Return settings to normal before logging off

Mouse pad & mouse

Did you change anything but the VFO setting?  If so, please reset the controls you changed back to these “normal” settings so that the next user will not be confused: 

  • RF Gain 100%
  • Power output: 100 W
  • Squelch: Open
  • Split mode: Off
  • Comp: On
  • AGC: Slow
  • Transmit meter:  Either Power out or SWR
  • ATT (attenuator) Off  (This is sometimes mistaken for the antenna tuner.)

Thanks, and enjoy the remote!

73 – Pat

March 29 – First thunderstorm outage of the season

Stations WA0TDA & W0ZSW went offline late in the day on March 28 and remained out of service on the morning of Sunday, March 29.  This was an orderly shutdown to preserve the station hardware from lightning damage as thunderstorms moved through Minnesota.  Lightning strikes were detected within 1.3 miles of the stations.

Both stations will return to service before 9:00 AM CDT Sunday, by which time the antennas will have been reconnected and the systems rebooted.

This is a good time to remind users that shutdowns for thunderstorms may occur without notice now that the season has started.

HF Remotes Policy: Political rants & hate speech

Pat, WA0TDA, wearing headset and holding licensing manuals.
A word from the Admin’s desk. 

I never thought I’d have to write something like this, but we live in strange times, don’t we?

The HF remotes are available to help operators who need access to a resource that will help them stay on the air when they are traveling, living in circumstances that preclude antennas, are unable to access their own stations due to age or disability, or who simply want to use this technology as a convenience to operate from a location within the propagation zone of a particular remote station.

These shared resources are a community place where standards of The Amateur’s Code are valued and followed. There is zero tolerance for any kind of hate speech, bullying, or rants that incite conflict.

Think before you speak. I am quite tolerant and realize that everyone makes mistakes. A cuss word may slip out. Someone else may say something awkward or inappropriate. Handle it as if you are speaking to a gaggle of church ladies.

Remember that we in ham radio have a potential worldwide audience of listeners of all races and ethnicities and religions. What is a joke to one may be a hurtful slur to another. If you need an example, I need to dig no further than my listening to a guy on a 75 meter net call Covid-19 the “Kung Flu”. Do that on one of the remotes I administer, and you will be banned. Everyone should know better. Thankfully this did not involve a remote user.

Once banned, it will be necessary to supply me with a physical written letter delivered by the USPS explaining how this will not happen again before reinstatement can be considered.

We are all in this together. Let’s be thoughtful and helpful to each other.

Sincerely and 73,

Patrick Tice

Yes, you can say it… But should you?

Ham station with laptop PC connected to DMR radio for programming.

A laptop PC is connected to DMR radio for programming. The IC-7200 station is in the background.

Cast your thoughts back to the middle of the 20th century.  Yes, I know many of you can do so – you were born in that era and, though childhood memories may be a bit fuzzy.  Lots of us are old guys who grew up in a Minnesota that was much more rural and young and Christian and white. We pretty much agreed on most things.  That made it relatively easy to manage our politics, but even back then we knew our best bet was to keep our traps shut about that topic during Thanksgiving dinner.

In fact, when I got interested in electronics during high school, the more or less default advice on being a good ham radio operator was to never broach any of three deadly subjects on the air:  sex, religion, and politics.  

That was good advice then and it’s good advice now.  In fact, it’s even more so in 2020, when our new Minnesota is so diverse and our political landscape is so polarized.  We come to ham radio because we share a common interest in one or more of its many facets – circuit building, antennas, public service, contesting, DX, hidden transmitter hunting, space communications, digital modes, CW, DMR, SOTA, portable operation, special events, teaching and volunteering, and so many more.  Most of us leverage those topics by making them part of our on the air activities.  

No one is suggesting that talking about non-ham related activities is a bad thing.  In fact, it’s fun to connect with others who share your interest in other hobbies or topic areas like history, science, aviation, firearms, or stamp collecting.  

But much of life is about being practical.  Making good choices. Thinking about consequences. 

So yes, we can talk about the toxic three: sex, religion, and politics. The question is whether we should, because going there is like stepping into a minefield.  You may get through unscathed, but like as not someone is going away unhappy. Back in mid-20th century Minnesota, we were more alike than different, and the mines were further apart.  Today, we are way more diverse – different in our ethnicity, age, religious background, and yes, politics. That makes for a minefield with a lot more mines.  

Don’t assume that the op you are talking with on the air shares your beliefs on these toxic three.  You may be surprised that even those in your own demographic think differently on one or more of them.  Furthermore, the damage can filter outward from such conversations and be bad for Amateur Radio in general.  I have lost count of the remarks about “old dudes on 75 m” that I have seen on social media platforms frequented by younger folks.  Guys going on about their politics and religion are a MASSIVE turn-off to young people who might be interested in ham radio. 

Are we in it for fun, friendship, public service, and learning?  Yes!  

Are we in it for arguments and proselytising?  Not me. Let’s make better choices on the air. Please. 

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.

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

2019 State of the Hobby survey (2020 survey delayed.)

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:

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, .

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,

73 – Pat, WAØTDA