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2013 Magazines

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Amateur Radio June 2013

Delivery expect from May 23


      WIA Member Digital Edition Download


Editorial

Australian amateurs honoured abroad

At its Annual General Meeting on 20 April 2013, the Radio Society of Great Britain honoured two Australian amateurs: Phil Harman VK6APH and Andrew Martin VK3OE. Phil and Andrew were awarded the Wortley-Talbot Trophy for 2012. The Wortley-Talbot Trophy is awarded for outstanding experimental work in amateur radio. In this instance, it recognises the work of Phil and Andrew in developing “Chirp modulation”. Readers will recall the outstanding article Adventures with a bistatic chirp and CW radar prepared by Andrew which was published in the December 2012 issue of Amateur Radio. The technique has already shown unexpected results in investigating ionospheric propagation at 10 and 6 metres and has potential to explore other propagation modes. Readers will be aware that Andrew has previously shared significant insights into tropospheric propagation at VHF and above. Many will be aware of the contributions made by Phil in the sphere of Software Defined Radio, and especially in the hpsdr project.

Drew Diamond VK3XU has been inducted into the QRP ARCI Hall of Fame. The induction occurred at the QRP ARCI Awards Banquet at approximately 7 pm EDST on May 18 (0900 on May 19 in Wonga Park) during the Dayton Hamvention. The induction recognises contributions over 40 years in the fields of QRP, home construction and CW operating, and in particular Drew’s willingness to share his knowledge through publications, particularly through his articles published in Amateur Radio.

All at the WIA, and I am sure all readers of AR, congratulate Phil, Andrew and Drew for the recognition of their achievements by prominent amateur radio organisations overseas.

Advancements in radio technology

We are seeing significant developments in amateur radio technology. The main commercial brands are bringing out new model transceivers, especially in the VHF/UHF arena. There are moves towards different digital modulation methods promising higher performance voice communications, with a variety of largely proprietary components in use in the different systems. We also have the work done largely in VK5 on an open source CODEC for low bit-rate, high quality digital voice communications. At GippsTech last year, we had a presentation on a digital voice SSB mode under development that would allow for the graceful degradation of a communications link as signal to noise ratio declined.

Many readers will be aware of the significant advancements in recent times in the field of software defined radio. We have seen the development of the FunCube Dongle, together with the development of software which allows cheap USB dongles designed for reception of television signals to be used as multi-frequency, multimode receivers across the VHF and UHF spectrum. With the addition of simple up-converter mixers, these units can be used on the HF spectrum, Of course, much of the heavy-lifting technology is down to the PC hardware and software – not cheap, but prices are dropping and at least the hardware can be used for many different tasks.

In previous editorials I have mentioned the hpsdr project. The latest hardware recently started shopping from India – a company called Apache Labs has started shipping three different models of SDR radio, all with their roots in the hpsdr project: Anan-10 and Anan-100, based on the Hermes SDR transceiver, and the Anan-100D, based on a development of the Hermes board which includes two separate receiver input channels.

The transceivers look odd – they have almost no knobs, dials or displays – these functions are relegated to controlling PC or similar device.

From what I have been reading, some are having some issues with resolving a variety of issues, many related to the software driving the SDR hardware and firmware combination. Overall, the reports on the Hermes board and its Anan-10 sibling look very promising. Many recipients of the recently shipped Anan-100 and Anan-100D are talking about their satisfaction with their new arrivals. The volunteers behind the hpsdr project are continuing to work on the software and the future looks bright.

Of course, there are other players in the game. We have seen reviews of the FlexRadio SDR transceivers in AR in the past and they are working on new models. Of course, there are other players also in the mix. There are at least a couple of “crowd-funded” projects in the wind, offering broad frequency coverage into the VHF, UHF and low microwave frequencies, but only at low transmitter output powers.

With all these developments, one can only imagine what changes we will see in the near future – for how much longer will we be buying transceivers with lots of buttons, knobs, dials and a single small display?

Until next month….

Cheers,

Peter VK3PF

This month’s cover

The 7 MHz traps being installed on the HARG HF beam. See VK6 News on page 41. Inset: A view inside the low distortion two tone audio oscillator by VK5JST. See page 14. Photos by Bill Rose VK6WJ, inset by Jim Tregellas VK5JST.

WIA President's Comment

The Foundation licence – a strategic view

Last year, just before he passed away, Michael Owen wrote a President’s Comment about the Foundation licence. He said, “The Directors would like to know the opinion of amateurs generally on the Foundation licence, and whether there should be any changes”.

The WIA received a number of comments, mostly arguing for increased privileges for Foundation licensees, especially in relation to power and digital modes. Some suggested that the 4-letter F-call was confusing, especially when contacting overseas stations, and should be changed to a 3-letter call with a different prefix.

Since Michael’s comment, the VK-Logger forum has logged 13 pages of posts to the question “Should changes be made to the Foundation licence”, and consistent with comments sent directly to the WIA, increased power and digital modes are the most common suggestions. Although, it must be said that is not a unanimous view.

Any discussion about the Foundation licence, and ultimately the entry-barriers to amateur radio, needs to take a strategic approach.

The Foundation licence was intended to be, and still is intended to be, an easier entry into amateur radio with the hope that Foundation licensees will eventually upgrade to Standard or Advance licences.

Indeed, quite a large proportion of Foundation licensees have upgraded, but naturally there is also a lot of churn as some drop out of the hobby altogether.

There is no doubt the Foundation licence has been a positive development for amateur radio in Australia, and it certainly has bolstered the total numbers and encouraged higher levels of on-air activity. However the ‘pent-up demand’ from the pre-Foundation licence years has probably now been satisfied and, together with the ageing amateur population, I expect we are entering a period where the total numbers of Australian radio amateurs will start to decline.

Australia is not alone; this is a likely feature of most western nations. (Having said that, the good news is we have seen an early pick-up in Foundation courses and assessments so far this year, so hopefully that will continue).

When I was a kid, amateur radio was about the only technically based hobby I could get into, and then only because of a local amateur in my neighbourhood, Muriel VK2AIA. It was simply luck that I found it/her.

Now technically inclined kids have a multitude of hobby options mostly related to computers and the internet, where entry-barriers are very low and networking with like-minded people anywhere is just part of the scenery. Talking around the world via amateur radio must look very passé to them, and it also comes with a significant entry barrier.

Convincing significant numbers of young people to take up amateur radio sounds like a very hard call to me. Things have certainly changed. However, I do think there are emerging opportunities. The “makerspace” or “do-it-yourself” movement is one area where the benefits of amateur radio could be promoted, especially using some of the new digital modes. A recent news item on the WIA website shows how to use a $35 Raspberry Pi computer to generate low power WSPR signals directly into an antenna – with nothing else needed except a good quality low-pass filter.

My personal view is that there is an opportunity for amateur radio amongst technically savvy people wanting to use the capabilities of amateur radio as a tool to do something else that interests them. I’m not saying that amateur radio should move away from its traditional areas we all know well – having a chat, DX and contesting etc. – but I do think the ‘scope’ of amateur radio needs to expand somewhat to take into account the new types of hobby technologists.

If you share that view, it does seem rather counter-productive to have an entry-level licence intended to attract technically savvy people into amateur radio, which at the same time limits them to old technologies.

That’s why I’m inclined to think the Foundation licence should include digital modes, but naturally that depends very much on the ACMA.

The obvious question is – how do we attract these new technically savvy people to amateur radio in the first place? Answer, probably not through conventional amateur radio channels like radio clubs, but possibly through social media. That’s why we have included a social media group in our new WIA committee system.

One argument against introducing digital modes to the Foundation licence is that the extra study required, to ensure digital transmissions are not over modulated and do not cause interference, would make it harder to obtain, indeed almost as hard as a Standard grade licence and therefore departing from the original concept of an easy-entry licence.

Perhaps that could be addressed by introducing a digital endorsement to the Foundation licence, or a series of endorsements for various licence extensions.

So, what do you think? The Committees and the WIA Board have been in active discussion for some time about the complex issues and implications of suggesting changes to the Foundation licence. Maybe you have your own suggestions, but discussion alone does need to come to a conclusion by October this year.

Phil Wait VK2ASD

Other areas where amateur radio can provide a real benefit are for remote-area travellers, 4WD clubs, yachties, grey nomads etc. Amateur radio could also be a very useful tool for students and researchers studying wireless technologies, partly due to its universal access to spectrum. More emphasis needs to be placed on recruitment from these areas.

Table Of Contents

GENERAL

VK5 National & Conservation Parks Award Paul Simmonds VK5PAS
Remote operation Rob Norman VK5SW
Will the REAL PL-259 connector please stand up? John McLean VK2KC
Traps for old players Ron Holmes VK5VH
Great North Walk 100s Les Poole VK2APE
Can a ‘small pistol’ station offer useful advice to a ‘big gun’ DXpedition? Ernie Walls VK3FM

TECHNICAL

Receive 7 MHz on a 27 MHz CB radio - make your old AM set useful again Peter Parker VK3YE
A low distortion two tone oscillator Jim Tregellas VK5JST
Review: A review of the Ten Tec R4020 QRP CW transceiver Peter Parker VK3YE
Foundation Corner 23 – Baofeng UV-5R review Ross Pittard VK3CE

Plus all the usual Club news and columns

VK5 National & Conservation Parks Award

Paul Simmonds VK5PAS

The author advises of the creation of the VK5 National and Conservation Parks Award, and the conditions for participation.

For all those interested in ‘national park’ type activity and awards, this no doubt will become a ‘must’ for the VK5 parks.

Can a ‘small pistol’ station offer useful advice to a ‘big gun’ DXpedition?

Ernie Walls VK3FM

The author is an enthusiastic, albeit not terribly talented, DXer. He is also a relative newcomer to the RTTY mode, a mode that has quickly become his favourite.

Basically, he believes DXpeditions do not give enough effort to servicing the demand for this mode, and his article will explain why!

A low distortion two tone oscillator

Jim Tregellas VK5JST

One of the country’s best amateur home brewers has presented another offering for readers – a laboratory grade low distortion two tone oscillator.

For all readers who enjoy the art of home brewing, and admire, respect and actually use various instruments in the process, this is certainly a piece that will complement any amateur homebrew work bench.

Recommended reading.

NB: VK5JST has advised that we were supplied with an earlier version of the pcb artwork, not the final version. We plan to publish an erratum in the July issue.

Foundation Corner 23 – Baofeng UV-5R review

Ross Pittard VK3CE

This article is another in the ‘Foundation Corner’ series – this time a review of the Baofeng UV-5R handheld transceiver from China.

Although written primarily for Foundation level amateurs, it is a good bet that many more of these units will end up in more ‘advanced’ hands, making the article of particular interest to all amateurs.

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