Monday, 19 January 2015

SPAR Winter Field Day - N1MM User Defined Contest File

If you’ve been trying out N1MM Logger+ in preparation for SPAR Winter Field Day, you may have noticed that it is not one of the predefined contests. Don’t panic! N1MM Logger+ allows the creation of “User Defined Contests” which are quite flexible. I found an old contest definition on the web and modified it a bit. I took out the unnecessary signal report fields and made separate fields for the class, section and temperature. I also set it up to track sections even though they are not multipliers (just like Summer Field Day). There is no provision for SSTV or Satellite, just phone, CW and RTTY/PSK. I don’t expect we’ll be racking up a ton of contacts in SSTV or Satellite so those can be tracked (semi-) manually.

The new user defined contest file should be saved in the /My Documents/N1MM Logger+/User Defined Contests/ folder.


Sunday, 18 January 2015

Notes from the Shack - January 2015

In the lead up to our SPAR Winter Field Day at the Temperance Hall on January 24th and 25th, we've been reviewing the rules and especially the scoring. Unlike ARRL Field Day in the Summer, Winter Field Day doesn't emphasize community outreach but is a more traditional contest, but with some twists.

One of the biggest of these is the way multipliers are calculated. For the non-contesters out there, multipliers encourage certain achievements by creating a separate tally, with which the main score is multiplied. Many contests, like the North American QSO Party SSB that ran yesterday, use geographic entities (in the case of the NAQP, they were US States, Canadian Provinces, and North American DXCC entities), but Winter Field Day is different.

Winter Field Day offers a multiplier for each band and 'mode'. The bands are counted as any amateur band from 1.8MHz and up excluding the 60, 30, 17 and 12 metre bands. The modes for the purpose of the contest are: Phone (SSB, FM, AM, etc.), CW, Digital (RTTY, PSK, Thor, etc), SSTV and Satellite. The astute reader will realize that satellite is not a mode in the traditional meaning of the word, but them's the rules.

A single contact on any combination of bands and the 5 'modes' will yield a multiplier. We know from reports of previous years that the vast majority of contacts are by phone, so it will be important to crank out as many contacts as possible on the most productive bands which will probably be 20, 40 and 80 metres. However it will be equally important to make a contact on as many bands and modes as possible, as score multipliers will be the key to putting in a good showing by the club.

This brings us to SSTV. Not knowing whether any of our members coming to Field Day will be equipped, I decided to give it a try a couple of weeks ago. It was really easy to set up using the MMSSTV program which can operate stand alone or integrate with DXLab using the MM to DXLab Bridge. The main benefit of bridge is log integration and easy access to spotting information (by the way, there's no limits on using spotting in Winter Field Day).

I've managed to make a couple of QSOs and even received an SWL report from Europe, but so far I haven't seen a crystal clear picture. On the other hand if you can read the call sign and signal report it's a contact, and that is similar to what we need to do on Saturday (where we'll need to exchange the class and temperature, which is supposed to be about -8C).

The call signs are quite readable in the extra large font, while the picture is pretty much unrecognizable. I didn't notice at the time, but that picture received from WB0YDI was taken by me. He'd actually send my own picture back to me, which is a sunrise over the St. Lawrence river near Brockville, Ontario. Since that time I've seen better pictures than the above which are more easily recognized.

The lesson is perhaps to not expect too much detail and not to send too much. If we have any SSTV operators out there please come on down or try to contact us during the event.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

YRARC Board of Directors Meeting - December 16, 2014

Meeting held in the Magna Centre. Called to order at 19:00. Chaired by Chris VE3NRT. Board members attending; Chris VE3NRT, Rob VE3RQB, Chris VA3DXZ, Eric VE3EB, Barry VA3LLT, David VA3DCY, Steve VE3UT, John VA3JI, Geoff VA3GS. Board members absent; none. Guests attending; none
  1. Review of the agenda as proposed by Chris VE3NRT
    • Motion 2014-12-16-01 to adopt agenda. Motion carried.
  2. Adoption of Nov 18/14 board meeting minutes
    • Motion 2014-12-16-02 to adopt minutes as published in the splatter blog at Motion carried.
  3. Governance
    • Treasurers Report – John VA3JI
      • Balance as of Nov 30-14 [Balance available to members upon request to Secretary]
      • Expenses: Total $5,621.50 (Hamfest $5,279.09 + Christmas Party $278.20 + Trailer $64.21)
      • Income: Memberships $50.00
      • Balance as of Dec 16-14: [Balance available to members upon request to Secretary]
    • Insurance coverage – John VA3JI
      • John VA3JI is working toward providing a report to the board at the Feb 2015 board meeting
      • It was confirmed by John VA3JI that the trailers are considered commercial and are not covered while being towed by a typical personal motor vehicle insurance policy
      • Rob VE3RQB indicated he had received a quote of $80.00 flat rate one way commercial towing. The idea being that the club could avoid purchasing a vehicle policy for the tower trailer (similar to what is in place for the communications trailer) if a commercial tow operator was hired to move the tower trailer when needed. Depending on the frequency of use of the tower trailer, this could be a more cost effective option for the club.
      • John VA3JI presented a list of the insurance requirements (including a list of club assets) to be provided to the club’s insurance broker for the purpose of requesting a quote. The value of some of the assets was still outstanding. In particular, John VA3JI was looking for the original purchase price of the communications trailer and equipment installed in it.
      • Eric VE3EB indicated that the value of the communications trailer as equipped was approximately $27,000.00 excluding in kind contributions.
      • The requirements list was amended to reflect a value of $27,000.00 for the communications trailer.
      • Motion 2014-12-16-03 by Chris VA3DXZ to confirm that the board is in agreement that the list as amended adequately captures the club’s insurance requirements, seconded by Rob VE3RQB. Motion carried.
      • Chris VE3NRT will provide the list to Russell VA3WTR who had indicated that the region was willing to solicit a competitive quote on our behalf.
  4. Property – Rob VE3RQB
    • Potential retired ambulance acquisition
      • There was a short discussion about the utility of an ambulance in addition to the communications trailer and the concern over the limited resources available to the club to support and maintain both assets.
    • Go Kits
      • Chris VE3NRT confirmed that he has all of the hand held radios
      • Chris VE3NRT will retrieve the remaining go kits and prepare an inventory
    • EMCOMM Leadership
      • Russell had indicated at the last general meeting that EMCOMM would be looking for a new leader as he focused this year on support of the 2015 PAN AM games.
      • Barry VA3LLT will contact Russell VA3WTR to understand his plans and report back at the next board meeting.
  5. Repeaters – Steve VE3UT
    • Steve VE3UT suggested that the board consider allocating a fund to cover miscellaneous expenses for materials etc… that are needed from time to time to maintain or improve the performance of the repeaters.
    • Motion 2014-12-16-04 by Steve VE3UT to allocate up to $200.00 for funding of incidental expenses incurred in maintaining the repeaters, seconded by Eric VE3EB. Motion carried.
    • Intermodulation interference was causing issues with the link radio linking VE3YRC UHF to VE3YRA. This problem is being investigated.
    • The radio linking VE3YRC VHF to VE3YRC UHF should be replaced. Any club member willing to donate a replacement radio is asked to contact Steve VE3UT
    • Steve VE3UT proposed increasing the audio recording library for the repeaters. The board was in favour of this. Steve VE3UT will contact Cindy who has helped the club in the past. An honorarium (approximately $25.00) will be required and will be funded from motion 2014-12-16-04.
    • The VE3YRA controller will be removed from operation to facilitate a firmware upgrade and reprogramming. Steve VE3UT will make an announcement at the next general meeting and on the Yahoo group advising that the repeater will be off the air for a period of time in January while the work is being done.
    • Steve VE3UT re-iterated the goal of the repeater committee which is to provide coverage across York Region. VE3YRC VHF, VE3YRC UHF, and VE3YRA will be continuously linked together to facilitate region wide coverage. The linking radios can be enabled and disabled in the event that the repeaters need to be isolated.
    • Steve VE3UT will provide copies of the scripts and codes to the club Secretary.
  6. Events - Eric VE3EB
    • Recognition Plan
      • Eric VE3EB reported that recognition certificates were handed out at the last general meeting. There are still a few to deliver to members who were not present at the general meeting.
      • A report will be provided indicating the total volunteer hours of the club for future reference
  7. Membership – Chris VE3NRT
    • Meeting schedule
      • Ideas proposed included a talk on IRLP, a presentation by the Ontario Contest Club
    • Winter Field Day
      • N1MM logging software will be used
      • David VA3DCY has collected $90 for meal tickets
    • Junk night
      • Will be held at the January General meeting
  8. Other Business – None
  9. Motion 2014-12-16-05 by Geoff VA3GS to adjourn meeting, seconded by Rob VE3RQB. Motion carried at 9:10pm.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

6 metre net on 30m this week

For the next several months the 6 metre net will frequency and mode hop. Once the Sporadic E season is closing in, we'll revert to to 6m operation. Meanwhile, each week we will choose a new frequency and mode to meet up on.

On Monday, January 12, 2015, 0100Z (8pm Eastern Standard Time) we will convene on 10.141 MHz or the nearest unoccupied frequency. With PSK31 being very narrow band, we will not stray far. The suggested frequencies for PSK31 on the 30m band are 10.138 to 10.142.

I will start calling at exactly 8pm. Anyone is welcome to check in. If you're unfamiliar with PSK31 operation now's your chance to try it out in a forgiving environment.

Suggestions of new frequencies and modes to try are encouraged. I only ask that it be in a band from 6m to 80m, be simplex, and of course legal in Canada.


P.S. If having a 6m net on 30m doesn't make sense to you, we can call it the "YRARC Experimental Net" instead.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Minutes of General Meeting, December 2nd, 2014

Meeting held at the Sharon Temperance Hall. The meeting was called to order at 19:33. Chaired by Rob VE3RQB. 34 members in attendance
  1. The agenda for the meeting was presented by Rob VE3RQB (attachment #1)
  2. Financial Report – John VA3JI
    • Bank balance is presently [balance available to members upon request to the club Secretary]
  3. Public Service – Eric VE3EB
    • Certificates have been prepared and are being distributed to recognize all those who have volunteered their time in 2014 to support public service events on behalf of the YRARC
  4. EMCOMM – Russell VA3WTR
    • The communications trailer is now being stored at the York Region EMS parking lot
    • The EMCOMM group is in discussions with the region concerning the potential for the region to donate a retired ambulance to the YRARC to be re-purposed to support EMCOMM emergency communications
    • EMCOMM meetings will be held every two weeks this coming year
    • In addition to the regular face to face meeting, a second meeting held over the air will occur each month. The first over the air meeting will be held Thursday Dec 4
    • Site updates:
      • York Region headquarters – New EMCOMM channel listing programmed
      • Southlake – Request is in to re-locate antenna closer to EOC
      • EMCOMM will be looking for a new director in 2015 as Russell begins to focus to Pan Am games
  5. Repeaters – Steve VE3UT
    • Backup power is being installed at VE3YRC VHF. Settings will be changed to preserve power when on backup.
    • Emergency power is in place at VE3YRA
    • The D-Star gateway has been fixed and new PA has been installed increasing power output on UHF to 73w (up from 23w).
  6. Winter Field Day – Steve VE3UT
    • The board has approved a budget of $200.00 to cover fuel and miscellaneous expenses
    • Meal tickets will be sold ahead of time for $10.00 each providing a lunch and dinner on Saturday and breakfast on Sunday. Please contact David VE3DCY to purchase meal tickets. Meal tickets must be purchased in advance of the event so that organizers know how many meals are needed.
    • Operating bands: While all bands are available for use, many club members advised the team to not use 17m as a courtesy to other operators not involved in Winter Field Day. [note from VE3NRT - the Winter Field Day rules prohibit operation on the 60, 30, 17 and 12 metre bands].
  7. Hamfest – Geoff VA3GS
    • The 2014 Hamfest generated a profit of approximately $3,000.00. The club would like to extend a special thank you to all those who volunteered their time to make this a success.
  8. Property – Rob VE3RQB
    • Rob VE3RQB extended a thank you on behalf of the entire club to Russell VA3WTR for working with the region to secure a storage location for the communications trailer
    • Rob VE3RQB extended a thank you on behalf of the club to Steve VE3EZ for storing the communications trailer on his property
  9. Insurance – John VA3JI
    • General Liability
      • The club purchases an annual $2M general liability policy to cover club activities
    • Trailers
      • The club purchases an annual policy to cover liability for the communications trailer while it is under tow. For insurance purposes, the communications trailer is classified as an assigned risk and as such, is considered non-standard
      • A similar policy is needed to cover the tower trailer. The tower trailer cannot be towed without this policy
      • Rob VE3RQB suggested that considering the infrequent use of the tower trailer, the club could hire a commercial towing operator to move the tower trailer when needed. While this is not optimal for emergency response, it may be a more cost effective option for the club to consider
      • RAC was contacted to determine whether the club could secure similar coverage at lower cost, but it was reported by RAC that the RAC insurance does not cover moving vehicles or trailers
    • Loss of property
      • The club has historically not purchased coverage for loss of property but a quote is being requested to provide coverage for the more significantly valued assets held by the club
  10. Special thank you – Don VE3IXJ
    • Done VE3IXJ extend a special thank you on behalf of the club to Doug Peckover for hosting the VE3YRK (D-Star) repeater
  11. Motion 2014-12-02-01 by Barry VE3LLT to adjourn meeting, seconded by Doug VE3VS. Motion carried.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

VE3YRK Gateway Registration Problems

After the last round of maintenance a strange problem occurred with the gateway. Everything is normal except that the web form to register radios no longer works. The form actually doesn't show up at all. All currently registered radios are still there (although you can't see them on the web page) and continue to work.

The solution may be as drastic as rebuilding the gateway from scratch. While there's no hardware changes involved it would require a visit to the site and fairly long procedure. Another option is to drop the support for the US Trust network. This is not as drastic as it sounds and would not affect any of the things we currently do with the repeater.

Over the next two or three weeks I will do further research into our options and consult with the repeater committee before deciding on the appropriate course of action. Meanwhile the repeater is still completely usable.


A Rare QSL Card

At least for me it was. It was a beautiful card from Tchad depicting a man leading a camel through the desert at sunset. without a cloud in sky. The card came recently from TT8/US3EZ and was for a CW QSO on 20m on July 17, 2013. I was pleased to receive it, but had no memory of having a contact with Tchad - although as it was 18 months old that's not so surprising.

So today I sat down to answer the most recent batch of cards and it was the last one in the pile. When I got to it I searched my log for the contact only to find it wasn't there. In fact, I had zero contacts in July 2013 because I hadn't got the antenna back up after Field Day (you might remember I was the recipient of the coffee pot award in 2013 for my antenna troubles). What's more is my calendar shows that I was at work at the time.

It's too bad. It can't be a logging error at my end so Sergey must have heard someone else's call sign. Maybe it was VE3NR who gets one of mine from time to time, or maybe one of the 3-letter calls in the NR group who got their licences about the same time as mine. It seems a shame to throw away such a nice card, especially for a country I don't have yet, but that's the way it goes. It's a shame that some other Canadian ham won't get their card.