Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Courage Kenny Handiham World Weekly E-Letter for the week of Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Welcome to Handiham World.

What you don't see

Microphone & eyeglasses (drawing)

Blind?  What do you miss in special-format publications designed for blind readers? 

In this edition of your weekly Handiham World we are taking some time to review a part of some of the amateur radio magazines that many of our members are never able to access. Sure, you can read articles when they are made available in DAISY from the Library of Congress National Library Service, and that is a wonderful service indeed. In fact, when the December magazines come out, there is no way for our members to know what might be showing up in the display advertising. Postal regulations do not allow free matter content to include any advertisements, only articles. This leaves our members with a somewhat incomplete experience. I'm basing my conclusion about this on the fact that I and most everyone else I know spend plenty of time looking at the display ads to see what is new in Amateur Radio technology and services. You can't always depend upon any publication to review new radio equipment at the same time that it is first being offered to the public via display advertisements. If you have ever had the experience of talking on the air or at a radio club meeting with your fellow ham radio operators and being surprised to hear about some innovative new technology, you can get a feeling for what we are talking about here. If you depend on NLS DAISY downloads or cartridges, you will have no idea what is going on in display advertising within any of the usual Amateur Radio publications unless someone who can see the display ads fills you in.
Now, I want to make it clear that we don't take any advertising ourselves nor does this edition of your Handiham World contain any ads. What I am going to do is simply look through the December QST and the November CQ and produce a short narrative of what I am seeing that seems worthy of mentioning. It is up to you to figure out how to access any manufacturer's website or your favorite ham radio dealer if you want to find out more, since we don't sell anything ourselves and heaven knows we are not "tech support" for every radio, gadget, and service that you might find out about in these publications. What I hope to do is give you an idea what is going on in a somewhat general way so that you can follow up on the things that catch your interest.

Read or listen:  Handiham World

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Courage Kenny Handiham World Weekly E-Letter for the week of Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Welcome to Handiham World.

Reading online

Which devices and software do you use to access websites and read online publications? 

Are any of them accessible?
Pat holds up Android phone showing text from Treasure Island: Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!
Here I am, holding up my Google Nexus 4 smartphone running the Kindle app.  The screen displays a page from "Treasure Island" - "Fifteen men on the dead man's chest -- Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!"

Novels like Treasure Island are a breeze to read on a smartphone with the right software. My wife uses a Kindle Fire, which has a bigger screen, but I prefer the Kindle app on my much more portable smartphone. Both of us can see the screens, so accessibility issues are related to the size of the text.  Both devices allow us to resize the text for comfortable reading. Since I use bifocals, I appreciate the accessibility on these devices. Both also browse the web, and the trend toward  "mobile" websites is much appreciated.  These websites feature larger text that flows to the available space as well as a simpler, less cluttered website structure. 


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Courage Kenny Handiham World Weekly E-Letter for the week of Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Logo for Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute, part of Allina Health

Courage Kenny Handiham World Weekly E-Letter for the week of Wednesday, 13 November 2013

This is a free weekly news & information update from Courage Kenny 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.

Failing the Technician

A quick path to failure is to make an all too common mistake...

Cartoon guy carrying study books
Here's the scenario:  An eager young man shows up at a VE session, ready to take that first step into Amateur Radio by passing the Technician exam and getting a callsign. He has studied and feels prepared.  The exam is only 35 multiple choice questions covering a subject he knows well from having read through the study guide several times. It won't be hard to get the required 75% passing grade, 26 questions or more correct.
Shortly after settling down at an exam table, he starts working his way through the test booklet.  It seems odd, but some of the questions seem to be out in left field - there are topics he doesn't recall from the book.  Other questions are worded differently than he remembers them, but he can take an educated guess at the answer.  When it's time to turn in the exam materials for grading, he doesn't feel quite so confident.
Waiting outside the testing room isn't easy.  Finally the door opens and a volunteer examiner approaches him.  There's no big smile on the examiner's face as he gets the bad news:  he's failed the Technician exam and will not join the ranks of ham radio operators, at least not today.
What went wrong?  He had studied, putting a lot of time and effort into the preparation for this examination. He'd taken plenty of other tests before and knew how to study. 
The volunteer examiner felt bad, too.  She asked him about his studies. 
Had he studied prior to the exam? 
Had he taken any on line practice exams?
No, he didn't know about the websites that offered such a service.  His rural location had poor internet access and all of his computer time was spent at school or the public library, mostly for homework.
The volunteer examiner had an idea. "Did you bring your study guide along with you?", she asked.
Yes, he had the book along, and pulled it out of his backpack and handed it to the VE.
As soon as she saw the book she recognized it - a popular study guide that was published in 2001.  No wonder this young man had gotten so many questions wrong.  There had been many rules and regulations changes in the past decade alone, and the question pool was completely different.  Even the questions on electronics were reworded, with many new ones chosen to replace older ones on any given topic of radio safety and theory. Since he didn't take any on line practice exams, he didn't find out that the questions in his book were long out of date.
Does this sound like a made-up story?  Well, I did make up this scenario, but I based it on a real-world incident that is being discussed right now on an Amateur Radio instructor forum. The young man and his disappointing mistake are real.  The discussion forum is parsing the reasons why such a thing could happen: Old books lingering on library shelves, books handed down from someone else and used past their expiration date, ignorance of on line practice exam resources, and more. 
There's a special reason I'm writing about this today.  Later on this evening I'll be part of my own club's VE team, the same team that fields exams at our Handiham Radio Camps. Like all of our team members, I'm eager to see new hams walk out of our test session, smiling as they carry their CSCE's and thinking ahead to how they will set up their stations.  Some will be there for upgrade exams, and they too will be thinking of new frequencies to use and perhaps which HF gear to consider to accommodate their new goals of DX operation or contesting. Believe me, no one wants to see newbies succeed more than the VE team members.  I love to give out good news when I step out of the exam room to see a candidate who is awaiting his or her results.  And it's really hard to give out bad news.  You can't help thinking about your own experience with studying and taking exams, and how you felt when you passed or failed, then finally passed and got your license. 
What advice do you give to a candidate who didn't make it?
Job one is to identify the problem and make helpful, positive suggestions on how to correct it.  You are there to help the candidate succeed.  It is best to avoid being judgmental, so instead of telling the candidate that he should have looked at the forward pages of the study guide to determine that it was out of date or that he should have known about practice exam sites, it is far better to simply suggest a current study guide and write down the web addresses for some good practice exam sites.
The next thing to do is to assure the candidate that yes, an Amateur Radio license is well worth the effort and that they can - and will - pass the examination, given the right preparation.  This is a good time to have some practical information ready to hand out to the candidate:  A list of upcoming VE sessions, practice exam websites, and suggested study guides. If time allows, you might also make some suggestions about how to study, especially if the candidate indicates that certain concepts were really difficult to master.
I hope that tonight's session is a good one.  I love to give out "good news", but I've done this long enough to know that some candidates might not pass.  If that happens, I'm ready.
Patrick Tice, WA0TDA
Courage Kenny Handiham Coordinator

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Courage Kenny Handiham World Weekly E-Letter for the week of Wednesday, 06 November 2013

Welcome to Handiham World.

Cart before the horse? 

Think your station plans through before you start buying equipment!
IC-7200 transceivers stacked up at Icom booth in Dayton.
This stack of three Icom IC-7200 transceivers was at the Icom booth at Hamvention® one year.  One is painted in camo, the next is Army green, and the third is the stock black case.  All are fitted with the optional front facing handles to expedite use in the field and protect the front panel.  I certainly like my own Icom IC-7200 and often recommend it to others, but I have many years of amateur radio experience and I have to be careful about assuming what others may or may not know about setting up a station. It is easy to see a display like this or hear someone at the local radio club meeting talking about HF operation and the radio that they prefer and then to make the assumption that the same radio will work for you.
That is not always the case! There is a lot to setting up an amateur radio station, especially an HF station, and it is easy to get so wrapped up in finding the right radio that one can forget about planning the antenna and feedline system, the logistics of the ham shack itself, and the practical questions about how all of this will fit into family life and daily activities. It's not only HF either. Echolink operation seems awfully appealing, but if you have ever interfaced a radio with the computer and have had to wrestle with port forwarding in a home router, you know that a starry-eyed newbie is in for what could be a rough ride getting things set up.
Over the years I have spoken with many people who have placed the cart firmly before the horse. The most difficult are those who have purchased hundreds or even thousands of dollars worth of amateur radio equipment before passing their license exams. Others have their licenses but have acquired equipment that is not practical for their situations.  Still others buy gear or software that they think does one thing but really does something else.  It is amazing to me how far some of these projects get before the light bulb goes on and they realize that the project is not on the right trajectory!

What can you do to avoid putting the cart before the horse? 

Read or Listen Here.