Hello and welcome to the 396th installment of Linux in the Ham Shack. In this episode we interview Steve Miller, KC1AWV, one of the major contributors to the M17 amateur radio project. In the interview, Steve tells us the history of the M17 project, how to build and use it, the level of current development and what the future holds. We hope you enjoy this in-depth look at M17 and have a great week.
73 de The LHS Crew
Russ Woodman, K5TUX, co-hosts the Linux in the Ham Shack podcast which is available for download in both MP3 and OGG audio format. Contact him at [email protected].
In this episode, Martin (M1MRB) is joined by Leslie Butterfield G0CIB, Dan Romanchik KB6NU and Edmund Spicer M0MNG to discuss the latest Amateur / Ham Radio news. Colin (M6BOY) rounds up the news in brief and in this episode’s features is in an interview with ARRL David Minster NA2AA, and the President, Rick Roderick K5UR as they discuss changes for the ARRL with Frank Howell K4FMH.
ICQ AMATEUR/HAM RADIO PODCAST DONORS
We would like to thank Tony Hickson (M5OTA), Mark Fairchild (2E0MFZ) and Richard Dalton and our monthly and annual subscription donors for keeping the podcast advert free. To donate, please visit - http://www.icqpodcast.com/donate
- Concord Student Wins Congressional App Challenge - ARRL Reject Additional VEC's - ARRL to consider covering young members license fee - German Radio Hams Tackling RF Noise Pollution - UK Amateur Radio Operator Celebrates 100th Birthday - The Royal Australian Air Force - 100 Year Centenary. VK100AF & VI100AF - Light Up 2 Meters Night, an FM Simplex Event - ARRL CEO David Minster (NA2AA) to keynote QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo
Colin Butler, M6BOY, is the host of the ICQ Podcast, a weekly radio show about Amateur Radio. Contact him at [email protected].
One of the most enjoyable operating events of the year is fast approaching -- the Novice Rig Roundup or 'NRR'. This year, the activity is dedicated to NRR founder and long-time participant, Bry, AF4K, who sadly became a silent-key last year.
|Bry - AF4K|
Technically, the NRR is a contest, but I have the feeling that most participants think of it as just a lot of fun and a nice opportunity to hear and work some of the great old 'classics' of the past -- rigs that were used when they were teenage Novices or rigs that they could only drool about owning, back in those formative years when they each discovered the magic of radio.
The dates to remember are 0000 UTC March 6 to 2359 UTC March 14 and this multi-day opportunity is, for me, what makes the NRR so enjoyable. With a nice diversion from the usual 'contest frenzy' associated with standard weekend operating events, the NRR can be enjoyed throughout the week, whenever you choose to participate. If last year's operating patterns continue, you should find activity at any time of the day ... and even more as sunset arrives.
With the early growth of Cycle 25, we will likely be treated to some transcon opportunities on 15m or even 10m, as many 15m transcon contacts were made during last year's event thanks to some well-timed solar activity!
Although technically not required, if you plan to participate it's best to obtain your own NRR number, which is an easy 30-second process.
Additionally, there is an online logger where participants can post their daily log. The nifty logger also keeps track and figures out your score as it goes and no 'after contest' log needs to be submitted. If you plan on submitting a log, the logger is a requirement. The logger will also require you to set up a 'log-in' and once again, a simple 30-second process will take care of that from here. If you used the logger last year, you will have to set it up again for this year as the old system has been changed.
Stations may run either crystal-control or VFO or can switch between either method ... the online logger will keep track and score things appropriately.
All of the rules and information can be found on the NRR's excellent website. As well, the soapbox comments and station pictures from last year's NRR may provide the inspiration that you need to spark-up your own activity in this year's event ... from what I can tell, this year will be bigger and busier than ever!
There is also a dedicated NRR Group, often the source of much valuable discussion but there is a now HUGE group of great NRR chat and activity now on Facebook's NRR Group here. I avoided Facebook for many years and have now discovered that it is an excellent forum for real time chat and information exchange ... one can still choose to maintain a very low profile and avoid unwanted interaction if set up correctly.
If you have access to the web while operating, be sure to bookmark and check into the NRR's realtime chat page. Many ops that are crystal controlled will announce their operating frequencies, making it easier for you to find them ... sometimes way up or down from the normal NRR watering holes of ~ 3550 - 3650 kHz, 7100 -7125 kHz, 21.100 - 21.150 MHz and 28.114, 28.120 MHz ... and don't forget to check the colorburst crystal frequency of 3579!
'CQ'ers should always remember to tune up and down the watering hole for replies from other NRR stations that may be crystal controlled and not able to answer you on your own frequency!! This is extremely important and a real reminder of what was common practice back in the Novice days.
|courtesy: Harry - VE7AIJ|
You still have time to get that old clunker on the air but if that's not possible, you can join the fun with your modern rig as well ... all are welcome to jump in and have a great week of radio-fun. I think you will be surprised, just as I was last year, how good some of these old classics can sound ... and you'll hear some great bug-fists as well.
The NRR once again provided many notable highlights over the nine day event.
Almost topping the list was just experiencing the variety of old classics and hearing how well almost all of them sounded. Numerous Knight T-60s, Drake 2NTs, Heath DX-40s, Johnson Adventurers and Eico 720s, along with a nice variety of homebrew MOPAs and one-tube power oscillators graced the nightly airwaves. These oft-forgotten shelf-queens always seem to develop super-powers, far beyond their expectations, when the NRR rolls around!
I was really surprised to work so many T-60s, a small and inexpensive 60 watt transmitter kit from 1962 using a popular 6DQ6 television sweep tube ... one never expected to achieve such RF greatness! I was very impressed with every one that I heard.
What radio-struck pre-Novice teen, dreaming about getting on the air, could resist a clever ad like this.
Scott, KA9P's 80m T-60 signal sounded as sweet as it looks in his NRR setup, paired with his Heathkit HR-10B inhaler.
|KA9P NRR station with RAF Vulcan bomber Type 51 hand pump|
Right up there with the plethora of T-60s was the Drake 2NT, another great sounding radio and also my choice for this year's event. My summer refurbishing project, described here, proved a worthy companion, although my much-treasured VF-1 VFO's short term drift probably had my 2NT getting red in the face whenever I took her off of crystal control to scurry around the band, seeking out the CQ'ers. I've had a love-hate relationship with the VF-1 ever since buying my first one back in '63!
|VE7SL NRR with 2NT, VF-1 and my Original '63 Vibroplex|
Yet another 2NT packed a powerful punch from West Virginia, keyed by Dave, W3NP, when we exchanged 579 reports on 40m, 45 minutes before sunset.
|W3NP - NRR setup|
|K2YWE's Globe Scout and Adventurer were worked on all three bands!|
My NRR exchanges with George, N3GJ (KA3JWJ) in Pennsylvania, truly demonstrated just how well the low bands were performing. More than an hour before my local sunset, I responded to his 569 40m 'CQ NRR' only to learn that his signal, now reaching a solid 579, was coming from an original Ameco AC-1! This one-tube crystal-controlled power oscillator has, over the years, reached Holy Grail status among many amateurs. Originals are guarded like precious jewels and handed down from father to son ... or in George's case, from uncle to nephew!
|N3GJ and his all powerful original AC-1|
I was astounded at the strength of George's signal and before exchanging '73's added 'CUL on 80', not really thinking how low the chances of that might really be. Two hours later, his even stronger 'CQ NRR' was heard on 80m, as his 579 signal flirted with reaching S8 ... all emanating from just a low hanging inverted-V. It's nights like this that remind me how I was bitten by the radio bug so many years ago and to have them coincide with the NRR was an added bonus. I've rated my contacts with George's AC-1 the highlight of this year's NRR for me!
Heathkits were plentiful too, with the DX-60 seeming to be the rig of choice, often paired with the matching HG-10 VFO. Both Mark, VA7MM and Gary, W8PU, packed a wallop with these fine examples.
|VA7MM - NRR|
|W8PU - NRR set-up|
But it wasn't just DX-60s representing Benton Harbor engineering in the NRR. All of these neat old Heaths made it out to the west coast, sometimes on both 40 and 80. KN8RHM's (Rick) HW-16 made it here on 40m with a solid signal almost every night, while KE4OH (Steve) sported a modernized DX-20 in the form of Heath's HX-11. Steve even received the highly-treasured 'OO' report for his NRR chirp ... good job!
|KN8RHM - HW-16 NRR set-up|
|KE4OH - HX-11 NRR station|
Not to be forgotten was the ubiquitous DX-40, used by several, including this proud old warhorse, lovingly keyed by Doug, N3PDT.
|N3PDT - DX-40 NRR transmitter|
Rich, WN7NRR / AG5M operating in nearby Washington state put some of his 44 crystals to work with his HW-16 ... that's some collection!
|WN7NRR - HW-16 NTT set-up|
It seems that many NRRers are as adept with a soldering iron as they are with a hand key, as several homebrew transmitters were worked from here as well.
Howie, WB2AWQ in Reno, was using his homebrew pair of 807s, driven with a Millen 90700 swing-arm VFO from 1945. Most shacks worldwide, including the Novices, found plenty of use for the 807 as they were dirt-cheap in the post war surplus market. The filament has a beautiful illumination and if a bit gassy as most are by now, emit a wonderous blue glow with each press of the key.
|WB2AWQ - 807s|
|KD7JG's 1625 NRR mainstay|
K4IBZ down in Florida also utilized the magical 6DQ6 sweep tube in his homebrew rig for 80 and 40m. Bill was worked on both bands from here with his 10 watts receiving a 569 on both contacts.
|K4IBZ's 10 watter|
AA8V, Greg in Maryland, used an LM-13 war surplus frequency meter to drive a popular Novice pairing of the 6AG7 / 6146 at 90W input ... good enough for a 579 report on 40m, 30 minutes before my sunset.
|AA8V's homebrew NRR stack|
|VE3BDV / VE3AWA - 50C5 Bare - Essentials power oscillator|
As indicated on the NRR website, this is "more of an EVENT than just a typical contest ... once again taking our OLD ham radios off the shelf and putting them to use again! "
Steve McDonald, VE7SL, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from British Columbia, Canada. Contact him at [email protected].
Ham College episode 74 is now available for download.
Extra Class Exam Questions – Part 12.
E3A Electromagnetic waves: Earth-Moon-Earth communications, meteor scatter, microwave tropospheric and scatter propagation, aurora propagation, ionospheric propagation changes over the day, circular polarization.
George Thomas, W5JDX, is co-host of AmateurLogic.TV, an original amateur radio video program hosted by George Thomas (W5JDX), Tommy Martin (N5ZNO), Peter Berrett (VK3PB), and Emile Diodene (KE5QKR). Contact him at [email protected].
As part of my work with the ICQ Podcast, I have regularly interviewed the current CEO of the ARRL as a feature. On Episode 345 that will drop this Sunday (Feb 27, 2021 Central Time), I interview both the CEO, David Minster NA2AA, and the President, Rick Roderick K5UR. I heartily encourage you to listen to the interview as well as the full Episode.
In the past, I’ve had critical comments regarding how the League’s HQ “works” when I felt things needed calling out. This might have been from my own analysis or from the input of podcast listeners, fellow hams, and those who know that I’m a low-level flunky for the Delta Division as an Assistant Director. Most ALL of these criticisms have come from an sense that the management—whether elected, paid or volunteers—of League services was inward-looking rather than outward-looking at members’ needs. And, would-be members. One can see this culture in the often-heard (including from me) use of the descriptor, “not invented here,” about some position or action taken by the Board or CEO. It’s also a frequent reason that many say they are no longer members. It has led to a membership of about 150,000 of the more than 750,000 licensed amateurs in the United States. Moreover, it puts the “no” in innovation!
I want to reproduce one paragraph from David’s January 2021 Second Century column in QST as follows:
I read this as a direct attempt at change in the organizational culture in Newington. Clearly, David recognizes a fundamental limitation. Indeed, in my interview with both David and Rick, this is the clear directive that is being operationalized at HQ since David’s arrival. President Roderick is fully on board with this direction. He is a labor lawyer by day and former member of management in the business world so Rick is very aware of how an organization’s culture affects most every operation it conducts. From what I hear from Board members, most if not all of the Board sanctions this change, too.
As a Life Member, I can be really excited about the changes I’m already seeing in my interactions with League HQ. It’s a sign of things to come, I truly hope. I know, we’ve heard some of this before with two of the recent CEOs. But David NA2AA discloses some major new implementations in Newington that will further enhance interactions with members. The League’s some 150,000 members reflect an incredible array of skills and talents that, if identified, could be engaged to do things on behalf of the ARRL and the membership. Things that this modestly-capitalized non-profit organization could never afford to purchase. Just listen to Eric 4Z1UG’s QSO Today interviews of the many hams with amazing talents for just a smidgen of the talent pool.
The lack of both a mechanism to identify the talent among it’s membership and an internal culture that does not recognize what it can contribute, negate the hidden assets that are present in the volunteer-driven non-profit membership. And it saps the strength of what the staff in Newington alone can accomplish as they can become over-burdened with burn-out. That tends to always result in a culture of “no” as a go-to respite from the limits of a staff. Let’s just say it’s the equivalent of the “get off my lawn” response that we old geezers adopt some time when we don’t engage with our neighbors in positive ways. It’s a real thing in organizations and I believe that David gets it. Moreover, he’s doing something about it as he articulates in my interview.
As a sociologist who has studied both volunteer organizations and business operations as a consultant, these organizational changes make me optimistic about seeing them yielding a set of outcomes that reflect what a membership-oriented non-profit should be about. David’s statements about inclusion directly tie into the assets among the membership’s talent pool. Every request cannot result in a “Yes,” but making that the default setting is a fundamental shift in the right direction.
I hope you’ll join us for Episode 345 of the ICQ Podcast after it drops on Sunday. Listen for yourself and assess it on your end. The interview is less than 30 minutes in length but as our slogan reads: come for a moment, stay for an hour!
Frank Howell, K4FMH, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Mississippi, USA. Contact him at [email protected].
We all have Elmers in this hobby through one medium or another. I’ve certainly been blessed with a number of them. I’ve tried to be an Elmer to a number of others, too. We get Elmering through other means besides in-person discussions, of course, as various social media platforms—especially Youtube—has exploded with how-to videos and such. Some Elmers are now charging for their premium educational services! But Elmering as an activity is rarely a monolithic endeavor as very few hams tend to “know it all,” although every reader can name a few on QRZ.com or eHam.net who seem to be legends in their own mind.
I’m talking here about one Elmer helping explain something about the hobby over a period of time where the learner becomes more competent in that subject matter within the scope of the hobby. It’s entirely likely that the learning ham can give back to specific Elmers on another aspect of the diverse hobby that is amateur radio. I’ve tried to do that in spots where it was clear that I could. Here is one recent example.
Thomas N5WDG is a local ham who is an RF network engineer at a three-letter cellular company. He holds the E.E. from Mississippi State University and an MBA from Millsaps College. We’ve been friends for almost a decade now, having many overlapping social network connections. He’s one of the go-to folks for repeaters in the Jackson MS area. I have learned a great deal from him about repeaters, installations, and RF testing in general. As I’ve been building my RF Lab, he’s been a constant source of information and advice. But when I recently built a small jig to simply hold two wires for my soldering platform, I thought I’d just build another for N5WDG, too. After texting him to blindly ask what he was using for a soldering position in his home workbench, he sent back a picture very familiar to most all hams who have ever attended a hamfest or visited Radio Shack back in the day.
He said it has served him well. I’m sure it has as it has me (cheap hamfest model with small magnifying glass) and thousands of other hams and makers over the decades. When I sent him a return text showing him a jig that I’d made and would give one to him soon, he make positive comments about the soldering platform in the background, something I built a few years ago. Hmm. Here’s a chance to give something back to one of my Elmers! And, there’s ice on the ground outside, I’m hold up at home, and I’ve got stuff in my junk-box.
Steel Soldering Platform
So over a few days, I built a version of a steel soldering platform that uses magnets for everything attached on top with four metal feet on the bottom. Instant heat sink for even a 500 watt soldering iron or gun job! The one on my workbench is a 12″ x 12″ square of thin steel but I only had an 8″ x 12″ remnant in my junk-box. The picture below illustrates the various aids I included on Thomas’ soldering platform.
All aids except the Aven circuit board holder have magnets on the bottom to put them where needed and removal entirely when desired.
Two of the two-wire jigs were included since we all lose one sooner or later, right? The medical clamps are mainly for temporary heat sinks. I’ve melted either insulation or plastic portions of switches so many times that I always attach one of these clamps near the solder joint so as to isolate the heat dispersal. Works better than I imagined!
There are four “helping hands” purchased from Quadhands.com (and on Amazon). I’ve homebrewed several aids like this but their price point is close enough to make it just worth going with theirs. They come in various lengths but these are the 12″ versions. In fact, I noticed when I bought these arms that Quadhands now actually makes a metal soldering platform with four of these helping hands for just over $50USD.
There is a knitting dowel on the upper left with a round magnet glued on the bottom. This is for winding toroids, except for the very small ones. Put the doughnut toroid on the top and let it find it’s own place on the pole. Wind your wire through by sliding the toroid up just enough to let the wire pass. I’ve not then had the wire move very much before I measure the toroid with an LC-meter or something. Then gently remove it for applying “Q dope” if you use that to hold the wire in place.
The small staging vice has four magnets glued on the bottom (using epoxy). I got these neat little (used) devices from Marlon P. Jones in Florida where I also bought various magnets used in the build. They are very useful to hold various parts like copper-clad board and other parts while soldering things to them.
There is a small rectangular magnet on the upper right (I’m right-handed) but it can be placed anywhere. It’s to hold down a round tin of soldering tip paste so that it doesn’t move around, a real nuisance when when you’re chasing it with a hot soldering iron!
The soldering jigs were made from a magnet bar from MPJ along with alligator clips from eBay and a metal screw. The magnet bar has a shallow steel U-shaped cover for the three Neodymium Rare Earth Magnet squares inside. This means that they stick lick heck to the steel platform! I matched a carbon steel drill to the hole in the magnet before using my drill press to drill through the steel on each end magnet. A Dremel tool with a cone shaped steel grinding bit was used to debur the hole on the steel case side and to enlarge it very slightly so that the fitting end of each alligator clip would slide snugly through the hole. I screwed in a Phillips-head metal screw from the magnet side into the alligator clip so that the screw would wedge the clip into the hole without allowing it to work it’s way out. Then, on to grinding off the screw’s head so that it would be flat on the steel platform surface. After doing that using the Dremel tool’s steel grinding bit, I put a bit of Gorilla tape over the magnet side and trimmed it with an Exacto knife so that the bottom of the steel case and magnets would not chip the paint on the steel platform.
Here’s a word to the wise. I should have used a Dremel cutting bit to just but off the screw heads. That would have left just a minor grinding job to get the remaining screw tip flat with the magnet’s surface. But no! I had to grind them off. Remember that there are magnets? The shavings don’t just fall away but stick to the magnet. And if you absentmindedly just use your fingers to wipe the shards away, you get what’s in the picture below. Do not attempt to replicate this step, LOL! Use a cloth, work gloves or strong compressed air.
Finally, the Aven circuit board holder has some competitors but it’s fairly inexpensive on Amazon, works superbly, and the rubber feet tend to have some suction to them which holds things in place for the most part. I could have substituted magnets for the rubber feet but decided not to do that here.
Setup and Build Steps
Here’s the setup and build process. I’ve seen a number of other homebrew builds over the past few years so not much of this is my own invention. Perhaps the exact organization of the aids but that’s not anything to jump up and down about. They just reflect what I’ve found I can use to “do stuff” involving a soldering iron or gun on my workbench.
The 1/8″ steel base is 8″ x 12″ in size. I buy most of my metal materials like this from an eBay vendor with the ID of quality_metals out of Chicago. Good price but can be slow to ship on occasion. I rub any oil off of it which many sellers spray on to reduce rust. I always use a Dremel tool to round the corners just a bit so they don’t injure someone (me) in use. I debur the edges too. Dremel has so many fittings that I use for building. The metal grinding tools come in many, many different sizes and grades, especially for use in jewelry making. Once this step is done. I put down a paint drop cloth (old bed sheet usually) to prevent over-spray. I like Rust-oleum’s Hammered Spray Paint (I buy this at Lowes), applying a light coat on the top, letting it dry completely, and then one on the bottom. Once both are dry, I use a common heat gun on the low setting to “bake” the paint on a bit before applying a second coat. Drying and another bake session completes the job. This coating I’ve found makes the solder drips cool almost instantly without adhering to the steel platform, wiping off much like dust after a job is completed.
At this point, I mark the four corners on the bottom for attaching round metal feet. I’ve been using those in the picture below, cutting off the metal spike (nail) that is used to attach these feet to wood chair legs. After removing the spike, I outline the remaining rubber side that will be glued to the steel platform base. Using a Dremel tool, I remove the Rust-Oleum paint where the rubber side of the metal foot will attach and apply epoxy mixed on the spot of the metal. Then, clamps are applied to keep the foot and base together for the expoxy to cure overnight. (It took longer because of the sub-freezing temps in the area.) Rough up both the rubber on the foot and the metal circle where the epoxy will be applied for a better seal.
I’ve detailed how I built the two-wire soldering jigs above. I went with commercial products for the helping hands (instead of the mechanical arms I used on my platform earlier) and the circuit board holder (Aven, as I did on my own platform). The knitting dowel was purchased at a local art store and the magnet was glued on it’s wooden base using Gorilla glue. The medical clamps were bought a a pack of 12 on eBay a few years ago. They are widely available. This set of soldering aids can be used mix-and-match depending on the project or task. I keep the helping hands on mine all the time but store the Aven holder until there’s a circuit board in the project. While I have other tools used in soldering, stored on a metal magnet bar underneath the shelves above my workbench, this set is what I’ve found to be useful. The magnets make this very versatile. I prefer them instead of mounting the helping hands using nuts-and-bolts.
Thomas N5WDG seemed thrilled to receive this surprise gift. I was pleased that he was. The circuit of Elmering was complete. And perhaps Elmering in amateur radio should be more like that. To really learn something well, it’s said to teach it. Learning from an Elmer should inspire a ham to return the favor when it’s appropriate. I am happy to give back to one of mine.
Frank Howell, K4FMH, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Mississippi, USA. Contact him at [email protected].
|USS North Carolina |
This weekend is both the North and South Carolina QSO parties and my plans are to take part in both contests. It's a nice way to spend a bit of the weekend with the South Carolina QSO party on Saturday and the North Carolina QSO party on Sunday.
Mike Weir, VE9KK, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from New Brunswick, Canada. Contact him at [email protected].