Saturday, May 01, 2004

Ham radio operators are a cheap bunch! 

Ham radio operators, as a group, are some of the biggest cheap skates that I have ever known. I have often said that if you hand a ham a buffalo nickel that when he gets it between his fingers the buffalo will fart! Now, before you get your knickers in a twist let me say that this is not necessarily a bad thing. Hams have a history of building their own equipment, modifying older existing equipment to give it new life and generally making due with whatever is on hand at the time to get something working. This is a heritage to be proud of I might add.

Hams as a group tend to be older in age. I have never broken down the statistics but I’m sure if someone did you would find that the majority of hams are either from the World War II generation or the “baby boomers” that followed. We have our share of young people, and I am thankful for that, but at this point in time I feel they are in a minority.

Ham radio has also changed a lot in the thirty-eight odd years that I have been involved with it. I don’t think that anyone, with the possible exception of Alvin Toffler, could have for seen where amateur radio, electronics and society in general would be in the year 2004 when I was first licensed.

Ham radio operators have made many contributions to the state of the art in electronics and communications. Part of that proud heritage that I mentioned. We no longer sit and strip old television chassis of parts so that we can “bread board” our next transmitter. Well some of us do but it is done more for the pleasure and enjoyment these days than of necessity. Now days we work with digital modes and computers. We have radios that don’t have any knobs or dials but rather a serial port connecting them to a computer that gives those radio capabilities that were unheard of only a few short years ago.

When I started this ‘blog’ I said it was for ham radio, scanners and Linux. So far all I have written about is radios. So this is my way to sneak Linux in the back door. What you ask does Linux have to do with ham radio? Plenty!

Linux is an operating system that will work on most modern day computers. In addition Linux is an “open source” operating system. What this means is that if you are one of those people that likes to get under the hood and tinker you are free to do so. You see, the source code, the text of the programs that combined make up Linux, are available and if there is some aspect of the software that you don’t like you are free to change it.

Coming back to my original premises for this musing, Linux is FREE. That’s right, zero cost to the end user. Thus is should appeal to hams in a big way. In addition it provides a way to bring new technical innovation to the hobby. It is also my hope it will attract a lot more of those young people that I spoke of. Heaven knows we need them! I will write more about Linux at another time and provide some links where you can gain additional information if you are interested. To get the basics start with this site, LINUX.ORG, and see where it takes you. Also feel free to bring up the topic on the scanner net or even better the Elmer Net. Ask and you shall receive.

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And speaking of mounting radios 

Oh, and speaking of mounting radios. Here is another company that I have dealt with in the past and have LOTS of neat toys when it comes to setting up communications gear in your vehicle. Their name is Galls and they have been supplying the emergency services community with equipment for years. Those of you who ride around in the vehicles with the funny red lights on top I’m sure are familiar with them. If you are involved with RACES or ARES you will find their site interesting. I have a four-radio mount that I bought from them and it works quite well. I don’t have it installed at this time but hope to put it either in my car or my wife’s van sometime this summer. I will put some pictures on my web site when I do. Check them out. GALLS ON LINE

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Friday, April 30, 2004

Mounting mobile devices 

On last weeks scanner net we had a question about mounting a scanner on the handel bars of a bicycle. I picked this up from the Skyview Radio Society mailing list. Thanks to radio free Bob for the tip.


I saw the following link on an email list I subscribe to.


This company manufactures mobile brackets designed for specific models of
cars and trucks. See the VSM link. These mounts do not require any damage to
the vehicle interior.

It won't hold all of WC3O's radios hi hi, but if you are looking to mount a
detachable face plate it could be just the ticket...


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Code3 Collectables 

Many times on the scanner net I have said that I welcome topics for discussion that are not necessarily scanner related but of interest to many scanner listeners. It should come as no surprise to anyone that a large portion of the scanners owners out there are either in public safety related fields or have an interest in those areas.

Having said that I have also mentioned Code3 Collectables from time to time. This is a company that produces die cast models of emergency service vehicles that are to exact scale and very detailed.

I did not start out to collect any of these but rather bought them for my son Dan who is a paramedic and fire fighter. I would send him one each year for his birthday and to be honest I did think they were kind of neat. Like Barnes & Nobel and Walden Books they have a “club” that if you join you get a discount on items that you buy and I finally decided that I bought enough things from them to justify the cost of a membership.

In the mid 1970’s there was a television show called “Emgrgency!” that depicted how the paramedic program got started in Los Angeles and followed the actions of two fire fighter paramedics Roy DeSoto and John Gage. I was a big fan of the show and when Code3 released models of the engines and squad trucks used in the program I decided I had to have them. I still don’t have a real “collection” like my brother in law does but I like the ones I have and will put some pictures of them up on my web page when I get the time. Feel free to bring up topics such as this on the net.

If you would like to see what Code3 has to offer check out their site. Neat stuff!

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Thursday, April 29, 2004

Go fish! And take your scanner along. 

I picked up this information from the WPA Scanner Mailing list. If you are not subscribed to it you should be. If you would like to be on the list go to the Western Pennsylvania Scanner Frequency Page and you will find a link that will sign you up. This is yet another area to explore with your scanner this time of the year.

--- In wpascanner@yahoogroups.com, pivak1@y... wrote:
Do these guys still use the 44 MHz systems, or have they started using the higher freqs??

Still using 44.96, 44.88, 45.04 very active this time of year

--Dan-- KE3UC

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Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Time for action 

In a previous post I asked you to support the ARRL and here is a prime reason to do so. As a nationally recognized voice they are calling on the White House to withdraw their support for broad band over power lines or "BPL". If you don't know what "BPL" is it is time to educate yourself as it will have a profound effect on your radio hobbies and could literally cost your millions of tax dollars if it creates the adverse effects that its critics claim it will. I happen to believe they are right.

Here is a some of what the ARRL is saying:

A Call to Arms

In direct response to the Bush speech, the ARRL is asking its members to support Haynie's request for the White House to withdraw its support for BPL technology. "Using power lines to distribute broadband services is a bad idea that should not be encouraged," said Sumner. "Federally licensed Amateur Radio operators need to tell him so--and also need to enlist their Members of Congress in reversing this bad administration policy. It is important for radio amateurs to get the facts across to the White House as well as to our Congressional representatives and senators."

To get the complete story and learn more visit the ARRL web page. http://www.arrl.org

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Tuesday, April 27, 2004

I am becoming a Yaesu fan 

When I first got involved with VHF FM operations in amateur radio most of those who were on the band were using converted land mobile radios. I started out life on 2-meters with a General Electric set that had tubes and was confined to a single channel. The model designation for the set was “Progress Line” affectionately know in the commercial market and amateur radio community as “PROGS”.

There were radios being made by companies like Icom, Kenwood and R. L. Drake specifically for the amateur market but they had very low power transmitters compared to their land mobile counterparts. Their chief advantage was that they were physically small and contained entirely in one box. The land mobile radios of the day like my “PROG” were generally a large unit that was typically mounted in the trunk of your vehicle and connected to a smaller “control head” in the passenger compartment. It contained the on off, volume, channel selection and squelch controls as well as a place to connect a microphone and speaker. All of this connected with a large diameter cable that had to be routed somehow from under your dashboard to the trunk. In addition you needed a heavy power cable from the main unit in the trunk to the car battery. Tube radios needed lots of current! Remind me sometime and I’ll tell you about dynamotors.

Times have changed and very few hams use land mobile transceivers these days. Yet in a sense they do because in today’s market place there are three main players in the amateur VHF / UHF arena. They are Icom, Kenwood and Yaesu. All three also compete for a share of the commercial land mobile business. In the case of Icom and Kenwood it is under the same nameplate while Yaesu markets their radios under the brand name Vertex. As far as I can tell with the exception of the FCC type acceptance sicker on the back of the radio and a few minor differences in the firmware they are identical.

I recently came into possession of two Yaesu radios, a model VX-7R handheld and a model FT-2800M VHF mobile unit. I have been using the VX-7R for about a week now and last night took the FT-2800M out of the box and looked at the manual. Still haven’t applied power to it yet though.

When I entered the amateur FM arena Icom, Kenwood and Yeasu were the General Motors, Ford and Chrysler of radio land. Of those whose opinions I respected on equipment selection Yaesu was considered an “also ran” in the amateur market place. Let me tell you if these two radios that I have here are any example of Yaesu products they are top of the line these days. I haven’t had time to really wring them out performance wise but I am very impressed with the hand held and while I haven’t powered up the mobile yet the physical construction is top notch. The thing is built like a tank. I hope the electrical performance matches what I am seeing in my hand. I will report back when I have had a chance to work more with both radio but as I said at the start I am fast becoming a big Yaesu fan.

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Monday, April 26, 2004

What you can do to support ham radio 

Most of you taking the time to read what is going on at this pinpoint in cyber space are already licensed amateur radio operators. Also know as “ham radio operators” or “hams” in the world of radio. There have been various stories about how we came to have that moniker that I won’t go into here. I will tell you that one of the definitions of “amateur” is ‘one who engages in an art, science, study or other activity for personal fulfillment, achievement or love of the pursuit’ and I like to think that many in our ranks fall into that category

There are a number of people that monitor the weekly scanner net who are interested in amateur radio and one of the reasons that I do the net each week is to reach out to that group in the hopes that they will join the ranks of licensed operators. Amateur radio is first a service and second a hobby something that some involved lose site of on occasion. We need to continue to grow both in knowledge and numbers to justify the amount of valuable spectrum that is set aside for our use. That is why I reach out to and value those that come to the hobby from the world of citizen band radio, short wave listeners and scanner enthusiasts.

Having said that there is something that each of us can do to help promote and preserve the hobby and that is to join the American Radio Relay League. Every group that has membership numbers like those of amateur radio has one or more organizations that act as a unified voice to represent the body in matters that concern them all. In the world of amateur radio there is only one such organization that has the ability to be effective on a national basis.

The ARRL is a non-profit organization that currently has approximately 163,000 members.

Some of their stated goals are:
· promote interest in Amateur Radio communications and experimentation
· represent US radio amateurs in legislative matters, and
· maintain fraternalism and a high standard of conduct among Amateur Radio operators.

I am one of those 163,000 members and support their efforts especially on the legislative front. So far they have done much to help hams out at the federal, state and local levels. Something that others who claim to represent amateur radio have not done in the past. I think their work in all areas merits an annual membership from all who would like to see this service continue in the future providing a needed asset for the public and a rewarding hobby for individuals.

You do not have to be a licensed amateur to belong to the ARRL. All radio enthusiasts are welcome though only licensed individuals can vote for the people that make up the structure of the ARRL and it’s rules and bylaws. So if you currently were thinking about getting into amateur radio joining the ARRL would not be a bad starting point. Just about equal in importance to joining a local amateur radio club in your area. The ARRL publishes a monthly journal called QST that is a valuable resource of information for hams and potential hams.

I have heard some amateurs that are not happy with the ARRL and refuse to join and discourage others from doing likewise. That is their prerogative. I hear complaints about politics, how league money is spent and things that the complainers feel are important and are not being addressed. Well guess what? The ARRL is set up much like our government. The members elect the representatives that discharge the duties of the organization. It is a representative democracy. My feelings are if your wishes are not being fulfilled by those you elected then vote them out and elect someone who will. And if you can’t find someone who will carry fourth your point of view get yourself elected to that position. I am a realist and know that this is not always a practical. I do however feel that the least you can do is work within the organization by educating yourself on the issues that it deals with and taking the time to vote for its elected representatives.

I will step down now off my soapbox and hope that you are still reading. Join us if you like each week for the Pittsburgh Area Scanner Net on the 147.090 repeater and if you are one of the listeners who is not licensed and would like some help getting started just drop me a note and let me know.

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Sunday, April 25, 2004

Notes from the Pittsburgh Area Scanner Net April 25th 2004 

Note from the Pittsburgh Area Scanner Net
April 25, 2004

Well we had another good net tonight, April 25, 2004. Many thanks to all who took the time to check in. We had twenty nine (29) check in’s counting the net control station.

Among the items discussed on the net tonight were:

Mercer County has moved from VHF Lo-Band to UHF for fire and EMS dispatch there new frequency is 453.725.

Here are some of the frequencies from the Fed File of the May issue of Monitoring Times.

Wide area common use simplex channels.


Common repeater pairs for local area operations.

Input Output
167.1375 173.6250
416.5250 407.5250
418.750 409.0750

Local area common use simplex channels.


Inter Agency national Calling channels.


Initial contact to be analog NBFM non encrypted.

For additional information on Monitoring Times Magazine check out the following link.

We had a question on where to find additional information on APCO 25. Here is a link that should provide a lot of details.


If you would like to see the pictures from last weeks AES trip they are now on the Skyview Radio Society web site.

Sky View Radio Society

Click on the EVENTS button to see the.

That is about all for this week. Please drop me a note if you like this format. Thanks.

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Scanner net member on the scene 

There was a house explosion in Springdale this morning around 06:45. I just had a conversation on the air with KF6YYT who lives just a block away from the scene. Duncan is a retired paramedic and responded to the scene to see if he could help. He treated some on scene injuries until local EMS arrived. He will give us additional details tonight on the net.

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Welcome to the blog 

Welcome to my web log. I hope to post information here from the Pittsburgh Area Scanner Net, which meets each Sunday evening at 09:00 PM local time on the North Hills Amateur Radio Club's 147.090 repeater.

I also would like to meet and talk with other amateur radio operators, or hams, and scanner enthusiasts who are interested in the Linux operating system especially as it relates to radio hobbies.

In addition to ham radio my other hobbies include reading, digital photography, movies and helping out at my church. I look forward to meeting and talking with other blogÂ’ers. Drop me a note in email if you would like to converse. wa3fkg@arrl.net

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