Ham Pi Experimenters Meeting Notes – 22 Aug 2020

By Aurora, KN4VXB

Next Meeting Agenda:

  • 30 minutes – Discuss projects
  • 1hr Work on projects virtually together – Come with ideas and supplies for your projects.

See you next month,
Aurora, KN4VXB

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Ham PiE Meeting 1 Notes – 22 Aug 2020

Agenda

  • Introducing ourselves and discussing interests
  • Pick a group name (A couple of folks have lobbied for a more inclusive name, as we are not just working with Raspberry Pi)
  • Everyone declare a project that they will start working on next month

Attendees and Interests:

  • Aurora, KN4VXB – arduino-based fox hunt transmitters, satellite antenna trackers, raspberry pi APRS igate, raspberry pi wspr, high-altitude balloon transmitters, someday TARPN – 1st project Arduino fox transmitter
  • Tadd, KA2DEW – raspberry pi based radio chat relay network – TARPN – 1st project TBD
  • Dan, KR4UB – interested in Mark’s raspberry pi Zoom conference to radio remote key – 1st project – tinker with Raspberry pi on remote keyer
  • Mark, KR3AM – made pi remote ptt, want to make boxes with physical switches to talk via remote switch that work over wifi, interested in home automation and ventilation, digital modes – 1st project get PTT parts, home automation
  • Sherri, WB4OSU  – interest in software and learning hardware, use pi for logging software, wants a portable digital mode setup – 1st project – troubleshoot wifi on pi and laptop, put a power button on raspberry pi, get Pi4
  • Charles, KN4PTU – digital audio conversion, raspberry pi based digital mode radio, TARPN – 1st project – get sound card working for raspberry pi to HF portable
  • Keith, W1KES – TARPN node, virtual node control for digital modes, mobile digital station – 1st project – add to TARPN node
  • Chuck, KW4KZ – interested in everything!, experience with arduino and raspberry pi, trying to use pi in place of computer, TARPN, home automation – 1st project – get raspberry pi programs working with node red and user interface
  • Boyd, KO4GJO – wants to learn more about raspberry pi, interested in digital modes, digital logging programs, Leonardo board code oscillator/Morse decoder – K04GJO First Project – Finish antenna

Links from chat:

  • From Charles, KN4PTU to Everyone: 01:59 PM www.hifiberry.com
  • From Mark, KR3AM Sidell to Everyone: 02:00 PM yeah, the 12v power hat is great. Where’d you get that?
  • From Charles, KN4PTU Everyone: 02:09 PM Link to the web site for using a Raspberry Pi as Digital modes field server. http://oh8stn.org/off-grid-raspberry-pi/
    Pi Hat, 12v to 5v https://bc-robotics.com/shop/raspberry-pi-power-rtc-hat/
  • From Mark, KR3AM to Everyone: 02:32 PM https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07XPHWPR/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1
  • From Sherri Rapp, WB4OSU to Everyone: 02:37 PM I finally found the HamPi link
    https://qrznow.com/hampi-ham-radio-software-for-raspberry-pi-from-w3djs/

Name Possibilities (1’s indicate votes):

  • Ham PiE- 11111 – Winner! – Ham Pi Experimenters
  • HamPuter – 1
  • HamBoard – 1
  • Pi and General Linking Electronics with Transceivers (PiGLET) -111
  • Small Computer Radio Amateur Makers (SCRAM) -11
  • Pico Computer Amateur Radio Experimenter Society (PiCARES) –
  • Small Computer Amateur Radio Experimenters (SCARE) –
  • Radio Amateur Small Computer Advancement League (RASCAL) – 111
  • Small Computer Radio Amateur Project group (SCRAP group) – 11
  • Digital Radio Operators Durham Raleigh Orange (DRODRO) –
  • The PiPy gang (a play on PI (raspberry), and PY (python)) – OCRA Pi – 111

Next Meeting: 26 Sept. 2020

OCRA Monthly Club Meeting Minutes – August 10, 2020

Monthly Membership Club Meeting Minutes – August 10. 2020 by Bill, N8BR Club Secretary

Meeting convened at 7:30 By David, W4SAR Platforms Utilized: Repeater and Zoom

Members Present: W4SAR Dave, KB1WE Wayne, KR3AM Mark, KA1HPM Nick, N2XZF Paul, W4BOH Wilson, AC4RD Ken, W3AHL Steve, N8BR Bill, WA4AHR Dewey, KO4DHJ Ken, KU4GC Dee, N1LN Bruce, KM4MBG Jack, W4KIL Andy, KI4MXP Gerald, WB4OSU Sherry, N4KF Ken, KN4EOO Rick, KF4PAB Lenore, N1YXU Laurie, KR4UB Dan, KD4YJZ Karen, KZ1X Steve, KN4VXB Aurora, NC4CD Charlie, N4JQR J.R., KO4EJX Steve

Treasurer’s Report (Dan KR4UB): Current Club Membership stands at 111 (82 active paid up members, 28 requiring renewal, and 1 expiring). 3 folks are awaiting volunteer exam session). 21 new members have been added during the past 12 months.

Program Introduction: (David, W4SAR): Tonight’s program was a presentation by one of our club members, Aurora KN4VXB. Aurora has been active in a number of our events. In June she made a serious contribution to club efforts during Field Day when she single-handedly spearheaded its effort to make a two-way contact with one of the amateur radio satellites. And, more recently in August she organized and hosted a fox hunt for the club. In tonight’s program she will tell us in detail about the two parts of that event.

OCRA Foxhunt (Aurora KN4VXB): In Aurora’s words this activity was inspired by the non-conventional format of field day this year as well as Aurora’s own desire to learn about radio direction finding. It was her first experience with the technology. Primary “Elmers” were Steve K1ZX who provided the fox beacon, and Dan KR4UB who volunteered to be the “fox”.

I am also including a link of the article written about the fox hunt by KR4UB after actually participating in the event itself. It is on the OCRA website at:

Who were those masked folks at the August 1st Foxhunt?

Further, the link to one of the foxes hunted on the foot search is:
https://www.byonics.com/mf

Finally, the Fox Hunt KC9ON Fox Hunt version 6 kit Aurora used is at:

Fox Hunt V6

Following the presentation Aurora held a question and answer session with the membership.

Comments (David W4SAR): Thanks to Aurora for a marvelous presentation. Thanks also to Dan for his help.

Award for Outstanding Service to the Club by New Member:

One of our club members who wishes to remain anonymous has given a gift to the club in the form of dues for one year to be awarded to a new club member for their outstanding service to the club. This year that award is going to Aurora KN4VXB. Congratulations!

Club-wide Discussion and Commentary:

W3AHL Steve: I am in the process of preparing for a trip to New Mexico some time in the future but being hampered by some difficulty with my vehicle.

WA4AHR Dewey: I appreciated Aurora’s talk. Would like to participate in a fox hunt. He will do it another time.

KO4DHJ Ken: Thanks to Aurora. I really enjoy the club.

KU4GC Dee: Aurora did a wonderful job. The material on the raspberry Pi is interesting.

N1LN Bruce: Two things. 1. I joined the virtual hamfest online this past weekend and there was a wonderful session on the K4. The first shipments will be the end of August. 2. This coming weekend is the NA QSO party on SSB.

W4KIL Andy: Nothing to add. I am enjoying what is going on.

WB4OSU Sherry: I did a zoom-build with Aurora. We built an antenna and I learned a lot. The stuff with raspberry pi is interesting. Also enjoyed learning N1MM for field day.

N4KF Ken: I am new to the club and have enjoyed the comments. My home is in Hillsborough.

KN4EOO Rick: I enjoyed the presentation. I am currently taking on-line courses.

N1YXU Laurie: I’ve been helping Bruce take his antennas down. Thanks to Aurora for a great presentation.

KR4UB Dan: Many thanks to Aurora. I am looking forward to the upcoming sessions on raspberry pi and other microcontrollers. I want to learn more.

KD4YJZ Karen: I am interested in the QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo. I wasn’t able to get on, especially the segment on remote operating. Can we get a copy of what’s going on?

KB1WE Wayne: Hello all! A great presentation tonight by Aurora. I have built some fox hunt stuff and will send along the details. Especially on directional antennas.

KA1HPM Nick: Aurora I appreciate your efforts. This is encouraging to hear about! There are 3 Volunteer examiners in Chatham County now. Perhaps they can run some VE sessions with us. Our 2 meter duplexers are finished and ready to put into cabinets now.

N2XZF Paul: A new DFMA 6 meter repeater is now on the air at TV Hill in Durham. Program your radio to receive 53.630 MHz and transmit on 52.630 MHz with a 88.5Hz PL. All are invited to check in to the weekly 6 meter net on Wednesdays at 8:30pm. Bob, K4VO is net control.

W4BOH Wilson: Chris was with us helping neighbors put up a repeater to boost signals for the cell phone. The subscription is through T Mobile. He also has an antenna on his field day tower. Has some updated information on the tape measure antenna.

N4JQR J.R.: Hello All! Great Meeting.

Adjournment W4SAR David: The club just keeps going in spite of numerous distractions. Good Evening all! Meeting Adjourned.

Interested in Ham PI Group?

Fellow hams,

At the fox hunt last weekend, one of the new hams, Nan (KN4GUM) asked if there were folks interested in radio + microcontrollers such as Raspberry Pi, BeagleBone (which Nan has experience with), and Arduino. I said I had done a little bit of non-radio work with Arduinos and was very interested in learning more about it and Raspberry Pi. I’ve also really enjoyed the virtual antenna build days we’ve had and would like to continue with something similar.

Would anyone else be interested in forming a “Ham Pi” group? We could meet virtually once a month on Saturday afternoons to spend about 30 minutes discussing our latest microcontroller projects and swap tips, and then work on projects with others for virtual company for about an hour. Once Covid is over, we could also start meeting in person, if desired. I am very interested in learning to make a Raspberry Pi based APRS igate, and Arduino-based beacons/foxes.

Let me know if you would be up for some Ham Pi!

Best,

Aurora (KN4VXB)

Who were those masked folks at the August 1st Foxhunt?

Thanks to Aurora, KN4VXB for coordinating and inspiring all to participate in a Foxhunt, Saturday August 1st!

But who were those masked men and women? Well none arrived riding a fiery horse with the speed of light but they were chasing some RF traveling at the speed of light!

Pictured left to right above are the participants in the on-foot foxhunt  Joe K4SAR, Ben KO4BHX, Dan KR4UB, Aurora KN4VXB, Nan KN4GUM, Steve KZ1X and Boyd, awaiting a VE session.

Thanks to Steve KZ1X for preparing and hiding his fox transmitter for the on-foot event.

Aurora KN4VXB with her tape measure yagi antenna.

Joe, K4SAR Hi Ho Silver! I think I’ve found a fox!

Boyd with his  yagi antenna

Aurora KN4VXB, Nan KN4GUM, Joe K4SAR, Dan KR4UB and Mark, KR3AM (not in photo) enjoyed a great conversation on their diverse interests after completion of the fox hunt driving event. Dan was “the fox” in the driving event.

comments about the event…

I am pleased to dub the Fox Hunt Event held yesterday as a success! I would like to extend a big thanks to Steve (KZ1X) for preparing and hiding his fox transmitter for the on-foot event and to Dan (KR4UB) for being “the fox” for the driving event. Thanks also to the folks who came out to participate in the hunt. We had seven participants in the on-foot event and five in the vehicle based event, including several new hams. If folks want to do this again, I’d be happy to organize another one in the spring. Aurora, KN4VXB

Thanks very much for the pictures Nan. And also to Aurora, Dan and everyone for making this Foxhunt such a fun and educational event on Saturday. We really enjoyed meeting everyone and learned a lot along the way. Not just about radio but compasses too. Ben, KO4BHX

So many thanks to Aurora and the other hams at the hunt yesterday. I had an incredible time and learned so much! I was deeply appreciative of the welcoming and collaborative atmosphere. What a great group! Nan, KO4GUM

Thanks again Aurora for coordinating all this! I had a great time and enjoyed meeting a couple of new folks and seeing some old friends. Appreciated the iced coffee and snacks! Great job as the fox, Dan! Joe, K4SAR

and where did that spirited masked man music come from?

Information for Fox Hunt – Aug. 1

from Aurora, KN4VXB….

Fellow hams,

I just wanted to remind folks that we have a Fox Hunt Day on August 1. There will be two events, an on-foot transmitter hunt from 8 am – 10 am and a vehicle- based hunt from 10:30 am – 1 pm (Note time change from original proposal).

The on-foot event will take place at the Brumley Nature Preserve – North. We will meet first in the parking lot at 8 am for instructions. There are no restrooms or running water at Brumley so plan accordingly.

The vehicle-based event will take place in Orange County. You should be able to hear the fox starting at or near the Brumley Nature Preserve – North lot.

Here’s a link to the instructions for the events. I will have printed copies for folks, or you can print and bring your own.

Prizes and (bragging rights) are available for hams who most quickly find the foxes.

Recommended equipment for the on-foot event:
1. Dual band HT FM radio
2. 2-m Directional antenna, such as a yagi
3. Attenuator (optional, but recommended)
4. Water bottle full of water
5. Sunscreen and bugspray
6. Weather appropriate clothing and comfy shoes

Recommended equipment for the vehicle event:
1. Dual Band HT or Mobile radio(s) – This event can be done with one radio, but will be easiest if you bring two, one for transmitting, one for listening.
2. 2-m directional antenna, such as a yagi
3. Attenuator (optional, but recommended)
4. A road map of Orange County or phone with maps/GPS
5. Water and snacks for the road, if desired

Looking forward to seeing you all there!

Best,

Aurora (KN4VXB)

OCRA Monthly Membership Meeting – July 13, 2020

from Bill N8BR, OCRA Secretary….

ORANGE COUNTY RADIO AMATEURS
Monthly Membership Meeting – July 13, 2020 MINUTES

Convened at 7:30pm by Dave, W4SAR – 442.150 Repeater Net & Zoom Video Conference

Members Present: N8BR, Bill; WA2JLW, Roy; WA4AHR, Dewey; W3AHL, Steve; KN4EOO, Rick; W4BOH, Wilson; KA1HPM, Nick; KU4GC, Dee; KO4DHJ, Ken; KA5ETS, Doug; N1LN, Bruce; KC1BVL, Robbey; KM4MBG, Jack; KI4MXP, Gerald; W4KIL, Andy; WB4OSU,  Sherri; KW4JY, Calvin; W4ORD, Lad; N4SJW, John; KD4YJZ, Karen; KZ1X, Steve; KN4ZHP, Mike; NA4VY, Dave; KJ4VWG, Sam; KN4VXB, Aurora; N2XZF, Paul; N1YXU, Laurie; KR3AM, Mark; W4SAR, David; KR4UB, Dan

Dan, KR4UB – Treasurer’s Report: We now have 85 club members with dues current and 27 needing to renew their membership. 25 new members have joined the club over the past 12 months. A new power supply and SCOM repeater controller needed to deploy the 145.230 repeater in Chatham County has been purchased. Nick, KA1HPM is modifying the cabinet for better mounting of the equipment and Steve, W3AHL is in process of retuning the duplexer.

Dave, W4SAR – President’s Report on Field Day: In a normal year field day is a combined effort between the members of OCRA and DFMA. This year, owing to the Covid19 pandemic, folks participating in this event were encouraged to operate from their homes. In past years these “D” category stations were not permitted to earn credit for contacts with other stations operating in that category. However, this year the ARRL relaxed that requirement and allowed the “D” group operators to earn credit for contacts made with all operating classes.

Further, all members of a recognized club who are operating in the event are required to submit individual scores along with verification of their club affiliation instead of having their clubs submit a total club score on their members’ behalf. Be sure to enter “Orange County Radio Amateurs & Durham FM Association” in the Club/Group Name Field. So, this year The ARRL will combine the points earned by each member of a recognized club and post the club totals. This makes it absolutely necessary for each of us who participated in field day to submit a score by no later than July 28th.

Please mark your calendars so this deadline will be met!! If assistance is needed with the preparation of a log, please let me know so arrangements may be made to get this task completed.

Relevant to this discussion. David is preparing certificates for OCRA and DFMA participants in Field Day. To date 42 participants have indicated their involvement. Please make certain that you have made him aware of your involvement.

Club-Wide Discussion of Field Day:
Bruce, N1LN: This was a great event. Congratulations to all participants, Laurie and I worked together. She used SSB and I was on CW. We shared a single rig and alternated modes for the entire contest. It was a wonderful opportunity for Class D stations.

Pluses for this year’s format:

  • 100 watts. This power level proved to be a great advantage for running stations—a big boost over the normal QRP efforts we made in past years.
  • Reduce the number towers, power distribution, complexity, etc that must be set-up, then torn down which is very tiring given the summer heat. More time and energy left to operate.

Minuses for this year’s format:

  • No potluck on Friday night. That get-together was important and a highlight of FD.
  • Problem solving activities associated with set up that fostered lots of valuable interactions.

Suggestions for the future: Should have lower than 9A category for the club. Too many stations and not enough operators. Should run 100 watts.

David, W4SAR: Shares Bruce’s sentiments. Misses the potluck.

Wilson. W4BOH: Enjoyed field day! Agrees with Bruce’s suggestions that we go lower than 9A and above 5 watts. Is continuing his activities with old radios and animals.

Dan, KR4UB; Enjoyed field day. Supports Bruce’s notion of less than 9A and above 5 watts for next year. Believes field day is a great medium for mentoring new members and teaching a wide variety of skills that are useful in many aspects of the hobby. Enjoyed the video conferencing that was set up for field day and was a great motivator watching Bruce, Laurie, and others working into the night. That motivation led to 287 FT-8 contacts for 1198 points total.

Nick, KA1HPM: Nick and his son (KN4QBY) worked field day together from home. Nick Jr, learned radio and they both had fun. They will both be submitting logs. They were disappointed in the logging program and did not know how a dupe sheet is supposed to be used in log submission.

Lad, W4ORD: Operated field day out of his trailer using battery power. They got a late start. A 20 meter sloper was used as an antenna which worked well on 20. 40, and 15. Solar power was used during the day. The triband beam they were planning to use fell down but new parts are being installed to make repairs.

Aurora, KN4VXB: Believes that many new hams out there want to learn about the practical aspects of the hobby such as equipment set-up, antenna installation, etc. So it is important to include them in the setting up for field day and other events. She worked hard to make a satellite contact during FD but couldn’t get through the pile ups. Between now and the next field day she will practice making satellite contacts so next time she will succeed!

Jack, KM4MBG: Enjoys the Friday night events at field day and enjoys putting together the stations and antennas.

Andy, WA4KIL: Only 15 FD log submissions have been made so far. Those still outstanding should be submitted to the ARRL ASAP!

Ken, KO4DHJ: Ken, a new ham, enjoys set up and take down in events like FD. Please keep him in the loop.

Sherry, WB4OSU: FD this year was a bit weird, but it was nice to stay in house. She made 470 points. She had to learn to configure and use N1MM for logging, but it was a good experience and worked well. Old antennas that she had previously abandoned worked well for field day. Her 5 watts seemed to work pretty well and she is looking forward to the next contest.

Doug, KA5ETS: He needs to submit his logs. 112 digital contacts were made. Good Zoom and a good time.

Dave, W4SAR: His vertical antenna was broken, but he was able to figure out how to do FT8 and had a ball using it.

Lad, W4ORD: Last year we had an outstanding caterer for the Christmas Party. If we want to use him this year we have to make a reservation and need to decide on a location. We can go ahead with that and just put it on hold until our plans solidify.

Wilson, W4BOH: Apparently the Bahai’ facility is available but our regular hall in Hillsborough would be closer. The idea of having a potluck has been floated. What do folks feel about that?

Laurie, N1YVU: Thanks to Lad and Wilson for your work and suggestions. There has been talk about the possibility of a potluck. Be assured that our members provide well-honed skills good service and great food. Plus, there is the possibility of getting them to prepare a cookbook.

Dan, KR4UB: Supports the idea of a potluck. That would also provide a better level of socialization for the event and, if the pandemic causes a last minute disruption, it will be easier to respond accordingly.

Lad, W4ORD: I can certainly support a potluck. Either way is fine with me.

Bill, N8BR: I support the idea of a potluck. The folks in this group prepare wonderful food, appetizers and desserts. Thumbs up for that!

Paul, N2XZF: I like the idea of the cookbook!

Aurora, KN4VXC: Just a reminder of her earlier announcement concerning the Fox Hunt on August 1. There will be both morning and afternoon events, and if you are interested in either one or both please let her know.

Nick, KA1HPM: Update on repeater towers in Chatham County. It turns out that the planned Moncure tower is in the approach path of the Lee County Airport. In the FAA permitting process it was determined that the original planned 350’ height can only be 270’ in height due to its location in the flight path. The search is on for alternative locations, one being the use of an existing water tank with a tower extension to achieve the desired height. More news later.

Hearing no further comments the meeting was adjourned by net control Dave, W4SAR.

Remote VE Session Methods that Hams in the Area Have Used

This article is a compilation of emails received from several new hams in the OCRA club on how they were able to obtain their amateur radio license via remote VE sessions there were available.

From Steve, now KO4EJX…

Dan,

I found the website for on-line exams thru Facebook, I think.  The site is https://hamstudy.org/.  There is a button to find a session and it tells you ff they are on line or in person.  I scrolled down until I found a session that was a) not full and b) at a time that I thought would work.  Primarily, eastern time, not pacific time!

I filled out a registration and paid the fee ($15) by pay-pal and they sent me all the info to  log into the Zoom session and a separate link for the exam.

Once the session started, 3 VE’s were on Zoom and I had to have two cameras, one on the laptop and a second on my phone or i-pad.  During the exam, I had to share my screen and have the second device muted and aimed at my hands and the computer.  Before the exam, we did a 360 around the room, under the table and everywhere else to make sure there were no notes, books or papers.  No cheating! I think that was part of the conditions to hold exams on-line.

The exam itself was on-line, click the letter with the answer and scroll down to the next one.  Once done, they graded it immediately and off we went.  The proctors were watching but turned off their video so they didn’t distract me.

I passed with 32/35 and had my call sign the next morning.  They sent the e-mail with the call sign before noon the next morning and then the FCC sent an e-mail a couple of days later.  Very easy/painless.  The main VE said in one e-mail they were using a beta exam software.  I’ll try to find his info and send it along so maybe the club can ask about that.  This was all thru the Columbia University ARC in NY.

Hope this helps and I enjoyed the meeting tonight.  Lots of fun and you guys make us newbies feel welcome!

Thanks
Steve

Here is the e-mail I received after registration for the on-line exam.    There may be several e-mails attached.  I’m not sure how this is going to forward!

STeve

———- Forwarded message ———
From: Alan Crosswell <alan+ve@columbia.edu>
Date: Mon, Jun 8, 2020 at 4:12 PM
Subject: Confirmed Hamstudy registration
To:  Steve…….
Now that you’ve registered on hamstudy.org and have received your 4-digit PIN, please follow the next steps. Upon successful completion of those steps, you’ll be assigned a time slot beginning somewhere between 6:00 and 7:45 PM Eastern Time.
  1. Make sure you’ve reviewed www.w2aee.columbia.edu/video-exams and that you meet the requirements for taking the test. If you are using a Mac, make sure you set permissions in advance. (This is a new Zoom feature as of late May, 2020.)
  2. Let me know if you plan on taking more than one exam element: We will allow you to take additional exam elements if you pass earlier elements, but only if you are well prepared. There is no additional fee for additional elements but we need to know your plans so we can schedule your and other candidate’s exam sessions accordingly, since we are only able to supervise one exam at a time.
  3. Pay the registration fee by sending $15 either by Venmo, Zelle or Paypal. Failure to send payment by 48 hours before the scheduled session time will result in your session reservation being cancelled.

VENMO

Send to @Alan-Crosswell (scan the QR code below) and provide the last four digits if Venmo asks: 7124

image.jpeg

From Ken, now KO4DHJ……

Dan,

When this pandemic hit I was ready to take my test at your March 7th testing session but…… (other obligation)……I passed on in person testing.

As April rolled around I was all ready to go and every test session was being shut down. I viewed a YouTube being done by Martin Brossman and a couple of guys that had been doing remote testing for quite some time in Alaska. So I recorded all their contact info and began my quest to remote test. I already had my FRN so all I needed to do was pay for the small registration & testing fee and find a proctor to monitor me while I tested. I found my neighbor across the street who is a General Class license holder who needed to qualify and be tested to be a proctor and obtain certification as a proctor by the Anchorage VECs. Once that was accomplished we needed to pick a date. That was May 7th at 6:00PM. The proctor inspected my kitchen, my laptop, table, scratch paper and pencil. Once the area passed inspection, I logged into the testing system and once sound tests were done and all 3 remote VEs could view and hear ok, the test began. In 15 minutes, I had passed Technician Class with 88.6% correct, then they offered General Class test which after another 20 minutes, I also passed General with an 86.8%. I was congratulated and asked if I wanted to try the Extra, which I said no.  Next an email document was sent and electronically signed my signature and that I’d have my call sign within the hour!

Waited my hour, no call sign, then I got a call from the Anchorage VEC telling me congrats for passing Tech, and because my proctor was only a General, I could only get credit for Tech.  Had I taken the Extra and passed it that night and only came away with Technician, I would have been a bit upset!

The AVEC also said  it would have been better if I had someone proctor that was not affiliated with amateur radio at all. Like a doctor, lawyer, police officer, sheriff deputy and not retired but active! My next choice would have been a retired federal prosecutor from church which wouldn’t have qualified because they need to be actively employed in their field of work.

All in all a great experience and I’ll get the General retest as soon as I can get a live in person session.

Feel free to modify the text if it is too detailed or feel I forgot a key point, I’ll answer any questions you have.

Ken

OCRA-DFMA Fox Hunt – Aug. 1 2020 – Save the Date!

Fellow Hams,

I had a good response to my survey and both the on-foot and vehicle based fox hunt events are a go. Thanks so much to everyone who responded!
I am happy to announce that there is one day that works for all interested participants.

Mark your calendars for August 1 for the OCRA-DFMA fox hunt event. For those of you who indicated interest in making or loaning transmitters, I will be in contact soon.

Best,

Aurora (KN4VXB)

Communications for coordination during the  August 1st Saturday Fox Hunt will be held on the OCRA 442.150 repeater.  Further details will be posted.

Fox Hunt Proposal

from Aurora, KN4VXB

Fellow Hams,

I mentioned this idea to at the Zoom OCRA meeting today, but I don’t think it got broadcast on the repeater, and I wanted to share the idea with the larger group:

Like many, I was sad that field day won’t be happening as usual, and I was trying to think of a group activity that could be done while maintaining social distancing. As preparation for eventual recovery of my own high altitude balloons, I would like to improve my skills at finding hidden APRS trackers.

The logical combination of these two ideas is a Fox Hunt! For those who don’t know, a fox hunt is a scavenger hunt for hidden radio transmitters.

I am happy to be the organizer for this event, but as I am am new to this, I would like an experienced advisors (or two) who would be willing to assist. I recently ordered a small APRS transmitter that I am willing to let the group use for the event, if needed. I have a few questions:

1. Would you be interested in participating in a club fox hunt?
2. Have you done so before? If so, what did you like/not like about what you did before?
3. Do you have equipment we could use for the event, such as APRS transmitters or extra antennas/HTs for folks who don’t have them?
4. Should we have prizes or simply bragging rights? If prizes, how should that work?
5. Would you be willing to help me organize?
6. Do you think late July or early August would be a reasonable time to do this? (I’m starting grad school in mid-August, so if I’m organizing, I’d like to have this done before then.)

Thanks in advance for feedback and ideas!

05/13/20 Update:
Thanks everyone who gave me feedback on my idea!  Based on feedback I’ve gotten so far I’d like to amend my original proposal in a few ways.  I propose we have TWO events over the course of a day or weekend:

  • Event 1: An early- to mid-morning (before it gets too hot) on-foot search for transmitters at a park or large private property.  From the feedback I got, a 2-m transmitter that sends out a string of Morse code would be better than an APRS transmitter, as I originally proposed.  I think this may be fun to do in teams of 3-4 people to make it more social.  Maybe one experience person and 2-3 newbies per team?  Perhaps a capture-the-flag type event where each team hides transmitters that the other teams have to find?  For public health reasons, team members that are not from the same family must stay more than 2 m apart, which should be easy to do.
  • Event 2:  A late morning thru afternoon fox hunt in vehicles to find a hidden person transmitting from an undisclosed location.  The ideal fox would place themselves in an unlikely place where they can work the repeater, but not be heard on the input.  For 50 minutes out of every hours, the “fox” must answer questions when asked by repeater users on the club repeater.  Since this activity can be done in air conditioned vehicles, this event will allow folks who don’t want to slog through the woods or be out in the heat to participate.
If this sounds ok, I will work on putting together a more fleshed out description of events for the group to review and an online survey to figure out who is interested in doing what.  I will plan to only organize events that people actually want to do, and are willing to help out with preparations for.

Best,

Aurora

OCRA Club Over-the-Air Meeting 442.150 Repeater with Audio Linked Zoom Conference

Monday, May 11th, 2020
7:30pm to 8:30pm
Description:
Our next monthly membership meeting for OCRA will be Monday, May 11 at 7:30 pm.  Since Orange County still restricts all gatherings to 10 persons or less, the Efland Baha’i Center remains closed.

We will hold the meeting over the W4UNC 442.150+ repeater, PL 131.8

Additionally, we will have a Zoom meeting held simultaneously, so that those who cannot access the repeater may still participate. We have been experimenting with audio links between Zoom and the repeater, so it should work well.

Hope to hear you there!

See the OCRA Club Meeting Notice posted on the OCRA/DFMA groups.io Message Board for the OCRA Zoom Video Conference Log-in Information.

73,

Dave Snyder, W4SAR

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Bill, N8BR on the OCRA Monday Night 10M Net via Video Conference

Remember the HF phone patch that used to be commonplace in the ham shack years ago?  How about a video conference HF patch?  Or for that matter, flip a switch and it’s a video conference to VHF/UHF patch?

Bill, N8BR does not have an HF station at his QTH, but that did not stop him from listening to the net and Dan, KR4UB passing on his comments to the net.

Dan hosted a video conference and invited Bill to join the OCRA Monday Night 10M Net on 28.450 via video conference.  Ham station audio is fed into the computer running the video conference application. A simple switch of the video conference microphone device driver setting from the normally used Logitech HD camera microphone to the computer line-input brings the ham radio receiver audio and Dan’s Heil headset microphone audio into the video conference.

Much of the equipment used and shown below has origin in other usage and has morphed into a small home audio studio serving multiple purposes. This application is a good example of the versatility it can provide.

The video conference “audio patch” application demonstrated here might could be built using some of the audio interfacing devices found in today’s ham shack for computer sound card driven amateur radio communication modes. However, if undertaken getting the audio chain correct might still require use of external audio mixers, attenuators, and additional isolation and perhaps impedance matching transformers, and instrumentation to get the sound right.

W2IHY Technologies Equalizer Function

The ham radio connections in this setup uses a W2IHY Technologies Equalizer that has multiple microphone inputs, one used for the Heil Headset microphone and a second input is used for the video conference inbound audio feed.  The internal microphone amplifier gain is adjustable to ensure appropriate drive level to the selected ham transmitter with the output fed via an internal isolation transformer for RFI protection. The output is switch selectable to one of  two ham station transmitters, in this case a Yaesu 8900 VHF/UHF and the Elecraft K3s transceiver. The phone jack output is an outbound (ham transmitter mic input) audio monitor output that is also connected to one of the Roland Monitors as described below. The equalizer interconnection ports available for all audio outbound to the ham radios are shown below.

Roland CM-30 Studio Monitor Function

Two Roland CM-30 Mini-Cube Studio Monitors in an interconnected stereo link configuration provides multiple audio channel mixer inputs as shown below on the one of the two units. One of the CM-30 units is used for all inbound (video conference incoming audio & ham radio receiver audio) feed mixing. Outbound (ham transmitter microphone inputs & video conference outbound) audio is separately mixed in, permitting audio from all sources to be monitored on the Heil headset as a final control operator quality check. Roland, a major manufacturer of musical instruments and sound stage equipment describes the CM-30 as a multi-purpose portable mixing monitor for the home-studio and portable live monitoring onstage applications.

A Jensen two channel isolation transformer previously used in a home theatre application is used to provide RF & ground loop isolation between the ham station and computer audio connections.  Braid ground strapping bonds all equipment to the common station ground.

A recently added connection for the video conference audio output will permit that feed to be mixed into the Elecraft HF or the Yaesu VHF/UHF mic input so video conference folks have half-duplex two way audio communications and can join the rag chew. None of this will be automatic and will require the control operator to set up the “audio patch” and operate the PTT control, the same as was required by the FCC back in the days of “phone patch” operations.

Inbound, Outbound, Mixing, Attenuators, etc, etc

Does the above discussion of all the inbound, outbound, audio mixing sound like one giant circular loop?  Not surprising… Ever wonder why speakerphones, telephone handsets, cellphones, bluetooth headsets, hearing aids and now video/audio conferencing…. any accoustic environment where speakers and microphones are in close audio proximity doesn’t turn into an enormous squealing audio feed back loop?  You’ve probably heard that many times with public address systems. What’s the magic?  What invention took place and has been deployed in telephone systems from the beginning?  The telephone hybrid transformer, used in bidirectional audio paths where two audio directions are combined in to a single audio channel. This function is essential in today’s world of communication devices and typically done with digitial signal audio processing. The mixing and combining of audio paths described in the above setup had to be done in a way to avoid generating an audio feedback loop at several possible points in the circuit.  The bidirectional processing or half-duplexing of conference audio by a video conference service is also a necessary ingredient.

The Nearby HT / Repeater Echo Effect

You’ve probably have experienced this effect in ham gatherings when you transmit on with your HT into a repeater and someone close to you has their HT volume turned up on the same repeater you are using.  You’ll hear your own voice coming through being delayed in time or an outright audio feed back squeal occurring. The delayed audio echo effect is caused by an audio delay line in the repeater controller for the purpose of removing squelch noise bursts at the beginning and end of every transmission into the repeater and also for masking DTMF repeater control tones sent to the repeater.  The OCRA 442.150mHz repeater is programmed to use a 70 msec audio delay to accomplish the above purposes. Sounds short, but very disorienting to hear your own voice delayed in time as you try to speak!

The conference to repeater audio bridge described in this article can have similar echos in the video conference side when repeater radio transmissions are recirculated from radios in the video conference. Video conferences can be more vulnerable as downloaded video conference applications typically provide a microphone audio AGC (automatic gain control) that if checked as shown below that will adjust your computer/conference device microphone gain on the fly to make all voices at the same level in the conference. This is a good thing for the conference, but stray radio audio can be problematic.

However, the effect can be totally eliminated by proper audio protocols being practiced by those in the video conference. Those procedures will be described in a separate article.

Want to generate colorful, interesting video feedback loop?

If you have a separate, moveable video camera used for video conferencing with its video signal being displaed on your computer, take the camera and point it back at your computer display and see what happens.. You’ll see something like the image below. While it doesn’t squeal like audio would, it appears as if one were looking down an interesting, almost infinitely deep video hole.

While the equipment used here may border on overkill, hopefully the above audio discussion explains the necessity and there are advantages especially in the ability to measure, set and monitor audio levels at the key points in the audio chain. Among other uses, this setup has been used for some years as the final over the air audio level checks before a newly built repeater is deployed to a difficult to reach site such as the OCRA 442.150 mHz repeater located high up on the TV tower.

The setup is also used for periodic repeater checks and troubleshooting when repeater problems have arisen. The computer can do extended VOX triggered recording of the repeater to catch intermittent problems and spectrographic analysis software can be helpful on certain types of repeater issues.

An actual recorded example spectrographic display below shows a microphone output to a transmitter, a bit overdriven and prior to equalization for optimim voice clarity on the left side. A received repeater end of transmission squelch tail noise burst not being masked by a properly timed repeater delay line is shown on the right side. The duration of the repeater carrier hang time, including the PL outbound tone (the solid orange line) being transmitted past the inbound received carrier drop is shown on the right channel. The VU meters show the instantaneous and peak audio levels on the left and right channels. The computer cursor when placed on points in the spectrographic display gives precise readings of frequency and decibel level.

The Software used above…..

The display above is actually two computer applications, the first program called Spectrogram, used in a vast range of fields, was written many years ago by Richard Horne, an Electrical Engineer working for the U.S. Navy. The second program Goldwave, a professional digital audio application was used to analyze historic recordings of the Moon landing, including establishing the “missing word” from astronaut Neil Armstrong’s famous line.

In summary, the building of this setup has been heavily influenced by other audio interests & needs, but also by experience in building the OCRA repeaters for the last 20 years. Mentoring by Danny, K4ITL in the early days of repeater building taught what it takes to set up repeaters to have excellent audio quality.

An SDR receiver is also intergrated into the station setup.  More informaton and photos of this extended use are available at this link https://www.qrz.com/db/KR4UB

Dan, KR4UB

Bug Refurb – Another Piece from the Old Novice Station

from Bruce, N1LN

Another piece of the old novice station finished today.   The bug is one that my long ago SK uncle, W2NAD, gave me after I first got my ticket.  Since then I modified it into a paddle to use with a keyer I built from the ARRL book, Understanding Amateur Radio.

Now about 56 years later, it is a bug again!

I lost the original weights so I made one out of a large galvanized bolt.   I cut the head off with a hack saw, drilled it / tapped it and DONE!

He also let me borrow his HQ-129X, which is why I purchased one to go with my DX60 / HG10 combo.