Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Handiham World for 27 June 2012

Welcome to Handiham World.

Net wrangler WA6DKS starts us out with a Field Day report:

A wonderful Field Day was had by all on the Handiham conference server on Saturday, June 23 and Sunday June 24, 2012 whether you were using Echolink, IRLP, ICQ, WIRES®, cell Phones, the internet, or plain old RF radios. During the two-day period, we had over 500 contacts which included over 12 countries and all 50 of the U.S. states.
The Handiham Field Day ran longer than the official ARRL event, but a good time was had by all whether it was net control operators, backups, check-ins, or just listeners.
Now, isn't this what the ham radio hobby is all about? Contacts were made with stations from Azerbaijan to China, Nova Scotia to South Africa, and of course Canada and the United States. Wonderful discussions on many topics added to the fun during the two-day event. It was all about laughter, interaction, and fun times. A very special contact occurred with a station in the State of Florida that was "bicycle mobile" using one tenth of a watt of power! (Did I say QRP?!!)
Many of our Net Control Operators and Assistant Net control operators supported each other by recording all of the contacts with the names, callsigns and locations while at the same time making sure that the text box information was recorded during the day and the night. SouthCARS connected to Handiham Conference Server and the Van-IRLP throughout the two-day period after their own net sessions concluded.
This was our second Field Day, and the credit should be attributed to three individuals --Ken Schwartz (W6KHS), Pat Tice (WA0TDA), and Susi White (WA6DKS). The decision among these individuals was that there are lots of ham radio operators throughout the world who do not have an opportunity to attend an ARRL sanctioned Field Day. Therefore, an opportunity should be provided to those who would like to experience the event because (after all) there should never be a distinction made between "able-bodied" and people with challenges not being able to communicate.
All methods of communication were used so that we were assured of making as many state and country contacts by simply sending out e-mails, connecting to other conference servers through the internet, and having the help of Southcars and The Coffee Shop by using their e-mail membership lists and help in sending e-mails to those in that particular region and requesting contacts.
The Handiham organization wishes to thank everyone who participated in our successful 2012 Field Day event whether you were a net control operator, a backup, from Southcars, The Coffee Shop, The World, or any other conference we contacted . Without those of you helping in the background or even checking in, we could not have had a successful event without YOU. The success of the 2012 Handiham Field event is owed to each and every one who helped and we all look forward to next year.
Thank you to Susi, WA6DKS, for that report.
Email me at with your questions & comments.   
Patrick Tice, WA0TDA
Handiham Manager

Station Check at Camp Courage North

Bill, N0CIC, checks out the venerable Kenwood TS-440 at Courage North, in the Op Skills room.
Bill, N0CIC, checks out the Kenwood TS-440 station that has been stored several years, since our last Courage North Radio Camp in late 2009. We were pleased to find that the rig worked perfectly and the G5RV and beam antennas were all operational. The rotator also worked and trees were still well clear of the antenna's rotating radius. An Icom dual band FM rig did not work because of a faulty microphone, so that unit was packed up and brought back to the Twin Cities for assessment and possible repair by a volunteer. Bill and I (WA0TDA) opened the station at Courage North as part of a Veterans open house weekend. While there, I also gave remote base station W0EQO a once-over and found it to be in excellent condition. Our thanks to Bill for his help at Courage North. If you look carefully, on the top of the radio cabinet you will see Bill's golf ball slingshot, used to launch antenna wires up into the trees. We didn't have to use it, though.
Speaking of trees, several of you have asked if the tree we planted in memory of Dick Chrisman, AB7HW, is alive and well.  Indeed it is, so here is a photo of me (WA0TDA) standing by the once tiny tree which now towers to over twice my height. I sure look like a doofus in this picture, but the tree looks great. We sure miss Dick and Scotty, the Wonder Guide Dog. This photo was taken last Saturday. The tree is just outside the main Dining Hall at Courage North.
Pat and the AB7HW SK memory tree at Courage North.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Handiham World for 20 June 2012

Welcome to Handiham World.

2012 ARRL Field Day is coming up this next weekend. It is always the last FULL weekend in June, which is Saturday and Sunday June 23 and 24.
Summer begins in the Northern Hemisphere on June 20, 2012, at 6:09 P.M. USA Central Daylight Time. Of course this means that our hours of daylight are at their maximum around this time of the year, and that always helps with getting set up for Field Day. There is always a lot of antenna work and temporary infrastructure to be set up at a multiple station club Field Day site. Having those extra hours of daylight can make it a little easier to get to the site and get things ready to go. On the other hand, more hours of daylight are likely to mean more absorption of signals on the lower frequency HF bands such as the 75 m band and – it goes without saying – more thunderstorm activity since thunderstorms are driven by convection and that takes place when you have long, hot, sunny days.
Field Day is different things to different participants. Some clubs are highly competitive, and this goes for individual participants as well. They are in it for the points and there is nothing wrong with that approach because if that is what you like and enjoy, then that is what you should do!
My feeling is that Field Day should ALWAYS be about having fun. I know that I have mentioned this before, but it certainly bears repeating: it is up to you to find a radio club Field Day that matches your expectations for what you expect the day to be all about. A mismatch between your expectations and the type of operating that is going on at the Field Day site will probably result in a disappointing experience for you and a bit of consternation on the part of the event organizers. If your idea of having fun is to get on the air and operate a highly competitive Morse code station to rack up hundreds and hundreds of points, you need to find a club Field Day whose goal matches yours. If you would rather spend most of the day socializing, greeting visitors to the Field Day site, helping newcomers get on the air, or experimenting with different modes of operation, then you should try to find a club that emphasizes those things over highly competitive operations.
If I hear from someone that they did not have a good experience on Field Day, I like to try to find out what went wrong. After talking with them for a while, I usually find out that there was a mismatch of expectations. They expected to do one thing at Field Day while the club's event organizers had arranged for something entirely different. That is why you need to do a little bit of research to find the kind of Field Day operation that will suit you. If you do this, you are almost guaranteed to have an excellent time during what many of us consider the highlight of the amateur radio calendar – ARRL Field Day.
Incidentally, you do not have to feel as if you are all on your own when trying to find a club that will meet your Field Day expectations. ARRL Field Day sites across your state are probably going to be visited by your local League Section Manager. If you drop your Section Manager an e-mail or call him or her on the telephone, you can ask which Field Day sites they have visited and which they might recommend to a person like you with your expectations. Local League officials are a good resource to help you get connected with the right radio club as well. You can find lots of information on the ARRL website, which you can link to from the Handiham website.
Email me at with your questions & comments.   
Patrick Tice, WA0TDA
Handiham Manager

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