This Week in Amateur Radio

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This Week in Amateur Radio: North America's Amateur Radio News Magazine. Articles on amateur radio and news stories in the media featured here.
Updated: 1 hour 54 min ago

Chinese Amateur Radio Satellites Receive OSCAR Designations

Sat, 08/25/2018 - 14:52
AMSAT has announced that it has granted OSCAR designators for the Chinese DSLWP-A and DSLWP-B microsatellites, successfully launched on May 18 into a lunar transfer orbit by a CZ-4C launch vehicle. DSLWP-A is Lunar-OSCAR 93 (LO-93), and DSLWP-B is Lunar- OSCAR 94 (LO-94). Telemetry signals were received from both satellites soon after launch, although DSLWP-A was lost the following day. On May 25, DSLWP-B was successfully placed into lunar orbit and has continued transmitting GMSK and JT4G telemetry, including SSDV digital images, and a short message relay service. More than 40 Amateur Radio operators around the world have successfully received signals from the satellite. AMSAT granted the designations upon request of the Harbin Institute of Technology, which built the spacecraft. “We congratulate the owners and operators of LO-93 and LO-94, thank them for their contribution to the amateur satellite community, and wish them continued success on this and future projects,” an AMSAT bulletin said. — Thanks to AMSAT News Service via Drew Glasbrenner, KO4MA, AMSAT VP Operations/OSCAR Number Administrator

via HACKADAY: Rewinding Live Radio

Sat, 08/25/2018 - 14:52
Even though it’s now a forgotten afterthought in the history of broadcasting technology, we often forget how innovative the TiVo was. All this set-top box did was connect a hard drive to a cable box, but the power was incredible: you could pause live TV. You could record shows. You could rewind TV. It was an incredible capability, that no one had ever seen before. Of course, between Amazon and Netflix and YouTube, no one watches TV anymore, and all those platforms have a pause button, but the TiVO was awesome. There is one bit of broadcasting that still exists. Radio. For his Hackaday Prize entry, [MagicWolfi] is bringing the set-top box to radio. He’s invented the Radio Rewind Button, and it does exactly what you would expect: it rewinds live radio a few minutes. To have a pause or rewind button on a TV or radio, the only real requirement is a bunch of memory. The TiVO did this with a hard drive, and [MagicWolfi] is doing this with 256 MB of SDRAM. That means he needs to access a ton of RAM, and for that he’s turning to the Digilent ARTY S7 board. Yes, it’s an FPGA, but actually a fairly simple solution to the problem.

via the ARRL: FCC Grants Temporary Waiver for Hurricane Lane Relief Efforts

Sat, 08/25/2018 - 14:12
The FCC has granted FEMA, working in conjunction with ARRL, a request to waive current Amateur Radio rules to permit data transmissions at a higher symbol rate than currently permitted to facilitate hurricane relief communications between the continental US and the islands of Hawaii, in response to Hurricane Lane. This temporary waiver is limited to Amateur Radio operators in Hawaii using PACTOR 4 emissions, and to those radio amateurs in the continental US who are directly involved with hurricane relief communications involving Hawaii, the Commission said. The waiver petition was a cooperative effort of FEMA and ARRL and represents the strong working relationship the two organizations established following their efforts with Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico in 2017. ARRL expresses its appreciation to FEMA officials Ted Okada, K4HNL, and Dave Adsit, KG4BIR, for their efforts on this petition. The FCC’s approval of a temporary waiver of section 97.307(f) of the Commission’s rules to permit use of PACTOR 4 for amateur communications between the United States mainland and Hawaii related to Hurricane Lane relief is effective through Tuesday, August 28. A formal order addressing the request for a 30-day waiver will be released next week, according to FCC officials.

Proposed WWV cuts ignored by Congress

Sat, 08/25/2018 - 14:12
In February, NIST proposed drastic cuts to its FY2019 budget, including shutdown of time-and-frequency stations WWV, WWVB and WWVH. This has raised concerns on social media, echoed by the ARRL. However, the U.S. Congress, which appropriates all funds for the Federal budget, has so far turned a deaf ear to the proposal. Though it is early in the annual budget process, both the House and Senate seem inclined to increase NIST's funding for cybersecurity, limit NIST's big construction budget to one year, and otherwise make only minor changes in the agency's funding. Measurement dissemination by the WWV stations falls under "Laboratory Programs," part of the awkwardly named Scientific and Technical Research and Services division. Multi-agency appropriations bills reported out of committee to the floor of each chamber, H.R. 5952 and S. 3072,call for no changes in lab program funding. A separate NIST reauthorization bill, H.R. 6229, calls for increases to expand lab programs into new area. For several years, Congress has passed budget bills months after the October 1 start of the government's fiscal year. This year looks to be no exception. So far, though, Congress has shown little appetite for cuts to any science or technology program.

via HACKADAY: What Will You Do If WWVB Goes Silent?

Sat, 08/25/2018 - 14:12
Buried on page 25 of the 2019 budget proposal for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), under the heading “Fundamental Measurement, Quantum Science, and Measurement Dissemination”, there’s a short entry that has caused plenty of debate and even a fair deal of anger among those in the amateur radio scene: NIST will discontinue the dissemination of the U.S. time and frequency via the NIST radio stations in Hawaii and Ft. Collins, CO. These radio stations transmit signals that are used to synchronize consumer electronic products like wall clocks, clock radios, and wristwatches, and may be used in other applications like appliances, cameras, and irrigation controllers. The NIST stations in Hawaii and Colorado are the home of WWV, WWVH, and WWVB. The oldest of these stations, WWV, has been broadcasting in some form or another since 1920; making it the longest continually operating radio station in the United States. Yet in order to save approximately $6.3 million, these time and frequency standard stations are potentially on the chopping block.

Arctic Legends RI0B Roving IOTA DXpedition Set for August 25 – 26

Sat, 08/25/2018 - 14:12
The Arctic Legends RI0B IOTA DXpedition from Arkhangelsk, Russia, to the islands of the Kara Sea is planned for August 25 – 26, but dates are subject to change due to the long route and complex weather conditions. The RI0B call sign was last used for the 2001 Lost Islands expedition led by Victoria Koryukina, RA0BM, which was organized to activate rare islands in the Kara Sea. The vehicle for the 2018 Arctic Legends expedition will be a helicopter.

via the ARRL: Concern Rising within Amateur Radio Community over WWV-WWVH Shut Down Proposal

Sat, 08/25/2018 - 14:12
ARRL members and Amateur Radio clubs are expressing increased concern over the inclusion of WWV and WWVH on a list of proposed cuts in the White House’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Fiscal Year 2019 budget request. The proposed cuts also would include the Atomic Clock signal from WWVB used to synchronize specially equipped clocks and watches. Online petitions soliciting signatures include one established by Tom Kelly II, W7NSS, of Portland, Oregon, who would like to see funding for the stations maintained. At this point, the budget item is only a proposal, not a final decision. That would be up to the Congress to decide. ARRL is among those worried over the possible loss of WWV, WWVH, and WWVB and is suggesting that members of the Amateur Radio community who value the stations for their precise time and frequency signals and other information sign Kelly's petition and/or contact their members of Congress promptly, explaining how the stations are important to them, beyond government and military use.

Earthquake Hits Venezuela, Net Active on 7.088 MHz

Sat, 08/25/2018 - 14:12
[UPDATED 2018-08-22 @1423 UTC] A magnitude 7.3 earthquake hit northern Venezuela August 21 at 21:32 UTC, some 12 miles north-northwest of Yaguaraparo. The YV5RNE National Emergency Network of the Radio Club Venezolano was activated on 7.088 MHz, and a clear frequency has been requested. The US Coast and Geological Survey (USGS) said the quake occurred at a depth of 76.5 miles. It was felt as far away as Caracas, some 300 miles to the west but caused no casualties or major damage because of its depth. Buildings in Caracas were evacuated after the powerful earthquake hit, sending shock waves as far west as Bogotá, Colombia, and as far east as Trinidad and Tobago. Jose Rafael Gomez, YV1GEC, who lives on Isla de Margarita, reported that the earthquake felt strong but said there had been no interruption of electric power or gas service. Roberto Rey, HK3CW, President of La Liga Colombiana de Radio Amadores, said the temblor was “very prolonged” in Bogotá. — Thanks to IARU Region 2 Emergency Coordinator Cesar Pio Santos, HR2P, for some information

via the RSGB: Petition launched to save WWV

Sat, 08/25/2018 - 14:12
US National Institute of Standards and Technology station WWV and sister transmitting stations are among the oldest radio stations in the United States, having been in continuous operation since May 1920. WWV has transmitted the official US Time for nearly 100 years. The US government has been planning to close the NIST Radio Stations WWV, WWVB, and WWVH in 2019. An online petition has been set up at tinyurl.com/GB2RS-0824-A to change that, though at the time of writing the only about 7% of the necessary signatures had been gathered to oblige a response from the White House.

ARRL Headquarters Monitoring Progress of Hurricane Lane, Radio Gear Available to Deploy

Sat, 08/25/2018 - 14:12
[UPDATED: 2018-08-24 @ 1434 UTC]: ARRL Headquarters is in monitoring mode, as powerful Hurricane Lane — now a Category 3 storm — approaches Hawaii, ARRL Emergency Preparedness Manager Mike Corey, KI1U, said on Wednesday, and Ham Aid Amateur Radio equipment is available for deployment. The storm already is causing catastrophic flooding on the Big Island of Hawaii. Corey said the Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) has a team on standby to assist with communication between Hawaii and the mainland, if needed. Amateur Radio at the National Hurricane Center in Miami also is standing by to assist with communication between the Central Pacific Hurricane Center and the National Hurricane Center. The Salvation Army Team Emergency Network (SATERN) International SATERN SSB Net will activate Friday, August 24, at 1800 UTC, in response to Hurricane Lane. The primary frequency is 14.265 MHz, with 14.312 MHz as a backup.

Kerala, India, Flooding: Radio Amateurs Assist Rescue Operations

Sat, 08/25/2018 - 14:12
Radio amateurs in the flood-stricken Indian state of Kerala are helping with rescue operations there, in part by tracing stranded people through their last mobile phone locations and sharing information with officials. Most telecommunication services in Kerala remain down. Accounts vary, but some 120 hams — and perhaps as many as 300 — have been working 24/7 to support official rescue operations. “Kerala has been hit by the worst flooding and landslides in 100 years, with six districts and neighboring areas submerged in 7 to 15 feet of water that has spilled over from nearby rivers,” Suwil Wilson, VU2IT, told ARRL. “One million people are in relief camps, and more than 300 people are dead. Power and mobile communication in the affected areas are cut off.” Wilson said he coordinated the statewide response, which has been managed by individuals without the involvement of any ham radio organization in India.

via HACKADAY: The VU Meter and How It Got That Way

Sat, 08/18/2018 - 17:27
Given its appearance in one form or another in all but the cheapest audio gear produced in the last 70 years or so, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the ubiquitous VU meter is just one of those electronic add-ons that’s more a result of marketing than engineering. After all, the seemingly arbitrary scale and the vague “volume units” label makes it seem like something a manufacturer would slap on a device just to make it look good. And while that no doubt happens, it turns out that the concept of a VU meter and its execution has some serious engineering behind that belies the really simple question it seeks to answer: How loud is this audio signal? MILES OF CABLE Unsurprisingly, the modern VU meter can trace its roots back to the twin formative technologies of the 20th century: telephone and radio. For the first time in history, the human voice was projecting further than the distance the loudest person could shout, and doing so by means of electrical signals. Finding a way to quantify that signal and turn it into a value that represented the perceived volume of the original sound was crucial to design a system that could faithfully transmit it. Given the nature of their network, the early telephone pioneers’ efforts at sound level metering were based on line losses over a “standard mile” of cable. Meters calibrated to this standard made it easy for them to adjust their vacuum tube repeaters to compensate for the speech power loss over a known length of wire.

via HACKADAY: Op Amps Before Transistors: A 600V Vacuum Tube Monster

Sat, 08/18/2018 - 17:23
Op amps. Often the first thing that many learn about when beginning the journey into analog electronics, they’re used in countless ways in an overwhelmingly large array of circuits. When we think about op amps, images of DIPs and SOICs spring to mind, with an incredibly tiny price tag to boot. We take their abundance and convenience for granted nowadays, but they weren’t always so easy to come by. [Mr Carlson] serves up another vintage offering, this time in the form of a tube op amp. The K2-W model he acquired enjoyed popularity when it was released as one of the first modular general purpose amplifiers, due to its ‘compact form’ and ‘low price’. It also came with large application manuals which helped it to gain users. In order to power up the op amp and check its functionality, +300V and -300V supplies are needed. [Mr Carlson] is able to cobble something together, since it’s very apparent that he has an enviable stash of gear lying around. A 600V rail to rail supply is not something to be taken lightly, though it does give this particular model the ability to output 100V pk-pk without any distortion.

via HACKADAY: When Every Last Nanoamp Matters

Sat, 08/18/2018 - 17:18
You can get electricity from just about anything. That old crystal radio kit you built as a kid taught you that, but how about doing something a little more interesting than listening to the local AM station with an earpiece connected to a radiator? That’s what the Electron Bucket is aiming to do. It’s a power harvesting device that grabs electricity from just about anywhere, whether it’s a piece of aluminum foil or a bunch of LEDs. The basic idea behind the Electron Bucket is to harvest ambient radio waves just like your old crystal radio kit. There’s a voltage doubler, a rectifier, and as a slight twist, a power management circuit that would normally be found in battery-powered electronics. Of course, this circuit can do more than harvesting electricity from ambient radio waves. By connecting a bunch of LEDs together, it’s possible to send a few Bluetooth packets around. This is pretty impressive — the circuit is using LEDs as solar cells, which normally produce about 50nA of current at 0.5V in direct sunlight. By connecting 12 LEDs in parallel and series, it manages to harvest just enough energy to run a small wireless module. That’s impressive, and an interesting entry to the Power Harvesting Challenge in this year’s Hackaday Prize.

Launch of Es’hail-2 with First Phase 4 Amateur Transponders Expected Later this Year

Sat, 08/18/2018 - 17:07
Es’hailSat, the Qatar Satellite Company, has tweeted that it’s anticipating that SpaceX will launch its geostationary Es’hail-2 satellite sometime in the 4th quarter of 2018. The commercial Qatari satellite will provide the first Amateur Radio geostationary communication and will be capable of linking amateurs from Brazil to Thailand. Es’hail-2 will carry two AMSAT-DL-designed Phase 4 Amateur Radio transponders operating in the 2.4 GHz and 10.450 GHz bands. A 250-kHz bandwidth linear transponder is intended for conventional analog operation, while an 8-MHz bandwidth transponder will serve experimental digital modulation schemes and DVB amateur television. The satellite will be positioned at 26° east. Es’hailSat said the new satellite “will allow also the AMSAT community to validate and demonstrate their DVB standard.” The narrowband analog linear transponder downlink will cover 10489.550 – 10489.800 MHz with 100 W output. The uplink will be 2400.050 – 2400.300 MHz. The wideband digital transponder will downlink on 10491.000 – 10499.000 MHz with 100 W output. The uplink passband will be 2401.500 – 2409.500 MHz.

ARRL Comments in “Strong Opposition” to Part 15 Modification Petition Affecting 5 GHz

Sat, 08/18/2018 - 17:07
ARRL has commented in “strong opposition” to a Petition for Rulemaking by RADWIN Ltd. that seeks to amend certain Part 15 rules to permit point-to-multipoint (P2MP) communication services in portions of the 5 GHz band, at power levels now permitted only for point-to-point unlicensed systems. ARRL has focused its concern on proposed high-power P2MP operation in the band 5.725 – 5.850 GHz, but points out that the entire 5.650 – 5.925 GHz allocation has been “subjected to a continuing series of overlays domestically” for more than 2 decades. Amateur Radio is secondary to military radars on the band. ARRL said the Amateur Radio national “weak-signal” calling frequency of 5.760.1 GHz already has experienced a “very substantial” rise in ambient noise in many areas that has significantly affected Amateur Radio operation in the 200 kHz centered on that frequency, where extremely weak received signal levels are typical. Only low-density usage and the low-power levels permitted for unlicensed national information infrastructure (U-NII) devices have sustained “a good deal of compatibility” between Amateur Radio and U-NII devices at 5 GHz, ARRL said.

Collegiate QSO Party to Debut in September

Sat, 08/18/2018 - 15:57
ARRL’s Collegiate Amateur Radio Initiative (CARI) will sponsor the first Collegiate QSO Party in mid-September, just as the fall semester gets under way. The new operating event is part of the larger effort to promote a renaissance of Amateur Radio clubs on college and university campuses. “Discussion of this sort of event has come up in multiple forums at hamfests,” the Milluzzi brothers — Andy, KK4LWR, and Tony, KD8RTT, told ARRL. “It gained more interest in the last couple of years and was a hot topic of debate at the ARRL Collegiate Amateur Radio Initiative Forum at Hamvention® this past May. The rules were formulated by current students, faculty, and alumni of collegiate clubs. We are excited to see things materialize and are happy to help organize the event.” The inaugural Collegiate QSO Party will get under way on Saturday, September 15, at 0000 UTC and continue until Sunday, September 16, at 2359 UTC. Using phone, CW, or digital modes, participants will exchange call sign, college or university name, or abbreviation and mascot, and operating class

via HACKADAY: Getting An RF Low-Pass Filter Right

Sat, 08/18/2018 - 15:57
If you are in any way connected with radio, you will have encountered the low pass filter as a means to remove unwanted harmonics from the output of your transmitters. It’s a network of capacitors and inductors usually referred to as a pi-network after the rough resemblance of the schematic to a capital Greek letter Pi, and getting them right has traditionally been something of a Black Art. There are tables and formulae, but even after impressive feats of calculation the result can often not match the expectation. Happily as with so many other fields, in recent decades the advent of affordable high-power computing has brought with it the ability to take the hard work out of filter design, Simply tell some software what the characteristics of your desired filter are, and it will do the rest. The results are good, and anyone can become a filter designer, but as is so often the case there remains a snag. The software calculates ideal inductances and capacitances for the desired cut-off and impedance, and in selecting the closest preferred values we modify the characteristics of the result and possibly even ruin our final filter. So it’s worth taking a look at the process here, and examining the effect of tweaking component values in this way.

Indonesian Hams Take Advantage of Satellite for Post-Earthquake Communication

Sat, 08/18/2018 - 15:57
Amateur Radio volunteers in Indonesia have been taking advantage of the LAPAN-ORARI (IO-86) ham satellite in addition to HF on 7.110 MHz as the Lombok area recovers from two recent earthquakes. The death toll now has topped 400. A second powerful earthquake in the area on August 5 killed at least 98 people and seriously injured more than 200 others. Power in the area has been disrupted, and Kardi Wibisono, YB9KA, and Untung “Adi” Riadi, YB9GV, of the West Nusa Tenggara Region chapter of ORARI, the Indonesian national Amateur Radio organization, have been leading efforts to provide communication to areas lacking cellular coverage. That has included hauling batteries to run repeaters taken down by the power outage. Four repeaters are reported to be operating in the disaster area. ORARI Headquarters has asked for more repeater support from its Bali Island region and issued an official request to help with logistics and additional volunteers in Lombok

via HACKADAY: Memories Of A Mis-Spent Youth: Learnabout Simple Electronics

Sat, 08/18/2018 - 15:57
Early last spring, we featured a book review, as part of our occasional Books You Should Read series. Usually these are seminal tomes, those really useful books that stay with you for life and become well-thumbed, but in this case it was a children’s book. Making a Transistor Radio, by [George Dobbs, G3RJV], was a part of the long-running series of Ladybird books that educated, entertained, and enthralled mid-20th-century British kids, and its subject was the construction of a 3-transistor regenerative AM receiver. If you talk to a British electronic engineer of A Certain Age there is a good chance that this was the volume that first introduced them to their art, and they may even still have their prized radio somewhere. Making a Transistor Radio was a success story, but what’s not so well-known is that there was a companion volume published a few years later in 1979. Simple Electronics was part of the imprint’s Learnabout series, and it took the basic premise of its predecessor away from the realm of radio into other transistor circuits. Transistor timers and multivibrators were covered, Morse code, and finally quite an ambitious project, an electronic organ.

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