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 57 min ago

via HACKADAY: Side Channel Attacks Against Mixed Signal Microcontrollers

Fri, 08/03/2018 - 22:44
You shouldn’t transmit encryption keys over Bluetooth, but that’s exactly what some popular wireless-enabled microcontrollers are already doing. This is the idea behind Screaming Channels, an exploit published by researchers at EUERCOM, and will be a talk at Black Hat next week. So far, the researchers have investigated side-channel attacks on Bluetooth-enabled microcontrollers, allowing them to extract tinyAES keys from up to 10 meters away in controlled environments. A PDF of the paper is available and all the relevant code is available on GitHub. The experimental setup for this exploit consisted of a BLE Nano, a breakout board for a Nordic nRF52832 Bluetooth microcontroller, a Hack RF, a USRB N210 software defined radio from Ettus, and a few high-gain antennas and LNAs. The example attack relies on installing firmware on the BLE Nano that runs through a few loops and encrypts something with tinyAES. Through very careful analysis of the RF spectrum, the AES keys can be extracted from the ether. Side channel attacks have received a bit more popularity over recent years. What was once limited to Three Letter Agency-level Van Eck phreaking can now be done inexpensively and in a system with devices like the ChipWhisperer.

ARRL Board Adopts Volunteer Monitoring Program; Official Observer Program to be Retired

Fri, 08/03/2018 - 22:44
The ARRL Board of Directors has adopted the recommendations of the Official Observer Program Study Committee, which would retire the Official Observer (OO) program and institute the Volunteer Monitoring (VM) program. The Board took the action at its July 20 – 21 meeting in Windsor, Connecticut, instructing that the transition “be implemented as soon as practicable.” Under the terms of the new program, current Official Observers will be invited to apply for appointment as Volunteer Monitors (VMs). The Board expressed its appreciation for the OOs and their dedicated volunteer service over the years. The Board said the action is expected to re-energize enforcement efforts in the Amateur Radio bands and was undertaken at the request of the FCC in the wake of several FCC regional office closures and a reduction in field staff. Coordination of cases and evidence gathering would become the responsibility of ARRL Headquarters staff, while the FCC will retain the responsibility for final decisions regarding action in specific cases.

via HACKADAY: Vintage Silvertone Cabinet Gets Bluetooth Treatment

Fri, 08/03/2018 - 22:44
This Bluetooth speaker is full of delightful surprises. The outer shell is an antique radio cabinet, but its practically empty interior is a combination of Dead Bug circuitry and modern BT receiver. [PJ Allen] found the BT receiver on Groupon and decided to whip up amplifier and threshold detector circuits using only parts he already had in order to make this vintage-looking Bluetooth speaker. The cabinet is from a Silvertone Model 1955 circa 1936. Don’t worry, no antiques were harmed in the making of this hack, the cabinet was empty when he bought it.

via the ARRL: AMSAT OSCAR Number Administrator Bill Tynan, W3XO, Steps Down

Fri, 08/03/2018 - 22:44
Citing poor health, AMSAT OSCAR Number Administrator — the individual who confers the alphanumeric designators on Amateur Radio satellites — has stepped down from the volunteer post after granting numbers to qualifying applicants for more than 2 decades. “I want to thank Bill for his many dedicated years of service to AMSAT,” said AMSAT President Joe Spier, K6WAO, who named AMSAT Vice President-Operations Drew Glasbrenner, KO4MA, to succeed Tynan. “Ever since the launch of OSCAR 1 in 1961, it has been traditional for Amateur Radio satellites to carry the name OSCAR — for ‘Orbiting Satellite Carrying Amateur Radio,’” Spier explained. OSCAR satellites are customarily referred to by hyphenated names, the first selected by the builder, AMSAT-OSCAR 7, abbreviated as AO-7. Spier called OSCAR numbers “a proud tradition of Amateur Radio, one that we hope to keep going for many years to come.”

via HACKADAY: Retrotechtacular: Apex Radio — The Forgotten HiFi

Fri, 08/03/2018 - 22:44
Broadcasting has changed a lot in the last few decades. We have satellite radio, internet streaming, HD radio all crowding out the traditional AM and FM bands. FM became popular because the wider channels and the modulation scheme allowed for less static and better sound reproduction. If you’ve never tried to listen to an AM radio station at night near a thunderstorm, you can’t appreciate how important that is. But did you know there was another U.S. broadcast band before FM that tried to solve the AM radio problem? You don’t hear about it much, but Apex or skyscraper radio appeared between 1937 and 1941 and then vanished with the onslaught of FM radio. If you’ve heard of Apex radio — or if you are old enough to remember it — then you are probably done with this post. For everyone else, consider what radio looked like in 1936. The AM band had 96 channels between 550 and 1500 kHz. Because those frequencies propagate long distances at night, the FCC had a complex job of ensuring stations didn’t interfere with each other. Tricks like carefully choosing the location of stations, reducing power at night, or even shutting a station down after dark, were all used to control interference.

Johnson Space Center Amateur Radio Club Fires Up 1950s Vintage Gear for NASA on the Air Special Event

Fri, 08/03/2018 - 22:44
W5RRR, the Johnson Space Center Amateur Radio Club (JSCARC), is on the air as part of the NASA on the Air (NOTA) year-long special event — one of 12 NASA ham club stations participating in the event, which celebrates significant NASA milestones as the agency observes its 60th anniversary. This week, JSCARC members will focus operations on 80, 40, 20, 15, and 10 meters, as well as on satellites. A commemorative 1958 vintage vacuum tube vintage station will be activated. It pairs a Johnson Ranger transmitter and Courier amplifier with a Hammarlund HQ-145C receiver, courtesy of Kenneth Goodwin, K5RG, a JSARC member. “This station will be used to make CW, SSB, and AM QSOs,” Keith Brandt, WD9GET, said. “In addition, our other shack radios will use SSB, FT8, FM, CW, and SSTV to make contacts on all bands.” A special 60th anniversary QSL card — designed by AB5SS — will be available with an SASE for contacts made only to JSC Amateur Radio Club, 2101 NASA Rd. 1 M/C AW7, Houston, TX 77058. A certificate is available for top stations that work modes and bands across the NOTA NASA centers.

via HACKADAY: 1950’s AM Transmitter is Fun but Dangerous

Fri, 08/03/2018 - 22:44
[Mr. Carlson] bought a Globe Scout Model 40A ham radio transmitter at a hamfest. The 40A was a grand old transmitter full of tubes, high voltage, and a giant transformer. It is really interesting to see how much things have changed over the years. The transmitter is huge but has comparatively few parts. You needed a crystal for the frequency you wanted to talk. There were two little modules that were precursors to hybrid circuits (which were precursors to ICs) that were often called PECs or couplates (not couplets) but other than those, it is all tubes and discrete components beautifully wired point-to-point. The really surprising part, though, is the back panel. There’s a screw terminal to drive the coil of an external coaxial relay that has line voltage on it. There’s also a plug on the back with exposed terminals that has plate voltage on it which is considerable. In the 1950s, you assumed people operating equipment like this would be careful not to touch exposed high voltage. [Mr Carlson] does a great job of walking through the schematic and, of course, also fires the radio up and looks at the output with a communication monitor. It has been a long time since we’ve loaded up a tube transmitter and watching it done while looking at the output was very nostalgic.

FCC Proposes $18,000 Fine in Louisiana Amateur Radio Interference Case

Sun, 07/29/2018 - 02:51
The FCC has issued a Notice of Apparent Liability (NAL) proposing to fine Jerry W. Materne, KC5CSG, of Lake Charles, Louisiana, $18,000 “for apparently causing intentional interference and for apparently failing to provide station identification on amateur radio frequencies,” the FCC said. “Mr. Materne was previously warned regarding this behavior in writing by the Enforcement Bureau and, given his history as a repeat offender, these apparent violations warrant a significant penalty,” the FCC said in the NAL, released on July 25. In 2017, the FCC received numerous complaints alleging that Materne was causing interference to the W5BII repeater, preventing other amateur licensees from using it. In March 2017, the repeater trustee banned Materne from using the repeater.

via HACKADAY: Why Have Only One Radio, When You Can Have Two?

Sun, 07/29/2018 - 02:51
There are a multitude of radio shields for the Arduino and similar platforms, but they so often only support one protocol, manufacturer, or frequency band. [Jan Gromeš] was vexed by this in a project he saw, so decided to create a shield capable of supporting multiple different types. And because more is so often better, he also gave it space for not one, but two different radio modules. He calls the resulting Swiss Army Knife of Arduino radio shields the Kite, and he’s shared everything needed for one on a page and a GitHub repository. Supported so far are ESP8266 modules, HC-05 Bluetooth modules, RFM69 FSK/OOK modules, SX127x series LoRa modules including SX1272, SX1276 and SX1278, XBee modules (S2B), and he claims that more are in development. Since some of those operate in very similar frequency bands it would be interesting to note whether any adverse effects come from their use in close proximity. We suspect there won’t be because the protocols involved are designed to be resilient, but there is nothing like a real-world example to prove it. This project is unique, so we’re struggling to find previous Hackaday features of analogous ones. We have however looked at an overview of choosing the right wireless tech.

via the RSGB: WRTC 2022 venue announced

Sun, 07/29/2018 - 02:45
After the recent successful World Radiosport Team Championship in Germany it has been announced that the 2022 event will be hosted by Bologna in Italy. The invitation-only event pits the world’s greatest DXers against each other in over 60 teams. They compete with each other using similar stations in similar terrain to level the playing field. As far as possible, this means it comes down to a fair test of the operators’ sheer skill. The official website of the 2022 event is at

via the ARRL: HAARP Campaign to Use WSPR on 80 Meters

Sun, 07/29/2018 - 02:45
Alaska’s super-power High-Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) transmitters in Gakona, Alaska, will take advantage of the WSPR digital protocol and the Weak Signal Propagation Reporter Network (WSPRnet) during a short experimental campaign, July 30 through August 1. University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) Space Physics Group researcher and HAARP Chief Scientist Chris Fallen, KL3WX, told ARRL that he’ll be conducting research into ionospheric irregularities, but hardly with a weak signal. “I am conducting a dual-use experiment to create field-aligned — plasma density — irregularities while also modulating the HF beam for a WSPR beacon test,” he said. Specifically, Fallen will be looking at plasma density irregularities in the F-layer of the ionosphere.

Slow-Scan TV Transmissions from International Space Station Set for July 30 – 31

Sun, 07/29/2018 - 02:35
Russian cosmonauts on the International Space Station are expected to activate Amateur Radio Slow Scan Television (SSTV) transmissions on 145.800 MHz FM on July 30 and 31 The SSTV experiment should be active on Monday, July 30, 1600 – 1930 UTC, and Tuesday, July 31, 1325 – 1915 UTC, using the RS0ISS call sign. SSTV images will be transmitted using the Kenwood TM-D710 transceiver in the Russian ISS Service Module. Format is expected to be PD-120. More information on SSTV from the ISS is on the AMSAT-UK website.

ARRL Exhibits for First Time at AirVenture Oshkosh 2018

Sun, 07/29/2018 - 02:32
ARRL has been exhibiting for the first time ever this week at AirVenture Oshkosh 2018 in Wisconsin. The ARRL exhibit complements other ham radio demonstrations at the air show. ARRL Marketing Manager Bob Inderbitzen, NQ1R, is working with a team of members who are supporting the exhibit at the weeklong aviation celebration and fly-in. The annual event draws more than 500,000 visitors. Inderbitzen said that by mid-week, the ARRL guest book was filled with call signs from around the world. “Cool! ARRL is here! That’s the sentiment shared by hundreds of ham radio operators who have visited our exhibit at AirVenture this week,” Inderbitzen said. ARRL Life Member and flight instructor TJ Johnson, K9KJ, of Munster, Indiana, was among those stopping by the ARRL booth. He shared his experience of operating aeronautical mobile during ARRL Field Day with his friend Bob Johnson, W9XY. They made hundreds of radio contacts from a Cessna 182 aircraft, 7,000 feet above the Wisconsin countryside. They operated on 20-meter CW using an end-fed wire; they also made many contacts on 2-meter FM simplex.

Parity Act Options Open Despite Removal from Defense Authorization Act Conference Report

Sun, 07/29/2018 - 02:32
ARRL Hudson Division Director and ad hoc Legislative Advocacy Committee Chair Mike Lisenco, N2YBB, says removal of Amateur Radio Parity Act (HR 555) language from the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Conference Report this week was unfortunate, but does not kill the initiative. The Parity Act would ask the FCC to grant radio amateurs living in deed-restricted communities the right to install effective outdoor antennas. Lisenco said today that while the language was removed from the final NDAA Conference Report, other viable options remain to see the Parity Act succeed. “We were disappointed the Parity language didn’t survive the conference process, but we do have other House-passed legislative vehicles that contain the language, including the Financial Services & General Government Appropriations bill, which funds the FCC,” Lisenco said.

Dave Kalter Youth DX Adventure 2018 Concludes with 6,000+ Contacts in the Log

Sun, 07/29/2018 - 02:23
The participants in the 2018 Dave Kalter Youth DX Adventure (YDXA) at PJ2Y in Curacao put 6,218 contacts into the log before having to shut down on July 23. “There was a concentrated effort to have an FT8 station on the air as much as possible,” recounted Team Leader Jim Storms, AB8YK. “Also two additional radios were on the air almost constantly. One was on SSB and the other alternated between SSB and CCW. All CW QSOs were made by the youth.” Storms reported “a few challenges” during their stay. “During prime band-opening time on 2 days, we had power losses resulting in lost time. This amounted to about 8 hours,” he said. On days when the young radio amateurs were on the air, bands did not open until about 10 AM local, and the team typically operated until midnight, when most bands closed there. Storms said the young team members were “very compatible and worked extremely well together.” A QSL card will be designed and printed soon. The entire log has been loaded to LoTW and to Club Log. — Thanks to Team Leader Jim Storms, AB8YK

via the ARRL: Ducie Island VP6D Team Awaiting its Turn at Baker Island KH1/KH7Z Radios

Sun, 07/29/2018 - 02:23
Operators on the upcoming VP6D Ducie Island DXpedition, set for October 20 – November 3, are looking forward to their turn at the Elecraft radio equipment used by the KH1/KH7Z Baker Island team. In a recent news release, the VP6D team reported that its plans to activate Ducie Island this fall are on schedule, and the Baker Island radio gear has been returned to Elecraft for inspection, testing, and refurbishing. Members of the VP6D team will travel to California in early August to get the gear ready for shipment to New Zealand. Team member Jacky Calvo, ZL3CW, will then transfer the shipment to the M/V Braveheart, which will carry the VP6D team from New Zealand to its operating destination. Nigel Jolly, K6NRJ, is the captain of the Braveheart. The VP6D team said it is planning to use FT8 as part of its mode mix on Ducie. “There’s no question that the Baker team had considerable success with FT8,” the VP6D release said. “However, a large percentage of the callers weren’t prepared for the challenges of this new mode. We ask everyone to please read the FT8 DXpedition Mode User Guide. It will be in everyone’s best interest if callers use the most recent software version, correctly configure their equipment, call VP6D above 1,000 Hz, and call in the correct sequence.”

Significant Changes in Store for FT8 and MSK144 with WSJT-X Version 2.0

Sun, 07/29/2018 - 02:23
WSJT-X co-developer Joe Taylor, K1JT, has announced that major changes are coming to the FT8 and MSK144 digital protocols when WSJT-X version 2.0 arrives in a few months. Taylor said version 2.0 should be ready for prime time by January. “Much of the necessary programming is finished,” Taylor said in a post to the Packrats reflector. “Many of the new features have been tested on the air, and we find them to work well.” Taylor was quick to point out that the new capabilities are not yet publicly available, not even in beta form. He said that he, Steve Franke, K9AN, and Bill Somerville, G4WJS, have been developing “enhanced versions of the MSK144 and FT8 protocols that extend the message payload to 77 bits.”

International Lighthouse and Lightship Weekend Welcomes First-Time Lights

Sun, 07/29/2018 - 02:02
Marking its 21st anniversary this year, the International Lighthouse and Lightship Weekend (ILLW) in August will celebrate Amateur Radio operation at several lighthouses that will make debut appearances in this year’s event. So far, 300 groups or individuals have registered to indicate plans to participate from a lighthouse or lightship during the 2-day operating activity. Newcomers joining the list of perennials include the Ashdod and Mount Carmel lighthouses in Israel; Shabla Lighthouse in Bulgaria; Porthcawl Breakwater in Wales, and Tanjung Datu in Malaysia. Additional newcomers are in Mexico and Cuba, sponsors said. ILLW is always held on the third full weekend in August. This year, it will get under way at 0001 UTC on August 18 and continue until 2400 on August 19 — 48 hours in all. The ILLW typically attracts more than 500 lighthouse entries in dozens of countries. Registration is not required for participation, but it does let other stations know which lighthouses and lightships will be activated. Other lighthouses making a first appearance in ILLW include Malarrif in Iceland and Akmanrags Lighthouse in Latvia. The Lightship Huron on the St Clair River in Michigan also is a newcomer.

via HACKADAY: The Return of RadioShack?

Sun, 07/29/2018 - 02:02
We’ve been following the ups and downs of Radio Shack for a while now, and it looks like another chapter is about to be penned in the storied retailer’s biography – and not Chapter 11 bankruptcy this time. According to the ARRL website and major media reports, up to 50 of the 147 US locations of HobbyTown, the brick-and-mortar retailer of RC and other hobby supplies, will soon host a “RadioShack Express” outlet. Each outlet will be up to 500 square feet of retail space devoted to electronic components that would be of use to HobbyTown’s core customer base, as well as other merchandise and services. HobbyTown locations in Mooresville, North Carolina, and Ontario, Ohio, will be among the first stores to get the RadioShack Express treatment. Current employees of the franchisees will staff the store-within-a-store, which will be stocked with RadioShack merchandise purchased by the store. Stores with Express outlets will have special RadioShack branding inside and out to attract customers. There’s talk of the deal being extended chain-wide if the pilot program goes well.

Thailand Reported to Have the Third Largest Ham Radio Population

Sun, 07/29/2018 - 02:02
The small Southeast Asia nation of Thailand is reported to be the country with the world’s third largest population of radio amateurs — a total of 101,763 as of last February, or slightly fewer than California’s 106,000 Amateur Radio licensees. The Thai ham radio count represents a drop from a reported high of 247,676 hams in May 2012. Only the US and Japan outrank Thailand in terms of the number of radio amateurs. Thailand has a population of about 68 million, and the vast majority of the current Thai ham population are Novice operators, which have privileges on 10 and 2 meters. Intermediate and Advanced licensees make up the remainder; both of those classes may operate all bands authorized in Thailand, the only distinction being authorized power. Only in the past 2 years have individuals been able to take the exams for the Intermediate and Advanced licenses. All statistics were included in a report to the International Amateur Radio Union Region 3 conference this September in South Korea.