Handiham World for 21 July 2010

Welcome to Handiham World:
A volunteer summer continues as Larry Huggins, KA0LSG, makes the cover of Worldradio

Screenshot of Worldradio website showing Larry on the cover.

Larry Huggins, KA0LSG, is right there on the cover of the latest Worldradio magazine. Way to go, Larry!

The photo is from Handiham Radio Camp, where Larry volunteered as an instructor. In the Worldradio article, you can read about the blind-accessible HT that Larry demonstrated to our Operating Skills group. The article is my annual accessible radio roundup, a quick overview of radios and their accessibility features. It is entitled "What’s New for the Operator With Disabilities", and is a feature of my regular "With the Handihams" column.

"Regular readers know that from time to time I devote a column to what’s new in amateur radio equipment and software that is accessible to people with disabilities. Most of the questions I get have to do with what is blind-accessible, both for radio hardware and computing. Our largest single accessible technology user group is amateur radio operators who have some kind of reading disability, usually blindness or some degree of vision loss. I think this is probably a long-term trend as more baby boomers encounter age-related deterioration of their eyesight. Macular degeneration is relatively common in older folks and because of its onset late in life can catch them off guard and leave them wondering if they can still use a computer or even get on the air effectively anymore."

There are always questions about accessible handheld radios, so this part of the article is timely:

"Handiham volunteers Larry Huggins, KA0LSG, and Ken Silberman, KB3LLA, both found the new Wouxun 2m/70cm KG-UVD1P HT at Dayton, and Larry actually had his radio along to demonstrate to us at Handiham Radio Camp."

Read more on the Worldradio website.

Our thanks to CQ Publications for helping us get the word out about accessible technology.

For Handiham World, I'm...

Patrick Tice

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Handiham World for 14 July 2010

Welcome to Handiham World!

A volunteer summer

Eliot, KE0N, gets the remote base project underway

Eliot, KE0N, at the new remote base control point.
Eliot, KE0N, at the new remote base control point.

The Handiham Remote Base at Courage North has proven to be reasonably reliable and quite popular with the Handiham membership. Just in case you need a refresher, our Camp Courage North location is in far northern Minnesota near the headwaters of the Mississippi River. The station is at the location where we held many Handiham Radio Camp sessions over the past two decades. It consists of a Kenwood TS-480SAT, a rig control interface and computer, an LDG auto tuner, and a G5RV antenna. The station runs W4MQ software to control the radio and SKYPE to port the audio both to and from the remote control operator. Users sign in with their approved credentials and are able to control the radio, changing the frequency and other parameters, and use the radio for both transmit and receive functions. The idea is to provide a real radio for many of our members who cannot otherwise get on the air because of antenna restrictions or other impediments to installing an HF station. Some of our members who do have their own stations also appreciate being able to operate from a completely different location. In addition to the W4MQ software interface, up to five users without transmit privileges can listen to the radio by connecting to W0EQO-L on Echolink. If no transmit control operator is present, Echolink users may control the radio's receive frequency using the text box feature of Echolink, simply by sending a frequency in the text and pressing enter. This feature is useful for a quick check of propagation conditions here in the Midwest. For example, a user might enter the number 10 to hear what The National Bureau of Standards station WWV sounds like here in Minnesota.

Kenwood TS-570 transceiver

Since only one transmit control operator can run the station at a time, there is a need for a second remote base. That is why we are pleased to have the able assistance of Eliot, KE0N, and Lyle, K0LR, who are working together to help me with this second Handiham remote base. Our new callsign will be the traditional Handiham headquarters call of W0ZSW. We hope to have the station in operation by the end of July, and when Eliot visited Handiham headquarters yesterday to work on the project, he made a lot of progress. In case you were wondering, the radio we have chosen is a Kenwood TS-570S. This radio, which has the capability of operating 160 through 6 m, will be coupled through an MFJ autotuner to a W0OXB 300 foot "special" wire antenna at an average height of 45 feet. This arrangement will allow us to offer 160 m through 6 m capability from the new remote base location. The existing remote base station at Courage North operates only 80-10 m using a 102 foot wire antenna, so we think that this will be a significant addition to our member services. The rig control computer is a Windows machine configured and supplied by KE0N, and the interface is a RIGblaster Pro. The radio is equipped with the VS3 speech module for blind users.

Lyle, K0LR, engineer for the Courage North station, is helping us with the station configuration. Our goal is to copy all of the user credentials from the first remote base to the new remote base so that users will have easy access to either station. This will also help us with tech support issues, and as you might guess we hope to keep those at a minimum!

One advantage of having two remote base stations separated by a significant distance is that there will be more choice for operating when conditions are bad in one spot but not in another. In the event that one station goes down, the other one would still be available. Redundancy is a good thing if you want to keep a service like this up and running.

No project worth its salt ever gets through the installation process without a few glitches and a visit from our associate engineer "Murphy". Sure enough, Murphy's presence was felt when the necessary DB9 serial cable turned out to be missing in action. We still have some issues to figure out with port forwarding and a static IP address, for those of you who understand what that stuff means. Nonetheless, we are pleased with the progress to date and feel that we are on target to have this member service available very soon.

For Handiham World, I'm...

Patrick Tice

Handiham Headquarters spruced up

Outside view of Handiham HQ entrance, showing antennas to the left, wooded scene
The Handiham headquarters entrance in the Camp Courage Reception Center.

You have seen photos of our headquarters before, but things are looking pretty good now at the Cyril Rotter Technology Center. Antennas rise to the left of the round building, and the 300 foot wire antenna is invisible high up in the trees to the left. The double doors can open wide to accommodate electric scooters or wheelchair users.

QSL cards

Since it is strictly "slow news" for ham radio this time of year, how about telling us about some favorite QSL cards you have either sent or received over the years? A photo or scan would be helpful, if you have one.

Handiham 25th anniversary QSL sticker

This photo shows a Handiham 25th anniversary sticker that we produced in 1992. The idea was to stick these onto your existing QSL cards and send them out to help promote the Courage Handiham System. They are pretty rare, so if you have a card with one of these Silver Jubilee stickers, hang onto it!

So what do you have? Send it to wa0tda@arrl.net with your comments.


cartoon dog barking at postal carrier

Howard, KE7KNN, writes:

Hello, Pat.

Could you please remind our readers and listeners that we need people to take part in the Handiham nets, both the daily net and the Wednesday evening net. Summer is a particularly slow time and we need more participants. Remember that these nets are open to everyone and that you do not need to be a Handiham member. So bring a friend and join us -- you may even find the Handiham net a place to make new friends!

Howard, KE7KNN, Handiham Net Manager

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Handiham World for 07 July 2010

Welcome to Handiham World!

A volunteer summer

Will Tice, KC0LJL, does some soldering.

Will Tice, KC0LJL, solders some PL-259 plugs onto random wire receiving antennas.

Handiham volunteer Will Tice, KC0LJL, helped out at Camp Courage by soldering some PL-259's to random wire receiving antennas. Will learned to solder when he took an electronics class in high school. Now that he is heading into his senior year at university, he helps us with other jobs as well, including computer-related stuff.

"Look at these nice, shiny solder joints", he says.

And speaking of volunteers, Bob Garwood, W0BV, has a first draft of the Summer Handiham World print edition ready. Bob is an experienced newsletter editor, and knows how to cut my sometimes too-long articles down to size. Look for the print edition (with a giving envelope) to show up later this summer.

Handiham volunteers Lyle Koehler, K0LR, and Eliot Ricciardelli, KE0N, will be working with me on the W0ZSW Remote Base HF station. We expected to work on the project soon after radio camp, and several important pieces of the project are now in place. We have completed our office move and have configured the office and ham shack space at Camp Courage. We have drilled holes through the concrete walls for feedlines, and our antenna team of Dave Glas, W0OXB, and John Harvard, KC0UHY, have installed an excellent 300 foot center-fed dipole fed with 450 Ohm open wire line and a current balun. The parts were donated by the Stillwater Amateur Radio Association, and a tuner was donated by Eliot, KE0N.

We are so grateful for the time and talent that all of our volunteers share with us. Thank you!

For Handiham World, I'm...

Patrick Tice