Tree felling, wood splitting and stacking, aka: hard work.

A large amount of respect should be placed on our ancestors. Those folks worked hard. Hard!

We recently had ten trees removed from our property. Two months ago the trees were cut and sliced into roughly 16 inch logs to be split for firewood. I have been using a 25 ton hydraulic splitter to make the logs into fireplace friendly pieces. I have worked my hind end off for the past 2 months on this project. Between my day job and weather, and lawn care, every other free opportunity has been committed to getting the chunks of wood broken down and stacked on the farm.

I have been using a hydraulic splitter. I imagine those who swung the venerable splitting maul would have some feminine slang for my whining. I can’t say it would be undeserved because it has been rough on my 40 year old body. I don’t think I would get through this ordeal unscathed if it were not mechanized. The manual option would surely have forced me to see the general practitioner.

The men who did laborious work such as; swinging the splitting maul, plumbers, gardeners, farmers and harvesters, all those other fine men who worked their asses off and the clever men who saved the labor with invention, I salute you all with utmost respect! God bless all of you.

If I have left any out, it was not for disrespect. Take notice that my respect is for all the hard workers. I feel your pain.

Thanks for reading!

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Why Do We Check Into Nets?

I talked to a fellow ham a long while back about ham radio nets. This fellow ham is active with ham radio and a contributor to the hobby. He contributes a lot; money, time, time away from family, etc. So, why would a guy that is so involved with ham radio almost never check-in to a net? I asked the guy bluntly, as I do most times I’ve got something curious on my mind, and he said “so boring.” This may very well be true.

Nets are very repetitive both in schedule and by nature. Even though a net has different radio operators who direct traffic on the net, almost all nets consist of a controller, a scheduled time and channel or frequency, and operators who check-in with the controller who logs the contacts. Why do we do it?

My experience with nets goes back to 1995. We used local repeaters to run nets, and anyone within range would check-in to the controller directed net with their call sign, name, and QTH (location). Networking with other hams at a scheduled time and frequency allowed clubs and emergency coordinators to assess the reach of their equipment. This also gave clubs and emergency coordinators an opportunity to listen to who was out there in the field and active in ham radio. Before the internet was widely available, a good list of licensed hams was maintained by hand and rarely 100% correct. On the other end, field operators had the opportunity to check equipment function and assess how far their radio reach was. This was a great opportunity for everyone and local repeaters were very integrated into public service and emergency coordination.

Today, these activities are still practiced regularly. I think the net I used to check-in as a teenager is still on the same day as it has been for more than 25 years, albeit with some time changes and repeater hardware upgrades. I imagine there are nets out there that are longer running with exactly the same time and frequency.

We have more opportunities now than we ever have had before to check-in to nets. Without opening another can of worms that begs for argument and raises questions and causes all sorts of fuss from many people, I must say that digital radio and internet linked nets gives us more opportunity to network as hams than ever before. You can catch a net around the world at any time of day or night on any day of the week. So, with internet networking, why aren’t ham radio nets obsolete and why do we still check into them? It is simple. We practice ham radio.

Even though we can communicate around the world and never touch a radio, we still practice ham radio in all of the modes available and by any way in which we can connect. Both wired and wireless and sometimes both, we network with other ham radio operators to practice our hobby and make connections. Having nets gives us the opportunity to meet at coordinated times and channels to still do, fundamentally, what we have been doing for as long as I have been on the air.

Take the opportunity to listen to the preamble on a net. The roots of the net are spelled out in most preambles given before the net begins the check-in period(s). Almost every preamble will give the purpose of the net and the rules for networking with hams. Some nets are very tightly controlled and others are loosely organized. But, all nets have intent and purpose.

Whether you find nets boring or not is up to you. No matter how you find nets, there are long standing practices and purposes. Nets should be respected and I find them important as do many, many other hams.

Thanks for reading.

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C.I.R.C.L.E. Amateur Radio Club Launch

I just found out about the C.I.R.C.L.E. Amateur Radio Club and more importantly, Connie Ballantyne.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get the privilege of becoming acquainted with Connie. I wish that I did like so many other amateur radio operators have. All is not lost, however, as the C.I.R.C.L.E Amateur Radio Club is dedicated in memory of the late Connie Ballantyne.

From time to time we hear about a few individuals, both living and deceased, who are committed so strongly to their hobby that it impacts everyone else involved. Connie exemplified ham radio and puts at the forefront the living spirit of the ham radio community. Even in Connie’s passing, her spirit is remembered daily on-the-air and in the hearts of those who were fortunate enough to have met her.

You can learn more about Connie at the CIRCLE-ARC Website. Please join the net dedicated in her memory on Sunday evenings at 7pm Central time US on D-Star Reflector 91C.

Thanks for checking out the C.I.R.C.L.E ARC and thanks for reading!

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I bought an ID-5100

I am so pleased with this radio!

For anyone who has an ID-51 or ID-31, programming the radio is a breeze. I downloaded the latest repeater list from the Kentucky D-Star Facebook page and imported the file into the Icom CS 5100 programming software. I updated the callsign information and saved the .icf file to my desktop. I uploaded the new configuration to the radio and it just plain works. I couldn’t have asked for an easier process!

As many of you have seen already, I was using a CDM-1250 for my primary driver at home to work 2 meter repeaters around my QTH. It is a great radio but it is limited because it has to be programmed for every channel you wish to work. So, if you get a new offset or frequency you would like to work, break out the laptop and start programming. There is no such thing as quick tuning or front panel programming (that I am aware of) for the CDM-1250. I had to switch up my hardware!

I’ve been wanting to get an Icom IC-9700 and I had it within my means to get the 9700. However, I just couldn’t sell it to myself at nearly 2 grand for a tri-band radio, and only really use two-thirds of the bands (2m and 70cm). I don’t know anyone within earshot that has 1.2Ghz, and only after I got the 5100 did I learn about satellites on 1.2Ghz. I am not regretful for the 1.2Ghz satellite work, frankly. Seriously, $2000 bucks, I just couldn’t swallow that for what would essentially be a dual band radio.

I looked at the 7100 and fiercely compared the function of the 7100 versus the 5100. At $1000, the 7100 adds all of the HF band plus 6m. Well, heck, that sounds much better than the 9700, but I don’t have any HF feedline or an antenna or tuner. So, I’m not OCD or anything like that, but I’ll be clear; I’m not going to have an empty antenna jack on the backside of a radio. That seems incomplete to me. For the 7100 to be in my possession, the $1000 price point would be left behind as I added a tuner, antenna, and feedline. Now that gets me closer to the price of the 9700 for the 7100. I ditched the 7100 idea and decided the 5100 was going to be my new rig.

I bought the 5100 from Gigaparts because they would do the MARS mod for $35 and they gave me a $10 coupon for email subscription. I don’t need the MARS mod but once again, I want my radio opened and complete. It’s my responsibility and I’m going to have the radio with its full capability. I also got the Bluetooth module, once again, I want the whole works.

I’m in for a lot less than the pricepoint I once dreamed, and I’ve still got some dough in my pocket. Enough dough, in fact, that I can get some nice used gear to accomplish what I may be missing on the 9700 or 7100. With that said, I know of an FT-891 in PA for sale at the time of this writing. Even if I purchased the FT-891, which comes with a tuner, speaker and desktop microphone, I would be at least $300 in the black from my original budgeting.

I’m over the moon about my new radio. I’ve made the best decision for my immediate needs and I’ve still got cash in my pocket. That’s a win and a win in my book.

Thanks for reading!

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It’s Been A While

Finding time to get to hobbies is work in itself. I would devote all of my time to ham radio and reflector servers and AllStar servers if the bills would vanish. Unfortunately, priorities.

I have been drifting back towards the radios lately and the weather is starting to up tick. So, with a little luck and a break from the daily grind, I will be able to get to radio work.

I will be back around soon.

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AMBE

Advanced Multi Band Excitation

This is the technology that provides the audio compression and decompression for DStar. Seems like a whole lot to take in but we’ve been dealing with audio compression for a long time. Most people have bought and downloaded mp3 or mp4 files. Mp3 or mpeg3 is audio compression technology too.

A typical song is about 3 minutes or 4 minutes long and when uncompressed, it typically is in .wav format and this format can be 5 or 6 times the size of an .mp3 file. So, this .wav format song can be up to 15 to 18 megabytes in its uncompressed size. That would be a lot of data to be streaming or downloading so it is compressed to 3 or 4 megabytes using mp3 compression.

The same principle applies to DStar using the AMBE vocoder (voice encoder/decoder) chip. The chip encodes (compresses) our voice and data into a stream that fits into the 12.5 khz narrow FM signal that we transmit, and when received, the same chip is used in the receiver to uncompress (decode) the signal. What we sacrifice is quality. If we used the same uncompressed audio we expect in an broadcast radio station we would need nearly 3 times the bandwidth when we sum the data with our voice.

The chip is made by a company called Digital Voice Systems Incorporated (DVSI) and is a hardware implementation of audio and data compression compared to a software implementation such as mp3. It is arguable that the hardware implementation is faster and more reliable than a software based vocoder, especially since the DVSI chip has backwards compatibility, is also a analog to digital converter and vice versa, and has even more bells and whistles to fill a couple hundred pages of specifications. So this chip does all of this in one package. That makes the DVSI AMBE chip a good choice for ham radio. We can do all of this stuff on one chip, so it fits nicely into a handy talkie. Everyone knows that hams like HT’s.

I’m not saying that there aren’t other good options out there, I’m not getting into that debate in this article, but many amateur operators choose DStar for a multitude of reasons. I like DStar, DMR, and System Fusion, and the AMBE 3000 chip encodes and decodes them all. It does a good job.

When you buy a DStar radio or a AMBE dongle, or AMBE server you are likely buying the DVSI chip and paying for the license to use that technology. I am certainly glad we have it.

73

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Hosting Costs

Hosting is relatively cheap for what we do on Ham Radio. A virtual machine, which easily can host a DStar reflector is less than 10 bucks. Even if you have 2 virtual machines running, the costs aren’t bad. When you have 3 instances with backup storage and email hosting and web site hosting, the costs add up quickly.

I hate asking for money and I won’t force someone to look at a splash screen before entering the website. I also don’t like the advertisements that are easily accrued with terrible looking banners and nuisance pop-ups.

I have chosen to place a PayPal Donate button at the top of my web pages.

The button is simple and voluntary. No one is required to donate. I ask that you make a small donation if you feel compelled to do so; for instance, you like what I’m doing and want me to continue. It’s up to you.

I have created a PayPal account that is separate from my personal PayPal account so that there is no intermingling of money. 100% of donations will be applied to hosting across the platforms that I use for Ham Radio related servers, web servers, email servers, domain fees, etc.

I use the cheapest service provider possible that has the functionality required for our purposes, and I choose plans that will accommodate our needs without excess. So far I’ve done well enough to keep costs low enough that the XYL hasn’t “reminded” me about spending. I would like to keep doing what I’m doing without having to answer to the boss.

Any donation for any amount would be great!

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Techniques for keying on Allstar

I have been experimenting with Allstar nodes and Echolink nodes. A few of our ham friends have been doing excellent work in transcoding and linking Allstar and Echolink into the digital modes (DStar, DMR, Yaesu System Fusion). This is all great stuff and there are some side effects to all of these interconnections.

The symptom that is most recognizable to me is a lag in transmissions reaching all of the intended recipients. We all have noticed that when we transmit, the other side may take a moment to reply. Sometimes this is intentional, sometimes it’s because it takes some time for the message to make it’s way through the network and reach the other side.

It is important that we remember this lag associated with all of these interconnections and adjust the way we key down and key up so that the other end will receive all of what we say. I’m sure you’ve heard someone say their call but you only hear the last 3 letters of their call sign.

The best way to use the network is to key down and wait half of a second to a second before you start talking. The other end will not miss any of your transmission. Also, at the end of your transmission, keep the key down for half of a second when your are through talking so that the other end will hear the very tail of your transmission before you key up.

It is that simple and it makes a world of difference. You should include this technique in your everyday ham radio practices so that everyone hears everything you say.

Thanks for reading! 73

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