In the Beginning, ARPA created the ARPANET

I love this quoted poem below.  You probably won’t appreciate it unless you are a ham radio operator or understand the language but if you do, it’s quite something.

In the Beginning, ARPA created the ARPANET.
And the ARPANET was without form and void.
And darkness was upon the deep.
And the spirit of ARPA moved upon the face of the network
and ARPA said, ‘Let there be a protocol,’ and there was a protocol.
And ARPA saw that it was good.
And ARPA said, ‘Let there be more protocols,’ and it was so.
And ARPA saw that it was good.
And ARPA said, ‘Let there be more networks,’ and it was so.

http://www.computerhistory.org/internet_history/

No Ham Radio 2 Meter DX Contacts Today

Meteor Burst

Well I didn’t make any DX 2 meter contacts working the meteor scatter today but I did learn quite a bit researching information on the meteor scatter, comets, propagation, and even more about a Yaesu FT-221.

I was excited about the prospect of making a meteor scatter contact but didn’t really know much about it. I have posted what I would call my key points below in a top ten list of things learned about meteor scatter. I know several people did make contacts, so I will just keep trying.

First, one important item was that trying to make 2 meter DX contacts are not made on FM, or even AM, but almost always on Single Side Band (SSB), and using the national frequency 144.200 mhz is common, and the Upper Side Band (USB) is normally used in making these type of contacts. The The initial report from ARRL just said 2 meter contact can be made through the normal frequency of 144.200 mhz and I didn’t think anything else about it until an elmer said that was what DXers (or DXing) use for SSB 2 meter contacts.

Luckily, he also had an older Yaesu, the Yaesu FT-221 all mode 2 meter radio, that he graciously let me borrow. This is a classic 2 meter all band radio and it was a thrill to use it over the weekend. I tuned in a few local repeaters to test the receive ability since he said he hadn’t turned it on in 10 years, and with a few flips of the switches I was listening to the normal local traffic we have in this area.

Second, meteor scatter contacts are very very quick, short contacts, and a lot of the time there is enough propagation time for a CW contact but not enough for a phone contact. A technical NET is our area has some great CW hams and they pointed this out when looking at the time and locations for the meteor scatter.

Third, a dipole would be a good antenna of choice for a DX 2 meter contact. My system setup right now is optimized for a strong 2 meter local contact area, and as such, I use a Diamond, high gain, dual band, vertical antenna at about 50 feet (see gallery images in ham-radio). This is great for local traffic areas but a good vertical V dipole antenna would be great.

So, for my so called top ten list of important things to remember for meteor scatter:

  1. Generally, 2 meter contacts are made using SSB (normally USB) mode
  2. 6 meter and 10 meter might be better if you have the equipment
  3. 2 meter national contact frequency is 144.200
  4. Very quick contacts that last only a few seconds, good for CW, not as easy for phone
  5. If possible, use non-verticle antenna like a dipole or yagi
  6. Know the peak times and plan ahead
  7. Coordinate with a DX friend and plan for a time and frequency to contact ahead of time
  8. Have nice ham friends that let you borrow equipment right at the last second
  9. Don’t forget to ask lots of questions of fellow radio operators
  10. Have fun.

Didn’t make any contacts but had a good time trying. I am sure there are many hams that might read this and know far more than I do about meteor scatter so please feel free to update, correct, or otherwise point out some good information for next time.

2 Meter Meteor Scatter for This Weekend

Comet from NASAI just read the ARRL news this morning and this looks great for this coming weekend. Coming this Saturday there is going to be a great propagation event for those of us on 2 meters who haven’t upgraded to our General yet, or just for those who are interested in making some new contacts.

The information about the shower can be found in several places but the need to know information is below. For a more detailed study of the meteor shower please see the links at the bottom of this post.

The information is posted here in reference to the 2 meter band, but it should provide some good propagation for some of the HF bands as well, I am just not as familar with the HF bands yet.

  • Date – Saturday, September 1st, 2007
  • Time – Peak 1137 UTC (+/- 20 minutes), which is 06:37 CT in the U.S.
  • Frequency – 144.200 mhz for those using 2 meters (can spread out from there depending on results)
  • Meteor Scatter – from Comet C/1911 N1 (Kiess)

This will be the first time I will try to make some contacts via a meteor scatter, so I hope to make some great “2 meter” dx contacts, if there is such a thing. Although it will not be visible from the east coast, we still should be able to take advantage of the propagation at the time (if it materializes).

This very rare shower will occur again on 1 September 2007. A brief shower of tens of meteors will radiate from the constellation of Auriga, many as bright as the brighter stars in the sky. The Earth will be in the thick of it during the one hour centered on 04:33 a.m. PDT. The shower will be visible by the naked eye from locations in the western United States, including Hawaii and Alaska, from Mexico, and from the western provinces of Canada. [Ames Research Center]

I would love to hear from anyone that makes any contacts on Saturday morning, I will be on the air around 1100 UTC (or 06:00 CDT) on 144.200 mhz. Good luck to everyone. 73, KI4WLR

Links of interest for the meteor scatter:

  1. http://leonid.arc.nasa.gov/aurigids.html
  2. http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2007/08aug_aurigids.htm
  3. http://aurigids.seti.org/
  4. http://www.arrl.org/?artid=7688 (ARRL article on comet)
  5. http://www.space.com/spacewatch/070817_ns_aurigid_meteors.html
  6. http://www.qsl.net/ve6bpr/page5.htm (meteor scatter contact info)
  7. http://spaceweather.com/ (always good info all around)

GPS Amateur Radio Shoes Using RF Radio Frequency for Prostitutes?

GPS Packet Radio Shoes

I don’t know how many people actually use Google Alerts (I am sure it is millions), but for those who don’t, you can find some real interesting and sometimes strange stuff on your topics of interest, along with many other beneficial aspects of the alert system. All in all I probably have more than 50 google alerts to keep up to date with indexed items like my blog, new trends in amateur radio, my name search and so on.

The information is much differently than a reader, like Google Reader, but since it is an email with a little blurb on the new found alert, it is a similar concept, except in email form. Instead of the user finding a site of interest and adding the rss feed to their rss reader, they find a topic of interest, then have Google go get it (with various optional settings). You just type in the search term you want, just like when you Google something, (including special character searches, which I love) and whenever Google’s spider indexes the term, it finds a match, and boom, you have an alert.

Google Screen Shot of GPS Alert Shoes

Today, this was the title of the alert for my heading “amateur radio” blog (see screen shot above). I didn’t really want to put the text of the alert in this post, but you get the idea from the screen shot. The article itself was detail oriented (approved for all audiences), but the quote from Wired read as:

The GPS unit uses APRS (Automatic Packet Reporting System) a system which uses amateur radio frequencies to send data, which, ironically, was first developed at the United States Naval Academy (all the nice girls love a sailor).

The shoes are a concept right now, albeit a working one, and can be tried out at the Gallery Aferro in Newark, New Jersey in September (15th, 22nd, and 29th). Mens and women’s sizes will be available, and orders will be taken for custom builds.

information and photo above of shoe: http://blog.wired.com/gadgets/2007/08/gps-alarm-shoes.html

I would like to know a little more about the technology that went into the shoes, like how they are able to transmit without using a call sign without being a licensed radio operator (I assume that a shoe can not be a licensed amateur radio operator). There are FCC statements for frequency use that allows radio controlled planes, RC cars, and similarly controlled machines, to operate on ham radio frequencies without a license, but most will still post their call sign on the side of the plane if they have one. I don’t know that much about RF tags that retailers use on everything, but I am fairly certain they don’t use amateur radio frequencies.

Of course, it says it is using APRS (Automatic Position Reporting System), a system developed by WB4APR which, according to his website, “uses amateur radio to transmit position reports, weather reports, and messages between users”, and all those users are amateur radio operators (as far as I can tell anyway). I am sure the inventors of these shoes are aware of all the frequency implications and how it can and can’t be used, and I am by no means any expert on the subject at all, I am just interested, as a licensed amateur radio operator, how the technology (and shoes) move from mainstream over to amateur radio use.

For those who know a lot more about packet radio (and APRS) than I do, which wouldn’t be hard, I would love to hear your comments.

Lafayette HA-800B Radio on Loan, Thanks

Lafayette HA-800BI just got my first HF receiver, a Lafayette HA-800B, on loan from K4GR (thanks very much), and I can’t wait to get a good dipole antenna constructed and put up so I can listen in. I don’t know that much about the HA-800B but I am learning as fast as my fingers can turn the knobs through the bands. My current shack, as of this writing, only consists of VHF/UHF type equipment, I don’t have any “real” HF antennas in use at the moment, so the first thing I wanted to do was run out and put up an 80 meter dipole antenna, or anything to get that S-unit needle bouncing around with the sound of call signs and CQ’s. Of course, I just ordered the The ARRL Antenna Book and since it has yet to arrive, I had to improvise.

What I did do for the sake of time was try to put up a random wire antenna (*def) that was fashioned from a trailer wire lighting set, which I had sitting around in a box of saved “wires of potential”. This kit consisted of a single 25 foot, four wire insulated (about 12 AWG) set, with a standard trailer connection and a small white ground wire on one end (both of which I quickly hacked off with my knife) and a clean factory cut at the other.

*When it is not practical to have a 1/2 or 1/4 wavelength long resonant antenna… a random wire antenna can be used. A random length of wire attached directly to the receiver, put out in any manner possible. This antenna is not intended to be resonant on any particular frequency but should be resonant at some frequency. It is a multi-band antenna and the radiation pattern is very unpredictable, but will work with varying results. [ARRL General Class License Manual 2007; C6, P6-6]

Not having done this before, I wasn’t quite sure what the “correct” way to run this new fangled antenna was, but I quickly figured out it doesn’t really matter. You just need to try something, anything, and if and when that doesn’t work you can just try something else. So, standing on the roof, in our 100+ degree afternoon, I grabbed the four wire set and began to seperate it into 4 individual 25 foot wire sections. I saved one wire for a ground (sounded like a good idea), and stripped off the insulation at the ends of the other three wires with my wire cutters and proceeded to splice them all together into a perfect looking green and yellow 75 foot random wire antenna that any homeowners association would be proud to display.

I thought I should do a quick tape job on the spliced wires and I just happen to have this new weather and heat resistant type of electrical tape I had won as a door prize from our club meeting (the EAARC) the day before and just knew I would have a use for it soon when my number was called that night. So, I pulled out the new roll that had now heated up to about 125 degrees and proceeded to roll out some, now tape goo, around the spliced wires and wallah, a completed antenna.

I curled up the 75 feet of wire like a rodeo rider with a rope, and from my position on the roof, sweat dripping profusely now, tossed it up into the adjacent tree to get that good antenna height I knew would make the difference. After a few tries it wrapped around a branch like a fishing lure, and not where I wanted it to stay. I gave it a little yank and my tape goo released its grip on the last 25 foot section, and I now had a 50 foot random wire antenna. No problem I thought, the last section was green anyway, blends right in with the tree and probably wasn’t resonant at a good frequency anyway. Another toss and it was good enough for the time and temperature of the day and now it sits at 30 feet or so resonating and radiating.

Lafayette HA-800B The second thing I tried to do after I got home with the radio was to look for a manual for the Lafayette, and so far, no luck other than ones that have been scanned from the original manual, and now offered for purchase (I don’t have a problem with this at all, I just didn’t feel like buying a manual for a radio I was not going to keep). Without a manual I took a visual inventory of the knobs and switches [dial cal, tuning, cal on/off, anl on/off, ant trim, band sel, rf gain, volume, fine tune, and function] and proceeded to flip through the squeal of white noise and high pitched whines.

My dog started howling from the high pitched whines coming in and out as I spun through the bands. Beyond that, I heard lots of loud squalls of white noise in between the whines but no recognizable audio at all. Guess it didn’t work? What else was there to do. Oh yeah, shoot off an email to my Elmer and find out what went wrong. I explained the whole setup and process and he said, sounds good, you should be able to hear something… anything. So I went back and tried again, turning the knobs with both hands like some submarine operator setting coordinates for a launch and then I found that the slower I moved the more the whines turned into Charlie Brown’s school teacher.

Success at last I thought, and that was good enough for my ears (and my dogs ears) for the day. I don’t know what most of the knobs do, but I am learning, and I am told somewhere on there a BFO knob should appear for using the SSB/CW function but at this point I haven’t a clue where.

Anyone that owns an HA-800B I would love to hear from you, especially if you have a manual.

73, KI4WLR

The International Space Station [ISS] Will Be Visible Tonight

Ground Track for ISS over Auburn AlabamaTonight the International Space Station (ISS) will be visible with the naked eye, and due to its brightness, should be easier to spot and show more detail than it often does. The Space Shuttle Endeavour, STS-118, un-docked from the ISS for an early arrival due to hurricane Dean, so the observation will be only the ISS, not the scheduled ISS and Space Shuttle together. When viewed with a good pair of field binoculars you should be able to see some detail or shape of the ISS with its solar panels extended out.

The data listed below is only good when viewed from our location (Auburn, AL) or within a few hundred miles of our location, but there are many programs and look-ups to find your local time data (see below).

Satellite Sighting Graphic

The graphical 3-d image of the horizon to the right (click image for larger view) shows how to locate the ISS in your part of the sky (image credit: (RSIS)/NASA) by degrees in elevation and the approach and departure pattern for the given data for the viewing. Again, the pass details shown below were taken from a calculation for our location (32.6042°N, 85.4583°W) and date from heavens-above.com and the actual viewing data listed below can be seen directly from their site here. The forecast from NOAA for our area (here) for tonight also looks good with clear skies.

The sky chart shown below is like a star chart you use to use as a kid. the chart’s east and west are not backwards, when you hold it up to the sky, over your head, to the north, it aligns up properly for viewing. To print out the chart below just click on the link, then click on it again to bring it to a blank page and then print the chart.


Viewfinder for ISS Pass for Auburn Alabama

Pass Details

Date:

Tuesday, 21 August, 2007
Satellite: ISS
Observer’s Location: auburn, al usa (32.6042°N, 85.4583°W)
Local Time: Central Daylight Time (GMT – 5:00)
Orbit: 336 x 347 km, 51.6° (Epoch 20 Aug)
Sun alt at time of
max pass altitude:
-19.2°

Time Data

Event Time Altitude Azimuth Distance (km)
Rises above horizon 20:49:33 -0° 314° (NW ) 2,141
Reaches 10° altitude 20:51:34 10° 315° (NW ) 1,300
Maximum altitude 20:54:11 70° 325° (NW ) 368
Enters shadow 20:54:11 70° 325° (NW ) 368

Amateur radio operators often use a satellite acquisition software to determine when and where a satellite will be to make contact through one of these satellites using amateur radio equipment. One of the popular satellite location sites for ham radio operators is AMSAT, which will also give you tracking data by just entering your latitude and longitude. Other sites for satellite viewing are:

If you have a favorite site for viewing time data please leave a comment below. I am sure there are several more than just the ones listed above, those are just the ones I use. 73, KI4WLR

Echolink 2 Meter DX Contacts via Internet to England

Echolink SoftwareI made my first contact on the air out of the general 2 meter range for our area a few days ago with someone in Yorkshire England. Although Echolink contacts are not really considered to be DX contacts, it was my first overseas contact, which was run through the local echolink repeater, 146.425 simplex. We had a very nice long QSO on several different topics and I got my first taste of operating on both Echolink and long distance. It was a thrill to make a contact beyond the range of the 2 meter radio range and I now look even more forward to upgrading to the General Class License.

Echolink is a software program that uses VoIP (Voice Over IP), a protocol that many are familiar with on the Internet when using a yahoo messenger or AIM instant messaging, but this software is for ham radio operators only, and makes contacts through user to user, user to radio, or radio to radio depending on how it is setup and who is connected. What is different about it from the familiar instant messaging, besides being a contact from ham radio operators, is its a voice to voice contact and allows other hams to connect from all over the world through node numbers.

The first contact made was actually through the local repeater from my QTH to the UK. The second was computer to computer from a ham in Idaho who connected just to help another ham learn how to use the program. He was a great help and I learned quite a bit from him on the ins and outs of using Echolink. Coming up I will post a list of the quick connects (DTMF tones) for Echolink to the local repeaters that might be in the area, or when you are mobile. Thanks to both M3NGZ and N7JIL for all their help. 73, KI4WLR

Live Free or Die Hard Radios and the 66.6 Frequency Errors

144.300 mhz ICOMWe went to see Bruce Willis’ new movie this weekend, Live Free or Die Hard and the amount of general radio coverage was very interesting in the movie, especially if you are a ham radio operator or SWL (short wave listener). Apparently there is a large amount of radio type coverage in all the movies, being a new ham I just hadn’t looked that closely before. I did make a few observations from the latest and greatest from Die Hard.

There were several “radio” shots throughout the movie, because of the nature of the movie I guess (end of the modern telecommunications world etc.), but most were factually incorrect and some were just facts. ICOM did have a presence in the movie, real or not, they were ICOM-ish looking radio’s and a huge number of HT’s were used by everyone, but they were often referred to as CB’s regardless of the radio used. Not to surprising as I guess everyone that isn’t familiar with ham radio thinks every radio is a CB radio.

At one point Bruce Willis’ character is talking to Warlock, a cyber hack, and he points to (what is called a CB radio) a radio with a taped sticker on it that says Frequency 66.6, and is later used when Willis is in a 18-wheeler type truck. The radio he used to make a call on 66.6 frequency was not a CB, and the radio station he was calling was not either. It did look much like a modern HF or all band ICOM. Of course the frequency 66.6000 is not a CB frequency. According to the FCC, it is a public TV broadcast frequency (54.000-72.000 – Broadcast TV (channels 2-4) (6 MHz steps – FMw), and the Citizens Band frequency range is 26.965-27.405 (the 11 meter band).

Another observation was the radio in the NYPD unmarked cruiser was set at 144.330 mhz. This frequency is obviously a 2 meter ham band frequency, which falls in the sub-plan of 144.300-144.500, assigned to new OSCAR subband (the satellite repeater links). Apparently there are many people out there that watch movies just to report on the errors made thorughout making the movies.  I personally haven’t paid to much attention to that until now when I noticed such a glaring error in the frequency I had to post something about it. I might just have to go watch the others again now.

Homemade 40 Meter CW Pixie Tin Radio

40 Meter CW Ham Radio TinI found this unique build from KC7FYS and I had to post a quick link to it here. 40m Pixie Tin

This 40 Meter CW rig was built out of a Pixie Tin through the help of an old ARRL Handbook. He has some great step by step instructions on how to build the rig, including pictures, and with a little help and just a few supplies it looks like anyone can build their own 40 meter CW pixie tin. Even if you don’t want to build it, it’s worth a look and it is a good read! 73, KI4WLR

I Started a Ham Radio Bookstore Today

Some of you may know that my wife and I sell books. I have always hunted around for many of those great books on ham radio and never found a good spot to find all of them in one place, so I put together a list of books available from amazon on amateur radio. You can search for a specific ISBN or just click on one of the category links on the left side. If you are looking for a hard to find title just let me know, we can probably find it for you. You can find the store located at http://www.ham-radio-books.com.

I have read (or are reading) both of the ARRL manuals on the FCC Amateur Radio License (Technician Class) and the same manual for the General Class and they are both excellent. Another recommended book would be the ARRL Operating Manual for Radio Amateurs. This book is updated each year and has a lot of real good information for amateur radio as a whole.

There are several books on my “list” to buy at some point, including the book shown to the left. The ARRL Antenna Book is a comprehensive ham radio book on building and learning all about antennas and it has gone through years and years of revisions to be a current, and useful book, and you can usually get it used for around $35 USD.

If any of you have read any good books on ham radio please leave a comment below, I would love to hear the other books hams love to read. 73, KI4WLR