Friday, May 21, 2004

Spend a little surfing capital 

Web site worth a look.

While not directly related to scanners or ham radio I found this web site and I think it is worth taking a look at. As I have mentioned in the past amateur radio and most other things electronic are now inexorably intertwined with computers and thus the Internet. So the more you know about one topic the better prepared you are to deal with the other. So give this site a squint and see if you think it is worth some of your valuable surfing time. http://www.computerbits.com

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Thursday, May 20, 2004

Meeting of the Oblong Table 

Meeting at Kings May 19th, 2004

We had an official “oblong table” meeting of the Pittsburgh Area Scanner Net this evening. We had eight in attendance including Bill (N3BPB), Rich (K3RWN), Frank (K3FSS), Duncan (KF6YYT), Dave (Ham in training), Frank (Ham in training), myself (WA3FKG) and my wife Linda. Linda, who tolerates all of my hobbies well, was just there for the ice cream. :-)

We took an informal vote and the majority of those present, in fact it was unanimous, decided that we should start planning the Pittsburgh Area Scanner Club. This being the start of summer it was suggested that we spend the next few months planning exactly what we would like the mission of the club to be and what structure it should take. A few months ago it was thought that we would suspend the meetings at King’s for the summer months but it looks like there is enough interest to continue on. Feel free to email me or check in on the Sunday night net with your thoughts on the matter.

We decided to investigate finding a place for a group picnic during the summer. Last year I had hoped to do that in combination with one of the Skyview Radio Society events but it didn’t work out as well as I had originally planned. So this year I am going to look for a picnic grove with a shelter, preferably with power, where we can all get together and have a cook out, let the kids play and tinker with radios. Another one to give some thought. Again, any ideas or suggestions let me know.

There were reports from the Dayton Hamvention of all the new goodies that were showcased there. I think I even heard someone say that they actually had their hands on the new Icom R-20. Some of the new radios were kept under clear plastic domes which makes me wonder if they were only mockups of if they just didn’t want one of a few scarce demo models to be damaged or grow legs and walk away. If you are a radio aficionado Dayton always holds lots of enjoyment. If you would like to see pictures of the big event Radio Free Bob aka WC3O took his digital camera and his pictures are now posted on the Skyview Radio Society web site. http://www.skyviewradio.net Just go there and click on the PICTURES button.

We did a lot of comparing notes on frequencies, dispatch points and various codes used by some of the departments. Dave (ham in training type) brought among other things pictures of a HUGE model rocket that he went to see launched not long ago. I didn’t get all of the details but let me tell you that the picture was impressive. He also brought a binder with a mapping of states that he has heard with an older AM broadcast radio that he has resurrected. We also compared notes on aircraft that we have monitored in the 118 to 136 mHz band and the types of conversations heard there.

It being a Wednesday night most of us had to be up for work the next day so we did not stay late. Even so I think everyone who came had a good time. Stay tuned to the net for the time and place of the next meeting and stop out if you can.

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Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Hook your scanner to a J-Pole and see how it works. 

I mentioned on the net Sunday evening that I wanted to discuss J-pole antennas. We never got to that but I did want to pass along these web pages where you can learn more about the venerable J-pole and get a good idea on how to construct one for yourself. If you want to make a number of inexpensive antennas that will perform well for you give the J-pole a try.



http://www.cqham.ru/projects/antenna/jpol_antenna.htm ( I like this one a lot)

( This page includes a nice calculator to figure lengths )

If you have additional questions you might want to check with Ron, KB3DDF, who is our resident J-Pole specialist. You can find his email address at QRZ.com.

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Monday, May 17, 2004

Notes from the Pittsbugh Area Scanner Net of May 16th 2004 

Notes from the Pittsburgh Area Scanner Net of May 16, 2004

Another good net last night gang! We had twenty-seven check ins counting the net control station. Here is a brief synopsis of what was discussed.

Lots of goodies at the Dayton Hamvention.

Rich, K3RWN, made it to Dayton and got to speak with the author of the ARC780 software from Butel. They had a booth and were talking with users and taking suggestion for improvements on their already excellent program for controlling the Uniden BC-780/785/796 series of scanners. It is unsure at this stage what improvements will be made to the original ARC780 program but it is still listed as an active supported product on their web page. http://www.butel.nl/ If you own a BC-78nXLT scanner this software is a must have. Check them out.

The other item that they had for display at Dayton was a control interface that allows you to use your Palm Pilot PDA at a “control head” for your BC-780 series scanner. The long awaited option to let you detach the BC-780XLT front panel was also on display. Rich got a first hand look at it and was somewhat disappointed in that there is an interface box involved that when attached to the removed front panel brings the physical length back to only about four inches short of the depth of the scanner itself. With a price tag of almost $400 dollars Rich said that you would REALLY need that extra few inches taken off the chassis to go for this setup.

In other news from Dayton Ricardo, K3DPP, tells me that he stopped by the Scanner Master booth and brought home quantity of information for me. He is going to drop it off at work on Tuesday and I will bring it to the next meeting.

Also Nelson, N3PN, found a number of nice cases for carrying your hand held scanner at Dayton. He brought home two types from the Western Case Company that fit the popular PRO-9x series of scanners from Radio Shack. He found a nice soft case that covers the entire radio and a hard leather case that has openings so that you can access the keyboard without removing the radio from the case. If you want additional information you can reach them at 1-800-310-3023 in California.

Radio Free Bob, WC3O, informs me that he took a ton of pictures at Dayton and they will be posted on the Skyview Radio Society web page soon. http://www.skyviewradio.net Make sure you check them out. Guess next year I will have to consider making the trip to the “worlds biggest ham fest”.

Westmoreland County APCO 25 System Heard

We have a report that the Westmoreland County APCO 25 digital trunked system has been heard being tested by system technicians. It is definitely not operational yet but if you have a digital scanner that will decode a 9600-baud data stream there have been communications taking place on the assigned frequencies.

Meeting This Week

There will be another round table, actually there are oblong, meeting of the scanner net at Kings Restaurant. We plan to gather on Wednesday evening at 07:30 PM for drinks, dinner, desert or whatever else we find goes well with a good discussion of scanners. Feel free to stop by and meet the gang in person whether you routinely check into the net or if you are just one of our Sunday night listeners. All are welcome.

Where do we go from here?

One of the topics at Wednesday nights meeting will be “Where do we go from here?” with our marry band of scanner listeners. The Pittsburgh Area Scanner Net has been in existence now since December of 2002. The net has had good response from both the amateur radio and the scanner community. I have been really surprised at the response that I have had in email from scanner listeners who monitor the net each week and who have stopped to say hello at ham fests and other local events. It would seem that the next logical move would be to form a Pittsburgh Area Scanner Club and that is one of the things that I would like to talk about Wednesday night. I raised this question on the net Sunday night and ask those that were checked in or listening to think about. If you have an opinion on the subject feel free to stop by and add your two cents to the pot. If you can’t make it and you have something you would like to say to the group about it drop me a note in email and I will pass along your thoughts at the meeting.

The Resurgence in Packet Radio

There seems to be a renewed interest in the amateur radio community in packet radio. Like so many others I was just getting involved with packet radio when a dramatic increase in speed of telephone modes took place and suddenly dial up bulletin boards became very attractive. What followed was the explosion of interest in the Internet driven to a great extent by the development of the World Wide Web. Packet radio stayed stagnant at 1200 baud half duplex using the traditional Bell 202 modem tones in dedicated TNC controllers. Packet radio fell into a very narrow niche where it was effective such as the DX clusters that would alert monitoring stations of rare foreign stations that could be worked on the HF frequencies. There were those that believed in the packet radio network and stuck with it and I think they are now being rewarded for their efforts.

One such group of dedicated hams is the South Western Pennsylvania Packet Group. They have built and maintain an extensive packet radio network that serves the amateur radio and emergency communications communities. If you would like to see just how much time and effort they have invested in this take a look at their web page. http://www.swppg.zelie.com/index2.html I think there are some unique opportunities here for the scanner group and that will be another topic of discussion at this weeks meeting. Also they have an upcoming meeting on Saturday May 29th that I plan to attend. As with the scanner group all are welcome so you don’t have to be licensed to meet with the group. Just an active interest in communications is all that is required. Listen in on next weeks net for additional details on packet radio and the upcoming meeting. I see some exciting possibilities for packet radio and scanner users.

More Latter

I had promised to send some links around for web locations that would provide information on J-pole antennas. I will get to them perhaps tomorrow evening. It is getting late and I want to get this out to the mailing list and post it on the web log before I retire for the evening. I am working my way through the Bible in a plan that our Sunday school offered, which has covered almost two years now. This is my first time to read the Bible from cover to cover and I am starting in 1st Corthians this week. It has been a great experience. Hope to see all who can make it Wednesday evening at Kings.

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What the heck is a QCWA?

Well for you young “wiper snappers” out there it is the Quarter Century Wireless Association. It is a group that was formed in 1947 to promote friendship and cooperation among amateur radio operators that have been licensed for at least twenty-five years. They have a presence that you can visit on the World Wide Web. http://www.qcwa.org

Needless to say many of the group chapters are filled with members who served as radio operators during World War II and have many interesting stories to tell. Chapter 6 of the QCWA here in Pittsburgh is one such group and they have a 2-meter net each Sunday morning at 08:30 on the Steel City Amateur Radio Club’s 147.030 repeater. I often listen in on the net while getting ready for church and find some of the conversations interesting.

This morning they were discussing various aircraft that had been used by the Army Air Corp. One interesting item I heard was about having to go for a ride in a Piper Cub where you had to send and receive Morse Code at a speed of at least 16 words per minute to qualify as a radio operator. For those of you who have never flown in a light single engine aircraft is can be a VERY noisy experience and not at all conducive to concentrating on such a task.

Combine that with the fact that for many of these young men it was their first time ever in any type of aircraft along with what they may have had to eat in conjunction and the timing of the flight and you could have a very interesting ride!

So here is yet another interesting listening experience your scanner can bring into your home or car. Of course if you are a ham you should check and say hello to the guys on the net. If you are working on your ticket make sure to check in at least once when you have your license and let them know that you have been listening to them while you earned your way into the hobby.

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Sunday, May 16, 2004

Speaking of lightning 

Speaking of Lightning

If you have outside antennas on your scanner, or your ham rig for that matter, you should think about lightning protection. Now lets get one thing out of the way right up front, if you take a DIRECT strike there is NOTHING that is going to protect your equipment. Or you for that matter, if you happen to be around when it happens. The best that you can do is avoiding the conditions that make you a likely target.

That was the main topic of discussion on the Elmer Net this evening on the 146.88 repeater. I won’t recite all of the conversation on the net this evening but I will give you a site where you can learn more about lightning and its effects. Spring and summer are upon us and storm season will be here before you know it. Make sure you and your radios and antenna systems are prepared.


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