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2015 Magazines

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Amateur Radio August 2015

Delivery expected from 23 July


      WIA Member Digital Edition Download


Editorial

A big weekend

This Editorial is being prepared at the last minute, amongst all of the preparations for my local club’s biggest event of the year: GippsTech 2015.

Back in 1998, I raised the idea of putting on an amateur radio technical conference, with the main focus being on sharing information about techniques and equipment for weak signal communications on the VHF, UHF and microwave bands. That was a silly idea – here we are coming up to the eighteenth annual event, plus we ran a special edition of GippsTech for the WIA AGM in 2009, the forerunner of the format that has been used most years since that first AGM and Conference.

Why was it a silly idea? Well, I seem to have acquired the job of being the Conference Chair and am therefore heavily involved in the organisation and running of the event each year.

For the club, it has been a great idea. For the first 2 or 3 years we just covered costs. For most years since that time, we have had excellent attendance and we have made money for the club, allowing us to build financial reserves to enable several projects from our own resources: repeater upgrades, beacon establishment and conversion to GPS locking, and modifying our new clubrooms, with the blessings of our hosts.

We are expecting around 110 amateurs for Saturday, together with several partners who will be chauffeur driven in a minibus to regional points of interest. Unfortunately for the partners, the weekend weather is shaping up to be very cold and wet, with a large complex low system approaching. The snow resorts are delighted – they are expecting several days (up to a week) of heavy snowfalls.

I will be looking forward to the end of the weekend, when I can relax for a couple of hours before tackling the task of proofreading this edition of Amateur Radio!

Potential conflict

I know that I have mentioned this topic previously, but it bears another airing.

We will shortly have another weekend which will be busy on-air. The dates for the Remembrance Day Contest (RD) and the International Lighthouse and Lightship Weekend (ILLW) once again coincide.

This brings about the potential for conflict: the RD is probably the most popular contest in VK, whilst the ILLW is mainly a fun and friendly participation event. Whilst some ILLW stations are happy to give out contest numbers, others are not! Therefore the RD participants should not expect to call an ILLW station and be able to receive a contest number back from the ILLW station. After all, the ILLW station was most likely calling “CQ Lighthouse” or similar, not “CQ Contest” or “CQ RD”. You might be lucky with some ILLW stations, but do not expect to be able to increase the number of stations in your log.

On the other hand, sometimes it may be easier for the ILLW station to quickly give the RD station a number, then resume calling “CQ Lighthouse”. The contest station will go off searching for more stations to call. But if you wish to not give out a number to one station for fear that it may result in more contest stations calling to expect a contact, please be polite when explaining that you are not participating in the RD! A little civility is cheap compared to the potential of causing aggravation amongst some other stations, especially when they are perhaps a little tired after many hours of contest operations.

I hope that all enjoy the weekend, and remember: Be considerate!

Until next month,

Cheers,

Peter VK3PF


This month’s cover:
Do you have a QSL card? Is it boring, stimulating, dull or inspiring? Read the article on QSL cards from Keith Bainbridge VK6RK on page 6. Keith talks about QSL cards in the context of some of the cleaning up after the death of a local amateur. Cards courtesy of VK6RK, composition by Sergio VK3SFG

WIA President's Comment

The inspector comes a’knockn

Last month the WIA received an enquiry from a member who had attempted to off-load a second-hand amateur transceiver through a popular on-line amateur radio marketplace. His advertisement disclosed that the equipment had been previously modified (by a previous owner) to transmit outside the amateur bands, specifically the 27 MHz CB band.

Not long afterwards he received a surprise call from an ACMA inspector, and the following Email:
Further to our discussions today, find attached a warning notice issued to you for breaching Section 4 (unlawful possession of radio communications devices), of the Radiocommunications Act 1992 (the Act).
Equipment that operates on the Land Mobile HF bands, including 27 MHz must meet the specific Australian Standards. The equipment must also carry the RCM compliance label. Modified amateur radio equipment does not meet these Standards, nor does it carry the mandatory compliance labelling.

The Email went on to note the potential for interference from modified devices, and stated the maximum penalties of $255,000 including 2 years imprisonment for unlawful possession of radio communications devices and $255,000 for supply of non-standard devices. Our member was given 14 days’ notice to rectify the situation i.e. to get out the soldering iron and un-modify the radio.

All that came as quite a surprise, because he believed, backed up by some information on the WIA’s own website, that he was within his rights to own such a radio, so long as it was not used to transmit outside his amateur licence conditions. After all, even new amateur radio equipment is often capable of transmitting outside the HF amateur band limits, and military-surplus and some older equipment can go just about anywhere. Why the distinction?

In complex matters like this it’s always safest to refer to the Act. Section 158 (1): Possession of Non-Standard Devices, states: “Subject to Divisions 4 and 5, a person must not have in his or her possession for the purpose of operation a device that the person knows is a non-standard device.” Divisions 4 & 5 refer to emergency transmissions and equipment supply outside Australia etc.

So, the whole issue revolves around the existence of a Standard for a particular usage and/or device. As there is no applicable Radiocommunications Standard for amateur usage or equipment, equipment built solely for amateur radio use is not affected, but as soon as that equipment is modified in any way to make it suitable for non-amateur use, where another Standard does apply, it then becomes a non-Standard device. There is also no Standard for military gear, or for very old radio equipment which was manufactured prior to an Australian Standard being introduced.

The email was passed to the WIA’s Spectrum committee comprising Peter Young VK3MV, Roger Harrison VK2ZRH, Brian Miller VK3MI and myself. The guidance on the WIA website is clear that modified equipment, including modified CB and marine equipment, cannot be operated lawfully outside amateur spectrum. It is also clear that such equipment cannot be commercially sold. However, the guidance is less clear that possessing such modified equipment would also be unlawful.

If an Australian Standard is in place for a particular type of equipment, or usage, amateur equipment modified to operate in the same spectrum is effectively non-standard equipment. Our understanding is that the provisions under sections 46-48 and 158-160 of the Radiocommunications Act effectively prohibit the operation of such equipment, or its possession for the purpose of operation, or its commercial sale. Section 48 clarifies that such equipment is deemed to be in possession for the purpose of operation if it could easily be turned on and placed into operation.

Considering the number of recent criminal convictions following interference to police and emergency services (where modified equipment was used), we believe it would be difficult for an amateur to argue a case against any enforcement action by the ACMA.

So, at the end of the day, we advised our member that he should take it on the chin and comply with the ACMA inspector’s request, which he cheerfully did. However, many would argue that the current provisions about the possession of non-standard devices do not seem to support the experimental nature of the amateur radio service, and that is something we intend to take up with the ACMA with a view to creating more flexibility for amateurs to possess such devices in some circumstances.

For a fuller explanation see http://www.acma.gov.au/theACMA/nonstandard-transmitters-and-permits

Table Of Contents

GENERAL

QSL Cards, are yours just boring? Keith Bainbridge VK6RK
In the Service Will McGhie VK6UU & Peter Wolfenden VK3RV
40 m AM, Home-Brew, Boat Anchors & VK2BA Gary Ryan VK4AR
Getting back into amateur radio Peter Parker VK3YE
The UK National Radio Centre John Longayroux VK3PZ
Amateur radio activity during WWII Jim Linton VK3PC
DK3CW – Amateur radio at the Museum Peter Scharf VK6APS

TECHNICAL

Modifications to the popular DL4YHF auto-ranging Frequency Counter based on the 16F628 Microcontroller Erich Heinzle VK5HSE
Filter designs for application in the 2 m amateur band Dale Hughes VK1DSH

Plus all the usual Club news and columns

QSL Cards, are yours just boring?

Keith Bainbridge VK6RK

The author has been engaging in the large task of assisting in the cleaning up of the shack of a deceased amateur, including a large number of QSL cards. The result is an interesting discussion about QSL cards, including some thoughts on card design.

40 m AM, Home-Brew, Boat Anchors & VK2BA

Gary Ryan VK4AR

The author describes the activities and some of the characters involved in the Boat Anchor Net – a net of operators on 40 m using amplitude modulation, predominantly with old, valve-based transmitters. The story is largely a tribute to the late David VK2BA and his efforts to promote AM operation and to restore some old equipment.

Modifications to the popular DL4YHF auto-ranging Frequency Counter based on the 16F628 Microcontroller

Erich Heinzle VK5HSE

The author describes the design and construction of an auto-ranging frequency counter using a cheap microcontroller, bring enhancements to the original German design. The result is an easy to build item of test equipment.

Filter designs for application in the 2 m amateur band

Dale Hughes VK1DSH

This article describes three filters constructed for two applications in the 2 m amateur band: two designs for a band-pass filter to prevent receiver overload, and a transmitter output low-pass filter. Useful designs that should be easy to replicate when needed by any amateur using the 2 m band.

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