ARC SHORTS – April 2011

April 2011

Club Repeaters: 53.13 (PL107.2),  147.315 (PL 107.2), (224.82(PL107.2), 444.6 (107.2)
927.6 (-25Mhz, 107.2 PL) and 1282.600 (PL 107.2) DSTAR 145.38Mhz, 442.060, 1284.600 News letter and meeting announcement for the Alexandria Radio Club.

Club repeaters and detailed info can be found at www.w4hfh.org

Club Net: 147.315 (-600Khz, PL107.2) on Thursday’s at 8 PM local time Club Meetings: Second Friday of each month at 7:30PM at the Alexandria Fire Training Center.

Minutes of the last meeting.

Our March  meeting program was presented by our V.P. Ian, N8IK and gave us some valuable lessons and some history on amateur use of Morse Code.  CW.  Obviously, there are many ways to learn CW, but most of them cause problems when you try to build your speed.  Ian’s talk covered some great tips on leaning CW the right way.  While CW is no longer required for an amateur license, Ian pointed out that CW is 13 dbm  better at getting a signal out due to the digital nature and the narrow bandwidth required for a CW signal.

Many of us in the club remember when you needed 5 WPM to get the Novice license or Technician License, 13 WPM for the General and Advanced class licenses and 20 WPM for Amateur Extra.  For many of us at the meeting we were wondering where all this advice was when we were doing it wrong and struggling.

CW is a skill that is very useful not just in contesting or DXing, but a very valuable asset when all the new technology goes away and your left with the barest of equipment,  Sending CW can be as simple as keying and unkeying your radio (FM included).  If you microphone fails you still can do CW!

Thanks Ian for a very interesting and informative program!

Next Meeting

Our next meeting will be on April  8th at the Alexandria Hospital at 7 PM.  For all of the regulars, need to note that we NOW start at 7PM NOT 7:30 as we need to done by 9 PM.

Our program will be Tim KT4MV, Rick, N4ASX, and Rich, KA4GFY covering the fine art of  transmitter hunting.   This was for a while a major activity with the club and with agile interfering transmitters; it’s a good skill to work on.  Tim will be talking about various methods where groups can hunt down an offending mobile transmitter.

If the club is interested, a transmitter hunt may be planned for the club and later a multi-club event may be in the offing.

TECHNICAL AND GENERAL  CLASS LICENSE CLASSES 

After missing a semester or so, the club is again running our Technical and General class license classes.  The classes will be fast paced (only 8 sessions) with one or two Saturday get together sessions. (not mandatory).  Rich, KA4GFY is once again our Chief Instructor and coordinator.  He will be assisted by a cadre of able and willing club members as instructors who will teach their specialties.

LOCATION:  2331 Mill Road, suite 100.  It’s between the courthouse and Eisenhower Ave.

DATES:  APRIL 5th every Tuesday to May 24th

TIME: 7 PM until 9 PM or so.

COST: $20 plus books. (covers the ARRL testing fees / materials We have a very high pass rate with our classes.  If you need or know someone who would like to be an amateur radio operator, this is one of the better ways to get the knowledge needed to pass those exams.

You can call Rich, KA4GFY at (703)960-4096 As this is short notice PLEASE pass the word to anyone you think might be interested.  This will be a short class but we hope to add a few weekend activities to make it more interesting.  If you’ve missed the first class or know someone who did, they can catch up on the 12th.  Don’t let the short notice stop you!

VA QSO PARTY

A group of four ARC members, Randy, KI4MWQ, Sandee, KI4QNG, Harry, N4CWP, and Marshall, KI4MWP, participated in the Virginia QSO party by setting up a multi-multi operating station in Buckingham County at the James River State Park.   Using the station call of W4HFH, preliminary log results indicate that the group made 557 contacts,  picked up ninety counties and cities within Virginia, forty-one states, twenty-two foreign countries, and made contact with station K4NVA for the bonus 500 points.   Every state East of the Mississippi was logged for a contact, ranging from Maine to Florida, resulting in an overall preliminary score of 91,841 points.   The group utilized a variety of equipment and antennas, using several vertical, dipole and NVIS configurations in making the contacts.  Looking forward to 2012, strategizing has already begun on how to enhance the number of contacts and how to deploy new antenna configurations.   But for this QSO party, everyone agreed that the weather was great, the operating conditions were optimal, and everyone had FUN participating in the 2011 Virginia QSO Party! ”

73 Marshall / KI4MWP

Editor’s Note:  For those who operated in the QSO party,  we need to make sure that the CLUB information “Alexandria Radio Club” is in your Cabrillo report to Gordon.

NEW GEAR REVIEW

The Uniden HomePatrol Scanner: My Experiences & Tips Since I had money coming in from my tax refund, I decided to get a new digital scanner, since I used to like to listen to the police, fire and whatever channels, but I haven’t been able to listen to them since they started using trunked and digital trunked systems. While there are a few models I could have picked, I narrowed the choice down to two: The Uniden HomePatrol and the GRECOM PSR-800. I ended up picking the HomePatrol due to my perception that it was easier to set up, which may or may not have been correct. I don’t think you would kick yourself for either choice, although your significant other might, when they find out how much you paid for it.

The first thing I noticed when unpacking the box that there was no user’s manual, only a quick reference card. Apparently, the full blown manual is on the scanner in PDF format, for you to save and/or print. This was slightly inconvenient for me, since I like to read paper manuals, and my printer is currently not working. The quick reference card is well written, and covers the basics, though. A wall wart and a cigarette lighter DC power cord are included, along with four rechargeable batteries. Some people have questioned Uniden’s choice of the SMA connector rather than the BNC, but this shouldn’t make too much of a difference, since we’re a careful bunch, and really, this scanner is more at home as a base station. In comparison, the GRECOM scanner is meant to be a handheld portable and uses a BNC connector.

If you want a scanner to clip on your belt, you would need to buy an aftermarket case like the ones I’ve seen on eBay, and it would still be sort of bulky and clumsy, but this was not one of my deciding criteria. In normal operation, the scanner sits in a plastic cradle (provided). The review in QST says that during normal operation, the rechargeable batteries will last about four hours or so, noting that the unit is somewhat of a battery hog.

The scanner prompts you to install the Sentinel software, which is on the scanner, so I went ahead and plugged in the USB cable (included). A quick note, the USB cable is short, so if you have your PC on the floor, and don’t have a USB hub on the desktop, this can be awkward. Once plugged in, the scanner appears to be another disc/flash drive. I followed the instructions and  executed the setup.exe program, and the first inconvenience I hit was the fact that it had to install Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0 (my PC is old, and still runs XP). This took a few minutes. When I ran the Sentinel program, I chose the option to look for updates. It took another few minutes to download the updates (firmware and database) and rebuild the database. Other aftermarket software is available that offers more features and options than Sentinel, but the review in QST said to use them with caution, since it MIGHT be possible to put the scanner in a state that it couldn’t be reset. You don’t have to install Sentinel, but it’s a good idea, since you won’t be able to update the database and/or the firmware without it (or one of the third party software programs available for the HomePatrol).

Since the concept of channels and banks of channels does not exist on the HomePatrol, I decided to create some “Favorites Lists” to replace that functionality. It’s actually a good thing that I did, since when I set up the scanner by entering my ZIP code, it found thousands of frequencies to scan, even though I hadn’t selected some services, and no scanner is going to scan that many frequencies very rapidly (and the HomePatrol did prompt me about this). By selecting one of the Favorites Lists (there can be up to 256, I think), I only search a few frequencies/services. It took some fiddling around to figure out how to create a Favorites List. Once I figured that out, I found that while I was expecting to copy/paste frequencies from the database into the Favorites List, as is normal, that that isn’t the case at all with Sentinel. I had to select frequencies/blocks of frequencies, hit the “Insert” key (which I would have thought would have inserted entries into the database), and then Sentinel prompted me for which list to add them into. That figured out, it was painless to write this new setup information back to the HomePatrol.

There was one glitch I encountered in creating the Favorites Lists: I wanted to add the frequencies for Alexandria Hospital in with the list containing Alexandria Fire/EMS, but since they were in different services in the database, but identical sub-item names (“Alexandria”),  Apparently they could not co-exist in the list. This is a minor inconvenience, but I don’t know what I can do about it. I will probably join the HomePatrol forum and post a question about it. Also, a lot of Fairfax County frequencies are listed under the “statewide” heading rather than under the county services. I didn’t experience any problems with the county, though.

After setup, rather than scan the thousands of frequencies in our area, I picked one of the Favorites Lists, and started to listen. The scanner works great, even with the little short stock antenna. I did buy a Diamond 789 (a hinged, adjustable height antenna), and it works nicely, and will improve reception, especially in the VHF range. Occasionally, when one of the digital signals is weak, you will get just a little of what D-Star users call “R2D2”, but so far, I haven’t noticed this happening a whole lot. In one case I had a problem copying the transmission, but then, so did the dispatcher, who asked for a retransmission. If you don’t use a Favorites List, you will probably be “avoiding” (the terminology used for what we used to call “locking out”) a lot of frequencies. Before kicking in the Favorites List, my scanner stopped on what appeared to be an open carrier or noise from one of the Prince Georges County frequencies. Undoubtedly, in this area, you would be “avoiding” hundreds of the choices, and this would add considerable time to the setup. You can setup the scanner to only look for certain services, but I found the Favorites List, which by the way is far easier to set up in Sentinel than on the scanner itself, to be the most convenient way to do things.

The display shows three lines. For example, when I’m listening to the Favorites List I set up for Fairfax County, consisting of the Police, Fire/EMS, and Corrections frequencies, the top line says “Fairfax County Public Service”. If my Favorites List consisted of more than that, I could tap that line and only listen to the frequencies of that category. The second line in my example would read Fairfax County Police, Fairfax County Fire/EMS, etc. If a big incident was going on, for example a major accident, I could tap that line on the display and only hear the frequencies assigned to that service. Or, I could lock on an individual frequency by tapping that line on the display. To unlock, simply tap the line again. You can also record the action into memory for later offload and replay, but I haven’t tried this yet. I have used the Replay feature to repeat something I didn’t quite catch the last time. The Replay can be configured from 30 seconds to 4 minutes.

In summary, my likes, dislikes, and tips:

LIKES

Informative display, in color, Easy to lock/unlock on an interesting frequency, sub-service, or service, Replay feature, to repeat something you just heard, Good receiver coverage DISLIKES Sentinel software not very intuitive,  Short USB cable, No manual in the box ,Database glitch as reported above, No carrying case or clip included TIPS

In this area, at least one Favorites List is a must.  Don’t try to update the radio if the batteries are nearly exhausted unless using AC power.   Consider another antenna for better reception, such as the Diamond SRH-789.

In conclusion, my dislikes are just inconveniences, and I can’t guarantee that the other scanners don’t suffer from these same issues. I like the scanner, and I don’t regret buying it, and even though there are a few extra features on the GRECOM PSR-800, that I would be any happier with that unit, since the features I saw in their literature weren’t ones I would use on a regular basis. Your mileage may vary, but I would have no problem at all recommending the HomePatrol to anyone. And, while it covers most ham VHF/UHF frequencies, it won’t cover the 23cm band, as the highest frequency it covers is 960Mhz.

73,

Tom KJ4FUU, with assistance from Marshall KI4MWP  DAYTON HAMVENTION Rich, KA4GFY is the coordinator for the Dayton, OH. Hamvention.  This is, for new hams, the LARGEST hamfest in the world.  Somewhere around 20 to 30 THOUSAND people attend.  All of the major manufacturers,  radio stores as well as small manufacturers will be there.  Additionally, if you cannot find it in the flea market you don’t need it.  Hamvention is May 20- 22nd.

EVENTS IN APRIL

MO and QCWA Spring QSO Party April 2nd

GA, MT and NM QSO Parties April 9th

MI and Ontario QSO Parties April 16th

FL and NE QSO Parties April 30th

 

ARRL Rookie Roundup April 17th

This is an opportunity for all Rookies to compete with each other on SSB.  The Old Pros are allowed to participate and help out the new operators by contacting them on the air or helping out in person.  QSOs are limited to the phone portions of 80, 40, 15, 10 and 6 meters.

Second annual “Cruise In” sponsored by the Albemarle Amateur Radio Club, Charlottesville, VA.  It’s not an on air event or hamfest, but an opportunity to show off your mobile installation and spend some time in the park with other hams.  Pack a cooler and bring your lunch.  It was a big hit last year.

BULL RUN RUN – APRIL 9th

Art Pond III is the coordinator for the amateur support of the Bull Run Run.  For several years now amateurs in the area have supported this race.  The big difference is that it a 50 mile race along the Occoquan Reservoir through many of the parks that line the Fairfax County side of the river.  Two meters does not do it unless you tie up a repeater and even then you’re in the woods and signals are greatly attenuated.  For the last few years the primary amateur frequency has been a 6 meter FM simplex frequency.  This year Art has asked that some stations bring along 40 meter SSB using Near Vertical Incident Sky wave (NVIS) antennas.  I know that Rich, KA4GFY and Rick, N4ASX will be working the event.  If you would like to join in, call send Art an e-mail at KD4FBT@arrl.net .  As the club has a six meter FM repeater, this is a good time to try out your gear.

PRESIDENT’S NOTES

As the days grow longer and the temperature edges ever higher, the risk for severe weather also grows higher.  We all hear the public service announcements from the National Weather Service that encourage us to be prepared for severe weather and what steps to take in the event a severe weather event happens.   In a similar manner, it pays for us as amateur radio operators to “be prepared” as well.   If the need arose for you to be able to communicate urgent information using your radio equipment, would you be able to do so in the event of a complete loss of power for an extended period of time?   If you have a set a backup batteries, have you checked them recently to be sure that they have adequate charge that can sustain a period of radio use that might last more than 24 hours?  Have you explored using simplex communications instead of depending on the repeater to see how far you would be able to communicate?   Now is the time to think through and check out your equipment and explore how to get information out in the event the need may arise.   Some helpful publications that ARRL has put out that may be useful to review include Emergency Power for Radio Communications and The ARRL Emergency Communication Handbook .  In addition, the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) also serves as a great resource in helping amateurs learn more about being prepared for the unexpected and how they can assist others in the event of severe environmental conditions.   Please contact Rick Bunn, N4ASX, who serves ARC’s local ARES point of contact, for more information if you want to get involved with ARES.

73,  Marshall / KI4MWP

HAMFESTS

Chesapeake Amateur Radio Service Springfest, Cheasapeake, VA, April 3rd 56th Annual York Hamfest,  York, PA, April 9th Delmarva Amateur Radio and Electronics Expo, Georgetown, DE, April 16 North Carolina State Convention, Raleigh, NC, April 23rd Great Hagerstown Hamfest, Boonsboro, MD, April 30th

SOCIAL EVENTS

We expect to be meeting at the Alexandria Hospital from now until our “who knows” meeting, so the pre-meeting dinner is now at Atlantis in the Bradlee Shopping Center at 5:30 PM. This is also a chance to meet our guest speaker as we offer to buy dinner for them prior to the meeting.

Monday Night Half Price Burgers – There is a group that gets together at Shooter McGee’s (Duke and Paxton Streets) on Monday evenings at 6:30 PM. A good burger and soft drink runs about $9.00.

USD(AT&L) DDRE DJI
1C546 Pentagon
(703)695-9880
FAX (703)614-2853

ARC - Shorts

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