Monday, 31 March 2014

Links of the Month - March 2014

The following links were submitted by club members in March.
Here is a waterfall snapshot of the suspected OTH signal on the 30 metre band on March 23rd. Bandwidth is about 20KHz, right over the digital segment of the band.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Minutes, YRARC Board Meeting, March 18th, 2014

Meeting held in the multipurpose room of the Magna Centre. Called to order at 19:00. Chaired by Chris VE3NRT
  • Board members attending; Chris VE3NRT, Rob VE3RQB, Chris VA3DXZ, Barry VA3LLT, Steve VE3EZ, Geoff VA3GS, Publius VE3XS, John VA3JI, Eric VE3OIC
  • Board members absent; Richard VE3NSD
  • Guest attending; Steve VE3UT
  1. Agenda
    • Agenda as proposed by Chris VE3NRT (Attachment #1)
    • Motion 2014-03-18-01 by Geoff VA3GS to adopt agenda seconded by Barry VA3LLT. Motion carried.
  2. Adoption of Feb 18, 2014 board meeting minutes
    • Motion 2014-03-18-02 by John VA3JI to adopt the minutes of the Feb 18th board meeting seconded by Geoff VA3GS. Motion carried.
  3. Treasurer's report John VA3JI
    • Report detailed bank balance and transactions in February. Information is available to members upon request.
    • 1 cheque outstanding for 88th Baden Powell. Geoff, VA3GS, will ask them to cash it.
  4. Old Business
    1. Antenna Trailer – Rob VE3RQB
      • Contractor is estimating 20-30 hours at $70.00 per hour plus an estimate of $1,000 for material for outriggers, all plus HST. Rob VE3RQB intends to be there to assist
      • Discussion concerning how high the tower could be deployed with/without outriggers and/or guy wires. It was agreed that outriggers should be included for added safety. There was an agreement that the board would create a policy to set out the maximum deployable height with and without guy wires to ensure safe operation of the tower trailer. There was further discussion about whether a mechanical means could be installed to limit the deployed height of the tower. This idea will be discussed with the contractor.
      • Motion 2014-03-18-03 by Eric VE3OIC to bring to the membership a motion to authorize $3,500 for services and materials rendered by Trick Toys to repair the antenna trailer (outriggers, and other modifications) to make it ready for field day and other events, seconded by Geoff VA3GS. Motion carried.
    2. Bylaws – Eric VE3OIC and Geoff VA3GS
      • Updated draft to be finalized and sent to board members by Mar 19th
      • Comments by the board required by Mar 26th
      • The bylaw committee will communicate through the Splatter Blog and Yahoo group that interested club member should contact the club secretary for a preliminary copy of the bylaws for review prior to the AGM, not withstanding that the Preliminary draft will also be sent to the membership 3 weeks prior to AGM
      • Publius VE3XS will send membership list to the club secretary to validate club members requesting a copy of the preliminary draft
    3. Hamfest Location – Geoff VA3GS
      • Geoff is targeting Nov 8th
      • Location is not finalized.
      • Geoff has requested a quote from Markham Fairgrounds
      • Geoff is looking for additional parking that could be made available near the Newmarket Community Centre
    4. Storage – Rob VE3RQB
      • Quotation for 20’L x 8’W x 8.5’H “construction grade” container is $1,700.00
      • Peter VE3PBT has volunteered to store the unit on his property
      • Costs range from $225 to $290 to transport the container to Peter VE3PBT’s property
      • Geoff to research monthly storage costs so the board can compare an upfront purchase option vs on-going rental fees for storage
    5. Field Day Budget – Steve VE3UT
      • Steve VE3UT presented the field day budget. Very slight increase planned over 2013 expenditure.
      • Motion 2014-03-18-04 by Geoff VA3GS to allocate $1,200 for Field Day expenses seconded by Rob VE3RQB. Motion carried.
    6. Membership Drive – Steve VE3EZ / Publius VE3XS
      • Steve presented a mock up of the proposed mailing card for feedback
      • There was a discussion concerning the anticipated increase in postage costs planned by Canada Post. It was agreed that if the cards were mailed prior to the increase, they would arrive far too early to be effective in drawing amateurs out to field day. It was agreed that the cards would be mailed 3 weeks before field day.
    7. Status of IRLP – John VA3JI
      • Tower is inaccessible. John will repair cable and re-locate the antenna as soon as he can access the tower.
  5. New Business
    1. Harvey Bell Award – next steps – Chris VE3NRT
      • One nomination has been received
      • Chris VE3NRT will send a reminder note
    2. YRARC QSO Award – support from the board – Chris VE3NRT
      • Chris VE3NRT will create a form listing club members and bands for interested members to use to track points
    3. Life Membership Award Criteria
      • Wording in the current Bylaws was reviewed and deemed acceptable for its purpose
    4. Equipment Donation from VE3RTO – Chris VE3NRT
      • VE3RTO is a silent key who’s son donated his amateur equipment to YRARC
      • Proposal by Chris VE3NRT to lend (or rent cheaply) the equipment to a newly licensed amateur or failing that, to be sold with funds to go into the club treasury
      • Geoff VA3GS to come back with a suggested recipient
      • In the mean time the equipment will be held by the club and be made available for loan to club members
  6. Motion 2014-03-18-05 by John VA3JI to adjourn meeting, seconded by Rob VE3RQB. Motion carried at 21:02

Thursday, 13 March 2014

March 2014 General Meeting - Minutes

Meeting held at the Sharon Temperance Hall. Called to order at 19:32. Chaired by Chris VE3NRT
  1. Introductions completed. 35 members and 1 guest in attendance
  2. Minutes Feb 4th general meeting; motion by Richard VE3NSD to approve the minutes, seconded by John VA3JI. Motion carried.
  3. Reports
    1. Treasury – John VA3JI
      • Balance is [Available to members on request]. Two memberships paid in February otherwise no other transactions in the month
    2. Field Day – Steve VE3UT
      • Peter VE3PBT has volunteered to run the kitchen this year. Peter VE3PBT has prepared a menu and Steve VE3UT will provide an estimate of the number to be accommodated for dinner.
      • Location: Preference is to continue using the field behind Al’s Tack Shop
    3. By-law Committee – Geoff VA3GS, Eric VE3OIC
      • Minor clean up and corrections completed. Member input has been consolidated. There is a concern that in its current form, there will be insufficient time at the AGM to discuss and vote on all the proposed changes. The by-la committee has proposed to hold a town hall meeting for interested members to review all changes with a goal to finalize the list of changes to be put to a vote at the AGM.
    4. Trailer – Barry VA3LLT
      • New RCMP tower, spoke with manufacturer of tower stripped down trailer $17K
      • Looking at old trailer, RCMP tower is 300lbs vs old tower is ~1,000 lbs.
      • Rob VE3RQB, Barry VA3LLT and welding contractor went to look at the old trailer. The Welder will supply an estimate. The trailer will not be moving until there is an okay from the BOD to do the work.
      • If estimate is approved, the target is to have the trailer fitted with new tower for field day.
  4. Member QSO awards – Bob VE3WY
    • Started June 2006 9pm however, only one certificate issued to date. The goal is to work as many York region amateur club members on as many bands as possible. There was a strong show of interested hands at meeting. Club members are encouraged to review the rules and begin making QSO’s. Bob VE3WY will issue certificates at the general meetings. Bob’s presentation will be placed on the Splatter Blog.
  5. Project Night – Brad VE3HII, Steve VASRV
    • Brad VE3HII presented an overview of his and Steve VA3SRV’s proposal to re-activate project night. The plan is to begin mid April. Project nights to be held at the Newmarket Girl Guides office or the Newmarket Community Centre on Wednesday evenings 7-9pm. Looking for a minimum of 6 participants. Initial project will be an introduction to micro controllers with the objective to build a simple proto typing system estimated to cost between $30 and $50. Presentation will be posted on the Splatter Blog.
  6. EMCOMM project Plan – Russell VE3WTR
    • Russell VE3WTR presented an update on EMCOMM activities and structure. EMCOMM is looking for volunteers. No specialized training is required. Looking for people to fulfill core roles, EOC site owners, or general responders. Presentation will be posted on the Splatter Blog.
  7. Digital voice communications – Chris VE3NRT
    • Chris presented an overview of Open Source Digital Voice Communications. Presentation will be posted on the Splatter Blog.
Meeting adjourned at 21:14

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

The Harvey Bell Award - Call for Nominations

At the January, 1971 meeting of the York North Radio Club, the membership established an award in memory of the late Harvey Bell, VE3AFK, or Aurora.

It was the wish of the members that this award be presented annually to a member in good standing with this club, in recognition of substantial achievement involving Amateur Radio, particularly in connection with the York North Radio Club.

The winner would hold the trophy for one year, and owuld also receive a certificate, or other citation outlining the achievement.

Any club member would be eligible to nominate any other club member for the award. Nominations would normally be considered by the Board, or alternatively, the selection of a recipient could be voted on by the members present at a regular meeting.

Harvey Bell died unexpectedly in December of 1970. At that time he was in the process of making his third attempt at keeping the club together and active. He had been a club member for almost ten years, enjoyed the fellowship and the sharing of technical information regarding Amateur Radio. He was especially interested in the Morse Code, and CW operation, but was also very involved with the fairly new SSB technology that was growing with leaps and bounds. During the late 1960's activity in the club seemed to wane, and Harvey Bell, along with a couple of other area hams kept up a steady contact with other hams in Newmarket and surroundings. Invitations were sent out on at least three occasions in an attempt to keep the club active and growing. He had just succeeded, in the fall of 1970, to get the membership back together again, and had turned to leadership over to Frank Rusholme.

His influence and his leadership in club affairs will long be remembered by the Amateurs in this area who know him personally. in addition to being an active 80 metre DX chaser, Harvey was also involved in RTTY (radioteletype), VHF, and one of the outstanding stamp collections in the region.

The award, which honours his name, is considered the highest acclaim the club can give to one of its members.

Notice to all YRARC members

Each year about this time, the members of our radio club have the opportunity to nominate a member to be honoured with this award.

Your nominations should be made in writing, and should include your description, explanation or citation related to the nominee, and be presented to the club secretary no later than April 2014 general meeting. Nominations may be presented by individuals, or may be co-signed by several members

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

IMS-100 Training

On Monday March 10 at 9:00 AM, a group of club members met in Newmarket to attend a training session at the York Region Headquarters building on Yonge St. This training was an introduction to incident management and was presented by Greg Stasyna of York Region Emergency Management. Some of you may know Greg from his other role, the commander of the military people that have been attending our Field Day for the past few years.

Greg presented this course to a class of 18 people including the four representatives of our club, Geoff (VA3GS), Richard (VE3NSD), Steve (VE3UT) and Bob (VE3WY). Greg's positive comments about amateur radio's role in emergency management were quite encouraging and showed amateur radio in a positive light to the region staff and guests present. The instruction explained ham radio in a support role and the command structure used during incidents and made for a very interesting and informative morning. The IMS-100 certification can be obtained from the province of Ontario by writing an online examination. A certification will be valuable for our members who may wish to participate in emergency radio communications support in the future.

There are higher levels of certification such as IMS-200, IMS-300 etc which we may be able to get trained for by the region in the future.

Steve VE3UT

Friday, 7 March 2014

Project Nights: Starting mid-April

Steve VA3SRV and Brad VE3HII have offered to restart project nights on Wednesdays starting in mid-April in Newmarket. These have been very popular in the past and allowed YRARC members to get some hands-on experience with electronics construction.

This is a great opportunity to get some experience with the inexpensive but powerful microcontrollers that are now available. These can be put to all sorts of interesting uses and the first project will be able to perform some useful tasks around the shack.

You can also come to project night and get some assistance with any other electronic project (like that Softrock kit you never built?) you're trying to complete.

Please get in touch with Steve or Brad to express your interest, or just leave a comment right here.


Thursday, 6 March 2014

YRARC Members QSO Awards Program

Thanks to Bob VE3WY for suggesting the resurrection of this program, introduced at 9pm on June 6, 2007. I've asked Publius to get a current membership list (first name and call) for each club member to keep track of their progress. Please join us on the 6 metre net Monday nights (and the D-RATS net immediately afterward) to get a head start.

The award is available to anyone. There are separate classes for members and non-members. Each group has the same objective, contacts with members on as many bands as possible.

  • Purpose: Work as many different York Region Amateur Radio Club members on as many different amateur bands as possible.
  • Contacts:Once per amateur band regardless of mode. Repeater contacts can be counted (no cross-band contacts)
  • Exchange: Callsign and Name
  • Eligibility: Must be a licensed amateur radio operator
  • Two classes of award
    • Member: Must be current (at the time of log submission) paid up member or Life Member of the York Region Amateur Radio Club
    • Non-member: Any amateur who is not a member of YRARC
  • Points: One point for each contact between club members
  • Amateur Bands: 25 different amateur bands available
  • Awards: Certificate for a minimum of 50 band-contacts. Endorsements available for additional multiples of 25 band contacts (e.g. 75, 100, 125, … )
  • Presentation of certificates at club meetings
  • Eligible contacts: From June 6, 2006 (9:00pm EDT)
  • Submissions: log books not required – Honour System. Submit log pages to Bob Morton, VE3WY at meetings or by email.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Notes from the Shack - March 2014

Contesting isn't for everyone, but when we talk about ARRL Field Day as an emergency preparedness exercise it isn't just about establishing long distance communications in the face of widespread disaster, but operational readiness and reliability. As the recipient of the Coffee Pot Award for my first shot at being a band captain, I've seen how important it is to have a solidly reliable setup.

Mazes of Software

Over the holidays I used Ham Radio Deluxe to participate in a few phone and RTTY contests. The last of these was the RTTY Roundup, and 30 minutes into the contest I was so frustrated with HRD I quickly installed the N1MM logger, MMTTY and 2Tone. Setup took less than an hour and the result was a much better QSO rate, easy identification of dupes (for non-contesters, this is slang for duplicate contacts, not for operators who are easily hoodwinked), and flagging of multipliers. The sudden increase in efficiency let me log more contacts in the dozen or so hours operating the contest than in 24 hours of Field Day - not necessarily an apples to apples comparison but still encouraging.

In conjunction with N1MM I used HDSDR to find signals using a Softrock Lite II connected to the IF of my K3. HDSDR can't control N1MM directly and rather than try to hack a solution while the contest was running I didn't use it for rig control. This resulted in a fair amount of knob spinning to tune in signals but as they were so close together it wasn't a big deal even at the dial's most precise (i.e. slowest) setting of 200Hz per turn. The IF output is picked off prior to the radio's crystal filtering stage, so the narrowest filter (250 Hz) can be used to feed the RTTY decoders while still being able to see a 100 KHz wide swath of the radio spectrum.

The default display in the MMTTY and 2Tone RTTY programs is amplitude over frequency rather than a waterfall. In general I keep the filter narrow (250Hz) and it's more like regular tuning than just clicking the mouse on the signal you want. What the programs lacked in point-and-click was made up by the better decoding accuracy, integration with the logger (worked call signs display in grey, new ones in blue, and multipliers in red, based on the rules of the contest), and fine tuning ability. Using two different decoders at once also helps to figure out the message when there is noise, interference and fading as they use different decoding algorithms. N1MM supports up to 4 decoders at a time which can be used to "vote" for the right interpretation.

I'm still working on finding the best way to integrate all the software without having them fight over the control ports and audio interface. LP-Bridge is a way to have two programs share the same serial port but it's a hassle managing all the layers of software, and is reputed to have performance problems as well as some restrictive licencing.

For non-contest operation, N1MM is usable but not ideal. It doesn't like to flip modes nor can it log modes that aren't supported in the Cabrillo format (JT65 and JT9 for instance, which I frequently use). So I set out in search of a better way, which will be the subject of a future post.

The Bottom Line

I'm not a competitive contester (yet), but using N1MM has transformed the contest experience. By using a footswitch and mounting the microphone on a boom for the January 18th North American QSO Party, it left my hands free to work the radio and the keyboard.

With that in place, the logging process didn't slow down the QSO rate and the number of contacts per hour has gone up substantially. With ARRL Field Day only 5 months away, the job now is to perfect the digital operation and reach the goal of doubling last year's score.


I should hope that every club member who uses simplex communications, whether on HF or VHF, has signed up for Logbook of the World. While signing up isn't the simplest of tasks, setup is getting easier and uploading logs is simplicity itself, especially with a good logging program LoTW accepts both ADIF and Cabrillo files, typically used for general and contest logging respectively. I have noticed that contesters are much more likely to load their QSOs into LoTW, as are digital operators. The confirmation rates have been pretty good. Excluding the contacts from the 80's that I transcribed from my paper logbook and uploaded, the percentage confirmation is 59%.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Links of the Month - February 2014

Here are the interesting (at least to us radio amateurs) web sites that were found by club members this month.

YRARC Board Meeting - February 18, 2014

Meeting held in the multipurpose room of the Magna Centre. Called to order at 19:00. Chaired by Chris VE3NRT

Board members attending; Chris VE3NRT, Rob VE3RQB, Chris VA3DXZ, Barry VA3LLT, Richard VE3NSD, Steve VE3EZ, Geoff VA3GS, Publius VE3XS, John VA3JI, Eric VE3OIC. Board members absent; None.
  1. Agenda
    • Agenda as proposed by Chris VE3NRT (Attachment #1)
    • Motion 2014-02-18-01 by John VA3JI to adopt agenda seconded by Geoff VA3GS. Motion carried.
  2. Adoption of Jan 21, 2014 board meeting minutes
    • Motion 2014-02-18-02 by Geoff VA3GS to adopt the minutes of the Oct 15th board meeting seconded by Steve VE3EZ. Motion carried.
  3. Insurance Payments John VA3JI
    • Motion 2014-02-18-03 by John VA3JI that the board approves insurance payments made over the summer. Seconded by Publius VE3XS. Motion carried.
  4. Spring Events – Richard VE3NSD
    • YRARC will support the MADD poker run, Sunday May 25
    • Support for first aid competition in Burlington Mar 2. Event to be supported by the Burlington Amateur Radio Club. A formal request was sent through RAC. Due to short notice YRARC Trailer cannot be dispatched but Richard VE3NSD will follow up to request clarification of the support needed.
    • Richard VE3NSD agreed to circulate a list of upcoming events
  5. Storage: Bales Road Option - Richard VE3NSD
    • Russell VE3WTR advised Richard VE3NSD of the possibility of storing the trailer in a sheltered area of the Bales Road yard. Russell will be meeting with regional staff next week to discuss further.
  6. Trailer committee report – Barry VA3LLT
    • Barry VA3LLT reported that he sourced pricing for a new antenna trailer. The estimate is $17,000.00 for a bare trailer. The committee is investigating whether the old trailer can be modified to accommodate the new tower.
    • Rob will bring a welder to inspect the existing antenna trailer to determine a few options to either repair existing trailer or refit existing trailer to accommodate the new tower.
  7. Field Day – Chris VE3NRT
    • Review of board member’s planned participation in field day.
    • Steve VE3UT will be invited to attend an upcoming board meeting to report on Field Day
  8. Membership and Recruitment Activities – Steve VE3EZ and Chris VE3NRT
    • Steve VE3EZ presented for feedback, a design for a “QSL card like” flyer that could be sent to licensed Amateurs.
    • Cards will be produced and mailed. Steve VE3EZ will secure cost estimates and finalize design and report back to the board
  9. Hamfest 2014 – Geoff VA3GS
    • Decision on location must be made quickly.
    • Richard VE3NSD reported that Russell VE3WTR has been given an offer from Markham Fair Grounds at a discount vs the fees paid in 2012 to rent the Fair Grounds.
    • Richard VE3NSD will follow up to clarify the costs quoted and confirm if Nov 1st or the 8th is available.
  10. Space Club ISS contact (May 4, 2014, Newmarket) – Geoff VA3GS
    • Geoff VA3GS has demonstrated amateur radio at the South Lake Hospital for the Space Club. There is an opportunity to participate again this year and to possibly make an ISS contact. Geoff is looking for volunteers to assist. Anyone interested should contact Geoff.
  11. EmComm Go Kit Completion – Richard VE3NSD
    • Rob VE3RQB to contact Brad VE3HII and Dave VA3DCY to clarify what funding has been approved to complete the Go Kits.
    • A question was raised concerning the number of D-Star radios purchased by the club. John VA3JI will provide a list to the board, containing all of the radios purchased including serial numbers.
  12. Treasurer’s Report
    • John VA3JI reported that we received $30 for memberships. Our balance is presently [Balance available to members upon request to club Secretary] with a cheque for $300.00 outstanding.
  13. By-Law amendments - Geoff VA3GS
    • Geoff VA3GS asked board members to review his email and provide their feedback
    • Open discussion concerning the schedule to have proposed amendments to the club prior to the next Annual General Meeting
    • We will introduce an outline of the plan at the next General meeting
  14. Motion 2014-02-18-04 by Geoff VA3GS to adjourn meeting, seconded by Rob VE3RQB. Motion carried at 21:01