Author Archive

Over and (not quite) Out – KN4AQ and HamRadioNow

[this blog entry originally… well, seconds ago… appeared as a QLOG blog post on the HamRadioNow.tv web site]

If you watched all of HamRadioNow 377, BS#11: ARRL, CQ, Happy New Year you saw my most direct statement that I’m going to leave the show in the hands of my co-host (now full host) David Goldenberg W0DHG. Thanks for the many comments about the show so far, and the ‘don’t go’ requests.

When I finished that show, I felt kind of sad. I’d be sadder if it were really my last show, but I’ll be around a while longer. I’ve committed to go to Orlando in February with a booth in Commercial 3, and I’m planning on a SIB (Studio In a Booth) there. It’ll be nicer than tent city in Xenia. I’m also planning on going to Dayton to shoot some forums, but no booth. Maybe a little tour. The 2018 TAPR DCC in September will depend on a pretty expensive KICKSTARTER (I’m guessing $8000) that I’ll run in June.*

David is getting close to finishing the ‘West Coast Studio’ and being able to run shows on his own. Then the show will take his direction entirely. I’ll be happy to show up as a co-host now and then, but I’m eager to see how David develops as an ‘on-air talent’. It will put him on level ground with most of the other ‘HamCasters’ out there who didn’t come from a professional media background. Only a few did – I’m thinking of Don Wilbanks AE5DW (Ham Nation and Newsline), Valerie Hotzfeld NV9L (Ham Nation), Cale Nelson K4CDN (Ham Radio 360), Neil Rapp WB9VPG (HamTalkLIVE), and some more of the Newsline contributors and anchors who don’t do podcasts. I probably missed a few, and OK, that’s more than I thought, but there are a lot of shows out there by ‘amateur amateurs’.

As I mentioned on the episode, I’ve got plans for a show that’s not ham radio related. My own background started in the ‘general media’ broadcast biz, with stints on-air at several radio stations. I always preferred doing that, but always made a far better living with my video and audio production talent than my on-air talent. I almost got hired to do a talk show out of WMBD radio in Peoria IL in 1986. I could have been Rush Limbaugh instead of Rush Limbaugh, and the whole political landscape could be different today. So it was my fault. OK, dream on, and Rush started his talk show in Sacramento CA in 1984, so I would have had some catching up to do. I didn’t take that job, and it’s a longish story. But coulda woulda.

As I dipped my toe into producing some ham radio videos, I didn’t appear on-camera much. I did short on-camera intros for The Last Big Field Day and Digital Voice for Amateur Radio DVDs, but the rest was voice-over, with the usual ‘invisible producer’ interviews. Even my first Hamvention Tour DVDs starting in 2007 used Jeff AC4ZO on camera more than me. It took a while to build the confidence to step into the spotlight completely.

One of my goals when I started ARVN:Amateur Radio//Video News… a clunky name that became HamRadioNow… was to get more professional video media into ham radio. At the time, ham media was mostly magazines, while video/television was seeping into corporate communications and other non-broadcast interest areas.

CQ had tried making some videos (professionally produced, and released on VHS) in the early 90’s. Video production was extremely expensive back then. A decade later, when I bought a camera and shot The Last Big Field Day, it was DIYish (after spending about $15,000 on my first camera/mic/editing system). I didn’t know it, but George W5JDX was starting AmateurLogicTV about the same time, with way cheaper gear and lower production ‘values’, and putting it on the web instead of DVD. I missed that boat for almost a decade

Before starting, I sought advice from two friends in ham media. Rich Moseson W2VU, who produced the CQ video series and went on to become CQ editor, discouraged me. He considered the CQ videos an expensive and somewhat failed experiment—failed in that they weren’t embraced by the ham community enough to be commercially profitable. Let’s put it this way: they didn’t go on to make a second series. At that time (early 90’s), video production was either really bad amateur stuff (badly shot and edited on VHS), or very expensive professional work. CQ opted for pro. I think it would have looked bad for them to do take the schlock route.

Bill Pasternack WA6ITF (SK), on the other hand, was highly encouraging. Like me, Bill (co-founder of Newsline) had longed to see ham activities documented more professionally. Newsline was a shoestring audio production. It was all volunteer, with just enough financial backing from the audience to keep it limping along year-to-year.

Bill was also part of the team that produced a handful of ham radio films (yes, films), with Roy Neal K6DUE and Dick Van Dyke, and later one with Walter Cronkite, mostly a labor-of-love with modest financial support from the ARRL. As a broadcast video engineer, Bill saw ‘pro-sumer’ video equipment getting better and cheaper, but he was frustrated that the Amateur Radio Today video he produced with Cronkite had little actual footage covering ham operation, particularly EmComm (the video focused on California fires that year, and they had to stage much of what they used). Bill dedicated one of his Town Hall forums at Dayton to encouraging hams to shoot and edit video with the new tools whenever and wherever they could, especially during EmComm operations. So far, that’s not happening.

Bill believed that someone with my technical background could maybe pull it all together. I miss Bill. I was looking forward to many more BS episodes with him on HamRadioNow.

Neither Rich nor Bill was fully right or wrong. Production get did get cheap enough that I could produce videos that looked as good as CQ’s series for probably 10% of their cost. But the ham community still did not embrace them enough to make them a business. My goal (and Bill’s hope) was for a program that could document and present ham radio professionally, both for ham ‘internal consumption’ and to provide grist for the general media mill to tell our story. It wasn’t happening.

Ham Nation appeared on the TWiT network in 2011. Bob Heil brought in one of Ham Radio’s biggest ‘stars’, Gordon West WB6NOA, and asked me to guest-host when he was on the road. Then he discovered George W5JDX from his Amateur Logic series. I suggested they try to incorporate Newsline into the program with a short peek at upcoming headlines, and initially Bob Sudock WB6FDF did the job (but it was never ‘upcoming’ headlines. It was and still is leftovers from the previous week. Have I mentioned that video production takes time?). Bob had health problems, and the Newsline job fell to Don Wilbanks AD5DW. Don’s a total pro, and quickly became a regular part of the full show. I’ll say that Don ‘took my job’ as guest host and leave the long story at that.

I’m gonna also say that in some ways Ham Nation ruined ham radio’s chance at the professional production Bill Pasternack and I had hoped for. The popular show sucked much of the air out of the room for ham media with a low-production-value happy-talk style that put ‘amateur’ back in ‘amateur’ (OK, it never really left). They do some Skype interviews, sometimes newsworthy and sometimes really interesting, but never hard-hitting. They get some videos contributed by viewers with variable quality (and for the ‘big’ show, they don’t get flooded with videos). The most popular segments are about building stuff, a ham staple that lots of other shows rely on and I’ve stayed mostly away from (my Episode 82: Dipole with over 32,000 views is among my most popular, so no, I don’t learn lessons). We don’t know how popular Ham Nation really is because TWiT doesn’t release statistics. Their YouTube channel shows view counts in the 2 to 4k range (with spikes above that), but YouTube is only one outlet, and if that’s just a fraction of the viewers and listeners, we’re looking at 10k or more… maybe in the 20 to 30k range.

TX Factor

There is one show out there that does produce very professional ham media: TX Factor. It’s a British production that began in February 2014. While they cover the usual ham stuff, they do it in a magazine show style (three to five segments in their 40 to 60-minute show… they’ve been getting longer…) that are all shot on location, edited and packaged. It’s a lot of work, as evidenced by the fact that in four years they’ve produced only 19 episodes. They also shy away from controversy, though they’ll occasionally note that something is a bit off here and there.

ARRL… QST-V?

I didn’t intend to do a full media review when I started writing this blog entry, but I should mention the League’s lack of participation. They’ve made a few video programs in addition to equipment reviews and now the Doctor Is In podcast (excellent, by the way). But they’ve never built a TV studio or produced a regular video program, even though they concentrate almost everything going on in ham radio in one building in Newington (and could Skype in the rest). Nor do they go out of their way to get their staff to appear as guests on the many talk-format shows out there. I was able to get some of their leadership on HamRadioNow for a while, but that seems to have stopped when I proved not to be a reliably friendly venue.

Money is a issue at HQ, but I’ll just say that if I can do it with my limited, individual resources, it’s not the main issue. Clearly they don’t see value… a cost/benefit calculation. At least not yet.

Meanwhile I have seen some good stuff from the RSGB (with help from TX Factor). Nothing regular yet, but more than the League has done.

The one area that has consistently produced high-quality video programs are the ones coming from DXpeditions. Not all are top notch, but Bob Allphin K4UEE and James Brooks 9V1Y have led the field in all amateur radio video production. And I’m not saying that just because I edited Bob’s Navassa DXPedition video. And sorry, they’re not online. You gotta buy the DVDs (a few of the old ones have found their way to YouTube). You can watch James’ excellent WRTC 2014 documentary online. That this is the case shows where the money is in ham radio media.

So as my car on the HamRadioNow train approaches the terminal, I’ll say that it’s been very rewarding (emotionally, not financially). I look back over the nearly 400 shows (over 400, if you count the many multi-part episodes), I can’t believe where I got the ambition to do it. And I’m generally happy (sometimes very happy) with my ‘performance’ on-camera. Happier than most of you are, it seems. It is a vanity and ego-driven business, after all. I’m sorry I didn’t get to do what I set out to do – the documentary style programs that TX Factor does – here in the US. I’m sorry that nobody in ham radio has found a way to make a business out of ham video, and maybe the hobby is just too small for that. Maybe it’s just not possible, and all our ‘new’ media will continue to be in the DIY/vanity category.

But I’m not sorry I tried. If I hadn’t done this, I probably wouldn’t have tried doing what’s next.

73, Gary KN4AQ

*And I’ll leave it to motivated TAPR enthusiasts to promote and make the KICKSTARTER successful. It’s not that I don’t want to go, but at this point it will be a business proposition that covers expenses and editing (highly discounted editing). Think of it as you’re hiring me to do it, not that I’m just asking for some support.

HamRadioNow: Amateur Television (ATV)… Digital to the Rescue?

When broadcast television began to get big, back in the ’50s, the pundits predicted that it would kill radio. It didn’t, of course, because radio changed to serve its market in different ways (music, news and talk replaced soaps and serials). But TV did quickly become the 8000 pound gorilla … despite a recent radio industry group’s campaign saying that people spend more time with radio than TV today.

Television (or video) has existed in ham radio for a few decades. But for us, it’s still a very niche mode, practiced by a relative handful of hams. Despite all my television/video experience and all the video equipment I’ve accumulated for HamRadioNow.tv, I’ve never had much interest in ATV. Some local guys have had an ATV repeater on and off for a while, but I didn’t catch their bug. Of course, I spend very little time at home on the air. 90% of my operating time is mobile. But lots of hams do spend time on the air from the shacks, on radio.

So why hasn’t video been embraced by the masses?

Equipment is probably one reason. Until recently, hams have used mostly the same analog AM video mode as broadcast television did BD (Before Digital in 2009). A little off-the-shelf equipment has been available. Not that expensive, but not an impulse-buy, either. Getting it on the air was a little challenging. Broadcast TV runs hundreds of kilowatts with antennas on 1000’+ towers. Hams discover that when you spread ham-style signals out from a couple of kHz of SSB or FM to cover 6 MHz (the bandwidth of an AM TV signal), those signals sputter out pretty fast (but, as my guest on this show will point out, not that fast!). Repeaters help, but there are only a few repeaters around. And there’s certainly no large group of hams on the air to help pull you in. You have to decide that this is an edge you want to sit on.

Digital to the rescue? Broadcast TV was required to switch from analog to digital over a decade ago. Ham TV wasn’t required to, but some hams discovered and repurposed some relatively inexpensive digital equipment and discovered that digital ATV was better than analog in many ways (better picture, lower bandwidth, high definition, and at least not more expensive… maybe cheaper). They mostly don’t use the same digital that broadcast TV does in the USA. The digital equipment available allows for a variety of modes and schemes, adapted from cable-TV, satellite broadcast, microwave link and European broadcast digital TV.  And, btw, in a year or two the USA will change to a totally different digital video system, but that’s another story.

The digital stuff has made ATV repeaters easier, and  it’s made operating way more flexible. Analog ATV worked pretty much with a camera pointed at the ham’s face. You could maybe play back a VHS tape into your transmitter, but switching and mixing video required some expensive equipment. The repeaters could repeat the input signal, and that’s all. Well, the the same digital revolution that makes HamRadioNow possible on a shoestring budget (while looking better than broadcast TV did 20 years ago) lets ATV operators become studios. And video over the Internet does the same thing for ATV that it does for D-STAR, DMR, Fusion, etc. on voice: it brings activity from around the world to the local repeater when otherwise the handful of local ops wouldn’t really sustain it.

HamRadioNow has covered many TAPR DCC talks on digital ATV over the past decade. Yes, the first were this talk by Ken Konechy W6HHC (very technical) and this talk by Art Towslee WA8RMC (more operational) back in 2009. Seems like ancient history, but Art says they’d had digital on their ATV repeater in Columbus OH for 5 years . For more, dig out this YouTube Playlist and scroll to Episodes 127, 168, 169, 227, 284!

This year, we talked to digital guru Mel Whitten K0PFX and ATV Quarterly magazine editor Mike Collins WA6SVT in our thunderstorm prone SIB* tucked back in Tent City at the 2017 Dayton Hamvention®. The conversation is mostly aimed at hams who have never (and may never) operated ATV, but wouldn’t mind being informed about the subject. That’s plus or minus (OK, all plus) some ATV jargon that’s hard to avoid when talking to geeks.

Will this ‘new’ digital ATV finally create a mass migration to video? OK, I don’t think so. Maybe for the same reason we still make phone calls instead of ‘video calls’ on Skype, Duo, Facebook and Facetime (etc. etc.). We don’t want to have to look pretty for the camera. Hey, don’t call me on video right now! I’m still in my sweats and I haven’t showered yet. I’m not ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille.

*Studio In a Booth

HamRadioNow: Ham Radio 8.0

What will Amateur Radio – and radio in general – look like in the future? And maybe not that far in the future. Say 5 or 10 years?

At this year’s ARRL & TAPR Digital Communications Conference, two well-known hams in satellite and microwave circles made that question the focus of their Sunday Seminar talk. The Sunday Seminar at the DCC is a four hour ‘deep dive’ into a single topic, from 8 AM to noon on the final day of the three-day conference. The Friday and Saturday sessions are all 45-minute talks, and while they can get pretty technical, they’re still more overviews of their subject matter. This year’s conference was in September 2016 in St. Petersburg FL.

The two hams are Michelle Thompson W5NYV and Dr. Bob McGwier N4YH. It’s hard to reduce their session to a short summary, but I’ll try. If you want more, I recorded the whole thing on video for HamRadioNow Episode 276, and there’s an 11-minute synopsis video at the bottom of this essay. I actually recorded the whole conference, as I have since 2008, and I’m releasing each talk as a HamRadioNow episode as I get them produced.

By the way, Ham Radio 8.0 is my title, not theirs. The official title of the Sunday Seminar is Spectrum: It’s the Frequency Crunch for Real. And that gets closer to the heart of their subject.

So, the short story: out there in the real world, spectrum is in short supply. It’s been that way for a long time, but it’s getting more and more critical, especially in UHF and the microwaves as wireless broadband (4G, 5G, WiFi, etc.) needs more and more space. And yet it’s being used inefficiently. Blocks of spectrum are assigned to services as if they are city blocks of land. Yet those services don’t use every bit of the spectrum they’re given all the time.

Starting about now, software defined, cognative radios can be designed to work together, to cooperate on frequency, mode, bandwidth and spectrum to each get their message through using whatever they need to do it. I’m going to take a paragraph break here because the previous sentence is the heart of the story. So much so that I’m going to repeat it, in bold type, and turn it blue:

 Starting about now, software defined, cognative radios can be designed to work together, to cooperate on frequency, mode, bandwidth and spectrum to each get their message through using whatever they need to do it.

We’ve got the technology. We just need the plan (and the will). The plan part is being spurred on by the DARPA Spectrum Collaboration Challenge. That’s the same DARPA that brought you cool stuff like the Internet. Your tax dollars at work. The will part… well, that probably comes from government and industry running up against a wall and finding they have no other choice.

Where does ham radio come in? Bob N4YH is Chief Scientist at the Hume Center for National Security and Technology at Virginia Tech. He’s way up there in advanced academic circles. And he mixes that up with ham radio as much as he can, encouraging students to become hams because that opens up some unique paths for experimentation. We can do almost anything we want with our allocations across the radio spectrum at will, without asking anyone’s permission. Bob expects (hopes?) that our more technically savvy hams will take on that DARPA challenge and lead the way into this brave new world.

So where does your ham radio come in, assuming you’re not one of our most technically savvy hams ready to lead the way? I think you’ll enjoy hearing Michelle and Bob wind their way around this subject, and this is really just the start, so the discussion begins here. Government and industry need this to keep communications moving forward. Bob’s take is that ham radio needs it to survive into a new generation of hams – hams who are attracted to technical challenges of the future, not legacy operation of the past (and the present). That is not going to sit well with today’s older ham gentry. We like our CW and SSB, and even our PSK 31 (and WSPR – HamRadioNow Episode 277 is on using a Raspberry Pi and a TAPR shield kit as a WSPR beacon). Bob readily admits that this is the End of Amateur Radio As We Know It. And the beginning of an Amateur Radio that we won’t recognize.

Here’s the 11-minute version. The full talk in Episode 276 runs about 3 hours (which I break up into three parts). That’s a serious time commitment, even for something this entertaining and important. Maybe the audio version will help, so HamRadioNow is available as an audio podcast you can download onto your phone.

VHF/UHF Digital Voice – a peek into the future

Digital Voice on VHF/UHF is clearly here to stay. Even though the mainstream manufacturers are supporting it (their own version of it), it’s still fairly niche now. It will grow. But what’s it going to look like in the near future?

As things have developed, we have several walled gardens: D-STAR, DMR, P-25, C4FM (Yaesu System Fusion), and a little NXDN. As NW Digital’s John Hays K7VE has said in talks at several ham gatherings, they are “95% the same, and 100% incompatible.” They all rely on the same AMBE vocoder to encode and decode the digital voice, but they all package it differently.

I’ve been living in a bit of an alternate reality, thanks to shooting video at the ARRL/TAPR Digital Communications Conferences and at some of the more esoteric forums at Dayton and other hamfests. In that universe – actually more of a future than a present – we don’t have to choose which closed system we want to buy into. We don’t have to carry three or four handhelds around to cover all the modes, and hope our belt is strong enough to keep our pants up (and guaranteeing a feature spot on HamSexy). We can operate a single radio that can run all the DV modes, along with analog FM.

That radio doesn’t exist today, but it will.

Bruce Perens K6BP and Chris Testa KD2BMH have been working on a radio they eventually calledKatena, an SDR designed for any mode you could stuff into it (FM, SSB, various digital voice modes), but especially a version of FreeDV for VHF/UHF – a little different than the FreeDV used on HF. The radio would use the open source CODEC2 vocoder for FreeDV, and it could also use the AMBE chip (or derived software… Bruce has been looking into getting around AMBE patents) to do the other modes.

You can follow the progress of the Katena (originally called Whitebox – as opposed to black box, because it’s all open source) in various HamRadioNow videos, starting with Chris Testa’s initial presentation at the 2012 DCC in Atlanta. That’s Episode 44, A Practical Handheld SDR, on YouTube at https://youtu.be/YrbmlP1M1AI. I’ll list the string of videos that cover this topic at the end of this post.

Chris and Bruce have laid it all out there, so it’s a little painful to watch their talk at the 2016 Dayton Hamvention® where they admit defeat… temporarily. That’s in the newest episode, #262, at https://youtu.be/ZK_qLSKlqIY. Goodbye Katena, hello Phoenix.

Chris got as far as a 3rd generation prototype. But Chris isn’t an experienced RF engineer, and he discovered what a more seasoned RF guy might have known already, and probably from the same hard lessons. Wideband RF is very hard. As Bruce explains, making an SDR board that can transmit from DC to Daylight is possible (HackRF and others). But that doesn’t make it a transmitter. The RF it generates is dirty – it has harmonics, noise and spurs all over the place. It takes a lot of work, and filters, to clean that up. So making a radio that can transmit from, say 50 to 3000 MHz with reasonable power and good purity is a challenge. Chris’s design wasn’t up to the challenge, and he explains it in the forum.

They aren’t giving up, but they are going back to the drawing board to take advantage of newer technology (and that train isn’t going to slow down anytime soon). Bruce hopes for a prototype by the Orlando HamCation next February, but I wouldn’t hold him to that.

Meanwhile, Wireless Holdings has announced the DV4mobile, and listed some general specs on their web site. It’s pitched as a 20 Watt, 3-band mobile (144, 222 and 440) with FM plus “C4FM, D-Star, DMRplus, dPMR, P25 and NXDN (later via software update).” It will also include and LTE radio for connection to the cell network, and the software to let you keep using the digital modes through their networks the way you use the various dongles now. Wireless Holdings makes their own series of dongles for D-STAR, DMR, P-25 and Fusion, with varying capabilities. Their announcement doesn’t include FreeDV. Their development has been behind closed doors – they haven’t appeared at the DCC or given talks at hamfests.

Another company, Connect Systems, announced a multi-digital mode radio a couple years ago, and keeps pushing back the release date. They’ve been delivering popular FM/DMR radios (monoband, chose VHF or UHF).

So far, none of the big guys – ICOM, Yaesu, Kenwood or Alinco – have shown interest in making a radio that would do “the competition’s” modes. Kenwood, of course, has thrown in with ICOM on D-STAR, at least for one handheld coming out later this year. Alinco, the company that actually produced the firstdigital voice amateur radio (that went nowhere, but they did it), has yet to commit. Chinese companies are jumping on the DMR bandwagon, but none has produced either a D-STAR or Fusion radio.

The FreeDV radio is sort of a wild card. David Rowe VK5DGR, the ham who developed the free, open-source CODEC2, is working on a radio for FreeDV (and FM). He’s calling it the SM-2000. Bruce talks about it a little in the Dayton forum, and David has published some details on his blog, but it hasn’t crossed over to any kind of polished marketing. I found a recent video of David detailing it on YouTube: https://youtu.be/sg08zgiSFG8. It’s a fairly terrible video with bad audio (mic on camera in the back of the room, so full of reverb), but the information is worth the pain.

He begins with a review of the current FreeDV system for HF Digital Voice. The new VHF stuff starts about 5 minutes in. At about 12 minutes you’ll hear the most amazing comparison of FM and DV I’ve ever heard. The FM is too noisy to understand. The DV is solid. It turns the typical FM/DV comparison on its head. The rest is semi-deep technical stuff that hits my limit, but I get the broad strokes (and all the coughs and sneezes of the audience – I think I might catch a cold just from watching).

Bruce Perens has noted that any of the big or little manufacturers could implement FreeDV for free – it’s open source. FlexRadio has incorporated the HF version in their 6000 series. Nobody had expressed interest in the VHF version, yet. It’s pretty new. So David is developing a radio mostly as a demonstration project, but it will be something you can buy. It won’t be your main radio.

If FreeDV VHF catches on, it’ll be somewhat game changing. A bit narrower than D-STAR, it is also TDMA like DMR – it can switch between TX and RX rapidly. DMR uses that to put two ‘voice channels’ on one RF channel. David Rowe talks about building an on channel repeater that needs no duplexer. Paging Frequency Coordinators!

I would love to have a radio that can do all the digital voice modes. I would like to see what FreeDV could do to VHF/UHF operation, though I’m conflicted about the TDMA repeater concept. That could make repeaters so cheap and easy that everyone could do it… and they would! And the bands would be a mess. Part of the reason the frequency coordinators can more or less cap the number of repeaters in bands that are “full” is that repeaters are fairly difficult and expensive to build and maintain. But if David’s radios work well, that’s what’s gonna happen.

Index:

HRN 44 – Practical Handheld SDR, from the DCC https://youtu.be/YrbmlP1M1AI

HRN 149: What’s a Whitebox? https://youtu.be/WF9SK5f0NUM

HRN 193: Digital Voice is Exploding (maybe) (David Rowe interview) https://youtu.be/SmyVEwjhG_k

HRN 194: HT of the Future https://youtu.be/wq29i8gMm8c

HRN 226: K6BP – Open Hardware Challenges https://youtu.be/kE6mrwTCxus

HRN 238: ‘Front Panel’ (for the HT of the Future), from the DCC https://youtu.be/xHaYrDVYPO8

HRN 262: Digital Modes Now and for the Future https://youtu.be/ZK_qLSKlqIY

FreeDV SM2000 Presentation at Gippstech 2016 https://youtu.be/sg08zgiSFG8

Amateur Radio Parity Act… Amendments?

On February 11, the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology (chaired by Greg Walden W7EQI) voted to send HR 1301, the Amateur Radio Parity Act, forward to the full Energy & Commerce Committee. Yay! A major step, because if they’d voted it down, it would have been toast for this session (and maybe forever, if it got beat bad enough).

They passed it on a voice vote, and it appeared to be unanimous. Also Yay!

But hold on. There was one Committee member, Rep. Anna Eschoo from California, who has been wary of, if not opposed to the bill, based on lobbying she’s received from an association of HOAs (the CAI – Community Associations Institute). Her comments in the session, and those of Chairman Greg Walden and the bill’s Sponsor, Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, all referenced the need to compromise on some amendments before the bill arrives at the parent committee, and noted that there hadn’t been time to prepare new language for this “markup session” (when a bill is voted up or down).

I don’t know who’s involved in the negotiations. They’ll certainly involve the Representatives and their staffs, and probably the ARRL and CAI.

I do have a clue about what they’ll be negotiating, though. At a January 12 hearing, both ARRL and CAI filed letters with the Subcommittee, although neither group had anyone testifying in person or answering questions. The CAI’s letter contained 7 specific amendments they requested. I marked up their document with some highlighting and comments (but didn’t change or delete any of their text), and you can see it here.

So the list of amendments had been hanging around for a month, but the Subcommittee didn’t get to them before the markup session. That’s too bad, I guess. Might have been interesting to see the points discussed or debated in the Subcommittee. Instead, the discussion won’t see a lot of sunshine until the result surfaces, possibly in the full Committee. (I will be asking some questions before then. Answers?)

Here in HamRadioNow Episode 245, I’ve got video clips of the markup vote and comments by all the principles, and clips of all the Parity Act discussion from the January hearing. And I review the CAI’s document and discuss the amendments.

73, Gary KN4AQ

HamRadioNow: 60 Meters… Let’s Go Dutch

I’ll coin a phrase for a program like this: Wonkie-Talkie.

The WRC (World Radio Conference) last November ended up with a worldwide Amateur Radio 60 Meter allocation of 15 kHz. You’ll be forgiven if you thought there already was a 60 meter allocation, as many countries have authorized 60 Meter Amateur operation. But it’s never been a formal ITU deal.

But 15 kHz, with a power restriction of about 10 watts into a dipole? (Or 15 watts EIRP – an ‘isotropic radiator’ – a dipole has 2 dB gain over an isotropic radiator?) Compared to the 5 discrete SSB/CW/digital channels we have now with a 100 watt/dipole power limit…. is that a win, lose or draw?

In this Episode of HamRadioNow, ARRL Chief Technology Officer Brennan Price N4QX explains how the WRC ended up with this meager offering, and how hams in the US and other countries with maybe more spectrum and certainly more power may continue to enjoy those privileges. Or not… At the very least, the FCC won’t act on the WRC changes for some time… maybe years.

Well, it’s years if we’re gaining something, like the 137 kHz spectrum that was authorized in WRC 07, that we’re just getting rules opening it up to US hams now. But if we’re losing something?

Brennan is happier to talk about some of the defensive successes at WRC 15. If half the battle is gaining spectrum, the other half is avoiding losing it. And there were many eyes on some of our microwave allocations, but the attacks were fended off.

So, Wonkie-Talkie? You’ll also be forgiven if you drift off to work some DX on 20…. while we still have 20….

Oh, and ‘Let’s Go Dutch’? The contingent from the Netherlands strongly supported a wider allocation and 100 watt limit. They compromised down to 100 kHz, but were out-shouted (apparently there is no voting) by the “almost nothing” faction. So their government immediately authorized Dutch hams that 100 kHz/100 watts anyway.

Brennan says it’s not going to happen here in the US.

73, Gary KN4AQ

And if you don’t have time to watch, maybe you have time to listen while you commute or work out (work out? Hams? Who am I kidding?). Paste this into your podcast app: http://HamRadioNow.tv/hrn/hrnrss.xml. You’ll be subscribed to our audio download.

Friday at the ARRL & TAPR Digital Communications Conference

Back in October I headed to Chicago – HamRadioNow cameras in tow – to record the 2015 ARRL and TAPR DCC. It’s a three-day conference covering all aspects of digital Amateur Radio — digital radios that run analog modes; analog radios that run digital modes; hardware; software; operations…  On Friday and Saturday, there are usually 8 45-minute talks. There’s a banquet speaker on Saturday, and Sunday morning is a four-hour ‘deep-dive’ into a single topic.

It’s an intense weekend of shooting. Then a lot of editing to produce each talk as a separate program. I just finished uploading the 8th and final talk from Friday.

If you like high-tech, digital stuff in Ham Radio, you probably already know all about the DCC and the videos, right? Well, maybe not. Just in case, stop by my YouTube Channel: www.YouTube.com/HamRadioNow and check out Episodes 221 – 230 for this year’s shows. And to see all the DCC videos that I have online, there’s this Playlist.


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  • Matt W1MST, Managing Editor