Friday, December 30, 2011

Amateur Radio Newsline #1794

This Weeks News and Information...


Released December 30, 2011

(Note:  This is an extended newscast running 35 minutes and containing 3 breaks)

This Weeks Newscast Anchored By Jim Davis, W2JKD


  • And much more...

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Building a Ham Shack - First Purchases

I'm new to amatuer radio and I've had my license and callsign for less than a week. Like many people new to the hobby I started with a handheld. In my case I knew about some of the features I wanted in a HT but I still wasn't convinced which features I wanted in the $300 - $500 handheld radios on the market.

To make it simple on myself I decided to start very simple and inexpensive so I purchased a Wouxun KG-816 2m radio while I was taking the Amateur Basic license course. I'm a very hands on person and learn very quickly by playing with equipment or technology. Having a simple handheld with a USB programming cable and software I was able to program the unit and do a lot of listening on the local repeaters while I was taking the course. NOTE - I didn't have a license yet so I only listened, I had another licensed ham double check my programming and do any radio checks for me.

After a wrote and passed the license test I had already learned a lot from this hundred buck radio and upgraded to the latest Wouxun KG-UV6D which had just been released (dual-band 2m/70cm handheld, with speaker mic & USB cable). Staying with the same brand I kept it cheap again and now I had one dualband radio as my primary, and the original single band radio for something I could keep at work for listening to repeater activity during the day or toss into a vehicle or camper as a backup.

Purchasing two HT's so close together wasn't my original intention, but as I had originally predicted I learned a lot from the first unit and already had a shopping list of features I knew I wanted or needed in the second unit so the decision to purchase was easy. NOTE - What I've spent on both these radios is less than the starting point of many of the popular branded radios.

I'm using the KG-UV6D as my primary radio now and over the last few days since my callsign was assigned I've had a few QSO's with local club members on the 2m repeaters. So far the guys have been great and friendly, and I hope my operating protocol has been up to spec as I haven't heard any complaints :)

I have taken some advice and ordered two dual band mag mount antennas for my HT. I'm planning to mount one on my vehicle until I can get a proper mobile rig installed in there, and I'm going to try attaching the other to the exterior of my house so I can use the HT in my office with better reception. Currently without an exterior antenna I have to sit close by the repeater facing window for clear communications. I'm also getting a hum noise from my PC speakers when I key the handheld to close to it, getting the antenna outside should address that as well.

Within a year I predict I'll have an Icom, Yaesu, or Kenwood hand held that will include APRS and a few other cool features I'm still discovering. For now I'm enjoying playing with the Wouzun's and don't regret trying them out.

Next post - Shopping for my first HF rig. New or used, portable or base, solid state or software defined?

A New Year, A New Hobby

Over the Christmas holidays I had conversations with friends and family about my excitement for ham radio. On a couple of occasions people would say things like "I can do that with my cell phone" when referring to different things that you can do with ham radio. This video explains some of the aspects of how amateur radio goes beyond traditional wireless communication.


"The DIY Magic of Amateur Radio," is an 8-minute video that follows some of the innovative, imaginative and fun ways "hams" use radio technology in new and creative ways. The presentation is directed toward the DIY (do it yourself) movement, which is inspiring a new generation of creators, hackers and innovators. The message should be helpful for existing members to shape the ways they understand and talk about ham radio.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

It's Official - Christmas Came Early - I have a Callsign (VA7AEJ)

From: Aaren Jensen
Sent: Wednesday, December 21, 2011 11:23 AM
To: Spectrum, Amateur, OS_NOD
Subject: My Christmas Gift from Industry Canada

Dear Santa

This fall I drove a long distance two nights a weeks to take a Amateur Radio Basic course with the club in Salmon Arm BC. My local club decided not to run a class this year and Salmon Arm was generous enough to welcome me into theirs, even though it was already underway. I spent more time in the car driving to and from each class, then I did in the classroom but it was all worth it.

I drove and I studied, I studied and I drove, and my wife and daughter missed me terribly for those two months.

On Tuesday Dec 13th I passed my exam with honors and since then I've eagerly awaited for my callsign to appear in your database. I'm starting to feel that I might be developing a mental disorder, like an obsessive compulsive behavior?

Each day since is like this...

  •  awake and login to the database and search for my name and callsign.
  •  drive to work and login to the database and search for my name and callsign.
  •  look for free moments throughout the day and login to the database and search for my name and callsign.
  •  drive home and login to the database and search for my name and callsign.
  •     stop by my computer just before bed and login to the database and search for my name and callsign.

On Monday you had a problem with your database and it was offline for most of the day. Santa, honestly I thought I broke it! I was waiting for a phone call asking me to stop checking the database!

Santa, today is my last day at work, I start my Christmas holidays tomorrow, and all I want for Christmas is my Amateur Radio Callsign.

I know Santa you are very busy this time of year and you have many many elves taking their holidays as well, I'm not asking to be put on top of the pile or get any type of preferential treatment.

I just needed to express my Christmas wish.

Merry Christmas :)

Aaren Jensen
Lumby B.C. Canada


On Wed, Dec 21, 2011 at 8:57 AM wrote:

Hello Aaren,

Your application will be processed this week. We have a back-log of applications and the service standard is 3 weeks for processing these applications. Accredited examiners can also submit exam results directly online and a call sign can be selected immediately and is then immediately assigned.

Amateur Radio Service Centre | Centre de service pour la radio amateur
Spectrum Management Operations Branch |
Direction générale des opérations de la gestion du spectre
Industry Canada | Industrie Canada
P.O. Box 9654 Station T, Ottawa ON K1G 6K9
C.P. 9654 Succursale T ,Ottawa ON K1G 6K9
Telephone | Téléphone 1-888-780-3333
Facsimile | Télécopieur 613-991-5575
Government of Canada | Gouvernement du Canada


From: Aaren Jensen
Sent: Wednesday, December 21, 2011 12:29 PM
To: Spectrum, Amateur, OS_NOD
Subject: Re: My Christmas Gift from Industry Canada

Thanks Santa

Merry Christmas!

On Thur, Dec 22, 2011 at 6:41 AM wrote:

Hello Aaren,

This is to let you know that Christmas has come early this year. Happy holidays, enjoy.

From Santa

P.S. Don't forgot the milk and cookies!

Amateur Radio Service Centre | Centre de service pour la radio amateur
Spectrum Management Operations Branch |
Direction générale des opérations de la gestion du spectre
Industry Canada | Industrie Canada
P.O. Box 9654 Station T, Ottawa ON K1G 6K9
C.P. 9654 Succursale T ,Ottawa ON K1G 6K9
Telephone | Téléphone 1-888-780-3333
Facsimile | Télécopieur 613-991-5575
Government of Canada | Gouvernement du Canada

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Ham Radio Graduation

It was the perfect scenario for my personality...

I've been taking my Amateur Radio Basic course for two months and the test was scheduled for a Thursday night. The examiner had offered to come into the Tuesday night class and we would do a "test" test and then review it. This was meant to be the final review class before we wrote the final test.

I studied like a maniac on the weekend before and used the practice software to take a "test" test many many many times. When I wandered into the Tuesday night review class I was ready to write the real test, but I was also calm as I knew we weren't writing the real test. The examiner opended the class by saying something magical...

"Well since the practice test I was planning on giving you this evening is a legitimate copy of the test and since some of you seem ready to write the real test how about (if you want) we can treat this as a proper test and let you write it if your ready"

Some people were not ready and decided to write the real test on the Thursday as originally planned. I was one of the people who was ready and did.

For my personality this was a perfect situation, no time to psych myself out and worry. Within 5 minutes of being told I could write the exam now, I was actually writing the exam.

35 minutes later I had a 89% score and had passed the license exam with honors. This was my goal all along so I was very pleased.

In Canada there are only 3 licenses for ham radio operators
  • Basic - Pass with 70% or higher and you have rights on VHF and UHF up to 250 watts. This is a mandatory license everyone must pass first.
  • Basic with honors - Pass the same exam with 80% or higher and you unlock HF frequencies as well.
  • Morse - Add this license to your Basic by passing a separate exam with 5 words per minute (or higher) morse code and your licensed for CW, plus you unlock the HF frequencies if you didn't already have them as a result of a Basic with Honors.
  • Advanced - Add this license to your Basic by passing a separate exam. By passing you will be allowed a 1000 watt amplifier limit (an increase from 250 watt for Basic), you will be allowed to build your own gear, and setup equipment for clubs (i.e. repeaters, etc), plus you unlock the HF frequencies if you didn't already have them as a result of a Basic with Honors.
This is a simplistic explanation and there are more details of each class that you learn or can lookup if your thinking of getting your amateur radio license in Canada.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Amateur Radio Update

Well another class under my belt and about 5-6 more hours of reading over the last few days. Last night's class dealt with more electronics theory. My understanding and absorption factor felt much higher than the first class so I'm slightly more confident today.

I found a 3.5 hour series of audio podcasts for the entry level US amateur radio licence course and I've listened to that while commuting over the last few days as well. While the rules and regs vary slightly, the rest of the material was pretty good.

I've also started studying the question bank for the final test, it's 1000 questions and answers published by Industry Canada. The 100 question final exam is randomly generated from this bank of 1000 so it's a great study tool if you have a good memory.

I hoping Sam (VE7SDV) will get her handy talkie programmed for the Silver Star repeater so we can test the range and effectiveness from my place out in Lumby. It will be helpful in deciding if my first radio is a dual or triband HT (above) or an all-band portable (below)?


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Ham Radio Classes Begin

My grandfather got me into Ham Radio as a kid. For a few years in grades six and seven I had a radio and listened to HF bands without a license or a microphone. Listening to amateur and shortwave bands is legal, but if you want to talk on the airwaves you need a license.

Fast forward to over 30 years later and I'm finally starting the classes to get my first amateur radio license. The "Basic" qualification in Canada is the starting point. I'm taking an 8-9 week course with the Salmon Arm amateur radio club and it's going to be a bit of an effort with the long commute two nights per week, I'll be spending more time driving back and forth then in a class, but I'm really excited and feel it's well worth the time invested.

The Basic license is issued if you pass the final test with 70% or higher. The Basic with Honors license comes with a grade higher than 80%. Passing with Honors is important because it comes with the right to broadcast on a bunch of additional HF frequencies.

Wish me luck! I'll hopefully have more updates as the classes progress. 


Monday, May 23, 2011

The best Netflix app for your gaming console

I told many friends and co-workers that the Playstaion 3 Netflix app was superior to the Xbox and Wii apps, but times have changed.

Over the last few months the Microsoft team has continued to improve their app, while Sony has broken theirs with failed improvement attempts.

This past three days i've had nothing but problems with the PS3 Netflix app, failing to connect, failing to load movies, etc. At the same time I can switch over to the Xbox 360 and get exactly what I want in seconds.

With the addition of Kinect voice control to the Xbox app I also find it very handy to just use voice commands to control Netflix with simple commands like "netflix pause", "netflix play", and "netflix stop".

Until next time...

Friday, March 04, 2011

In Memory of Finnegan Jensen - 1998 to 2011

The Munchkin is a cat breed created by a naturally occurring genetic mutation that results in cats with abnormally short legs. However, the shortness of their legs does not seem to interfere with their running and leaping abilities. The gene responsible has been compared to the one that give Welsh Corgis, Basset Hounds and Dachshunds their short stature; however, Munchkins do not suffer from the many spinal problems that are typically associated with those canine breeds as cats' spines are physically different from dogs'. The spine of a Munchkin cat is usually indistinguishable from that of other cats.

Finnegan was a great little Munchkin.

During the first few years of his life he lived indoors with our other cat and a 'gaggle' of dogs. When he was about three years of age we moved into town and soon after my wife discovered her allergy to cats. Finnegan was forced to move outdoors and he adapted well to this change in lifestyle.

For the next ten years he was often seen walking around the lawn and occasionally venturing into the yards of the closest neighbors. He was always close-by and never strayed far from home. He used the deck off of our kitchen as his home base and was often found there lounging on the deck furniture and eating from his dish. In the winters he lived in a box on the deck lined with blankets and sealed from the wind with a front flap door that allowed him to come and go at will.

Over the years Finnegan was picked on by other cats and other animals in the area. He often suffered from cuts and scratches, but he seemed to always hold his own and never suffered too badly.

Sometime in the last week or two Finnegan was attacked badly and suffered two large bite wounds on either side of the back of his neck. We treated the wounds and kept an eye on him but it became apparent that other internal damage had occurred likely from a violent shaking during the neck bite.

A few evenings ago he decided he had experienced enough discomfort and he started to howl at 3 in the morning. I brought him inside, cleaned his wounds, gave him a bath, removed some matted fur and set him up with a kennel, litter box, fresh blankets, food, and water. Soon afterward he passed away while we were at work.

I miss you little buddy.

Kelly's last photo of "Fin".

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Spartacus - An End to the Beginning

Fans of the first season of Spartacus on the Starz network know that they couldn't continue filming the second season as the star was ill and getting treatment for cancer. Due to the instant success though of the first season they wanted to do something to keep the interest going and profit from their new found fame.

I was pleased when they announced they would create a prequel season. A season full of new episodes set in the months or years prior to the arrival of Spartacus. This idea was really creative, they could proceed without the star who was ill, and they could use all the other primary actors (many of whom who's characters died throughout the first season) all over again.

Well Spartacus - Gods of the Arena, has just ended it's six episode run Friday night and I am pleased. Pleased with the stories, the acting, the new characters, the visual effects, everything except one... the amount of episodes.

What is with the six episode series? If you hooked a computer to the brains of the viewing audience I'm sure you would discover that six episodes leaves us all with a small amount of satisfaction, but a larger amount of regret. Simply put, I want more!

The Walking Dead did the same thing, just as I was really settling into the story and the character development you end it. Bang... door closed and some press release stating that the next new episodes will air sometime in 12-18 months!

I watch a lot of TV from the UK and short run series of 6-8 episodes are more common there, but they come back much sooner as well, you don't have to wait over a year for your show to come back on the air, maybe it's only a break of 3-6 months and another series is back with another six-pack of episodes.

Anyhow, if this is all I can complain about I guess they did a great job once again.

The Great Drobo Update of 2011

Drobo (an abbreviation of Data Robot) is a family of DAS, SAN, and NAS appliances made by Data Robotics. Drobo devices can house up to four, five or eight 3.5" Serial ATA hard disk drives and connect with a computer or network via USB 2.0, FireWire 800, eSATA, or Gigabit Ethernet. Drobo devices are primarily designed to allow installation and removal of hard disk drives without requiring manual data migration, and also for increasing storage capacity of the unit without downtime. (description thanks to Wikipedia)

If you follow me on Twitter (@aaren) you will probably know from the last week that I have been upgrading my 1st generation 4-drive Drobo from four 1TB drives to four 2TB drives. The wonderful thing about Drobo is that you can do this without loosing any data already on the device and you also retain full access to the device during the upgrade. This means you can access or stream your files on the Drobo, while the Drobo is updating itself.

About six days ago I ejected the first of the 1TB drives and replaced it with a new 2TB drive. The Drobo went into upgrade mode and the amber and green lights flashed for 48 hours.

Swapping in the second new 2TB drive launched another upgrade mode of flashing lights that lasted about 40 more hours.

Snapping in the third and the fourth new 2TB drives each started an upgrade mode and flashing lights event that lasted about 6 hours for each.

Sometime last night the drives completed the upgrade and the Drobo prompted me to create a new partition with the new space. I completed this step and now I have three drive letters (X, Y, and Z) and each one contains up to 2TB of space. I'm not sure of I want three separate partitions on the Drobo so I'm deciding right now, while drinking coffee and writing this post, if I should backup the data on the Drobo and start fresh with a single big approx 6TB partition?

I'll let you know...