Dec. 08 – 15: Happy December! W0EQO, online; W0ZSW online; WA0TDA online

W0EQO is located in northern Minnesota, near the headwaters of the Mississippi River.  W0ZSW & WA0TDA are located in the Minneapolis – St. Paul East Metro area.

You can browse the worldwide list of Remotehams-enabled stations that are online here. 

Check out the Blitzortung lightning map here.
Please remember that sometimes the stations may need to be shut down with minimal notice when thunderstorms are in the area of the antennas. This is done to prevent lightning damage to the equipment.

Don’t hear anything?  It may be HF propagation.

The IC-7200 station

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WA0TDA Logbook

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Split mode operation warning

Some operators use the radio in split mode. That’s fine, but please be considerate and turn split mode off before you log off the system. Others may log on and not notice that the radio is in split mode when they want to transmit, so this is a problem. Leaving the radio in split mode when you log off will result in being banned from the system.

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Experiment: FT8 remotely on Chromebook

Screenshot from Lenovo Chromebook showing FT8 running on a remote controlled W10 PC.

Screenshot from Lenovo Chromebook showing FT8 running on a remote controlled W10 PC.

I have a station that I use pretty much “locally” – by actually sitting at the operating position in the ham shack.  It’s a deceptively simple-looking setup; just the control head of an ICOM IC-706M2G mounted to the edge of the side desk at a convenient angle.  There is an automatic antenna tuner, an LDG IT-100,on the desk.  The rest of the radio(s), all the cabling, the rig control computers, and other supporting hardware are behind the wall in my server room, leaving the shack looking pretty clean and clear.  The antenna fed by the IC-706M2G is out in what we call “the outback”, the back part of our big backyard.  It’s an “enhanced” Butternut HF9V vertical antenna, ground-mounted with lots of radials and underground hard line coaxial cable. It is “enhanced” by the addition of quarter wave wires fed in parallel from the vertical’s base – for 160 & 80 meter resonance.

Recently I acquired a new rig control cable and set the station up to run digital modes, PSK with the HRD Digital Master program and FT8 with WSJT-X on my shack computer, a Windows 10 gaming PC.  The logical next step was to see if I could run that PC (and thus the ham radio programs) remotely with a Chromebook.  I chose “Splashtop” as the remote desktop app, but could have also used the free Chrome Remote Desktop feature already available on my Lenovo Chromebook.  There is no need to port audio remotely, so that feature should be disabled.

It works!  You can operate digital modes, even FT8, remotely.  Operating modes that require precise timing – FT8, I’m talking about you – is simply not possible if you separate the radio and the software from each other and then try to connect them via the internet.  This is because latency in even the most solid internet connections over the most favorable paths introduces unacceptable delays in communication between the software and the radio.

The way around this is to keep the radio and the rig control PC together in one place, making the connection between the two by local hardware only.  With the timing problem thus solved, you then operate the rig control PC remotely with some kind of remote desktop software.  Yes, there is latency between the remote station’s control PC and your Chromebook (or other device), but that kind of latency doesn’t really matter as it does not affect what is actually happening between the radio and the rig control computer back in the ham shack.

The down side?  Well, this kind of remote HF operation is necessarily for your private use of your own station rather than for a public station.  Think about it – You set up software like WSJT with your callsign, grid square, and so on.  You wouldn’t want to have other users operating with your call!  And even worse, think about the hassle of allowing other users to control your shack PC.  They might wander out of the ham radio software and go through your documents and email, or see what they can find on your network.  No thanks to that; it’s a huge security risk.

A possible way around the security issue might be to set up a station and single-purpose digital modes rig control computer with a club callsign, sandboxed from the rest of the network and with club members getting logon credentials with no admin privileges.

Whatever you do, try to stay on the air – remoting your station can help you do just that!

HF9V vertical antenna in the winter

HF9V vertical antenna in the winter

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Use a Chromebook to run the RCForb software!

New! RCForb & Echolink on a Chromebook

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2019 State of the Hobby survey

Mouse pad & mouse

What’s the deal with Amateur Radio?  Is our avocation healthy and growing?  What do we think of modes and operating, and how do our thoughts compare with past years?  Check out the N8RMA State of the Hobby Survey for 2019.  It’s well thought out and designed to be easy to understand, with the author giving us contextual explanations of the graphical displays.

Find it at:

http://www.radiosoth.org/

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Wanted: More HF Operators

Pat, WA0TDA, at HF station during special event

Pat, WA0TDA, at HF station during special event

We need more HF ops!

Tune across the HF bands anytime but a contest weekend and you’ll hear plenty of nothing – unless you happen upon the FT8 frequencies – they always seem to have activity. Even so, there’s plenty of empty real estate, and even the CW portions of the bands seems wanting these days.

Yes, the solar cycle is bottoming out and conditions have been generally poor. I’ve been through these minima before, and this one is different – and worse. The bands have never been so empty. There’s plenty of competition for “radio time” from our connected world that includes streaming video, worldwide communication, and interactive gaming.

Perhaps you don’t realize this if you are not a gamer, but MMRPGs (Massive Multiplayer Role Playing Games) are an immersive experience that allows players to communicate in real time (video and voice) with other players around the world while playing an engaging game in a virtual world. That means if you expect to lure a newbie into amateur radio with a gee-whiz story about how you can “talk to people around the world”, you are probably going to be disappointed by their “So-what ?”reaction.

We have to up our game.

And soon. We can’t be Fortnite, but…

We can add value to the Technician license with some HF privileges. VHF and UHF FM repeaters are not enough these days. Most are inactive all day long and this silence can lead newly licensed hams to get bored with ham radio. Why not give them more opportunities to get on the air and make contacts?

Look, I’ve heard all the contrarian arguments hundreds of times over the years – every time something needs to be changed. Yes, we all had to pass our exams to earn our privileges. Yes, these noobs would get HF privileges without jumping through the same hoops we did. Yes, they might make mistakes on the air. Yes, we had to pass code exams in the day. Yes, yes, yes.

None of that matters. Times and circumstances have changed, and we need to change with them. Join me in getting on the FCC website and supporting the ARRL petition to add limited HF privileges to the Technician license.

Commenting Electronically on FCC Proceedings (Easy)

Those interested in posting brief comments on Petitions for Rulemaking (PRMs) to the FCC, such as the ARRL Technician Enhancement proposal (RM-11828) using the Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS) should access FCC Electronic Comment Filing System Express at, https://www.fcc.gov/ecfs/filings/express .

In the “Proceeding(s)” field, enter the number of the PRM, e.g. RM-11828 (using this format), complete all required fields, and enter brief comments in the box provided. You may review your post before filing. All information you provide, including name and address, will be publicly available once you post your comment(s).

Visit “How to Comment on FCC Proceedings” for additional information at,
https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/how-comment

73 – Pat, WAØTDA

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WX Service Tweet is a Timely Reminder

A National Weather Service tweet reminds us that thunderstorm season has returned to the United States Upper Midwest, and that means that the remote base HF stations WA0TDA, W0ZSW, and W0EQO may experience weather-related outages with little of no warning. Approaching storms may require the disconnection of antennas to avoid lightning damage.

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WX at WA0TDA

powered by Ambient Weather

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Questions? Check out the WA0TDA Quick Start Guide in PDF

WA0TDA Quick Start Guide – Get on the air by running a remote HF station.

The IC-7200 station

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