Monday, December 5, 2016

EAWA Pot Luck

Image result for ham radio christmas
Just a reminder that there is NO scheduled monthly meeting of the EAWA, Ellsworth Amateur Wireless Association for December. Instead there is the Annual EAWA Christmas Pot Luck on Saturday December 10th at 1 PM. There will be a brief business meeting to announce the proposed slate of officers for the upcoming year, 2017. Plan on attending, bring a dish to share and enjoy good food and friendship!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Dress for Public Service Success

Years ago I was a EMT-I for a local Emergency Medical Service company. Seeing I held a full time job elsewhere my "runs" consisted of from 1600-0600 hours mainly....with the bulk seemingly in the "0-dark thirty" time frame which entailed getting out of bed and throwing on whatever was handy. This was before the era of actually having full time paid techs on site 24/7. Well I tried to at least throw on my EMS t-shirt and wear my coat the EMS provider gave me to ID myself when arriving on scene. I had a couple of partners that would show up, well, dressed with what ever was on the floor attire. The service owner emphasized the fact that professionalism was also looking the part because the patients felt better when someone at least looking like they know what they were doing showed up at 0245 hours after driving 35 minutes code 3 for their intestinal cramps. After a time we were provided with full uniforms and it did in fact make a difference when we arrived on scene as to how we were accepted by bot the patients, their families and at accidents and crime scenes the governing authorities on site. I saw this article and agree 100% with the author.
 At the very minimum dress neatly!
When responding look like a responder, not a victim!
Image result for emcomm radio operator attire
Visiting this year's ARRL New England Convention in Boxboro, Massachusetts, I was delightfully surprised at the level of care most attendees, and in particular exhibitors, speakers and volunteers, exercised in their choice of attire. Snazzy uniform shirts worn by vendors were in abundance. Business attire infused the exhibit hall. It was as if I were attending a professional conference.
There I met new ARRL CEO, Tom Gallagher, NY2RF, whose sharp business attire transmitted an easy-on-the-eyes message, one that clearly respected the first impressions of his constituents. Among the subjects discussed was my contention that our community must take better care to present ourselves as organized professionals when serving in a public service role, most especially in how we look.
As a leader of public service teams, and an advocate for better leadership, innovation and national unity in our public service communications role, I make sure every volunteer has the opportunity and support that encourages their personal success. Not only are my teams well trained and fully integrated into the organization or agency we serve, they also look (and smell) good. That's because expectations for attire are part of the pre-event preparations. I urge volunteers at some events to be "smartly dressed with a clean white shirt and blue uniform pants, or equivalent." A volunteer T-shirt is sometimes needed as an added bit of identification and to unify us as members of a larger team, so I request that we "wear the supplied volunteer T-shirt in combination with uniform or EMT cargo pants to present a professional appearance." I also caution that we must not be confused with public safety or law enforcement personnel. "Professional" does not mean that we have license to impersonate, however innocent our first intention!
I have first-hand experience to suggest that those who present themselves professionally are invited back for the next event service opportunity. While some of us grumble about how disorganized the organization we're serving may be -- how little they understand about the value of our "superior" communications service -- we are ultimately responsible for an invitation back to a repeat performance. So what happens when we're not? Some of us lean upon that tired "when all else fails" excuse: "When all else fails you'll call upon us, and you won't care how we look." Weak. Irrelevant. Arrogant. Please throw those rags in the laundry (or incinerator) and come back civilized. This is not a mud wrestling match.
At each public service event I've had the privilege and fun to work as a communications volunteer, the event organizers, public safety, vendors, and participants arrive dressed for the occasion. We are not exempt. If your leadership fails to set a minimum standard, that doesn't mean you can't arrive on time and ready to go with a professional, smart, confidence-inspiring appearance. You'll look good, feel great, and be amazed how receptive your team mates, the organizers, participants and the public will be when you dress for public service success. -- Mark Richards, K1MGY, Littleton, Massachusetts [Richards is a member of the Boston Athletic Association's Boston Marathon Communications Committee, with an extensive history of leadership in numerous public event communications efforts. Richards is a frequent contributor to the ARRL ARES E-Letter. -- ed.]

Monday, October 3, 2016

Hancock County EMCOMM Meeting

Image result for hancock county emcomm
Hancock County EMCOMM will be meeting tomorrow, October 4th at 6 PM at Meadow View Apartments Phase 4 Community Room, 25 Tweedie Lane, Ellsworth. Anyone interested in emergency communications is welcome to attend. FCC licensed Amateur Radio Operators are urged to attend and join EMCOMM if able. From local public events to disaster comms, EMCOMM groups are able to help in communications situations. Come see what its all about!

Hurricane Matthew

Hurricane Watch Net Now Active as Hurricane Matthew Targets Jamaica, Haiti, Eastern Cuba
The Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) has been active since 1400 UTC on October 2, as Hurricane Matthew — a dangerous Category 4 storm — threatens Jamaica, Haiti, and eastern Cuba. The storm could affect the Turks and Caicos, the Bahamas and possibly the Eastern US Seaboard. As of 2100 UTC, Matthew was some 320 miles south-southwest of Port au Prince, Haiti, and about 270 miles south-southeast of Kingston, Jamaica, boasting maximum sustained winds of 145 MPH. The storm is moving to the northwest at 5 MPH. On its current trajectory, Matthew could make landfall in Jamaica, Haiti, and the Cuban provinces of Guantanamo, Santiago de Cuba, Holguin, Granma, and Las Tunas. A hurricane watch is in effect for those areas. The HWN activated on 14.325 MHz, and will operate on that frequency and on 7.268 MHz, its nighttime frequency. If propagation dictates, the net will operate on both frequencies simultaneously.
“Matthew is a very large and dangerous hurricane. It is forecast to produce total rain accumulations of 15 to 25 inches over southern Haiti, with possible isolated maximum amounts of 40 inches,” said HWN Manager Bobby Graves. He thinks it’s possible that parts of Jamaica Haiti could begin losing power soon.
“Matthew is forecast to produce total rain accumulations of 10 to 20 inches over eastern Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and eastern Cuba, with possible isolated maximum amounts of 25 inches. This rainfall will produce life-threatening flash floods and mud slides,” he said.
Graves points out that the HWN does not handle health-and-welfare traffic. “For those seeking to pass health and welfare traffic, we will respectfully defer to the SATERN Net,” he said. “It is better equipped and trained for this type of traffic.” When active, the SATERN Net operates on 14.265 MHz.
Graves requested that stations not check into the HWN unless specifically asked to do so. “We will attempt to handle all communications within the capabilities of our own members,” he said. “When outside assistance is required, we will welcome your help.” He asked all stations to follow the instructions of the net control station.
SATERN will activate to at least a DELTA II (extended monitoring) status immediately after the conclusion of the International SATERN SSB Net on Monday, October 3. This will include continuous monitoring of 14.265 MHz while propagation lasts. SATERN operators also will monitor the HWN as well as the Maritime Mobile Service Net (MMSN) on 14.300 MHz while propagation lasts.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami said that Hurricane Matthew is expected to take a turn toward the north tonight. On the forecast track, the center of Matthew will approach southwestern Haiti and Jamaica on Monday. Some fluctuation in intensity is possible during the next couple of days, but Matthew is expected to remain a powerful hurricane into Tuesday.
Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 35 miles from the storm’s center, and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 205 miles. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

A New Ham's Guide To Repeaters by N4UJW

A New Ham's Guide
How to Use Amateur (Ham Radio) Repeaters by N4UJW

Simple enough for even me to understand!
This article will help the New Ham to be more at home on repeaters and understand the operation and procedures on Ham Radio Repeaters.
It contains a basic description of a ham radio repeater, how to use it properly and is written with the NEW HAM  in mind for one of the most popular ham bands....2 meters.

What is a Repeater and Why is it Needed, and How Does It Work?
What: It's a two-way radio system that receives on one frequency, then re-transmits what it receives on another frequency; at exactly the same time. It's nothing more than a "dumb electronic machine" with some smart people behind it.
Why it's needed: Your mobile or hand held transceiver, has a limited range due to it's antenna height with respect to the radio horizon and rf attenuating surroundings.  Repeater systems are used to "transfer" your transmitted and received signals to much higher levels electronically using large, very efficient high gain antennas, low loss feedlines and a transmitter and receiver that is rated for heavy or continuous duty. A repeater "gets out" your signal and receives the station you are talking to with a far greater range and coverage area! You take advantage of the repeater's higher elevation to increase your effective transmitting and receiving coverage versus your mobile or hand held transceiver! How does a Repeater work?
Here's a simple block diagram of a repeater below:
More about Repeaters. See these very informative videos below from K7AGE, Randy.
A video is worth a thousand words! 3 Parts and a must see! (About 10 to 11 minutes each)

Part 1 - Getting started on 2M FM (Repeater Basics)

Part 2 - Getting started on 2M FM (Basic operation of a 2 meter HT)

The Basic Repeater Components:
Antenna Most repeaters use only one antenna. The antenna is used on transmit and receive signals that are going into and out of the repeater. It usually is a high performance, high gain, heavy duty, and very efficient antenna located as high on a tower or structure as we can get it above the surrounding terrain.
Lots of repeater system antennas are located on a high hill or mountain.
Antenna systems for repeater use are usually very costly and have an omni-directional pattern.
 Feed line The feed line used on most repeaters is not just a piece of standard 50 ohm coax cable. A type of specialized feed line called "hard line" is usually used. It is very similar to cable tv line that you see strung between power poles around town. Look just above the telephone lines and you will see much larger "aluminum" cable. The signal loss with hard line versus regular coax is much lower than in standard coax, so more power gets to the antenna and weaker signals can be received due to the very low loss of the "hard line". Duplexer This device serves a major role in a repeater. The duplexer separates and isolates the incoming signal from the outgoing and vice versa. It prevents the receiver and transmitter from hearing one another by the isolation it provides. A duplexer has the shape of large tall cans and is designed to pass a very narrow range of frequencies and to reject others. It helps to reject very strong nearby frequencies from other repeaters or rf producers from getting into the repeater system.
Receiver Receives the incoming signal. This receiver is generally a very sensitive and selective one which helps weaker stations to be heard better by the repeater. It is set to receive the input frequency. It's also where CTCSS (Continuous Tone Coded Squelch System) or "PL" decoding takes place.
TransmitterMost "machines", as repeaters are sometimes called, have a transmitter composed of an exciter and a power amplifier. The exciter modulates the audio coming from the receiver which is tuned to the transmitting stations's frequency at the proper transmit frequency, and the power amplifier simply boosts its level so the signal will travel further. Lots of repeaters use 100 watts or more. It simply takes the weaker received frequency from say a mobile or ht and re-transmits it (repeats) at a higher power level on a different frequency. On the 2 meter band, this separation between transmit and receive frequency is usually 600kHz either positive or negative in relation to the transmit frequency. On the 440 (70cm) band it is usually 5mHz positive or negative in relation to the transmit frequency.
The "transmit" frequency is the frequency you tune your radio to and is usually listed in various sources. For instance, if you see a repeater listing that says:
146.90mHz, minus or negative offset, Pl tone, 100....then you would program your radio to 146.90mHz , minus 600kHz with a PL tone of 100 into the memory for that specific repeater.
NOTE that most newer radios automatically set the offset (your actual transmit frequency) so you won't have to.
Controller This is the brain of the repeater. It handles repeater station ID using either CW or voice, activates the transmitter at the appropriate times, and sometimes performs many other functions depending on the sophistication of the repeater. Some also have a DVR (Digital Voice Recorder) for announcements and messages. The controller is a small computer that's programmed to control a repeater. What is Offset?You may have seen the word "offset" mentioned in the Tramsmitter section above. So exactly what is a repeater offset you may ask? In order to listen and transmit at the same time, repeaters use two different frequencies. One for it's transmit frequency and another for it's receive frequency. On the 2 meter ham band these frequencies are 600 kHz (or 600 kilohertz) apart. On other bands, the offsets are different. As a general rule, if the output frequency (transmit) of the repeater is below 147 mHz, then the input frequency (listening) is 600 kilohertz lower. This is referred to as a negative offset. If the output is 147 Mhz or above, then the input is 600 kilohertz above. This is referred to as a positive offset.
Virtually all ham radios sold today set the offset once you have chosen the operating frequency automatically. Example: If the repeater output is 146.840 Mhz. The input, or the frequency the repeater receiver listens on is 146.240 Mhz ( 600 kilohertz below 146.840mHz).
If you have your radio tuned to 146.840 Mhz, (the repeater's output frequency), when you push the mic button, your radio automatically transmits on 146.240 Mhz, 600kHz down from 146.840. When you release the mic button to listen, your radio switches back to 146.840 mHz to listen on the repeater's output frequency. Note: There are exceptions to the rule so check your local repeater listings.

Standard Repeater Input/Output Offsets
Band             Offset

6 meters           1 MHz
2 meters         600 kHz
1.25 meters    1.6 MHz
70 cm              5 MHz
33 cm            12 MHz
23 cm            20 MHz
(Note that input/output offsets are voluntary among local and regional "Frequency Coordination Groups".
They are not fixed in stone by the FCC! They are "recommended" offsets for a particular area.
Your area may be different. Check with your local repeater operators.

Why do Repeaters use an Offset? Without having an offset between the transmit signal and the receive signal frequency, the repeater would simply hear itself when it was transmitting on the same frequency it was listening on!
Therefore, to use a repeater a user must use a different transmit frequency than receive frequency. Your actual transmit frequency is the exact same one that the repeater receiver is listening on. This is a form of duplex, or two frequency operation. It is known as half-duplex as you do not receive and transmit at the same time but normally use the push-to-talk button on your microphone to switch between the two. Cell phones use full duplex so each party can hear the other while the he/she is talking. 
Even with the offset, the two frequencies are close enough that some isolation is required. Again, this isolation is done by the Duplexer. So you can see why some repeater components interact with each other and without the basic system components....nothing would work.
What's all those tones about?
What is a PL or CTCSS Tone?

PL, an acronym for Private Line, is Motorola's proprietary name for a communications industry signaling scheme called the Continuous Tone Coded Squelch System, or CTCSS. It is used to prevent a repeater from responding to unwanted signals or interference. Tone Squelch is an electronic means of allowing a repeater to respond only to stations that encode or send the proper tone. In other words, if a repeater is set up to operate only when a PL tone of say, 136.5Hz is heard by it's receiver, then it will allow the transmitting station access. If your station, (your mobile, base or hand held) does not transmit the tone that the repeater receiver has been programmed for, when you key up, then the receiver of the repeater does not hear you and will not be usable by your station until you set the proper tone in your radio to be transmitted when you key your mic. Any modern station may be set up to transmit this unique low frequency tone that allows the repeater to operate. If a repeater is "In PL mode" that means it requires a CTCSS tone (PL tone) to activate the repeater. Due to severe congestion of ham repeaters in some areas, most repeaters are "PL'ed".
These repeaters were once called closed repeaters.
  67.0    94.8   131.8   171.3    203.5
  69.3    97.4   136.5   173.8    206.5
  71.9   100.0  141.3   177.3    210.7
  74.4   103.5  146.2   179.9    218.1
  77.0   107.2  151.4   183.5    225.7
  79.7   110.9  156.7   186.2    229.1
  82.5   114.8  159.8   189.9    233.6
  85.4   118.8  162.2   192.8    241.8
  88.5   123.0  165.5   196.6    250.3
  91.5   127.3  167.9   199.5    254.1

What Happens When You Key Your mic?
Let's "key up" a repeater and see what sequence of events are created  within the repeater equipment when someone makes a transmission:

You set your transceiver controls for the 146.84 "machine" and listen to see if it is in use...nothing heard.
You key your mic and throw out your callsign...."This is KE5??? (insert your call sign)  listening on the 146.84 machine". Then you release the mic button.

Assuming your station is within range of the repeater....The repeater antenna which is usually very high on a tall building, tower, water tank, or even a mountain top, picked up your signal with its antenna on 146.24 (your  transmit frequency set to the standard offset for this part of the 2 meter band of -600kHz, and the repeater's receive frequency) and sent it down the feed line to the duplexer.

From there it was sent to the repeater receiver and converted to an audio signal (just like the sounds coming from your speaker)....sent to the controller (the brains of the repeater), then sent to the repeater transmitter and turned back into a much greater amplified radio signal on 146.84mhz (the output of the repeater)....sent to the duplexer....then thru the feedline to the antenna and out over the air. So your little pip squeak ht running only 1 watt may be increased to 20, 30, 50 or 100 watts or sometimes more using the repeater transmitter and its much higher gain antenna and high location!

A mobile, ht or base station that happened to be within range and monitoring the ".84' machine heard your transmission on 146.84mhz (the  repeater output frequency).
Since radio waves travel at about the speed of the split second that you first keyed your mic, the above events took place and the repeater was receiving your signal on one frequency and  re-transmitting your signal on a different frequency at the same time!
The mobile station that was listening on the output frequency of the  repeater heard your callsign....keyed his mic and came back to you  starting the process all over again! A simple way of demonstrating what is going on with a repeater is to set a scanner or a second receiver tuned to the input frequency of a  LOCAL active the case above...146.24mhz and you can monitor its input (and the stations using it if they are local).
Then with your transceiver, monitor the output on 146.84mhz! You should be able to hear both the input signals and the output of the repeater as all this takes place on the air. You may notice some differene in the audio quality between the input and the output frequencies. This is normal.
How do you make a call on an Amateur Repeater?
First, LISTEN AND LISTEN SOME MORE...... to make sure that the repeater is not already in use. When you are satisfied that the repeater is not in use, set your transmitter power to the minimum and increase only as needed to make contact with the repeater, begin with the callsign of the station you are trying to contact followed by your callsign. e.g. " N4??? this is N3???". (The N3??? is your callsign). If you don't establish contact with the station you are looking for, wait a minute or two and repeat your call.
If you are just announcing your presence on the repeater it is helpful to others that may be listening if you identify the repeater you are using AND your callsign. e.g. " This is N3??? listening on the 84 machine or you could also say This is N3??? listening on 146.84 Dallas or the location of the repeater if known.  This allows people that are listening on radios that scan several repeaters to identify which repeater you are using.
If the repeater you are using is a busy repeater you may consider moving to a simplex frequency (transmit and receive on the same frequency..... see more below), once you have made contact with the station you were calling. Repeaters are designed to enhance communications between stations that normally wouldn't be able to communicate because of terrain or power limitations.
If you can maintain your conversation without using the repeater, going "simplex" (both stations on same frequency in a different part of the band) will leave the repeater free for other stations to use that can't establish simplex communications!

Repeater Etiquette and Reporting Emergencies
The first and most important rule before using a repeater is to LISTEN FIRST. Nothing is more annoying than someone that "keys up" or DOUBLES in the middle of another conversation without first checking to make sure the repeater is free. If the repeater is in use, wait for a pause in the conversation (watch your S meter and wait for it to drop indicating the repeater is listening) and simply say "Emergency, Emergency, Emergency", and wait for one of the other stations to acknowledge your call. If for some reason you are not heard, then repeat the 3 "Emergencies" again...then if you are still not heard, try another nearby repeater.
This is not CB radio!
Don't use CB lingo on any ham band such as 10-4, what's your 20, etc.....don't say BREAKER! 
Using the words BREAK, or BREAK, BREAK or BREAK, BREAK, BREAK or any combination of them on Ham radio can be misunderstood by an operator depending on his experience.
The word "break" or combinations of it carries many different meanings in the ham community and in the English language.
According to THE EMERGENCY COORDINATOR'S MANUAL Edited by Steven Ewald, WV1X and
Published by The American Radio Relay League, Inc., Quote from the "General Procedures section....
"16) The word "break" is never used UNLESS there is an emergency."
Then further down in the manual, it appears to contradict or discourage the use of the word/s BREAK in the above statement:
"Note: The practice of using "BREAK" or "BREAK BREAK" to announce distress traffic should be strongly discouraged; it has no universally understood meaning.
So rather than have confusion...use plain language!SO HOW DO YOU REPORT or ACT ON AN EMERGENCY ON A HAM BAND?Many hams use the wording, "BREAK, BREAK, BREAK", (the word "break" repeated 3 times in a row). This is accepted practice on the hf bands where noise may be a problem but on repeaters, usually noise is not a problem, so using "plain" language such as "EMERGENCY", REPEATED 2 OR MORE TIMES can be used to announce that there is an emergency and the frequency is needed to relay vital information....if you hear an "Emergency" call during your conversation with another station....stop transmitting, listen....and then acknowledge the station calling the emergency and let them have the frequency immediately! Don't delay them by saying something on the order of "Stand by breaker" and then carry on your conversation with your contact. Seconds wasted doing this may COST a life! 
 Listen to them carefully and write down the details of their emergency. They will give you the details of the emergency. Then pause for a moment and wait before you go back to him.......many other hams who heard the emergency call may be responding ALL at the same time.

If someone "beats" you to getting back to him, let him take over. Do not break into the conversations UNLESS there is a need for a relay. Under certain situations due to distances involved with mobiles and repeaters, you may be able to hear a mobile BETTER than the repeater on the input frequency of the repeater. It is a good idea to monitor the input if possible if the station reporting the emergency is having trouble getting into the repeater. You may be closer to him than the repeater and can hear him better!
Whether or not the station reporting the emergency is a base station OR mobile, try to monitor the input of the repeater if there is difficulty in the emergency transmission.

When using VOICE,  use the international standard "MAYDAY" or universally understood "EMERGENCY" to announce traffic of life-or-death importance.

The procedure should be:
1.Select the repeater frequency.
2. Wait for a space between transmissions if the repeater is busy.
3. Key your mic and state..."Emergency, Emergency, Emergency" unkey.
4. Wait for a response from the repeater users. If you get no response, try another repeater.
When you do make contact, state your call sign and give as many details as to the emergency as possible. Don't panic, speak slowly and clearly so the details will be understood the first time! Always give details as exact and specific. Give the details of the exact LOCATION of the emergency using enough description of the location so it can be found easily by first responders. Don't say....on highway 60 and leave it at that. The emergency vehicles need exact locations if at all possible. Remember, seconds or minutes saved equal lives in many cases!
Give number of "victims" if possible. Is there is fire involved, downed power lines, immediate road blockage due to wreckage creating further dangers? DETAILS, DETAILS, DETAILS.
The person on the other end of your transmission is most likely copying the info to paper so he can relay it to the appropriate authorities. Help him help you!
If by some chance you have to use Morse code when reporting an emergency, then:
The standard CW signal is "SOS," sent as a single character--not spaced as three letters."
EXAMPLE: DIT DIT DIT DAH DAH DAH DIT DIT DIT and NOT, dit dit dit SPACE dah dah dah SPACE dit dit dit.
NOTE: Many repeater systems allow touch tone key pad entry of "911" DIRECT TO the 911 operators and the emergency reporting system. Check with your repeater system owners or trustees for info BEFORE YOU NEED TO KNOW.
When making a 911 call direct from your station, make sure the 911 operator understands that you are calling via ham radio and she/he can not talk or (be heard by you) until you have unkeyed your radio.  Use of the term "over" is very helpful between you and the 911 operator. It is not like using cell phones. It is a one way (half duplex) transmission using a repeater and not simplex as with regular cell phones or land lines. Both parties CAN NOT talk at the same time!

Use plain language
on a repeater. If you want to know someone's location, say "Where are you.... or what's your location?"  If you want to know whether someone you're talking with is using a mobile rig or a hand-held radio, just ask: "What kind of radio are you using?" You get the idea. Most repeater use is of a "local" nature so signals will be usually of very high quality. The use of the phonetic alphabet is very helpful at times.
Don't call CQ to initiate a conversation on a repeater. Just simply listen to make certain the repeater is not in use and then key your mic and say your call sign and "listening".
If someone happens to be listening and they want to talk to you they will respond.

When you are using the repeater leave a couple of seconds between exchanges to allow other stations to join in or make a quick call. Most repeaters have a "Courtesy Tone" (a short...beep or series of beeps) that will help in determining how long to pause. The courtesy tone serves two purposes. Repeaters have a time out function that will shut down the transmitter if the repeater is held on for a preset length of time (normally three or four minutes). This ensures that if someone's transmitter is stuck on for any reason, it won't hold the repeater's transmitter on indefinitely. (Don't laugh, many microphones get lodged in the fold of car seats and keep a repeater busy until it times out. Of course if it is not noticed soon by the mobile operator.....the control operator of the repeater may have to shut down the repeater until the problem is corrected.) When a ham is talking and releases the push-to-talk switch on their radio, the controller in the repeater detects the loss of carrier and resets the time-out timer. When the timer is reset, the repeater sends out the courtesy tone. If you wait until you hear this beep (normally a couple of seconds), before you respond, you can be sure that you are pausing a suitable length of time. After you hear the beep, the repeater's transmitter will stay on for a few more seconds before turning off. This is referred to as the "tail". The length of the tail will vary from repeater to repeater but the average is about 2 or 3 seconds.
You don't HAVE to wait for the "tail to drop" before keying up again, but  make sure that you hear the courtesy tone (if used) before going ahead. Note: If you don't wait for the beep, the time-out timer may not reset. If you time-out the repeater, YOUR conversation AFTER the time-out will not be heard. The repeater time-out function does not care if you are still talking or not; and the station on the other end may rib you about hogging the machine and you will have wasted all those words! What is Doubling? When two stations try to talk at the same time on the same repeater, the signals mix in the repeater's receiver and results in a buzzing sound, squeal, distorted sound or severely jumbled and broken words.
When you are involved in a roundtable discussion with several other stations it is always best to pass off the repeater to a specific person (station) rather than leave it up it the air. e.g. "W3??? to take it, this is N3???", then unkey; or.......
"Do you have any comments Fred?, this is N3???"; un key.
You could also say "OK...that's all I have.....back to you Fred" or the next person in rotation... (un key)....
Failing to use this or other techniques is an invitation to total confusion.
As a point of interest, a repeater will usually lock into the strongest of two FM signals. This is the nature of FM. The strongest signal usually wins.
Signal Reports on a RepeaterLots of new hams don't understand that the S meter on their radio is only reporting the relative strength of the repeater system and NOT the signal strength of the station they are talking to unless they are in the simplex mode. When the repeater is transmitting, it may have an output greatly exceeding that of the station IT is listening to. Remember the station it hears on the input frequency of it's receiver may be on a hand held radio and only a few blocks from the "machine" or it could be a mobile radio in a vehicle out on the fringes of the repeater coverage area or a base station running a high gain antenna and 100 watts from the next county or in some cases, the next state. To a third party, (another ham), listening to the machine on the repeater output, all of these stations would have the same S meter reading on his S meter! As long as the repeater can detect the signals and is working properly as it is setup, then all stations, (to the third ham), will "appear" to have the same signal strength on the S meter. Remember, the S meter is only reporting the relative strength of the repeater when it is transmitting and not the individual stations! So all that being said, how do you give an accurate signal report to the station you are talking to?JUST USE PLAIN ENGLISH!
Listen to the background sounds of his AUDIO coming from your speaker in between words and sentences. Don't even look at your S meter. (Assuming the repeater has a good strong signal into your location).

If there is no noise other than room background, road, passenger or other sounds that could be picked up by his microphone, then he would be said to have a FULL QUIETING signal into the repeater.....receiver. NOT 50 OVER S9, S9, OR ANY COMBINATION on your S meter. The term "Quieting" refers to the carrier level of the transmitter being strong enough to "quiet" the background hiss on the frequency. If some background noise such as the hiss that is commonly heard in an FM receiver is heard on the transmitter signal, then it would not be considered "FULL QUIETING".  There are times when either station using a repeater may be getting into the repeater receiver with very little signal and the repeated signal will have lots of noise on it. Although the repeater signal may be full quieting when the weak station stops transmitting, the weak station can not be considered to be full quieting into the repeater so you would give the other station a report on his signal and not the repeater. Don't get confused with this. If his audio is perfectly understandable with 100 % copy and there is NO "noise" in the background other than the above, then an accurate report for him would be, "You're full quieting and 100 % copy into the repeater. Anything less than the above is usually given in various ways using an exact as possible description of his signal. "Audio" reports are a matter of interpretation by individual ears. We as hams are in the "business" of communications , not HI FI broadcast FM! We can only sound as good as the FCC will allow our transmitters to sound! If you are having extreme difficulty copying the other station, he may also be having the same problem with you, but remember he is hearing the repeater signal, not yours direct and so are you. Try to get him to go "simplex" if he is coming closer to you in a few minutes. See hint below. If the transmissions get so ruff that neither can copy the other, then just give your call sign and clear off the repeater for others to use while he gets closer or higher or changes his transmitting setup. Not all conversations are completed to the end under adverse conditions or operating patient.

HINT....If the station is in and out of range of the repeater you and he were using and is coming in your direction...try him on a simplex frequency! He may be loud and clear direct on simplex and only a few miles away and getting stronger all the time but he is getting farther from the repeater! Another situation that can happen during a new contact is that you and he did not exchange locations at the first of the contact. Both you and he are using a repeater 50 miles away. Then after several minutes you discover in your conversation with the other station that he is in the same town as you and only a couple of miles away! Time for simplex! Don't hog the repeater.

Simplex operation
generally means station to station or direct communication on the same frequency between two stations and not using a repeater. Use the least amount of output power needed to carry on the contact. Simplex should be used when the two stations are close enough to carry on a conversation without the use of a repeater and will help in congested metro areas with a limited number of repeaters.
Simplex should always be used if possible rather than a repeater.
See chart below for suggested simplex frequencies. (Highlighted in gray)
Repeater input and output frequencies highlighted in yellow.
2 Meter Band Plan as suggested by the ARRL (144-148 MHz):
144.00-144.05EME (CW)
144.05-144.10General CW and weak signals
144.10-144.20EME and weak-signal SSB
144.200SSB National calling frequency
144.200-144.275General SSB operation
144.275-144.300Propagation beacons
144.30-144.50New OSCAR subband
144.50-144.60Linear translator inputs
144.60-144.90FM repeater inputs
144.90-145.10Weak signal and FM simplex (145.01,03,05,07,09 are widely used for packet)
145.10-145.20Linear translator outputs
145.20-145.50FM repeater outputs
145.50-145.80Miscellaneous and experimental modes
145.80-146.00OSCAR subband
146.01-146.37Repeater inputs
146.52National FM Simplex Calling Frequency
146.61-146.97Repeater outputs
147.00-147.39Repeater outputs
147.60-147.99Repeater inputs
That most exciting day just arrived! You now have passed your Technician Class exam and have been issued your first call sign by the FCC.
You have your station all set up and you are ready for your first contact on a repeater! You chose a local repeater frequency and dial it up on your rig. You just keyed your mic, gave out your call sign and now you hear........your call sign and someone coming back to you with his call sign.....he un keys and the repeater is waiting for YOU! 
BRAIN LOCK SETS IN! "What do I do? What do I talk about? Will I remember all those rules, regulations, theory and all that other stuff I had to study?

The simple answer is.......probably not......but don't worry!
First thing....try to write his call sign down and if he gives his name, that too. Lots of good operators recognize a new ham instantly on the air and they will guide you with patience, understanding, maybe some fun prodding and picking at you to get you to relax and have fun with your new license.

He will WELCOME you!
A good operator will never make you feel unwanted on the air. He may ask you to repeat your call sign just to make certain he understood who he is talking to and if you forget to give your name, he will ask for it. Most hams don't like to talk to a "call sign", so getting names and also locations helps to start the conversation.
If you make mistakes....he will most likely let you know what you did wrong and inform you as to the correct way in a friendly manor.

Don't be surprised if he asks you all the questions instead of the other way around. He is just trying to get you to feel relaxed on the air. As your experience grows in ham radio, aways try to remember your first contact and  how excited and nervous you were. Now it's your turn and you are the one responding to a new ham and his first contact! Make him feel at home a good your first contact was! Repeater and it!
You must transmit your call sign at the end of a contact and at least every 10 minutes during the course of any communication. You do not have to transmit the call sign of the station to whom you are transmitting. Never transmit without identifying. For example, keying your microphone to turn on the repeater without saying your station call sign is illegal. If you do not want to engage in conversation, but simply want to check if you are able to access a particular repeater, simply say "(your call sign...... testing)."

All ham radio stations, including repeaters AND YOUR STATION are required by the FCC to have a control operator monitoring the station while it is on the air. You are the control operator of your station.
Control operators are usually the owners, trustees or other designated licensed operators of a repeater system. They sometimes stay quietly in the background just listening to the every day operation of the "machine" for technical problems, proper use, FCC rule breaking, etc on a particular repeater.
They have complete control of whether a repeater is on the air or off and have the ability to stop it's operation at any time! Use the repeater to the best of your ability and within the FCC rules.
Report any un-authorized use of a repeater to the repeater owner or person responsible for the operation of the repeater.

It takes LOTS of money to maintain a repeater and the money has to come from somewhere. If you can't donate funds, then donate your time, assistance, equipment, knowledge, labor or anything of value to the repeater owner to help keep it on the air. It will be appreciated! Even simple things like mowing the grass around the repeater area is certainly appreciated. If the repeater is on a mountain top, enjoy the view while you are there. All repeaters need some kind of care from time so volunteer your time when others don't.
Only licensed Amateur Radio Operators are authorized use of ANY Amateur Radio transceiver including repeaters in the transmit function.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Back To Basics: Simplex, Duplex, Offset and Split by 73, Bob K0NR

Some time ago, a ham on twitter posted about a “2m SSB simplex contact” he had made. Another ham replied with “2m SSB is just that. The word simplex is not needed.” The second ham is incorrect…not all 2m SSB contacts are simplex. Most of them are but not all. More importantly, I think this exchange highlights some common confusion about terms such as simplex, duplex and repeater operation.

Simplex – In the amateur radio context, simplex operation means the radio stations are communicating with each other directly, on the same frequency. Both stations take turns transmitting and receiving on the same frequency with no repeater or other device in between.
Duplex – Duplex operation means that a radio station transmits on one frequency and receives on a different frequency.

Full Duplex – Operating duplex with the ability to transmit and receive simultaneously.
Half Duplex – Operating duplex but having to switch between transmit and receive
Examples of simplex vs. duplex operations. The repeater station (lower image, on mountain) is full duplex, instantly retransmitting a received signal. Each user’s station is half duplex, unable to transmit and receive simultaneously, but shifting between the transmit and receive frequencies. Very often simplex and duplex operation are associated with FM on the VHF and UHF bands. If you are talking to another ham directly, on one frequency, with no repeater involved, that is simplex operation. FM repeater operation uses two frequencies: the repeater receive frequency and the repeater transmit frequency. The repeater’s job is to take the signal it hears on its receiver and retransmit it on the transmit frequency.  Repeaters operate in full duplex mode, because they receive and transmit at the same time. The repeater user is usually operating in half duplex, using two frequencies but switching between transmit and receive. Some FM ham radio gear can operate in full duplex mode (usually employing two different ham bands) but most equipment is half duplex only. We refer to a repeater by its transmit frequency, which is the frequency the user listens on.  When the user transmits, the radio automatically changes frequency as required by the repeater’s offset (the difference between its transmit and receive frequencies.) The repeater offset is sometimes referred to as the repeater split.
HF Operating

The vast majority of HF operation is simplex operation. We dial up a particular frequency and chat back and forth on that same frequency. However, duplex operating is also used on HF, typically referred to as working split. A DX station may have a large number of stations calling him, creating a “pile up” on frequency. His ability to make contacts slows dramatically as this huge pile of stations calling him creates interference on his frequency. The DX station can’t hear the particular station he’s trying to work and the station he is trying to work also has trouble hearing the DX station.  A common practice is for the DX station to listen on a different frequency, typically a few kHz up from his transmit frequency. The DX operator will say something like “listening up 10” to indicate he is listening 10 kHz higher than his transmit frequency. Or he may just say his receive frequency explicitly (“listening 14.180”).  The idea is that the DX transmit frequency will always remain clear so everyone can hear him. Everyone hears the DX pull a callsign out of the pile, when the contact is complete and when he’s ready for the next call. Things get easier for the DX station as the calling stations tend to spread out and he can tune around a bit to find a particular station he wants to contact. Making this happen is a bit tricky and requires the use of two VFOs . Most modern transceivers have split mode capability with dual VFOs.  Most modern transceivers have this capability. The calling stations set one VFO to the DX station’s transmit frequency and adjust the other VFO to be on the receive frequency specified by the DX station (“up 10”). The transceiver is set to listen on the first VFO and transmit on the second VFO. This is usually called split operation in the transceiver manual. If your radio does not have split operation, it is going to be very difficult to contact a DX station running split. On the HF bands, split operation is an example of half-duplex operation. I suppose it could be full duplex under some circumstances but in most cases transmit and receive will not be simultaneous.
VHF CW/SSB Operating
Excluding FM repeater use, most VHF and UHF operating is also simplex. VHF operators can operate split just like the HF case but I can’t recall actually hearing this on the air. A strong band opening on 6m behaves a lot like HF, so a large DX pileup could benefit from going duplex. A linear translator retransmits SSB or CW signals, similar to an FM repeater but for linear modulation. There are very few linear translators being used on earth but they are a form of SSB operating that is not simplex. Linear translators actually retransmit a range of frequencies, not just one, so that multiple users can be supported by one translator. Linear translators are commonly deployed in space as satellites.

Satellite Operating
Satellites use one ham band for the uplink and another ham band for the down link. For example, the FO-29 satellite uses 145.9 – 146.0 MHz for the uplink and 435.8 – 435.9 MHz for the downlink. Similar to a repeater, the satellite operates full duplex, transmitting the signal that is heard on the receiver (uplink). Ham satellites use different modulation types, including FM, SSB, CW and digital formats. It is the most common example of “non-simplex” SSB operating on the VHF bands. Satellite duplex operations can be conducted with an HT and a dual-band antenna, usually a directional. The satellite, like a repeater, typically operates full duplex to instantly retransmit on one band signals received on the other. It is highly desirable for the satellite user to also operate full duplex (usually with headphones to avoid feedback). That way, the user can determine how well he is getting into the satellite, operate with minimum power and just do a better job of avoiding interference to other users. The FM birds can be worked with just a handheld transceiver (HT), making portable operating easy. However, only a few HTs have the ability to operate full duplex, so a lot of satellite operating is done using half duplex.
To wrap up then, simplex is a term that applies on all of the ham bands, because it is the simplest way to communicate. However, it is not the “opposite” of using a repeater. Duplex is also a term that applies in a variety of cases, including repeater operation, working split on HF or VHF and working crossband via satellite.

Learn Morse Code by Dan KB6NU

Before you even start reading this, I’ll warn you that I’m a big fan of Morse Code (often referred to as CW, or “continuous wave”). So big, in fact, that it’s safe to say that I use Morse Code to make 95% of my contacts.
I am not, however, one of those guys that thinks you’re not a “real ham” if you didn’t pass some kind of code test. In fact, I think that eliminating the code test was a good thing for ham radio. The code test kept a lot of good people out of the hobby.

Having said that, I think there are lots of good reasons you should learn Morse Code. Please keep an open mind as I list them:
1.      Tradition. Operating CW is an amateur radio tradition. When amateur radio began, CW was the only mode. When you learn and operate CW, you’re following a very long line of hams who have operated CW.
2.      Effectiveness. Talk to a CW operator, and it’s likely that he’ll chew your ear off about how  CW is a more effective mode than voice. While the difference is probably not as much as the CW operator would like you to believe, the difference is real. When conditions are poor, you’ll be able to make CW contacts and not voice contacts.
3.      DXing. That being the case, CW operators have an advantage when it comes to contacting DX stations because their signals will get through when voice signals are unreadable. Also, if you consider that there are more voice operators than CW operators, you’ll have a better chance of contacting a much-wanted DX station because there will be fewer operators trying to contact him using CW than there will be using voice.
4.      Contesting. In most contests, you get more points for a CW contact than you do for a voice contact. Sometimes the bonus is 100%, sometimes only 50%. In either case, doesn’t it make sense to know CW if you want to be a contester? You’ll score more points for the same number of contacts.
5.      Simplicity/Efficiency. The equipment you need to operate CW is a lot simpler than the equipment needed to operate voice modes. And, because CW is more efficient, you can, in general, use a lot less power to make contacts with CW  than you need to make contacts using voice modes. This has spawned a whole sub-group of hams called QRPers, who delight in using very minimal equipment to make contacts.
Using CW also saves bandwidth. The bandwidth of a CW signal is approximately 200 Hz, while the bandwidth of a single-sideband (SSB) voice signal is about 3 kHz. That is to say that the voice signal is 15 times wider than the CW signal. Another way to say this is that for a given amount of bandwidth, you can fit 15 times more CW signals than you can SSB signals.

6.      It’s just plain fun. Once you learn CW and start using it, it can be a lot of fun. Like any activity that requires some skill, mastering that skill can be a source of pride. Not to sound too vain about it, but I enjoy the praise I get from my fellow hams when I can display my CW operating skills.

How to Learn Morse Code
In the old days if you wanted to learn Morse Code, you went out and bought a vinyl record or maybe a cassette tape that had precrecorded lessons on them. Another approach—the approach I used—was to tune in a Morse Code signal and start to associate the patterns of dits and dahs to characters of the alphabet. Both methods had drawbacks.
Today, things are a lot easier. Not only are there free resources available, I think they are much more effective in teaching people code than the old LPs or cassette tapes. Here are the three resources that I recommend:

1.      G4FON Koch CW Trainer. Ray Goff, G4FON, has perhaps written the most popular CW training program. It runs on the PC, and is completely free! The program uses the Koch method.  The idea is that you learn to receive at the speed you would like to eventually achieve, but you learn only one character at a time. This method works very well for lots of people.

2.      K7QO Code Course. The K7QO Code Course takes a different approach. This set of .mp3 files comes on a CD-ROM and teaches you the code letter by letter. It starts out sending the letters slowly, then ramps up. The nice thing about this course is that you can use it on any device  that is capable of playing .mp3 files. To obtain a copy of the CD-ROM, send $1 per copy and a self-addressed envelope to FISTS, PO Box 47, Hadley MI 48440.

3.      Learn CW Online. LCWO uses the Koch method to teach Morse Code. Because it runs in your browser, you can use this website no matter what computer you happen to be using.

Whatever method you choose, I hope you’ll consider learning the code. See you on the CW bands!