Amateur Radio May 2014
Delivery expected from April 24
WIA Member Digital Edition Download
Now is your last chance to register for the 2014 WIA Annual Conference, to be held on the Sunshine Coast on May 16, 17 and 18. Details can be found on the WIA web site, with the program following the established format of a social event on Friday evening, the Annual General Meeting and Open Forum on Saturday morning and a Technical Symposium on Saturday afternoon, the Annual Dinner on Saturday evening. There is an Alternate Program for Saturday for those who do not wish to participate in the amateur radio program. Sunday comprises some visits of both general and technical interest, plus a barbeque at the Sunshine Coast Amateur Radio Club for those able to attend.
You can register on line at the WIA web site and also find useful links to accommodation options and other services. Local WIA members can of course simply attend on the day for the AGM and Open Forum, but should not expect to be able to partake of meals.
If you have not yet registered and are considering attending, now is the time to complete that task.
Given class timetables at my paid work, it looks as if I will not be able to make it this year. Unfortunately, longer travel distances do not fit in with a full time job, especially when you have restrictions on when you can take leave. Such is life.
SOTA and portable operations booming
As you can read in the SOTA column this month, SOTA activity is booming. This is perhaps best demonstrated by the efforts of Amanda VK3FQSO, who has reached Shack Sloth status in only three months, having commenced chasing at the start of this year. Well done Amanda!
All SOTA Chasers are rapidly increasing their scores. There have been a number of stations out activating National Parks in VK3 and elsewhere. In VK3, the far eastern parks seem to lacking in activations, which is not surprising given the long travel times required by activators. Several SOTA activators in VK2 have retreated from summits given local weather conditions, but have activated National Parks when the weather allowed.
As this Editorial is being prepared, reports are coming in from the first anniversary activation weekend celebrating the South Australian National and Conservation Parks Award. Paul VK3PAS, the Award officer, reports that preliminary information indicated that there were a total of 28 park operators, and 93 park activations (78 unique parks). At the time of preparations of this report, around 70 % of the activators had submitted reports, with 1,800 QSOs reported to date. Of significance was the number of SOTA to Parks contacts. Many VK5 operators commented on being called by SOTA operators. As a SOTA activator out on Sunday, I was pleased to be called by VK5 parks activators and also made an effort to chase VK5 parks activations. It was a fun weekend for all involved in either activating or chasing. I am sure that Paul will be busy preparing Award certificates for some time to come!
This raises a question that I raised in an Editorial some time ago. We now have the Keith Roget Memorial National Parks Award for VK3, and the South Australia National & Conservation Parks Award for VK5. There is also the VKFF Awards scheme, compatible with the WWFF award scheme, which recognises National Parks activity in many of our parks across the country. These two latter schemes are based on rules established in Europe, without much, if any, input from locals in VK. There are strict requirements for these two award schemes.
Given the existing awards in VK3 and VK5, should we establish compatible award schemes promoting portable operations in the other states and territories? All that is required is a keen individual, probably with the backing of a club, to prepare a set of rules. The rules would list the valid parks within the state/territory, and would hopefully be compatible with the VKFF/WWFF rules. If such state/territory awards were established in the manner suggested, then we could have several state/territory awards which could build towards VKFF and WWFF awards as well. If such awards were established, we would not need an additional national award, we could simply work in with the existing VKFF and WWFF award systems.
Hopefully, this will prompt some wider discussions.
This month’s cover:
The FT5ZM team on Amsterdam Island. See the story of this DXpedition commencing on page 6. Composite image created by Sergio Fontana VK3SFG. Original photos by Nodir Tursoon-Zadeh EY8MM.
WIA President's Comment
A $30 membership fee? Simple!.... or, is it?
Generally, the membership fee increase announced in February seems to have been received rather better than we could have expected. We have received only a handful of negative comments at the WIA, and quite a few supportive ones.
Many people have shown strong support for the WIA’s advocacy role with the ACMA etc., and it is true that our political system works by limiting the number of actors, so a representative organisation like the WIA has greater political power than the sum of its members would have by acting individually.
So, let me address some of the comments received about the financial position of the WIA and its membership fees.
As Directors of the company, a primary responsibility of the WIA Board to the members is to ensure the on-going financial viability of the organisation. For several years, the WIA has been running at a small loss, and continued to do so through 2013.
Last year, we postponed introducing a membership fee increase, instead preferring to concentrate on reducing costs in a number of areas, including staff costs, Directors’ travel expenses, and by postponing the Club Grants scheme. However, other costs, especially those associated with the printing and distribution of AR magazine, and general expenses such as electricity etc., continued to increase, as they did for everybody else.
Looking back on 2013, if we did not achieve the savings that we did, the trading position of the WIA would now look a lot worse, probably with a loss for the year of around $20,000-$30,000.
Regardless of making losses for the past few years, the WIA is in a very strong financial position, with nett assets amounting to much more than a full year’s business turnover. The detailed figures will be in the WIA’s financial report, which will shortly be available to members, but there is no doubt that (as far as the balance sheet is concerned) the WIA is in a very enviable financial position compared to most small organisations.
The problem we face is that costs are still increasing and the easy savings have now all been made. If we did nothing more, the small losses would eventually grow and eat into the reserves, and in not too many years’ time, the WIA could find itself with no assets left or, even worse, could find itself trading insolvently. That is an unthinkable position for the WIA, but companies that fail to address recurring losses can find themselves in hot water very quickly, not only financially, but legally.
Some people try to compare the WIA to the RSGB or the ARRL and ask why our fee structure cannot be the same, although a careful analysis after allowing for the exchange rates and comparing like with like, will show they are not too different. In addition, both those organisations benefit from a very large home amateur population which, in addition to providing higher member numbers, has allowed them to build very significant publishing businesses. In many ways, these organisations are significant publishing businesses which support a membership organisation.
So, how do we ensure a viable future for the WIA.
The very best way to ensure the future for the WIA is to increase membership, but WIA membership has for many years been stuck around 30% of the total amateur population. Although this sounds low, when you take into account the number of inactive amateurs who have no reason to be a member, it’s probably a much higher penetration of the available market.
The WIA Board has committed to find and implement a persuasive way (or ways) to retain existing members, while recruiting new ones, as it requires only relatively small numbers to make a significant difference, which builds over time.
From time to time, we hear the suggestion that WIA membership should somehow be linked to the ACMA amateur licence fee – that is, the licence fee and WIA membership would be paid together, and WIA membership would then only need to be about $30 or so, about one-third what it is now. I understand that this would be contrary to the ACMA’s charter and is certainly not within its policies and practices. In addition, it would be contrary to Section 47 of the Trade Practices Act, which prohibits what is known as “third line forcing”. The classic third line forcing scenario occurs where a supplier requires (“forces”) the purchase of a second product or service from a nominated supplier – or, if the ACMA required membership of the WIA in order to obtain an amateur licence, as the suggested scenario would have it.
It has also been suggested that, if the WIA just dropped the membership fee to half of what it is now, then we’d easily double the membership! Leaving aside questions of “devaluing the WIA brand”, the available size of the amateur radio market (i.e. total number of licensed amateurs and other interested persons) and the costs of promoting such a radical change, there’s a fallacy in this thinking. In a perfect world, if we halved the membership fees and doubled the membership we would be in front, due to efficiencies achieved through running a larger organisation and printing more magazines. However, it is a very dangerous venture without any certainty that the membership would indeed double and, if that did not happen, the WIA could easily annihilate itself in the process.
Looking forward, one thing I would very much like to do is to improve the linkages and communications between the WIA and the Affiliated Clubs. I’m always surprised at how low WIA membership is in some WIA Affiliated clubs, possibly because people have the belief that they are, in some way, financially contributing to the WIA’s advocacy work through being a member of the radio club, which, of course, is totally incorrect. I think there is a lot of opportunity here to improve WIA services and increase WIA membership.
There is a view that we could significantly reduce operating costs and lower membership fees, by making fundamental changes to the way the WIA works. At this time, the majority of the WIA’s costs are associated with the printed magazine and two full-time office staff. As previously explained, significant savings could be made if we invested more heavily in IT, did away with the printed edition of AR magazine, and only provided on-line member service access without immediate telephone contact.
However, given the age profile of the radio amateur population, I would be very worried about the effect that would have. Many of our members enjoy receiving their monthly printed AR magazine and like to have somebody on the end of the phone to talk to at the WIA Office. Personal contact via the WIA Office is able to solve many problems and provide answers to issues as they arise, and the WIA Assessors, in particular, seem to rely quite heavily on day-to-day contact with the WIA Office – important to the on-going support of the Exam Service that is bringing new people into amateur radio.
So, it’s not as simple as saying cheaper membership fees means more members. Although this may be correct in part, cheaper membership fees would also mean fewer, or at least very different, member services. As WIA President, I’m not confident that our membership would accept the magnitude of change and the radically different business model that would be required to reduce WIA membership fees to the levels some suggest (only a meerkat would say “simples” to that).
Naturally, there is always going to be a small number of amateurs who simply can’t afford to be a member. It is unfortunate that there are so many who can afford it, but simply prefer to get a “free ride” to enjoy all the hard-won privileges of their licence at someone else’s expense.
Phil Wait VK2ASD
Table Of Contents
FT5ZM Amsterdam Island DXpedition 2014 and the VK6 connection Zeljko Krestelica VK6VY
Beginner’s Morse code Rob Norman VK5SW
A networked, automatic and remotely controlled MF ATU Dale Hughes VK1DSH
A tripod support base for a mast David Cleland VK7DC
A glimpse into the future – the Flex Signature Series radios Brian Morgan VK7RR/4
Plus all the usual Club news and columns
FT5ZM Amsterdam Island DXpedition 2014 and the VK6 connection
Zeljko Krestelica VK6VY
This is a brief summary of the 2014 Amsterdam Island DXpedition, and the VK6 connection, which kept most of the world’s DXers on their toes for considerable periods as all tried to confirm this most sought after DX entity.
The photos give a wonderful appreciation of the adventure as it unfolded.
Beginner’s Morse code
Rob Norman VK5SW
This is a short article where the author gives advice to any/all would be CW operators on how to get started with the mode, with an assurance, based on personal experience, that if you can persevere through what will almost certainly be difficult (code) times, somewhere down the track you will gain some proficiency that, usually, will develop with experience into an enjoyable facet of the hobby.
A networked, automatic and remotely controlled MF ATU
Dale Hughes VK1DSH
The author is one of Australia’s foremost amateur radio homebrewers, although for much of his work the term ‘homebrew’ does scarce justice to the design professionalism of the item in question, or of its final operational capabilities.
This effort features an ATU for the newly gained MF band at 472-479 kHz. Anyone capable of building this unit will find an ATU that is equal to be best that the commercial amateur world can offer.
Only for the advanced technician and builder.
A glimpse into the future – the Flex Signature Series radios
Brian Morgan VK7RR/4
The author is a long-time owner and operator of various Flex brand SDR radios, and recently acquired one of the latest in the developing series.
How it works, what benefits it may have over more conventional radios, any weaknesses perceived, and many general observational comments will make this an interesting read for all amateurs inclined to enter this new era of amateur radio communications equipment.
63 Cookson (Jackson Bros)
63 NBS Antennas
11, 63 TTS
Page Last Updated: Saturday 10 September 2016 at 20:33 hours