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.

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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OCRA Monthly Meeting – Monday April 13th @ 7:30pm via the 442.150 Repeater. NO Meeting @ Efland Baha’i Center

As the Efland Baha’i Center remains closed due to the State and County directives that will not permit gatherings, we will hold our monthly OCRA meeting over the air on the W4UNC repeater (442.150+, 131.8 PL). This will be via a directed net, similar in format to the AUXCOMM/ARES nets held on Saturday mornings, I as club president who usually runs the meetings, will act as net control, with someone else as a back up. We will commence this net at 7:30 pm on Monday, April 13.

When checking in, give your call sign and name only, I ask that we dispense with the “what I’ve done with ham radio lately comments” we usually do with introductions, we’ll have rag chew opportunities later in the net.

After all attendees are checked in, we will have brief officer’s reports. We will have brief pauses for any members to make queries or give brief comments, via the net control.

Our agenda at this time is:

AUXCOMM/ARES

Volunteer Exams

Field Day

Any other items?

There will be a pause after each agenda item, again for any member queries or comments, going through the net control.

Following the completion of the agenda, we will have a roll call checkout, as we do with the Saturday nets, where members who wish to continue a rag chew are welcome to do so.

Hope to talk to many of you there, stay safe all!

73,

Dave Snyder, W4SAR

Morse Code Classes via a UHF Repeater… starting January 8th

Steve Jackson, KZ1X

revised December 29 2019 ….

The way that most people learn Morse Code best is in a classroom style setting. From roughly 1840 through about 1970, this was the manner in which most people learned Morse Code.

For a variety of reasons, beginning in the early 1980s, a trend began where people either did not have the opportunity to attend a classroom setting and / or took it upon themselves to try and self-teach the skill. The former is unfortunate; the latter, many times more challenging.

Well, amateur radio certainly has changed in the ensuing decades but what has not changed is the desire among many hams to be able to use Morse Code on the air.

Due to practical limitations such as the lack of a suitable classroom venue, the geographically diverse nature of potential students, busy lifestyles, and availability of instructors, it is not likely we will see a return to regularly scheduled, local, sit-down type Morse Code classes.

However, for those who do wish to learn in a class-styled environment, and who already hold a Technician or higher grade of amateur license, there may still be an alternative for a group-oriented Morse Code learning environment.

A Proposal

OCRA maintains a wide coverage UHF repeater. Like the majority of repeaters over the past 15 years or so, it is inactive most of the time.

This terrific and underutilized resource could easily host a scheduled on-the-air Morse Code class for students already holding amateur licenses. This document describes such a class.

Conceptually, the idea is simply to move a traditional sit-down classroom experience to one conducted in real time via a repeater. By making it interactive, on the repeater, the class will train participants to communicate over-the-air in Morse Code.

Yes, that’s it. The sole goal of the class is conferring the demonstrable ability to send and receive Morse Code on the air.

Before you ask:

There is no sending or receiving speed goal for this class.

Setting such a goal was important in an era when there was a standardized FCC test to pass. Teaching to receive at a given speed did not serve students well; it only helped the test proctors. Moreover, without a sending test, the underlying Morse communications skill of the student is not certain.

Therefore, a fixed-speed goal is not appropriate for a Morse Code class taught in 2020. Think of this class instead like “Marconi meets Montessori.”

Anticipating your next question:

What speed are the lessons sent at?

The answer is:

Since the class goal is to be able to make practical use of Morse Code on the air, the so-called speed for lessons is actually a more complicated issue than a simple number.

The speed of the dots and dashes for lessons is set at the natural rhythm rate, such the listening part of the brain will not try to ‘count’ these symbols. Instead, each letter’s acoustic pattern gets interpreted by the brain as a unique musical sound. Thus, the same part of the brain used to remember the first notes of a favorite song is activated to memorize the letters.

This is also why significant effort has been put into making the tones used in the class have musical integrity (pitch, tonality, and harmonic content are controlled).

In turn, the space between the letters is artificially lengthened from the expected spacing, so that the student will have time to write down each letter sent.

Focusing on “how fast?” as the sole metric for success is great for horses, not for people. This is about recognition, not rate. Once one knows all the letters and digits, increased speed is then only a function of experience and desire.

How Will The Class Work?

A class participant will learn Morse code over a period of approximately two months. The letters of the alphabet, the ten digits, and certain punctuation and procedural signals are introduced to students each week, in a graduated process.

Materials used are a combination of a Windows software application by G4FON, the K1EL Morse Tutor keyer kits, and a weekly over-the-air interactive instructor-led lesson. The software is used to make the letter introductions, and to help weekly home practice.

Dividing the 26 letters into four groups allows one to learn the more frequently used letters first. In turn, this allows the most rapid progress towards forming words. Quickly thereafter, students can create simple sentences.

The class design is interactive because student participants both receive and send in each class, and draw upon each other’s success. All of this occurs exactly as it would in a ‘live’ in-person setting. It is therefore vitally important that the students faithfully complete each week’s homework and come prepared for the next class.

Classes, Equipment, and Software

Classes

The class itself consists of eight on-the-air lessons,  plus preparatory work.

Preparatory work consists of using the software to practice and learn the assigned new letters each week. Most people find that this will take from 1 to 3 hours per week. (Weeks 2 and 4 are hardest.)

Each on-the-air lesson will be roughly 30-45 minutes in length.

There is a fixed curriculum. One cannot ‘skip’ any lesson, nor are there any make-up lessons possible.

This is in part because the lessons are not simply recordings. They are interactive, and, each lesson builds upon the previous one. In addition, students are active participants in the learning process for and with other members of their cohort.

Each over-the-air lesson consists of a student-listening portion, and a student-sending portion.

  • In the student-listening portion of each class, the instructor reviews the new letters introduced the previous week, by sending the letters over the air to the students.

This listening portion consists of these most recent letters, sent in three sequences of ten random groups of four letters each. The instructor, using an automated tool, transmits these.

After the lesson, the actual letter groups sent will be posted on line, so students can check their copy.

  • In the student-sending portion, the student will formulate words from all the letters learned so far in the class, and then send those words over the air so other class participants can copy them. Each student will send at least two words (generally 4 or 5 letters each).

The student-sending portion of the class is one reason for the K1EL Morse Code tutor kits. These kits allow a low-cost way of sending good quality modulated-CW signals over the repeater.

If a student wishes to use some other Morse tone generation gear, that is their option. However, it will still be necessary to use the same settings as shown below (in the software topic), so that all class participants’ signals sound similar (pitch, speed, spacing).

The student will need to be able to hold their microphone close enough to their kit’s speaker so they can send their words over the air. Of course – they must ALSO access the repeater well while doing so.

Equipment

The intention is for the typical local, licensed amateur to participate in the class easily, with minimal additional expense.

An assumption is that all students will already have the means to access the repeater, often via a handheld radio. It is prudent to check one’s signal into the repeater from the location where one will participate in each week’s lesson, prior to starting the course. Adding an external gain antenna and perhaps a corded microphone accessory could be very helpful.

An in-person set-up session prior to the first class will be available, so that students’ K1EL Morse Tutor kits can be programmed. The reason for this is because the Morse Tutor kits are programmed using Morse Code, and of course, the student using this Tutor does not yet know Morse Code.

The programming will be for rates, student callsign, audio pitch, and related settings.

Software

The software used for the class is by G4FON. It is a Windows program. (If you absolutely must use some other platform, please contact Steve, KZ1X, to discuss options.)

Several features of this software make it the ideal choice. The primary one is the feature where the user can select specific letters for the computer to send, repeatedly, allowing the student to learn new letters every week according to the class syllabus.

Other G4FON program options allow the computer-generated Morse Code to ‘sound’ like the class lessons do.

To set up the G4FON software for the class, choose the following settings on the main screen:

  • Set the Pitch to 660
  • Actual Character Speed to 15
  • Effective Code Speed to 5

and make any needed changes to the ‘button’ type options, as shown above.

Afterwards, open the ‘Setup’ tool and choose the “Morse Character Setup” tab:

For the first lesson, choose only the letters ‘T’ and ‘E’ as shown above.

For the second lesson, choose only the letters ‘E’ ‘I’ ‘S’ ‘H’ ‘T’ ‘M’ and ‘O.’

See below for the subsequent week letter introductions.

Here is a link to access the software:

http://www.g4fon.net/CW%20Trainer.htm

Lessons

Lesson 1 E T

Lesson 2 E I S H T M O

Lesson 3 A W J N D B

Lesson 4 U V G Z K R P X

Lesson 5 F C L Q Y

Lesson 6 1 2 3 4 5

Lesson 7 6 7 8 9 0

Lesson 8 . , ? /

OCRA Membership Meeting – May 13, 2019

Treasurer Report:

Dan (KR4UB) Balance is still strong, current membership is 67 with 30 needing renewing.   The cost for maintaining our repeater is increasing. The high cost of tower climbers is one reason OCRA maintains a heathy financial balance.  You can easily assist in keeping our financial balance strong.  For those who purchase from Amazon and want to add to OCRA’s coffers, Amazon Smile donates 0.5% to eligible charitable organizations.  For more information, please visit the following site.

DurHam Fest:

The 45th Annual Durham Fest occurs over Memorial Weekend.  OCRA will provide a table to sell members items.  We would ask for a small donation or percentage of sales to off-set the cost of the table.  Admission is $5 and prizes may be won.  For more information, please scroll down for more information.

Repeater:

The OCRA 442.150 MHz PL 131.8 repeater is programmed to notify the club of cancellation due to poor weather.  We encourage all members to listen for announcements and check the groups.io email reflector if storms are present on meeting days.

Field Day – June 22-23:

Field day will again be hosted on Wilson’s (W4BOH) property over the weekend of June 22-23. 

Bruce (N1LN) Station setup will occur on Friday, June 21.  Band captains are responsible for procuring the necessary bill of material and station coverage throughout the event. Please register your station of interest and availability on the website under Events, OCRA/DFMA Field Day Signup Summary.  Again, Elecraft radios are the standard for this year.  Band captains that borrowed radios last year need to ensure their availability again this year.

Bruce will provide N1MM logging software instruction training in June.

Steve (W3AHL) mentioned wireless connectivity for multiple computers with N1MM is difficult to manage.  However with the laptops donated for Field Day by Adam Caudill (WX4WNC) this will be much easier. Thanks to Adam!  The computers will contain a standard configuration image, providing a more stable and consistent approach for management.  

Bruce will provide N1MM software training in June.  Elecraft radios are rig of choice, making interfacing and configuration easier.

John (KM4MDR) will be facilitating Potluck on Friday around 6:00 PM night.  Saturday 5:00 dinner and Sunday breakfast. Attendees will need to prepay for meals. Please see payment options and meal details on the 2019 Field Day post.

Field Day Materials – Operators may want to have present the following as conditions are likely to be hot and humid.

  1.  Helmet – if assisting with tower construction and placement
  2.  Gloves
  3.  Safety kit
  4. Water bottle
  5. Bug spray
  6. Sunscreen
  7. Hat
  8. Smile

OCRA Membership Meeting, September 10, 2018

Introductions:

Sixteen members were present, with three people taking exams.

Treasurer Report:

Balance continues to be strong.  Currrent membership is at 78, with 23 needing renewal, and one expiring this month.

Seventeen new members have joined since January.

Repeater:

Dan (KR4UB) brought the latest Southeastern Repeater Association (SERA) repeater journal, providing a listing of repeater frequencies and other relevant information. The SERA was founded in 1971 as the North Carolina FM Repeater Association Inc., when a group of state repeater owners got together to form an organization designed to assist in coordinating, providing communication & technical information, and bringing together all amateur repeater owners into one united body.

RepeaterBook applications are available for Android and Apple devices.  The applications are helpful to identify local repeaters during travels.

Have another Meal (HAM)

Wilson (W4BOH) has offered to host a family friendly, fall cookout of burgers and dogs in October.  You should have received an email via the group.io list serve.  If you did not receive an email, but are interested in attending, please let Wilson known. Please bring vegetables and desserts to share.

Green Bank Telescope

Dan (KR4UB) is planning to revisit the Robert C Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT) in Green Bank, West Virginia.  The Green Bank site was part of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) until September 30, 2016. Since October 1, 2016, the telescope has been operated by the newly separated Green Bank Observatory. The telescope honors the name of the late Senator Robert C. Byrd who represented West Virginia and who pushed the funding of the telescope through Congress.

The Green Bank Telescope operates at meter to millimeter wavelengths. Its 100-meter diameter collecting area, unblocked aperture, and good surface accuracy provide superb sensitivity across the telescope’s full 0.1–116 GHz operating range. The GBT is fully steerable, and 85% of the entire local celestial hemisphere is accessible. It is used for astronomy about 6500 hours every year, with 2000–3000 hours per year going to high-frequency science.

Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES):

ARES:

Steve (W3HAL) stated OC Emergency Services has requested that OC ARES/AUXCOMM volunteers be on standby for probable activation to support evacuation shelters due to forecasted flooding, high winds and power outages. Details are pending updates on Hurricane Florence’s path and timing and probably won’t be available until late Wednesday or Thursday morning.

The typical scenario would have one or two shelters plus the EOC opening, with a team of two ham radio operators per site for two 12 hour shifts per day.  That would require 12 volunteers each day.

As always, the first priority is to make sure your family is safe and prepared for the storm, as mentioned on Saturday’s ARES Training net.  Meanwhile, evaluate your availability to deploy on Thursday, 09/13 through Saturday, 09/15.  If you think you might be available, depending, on how the storm actually affects our area of course, please email me directly so I can get a rough idea of how many volunteers might be available.

Volunteers would need to be registered in the AUXCOMM database to deploy to the EOC.  For shelters, at least one on the team would need AUXCOMM registration and the second could be an ARES volunteer.

And one final reminder to log into the AUXCOMM database and verify your contact info is still valid, if you haven’t done so recently.   https://www.auxcomm.us/db/nc/  (Ignore the certificate error notice)

Please contact Steve w3ahl@att.net for further information

Hog Day:

Hillsborough Hog Day may be postponed or cancelled due to Florence.  Please check the website for up-to-date information.

Boy Scouts Jamboree:

Jamboree-on-the-Air, or JOTA, is the largest Scouting event in the world. It is held annually the third full weekend in October. JOTA uses amateur radio to link Scouts and hams around the world, around the nation, and in your own community. This jamboree requires no travel, other than to a nearby amateur radio operators ham shack. Many times you can find the hams will come to you by setting up a station at your Scout camporee, at the park down the block, or perhaps at a ham shack already set up at your council’s camp.

Martin (KA5JUJ) shared how one creates a cantenna, a tin can waveguide for WiFi.

Baofeng handheld radios are popular in the amateur radio community as inexpensive, entry level HTs.  Future OCRA membership programs including learning more about repeater operations, programming a Baofeng, and overcoming “mic fright.”

OCRA Membership Meeting, August 13, 2018

Introductions:

Treasurer Report:  Dan (KR4UB)

Club balance was reported.

Dan created a new attendance sheet.  He also went through old club records to capture the date members joined.  There are many current members who helped establish the club in the early 1990s, when the club was called the Orange County Wireless Pioneers.  Steve Jackson (KZ1X) was the spark plug for establishing the club.  The first meeting was in the community room of OWASA.  Anyone with club records, please let Dan know. Dan will scan and add the content to the site, which will help preserve club records.

Dan has a repeater still occupying space in his basement.  The current repeater market in Durham and Alamance is rather saturated.  However, as Chatham County is growing, so is the need for communication towers.  Nick (KA1HPM) mentioned that the county is planning to install several new towers for 2020.   There may be opportunities to relocate the repeater to a tower in Chatham County for amateur radio and CERT usage.

Field Day results:

While radio propagation was sketchy, we were able to accumulate 2000 more points this year over last.  Every station, minus 80 meters, was able to increase their score, with digital exceeding last year by over 1000 points.   This year’s numbers will change slightly as Dave (W4SAR) thoroughly combs the combined log to eliminate duplicate contacts, fix broken exchanges, and eliminate broken exchanges that cannot be made good:

For more detailed information on Field Day, we encourage you to read the July 2018 DFMA newsletter. https://www.dfma.org/TheLink/2018/Link1807web.pdf

Show and Tell

Steve (KZ1X) was cleaning out an old radio box and brought in a Micron SWR field strength meter, which may have been purchased as the old Radio Shack in University Mall.  The Micron measures the amount of signal transmitted by your antenna system, and a signal pattern can be plotted by taking readings around your antenna.  The meter covers 3 to 30 MHz and can handle up to 1KW.

He also brought alligator clips with magnifier glass used for splicing wire and adding connectors.

Dave (KW4XL) brought in several 3D printed products, including a raspberry pi hotspot case and working crescent wrench.

The next membership meeting is scheduled for Monday, September 10.  Hope to see you there!

442.150 Repeater to be used for the 2018 Spring Bike Rally – Sunday, April 15th

The OCRA 442.150 repeater will be used Sunday, April 15th for back-up communications supporting the 2018 Spring Rally Bike Event.

The event will start around 8AM and should run until about 3pm.

If you would like to volunteer to provide communications support for the event you can sign up at at the Ham Public Service website.

The North Carolina Bike Club (NCBC) coordinates this charity ride, typically features 31, 62 and 100 mile courses for the riders. SAGS, as well as Hams assigned to Rest Stops will be needed. More information about the Spring Rally event is available on the NC Bicycle Club website

53.63 -1Mhz pl100 testing from north of ENO

As of March 25, K4WCV’s new 53.63 repeater is on the air though the coverage on it is not as good as we think it eventually will be. The repeater is running from a location north of ENO, right on the Orange Durham county borders about 7 miles northwest of Durham. The antenna is currently a multi-band Comet GP-15 vertical 90′ up. The repeater is a GE-Master II and a Sinclair 6-can helical duplexer.

Coverage is probably:

  • all of Durham
  • Chapel Hill
  • most of Hillsborough
  • Efland
  • i-85 from Efland through Butner.
  • east to Creedmore

Over the next several months we expect the antenna to be replaced with a mono-band 6meter base-station antenna, about 40 feet higher than the existing multi-band antenna.

The repeater transmits on 53.63Mhz.  Input is -1Mhz split with required PL tone of 100hz.

Touch tone code 111 is available to record your audio for testing. Key down and press 1 1 1, and then unkey. The repeater will send morse code “OK”. Now key up and talk for 10 seconds. Unkey and the repeater will play back your voice. The sound quality is a little restricted on the playback but you can definitely tell if you are choppy or noisy or have no audio.

The repeater is simulcast on 443.75 Mhz from the same site.  Eventually there are expected to be two repeaters where 443.75 +5Mhz will be available and will be fully linked to 53.63.  KK4PH is supplying the 440 repeater hardware.  KM4KZ supplied the antenna, coax, mounting, air-space.

Bob, K4WCV, has been running the 6m interest net on the OCRA 53.45 repeater for the past year. Until two weeks ago it was on Friday night at 8:30pm. The net recently moved to Wednesday night at 8:30pm, still on 53.45Mhz.   Wednesday night, on one or both of the repeaters, will be a good time to see who can work the new repeater.  Stay tuned!

KK4PH, W4RFQ, KA2DEW, and KW4KZ are helping Bob with site, technical assistance, equipment, testing, tuning, wiring, pats on the back, pity, and anything else to get the repeater on the air!

Information web-page for hams in Raleigh

http://torborg.com/a
I created a web page to provide information for hams, originally new hams, but it kind-of got out of hand. The page is intended for hams in Raleigh, specifically, but much of the material is interesting for the surrounding region as well.  I wrote a repeater listing page which was intended to be more up-to-date than RARS’ page.  Now RARs links to my page.  Please comment if there is material missing that seems like it should be there and especially if the page is completely wrong about something.

I’d like to add a new page which lists the best repeaters for drivers in NC and in surrounding states.  145.21 and 442.15 are examples of wide coverage repeaters in this area.  What’s are some good ones useful while driving in other areas including in SC, GA, TN, WV, VA ?
Thanks for the help.
The page is at http://torborg.com/a

73 de Tadd – KA2DEW, Raleigh NC

 

Upcoming Public Service Events April 2nd & 22nd – Volunteers needed – 442.150 repeater to used

Supporting public service events is an excellent way to make Amateur Radio visible to the community, support worthy charitable causes and to hone your field operating skills.  The two events OCRA provides course communications for each year are:

  1. The Not So Normal Run on Sunday April 02 in Carrboro with about 400 runners expected.  This will be our second year participating in the NSN Run.  The course has changed this year, being simplified to a single 6.55 mile loop that is run 1, 2 or 3 times depending on the event.  We haven’t identified where we will be located along the course yet, but will probably need 5-6 volunteers.  The event web site is:  http://notsonormalrun.itsyourrace.com/event.aspx?id=6757
  2. Tar Heel 10 Miler Run on Saturday, April 22 is a large event with over 6,500 runners usually.  The course and our positions are the same as last year, so we need 7-8 volunteers.  The event web site is:  http://tarheel10miler.com/

I’ll provide more info soon, along with requests to sign up for course positions.  These are fun events and are good first-time public service events for newer hams, as well as useful training for ARES volunteers.

Reserve the dates on your calendars if you are interested.  Feel free to contact me if you have questions.

Steve, W3AHL Orange County ARES/AUXCOMM EC

for W3AHL, Dan KR4UB