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2011 Magazines

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Amateur Radio April 2011

Delivery expected from March 23

Editorial

An electronic AR?

From time to time I am asked the question: Can I receive Amateur Radio in electronic format?
Clearly, this message has also been received by the WIA Board. As a result, the Publications Committee discussed this issue at its March meeting.

From the comments received over a period of time, and included in the discussion at the meeting, it is clear that some individuals think that receiving the magazine in an electronic format (such as Adobe Acrobat® format) will mean that the individual will have to pay less for their WIA membership.

However, everyone needs to consider all of the steps required for the magazine to appear each month. Whilst most of the required work is done by volunteers, the major costs of production fall into two categories. Firstly, there is the cost of the layout (typesetting) of the magazine, which represents about two thirds of the productions cost. The remaining third is the printing costs. Then we need to add the costs of packaging and posting the magazine. All members will be able to see these costs if they read the financial reports included in last month’s issue. Yes, we also need to add a small honorarium and expenses amount that I receive for my contributions. To offset these costs, we have some advertising income together with a small amount from Club and direct subscriptions.

All members can calculate the production costs and income if they examine the financial statement. But is this the whole story?

The reality is that the main component of the productions costs will not change if we produce less printed copies. This is due to two fundamentals: the typesetting costs are the same, regardless of how many hard copies are made, and the marginal cost advantage of reducing the print run by say 1000 copies is very small, as to simply print a single copy incurs significant set up charges. As long as we need to print physical copies, we cannot gain any significant cost savings in production.

The place where some small savings could be made is in postage – a smaller number of magazines posted would reduce the postage costs, but only by a small amount.

There are other factors to consider, including the benefit to our hobby overall by having the hard copy magazine appearing each month on news stands around the nation. These copies bring some income, at a small marginal cost. However the benefits are difficult to assess in dollar terms. In addition, there is the publicity value of having past issues available to give away to new members when they join the WIA.

After considerable discussion, the Publications Committee resolved to recommend to the Board that electronic copies of AR not be made available to members on a monthly basis, at this time. However it did recommend a move to produce an annual compilation in electronic format, to be made available after the December issue is published in each calendar year, commencing with the 2011 volume. We have yet to decide the mechanics of the distribution of this electronic version. It might be in the form of a CD or DVD available for purchase through the WIA Bookshop, in a manner similar to the ARRL and RSGB.

I am scribing these notes before these issues have been considered by the Board, so no firm decision has yet been reached.

Cumulative Index

One project that has been going on in the background for the past two or three years is the collation of a cumulative index of major articles in AR. This work has been undertaken in recent years by Don VK3DBB. We have also benefitted from the work of others, who have collated partial indices of past editions and who have placed those indices on the web for public access. Don is continuing his work and we anticipate that we will be able to make the cumulative indices available to members and others at some time later this year. Once again, no decision has been made at this time regarding the method/s to be used for access.

Sign off

The teaching year started recently, so I have been very busy with work. Apart from getting out for the Summer VHF/UHF Field Day and a couple of other occasions to play microwaves, I have not progressed very far with the major tasks at home. Hopefully I can find the time and energy to get the mast erection project progressed in the near future.

Cheers,

Peter VK3PF

Our cover

Our cover this month shows the elegant mast system developed and built by Rik VK3KAN. Some parts from a large hardware outlet together with a Squid pole and other low cost components produce a light weight yet versatile mast system suitable for portable operations.
Photo by Rik Head VK3KAN

WIA President's Comment

The ACMA needs some appropriate policies?

The WIA believes that the Australian regulator, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) should enforce the law affecting the amateur service. There have been far too many complaints of deliberate interference or improper behaviour for us to take any other position.

However, what is the law and how it is enforced has recently become the subject of some discussion, with some allegations that must concern us, in particular in relation to the question of the possession of equipment by amateurs and in relation to the inspection of amateur stations.

The primary offence is the unlicensed operation of “radiocommunication devices” which is section 46 or the Radiocommunications Act.

Let us ignore the extended definition of radiocommunications devices in this Comment and while a radiocommunications device may be a receiver, let us simply talk of “transmitters”, which is really all that is immediately relevant.

The problem appears to have arisen because section 47 provides as follows: “... a person must not have a radiocommunications device in his or her possession for the purpose of operating the device otherwise than as authorised by: (a) a spectrum licence; or (b) an apparatus licence; or (c) a class licence.”

Note the vitally important words “possession for the purpose of operating the device otherwise than as authorised by” a licence, that is, for the purpose of causing a transmitter to transmit.

Subsection (1) of section 48 then sets out a number of rebuttable presumptions. That is, the section sets out a number of situations where a person may be taken to have the transmitter in his or her possession for the unlawful purpose if the transmitter can be operated merely by doing one of a number of things, for example by connecting the transmitter to a power supply by a plug, connecting a microphone or switching the transmitter on or connecting it to an antenna and so on.

However, subsection (2) of section 48 says that subsection (1) “only applies in the absence of any evidence to the contrary.”

The WIA believes that if the person having possession of the transmitter holds an amateur licence, that is sufficient evidence to rebut the presumptions in subsection (1) of section 48.

Some other evidence must exist to show that the possession was for the purpose of operating the device other than as authorised by the amateur licence.

Any other position must be nonsense.

First of all, only a qualified operator, that is someone holding a certificate of proficiency, can hold an amateur licence.

Then a Standard or Advanced (but not Foundation) licensee may design, construct and operate a transmitter.

And how many of the older amateurs recall buying “disposals” equipment and converting it to amateur bands?

Any other view makes almost every HF transmitter owned by amateurs in this country illegally possessed. Let me give just one example. The Amateur LCD provides that the Advanced licensee may operate on the bands 3.500 MHz–3.700 MHz and 3.776 MHz–3.800 MHz Does your equipment allow you to operate between 3.700 MHz and 3.776.MHz?

Of course it does.

Any other position is simply ignoring the whole purpose and history of the amateur service.

What has the WIA done about it?

In accordance with the Freedom of Information Act, the WIA requested the ACMA to provide copies of any “document or documents disclosing the policy of ACMA in relation to the transmitting equipment authorised to be possessed by a licensee in the amateur service.”

The ACMA has responded by a Notice of Decision under section 26 of the Freedom of Information Act, and to our surprise, in a four page letter, advises that despite “extensive searches” no such document exits!

Because of the anecdotal evidence of amateurs feeling concerned at the way ACMA officers have sought to inspect stations, in our FOI application we also sought copies of any “document or documents disclosing the ACMA policy or operational procedures relating to the inspection of stations in the amateur service.”

The WIA accepts that many people will feel obliged to comply with the request of an ACMA officer to allow him immediate access to the station, no matter how courteous the officer is. The WIA suggests that an amateur is perfectly entitled to decline admission if it is inconvenient and make an appointment with the officer for a more convenient time.

An inspector may obtain a search warrant from a magistrate if he can produce evidence of an offence and an inspector has extensive powers of entry to control transmitters interfering with safety and other services without a warrant.

For an ordinary inspection without any underlying criminality we see no reason for an inspector under the Radiocommunications Act not behaving like other agencies such as the Australian Taxation Office, and making an appointment with licensee by a simple telephone call.

And that is particularly important in the case of amateur licensees under the age of 18, as we cannot imagine the ACMA approving an officer seeking to inspect a station otherwise than in the presence of a parent or guardian.

But, again to our surprise, the ACMA response to our FOI request was that despite “extensive searches” no such policy or operational procedures exits!

We also have been told that ACMA officers have purported to direct the licensee to dispose of equipment said to be possessed in contravention of section 47. We have not been able to find any statutory basis in law for such a direction.

The WIA is of the opinion that clear and appropriate policies must be formulated in respect of all of the matters I have raised, including policies that recognise an amateur’s right to possess any transmitting equipment and relying on a breach of licence conditions for any improper conduct and ordinarily requiring an inspector to make a mutually convenient appointment for station inspections with such inspections only taking place in the presence of a parent or guardian in case of licensees under 18 and those policies must be easily accessible for all amateurs.

The WIA has approached the ACMA accordingly.

Table Of Contents

GENERAL

VK3BJM versus ‘The tower’ Barry Miller VK3BJM
80 Years in amateur radio and still active Bill Magnusson VK3JT
City of Brisbane Radio Society – and their VK100WIA adventure John Morris VK4MJF
QRP 101 or the great radio heresy Norm Lee VK5GI

TECHNICAL

A transceiver for 137 kHz Dale Hughes VK1DSH
A car portable antenna mast Rik Head VK3KAN

Plus all the usual Club news and columns

VK3BJM versus ‘The tower’

Barry Miller VK3BJM

Many amateurs own at least one tower, to place their precious antennas as far, and as easily, into the sky as is possible, or sensible.

These towers come in all sizes, have many different physical qualities and characteristics, and with individual erection techniques, some safer, or simply more desirable, than others.

All towers come with some inherent danger lurking within, but common sense, and sometimes a smidgin of luck, generally ensures that safe practices are maintained in their day to day operation.

This is a story of one such episode, where sensible operating practices were utilised but still ‘Murphy’ appeared on the scene, created some angst and confusion for a while, before moving on – leaving the owner a little wiser about his particular situation, but smart enough to identify the weaknesses inherent in hid system, for which he immediately overcame by upgrading hardware as required.

Some humour in this piece – but some good advice, as well. Recommended reading for anyone who owns a tower.

80 Years in amateur radio and still active

Bill Magnusson VK3JT

This is an article that celebrates the achievement of one Australian amateur, George Bollas VK3LA upon his achieving his 80th year as a licensed amateur, and more remarkable perhaps, that he is also celebrating his 80th year of active amateur life, at the ripe old age of 95.

A car portable antenna mast

Rik Head VK3KAN

This is one amateur’s project that ultimately provided the potential for both HF and VHF/UHF antennas whilst ‘car portable’, with a minimum of fuss in terms of simplicity of operation but that also provided a significant choice of options for the operator.

Whilst a degree of engineering thought obviously went into the design considerations, the mechanical operation is straight forward and allows provision of an excellent portable antenna ‘farm’.

Photographs are used to allow the reader to fully understand the text explanation the article provides.

A transceiver for 137 kHz

Dale Hughes VK1DSH

The ‘newest’ amateur radio band in Australia is the LF band around 137 kHz.

To ‘participate’ at this early stage often means quite a deal of ‘home brew’ equipment must be used, and this article presents one such home brew transceiver of excellent performance characteristics that many of the more technical oriented among us may aspire to build.

In any event, this article is an interesting contribution at a significant technical level, and for that alone, it will no doubt find favour with many of the readership.

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Page Last Updated: Monday 20 June 2011 at 20:50 hours