Saturday, July 23, 2005

July meeting of TRAMA 

We held our monthly meeting today of the Three Rivers Area Monitoring Association. The TRAMA group meets the fourth Saturday of each month to discuss our common interest of monitoring the spectrum from DC to daylight.

Bill, WB3BUW, and Duncan, KF6YYT, and myself got together before the meeting at Kings in Waterworks for breakfast and some good radio oriented conversation. I got some surprising insights from Bill on the current status of land mobile radios. Sounds like companies like Standard/Vertex, Kenwood and Icom are making inroads on front runner Motorola. I can tell you from first hand experience and Bill confirms that quality from the Big M is not what it once used to be. This is sad when you consider who the vast majority of uses of this equipment are. I suppose in the end market forces will adjust actions of the suppliers at least one would hope.

We had Frank Stroneck(ham in training), Rich (K3RWN), Bill (WB3BUW), Duncan (KF6YYT), John Eld (Broadcast Engineer Retired) and myself Ken, (WA3FKG) in attendance at the meeting this morning.

The absolute high light of the meeting was Rich's Uniden BC-396T scanner. Rich was kind enough to bring the new scanner for us to drool over and fondle. He also brought his laptop computer with the software that Uniden supplies free of charge to owners of the BC-396T. The program has some glitches in it and needs some work but it is a great way to program the scanner at this time.

Rich gave us a complete demo of the radio and all of it's functions. Let me tell you that those functions are large in number. As he showed us each of the functions that the radio had I kept saying to myself that Uniden had spy's in my house reading my mind when I would day dream about the ideal scanner.

This is a spectacular radio and Uniden has really outdone themselves with all that they have included in this model. I was going to try to summarize all of them here but it would just take to long. There have been a number of reviews written up in Monitoring Times and other magazines since the radios introduction so I suggest that you get hold of a copy and check them out if you are interested. Just let me say that we all came away very impressed with everything related to this scanner. I had already made my mind up that I didn't REALLY need one that bad even though it is now one of the few radios on the market to monitor Westmoreland County's new digital system. Lets just say that after having one in my hands I'm not so sure anymore.

We also had a brief discussion on the fact that BPL has come to our area. See my previous blog entry for more complete details. As a group we are going to wait and see how things develop before we make any concerted effort to join in the fight if one is required to make BPL either be compliant with the rules or shut down.

We also talked about the fact that by having the meetings on the fourth Saturday of each month that we run into a lot of “Monday” holidays on the calendar. I asked about moving the meeting to another weekend but the consensus was that we will leave it on the fourth Saturday for now and adjust as the occasion requires.

Also I had planed to have a “panel discussion” at one of the upcoming meetings chaired by John Eld and including in a few other hams I know that have long histories in the broadcast industry particularly in radio and let them give us a flavor of how the broadcast service has changed over the years. I personally think will be a very interesting presentation and am looking forward to it. We have decided to put this off until we get summer and vacations out of the way and attendance is once again higher. Stay tuned.

Rich offered and I agree that we should be doing more “field trips” as a group. There are a number of interesting places for monitoring enthusiasts to gather and we are looking into them now. If you have any ideas please drop me a line or check in on the Sunday night net on 147.090 and let us know.

That is about it. With bright sunshine, high temperatures and low humidity everyone had better places to be today than indoors at a meeting. I think this was the earliest we have concluded since we started holding monthly meetings. Thanks to all of you who took the time to come out and join us today. And a special thanks to K3RWN for the great demo of the BC-396T. Hope to hear all of you on the net Sunday evening and see you at the meeting in August.

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Friday, July 22, 2005

Alert message from the WPA Section Manager 

A follow up posting. Our Western Pennsylvania Section Manager, Rich N3SRK, is apparently on top of the news about BPL. He has the following alert posted in the section news on the ARRL site.

From the ARRL web site.

ALERT: Fri, July 22, 2005; 12:00 PM ET
Attention to all in WPA Section
It appears as if BPL is going to be tested in the Monroeville section on the Allegheny-Westmoreland county line area. Section staff is aware and will be made aware of this up coming possible RFI interference issue. I would appreciate any information or notes of interest to go through either myself or our Section OO Coordinator Ralph W3ZPI. n3srj@arrl.org - w3zpi@arrl.net.
I've requested that Ralph head up a "Local Interference Comm." he will be looking for volunteers to serve on this team. Your help in this matter is appreciated and very needed in this matter!
73 Rich Beaver

Please get in touch if you can volunteer to help out in the effort.

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BPL comes to Pittsburgh 

Well despite claims to the contrary it looks like Broadband Over Power Lines or the infamous BPL will soon be coming to a neighborhood near you. The Pittsburgh Tribune Review is reporting that Duquesne Light Company plans a pilot project in the eastern suburbs of the city starting August 8th to deliver high speed Internet connections to residential and business customers with a target base of approximately three thousand customers. You can follow this link to their story.

As you know the American Radio Relay League has been battling BPL in a number of test areas in other parts of the country and has successfully shut down some pilot projects that could not meet FCC standards for RF pollution.

If you are an ARRL member I urge you to contact your section manager Rich, N3SRJ,and make sure he is aware of the fact that Pittsburgh is about to become active in the BPL landscape. You can also write to the Tribune Review and let them know that you read the story and that you would like to see a follow up story on the concerns of interference to various radio services in the spectrum.

If BPL gains a foothold in the consumer market and is accepted by the public it won't matter to the general public that it doesn't meet requirements for emission standards. Worse will be if amateur radio operations interfere with Internet connections, something that is bound to happen, and we find ourselves once again behind the eight ball as we did with illegal 27 mHz amplifiers used by the Citizen Band operators in the 1970s.

When the FCC could neither contain nor control of CB operators they simply baned all manufacture of equipment that could be used illegally and in the process cut off all of the long time legitimate makers of amateur radio equipment from supplying off the shelf products for hams that worked on six and ten meters. They even baned equipment made by companies like Motorola for the public safety sector using the VHF Low band frequencies. Thus is the power of the American television watchers with the congress and the FCC. These are things to consider when judging the implementation of BPL. I urge you to make your voices heard now.

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Thursday, July 21, 2005

Article by one of the founders of Electcraft 

Thanks to Bob, WB3FXC for posting this link on the K3MJW mailing list.

Wayne Burdick, N6KR, one of the founders of Elecraft is spotlighted in the
latest issue of Electronic Design (available electronically at this link)

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Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Pittsburgh loses another ham 

I received email today from Mike Furfari, K3FH, today telling me that work considerations had forced him to relocate to Tennessee. Mike is a good guy and his presence in the ham radio community in Pittsburgh will be missed. I wish Mike and his family well as they depart for Tennessee. If you know Mike and would like his contact information drop me a note in email.

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FCC proposes the elimination of Morse Code 

The ARRL is reporting the FCC will drop the requirement for Mores code in amateur radio.

FCC Proposes to Drop Morse Code Requirement for All License Classes (Jul 20, 2005) -- The FCC has proposed dropping the 5 WPM Morse code element as a requirement to obtain an Amateur Radio license of any class. The Commission recommended the change to its Part 97 Amateur Service rules in a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) in WT Docket 05-235. Any rule changes proposed in the NPRM would not become final until the FCC gathers additional public comments, formally adopts any changes to its rules and concludes the proceeding by issuing a Report and Order (R&O) spelling out the changes and specifying an effective date. That's not likely to happen for several months. The FCC declined in its NPRM to go forward with any other suggested changes to Amateur Service licensing rules or operating privileges beyond elimination of the Morse requirement.

Visit the ARRL site for the complete story.

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Hamblog back on the air once again 

Well after an extended hiatus Hamblog is back. I had given up on trying the site and this morning just for fun I clicked on the link that I put on this site to go there. I was considering removing the link since they have been “off the air” for several weeks now.

Well behold and low when I clicked on it there it was back in all of its glory. I like Hamblog and hope whatever the problem is that the site survives and flourishes. It is a great resource for ham radio operators. When you get the chance stop by and see what all the site has to offer.

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An enjoyable evening of conversation in Pittsburgh by way of Bentleyville 

A friend, KA3RXY, called me this evening knowing my interest in the Linux operating system and said that I should get on the local 147.87/27 repeater as that seemed to be the topic de jour among the group that was on at the time.

Well I ambled up to the shack and there I linked up with N3OVO and several others who seemed to be as enthusiastic about Linux as I was. John and I spent the next few hours talking about similar interests and experiences. Like me he is longing to get away from the Windows world with the “blue screen of death” and all of the various viruses that you have to deal with if you connect your machine to the outside world.

In addition John pointed me to some sites with ham radio software designed for Linux. I will post some of the links here on the blog tomorrow. Tonight I'm going to bed as it has been a long day. Did I mention it has been such a long day because I had to spend over four hours at work upgrading some software that should have taken only twenty minutes? Yep, where I work the corporate IT folks have dictated that we have to install service pack two on all of our XP machines and I'm finding lots of software that “breaks” after SP2 is installed. But that is another rant for another time. Tonight I will dream of a perfect world where Windows is banished and we run Linux on the desk tops.

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Monday, July 18, 2005

Really interesting digital reading 

I am somewhat behind in my magazine reading just now getting to the July issue of QST which arrived before the first of the month. I have been chomping at the bit to sit down with it because of an article title that is featured on the front cover.

IEEE 802.11 experiments in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley.

The article describes experiments done by a group with off the shelf hardware to set up wireless networks. Since all of this gear shares some frequencies with the amateur bands hams can modify antennas add amplifiers and do things that Part 15 operation don't permit.

The results were nothing less than astounding! If you have an interest in using ham radio to network computers together find a copy of the July issue of QST and check out the article starting on page 35. It is a real eye opener.

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