Posts Tagged ‘hr’

Long Shadows of Summer

When I got home from work last night I quickly mowed the lawn because the weatherman said there was a sixty percent chance of rain on Saturday and Sunday and I wanted to get ahead of the game. After working in the yard I plopped down in the shack to see if I couldn’t make quick work of the W1AW/1 and W1AW/9 portable stations.

Worked them both within a whisker of each other on 40 meter CW then worked them both again later on 80 meter CW for insurance. I didn’t think the Indiana station would be difficult, but I wasn’t quite as confident about Rhode Island but all’s well that ends well and both are logged and another week of the QSO Party is behind us.

Given that the weatherman said it would probably rain, I shouldn’t have been surprised to wake up this morning to sunshine and blue skies. I swear the weather prognosticators are getting worse at their jobs even as technology has delivered into their hands unfair advantage over the elements.

Brenda says it’s because the weather has become “news” and all of them want to be the first to report a bad storm using giant touch-screens powered by super, frappa, chappa, slappa doomsday doppler radar systems.

She might be right…


Anyway, with the sun shining we hit the local farmers market early this morning and picked up more sweet corn, tomatoes, and a great big melon. And get this, the guy who was selling from the back of his melon truck, told everyone who would listen that he would be back in two weeks — with apples.

Yep, the days are ticking away and the orchards around here are near to busting with autumn goodies. Another cold snap is due to arrive here on Monday and it looks like the first few nights of August could break a few records.

Not to worry though, I’m certain there remains yet a few more days of blistering heat before Summer yields to Fall, but we’re on the backside of 2014 with school days and sweet apple cider coming up fast.

Filed under: Ham Radio, Life Tagged: cw, hr, qso

Baby Steps in the Second Century of Radio

Everyone is talking about where the hobby is going in this “Second Century” of amateur radio and big ideas are falling like rain. Here’s something fairly simple that I’d like to see come to fruition. It should go without saying that these are fictional press releases…

January 3, 2015

Chinese electronics manufacturer WunDuko announed today the immediate availability of a new VHF/UHF handheld transceiver for the amateur radio market. The device supports a thousand memory channels with alphanumeric display. The advanced communications device includes low-power Bluetooth communication permitting it to be programmed and upgraded via Bluetooth from a smartphone or personal computer. The handheld is expected to retail for $159 US.


January 4, 2015

Internet Labs today announced the availability of a suite of Android applications intended to work with the new dual-band amateur handheld from WunDuko. The software enables Bluetooth communications between a smartphone and the transceiver. One of the apps included provides easy access to the full menu of options in the handheld, including the ability to program the memory channels, via the phone interface.

One of the other apps provided in the suite enables GPS data from a capable smartphone to be transmitted periodically via the handeld transceiver while position data from the radio appears on the phone via Google Maps. A company spokeman said, “it’s the perfect mobile APRS solution. There’s no klutzy hardware interface required between the devices and no reason at all to carry multiple GPS receivers.”

He also noted that the GPS in the smartphone works regardless of having a cellular connection. “Pairing the smartphone that you carry everywhere you go with the new handheld transceiver is the kind of sensible innovation we’ve been waiting on from the Japanese manufacturers for years”.

The Android app suite is available now in the Google Play Store for $9.99 US. Look for it to also be available on iOS in the coming months.


Filed under: Ham Radio Tagged: aprs, fiction, future, hr

New Ideas for Hollywood Blockbusters

Following up on my previous post about how amateur radio is typically portrayed in movies, I thought I’d float a couple suggestions for the silver screen that include ham radio, without the need for an apocalypse…

I’ll bet not even a single director in Hollywood is aware that radio amateurs have built and launched our very own communication satellites. And not just a few — we have an entire fleet — with more heading to low earth orbit almost every month. These are frequently designed, financed, and constructed by radio amateurs with a keen interest in space communication.

And many of those who harbor that specific interest are radio hams by night and NASA employees by day. And some of those who aren’t direct employees of NASA are employed in other areas of the space industry. This insider link provides amateur radio with an unparalleled, intimate knowledge of the “business” and is responsible for much of the success we’ve obtained in this highly technical and specialized endeavor.

Well right there’s a dozen waiting story lines. Hams at NASA collude to hijack high-value satellites for amateur radio communication by hacking the system from the ground. It doesn’t take a fertile imagination to see many possible angles here, none of which would strain credulity.

But let’s dig deeper and find higher adventure.

Let’s say that a group of radio amateurs in New Zealand (better scenery to work with) built an amateur radio payload for launch. One that included onboard propulsion. That would be somewhat rare these days as we’ve taken to hand tossing payloads out of the ISS or ejecting them using powerful springs from a disposable ring that may carry dozens of small satellites with one launch. But in the halcyon days of ham radio in space, we built much larger satellites, equipped them with fuel and engines, and launched them to much higher, transfer orbits.

Say this group does the same thing.

After launch they maneuver it very near the path of some super expensive, military spy satellite and then we discover that the payload includes explosives. This group then extorts millions of dollars from governments or large corporations in exchange for not blowing up those satellites.

(If the notion of sneaking explosives onto a launch vehicle seems too far-fetched, the “amateur radio” payload could simply be maneuvered directly into the orbital path of another vehicle and kinetic energy could do the dirty work).

I’d pay to see that movie, wouldn’t you?

But there’s one other premise that seems more interesting, and one that just might tickle the fancy of a filmmaker.

Say a group of radio hams work for a company like Space-X. Intent on building and launching resupply ships to the International Space Station. And let’s suppose that a couple of them decide to ride in that supply vessel. Upon arrival, they board the station where they proceed to whip out handguns and order the current crew to evacuate back to Earth. Once they are alone on the station, they weld the other hatches permanently closed. They just “stole” the International Space Station. The biggest heist in history. Mostly for kicks but maybe to use as the premier low-earth platform for ham radio communications.

Or maybe it’s about money. Hollywood loves a good extortion plot. They could offer to abandon the stolen station for a billion dollars. Or de-orbit it over a populated region if they don’t get the money. It’s fiction, anything could happen!

And it would be nice if the leading actors had names like Clooney, Reynolds, Bullock, and Cooper…

Filed under: Ham Radio Tagged: hollywood, hr, ideas, movies

When All Else Failed

Tonight is the fourth and final night of this week’s road trip and I’ll be back home tomorrow evening. The weather has been outstanding these last few days with below average temperatures and low humidity. I’ve taken advantage of it by spending a lot of time on long walks in the neighborhoods around the hotel. Tonight, I wanted to do something a little different so I decided to take in a movie.

It’s at this point that I should back up a little, and tell you that a few days ago a friend and co-worker who knows I’m a radio amateur, told me about seeing Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and he made a point of telling me that ham radio plays a small role in the movie.

That was a good enough for me, so after work I headed directly to the Regal 16, a mammoth “cave” of sixteen theaters with enough entertainment and air conditioning under one roof to qualify as one of the many wonders of the world. Tickets for the non-3D early show at 5pm were $10.50 a pop although flashing my AARP card got me in the door for eight bucks.

It pays to get old and I’ve started taking advantage every chance I get.

The movie was a little better than just “okay” and I enjoyed it though, this isn’t a review or a spoiler. What I found most interesting was watching, and waiting, for that part that included ham radio. As the movie portrayed civilization descending into a dystopian nightmare, it wasn’t hard to see what was probably coming – ham radio as the only communications link with the “outside” world. And sure enough, that’s precisely how it played out.

In case you’re wondering, we briefly saw what appeared to be an older Kenwood transceiver, maybe a TS-820, setting on a shelf with a lot of other gear, all somehow magically connected to a computer with a display that looked like it might be running some sort of digital communication – though every call for help in the movie was done via phone.

Ham radio finds itself wrapped up in mainstream productions and attractions more often than you might think. But almost every time it’s in this same vein. Total breakdown of society that creates a world that suddenly needs ham radio. And often, though not in this particular movie, the radio operator is portrayed as some oddball nerd who couldn’t get laid with a fistful of pardons in a women’s prison.

Hollywood’s view of us is rarely, if ever, accurate. But let’s face it, we’ve spent the last several decades vociferously proclaiming ourselves to be the last link in a breaking chain when things come unglued. “When all else fails” is our mantra but I’m convinced that every time we say that, the rest of the world hears “hams are pathetic nerds who only have value in the event of Armageddon”.

If we want to be portrayed in a better light, perhaps it’s time we modify our message?

Filed under: Ham Radio Tagged: aarp, hr, movies

On the Road With D-STAR (part 2)

Part 2 of 2 

If you purchase the DHAP with the Raspberry Pi, it includes a factory image of the OS and software. Configuration is easy enough. The DVAP software is set to auto-boot so you need only configure it once. If you connect the device to a wired network connection the Pi will boot up and obtain a connection. If you want to use the device with Wi-Fi, then you have to launch the WiFi configuration tool and set up the connection.

This is only slightly tricky because it would be handy to plug in a keyboard, mouse, and the network dongle — three USB connections while the Pi only offers two. A USB hub handles the multiple connections and you’re underway. After setting it all up once, there’s no need for reconfiguration as it all just boots up and obtains a network connection without the need for additional interface.

In other words, connection to a monitor, mouse and keyboard is only required for the initial configuration. After that, the DHAP can be operated “headless”.

Unless of course you’re thinking of taking this on the road with you and would like to connect it to a hotel’s Wi-Fi. Then you’re going to need to carry the input peripherals and a monitor, or use the TV in your hotel room if that’s possible.

This is all much more than I like to carry on out of town trips which is why I tether the DHAP to my cellphone. Carrying Wi-Fi in my pocket simplifies things considerably though this brings me to a tip I’d like to pass along when using it this way.

Wi-Fi and Tethering

If you set your home Wi-Fi and your tethered connection to have the same SSID, password, and encryption method, then there is never a need to reconfigure the Raspberry Pi. One of my home wireless networks (WPA PSK2) is called ‘GUEST’ and the password is ‘lemonade’ and I’ve made those settings identical on my phone.

When I’m away from home, I tether to my phone. When I’m home, the Pi auto connects to my home Wi-Fi. Simple. Easy. Clean.

It takes about 15-20 seconds for the Pi to boot up and another 20-30 seconds for the networking to kick-in, negotiate a connection, and begin working. When you power up the DHAP, give yourself a full minute before trying to connect to it with your radio.

Powering the DHAP

The DHAP comes with a brick charger that has an LED indicator. When it’s red, the batteries are charging and when it’s green the charge cycle is complete. Silly me. I plugged it in and started using it right away. The charger went through the cycle, the LED turned green and the voltage began to drop. Though I wasn’t paying attention and several hours later my D-STAR connection was dead. When I checked on the DHAP the voltage display showed 2.2 volts — not enough to keep the Pi or the DVAP alive.

This seemed odd. The battery voltage was low but the charger LED was green. There was no charging going on for some reason and I thought I had a defective unit.

Then I discovered that the charger is fairly “dumb”. It provides one charge cycle then stops. Removing power resets it for the next charge. This works well if you charge the DHAP, then unhook it and take it in the field. If, on the other hand, you want it to just sit on the shelf at home and provide a hot-spot, you should provide power via the USB Power socket on the front panel.

This bypasses the batteries altogether and directly powers the Raspberry Pi and the DVAP. By the way, *don’t turn the unit on in this mode* — and the voltage display will show the power being supplied via a USB power supply — probably something a little less than 5 volts.

A one amp USB power supply should do the trick nicely.

Odds and Ends

It makes sense to get things working with your DVAP connected to your desktop (or laptop) computer before installing it in the DHAP. It will operate exactly the same once it’s tucked away in the enclosure.

There is a small slot in the top of the DHAP that permits you to see the activity LED’s on the DVAP. You will find this quite useful.

The tiny antenna on the DVAP works well enough but it can be replaced with a more efficient “ducky” style antenna. The DHAP comes equipped with a built-in cable that can “remote” the antenna connection to the back panel. Don’t be tempted to try and interface the DVAP to a full-sized, outdoor antenna. Internet Labs has reported hardware failures that they attribute to doing just that.

Have Fun

D-STAR is not worth the bits it’s built upon if you don’t enjoy it. If you’re considering joining the growing crowd in this unique mode of operation let me first ask you one simple question: do you enjoy repeater operation?

Because at its core, that’s what D-STAR is. A global collection of repeaters and individual users who have the ability to communicate with each other using this digital technology. If you’re answer is “YES” and you enjoy rapid learning, then you will no doubt enjoy digging in and exploring this evolving mode of operation.

But if you’re answer is “NO”, well, then this facet of amateur radio is probably not for you. Don’t waste your time — or your treasure. Move on and find something you really enjoy. After all, amateur radio is a hobby with endless things to do, people to meet, and fun to be had.

[miss part one?]

Filed under: Ham Radio Tagged: dhap, dstar, dvap, hr, icom, id51a

On the Road With D-STAR

Part 1 of 2

I’m traveling this week with a DHAP and the Icom ID-51A dual-band handheld. This combination of hardware permits me to stay connected with my friends on the D-STAR network from wherever I happen to roam – no local digital repeater required. The DHAP is a custom-built enclosure and battery supply for a Raspberry Pi and DV Access Point – a DVAP.

If all this sounds like too much alphabet soup (it is!) let’s first break it down in pieces.

The DVAP is a small USB powered D-STAR transceiver that runs about 10mW of power on UHF. VHF is also available. It’s manufactured by Internet Labs. The concept here is that you plug the DVAP into a USB port on your Windows, Mac or Linux computer, running the proper software and connected to the Internet, and it looks a lot like a D-STAR repeater to your radio — albeit a micro-repeater with only about 100 yards of coverage.

With this arrangement, a user can connect to other repeaters and reflectors on the network. While it’s an effective solution, it’s not elegant or efficient to keep a desktop or laptop computer running all the time just to maintain that connection.

Enter the Raspberry Pi, a single board computer that’s smaller than a pack of cigarettes, costs $35, supports networking, and runs Linux. It didn’t take long for users to see the advantages of this arrangement over the desktop PC and the rapid migration was underway.

You can put all this together for the price of the DVAP and another $50-100 for a Raspberry Pi, memory, associated cables, power brick, and all that jazz. It will work perfectly well setting on your desk or workbench like that, but if you want to take it outside with you, an enclosure to house and organize it all is a really good idea.

Which gets us to the DHAP. Manufactured by Hardened Power Systems, this contraption is a robust enclosure for the DVAP and the Pi that conveniently brings all of the on-board connections out to the front and back panels. NiMH batteries run the show for several hours between charges while a front panel display shows the battery level.

It’s not waterproof, and I suppose you could break it if you tried. But it is a hardened, machined case that’s slightly smaller than a football. Once it’s configured and charged, you just pick it up and carry it with you wherever you go.

Of course, it requires a network connection that can be provided from a hardwired Ethernet cable or via a Wi-Fi network. That Wi-Fi link means it can be easily tethered to your cell phone, which is how I use it on the road, when I bring it home, it automatically connects to my home Wi-Fi.

It’s the ultimate in convenience and portability for the D-STAR enthusiast though it’s not cheap. $300 [US] for the unit with a Raspberry Pi, a little less if you’re bringing your own Pi. And that doesn’t include the DVAP

More about how I use all this on the road, and a few tips about the DHAP in the next post.

Filed under: Ham Radio Tagged: dhap, dstar, dvap, hr, icom, id51a

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