- Published: 17 September 2020
This material was inspired by "Seven Tips For Better Repeater Operating" published in ARRL's "On The Air" magazine. I've consolidated some of theirs, left some off, and added some of my own.
In previous presentations I've discussed how we often become complacent, or sloppy, in maintaining or testing our equipment for proper operation. Without maintenance and testing we often discover "sudden" problems with our equipment that really had been creeping up on us over time; usually poor antenna connections, dirty power connectors, etc.
Likewise, over time we can develop some poor habits when operating over a repeater, or as a participant in a net, forgetting (or maybe never learning) good repeater courtesy and operation. Here are a few things to keep in mind when participating in a net or "rag chewing" on the drive to the grocery store. We've all been guilty of some of these at some point in time.
1) Pause after keying and before speaking. Believe it or not, the repeater does not begin retransmitting what your are saying the moment your thumb hits the transmit button on the microphone! It's true. Not only that, it doesn't start retransmitting at the moment you actually push the PTT (Push-To-Talk) button. It actually takes a little time for the repeater to recognize a signal is coming in, check for the tone signal, and then engage the transmitter.
- Published: 23 July 2020
A recent round-table discussion on portable operation with limited power and its application in EMCOMM resulted in a question about solar power as a sole power source for Summit or Parks on the air operation. The question prompted a whole line of reasoning about not just alternative power, but the many factors involved in selecting and utilizing a variety of power sources.
Volts & Amps & Watts (Oh, my!)
The first thing to determine is the voltage and current demands you have to operate as planned, or the voltage and current limitations you face and must operate your equipment within. In an ideal situation you control the former, in some situations, such as EMCOMM, you may need to operate at the limits of the latter.
Since most amateur radio systems can operate off 12 volts (or something around 12 volts, usually ranging from 12-15V), you will normally be working with voltage in that range. If not, then you'll have to ensure voltage is somewhere within the range your equipment will handle. Handhelds, for instance, will often operate at lower power with as little as 7.2 volts input.
- Published: 18 June 2020
In Best Power Practices I we discussed a variety of issues related to properly powering your gear. We covered the need for dedicated power wiring as well as the desirability of using standard connectors.
Power Wire Gauge
We previously discussed the need to utilize wire of the proper gauge for feeding power to our radios, and also the fact that conventional vehicles do not have wiring from the factory capable of carrying the current required for a typical mobile amateur radio. Utilizing that wiring will likely result in damage to the wiring over time.
So, you've decided to properly power your rig with dedicated wiring for your gear. But what kind? Certainly you want to use stranded wire in a mobile rig, as solid wire eventually suffers from the vibration of the vehicle and will become damaged over time. Stranded wire is also more flexible and tolerate of being routed through the vehicle. The insulation type is important, particularly in automotive applications, where temperatures (even in the cabin) can be quite high. Cross-Linked polyethylene (XLP), and Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) will do the job, but plain polyethylene will break down at temperatures in the cabin, much less in the engine compartment.
- Published: 16 July 2020
I usually do a "Field Day & EMCOMM" presentation right around Field Day, highlighting how Field Day is good practice for deploying Amateur Radio in an emergency. But the recent West Georgia Amateur Radio Society presentation by WD8LQT about Summits on The Air brought to mind how much both Summits on The Air (SOTA) and Parks on The Air (POTA) also provide valuable EMCOMM experience for both those taking to the field and chasers at home in their shacks,
Both SOTA and POTA, like Field day test our ability to setup, troubleshoot, and operate radio equipment in a remote location in a short period of time. The short setup and operating windows, remote location, and the additional challenge in many cases of having to pack up gear for for use at the remote location is great practice for prepping for being deployed.
Both SOTA and POTA allow you participate as a field operator or at home. In the case of the person in the field, the location may be a relatively easy one accessible by car, or as challenging as a multi-day backpacking excursion. In the latter case, learning to pack up for an extended field trip would be very educational if you were to ever be field deployed to a disaster area. Remember, one of the tenets of EMCOMM deployment is to be as self-sufficient as practical, so as not to put further demands on resources in a disaster area.
- Published: 16 November 2018
One of the interesting things about Amateur Radio is the nearly universal use of PL-259 connectors for base and mobile radio gear, at least that at or below the UHF end of the frequency spectrum. We typically utilize 50ohm cable, even if there are variations of loss across the frequency spectrum, diameter, etc.
One area we see very little standardization, especially across brands, is power connections. Almost all mobile and base gear runs off 12 volts, yet there are a multitude of connectors, having little more than the red for hot and black for ground color coding.
In addition, we will connect that equipment to a variety of sources, some making it obvious which connector is hot and which connector is ground. Others, like car batteries, often require a close look. Also, in some instances the wires are always properly color coded.
Because of these variables we can almost be certain, that if we tinker, change, or rearrange our radio gear very much, we WILL accidentally hook the wires up wrong and let the smoke out of some valuable piece of radio gear.
There are a number of ways to minimize, even virtually eliminate, this hazard. First, ALWAYS using color coded wire is a big plus. Red for hot, Black for ground. Make sure any power sources are similarly color coded, even if that means painting some nail polish on or around a the post of a power supply or battery.