WAØTDA Remote Base Ham Radio

Operate an amateur radio station from anywhere with an Internet connection.

January 31 2023 Status – WA0TDA online, W0ZSW online, W0EQO online

Pat, wa0tda, wearing FT8 - ham radio without the jibber jabber t-shirt & giving a thumbs up

Pat, WA0TDA

If you need transmit access (and hold a USA license), email wa0tda@arrl.net.  

At this time of the year there are better band conditions on 160, 80, and 40 meters, thanks to less daylight and correspondingly less D layer absorption in the ionosphere.

Old News:  W0EQO is back in service after upgrades to the shack & internet completed.  In the photo on the left, you can see the rig control laptop and the Icom IC-7300.  The RCForb host software is running on the PC.  The Yaesu FT-897 is used for in-the-shack communication and is not available as a remote controlled radio.   In the photo on the right, you can see the new Netgear router and the uninterruptible power supply (installed on 5 August 2022), as well as the new wooden shelf built by Bill, N0CIC, that makes having the UPS available to power the router possible in the limited space we have.

ALL STATIONS ARE SUBJECT TO UNANNOUNCED THUNDERSTORM OUTAGES. 

Thunderstorms can happen year around in Minnesota.  There may be sporadic outages at WA0TDA & W0ZSW as the antennas will be disconnected to prevent lightning damage to the stations.   You can check out the lightning map at: https://www.blitzortung.org/en/live_lightning_maps.php?map=30

Once the danger of lightning is past, the stations will be returned to service.

Old news: 

WA0TDA has returned to service after an outage.  The WA0TDA IC-7200 had suffered a receiver failure, and the station was off the air.  An Icom IC-7300 has replaced the old radio.

W0ZSW was offline on November 12 due to the failure of a power supply feeding a network switch, thus causing a loss of internet to the host PC.  Please be sure to let me know when something isn’t working, as I don’t always notice these kinds of failures if the stations have been checked early in the day and found to be working.  I can be contacted at wa0tda@arrl.net.  Thanks!

W0EQO Update:  Station W0EQO is now in rural Park Rapids, MN.  This location in the North Woods is not far from the headwaters of the Mississippi and has a low noise floor. It is operating at 60 watts periodically due to a problem with RF in the shack.  Digital mode operation is NOT allowed as this is likely to trigger the RF problem and cause a loss of internet control.  SSB/CW should be okay.  We are considering ways to address the RF problem.  It is worst on 40 m, so no 40 meter operations are allowed at this time.

Both Twin Cities stations are subject to intermittent outages because of thunderstorm activity.  Antennas will be disconnected to protect the equipment. 

Software interface radio

    1. New RCForb software

Use the latest version 0.9x software or it will not work on Windows!  Download the new client software to use the remotes here.

Dear HF Operator:

Welcome to the HF Remotes!  This website has information on the following stations:

W0EQO – Northern Minnesota in the tall pine forest near the headwaters of the Mississippi; Icom IC-7300 radio equipped with speech readout feeding a 300 foot dipole antenna fed with 450 ohm ladder line and a current
balun.  160 through 6 meter operation. Grid square is EN27mc in Hubbard County, MN USA. Callsign admin is WA0TDA.  Station hardware admins are N0CIC & WA0TDA.

W0ZSW – Metro Minnesota Twin Cities location at WA0TDA QTH; Icom IC-7300 radio feeding an off-center fed dipole antenna.  80 through 6 meter operation.  Grid square is EN34mw in Washington County, MN USA. Callsign admin is KA0PQW.  Station hardware admin is WA0TDA.

WA0TDA – Metro Minnesota Twin Cities location at WA0TDA QTH; Icom IC-7300 radio feeding an inverted vee maypole antenna system fed with underground coax. 160 through 6 meter operation. Grid square is EN34mw in Washington County, MN USA.  Callsign & hardware admin is WA0TDA.

All of the above stations can run up to 100 watts and all are SSB and CW capable. All are subject to occasional maintenance outages or weather outages.

Please contact wa0tda@arrl.net to report a problem with any of them.

The quick start guide is for anyone who wants to install and use the RCFORB HF remote base client software from Remotehams.com with a minimum of time and effort. That would be most of us! A quick start guide shouldn’t be
wordy, so let’s just use some simple steps to get you up and running.

IMPORTANT:  Register with Remotehams.com using YOUR CALLSIGN as the username, or this will not work!

Get the WA0TDA RCFORB Quick Start Guide in PDF:
http://tice.us/wa0tda/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/The-WA0TDA-RCFORB-Quick-Start-Guide.pdf
Note:  Always choose the newest version 0.9 version of the client software, NOT the version 0.8 as is recommended in the guide or video.  The old 0.8 version will be deprecated due to the removal of Adobe Flash support in Windows.

Screenshot of download page

Choose ONLY 0.9 software!

I have made two YouTube videos on the use of the RCForb software.  This one
is for the free Windows version:
https://youtu.be/V3Sw2aC6Gcs

Note:  Always choose the newest version 0.9 version of the client software, NOT the version 0.8 as is recommended in the video.  The old 0.8 version will be deprecated due to the removal of Adobe Flash support in Windows.

This one is for the Android version, which you can buy from the Play Store for under $10:
https://youtu.be/1zZOK34pj9M

If you are a blind user, be sure to check out the K8HSY guide:
http://handiham.net/index.php/2016/08/02/remotehams-users-manual-for-blind-hams/

The Handiham Radio Club also has a useful website:
http://handiham.net/

Good luck and have fun with the radios!

73,

Patrick Tice
wa0tda@arrl.net

Attachments area

Preview YouTube video Handiham Remote Base HF Stations

Preview YouTube video Ham radio with your smartphone! RCForb Android App Explained

Q: Is ham radio a good hobby for young people?

close-up of IC-7200 radio

ChatGPT:  Ham radio can be a great hobby for young people, as it allows them to learn about electronics, communication, and technology while also providing an opportunity to make new friends and connections with people all around the world. In order to get started with ham radio, young people will need to obtain a license from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). This typically involves passing a written exam that covers basic electronics and radio theory, as well as some rules and regulations. Once they have a license, young people can use ham radio to communicate with other ham radio operators, participate in contests and activities, and even provide emergency communications in the event of a disaster. Ham radio can be a challenging and rewarding hobby that can provide young people with a sense of accomplishment and pride.

Antenna tuning affected by wet weather

Dipole antenna with ladder line feed

Most HF remote base stations use some kind of multiband wire antenna.  Often these wire antennas must go through and be supported by trees, especially if the antennas are really long and have to be fitted into limited space.   For example, a half-wave dipole antenna for the 75 meter phone band will be in the neighborhood of 120 – 125 feet (36 – 37 meters) long.  That amount of wire often will need to be threaded through trees to make in fit into the space available.

Although insulated wire is used for the radiating length, the wire is going to be in contact with foliage and branches at some points along its length.  As long as the weather is dry and the branches and leaves are not wet, this arrangement works pretty well.  It’s when the rain, snow, and ice begin that we see the antenna get detuned by the moisture and increased coupling of the radiating wire to the branches and foliage.   Although the insulation on the antenna wire blocks direct current, RF energy is easily passed from wire to tree, especially in wet weather.

With this extra loading, the antenna will no longer be “in tune” with the usual automatic antenna tuner memories that work so well in dry weather.  It will be necessary to run the tuning cycle again, sometimes more than once, while observing the SWR reading on the radio interface.   Often the band will come alive with received signals after this new tuning cycle is complete.  This is a good indication that you are on the right track, and as long as the radio does not return a “HIGH SWR” notice when you transmit, you should be good to go on that frequency.

When the weather dries out, the tuning will revert to normal, so be sure to run the tuning cycle again and make sure the SWR reading is low once again.

 

 

How do I find out which stations are online right now?

Mouse pad & mouse

Remotehams provides a real-time list of stations around the world that are up and running.  It’s easy to access with your web browser;  just go to http://www.remotehams.com/online.html and you will see a long list arranged in alpha-numeric order.

It will look something like this:

Online List screenshot

Online List screenshot

At the time I took this screenshot, there were 279 stations listed,123 Open to All, 199 TX Capable, and 172 Club Based (which usually requires club membership, but not always.)   It can be hard to find exactly the station callsign you want in that long list, so use this easy trick to search:

First, ignore the search box at the upper left of the page.  It is a site-wide search, not a search for stations that are online.  Instead, with the online list page open, type <CTRL> F  (Press the <CTRL> key and the F key at the same time.)  This will bring up a new search field where you can type the callsign you want to find.

Search screenshot

Search screenshot

The search item, in this case wa0tda, will appear on the page:

Screenshot search result

Screenshot search result

Now you can see the station status.  Easy-peasy!

 

Thunderstorm outages continue

lightning

July in Minnesota brings the hottest weather of the year, typically a few weeks after the summer solstice.  The sun is at its highest and the days are long.  With the heat, there is also an increase in humidity – our climate is described by geographers as a “humid continental climate”.   

What does this mean for our remote base HF stations?   Well, there are a few things to consider if you are a remote HF operator:

  • Humid, hot air breeds thunderstorms, and they can pop up with little warning.  Lightning damage to the stations is best avoided by shutting the stations down and disconnecting the antennas until the threat of storms passes.   If you are a remote user and try connecting to a station and find that it is unavailable, it is most likely a thunderstorm shutdown.  Some shutdowns are preemptive; the stations may be disconnected even if there is only a threat of storms developing.  This must be done because the station admins cannot be available 24/7 to respond  instantly to every storm threat.  These shutdowns are not always reflected on this website as they are quite common, and the stations are generally returned to service soon after the storm threat passes.   For example, if storms are predicted in the early morning, the stations will be disconnected the evening before.
  • Thunderstorms create lightning static – QRN – and conditions on longer wavelength bands like 160 and 80 meters may be very poor with high levels of noise even though the actual storms may be hundreds of miles away.
  • Consider using other bands like 20, 17, 15, and 10 meters.  Don’t forget to check out the 6 meter band as summer propagation may open the band to long distance contacts.  These bands are less affected by lightning static.
  • What happens if lightning damages a station?   Of course it depends on the extent of the damage.  If the radio gear is damaged, it will take some time for volunteers to assess and deal with it.  If other infrastructure, such as internet or power systems are damaged, outside help may be needed.  Repairs may take a long time, depending on the availability of labor and parts.  Obviously it is best to try to avoid lightning damage in the first place.
  • If a station is found to be unexpectedly offline, you may contact station admins to make them aware of it.  You can always check out one of the other stations.

Thanks for your understanding and help!

73 – Pat

wa0tda@arrl.net 

Software radio interface now includes POWER button on all three stations

The POWER button on version 0.9x of RCForb software

The POWER button has been activated on the  station interface in version 0.9x of the RCForb software. Please turn the IC-7300 power off when you are finished using the station.

The radios, all Icom IC-7300s, support power on/off while maintaining handshaking with the host PC, so we have added the optional POWER button to the client software interface.

Please use the POWER button to turn the radio on when you begin a session and off when you are finished.

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