Friday, February 24, 2006

Good PR !!!

While Amateur Radio might not make the headlines everyday, we got a mention in the White House report on Hurrican Katrina. The report was very self critical on the government's role in handling the aftermath of one of the worst natural disasters in our Nation's history. Amateur Radio was mentioned in a very positive light. At least we're getting noticed somewhere!

The following appeared courtesy of Rich Moseson W2VU, editor of CQ Magazine, on the CQ Magazine e-mail reflector. Thanks, Rich, for keeping us informed!

The following is from the CQ-News reflector:

From the CQ Newsroom…

The White House today released its review of the federal response to
Hurricane Katrina, which, according to a statement, "identifies the systemic
problems in Federal emergency preparedness and response revealed by
Hurricane Katrina - and the best solutions to address them." The report
included 17 lessons the Executive Branch learned after reviewing and
analyzing the response to Katrina; made 125 specific recommendations to the
President, and identified 11 critical actions to be completed before the
first day of the 2006 hurricane season.

The report also included a section titled, "What Went Right" in the Katrina
response, which singled out amateur radio operators for particular praise:

*"Other organizations worked tirelessly to assist emergency responders that,
due to the storm, did not have the equipment and means to effectively carry
out their duties. Amateur Radio Operators from both the Amateur Radio
Emergency Service and the American Radio Relay League, monitored distress
calls and rerouted emergency requests for assistance throughout the U.S.
until messages were received by emergency response personnel. A distress
call made from a cell phone on a rooftop in New Orleans to Baton Rouge was
relayed, via ham radio, from Louisiana to Oregon, then Utah, and finally
back to emergency personnel in Louisiana, who rescued the 15 stranded
victims. Ham radio operators voluntarily manned the amateur radio stations
at sites such as the National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Watch Net,
Waterway Net, Skywarn and the Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network."

Finally, the report identified three immediate priorities:
1) Implementing a comprehensive National Preparedness System "to make
certain that we have a fully national system that ensures unity of effort in
preparing for and responding to natural and man-made disasters;"
2) Creating a "Culture of Preparedness" that "emphasizes that the entire
Nation - at all levels of government, the private sector, communities, and
individual citizens - shares common goals and responsibilities for homeland
security;" and
3) Implement corrective actions "to ensure we do not repeat the problems
encountered during Hurricane Katrina."

A White House fact sheet summarizing the report is available online at

(Tnx CQ Public Service Editor Bob Josuweit, WA3PZO)

The full report is also available online at

73 de Larry W2LJ

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

FCC noncommittal

ARLB003 FCC noncommittal on "Morse code" proceeding

ARRL Bulletin 3 ARLB003
From ARRL Headquarters
Newington CT February 14, 2006
To all radio amateurs

ARLB003 FCC noncommittal on ''Morse code'' proceeding

Just when the FCC will act on the ''Morse code'' proceeding, WT Docket
05-235, remains hazy. The Commission released a Notice of Proposed
Rule Making and Order (NPRM&O) last July proposing to eliminate the
Element 1 (5 WPM) Morse code requirement for all license classes.
The Amateur Radio community filed more than 3800 comments on the
proceeding, and additional comments continue to show up, even though
the formal comment deadline was last fall. The next--and
most-anticipated--step for the Commission is to formally adopt any
revisions to its rules and conclude the proceeding with a Report and
Order (R&O) that spells out the changes and specifies their
effective date.

''There really is no news,'' an FCC Wireless Telecommunications Bureau
(WTB) staffer told ARRL this week on background. ''We certainly hope
to release WT Docket 05-235 sometime this year, but we're not making
any predictions at this time.'' The WTB staffer indicated there would
be no ''big announcements'' at the Dayton Hamvention FCC Forum either.

Beyond eliminating the Morse requirement, the FCC declined in its
NPRM&O to go forward with any other suggested changes to Amateur
Service licensing rules or operating privileges.

The proceeding began with 18 petitions for rule making--many just
calling for the elimination of the Morse requirement but some asking
for more far-reaching changes in the Amateur Service rules. The
various petitions attracted a total of some 6200 comments. The FCC
subsequently consolidated the petitions--including one from the ARRL
asking the FCC to establish a new entry-level license class and to
retain the Morse requirement for Amateur Extra class
applicants--into a single proceeding designated WT 05-235.

Worth noting is that the FCC did not propose in WT 05-235 to extend
HF privileges to current Technician licensees who have not passed a
Morse code examination. In its NPRM&O the FCC suggested that in a
no-Morse-requirement regime, such ''codeless Techs'' would be able to
gain HF access by taking the Element 3 General class written

Before it releases an R&O on the Morse code proceeding, however, the
WTB wants to wrap up action in another Amateur Radio-related
docket--the ''Phone Band Expansion'' (or ''Omnibus'') NPRM in WT Docket
04-140, released last April 15. A dozen petitions for rulemaking,
some dating back to 2001, were consolidated in the Omnibus
proceeding. In that NPRM, the Commission proposed to go along with
the ARRL's Novice refarming plan aimed at reallocating the current
Novice/Tech Plus subbands to expand portions of the 80, 40 and 15
meter phone bands. The FCC also agreed with an ARRL proposal to
extend privileges in the current General CW-only HF subbands to
present Novice and Tech Plus licensees (or Technicians with Element
1 credit).

Any FCC decision to eliminate the 5 WPM Morse code requirement for
HF access would have no impact on either the current HF CW-only
subbands or on the CW privileges of Amateur Radio licensees. The
Morse code proceeding neither put forward nor recommended any
changes in CW allocations or privileges.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

He's Got the Cooties!

No ..... not the Cooties; just a Cootie. And this Cootie has nothing to do with imaginary childhood pretend diseases.

When I joined the SKCC and started using the straight key on a continued basis, my elbow and arm let me know in no uncertain terms that it was objecting mightily! The prolonged up and down motion was creating a repetetive stress disorder.

So I sold a couple of military jet models on eBay. These were sitting around collecting dust; and in the process, I earned enough cash to purchase an LTA Cootie Key from Marshall Emm, N1FN at MorseXpress.

The Cootie Key, or sideswiper as it is also known, does just that. It allows you to send Morse Code by swinging the lever from side to side; instead of pumping it up and down. You make contact on each side of the swing; so it's more like using two straight keys back to back and then laying them on their sides.

I thought that it was going to take a real long time to get used to it; but fortunately, that hasn't been the case. I guess all those years of using a keyer and paddles has helped. The hardest thing to get used to is that you're making these dits and dahs manually. The temptation is always there to let your "keyer" make you either a string of dits and dahs. I have to constantly remnd myself that there is no keyer and that I have to break contact in order to make more dits and dahs.

After about a week's worth of practice off the air; I have ventured towards using this beautiful key on the air in realtime QSOs. I must be doing okay as no one has called me a "lousy fist" yet; and everyone seems to understand what it is that I'm trying to say.

In any event, practice makes perfect and I'm sure I'll get better and better the more I use it.

73 de Larry W2LJ

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Restoration project

I am embarking on a restoration project; which I don't believe is going to prove to be too difficult. To the left is a Vibroplex bug that I won in an auction on eBay. I got it at the great price of $31.00. Considering the fact that the average Vibrpolex bug goes for well over $100.00 on eBay, I think I got a real good deal.

This one is a Vibroplex Standard Original. The serial number dates its manufacture in 1957. That's cool; because this makes this bug as old as me! In any event, this bad boy has a few problems right from the get go. There are no weights on the pendulum; and there was only one finger piece on it when I got it. The picture above shows that I have taken that off. The hole that the finger piece screws into was cross-threaded so I am going to have to retap the hole.

A telephone call to Vibroplex was in order; so I placed an order for two new black finger pieces as well as one heavy and one medium weight. I think this bug was stored somewhere where the humidity is high. A look at the strap underneath shows some heavy oxidation; which can lead to intermittant operation. The strap will have to come off and get polished by the Dremel tool. While I'm at it, the rest of the metal pieces will receive a light buffing from the Dremel, too. The base will receive a gentle going over with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. That should get this beauty back in fine business shape! And once it's operational, I am looking forward to the challenge of matering the use of a "speed key".

73 de Larry W2LJ

Thursday, February 02, 2006

The ultimate in recycling!

It has been said that the history of Amateur Radio has time and time again displayed the resourcefulness of Amateur Radio operators.

In 2006 Hams are taking this reputation to the next level! Tomorrow, February 3rd is scheduled to be the launch date for SuitSat.

The Ham Radio ops who are currently assigned to and are living aboard the International Space Station will be making use of an old, worn out Russian space suit. They are filling it with various bits of Kenwood 2 Meter amateur radio gear; and they will be setting it free to float in orbit on its own. The EVA when this is supposed to happen is scheduled for tomorrow; and if all goes well, then SuitSat (as it has become to be known) will be born.

The suit will be under no kind of propelled orbit. It will just be free floating, orbiting around the earth under the influences of orbital and gravitational laws. The batteries that will be powering the equipment are expected to last about six weeks. The suit will be sending out a beacon message; and if the suit is orbiting over your area at a sufficient elevation above the horizon, you should be able to hear the message with an ordinary 2 Meter handheld tuned to 145.990 MHz.

For more information, check out the following links:

Happy monitoring and good luck! Who knows, this might get you interested in working the various OSCAR satellites that we have up in space. I've done it; and it's a ton of fun!

73 de Larry W2LJ