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2016 Magazines

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Amateur Radio September 2016

Delivery expected from 25 August


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Editorial

Another change of seasons

As this issue arrives in mail boxes, spring will almost be with us: another change of seasons.

This Editorial was written shortly after the VK1 SOTA Winter QSO Party in early August. At least in Victoria, the weather was relatively mild. Some intrepid operators headed for some of the higher summits. Whilst the terrestrial weather was relatively benign for time of year, the space weather was not really cooperating.

It is clear that we are moving toward the trough that follows the peak of solar activity. But even the space weather professionals are not sure regarding the likely conditions in coming months and years.

For those like myself that chase SOTA and Park contacts, we often see that conditions on the 40 m band are not cooperative. Especially early in the day, we are seeing a distinct lack of short haul NVIS propagation. Sometimes, the conditions persevere for most of the day. Luckily, some longer distance contacts can be made, thus ensuring that the intrepid SOTA Activator can gain the required contacts to qualify the summit. For the Chaser, it can be frustrating: you can hear the further away stations making contact, but cannot yourself hear the Activator.

On top of these variable conditions, some are suggesting that there is evidence that the northern and southern solar hemispheres may be interacting in an unusual manner. Few are predicting the results – we will need to wait!

Some of the SOTA Activators are trying out 80 m, often until well into the daylight hours, with some success. So they are making some of the contacts on 80 m that would normally be expected to be made on 40 m at times when nothing can be heard on 40 m.

Regardless of the space weather, the longer days and milder weather are likely to tempt more Activators to make trips out into the great outdoors.

On top of the improving weather, many new Parks have been added to the VKFF list of References, notably in VK2, 4 and 5 at this time. With new Parks to activate, many of the Activators are finding new Parks to visit relatively close to home. The Chasers are keen to work new references, so small dogpiles are often the result.

All of the Activators are happy to work anyone who calls, so keep listening and join in the fun. This is especially true of those activating a Park for VKFF/WWFF: they need to work 44 different callsigns to qualify the Reference for WWFF, which can be hard work in Australia with its lower number of active amateur operators in comparison to Europe.

A small blunder
Last month, I quoted a phrase in my Editorial: Anchora Imparo. I stated that it was Latin – I made an error. It is actually Italian – my apologies. Wikipedia tells us that the phrase is often incorrectly attributed to Michelangelo. Attribution is not important in the context that I used the phrase, but I do feel that the meaning – I am still learning – should be of importance to all amateurs.

Until next month,

Cheers,

Peter VK3PF

This month’s cover

Part of the EMDRC team for the VHF/UHF Field Day, with some of the impressive array of antennas deployed for the Contest. L to R: Mike VK3AVV, Peter VK3QI and Jack VK3WWW. Read about the VHF/UHF Contests in this month’s Contest column. The results of the Winter Field Day are also published in this issue. Photo by Andrew Scott VK3BQ.

WIA President's Comment

Dollars in, dollars out

In this President’s Comment, I’m going to resort to some “bucket economics” to explain where I see the WIA is heading.

As was the agreement when he took the role in January, our paid Treasurer, Murray Leadbeater CPA, finished up at the end of the financial year to attend to the needs of his many other clients. Murray is still available to us as required, but by the time this magazine is distributed we will be looking in earnest for a new WIA Treasurer with appropriate qualifications.

So, I have been spending some time recently looking at the financial position of the WIA, and I thought I’d share some observations.

The vast majority of the WIA’s income comes from membership fees. However, membership numbers are down from 4487 at the end of last year to 4246 at early August this year, representing a reduction in membership income of about 5%, or in dollar terms, about $20,000 for this year. These figures come from the monthly Memnet membership reports.

I think it is fair to say that the WIA membership is fragile around the edges, and there continues to be quite a lot of churn. Some membership reduction is expected as the total amateur population declines in numbers due to age, but the negative publicity on social media recently certainly hasn’t helped, and it is interesting to note that the fall is greater than that experienced after the last membership fee increase.

At 10th August 2015 the WIA was trading at a loss of $27,184, and finished the year with a balance sheet loss of $12,608. As at the 10th August this year, we are trading about $5,500 behind the same time last year, but with the reprinting of the Foundation Licence manual, contractor expenses in the first month of the year and, until recently, the costs of a paid Treasurer, that result is not unexpected. Financial questions received by the Board at the AGM this year, and in other correspondence during the year, were referred to the Treasurer and the Auditor, generating unanticipated costs of at least $4,000.

On the positive side, the cost of the AGM and Conference weekend this year, including very minimal Directors’ travel and accommodation, was much lower than last year, and we are now holding a stock of 4689 Foundation Licence Manuals which is a perennial money spinner for the WIA.

Outlook
Let’s be blunt. Managing a business in a period of decline is a very difficult thing to do successfully. At every turn there is an expense that needs to be cut, or an expectation for a service that can’t be delivered. We need to make savings at the WIA, but we also need to find more and different ways to make money and be less reliant on membership fees.

In recent years the WIA has made a loss on the examinations and callsign work it performs on behalf of the Commonwealth, largely due to increases in insurance, salary and postage costs. Last year was no different, with a small loss to the WIA of about $2,000. Those losses have been absorbed in the past in order to keep examination and callsign fees low and to encourage new people to become radio amateurs (call it a marketing cost), but small losses add up and there is a limit to how much members should cross-subsidise these services.

The greatest single expense, next to employment expenses, is the publication and distribution of AR magazine, with the cost very roughly equally split between production, printing, and postage. On a show of hands at the Open Forum in Norfolk Island, 40% of those present indicated they preferred the website download version of AR magazine, and that they do not read, or want, the paper copy. In the real-world, if only 20% of members chose to opt-out of receiving the paper magazine without any membership fee reduction, the saving to the WIA on postage alone would be about $14,000 per year. Owing to the scale economics of the printing industry, to achieve significant savings on printing, a much larger number of members would need to choose to opt-out of paper, but $14,000 per year is still a significant saving.

The middle of the year is a difficult financial period every year for the WIA because, for one reason or another, the majority of income comes in the second half of each year. The positive news is that we have a large stock holding of Foundation Licence Manuals, which is a steady seller, and no unusual costs on the horizon. Last year, the revamp of the WIA office and an associated redundancy payment occurred in the second half of the year. We will not have those costs this year and naturally we will be alert to other savings.

If we can contain costs, the WIA's trading position should improve significantly towards the end of this year. The unusual costs in the second half of 2015 were substantial one-off's, so if unusual costs are not incurred this year, and if membership income follows the same trend, we should be able to turn it around in the second half of 2016.

However, the longer term is more difficult to predict. If we want the WIA to remain a strong advocate for amateur radio, and to continue to protect our spectrum and privileges both nationally and internationally, we need to find more and better ways to make money and reduce the dependence on a slowly shrinking membership income.

For instance, publications like the Foundation Licence Manual, which remain current for many years, are great money spinners. The WIA is on-track to release an ANZAC publication later this year, and if only half the membership buy one, that initiative alone would rebalance the WIA’s finances this year, and more.

The WIA, or most other small business for that matter, does not produce detailed accounts on a half-yearly basis, let alone monthly, as the resources necessary to do this would simply detract from essential functions, but this sort of rough analysis does help. As I said, bucket economics.

Phil Wait VK2ASD

P.S. I was really pleased this month to present Dale Hughes VK1DSH with his GA Taylor Medal at the CARC clubrooms, on a freezing Canberra night. I can’t think of a more deserving recipient. A fuller report from CARC on the GA Taylor presentation is reported elsewhere in this magazine.

Table Of Contents

GENERAL
Amateur radio fire bunker Neil Patton VK3ZVX
WW2 Robot Rear Gunner Doug Dowe VK3FDUG
Using eQSL Robert Janoska VK4AAC
GippsTech 2016 Justin Giles-Clark VK7TW
ARISS mainstay steps down Jim Linton VK3PC
Who was GA Taylor? Phil Wait VK2ASD
How to make your hobby pay for itself Peter Parker VK3YE

TECHNICAL

Some uses for centre-off toggle switches Peter Parker VK3YE
HF Digital Voice John Nunan VK3IC & Peter Wolfenden VK3RV
Review of WARS Power Distribution Box Martin Luther VK7GN

Plus all the usual Club news and columns

WW2 Robot Rear Gunner

Doug Dowe VK3FDUG

The author some of the details of a robot gunner developed during WW2 after having taken it to the local radio club and being prompted to explain the item. It shows some very interesting and, in its day, secret technology. Unfortunately Doug is now a Silent Key.

Using eQSL

Robert Janoska VK4AAC

The author and his wife are spending time travelling around Australia with a 4WD and caravan. He explains some of the peculiarities that one needs to consider when using the eQSL system.

HF Digital Voice

John Nunan VK3IC & Peter Wolfenden VK3RV

The authors present an overview of using the FreeDV digital voice system on the HF bands.

Review of WARS Power Distribution Box

Martin Luther VK7GN

The use of Anderson PowerPole connectors for DC connections and distribution is increasing. The author presents an account of building a distribution board kit available at reasonable cost from the Waverley Amateur Radio Society.

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