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2014 Magazines

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Amateur Radio March 2014

Delivery expected from February 27


      WIA Member Digital Edition Download


Editorial

Happy New Year to all

In my last Editorial, I said that we needed more high quality images for the cover. I had troubles finding one for this issue, so you have one of me out on Mount Kosciuszko back in early November, taken by Rod VK2TWR.

The trip was Rod’s second SOTA activation, if I remember correctly. Rod had listened to the presentations at GippsTech in July about equipment for SOTA and to the discussions about SOTA between Wayne VK3WAM, Andrew VK2UH/VK1DA and me during the weekend – all had stayed at my home. I had many telephone conversations with Rod over the next couple of months and I planned a long weekend in the Snowy Mountains with Rod. It turned out that Rod could not wait and he activated his first summit in mid-October.

The trip to Mount Kosciuszko was uneventful and very enjoyable, despite the wind up high. The strong rays from the sun were a concern – we both should have applied sunscreen earlier and more frequently during the day. We opted for the shorter approach to the summit, parking at Thredbo and paying for the chairlift ride up to the Crackenback Station. It is then an uphill (with occasional downs as well) of about 6.5 km to the summit.

Many think incorrectly that Mount Kosciuszko is our nation’s highest peak. It is the highest point on the Australian mainland, but is surpassed by Mawson Peak on Heard Island at 2,745 m and Mount McClintock at 3,490 m in the Britannia Range in Australian Antarctic Territory. And no, these summits are not yet registered for SOTA – I am sure they would present formidable challenges!

Rod and I went on to activate several more peaks over the first weekend of November. Rod is very fortunate – he lives in the Snowy Mountains area and has many SOTA summits relatively close to home. His activator score is rising rapidly!

I had more fun in the field with Rod over the Australia Day weekend, activating several summits.

As you will see from the SOTA report this month, activity continues to rise. As I prepare this Editorial, there are 37 VK chaser stations who have qualified for Shack Sloth. We still only have one VK activator qualified for Mountain Goat status, but others are steadily building their tally.

In addition to all this SOTA activity, stations have been busy activating National Parks and Conservation Parks for various awards.

Fires, smoke and summer heat

One thing that has been slowing down all these outdoor activations has been the weather conditions in southern Australia. Both South Australia and Victoria have been experiencing very hot, dry and high wind conditions, leading almost inevitably to bushfires. Many regular field operators have been keeping a close eye on conditions and have opted to stay at home when conditions are marginal.

Eastern Victoria has had several large fires burning for days and weeks. The local area here has been in a smoke haze for days, with fires in two of the local open cut coal mines and bushfires both nearby and further afield. Hopefully we may receive some decent rain falls in the near future to give some relief. But I am sure that emergency services will continue to be busy for some considerable time to come.

Until next month,

Cheers,

Peter VK3PF

This month’s cover

The cover this month shows your Editor activating the SOTA summit VK2/SM-001 Mount Kosciuszko in the Kosciuszko National Park – the top of VK2. SOTA and other portable operators develop their own solutions for carrying the equipment required for an activation. Steve Mahony VK5AIM describes his solution for activating parks on page 6. Photo by Rod Collman VK2TWR.

WIA President's Comment

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

December discussed the state of the WIA’s finances, and highlighted a fairly urgent need to reverse a comparatively small but tenacious financial deficit.

I explained that recent cost increases associated with printing and distributing AR magazine have not been fully offset by savings achieved in other areas of WIA activity, and that the choice we have is now very much between raising membership fees or moving to a digital-only AR magazine format, or a combination of those moves.

As you can imagine, such an important issue, which goes to the very fabric of the Institute, has dominated discussions between WIA Directors over the past six months and the Board has had to make some difficult decisions.

In many ways, the easiest option would have been to cease printing AR magazine and move to a digital only format, which would have resulted in an immediate saving to the Institute of about $105,000 per year. No doubt many members would have preferred that option, but the problem is, we just don’t know how members would react to such a fundamental change in the delivery of AR magazine. We do know that many older members, or those with slow data services, would be disadvantaged.

In the Board’s view, changing to a digital-only publication almost overnight would be a very risky proposition, quite possibly too risky, even if the alternative means a fairly significant membership fee increase to support the paper edition. We suspect that a very significant number of WIA members place a high value on finding AR magazine in their letterbox each month.

The WIA Board decided that the better option is to introduce a digital edition of AR in parallel with the existing paper edition, allowing its acceptance to be measured by counting the number of member downloads from the WIA website.
Accordingly, the WIA Board has asked the Publications Committee to introduce a digital AR magazine option in pdf format for members-only download from the WIA website - (the good news).

Naturally, that doesn’t fix the financial problem, in fact, it makes it slightly worse, and the drain on the WIA’s finances cannot be allowed to continue without any possibility of further large cost savings.
To address that issue, the WIA Board has decided to increase WIA membership fees to $95 per year for full members, with other membership categories increasing in proportion, from 1st July this year – (that’s the bad news).

The Board is very conscious that this is a fairly large increase in percentage terms. The increase will certainly allow the WIA to recover losses from previous years and should cover any further cost increases in the short-to-medium term, even allowing for a small attrition in membership. Most importantly, it will give us time to assess the uptake of the digital edition of AR, so a more informed decision about migrating to a digital-only magazine can be made sometime down the track, remembering that, if AR magazine does eventually go digital-only, further membership fee increases should be avoidable for some years.

Naturally, any fee increase will cause difficulties for some members, and no-doubt some members will be unhappy. To ease the burden as much as possible, the Board has decided to introduce an automatic quarterly payment option for payment of membership fees by direct debit from a member’s bank account.
Our treasurer, John Longayroux VK3PZ, is in the final stages of that implementation, which we hope will be attractive to some members.

I said before that one of the issues that prevented us from moving immediately to a digital-only format is that we just don’t know how it would be accepted by members. In fact, we don’t even know what percentage of members have internet access suitable for a large magazine download in acceptable time, or how you use the internet in your day-to-day lives.

In the centre of this magazine you will find a survey which is intended to give us more information about you, your potential access to an on-line digital magazine, and also your views about, and suggestions for, the WIA – (and I know that that could get ugly). I encourage everyone to take part in the survey. If possible, please complete the survey on-line, as it will assist in ensuring your views are accurately recorded and speed up the process of data analysis.

For those of you who do not have internet access, or find it too difficult to download or read large files, we definitely need to hear from you – so please remove, or copy, and fill out the paper survey at the centre of this magazine and post it back to the WIA office.


So, not all good news, but it was going to happen sooner or later. Personally, I am pleased the Board decided to keep the paper edition of AR magazine at least for the medium term as, although the WIA does a great number of other things for members, AR really is the most tangible member benefit we have.

Phil Wait VK2ASD
President, WIA

Table Of Contents

GENERAL
Parks portable Steve Mahony VK5AIM
New 630 metre band beacon in Mildura Jim Linton VK3PC
Hacking Electronics Review Blair Bowler VK4BBX
Amateur radio promotion Kevin Crockett VK3CKC
WIA online awards open for business Marc Hillman VK3OHM
WARD 2014 World Amateur Radio Day Geoff Atkinson VK3TL
The WIA, technology and the challenge of change Phil Wait VK2ASD & Roger Harrison VK2ZRH

TECHNICAL

Foundation Corner 24 – ‘Pre-loved’ HF transceivers Ross Pittard VK3CE
Aerial Analyser modifications for 2200 and 630 metres Justin Giles-Clark, VK7TW
The SDR 40: A simple sound card receiver for 40 metres Peter Parker VK3YE
Solar panels: measuring output power Dr Hank Prunckun VK5XB

Plus all the usual Club news and columns

Parks portable

Steve Mahony VK5AIM

This article is one amateur’s preparation to operate portable from somewhere in the great outdoors with his low power transceiver and a minimum of other equipment.

The development of SOTA in Australia, and the popularity of a number of ‘outdoors’ award programs have made portable operation increasingly popular – and this article will certainly point you in the right direction to prepare for your own operational fun.

New 630 metre band beacon in Mildura

Jim Linton VK3PC

Following the decision of WARC12 to allocate spectrum in the 630 metre band to radio amateurs, there have been moves in Australia, among quite a number of nations, to begin active operation in the band (472 kHz to 479 kHz).

One of the ways to encourage this operation is to ensure amateurs are aware of the propagation characteristics of the band by providing beacon activity – and this article tells how one such beacon was established in north western Victoria just for this purpose.

Foundation Corner 24 – ‘Pre-loved’ HF transceivers

Ross Pittard VK3CE

The latest in a long line of articles aimed at those who hold a Foundation level licence – the topic this time being ‘pre-loved’ HF transceivers that might interest newly licenced Foundation amateurs as their first venture into HF radio equipment.

It also makes an interesting trip into the past for those who have been around the amateur radio hobby for a lot longer time than a Foundation level colleague.

The SDR 40: A simple sound card receiver for 40 metres

Peter Parker VK3YE

The latest ‘big thing’ in amateur radio is, arguably, software defined radios (SDRs), and one suspects they will eventually replace the ‘hardware’ style radios that have forever been a part of amateur radio (all radio, for that matter).

The author suggests trying to build a single band SDR of modest complexity, to test out ones building skills and SDR design capability before moving on to something more complex.

Thus a homebrew SDR for 40 metres is presented.

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