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2013 Magazines

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Amateur Radio April 2013

Delivery expect from March 28


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Editorial

Modes of communication

A key component of our hobby is communication. Many of us use several modes of communication, not just simply getting on air and talking, driving a keyboard or using the CW key.

During the last few days I have read some interesting messages on a text message reflector related to our hobby – amateur radio. I will not identify which reflector, but I am sure that many will know the type of reflector to which I refer. They are typically focussed on a particular theme – locally the vk-vhf reflector is a very good example. An interested subscriber requests to be included, and, once approved, starts receiving email messages from the reflector, sent by other subscribers. Most have some degree of moderation available, but usually a moderator does not intervene unless something untoward occurs – for example, someone’s email address has been hacked and inappropriate material sent, or an individual continues unwanted behaviour despite requests from a moderator to cease such actions.

These text only services make for low bandwidth communication via the web and have been part of the internet for a considerable time. Most limit the size of message that can be sent and block image files and other attachments.

More recently, advances have been made to these forms of information sharing. One such tool are the Groups available on Yahoo. These allow more information to be shared, including the provision of file storage on the group pages on the parent site. If someone wants to share an image, they can post it to the Photo folder on the page and choose to send out a notification to the group.

One subscriber was upset that he could not send a photo to the text reflector in question. What was odd was that he did not want to take suggestions from others on the reflector for alternate methods of “sharing” the image file. Suggestions had included using various file storage sites, often available for free. Still the person did not get the message! It was interesting to say the least. It was also clear that many subscribers to the list were very happy with the restrictions placed on the reflector users – they wanted to keep the low bandwidth messaging system.

There is another modern tool for sharing information – the blog. Again, one can sign up for a basic service for free. Examples include blogspot and wordpress.

Back at GippsTech last year, Andrew VK1DA gave a presentation on the ease with which one can share information via such a service and suggested that amateurs should consider trying it out.

Early this year I decided to give it a go. I started with some notes about SOTA trips and National Parks activations. These themes are the only ones at present. I have started to add some accounts of older trips, such as the trip to and from the WIA Annual Conference weekend last year. During that trip I undertook my first SOTA activation and activated several National Parks and SOTA summits. If you are interested, it should be easy to find the blogs by searching on my callsign.

Several of the SOTA activators around VK have blogs which are interesting to read, and to see some images of the locale around the summits visited.

Perhaps it is something you could try – read the VK1DA blog. He has a basic guide to creating a blog, posted back in July 2012:
http://vk1da.net/blog/2012/07/05/publish-your-projects-on-the-web/

A new column

This issue we have the first instalment of what is likely to be a new column – Summits On The Air or SOTA. I raised the idea of such a column earlier this year and a couple of SOTA regulars offered to contribute. So welcome aboard to Allen VK3HRA. I hope that it gives all readers some stimulus to consider participating in the SOTA activities, even if only as a Chaser.

The 40 m band activity has certainly picked up over the past month or two since VK1 became part of the SOTA program. In the six weeks from 1 February, I earned 306 Chaser points, some from home and some from on summits. The increased activity by Activators has made it much easier for Chasers to accumulate points. Conversely, Activators have often been dealing with small pile ups, with lots of Chasers seeking contacts. As a result, Activators have been able to qualify a summit (make contacts with at least four different stations) very easily compared to the situation only one year ago.

With SOTA news now appearing as a regular contribution, I guess that I can no longer pad my Editorial with SOTA content!

Cheers,

Peter VK3PF

This month’s cover

This month sees the first regular contribution on Summits On The Air (SOTA) activities in VK. The main photo is the view from The Horn on the Mt Buffalo plateau towards The Hump, with Mt McLeod in the background. All three peaks are SOTA summits. The inset shows the radio and associated equipment used by VK3PF when activating The Horn – the summit viewing compass proved to be a convenient operating table. Photos by Peter Freeman VK3PF.

WIA President's Comment

QSL via the Bureau

The VK QSL bureau is functionally divided between incoming cards (into VK) and outgoing cards (leaving VK). Incoming cards arrive at the WIA office in Bayswater, Melbourne, and are sorted into various State destinations by Geoff VK3TL and his team of volunteers. The cards are then bulk posted to the various local QSL managers for distribution. Cards can be collected from the local QSL manager, or if a WIA member wishes their cards can be posted to their membership address annually at the WIA’s cost. WIA members may also have their cards sent to their Affiliated Club, and again the WIA will meet the cost of that postage.

Non-members cards are retained for at least one year and then discarded. Non-members can collect their cards within that year period at the convenience of the local QSL Manager.

Outgoing cards are sent to the Outwards QSL bureau which is run by volunteers at the Westlakes Club in NSW, under the direction of the Outwards QSL Manager, Alex VK2ZM. The cards are sorted into country bundles and bulk posted to the overseas destination bureau.

There is no doubt the QSL service is a very important function for the WIA. It’s a tangible and very valued member service, and helps promote amateur radio and the WIA both here and internationally.

QSL cards are a fundamental part of amateur radio, and go right back to the very early days of radio pioneering. My start in amateur radio was through SWLing at the height of the Cold War in the early 1960s and I’m sure the postman must have been very confused about one day delivering cards from the Voice of America and the next day a package from Moscow or Communist China.

Prior to attending the Wyong Field Day I was under the impression that the QSL service was going along nicely, but after a couple of conversations it became obvious that there are some issues that need to be resolved.

The QSL service is a subsidised service to members, and rightly so, however some members who are very active in contests and DXpeditions do generate very large volumes of cards, far in excess of the normal member quantity. It isn’t uncommon for a single person to drop-in over 2000 cards at a time which can seriously overload the QSL service, not to mention the cost of processing and posting that number of cards well exceeds their membership fees.

Some might say that it is unfair for the majority of members to be subsidising a few heavy users of the QSL service. Others may say that it’s just a numbers game and good on them for being active radio amateurs. Certainly Contests, DXpeditions and Awards are something we should all encourage as much as possible, and anyway, who decides what is excessive?

Another issue is that within the pile of cards generated from a Contest or a DXpedition there are often a significant number of cards from non-WIA member operators, operating under their own callsign. Should the WIA subsidise those non-member operators within a contest or DXpedition, or is it all just part of the game?

The QSL bureau statistics are interesting. From 1st January 2012 to 31st December 2012, the total outwards cards were 58,200 and inwards cards 40,850, making a total of 99,050 cards distributed by the QSL bureau in one year. The time taken to distribute the outwards QSL cards alone is about 12 man-hours per week, all done by volunteers under the guidance of Alex. A similar amount of time would be spent by volunteers at the Inwards Bureau at the WIA office in Bayswater.

The average cost to the WIA of outwards cards postage is 5.7 cents per card, but when fixed overheads are factored in, the total cost of sorting and distribution would probably be around 10 cents per card, or about $5-6,000 per year.

Most countries have outwards QSL bureaus that operate in much the same manner. Their members send cards to their outgoing bureau where they are packaged and shipped to the destination countries. However, how they handle their outgoing QSL cards differs.

The ARRL charge their members US$2 for up to 10 cards, US$3 for 11-20 cards and then bulk charges apply based on weight. It can get quite expensive, so ARRL affiliated clubs are allowed to pool cards for ARRL members so they can take advantage of the cheaper bulk postage rates. Proof of ARRL membership is required.

The RSGB does things a little differently again.

The outwards QSL bureau is free to members but “heavy users” are asked to sort their own cards and send them directly to the overseas “top ten” receiving bureaus themselves, and at their expense, without going through the RSGB system. This not only saves the RSGB money, but also significantly reduces the workload on their volunteers. “Heavy Users” are determined on a total weight basis. According to the RSGB:
“The system is designed to reduce the costs of the bureau to the membership, by inviting big QSLers to take on some of the burden without penalising ordinary members and anyone who might occasionally send more than the typical number of cards”, (www. rsgb.org/qsl/).

This looks like a pretty fair system and is probably a lot quicker anyway.

So, can the WIA learn anything? Should we look at the QSL service simply as a numbers-game hoping that not too many people use it excessively, or is there a fairer way? Would the RSGB system be fairer?

Phil Wait VK2ASD
President

By the way, Alex asked me to mention a couple of very important points.

Please ensure your QSL cards are no larger than 140 mm x 90 mm. Some people are printing their own cards which do not fi t into the standard packaging, and some are double-size cards folded over. Both take extra time and cost more to post.

Also, cards must not be printed on glossy photo paper with inkjet printers as the ink will run and/or the cards will stick together. Matt photo paper with a minimum thickness of 0.25 mm is acceptable.


Table Of Contents

GENERAL

Radio operators I know: John Wilson ex VK3LM Graeme Scott VK2KE
SOTA Allen Harvie VK3HRA
One hundred times around the Sun Michael J Charteris VK4QS
John Elton VX10712 VK3ID – some recollections from Darwin, from July, 1940 to March, 1942 Peter Elton VK3ID/VK3KG
SPARC’s first Rosebud RadioFest shines brightly Mark Bruechert VK3PDG
Gridsquare Standings at 15 February Guy Fletcher VK2KU

TECHNICAL
Comparison tests on my SWR meters, versus that of my transceiver Neville Chivers VK2YO
Construction of VHF and UHF beams – A simple way Phil Derbyshire VK2FIL (SK)
LiPo batteries for portable operations Lino Rizio VK3EI
Building big on 160 metres for the VK/ZL Trans-Tasman contest Michael Romanov VK3CMV
The Arduino ‘Dead Band Opener’ – a simple accessory to save the drudgery of calling Peter Parker VK3YE

Plus all the usual Club news and columns

SOTA

Allen Harvie VK3HRA

This is quite a short article – the first of what will hopefully become a regular Column – that really seeks only to introduce the author to the AR readership, and the subject itself, Summits on the Air (SOTA), to readers.

Given the rapid uptake of SOTA activities, not only in Australia but throughout Europe, regular articles with SOTA news will undoubtedly become popular in the near future.

One hundred times around the Sun

Michael J Charteris VK4QS

This article covers the story behind the celebrations undertaken when the WIAQ reached its 100th anniversary in 2012.

It has been written in some detail, with very obvious pride not only in the activities enjoyed by all concerned, but in the fact that the WIAQ had reached such a meritorious age in such wonderful shape.

Worth a read.

LiPo batteries for portable operations

Lino Rizio VK3EI

This article explains how a superior portable battery based power source for portable use, utilising LiPo batteries, was developed and fabricated.

The explanations are well detailed and explain why some features were included, and others not. The end result was a very satisfactory result for the author – and may provide an interesting thought starter for many other active portable operators.

Construction of VHF and UHF beams – A simple way

Phil Derbyshire VK2FIL (SK)

This is an article about construction techniques for smaller type Yagis, typically for two metres or 70 cm, that if practised will assist in their performance outcome, and will also add to their lifespan on the mast because measurements will be precise, tolerances reduced and fabrication principles well respected.

For antenna homebrewers, there may well be an idea or two to be gleaned from the methodology employed.

Please do not attempt to contact the author, who became SK in December.

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