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Friday, March 28, 2014

Amateur Radio, Federal Government Engaged in Joint 5 MHz Communication Exercise

Amateur Radio operators and federal government stations are engaged in a 12-day nationwide test of their capability to communicate with each other on HF in the event of an emergency or disaster. The High Frequency Interoperability Exercise 2014 (HFIE-2014) is running concurrently with the federal National Exercise Program (NEP) 2014. Activity is taking place on two of the five 60 meter channels. The primary center-frequency channel is 5358.5 kHz, and the secondary center-frequency channel is 5373.0 kHz. Amateur Radio is secondary to government users on the band. The joint readiness exercise that began March 27 will continue through April 7 and include all areas of the US. Participants will use Automatic Link Establishment (ALE), a standardized digital selective calling protocol, to establish communication between stations. 
“The HFIE has been a semi-annual exercise for some years,” explained HFIE-2014 Coordinator Bonnie Crystal, KQ6XA. “Previously, HFIE has been a ham-only exercise. This year, we scheduled HFIE so it coincides with the NEP.”
Participation in the interoperability exercise is open to all ALE-capable federal government radio stations and to all ALE-capable US Amateur Radio stations. A Special Temporary Authorization (STA) has been granted, giving permission for radio amateurs to communicate with federal government stations for the duration of the exercise.
Crystal said ALE signaling “sounds like turkey gobble,” adding that ALE calls last about 15 seconds. Stations listening “may also hear the operators then start talking on USB voice,” she said. “The signals can be up to about 40 seconds long, if there’s texting riding on it, using a very rapid type of ARQ [automatic repeat request] handshaking.”
“Once someone links with another station, they have the choice of using SSB voice or sending/receiving up to about 80 characters of text,” Crystal said. “Or they can switch to some other mode, such as CW or PSK or PACTOR.”
ARRL Regulatory Information Manager Dan Henderson, N1ND, said the exercise offers an excellent opportunity for those amateurs with ALE capability. “It is a good exercise that highlights one of the key elements under which US amateurs were granted secondary status on the 60 meter band,” he said. "The amateur community's ability to participate in an interoperability exercise with governmental communications is a great way to assess where things stand in this area — and to explore the next steps to take. We encourage those amateurs familiar with the ALE protocols and have the station equipment to participate in a meaningful way to do so.”
Crystal said that in past years some hams who work for federal government radio systems have participated in HFIE during their off-hours as Amateur Radio operators. “We got together with some of them and worked out a way to enable federal stations to do some ALE interoperability testing on the 5 MHz channels with hams, since they already are authorized on the exact same channels as hams.” Crystal said it was just a matter of getting the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the FCC to allow hams and government stations to communicate. The STA was approved on March 24.
Federal government station HF radios stations have the ALE capability built into the hardware. Amateur Radio operators implement ALE protocols using computer software with their ham gear. “The STA allows for on-the-air testing of interoperability between the hardware and software-generated ALE implementations,” Crystal said.
The HFIE is a semi-annual ham radio readiness exercise coordinated by theHFLINK organization and the Global ALE High Frequency Network It is open to all ALE-capable ham radio stations. Technical and operational guidelines for ham and federal government stations are available on the HFIE-2014 website.
The National Exercise Program is a complex emergency preparedness exercise with activities sponsored by government departments and agencies, designed to educate and prepare the whole community for complex, large-scale disasters and emergencies. As part of the National Preparedness Goal, it enables a collaborative, whole community approach to national preparedness that engages individuals, families, communities, the private and nonprofit sectors, faith-based organizations, and all levels of government.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Portable hand-crank power in a backpack size...

I have previously posted about an upcoming 12V portable hand crank electricity generator for the commercial market. Here I will report about a Mil-Spec portable hand crank generator that might just be the solution for you.

Sometime back I ordered a Clansman Hand Generator (please perform internet search on these as I do not want to bias you on whom to order it from). It generates 24 Volt DC (open voltage) at moderate speed cranking and a maximum of 30V (open voltage) when cranking at the maximal speed  that I can still manage relatively comfortably. Please see YouTube videos for further details on this crank generator.

So how could you use these 24V to charge a portable battery? Just connect two small 12V batteries in series... and you have a heavy duty (yes - that does also imply fairly heavy weight). 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

WorldWide Flora & Fauna in amateur radio

Several of you have mentioned the WWFF, but I admit that I did not understand the concept until now, nor did I see a link. So I went searching the Internet and came to the WorldWide Flora & Fauna in amateur radio website. It states:
"The WWFF program wants to draw attention to the importance of protecting nature, flora and fauna. In this spirit amateur radio operators set up and operate their radio stations from designated nature parks and protected nature areas - generating attention for these areas whilst giving the ham radio community an interesting activity to contact. ..."

This sounds like ideal locations for RaDAR Operators! I emailed the founders with two new Natural Areas and they immediately responded with the registration numbers and promised to publish them in the database ASAP.

So... I got myself a little (unfair?) advantage for the RaDAR-America Contest, I will operate from one of those two new WWFF locations ;)  Looking forward to get out and seeing more of my State's natural habitats! I've downloaded and printed the topographical map of the area, so I will have my locator at my fingertip

update on Grid Locators

I received an email with the valid question of how to determine one's location, i.e. Grid Locator with high digit precision, in preparation for the RaDAR (Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio) contest.

Please allow me to initially direct to a prior blog entry of mine on the topic:

It will now be a challenge for all RaDAR Contest participants to determine their location while mobile. The RaDAR program hereby challenges the Amateur Radio operator in expanding his knowledge in orienteering, in findings his way from point A to point B. If you were in the Boy-Scouts or a similar organization, you will probably have no problem with this, for all others, it will be a new challenge, apart from the physical aspect of the RaDAR program.

So, what can you do? The easy way will be to have a GPS device or a SmartPhone with a suitable application. I successfully use:

Theodolite - which has 15 digit precision USNG / UTM grid locator precision. I assume that the reading is not 100% correct given that a smartphone is not a dedicated GPS device, but likely good enough for relaying to rescue services if ever you needed to. Really nice is it's integration with the camera. See a review of the application here.

Locate! - boils it down to the essentials. Also 15 digit USNG / UTM precision. Easy to use.

Here is a whole list of more apps which you may try out.

But how about doing it how it really should be done - by reading from a map?! Learn here how to read a USNG / UTM map.
Once you have that figured out, go here to download maps for free, ready for you to print out, which can also be bought for little money.

Regarding the use of the Maidenhead Grid Locator System, I am not sure if to recommend it or discourage it's use. It is Amateur Radio centric and as such likely meets instant recognition by HAMs, but Search and Rescue Services would maybe not know what it is. Should we thus burden the HAM who is receiving our coordinates, to have to convert them into Long Lat coordinates or UTM? I believe not, since I prefer to keep things simple and effective. No need to add another layer of complexity. Also, I know of only one iPhone application, to give me the Maidenhead Grid Locator with 8 digit precision, which is HamLog. One problem with it however, it currently saves your grid location only to the device that you enter the log entry in. It does not transfer to it's cloud server! You therefore have to copy/ paste that information yourself into the "Notes" field of the log entry page, which is a slight nuisance. But - it's still the best iOS app and the best HAM Log service I've found, I highly recommend it.

Monday, March 10, 2014

2014 ARRL Field Day - NTS-style message Bonus

ARRL HQ replied today regarding my inquiry about further details on the 2014 ARRL Field Day "NTS-style message Bonus".

It is the message format which is of interest and not the message carrier, i.e. as long as it is in proper NTS radiogram format & via RF. Quote:

"Yes, messages sent via NBEMS or Winlink will count for Field Day bonus points as long as the messages are in the proper NTS radiogram format and the messages leave or enter the Field Day site via amateur radio RF."

That will be most exiting! I can think of: voice (ok, that's nothing new), CW (this neither), FLMSG (within NBEMS suite of free software programs), WinLink, HFLink ALE AMD and APRS as being possible carriers of the radiogram, with the last two likely the least common choices for most HAMs. Maybe I can think of a few more by Field Day… Why don't you too bring something new into YOUR Field Day activation, with some new modes of message relay?

Thus, the Arkansas HF Digital NVIS NBEMS Net (AHDNN) will be operational and have extended operational hours during Field Day, schedule to be announced on the AHDNN newsgroup, NCS: N5AT.

Additionally, the Arkansas Radio Emergency Services Club will send NTS radiograms via all above mentioned digital modes of communication.

73 de Marcus NX5MK

Buxcomm 7510CT2FD Manual for Terminated Folded Dipole Installation

I have the Buxcomm 7510CT2FD and noticed that the webpage for it has been taken offline. Below is the manual for reference.

Also came across interesting specs for the Codan 411 TERMINATED FOLDED DIPOLE ANTENNA which is a nice comparison of the efficiency of a T2FD versus a Dipole in free space at 1/4 wavelength above ground - a requirement that most dipole installations do not fulfill - versus a T2FD at 10m / 33 feet. Seems like the T2FD is not such an inferior antenna...

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Amateur Radio Featured at 2014 Preparedness Summit

Just came across the following newsline:

Amateur Radio Featured at 2014 Preparedness Summit
The Preparedness Summit is the largest public health preparedness conference in the United States. Each year, approximately 2,000 preparedness professionals attend this multi-disciplinary event. This year, the Preparedness Summit is highlighting the importance of amateur radio.

Might be worthwhile to take a look at.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

March monthly RaDAR meetup - After Action Report

Well, it was one of those days again. Seems to be the ARRL DX contest and no stateside station likes to respond to a local contact...? Worked the HFPack SSB frequencies according to schedule posted by Greg, but no QSOs made. Couple of times I had to move slightly up and down the band due to contesters on our scheduled frequencies. Even tried making a QSO with some foreign stations, but stronger stateside stations won out.

Also no luck with PSK or Hellschreiber on their respective frequencies for the bands that we were on per our schedule (as announced, I switched to those modes when you were changing to CW).

When it turned 1800Z with no QSOs made in 2 hours, I had to check my sanity, so I sent out an ALE Netcall, without luck on 14MHz and 18Mhz, but then on 21MHz I linked with KB3JAJ in Maryland, as copy/pasted below from, using 10W into the AlphaLoop, from Loc: EM34us. You can also see that KJ4AYT in Florida had good copy on me.
From that link to Maryland and the signal report from Florida, I thus have to conclude that I did send out a good signal, at least on 21MHz I had good propagation to the East and SouthEast.

On a sidenote, I was able to tune up on 10m band with AlphaLoop although it's specs don't suggest it goes that high. SWR was admittedly 4:1, but that should not mean that radiation efficiency is useless. Will have to give it another whirl sometime.

Was also on 28.800 MHz for the 10-10 Net at 1800Z, but no 10-10 stations heard, just some contesters nearby.

Seems like all of us had little luck making QSOs today. Hope we will have more takers during our contest next month. For that reason, I am not complaining about today's contesters! Big difference however will be that we will respond to every call and not just to some specific stations.

73 de Marcus NX5MK

[18:14:41]  KB3JAJ: [18:14:24][ 21.09 MHz ] [AMD][NX5MK][GREETINGS]
[18:14:54]  KB3JAJ: [18:14:24][ 21.09 MHz ] [CLEARED][NX5MK]
[18:19:08]  KB3JAJ: [18:16:56][ 21.09 MHz ] [LINKED][NX5MK]
[18:19:20]  KB3JAJ: [18:18:02][ 21.09 MHz ] [AMD][NX5MK][STAT]
[18:21:12]  KB3JAJ: [18:20:45][ 21.09 MHz ] [AMD][NX5MK][GREETINGS FROM LITTLE ROCK AR]
[18:21:22]  KJ4AYT: [17:20:46][ 21.09 MHz ] TO [NX5MK] De [KB3JAJ] BER 29 SN 07
[18:22:12]  KJ4AYT: [17:20:54][ 21.09 MHz ] TO [KB3JAJ] De [NX5MK] [AMD]GREETINGS FROM LITTLE ROCK AR BER 30 SN 11
[18:22:18]  KB3JAJ: [18:21:51][ 21.09 MHz ] [AMD][NX5MK][GREETINGS FROM LITTLE ROCK AR]
[18:22:38]  KJ4AYT: [17:21:48][ 21.09 MHz ] TO [KB3JAJ] De [NX5MK] BER 30 SN 12
[18:23:03]  KJ4AYT: [17:21:52][ 21.09 MHz ] TO [NX5MK] De [KB3JAJ] BER 29 SN 08
[18:23:16]  KJ4AYT: [17:21:59][ 21.09 MHz ] TO [NX5 KB3JAJ] De [NX5MK] [AMD]GREETINGS FROM LITTLE ROCK AR BER 29 SN 16
[18:24:21]  KJ4AYT: [17:22:10][ 21.09 MHz ] TO [KB3JAJ] De [NX5MK] BER 30 SN 10
[18:24:34]  KJ4AYT: [17:24:06][ 21.09 MHz ] TO [KB3JAJ] De [NX5MK] BER 27 SN 13
[18:25:28]  KB3JAJ: [18:25:01][ 21.09 MHz ] [AMD][NX5MK] HFN911 ALARMTEST NOT AN EMERGENCY [ DE NX5MK]
[18:27:54]  KJ4AYT: [17:27:36][ 21.09 MHz ] TO [KB3JAJ] De [NX5MK] BER 30 SN 12
[18:28:06]  KJ4AYT: [17:27:40][ 21.09 MHz ] TO [NX5MK] De [KB3JAJ] BER 30 SN 06