Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Finally! DX on the 6m Net

The net lives! Quite often it turns out to be just me and John VA3JI rag chewing for an hour, but sometimes Bill VE3AAA checks in or we hear from VE3IBW or various other members less frequently.

In the last few days John put up a beam antenna for 6m and his signals jumped about 4 S-Units (so did mine at his end). Also in the last month I put up a home made delta loop antenna based on a design by GW7AAV which is about 1.1:1 VSWR and works quite well considering the top is at about 15' AGL. The antenna will only 'take' about 200W. My theory is that the connection points for the 10GA wire I used for the loop are too close together. When I get a chance I will take it down, drill new holes and space them wider. As a modification to the GW7AAV I put end caps on the PVC pipe on which the matching section (RG-11) is wound, and put a SO-239 on the bottom end and a pair of connecting bolts on the other.

About 1/2 way through our QSO John thought he heard a faint CW signal but we didn't hear it again. As we were signing off, though, we were called by Mike, KM4ID, near Charleston South Carolina. He gave John an S9 and me and S5 (I was running 100W). VE3AAA also heard him from Mt. Albert, and we chatted briefly before calling it a night. Bill commented that he could hear Mike in South Carolina better than he could hear me.

After that QSO I flipped over to JT65 on 50.277 and called CQ and was answered by a station in North Carolina, then another in Georgia. The North Carolina station started out at -01db S/N, then on the next transmission was -03, then on the final transmission was -18. I finished the night by answering the CQ of another Georgia station.

This is by no means the first 6m opening I've experienced, but it is the first one on a Monday night net. It's something I'd always hoped would happen.

Come join us some time. All are welcome!


Tuesday, 26 May 2015

As a service to our members the YRARC Board decided to allow advertising of articles for sale on the club’s Yahoo group under the following conditions.
  1. The articles must be the personal property of the member making the offer (or property of YRARC) and include only radio equipment, e.g. transmitters, towers, rotors, headsets, coaxial cables, receivers, antennas, antenna switches, tuners, keyers, and power supplies the primary purpose of which is amateur radio communications. At least for the time being, computer equipment will not qualify.
  2. The offer for any given item may only be made once in any calendar year.
  3. Offers may only be made by club members. Use of the group for selling equipment is a benefit of club membership.
  4. The moderators reserve the right to remove any message as they see fit. Overuse is strongly discouraged.
The For Sale files area is also available for members of the group to advertise other types of items for sale. You might want to list your radio items there in addition to posting a message.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Cool Stuff at Dayton

Everybody's definition of what is cool or useful is different, of course, so this is just a little bit of what intrigued me at Dayton. Over the years, I'm sure many of these are going to cost me lots of money and even more time, but that's what a good hobby is all about, I think.

First, because I know all of you will be on the edge of your seats with anticipation, here's what I bought.

  • A Heil Pro-7 headset. I paid about $10 too much for it because it was more expensive at the Heil booth than elsewhere. I did buy it directly from Bob though and he signed the box.
  • An AMSAT membership
  • RT Systems Software for my mobile radio (Icom IC-7100)
  • A Raspberry Pi 2.0 model B, along with a cheap but effective plastic case and a breakout cable for the GPIO port.
  • Ferrite chokes of various sizes including a couple of big ones for AC cables.
  • A project box which I'll use for my Softrock RX II IF Lite
  • A Power Pole chassis mount. Unfortunately too big for my project box. Also got some 16 gauge pins for dollar.
  • Some interesting coax sealing tape from Times Microwave. It only sticks to itself so it's easy to remove. The guy in the booth gave me a roll of it for nothing after I asked him for a 6" piece to try out.
  • A 1' SMA to N female cable
  • 5 chassis mount connectors: 3 BNC female and 2 N female
Mostly useful stuff - some for future use. The RT software works well and the headset is comfortable and sounds very clear. Three of the ferrites are deployed. The project box and one of the BNC connectors will be ready for Field Day so I can have a spectrum display available (that's another reason to join the 40m phone team - hint hint).

The only workshop I attended was AMSAT. They have ambitious plans. 5 new satellites going up (Fox 1A through Fox 1E). They're also joint bidding on a project to orbit the Moon, which is not directly an amateur project but may be repurposed after the main mission is over to become a resource to amateurs. The object of the main mission is to participate in a competition to deliver the most data over an RF communications link from Lunar orbit to an Earth station.

More Cubesats are on the way


I found these guys on the edge of the outdoor market. They're building an open source & hardware platform for satellite ground stations. This is includes antenna rotors for satellite tracking. If you want to build one you can download the plans for 3D printing the gears and other components. While few of us owns a 3D printer your local library may have one like the Aurora Public Library does.

The goal of SatNOGS is to build a network of telemetry stations. The receiving is done with the RTL2832u SDR dongle.

One thing that I find confusing is that the unit I saw at Dayton doesn't resemble the picture on the SatNOGS web site. The Dayton unit was about the size of two cubesats, one on top of the other, while the picture is more like an electrical utility box.


HamWAN is in intriguing alternate (and complement) to the MESH networks our members have experimented with over the past few years. At frequencies of 5GHz, it can support high speeds and like MESH is built upon off the shelf hardware. It doesn't do MESH though. The networks are pre-planned and the nodes are expected to be operational most of the time.

The basic hardware units are a grill style dish and RF Access Point (which has an antenna connection at one end and Ethernet/Power connection at the other). These units are around $80 US each. One of main use cases that I was told about was connecting EOCs together. The hardware would be suitable for that as well as on a communications trailer in home installations. This has possibilities for the club, I think, for building a network to support both Municipal Emergency Management and general club high speed data communications.

Once high speed data communications has been established, it can be used for repeater linking like Echolink, D-STAR, P25, DMR and System Fusion. It can also serve for standard telephone style VOIP, videoconferencing, rich media (e.g. big email attachments) and anything else that can be moved over an IP network.

Portable Rotation

I've seen these guys before, and they have a little antenna rotor for $330 US. They were demonstration a similar model that also did elevation control and expect it to come in around $500 when available, which is not for a while. So build or buy, that is the question. Information is on their web site.

Flex Maestro

This new product from Flex Radio allows control of the radio without a computer. It was pretty exciting for the Flex fans.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Upcoming Events

With the warm weather comes event seasons, and the club is off and running with several events to support in June. We've already had the SET exercise with ARES teams from around the GTA and the York Region Emergency Preparedness Fair.

Here's the current list of committed activities. Some of them still need more help so please consider offering your time to the events as indicated below.

  • On May 29th our EmComm group will be participating an a municipal exercise to provide a guard network to communicate between several Emergency Operations Centres.
  • The Mothers Against Drunk Driving motorcycle poker run happens on May 31st.
  • On June 5th, we're in the Mount Albert Sports Parade. The communications trailer may participate in the parade if enough volunteers are secured. We still need 3 more volunteers for this event.
  • The Mount Albert run is on June 6th. We have 6 volunteers so far and need two more.
  • On June 7th we have the Aurora Street Festival with needing 16 volunteers. We have 11 so far and need 5 more. The communications trailer will be in use at this event.
  • ARRL Field Day will set up at Al's Tack Shop on Friday the 26th of June and will require both the communication and antenna tower trailers. Please contact band captains to volunteer for setting up or operating a station.
  • We will need 2 or 3 volunteers to support the Sharon Temple opening event.
With many of our members volunteering to support the Pan-Am games, we'll be stretched in July and August to support our events during that period. We ask all members to make time to support our community and our club during this busy season.


Wednesday, 20 May 2015

N1MM Logger Plus for Field Day - Part 1

N1MM is the world's most popular logging program. Best of all it's free. For YRARC's Field Day Operation in 2015, it will be the recommended logger.

Also recommended is that you get the program installed on your computer well before the day and learn to operate the basic functions.

So let's begin. To download the code, first go to the N1MM Logger-Plus site. Under the Files button you can download the Full Install. Under the home button, check out the Features link to see what the program does (it does a lot!). At the bottom of the main page there's a link to the features of the new Plus version.

Under Support, there's a link to instructional videos. These are useful, but apply to the older N1MM Logger (no Plus) version. It's close, but there are differences. In the download and install video for instance, Larry K1UT mentions downloading update files. This isn't necessary (unless you're installing off-line), as N1MM Logger Plus will download updates automatically (after you give it permission). There are other sections of the video that are obsolete and possibly misleading. Other videos on operations will give you some good hints on how to get the most out of the program but you should try them out before depending on them for field day.

Speaking of updates - I recommend that you run N1MM while connected to the Internet a day or two before Field Day starts to make sure you have the latest updates installed. It will be harder to do at the site.

Installation is actually quite straightforward. Just run the downloaded program and follow the prompts. Once it is installed, reboot your computer and run the program. It may prompt you to update it which you should do first, then fill in the station information. If you don't plan to try N1MM on the air before Field Day, you can use VE3YRA as the station call and use the coordinates for Al's Tack Shop (44.019138, -79.309132).

One of the best features of N1MM is it's ability to connect all the computers in the station together, so that everyone sees everyone else's log. This means that duplicates can be avoided when two station operate on the same band, but also that the log is replicated on every computer, so that if a hard drive crashes the log isn't lost. We will be setting that up later.

Next instalment will cover interfacing N1MM to your transceiver. This will really demonstrate the power of the program to improve your QSO rate. Recording of common vocal phrases (like CQ CQ Field Day, Victor Echo Three Yankee Romeo Alpha Field Day) is preferable to saying it five thousand times in the course of the contest. I have also found that by compressing the recorded message it cuts through better than using the microphone.

73 'til next time.
Chris VE3NRT

P.S. I know there's experienced N1MM users out there so feel free to chime in with your own suggestions.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Royal York Hotel Radio Room

This is not my finest photograph, but I thought it was interesting that the Royal York had a radio room in the 1950s. I'm not sure what they did with it. All that equipment has probably been replaced with a couple of boxes in a closet. I spied this photo on the wall while walking around the Mezzanine of the hotel several weeks ago.

The caption reads "Mr. Billy Charlton, Radio Control Operator, the Royal York Hotel, 1950." I assume this means that there was some kind of transmitter in place. No mention of Mr. Charlton was found in some casual web searching.

Friday, 15 May 2015

YRARC Board of Directors - Minutes April 21, 2015

Meeting held in the Newmarket Community Centre. Called to order at 19:00. Chaired by Chris VE3NRT. Board members attending; Chris VE3NRT, Rob VE3RQB, Chris VA3DXZ, Eric VE3EB, Barry VA3LLT, Steve VE3UT, David VA3DCY, John VA3JI, Geoff VA3GS. Guests attending; Robert VA3BXG

  1. Agenda
    • Motion 2015-04-21-01 by John VA3JI to adopt agenda, seconded by Geoff VA3GS. Motion carried Adoption of Mar 17, 2015 board meeting minutes
  2. Adoption of Mar 17, 2015 board meeting minutes
    • Motion 2015-04-21-02 by Geoff VA3GS to adopt Mar 17, 2015 board meeting minutes as published in the Splatter Blog, seconded by John VA3JI. Motion carried.
  3. Governance
    • Treasurer’s report (John VA3JI)
      • Current balance is [available to members upon request to Secretary]
      • Motion 2015-04-21-03 by John VA3JI to accept the treasurer’s report, seconded by Geoff VA3GS. Motion carried.
    • Insurance Status (John VA3JI)
      • John will forward a copy of the property policy to the secretary
    • Destruction of old accounting records (John VA3JI)
      • Motion 2015-04-21-04 by John VA3JI, that the Treasurer be allowed to destroy documents 7 years following the date on which they were audited, seconded by Geoff VA3GS. Motion carried.
    • Web site access (Chris VE3NRT)
      • There have been requests to update the site. Chris VE3NRT can post documents in word format if that is of assistance to content owners.
  4. Property
    • Bales road formal trailer parking agreement with York EMS
      • Robert VA3BXG advised the board that this was on hold until it is confirmed that he is the ARES Emergency Coordinator (EC) for York Region. Once this is confirmed he will approach Greg Stasyna of York Region Emergency Management and work with him to identify the correct people for YRARC to work with to secure a formal agreement.
      • Motion 2015-04-21-05 by Eric VE3EB, that Chris VE3NRT contact EMS at Bales Road, to determine who we should contact or notify to access our trailers, seconded by Rob VE3RQB. Motion carried
      • The board will prepare a short list of individuals authorized by the club to access / remove the trailers
    • Revised trailer use policy
      • Chris VE3NRT has revised the policy and will distribute to the board for review and comment
  5. Repeaters (Steve VE3UT)
    • 6m Repeater: Geoff VA3GS to send WNYSORC forms to Steve VE3UT to fill out info for 6m repeater
    • Bob VE3WY will supply the 6m antenna for $99.00. Mounting bracket and connectors will also need to be purchased. The repeater maintenance float will be used to purchase the antenna and installation materials.
    • Steve VE3UT to provide the repeater site contacts to the secretary for filing
  6. Events (Eric VE3EB)
    • Eric VE3EB provided a list of events (attached)
    • A volunteer is needed to lead the York Simcoe Riders, MADD event on May 31st
    • Eric VE3EB, Geoff VA3GS, and Robert VA3BXG advised the board that they are volunteering for the PAN AM games and will have limited availability
  7. EMCOMM (Robert VA3BXG)
    • Red Cross SET went well. The report is attached to the agenda
    • The York Region Emergency Preparedness Fair will be held on May 2 and a volunteer is needed to tow the communications trailer to the event
    • Robert VA3BXG will send EMCOMM files to the club secretary for filing (EMCOMM agreements, LOU’s, site contact info, EOC access procedures, etc…)
    • Motion 2015-04-21-06 by Geoff VA3GS, that Robert VA3BXG be appointed EMCOMM/ARES chair for YRARC, seconded by Barry VA3LLT. Motion carried.
  8. Membership (Geoff VA3GS)
    • Hamfest (Geoff VA3GS)
      • Short discussion / brainstorming on fund raising ideas
      • Discussed the idea to invite the Lions Club into the event to sell food. The Lions Club would be responsible for all costs and keep all proceeds. This would simplify planning and eliminate the potential for a monetary loss due to lower than expected food sales
      • Geoff presented his mailer to the board for review and feedback (attached)
    • Trillium Grant (Chris VE3NRT)
      • Chris VE3NRT reported on an earlier idea that a Trillium grant could possibly fund the launch of a cube sat. Upon further investigation, he concluded that putting a cube sat into orbit would be prohibitively expensive
      • Other ideas raised included; replace and upgrade equipment in the trailer, replace repeaters and equip with battery backup
      • Board members were asked to forward their ideas to Eric VE3EB
      • Chris VE3NRT suggested we identify needs based on past (documented) experiences
    • Next License Class (Geoff VA3GS)
      • There is presently insufficient demand to schedule a class but Geoff is open to hold a class in the fall if the demand is there
  9. Field Day (Steve VE3UT)
    • Rob VE3RQB will repair the generator
    • Eric VE3EB has volunteered the use of his Butternut antenna for the digital station
    • Locations will be same as last year in the field behind Al’s Tack Shop
    • Food tickets will be sold
    • We might try networked logging
  10. Motion 2015-04-21-07 by Barry VA3LLT to allocate $350.00 for food for the AGM, seconded by Rob VE3RQB. Motion carried.
Meeting adjourned at 21:31

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Dayton 2015

Safe and sound and checked into the motel in Dayton, Ohio for my first visit to the Dayton Hamvention since 1989 (maybe 1988) along with Bill, Barry and Ken. I have a shopping list prepared and I'm ready to go elbow to elbow with the crowd to get the good deals tomorrow.


Minutes - YRARC General Meeting 2015-05-05

Meeting held at the Sharon Temperance Hall. The meeting was called to order at 1935, chaired by Chris VE3NRT. 41 members and 3 guest in attendance. Geoff VA3GS Secretary Pro Tempore.
  1. Agenda
    • The agenda for the meeting was presented. Eric VE3EB requested that Public Service Events be added to the agenda. Item was added.
  2. Minutes of the last meeting:
    • Motion 2015-05-05-01 by Eric VE3EB to approve the minutes of the April meeting as published online in the Splatter Blog, seconded by Steve VE3UT. Motion carried.
  3. Financial update, John VA3JI:
    • Reported that the balance was the same as reported at the April meeting, [Balance is available to members from the Club Secretary], less the $150.00 the BoD had voted to cover the cost of the new antenna for the 6m repeater.
  4. News:
    • Robert VA3BXG has been appointed by the BoD to manage the EmComm group.
    • Nominations for the Harvey Bell Award are due by 31 May.
    • Dayton: Rick VA3VO has room in his vehicle if anyone is interested in going to Dayton.
    • The June meeting will be the annual Club BBQ and AGM
    • Club members will be electing 6 new directors at the AGM in June. Anyone wishing to stand for election should contact Chris VE3NRT.
  5. Field Day, Steve VE3UT
    • Will be held at the same site as last year.
    • Contacts with other EmComm/ARES stations will be organized to garner additional points.
    • Planning for the event is well under way. Members of the local municipal government will attend, as well as a reporter from the local newspaper.
  6. Public Service, Eric VE3EB: Operators are required for the following events. If interested please contact the Public Service Director, indicating the event(s) that you are interested in helping with.
    • May 31 York - Simcoe Riders MADD Charity Ride. Provide communications at 4 check points in and around the region. The route will start at the Newmarket town offices, go east of Newmarket this year into Mt. Albert , Udora and north into Jackson's Point and back to the Newmarket town offices. This is the same route used for the first year that the club supported this event. Ham Operators required 6-8. Hrs: 8:00am – 3:00pm approx.
    • June 5 Mt. Albert Sports Parade. Provide communications and safety with York Regional Police at various points along the parade route. Ham Operators required 10. Hrs: 5:00pm – 8:00pm approx.
    • June 6 Mt. Albert 5K Run. Provide communications and safety with York Regional Police at various points along the 5K run route. Ham Operators required 10. Hrs: 8:00pm – 11:00am approx.
    • June 7 Aurora Street Festival. Provide communications, Vendor Management and safety with the Aurora Chamber of Commerce in support of this year’s street festival. Ham Operators required 10. Hrs: 9:00am to 11:30am Approx. Vendor load in. Hrs: 5:00pm to 6:00pm Approx. Vendor Load out and reopen roads.
  7. EmComm, Robert VA3BXG:
    • The club was well represented at the YR Emergency Measures fair on Saturday 09 May.
    • The EmComm Net is held the 4th Thursday of the month on VE3YRC VHF, VE3YRC UHF, and VE3YRA commencing at 1930.
    • The next EmComm meeting will involve touring a repeater site.
Program: After the break Chris VE3NRT gave a demonstration of various digital modes and inexpensive pieces of apparatus and software that Amateurs can use to operate the digital modes.

The meeting finished at 2145.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Fighting Spam

The first spam email was sent in 1978, according to Wikipedia. Since then, it has accounted at times for around 90% of all email traffic over the Internet. The effect of Bill C-28, commonly known as CASL, on spam to Canadians has not been assessed, at least not publicly, but I've taken it upon myself to fight it single-handed and sometimes I win.

Most spammers fake the "From:" field in the email. So you can't report them based on that information. Many of the addresses are legitimate, and from some innocent party who might then become the subject of abuse by the recipients. Sometimes the address may be from someone you know. This is a more targeted and dangerous type which is probably trying to gain access to your credentials rather than just push a product or service.

In general, I get very little spam. There was a run of it for a while on my personal email address but that has stopped. My email address was obtained from Yahoo group, by the way, and spammers regularly join Yahoo groups to harvest the email addresses. They also scrape web sites, so the little bit of spam I've received lately is actually from the web addresses we publish on our club web site.

The key to fighting most spam is the links they include in their messages. I've noticed increasingly that a fake unsubscribe link is provided that usually just goes to the same site they're advertising. That trend will probably disappear soon as I expect that spam filters will recognize this as an indication that the message is spam, as no legitimate email would do that.

So the method I use is this:

  1. Note the URL of the main link in the message. Usually you just hover the mouse pointer over the link at the address will appear at the bottom left of the window. This is a good idea for any message as a almost sure indication of a phishing message is that the actual link doesn't match the one printed in the message.
  2. Open a DOS windows (on Unix, just open a terminal session) and enter nslookup URL using the URL you noted. This will return the IP address of the URL. Make a note of this
  3. To identify the owner of the IP address, use a "whois" lookup. On Linux, there is a whois command, so whois ipaddress will tell you the owner of the domain and provide contact email addresses. If you're on Windows, you can use a site like to do the lookup.
  4. There should be an abuse reporting email address. You can just forward the spam to this address. Most of the time that will work. Sometimes the address will (correctly) identify your email as spam. In that case you can just write them an email and ask them what to do.
This works quite often because spammers advertise their wares on rented servers (like the one we use for our web site). These companies have contracts with their customers specifically prohibiting spam and will terminate their service if it shown that they are participating in it.

Here's a sample reply I received recently from a service provider in Buffalo.


This is to inform you that xxx domain was suspended. It is now pointed to non-resolving nameservers and will be nullrouted once the propagation is over. The domain is locked for modifications in our system.

Thank you for letting us know about the issue.

I did that! Now the problem is that this victory is short lived. Spammers will just move to another service provider, but at least I'm disrupting their business model and making it less profitable to continue.

Imagine if everyone did this. It would put a big dent in a nefarious industry.


Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Upcoming Board of Directors Election

The election of new Directors will take place at the Annual General Meeting on June 2nd, 2015. There are five two-year terms and one one-year term to be filled. Outgoing directors are Steve VE3UT (appointed), Chris VE3NRT, Barry VA3LLT, John VA3JI, and Chris VA3DXZ.

YRARC depends on its volunteers for both leadership and implementation and I invite you to stand for election and help us build a better and stronger club.

Chris VE3NRT

Monday, 11 May 2015

Notice of Annual General Meeting

Take notice that the Annual General Meeting of the members of the York Region Amateur Radio Club, Inc., will be held at the usual meeting place, the Sharon Temperance Hall, 18974 Leslie Street, Sharon, at the usual hour of 7:30pm on Tuesday June 2nd, 2015 for the purposes of approving the financial statements for fiscal year 2015 and the election of directors to hold office for 2 years commencing July 1st, 2015.

Regular, family and life members are advised that they have the right to attend and vote in person at this meeting, in accordance with the usual rules of order, and further, in the event of a member’s absence, the member has the right to appoint a proxy to vote on his or her behalf. An appropriate form is included at the end of this publication. Members who are unable to attend the Annual General Meeting may complete, date and sign a proxy form, which must be delivered to the Secretary prior to the call to order of the Annual General Meeting, to be eligible for voting.

For those wishing to mail a proxy, please send it to Chris McGaffey, VA3DXZ, .

Dated this day May 11th, 2015 at Schomberg, Ontario.
Chris McGaffey, Secretary.


The undersigned being a current member of the York Region Amateur Radio Club, Inc. hereby appoints

(Name of Secretary or other person) _____________________________________________ as proxy to attend the Annual General Meeting of the York Region Amateur Radio Club, Inc., on June 2nd, 2015 and vote on my behalf on each and any question brought before the assembly, or at any adjournment thereof, and I do hereby revoke and make void any former instrument appoint a proxy on my behalf.

Dated at _______________ this ___________ day of _____________, 2015.

Name and call of member (print) __________________________________

Signature of member __________________________________

Friday, 8 May 2015

Setting the Time

I'll admit it. I'm a little bit obsessed with time. I like it when every clock in the house ticks over in perfect synch. Indeed, I will avoid ever buying a clock or device that doesn't keep perfect time.

It is only a minor obsession. I'm satisfied to be within a second which is good for digital communications modes that depend on accurate time, rather than the millisecond or even microsecond precision. Human technology can keep time to within 1 part in 1,000,000,000,000,000 or so but I would soon find myself single if I started investing the family nest egg in Cesium or Hydrogen Maser clocks.

Around a second accuracy is good for the JT modes like JT65 and JT9 (in the WSJT-X or JT65-HF programs), as well as WSPR. It is also handy if you're networking the N1MM logger program so that stations do not enter logs that are in the future, as far as the other stations are concerned.

There are 3 ways I've used to satisfy the craving for accuracy.

  1. The Network Time Protocol (NTP). This protocol runs over an IP network and does a great job of keeping computers in synch with each other despite the delays inherent in networks. Windows supports NTP but the implementation is not the best, so I generally use another free package from Meinberg to keep the system aligned with expensive atomic clocks at the National Research Council and other centres around the world. My only complaint with Meinberg is that it takes its time setting the clock after the system starts - around a 1/2 hour - which is pesky, especially on a laptop. All Linux systems have an NTP client available to install.
  2. Short Wave Stations. WWV, CHU and others transmit precise time signals, although they are somewhat skewed by the ionosphere unless you happen to live near one. I have an inexpensive clock that is always right which uses WWV. I'm sure there's also an inexpensive way to use WWV to set the computer clock but I've never tried to find one because GPS is so readily available.
  3. GPS - GPS (also GLONASS and Galileo) satellites send out very accurate time signals as each satellite contains a Cesium timepiece. Technology is available to use GPS to keep very accurate time for advanced computer and telephony systems but simple software is available for using a standard GPS dongle (either a USB or Serial Port) that usually runs around $20-30 to keep the system clock from drifting. The GPS solution is useful if you don't have an Internet connection, like with portable operation, although NTP works just fine over a mobile phone hotspot.
At home I run NTP. Rather than have each of the computers (and some other devices like NAS storage, TV sets and music players) connect directly to external time servers, I have my Raspberry-Pi single board computer handle the external connection and then act as a server for all the other devices over my local area network. This reduces the load on the external servers and the network traffic, as well as keeping the computers together if the Internet becomes unavailable (together, although only as correct as the Raspberry Pi's clock can maintain).

Computer clocks drift. My desktop system is pretty good at 1-2 seconds per day. The laptops drift several seconds per day. This isn't good enough for JT65 and it is very hard to set them manually. 

I've tried two software applications with my GPS dongle. The first thing you should know is that these applications have to be run with Administrator privileges (e.g. right-click, "Run as Administrator") so that they can change the system time. You wouldn't want any old app doing that.

The first one was a free app from TimeTools called "GPS Clock". It is a very simple app in which you just tell it the com port and it runs, displaying your position, the time and the NMEA messages coming from the GPS dongle. Unfortunately it is a very cranky application so I will only give it two starts out of five (two instead of one because it does work if you're nice to it). There is a configuration setting that determines how many seconds elapse between clock updates ranging from 1 to 60. If it is set to anything but 1 the program will bomb with an error. Also, if you forget to run the program with administrator privilege, it reports an error every second until you kill the program.

The other program is NMEATime from VisualGPS. It works solidly and can use both GPS and a somewhat less accurate NTP called Simple Network Time Protocol (SNTP). In addition to the latitude, longitude, altitude and time, it shows the position of the GPS satellites it can see and the signal strengths from each. It also managed to find my GPS dongle on its communication port without me having to tell it which COM port it was on. Unfortunately, perhaps inevitably, the program that works the best is not free - but you get a one month trial and the registration key is a reasonable $15. 

If your GPS unit has the capability, the program will also accept a hardware 1 PPS (pulse-per-second) input, which will give you sub-second accuracy. The 1 PPS output from even very inexpensive GPS devices is usually accurate to a microsecond, and over long periods can be used to synchronize a very stable oscillator to within a picosecond of "atomic time".

For both programs you must make sure that the speed of the COM port matches the device and the program you're using. It won't work otherwise.

For most of us, installing Meinberg, as recommended by the authors of both N1MM and WSJT-X, is all we need to do to guarantee accurate time-keeping by our computers.


Saturday, 2 May 2015

Cool Stuff at the York Region Emergency Preparedness Fair

Lots to see at the Fair today. Don VE3IXJ impressed the East Gwillimbury Fire Department with his $100 portable simplex repeater. The paint can is not only inexpensive but waterproof, which is an important requirement when your job is to make everything wet!

We were also impressed by the York Central Fire's mobile antenna platform. It also serves as a pretty good ladder. Maybe next year we'll shunt feed it for 160m operation.

Both East Gwillimbury Fire and the YRP have air boats. We don't have a lot of swamps and definitely no gators but a standard boat propeller doesn't work too well through a layer of ice.

Also check @yr_amateurradio on twitter for more pictures.

Live from the York Region Emergency Preparedness Fair

The 4th annual York Region Emergency Preparedness Fair is on today, and for the fourth time our Club has participated with an exhibit. This year we have an HF station and D-STAR demonstrations operating from our communications trailer. If you have the opportunity, please stop by! More reports and pictures will be posted later today.

Friday, 1 May 2015

York Region Emergency Preparedness Fair


On May 2nd, 2015 the trailer will be present at the York Region Emergency Preparedness Fair at the York Region Municipal Headquarters on Yonge Street in Newmarket. The purpose of the club's presence at this event is to promote community safety, provide visibility to YRARC and its EmComm team, and to liaise with York Region's emergency management personnel. The VE3YRC UHF repeater will be monitored throughout the event. Contact for the event is Robert VA3BXG, acting EmComm Chair.

The club will be demonstrating the capabilities of the trailer using D-STAR over the global reflectors and also HF operation if that is determined to be practical upon arrival at the site.

Minutes - YRARC General Meeting - 2015-04-07

Meeting held at the Sharon Temperance Hall. The meeting was called to order at 19:31. Chaired by Chris VE3NRT. 40 members and 2 guest in attendance
  1. Adoption of the minutes
    • Motion 2015-04-03-01 by Rob VE3RQB to adopt the minutes of the March 3rd general meeting minutes, seconded by Robert VA3BXG. Motion carried.
  2. Treasurer’s Report – John VA3JI
    • Current Account
      • February month end balance [Available to members on request to Secretary]
    • February disbursements:
      • Directors and officers Insurance $649.08
      • Repeater controller $600.00
      • Repeater maintenance $181.87
      • Trailer maintenance $76.31
    • Income:
      • Donations $100.00
      • Membership dues $25.00
    • Balance at the end of March 2015 [Available to members on request to Secretary]
    • April disbursements $14.70
    • Balance as of April 7 2015 [Available to members on request to Secretary]
    • John VA3JI moved that motion 2015-03-03-04 be amended such that the club allocates $250.00 for the purchase of property insurance to cover club assets not already covered under existing policies, seconded by Robert VA3BXG. Motion Carried.
  3. Repeater Update Steve VE3UT
    • VE3YRC-UHF is back on the air
    • The link from VE3YRC-UHF to VE3YRA is operational
    • Work is still underway on the link between VE3YRC-VHF and UHF
    • An additional donation of $10.00 was received today for the repeater controller
    • The repeater controller cost more than $600.00 including exchange and other fees. Steve VE3UT re-confirmed that he is donating the difference between the final purchase price of the controller and the $600.00 approved by the club.
  4. Public Service Eric VE3EB
    • Eric reported the he is updating the online calendar regularly.
  5. EmComm Update Robert VA3BXG
    • Robert VA3BXG provided an overview on EmComm and the need for planning and exercises to be prepared to deliver emergency communications
    • The agenda for the upcoming EmComm meeting will touch on
      • Election of a new EmComm leader
      • Upcoming Red Cross exercise (6-8 Volunteers needed)
      • FLDigi Demo
      • Establishing a biweekly net
      • Upcoming repeater site visit
      • May 2nd York Region Emergency Preparedness Fair
      • York Region EOC activation
      • Update on work underway with EmComm partners (York Regional Police)
      • Engaging new municipalities
      • Volunteers are need to liaise with services agencies and to help coordinate exercises
  6. Field Day Steve VE3UT
    • Steve VE3UT circulated a questionnaire to club members asking for input on Field Day planning
  7. Hamfest Geoff VA3GS
    • The date has been confirmed for Oct 31
    • Looking for ideas to attract more vendors and patrons
  8. After the break, Peter West VE3HG from the Ontario Contest Club presented an overview on contesting

Meeting adjourned at 21:26