This Week in Amateur Radio
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: 9 min 12 sec ago
The Fox-1A (AO-85) CubeSat has been turned off until further notice due to return of eclipses and poor battery condition, control operator Mark Hammond, N8MH, has announced. In December, AO-85 experienced precarious battery voltage drops during eclipse periods; it’s believed that the batteries suffered degradation due to heat during previous no-eclipse periods, making it difficult to keep the satellite available without risking battery damage. To extend the satellite’s usable life, both the internal housekeeping unit (IHU) and the transmitter were shut down, ceasing all transmissions. This included the beacons running every 2 minutes during times of sunlight and eclipse. AO-85 was turned back on during the next full-sun illumination period that began on January 24 and enabled for regular use. AO-85 occasionally reset due to low battery voltage and operated in safe mode. With AO-85 leaving full illumination and encountering periodic eclipses, its battery condition again began to deteriorate again. The satellite's health will be tracked with periodic telemetry transmissions when commanded by a control operator. AMSAT asks satellite enthusiasts to continue tracking AO-85 in FoxTelem and post to the AMSAT-BB or contact Drew Glasbrenner, KO4MA. — Thanks to AMSAT News Service
It’s a celebratory year for the WWV stations. The fiscal year (FY) 2019 budget — once signed — will include full funding for the stations, which also mark their 100th year this fall. The WWV Centennial Committee has a tentative agreement with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to mount a special event station this fall adjacent to the WWV site in Colorado to mark the 100th anniversary of the time and frequency standard station, the world’s oldest continuously operating radio station. A memorandum of understanding is in the works. Dave Swartz, W0DAS, of the Northern Colorado Amateur Radio Club (NCARC) heads the committee, which is developing plans for an NCARC special event from September 28 through October 2, with a NIST centennial observance tentatively set for October 1. The NIST budget for WWV, WWVH, and WWVB will remain level for FY 2019. With the funding suspense over, Swartz told ARRL, “our committee is moving forward.” Swartz and committee members Darren Kalmbach, KC0ZIE, and Kevin Utter, N7GES, met on February 8 with WWV/WWVB/WWVH Station Manager John Lowe, WWV Electronics Technician Glenn Nelson, and WWV Chief Engineer Matt Deutch, N0RGT. “This was the first meeting for the committee and the first to include NIST upper management,” said Swartz, who called the meeting “very productive.” Swartz said NIST management is “on board” with the celebration, and Deutch plans to attend Hamvention May 17 – 19 to promote the centennial event.
There’s an old joke that all you need to fix TVs is a cheater, a heater, and a meter. If you don’t remember, a cheater was a cord to override the interlock on TVs so you could turn them on with the back removed. Of course, in real life, pro repair techs always had better equipment. In 1939 that might have meant the Supreme Vedolyzer which combined a meter, a ‘scope, and a wavemeter all in one device. [Mr Carlson] acquired one that was in fair shape and made a few videos (see below) of the teardown and restoration. [Mr Carlson] wasn’t restoring this as an art project, by the way. He plans on using it, so he was less concerned with authenticity and more worried about usability. That led him to do things like remove the input jacks and replace them with BNCs. The video series is a bit of a time investment. Part one is about 82 minutes long! But if you are interested in old gear, this is a chance to peer inside an unusual specimen. If you don’t watch anything else, though, you should have a look at the rebuilt center tube assembly. There were quite a few old components in that module and some had already been replaced by someone else. The before picture (left) and the after picture (right) shows off [Carlson’s] skills nicely.
HAM RADIO 2019 and the 70th Lake Constance Convention, both organized by the Deutscher Amateur Radio Club (DARC), Germany’s International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) member-society, will take Friday, June 21, until Sunday, June 23, in Friedrichshafen on Lake Constance. Contact DARC for discounted accommodations. “We very much hope that, again, many representatives of the IARU member-societies will be able to attend HAM RADIO,” said DARC Secretary for International Affairs Thomas Wrede, DF2OO. An informal meeting for representatives of IARU member-societies will take place on June 21. Youth days and a ham rally will take place on Friday and Saturday. On Friday evening, three anniversaries will be celebrated: 70 years of Lake Constance Conventions, the 90th anniversary of DARC’s CQ (DL) journal, and the 44th HAM RADIO gathering.
ARRL Emergency Preparedness Manager Mike Corey, KI1U, has announced that he will depart ARRL on February 15 to pursue another career opportunity. He has been part of the ARRL staff since 2010. “Mike has accomplished much during his nine years on the job, including expanding the Ham Aid program, national disaster response, working with our national partners, and, most recently, the rollout of ARES Connect,” said ARRL CEO Howard Michel, WB2ITX. "The Headquarters team will miss Mike’s friendly personality and wishes him well in his pursuits. As Mike is an active ham, there is a good chance we will run into him on the air." As part of the overall restructuring at ARRL Headquarters, ARRL management will take the opportunity to examine the administration of the emergency preparedness program.
International Amateur Radio Union Region 1 (IARU-R1) Youth Working Group Chair Lisa Leenders, PA2LS, said young operators (age 26 or younger) in Region 1 (Europe and Africa) have been invited to participate in the Youngsters on the Air (YOTA) Youth Contesting Program (YCP). “Youth members from IARU Region 1 member-societies are invited to take part in a contest from so called ‘Top Gun’ stations,” she said. “These young hams will learn how to operate the contest station, improve their contest skills, and aim for the best results together as a team.” Leenders said long-time YCP partners 9A1A, ES9C, and 4O3A are already on the schedule of host stations, and additional stations are welcome. LX7I will join the roster during the ARRL International DX Contest (SSB), and LZ9W, OZ5E, and DP9A will be available for other contests later this year. More information and an application form is available on the YOTA website. Inspired by the YOTA YCP, the unrelated Young Amateurs Radio Club (YARC) Youth Contesting Program (YCP) wants to match groups of enthusiastic young contesters with top contest stations to gain operating experience during the CQ World Wide WPX SSB Contest over the March 30 – 31 weekend.
A plan by ARRL CEO Howard Michel, WB2ITX, to reshape and reorganize the management structure at ARRL Headquarters will go into effect on Monday, February 11. The ARRL Board of Directors endorsed the plan during its Annual Meeting on January 18 – 19 in Windsor, Connecticut. “I see ARRL as a membership association, a business, and a 501(c)(3) public charity. As CEO, I intend to strengthen all three aspects. And all three must remain in balance for ARRL to function effectively,” Michel said. “As a business, ARRL is not just QST magazine, The Handbook, DXCC or the VEC program. We can’t allow ourselves to continue to think within those traditional parameters.” He continued, “ARRL’s businesses are not membership, publishing, and advertising. ARRL’s businesses are value creation, value delivery, and advocacy. I plan to architect ARRL along those lines. To quote Steve Jobs, ‘More important than building a product, we are in the process of architecting a company that will hopefully be much more incredible, the total will be much more incredible than the sum of its parts.’” Michel said.
A new backdoor Linux-based operating system trojan dubbed “SpeakUp” is on the loose, although so far it does not appear to have propagated to North America or Europe. Research team Check Point Research recently reported the discovery and said SpeakUp exploits known vulnerabilities in six separate Linux distributions and is able to evade all security vendors. A community of radio amateurs use various forms of Linux, including the popular Ubuntu software, which includes ham radio apps. Check Point Research said the attack is targeting worldwide servers. “The attack is gaining momentum and targeting servers in East Asia and Latin America, including AWS [Amazon Web Services]-hosted machines,” the Check Point Research article said. “SpeakUp acts to propagate internally within the infected subnet, and beyond to new IP ranges, exploiting remote code execution vulnerabilities. In addition, SpeakUp presented ability to infect Mac devices with the undetected backdoor.” The origin of the malware appears to be in East Asia, although its developer may be Russian. Check Point Research said the sample it analyzed had targeted a machine in China on January 14. Once the software successfully registers a victim, it receives commands to manipulate the machine to download and execute various files. Check Point Research said SpeakUp serves XMRig cryptocurrency miners listening to infected servers.
Matter from a solar coronal hole pushed the Kp index to five in the early hours of Friday, the 1st, eventually resulting in much reduced maximum usable frequencies as the ionosphere was depleted. Signals on Saturday, the 2nd, were noticeably poorer, with even 14MHz struggling. There were also reports of very visible aurora around the Arctic Circle. But the ionosphere recovered quite quickly and, as predicted, the rest of the week was much better. There were some other HF highlights last week. Chris, G4IFX reported that New Zealand has been a regular on 5MHz FT8 on the long path in the mornings. Predtest shows that a path is currently possible, peaking at around 7am. Speaking of FT8, don’t ignore the higher bands, as 21 and even 28MHz often shows signs of life, with numerous European stations in particular being logged on 21MHz. The low bands also still continue to deliver results, Robert, G4TUK reports working Jeffrey, PJ2ND in Curacao and Ed, P49X in Aruba on 80 metres CW. Roger, G3LDI also worked numerous VK, ZL and W stations in the FOC Marathon on 80 and 40 metres. Make the most of 80m as the nights are slowly getting shorter! Looking ahead, NOAA predicts that the solar flux index will remain around 71-72 over the next week. Uncharacteristically, geomagnetic conditions are predicted to be relatively quiet over the next seven days with a Kp index of two. This means that this could be a reasonable weak for HF propagation, within the limitations of a very low solar flux index.
The Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) packet system is back on the air with new equipment. The replacement gear arrived last November and had been awaiting unpacking and installation. ARISS hardware team members on the ground were able to locate a functional duplicate of the old ISS packet TNC module that had been in operation for 17 years and had become intermittent. Crew members installed the new module on February 2; the RF gear remains the same. The ISS packet system, located in the ISS Columbus module, went down in July 2017, but it unexpectedly came back to life the following summer. The packet system operates on 145.825 MHz. ARISS is an official back-up system for astronauts to talk with Mission Control in the unlikely failure of the station’s primary communication systems. In 2017, hams relayed nearly 89,000 packet messages via the ISS; response to its recent return has been enthusiastic, ARISS said. Contribute to the all-new radio system set to launch this year via the ARISS website. For more information, contact ARISS-International Chair Frank Bauer, KA3HDO, or ARISS ARRL Delegate Rosalie White, K1STO. — Thanks to ARISS
Microsoft, which transitioned to its new browser Edge several years ago, is now advising enterprise users to avoid its legacy browser, Internet Explorer (IE). Microsoft Worldwide Lead for Application Compatibility Chris Jackson said this week that IE isn’t really a browser but a “compatibility solution” to deal with legacy sites. Microsoft no longer supports IE with new web standards, which is at the core of the problem. In a new blog post, Jackson said that, for some organizations, using Internet Explorer as the default for all situations “is the ‘easy button,’ because, well, most of your sites were designed for Internet Explorer, so…just…always use it, ok?” Jackson said this sort of thinking “seems like a deliberate decision to take on some ‘technical debt,’” as he put it. He said that as the IE standards mode supported more and more standards, “we decided not to just update the mode we called standards mode, because, when we did, we risked breaking applications written for an older interpretation of the standards. So, with Internet Explorer 8, we added IE8 standards, but also kept IE7 standards.” “That meant, for sites in the internet zone, it would default to IE8 standards, but, for sites in the local intranet [emphasis added] zone, it would default to IE7 standards.” Jackson said companies’ “habit” of paying for extended support for legacy software “needs to stop in the case of IE.” He suggests using IE only selectively for internal sites that require it, pointing to tools that help customers make the transition and limit the use of IE to only where it’s needed.
National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) scientists have updated the world magnetic model (WMM) mid-cycle, as Earth's northern magnetic pole has begun shifting quickly away from the Canadian Arctic and toward Siberia, an NCEI report said this week. The new WMM more accurately represents the change of the magnetic field since 2015. The alteration could have an impact on government, industry, and consumer electronics. "Due to unplanned variations in the Arctic region, scientists have released a new model to more accurately represent the change of the magnetic field," the report said, noting that updated versions of the WMM are typically released every 5 years. This update comes about 1 year early. "This out-of-cycle update before next year's official release of WMM 2020 will ensure safe navigation for military applications, commercial airlines, search and rescue operations, and others operating around the North Pole," said NCEI, which is part of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). "Organizations such as NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration, US Forest Service, and many more use this technology. The military uses the WMM for undersea and aircraft navigation, parachute deployment, and more." Other governmental entities use the technology for surveying and mapping, satellite/antenna tracking, and air traffic management. Smartphone and consumer electronics companies also rely on the WMM to provide consumers with accurate compass apps, maps, and GPS services.
Chile recently became the third country to sign the Amendment of the Inter-American Convention on the use of an International Amateur Radio Permit (IARP). Once the Amendment is in effect, Chile and other Inter-American Telecommunication Commission (CITEL) signatories may offer reciprocal Amateur Radio privileges to Amateur Radio licensees from European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT) member countries that have implemented CEPT Recommendation T/R 61-01 (CEPT Radio Amateur License). The Inter-American Convention says CEPT-country licensees shall be entitled to the same rights and privileges enjoyed by holders of the IARP, provided, however, that CEPT accords all holders of the IARP the same rights and privileges enjoyed by holders of the CEPT Amateur Radio license. The Organization of American States (OAS) General Assembly approved the treaty last June; CITEL comes under the OAS umbrella. In addition to Chile, the Dominican Republic and Argentina have signed. IARPs are not be valid for operation in the territory of the issuing country and are valid for 1 year. A Class-1 IARP allows the use of all frequency bands allocated to the Amateur and Amateur-Satellite Services and specified by the country where the amateur station is to be operated, per Recommendation ITU-R M.1544. A Class-2 IARP permits utilization of all frequency bands allocated to the Amateur and Amateur-Satellite Services above 30 MHz and specified by the country where the amateur station is to be operated. US radio amateurs already enjoy both IARP and CEPT reciprocity.
There's a different kind of pirate radio situation unfolding in Corner Brook. Someone is stealing the licence plates of amateur radio operators there, right off their vehicles. "It's sort of uneasy because it's something we enjoy doing," said Kody Gardner, who lost his plate over the weekend. In Newfoundland and Labrador, amateur radio operators can get licence plates starting with "VO1," followed by a call sign.
The website, Electronics Notes provides a huge amount of reference material for engineers, students and hobbyists. Within this there is a huge amount of material for radio amateurs on subjects like amateur radio itself as well as radio receiver technology, RF design, antennas, radio propagation and a whole lot more. To complement this, Electronics Notes has opened a ham radio store. In association with Amazon, this offers some really excellent bargains which do not appear with many other amateur radio stores. It is surprising what you can find - there is a much bigger choice than you might think, and the prices are often really good as well. Currently we are set up so that the links automatically link to the UK or USA, so you can enjoy local shopping within these countries. We are soon hoping to be available in Canada and possibly other countries as well. Check out the link and browse though our ham radio store: https://www.electronics-notes.com/hamstore
Alexanderson Alternator transmissions on Christmas Eve 2018 from Sweden's SAQ drew more than 340 listener reports from 28 countries, including seven reports from the US. “Many visitors had come to the transmission hall to enjoy coffee, cake, and Swedish ginger snaps as they were watching the activities with starting and running the old radio transmitter SAQ,” the report from Sweden said this week. “The ‘old lady’ was in a very good mood, and we had a flawless startup and transmission. The conditions were very good with the dry and cold weather, and the signal was strong.” The nearly century-old electromechanical Alexanderson Alternator at SAQ transmits on CW at 17.2 kHz on special occasions. Amateur Radio station SK6SAQ was also active on Christmas Eve on 75, 40, and 20 meters, with two stations on the air from the SAQ site in Grimeton, Sweden.
AMSAT has now granted OSCAR status to 100 Amateur Radio satellites. The latest, Es’hail-2/P4A — now Qatar-OSCAR 100 (QO-100) —launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in November. It carries the first geosynchronous Amateur Radio payload. Es’hail-2/P4A was developed jointly by the Qatar Amateur Radio Society (QARS) and Es’hailSat (the Qatar Satellite Company), with AMSAT-DL as the technical lead. Now at its final position of 25.9° E and with the narrow and wideband transponders having been successfully tested in December, the transponders are expected to be opened for general use this month. “May the 100th OSCAR satellite be the guide star to future Amateur Radio satellites and payloads to geostationary orbit and beyond,” invoked Drew Glasbrenner, KO4MA, AMSAT Director of VP Operations and OSCAR Number Administrator. — Thanks to AMSAT News Service
Setup is under way in the tiny Southeast Asian nation of Brunei, located on the Island of Borneo and surrounded by Malaysia, for the V84SAA DXpedition. Eighteen operators under the leadership of Krassy Petkov, K1LZ, will fire up on February 7 and continue until February 18. Operation will concentrate on the low bands. “Many of the team have already landed in Brunei, and the tent is set up on the beach for the CW team,” top band expert Jeff Briggs, K1ZM/VY2ZM, reported just prior to his planned departure from the US. Briggs explained in a February 4 update that two operating sites — one for CW and the other for SSB — will be set up some 25 kilometers apart. “The CW stations will be set up on Seri Kenangan beach, with an ocean shot to North America and Europe,” he said, adding that he anticipates the first real night will be February 8, as the team may not be fully set up on 160 meters on the first day, and “there is a lot on our plate.” After that, Briggs said he plans to be at the radio nightly, and he’s hoping manmade noise remains minimal to nonexistent.
From the early morning of January 27, radio amateurs in Cuba’s capital of Havana were keeping an eye on the weather. An extratropical low-pressure system in the southeastern Gulf of Mexico associated with a cold front approaching from the west was preceded by a line of pre-frontal storms, generating severe weather conditions that deteriorated considerably during the evening and night hours. Completely unexpected was an F4 tornado that caused considerable damage in Havana. While hurricanes and tropical storms are fairly regular occurrences, the tornado was reported to be the first ever to hit Havana. “Once again, Amateur Radio operators proved how they could handle emergency traffic during the severe weather event, when the 2G and 3G mobile cellular phone systems collapsed due to damage and the excessive traffic generated by the event,” Radio Havana’s Arnie Coro, CO2KK, reported on his DXers Unlimited, Weekend Edition program. “Using the Havana Metropolitan Area main repeater on 145.190, stations with handheld FM transceiver[s] could keep in touch from even the most difficult places in the affected areas comprising the municipalities of Regla, San Miguel del Padrón, Habana del Este, and 10 de Octubre.” According to media reports, the storm, with winds approaching 260 MPH, left at least six dead and more than 200 injured; damage to homes and buildings was substantial. The severe weather also took out electrical power lines and utility poles in various areas, leaving much of Havana in darkness and disrupting wired and wireless telephone systems.
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