November Meeting Wrap-Up: Configuring Winlink

At our November 6 meeting, Jeff, W2JCL presented “Using Winlink for Emergency Communications.” This was the second in a planned series of discussions and workshops which will develop members’ skills in these useful communication techniques. Jeff’s focus was installing and configuring the Winlink email program on a Windows laptop. Click here or on the image below to download Jeff’s presentation as a PDF.

One of Winlink’s time-saving features is a collection of templates used to share damage assesments and situation reports with hospitals and served agencies. Jeff has built a custom template matching the city of South Pasadena’s preferred damage assesment format. Click here to download that template plus ARES Northeast “quick check-in” and “quick check-out” templates. Then, save the files under:

C:\RMS Express\Global Folders\Templates

To use the ARES check-in and check-out templates, customize them with your personal information. However, items in brackets such as <CALLSIGN> are completed automatically by Winlink, so they should not be edited.

Below are links from the last page of Jeff’s presentation where you can download the necessary software to start becoming a Winlink expert. (Version numbers current as of 11/6/19.)

Winlink – version 1.5.25.0
https://downloads.winlink.org/User Programs/

Soundmodem – version 1.05
http://uz7.ho.ua/packetradio.htm

VARA FM version 1.2.9 and VARA HF version 3.0.4
https://rosmodem.wordpress.com/

Click here for part one of the presentation (176 kB PDF).

October Meeting Wrap-Up: Digital Mode Training Begins

At our October 2 meeting, SPARC president Stan, KR6CV and SPARC treasurer Bob, WB6YJJ reported on the club’s sale of radio equipment from the estate of founding SPARC member Tim Cox, WA0PTC. Funds from the sale are being set aside to fund the purchase of a dedicated SPARC repeater. 

Bob and Rick, KI6ZKM discussed our demonstration of the new city-owned amateur station during the ARRL September VHF Contest. We logged twenty-three contacts over approximately four hours.

In recognition of September being National Preparedness Month and October’s upcoming Great Shakeout, Stan led a discussion of home preparedness best practices. Several members and guests shared ideas and experiences, and there was an informal show-and-tell of radio go kits.

The main topic of the meeting was a presentation by Jeff, W2JCL entitled “Digital Modes for Emergency Communications.” This was the first in a planned series of discussions and workshops which will develop members’ skills in these useful communication techniques. Jeff demonstrated the Winlink email program by exchanging messages with Oliver, K6OLI and Mike, KM6KAQ. Click here or on the image below to download Jeff’s presentation as a PDF. The last page includes links to further information and software downloads.

Click to download (176 kB PDF)

Learn about Map Your Neighborhood on October 23 at Caltech

The Pasadena fire department is offering a class on “Map Your Neighborhood” at Caltech on October 23. MYN provides a step-by-step process to organize neighborhoods to be better prepared after a disaster. In the event of a disaster, your best bet for assistance will come from neighbors rather than first responders. This class will offer instruction on how to identify needs and skills that would be available when needed. 

SPARC Demonstrates New EOC Station to the Public

On Saturday, September 14, SPARC demonstrated a new amateur radio station that has been added to the city’s Emergency Operations Center. Our fire department has invested in a dedicated antenna on the roof of city hall and a dual-band VHF/UHF radio. This equipment will help keep communications open even if traditional phone and Internet systems stop working.

In honor of September being National Preparedness Month, SPARC invited city officials, CERT members and Neighborhood Watch captains to see the station in action. The demonstration coincided with the annual ARRL September VHF contest to ensure there was sufficient on-air activity to test the station’s capabilities. SPARC members operated four additional radios to compare against the EOC station. The new station performed well, picking out signals that the others were unable to hear. The station is a valuable addition to the city’s preparedness resources.

SPARC thanks the city fire and police departments for allowing us to use the EOC for this open house and test. We appreciate the hard work that the city and other civic groups do to keep our city resilient and ready. 

Public Demonstration at September VHF 2019
Testing the EOC’s new amateur radio station.
EOC Kenwood
The EOC’s radio is enclosed in a protective case.
Antennas in Courtyard
A new permanent VHF/UHF antenna has been installed on the roof of city hall. For our test, temporary antennas were set up in the courtyard and on the roof.
Logging contacts on the big screen
The new EOC station was tested against radios and antennas brought in by SPARC members. Contacts were logged using N3FJP+ and displayed on the main monitor to the right.
Tribander and Homebrew 6m Dipole
Left, the Ed Fong TBJ-1 triband antenna. Right, a homebrew 6m dipole constructed by Rick, KI6ZKM. A SPARC member stands between them for scale.

New Operating Event: Harvey Houses on the Air

Ginger Eldridge, KC5MTI contacted us to promote an operating event, the third annual Harvey Houses on the Air. The event will take place from 8:00am to 4:00pm PDT on Saturday, September 14. Hams will operate from the sites of historic hotels and “eating houses” founded by entrepreneur Fred Harvey beginning in the late nineteenth century. Locally, Union Station in downtown Los Angeles once had a Harvey House. Just under a year ago, the Harvey House space was reopened as the Imperial Western Beer Company and Streamliner Bar.

Full information on how to participate is listed on the event’s QSL.net page.

Ginger writes, “We hope you set up your mobile unit and practice your field day skills and have some fun. … Let us know you’re participating so we can try to chat with you on the air.”

Note that this event takes place during the ARRL VHF Contest.

Pictures from the Summit of San Gabriel Peak

On Sunday, August 11, SPARC members Rick Besocke, KI6ZKM and Jeff Liter, W2JCL hiked San Gabriel peak and performed a SOTA (Summits on the Air) activation. Together they logged seventeen QSOs on 146.52 MHz and 446.00 MHz. Jeff also conducted a mesh chat with Oliver, K6OLI over the AREDN mesh.

Rick KI6ZKM operates a “tape measure” beam on FM. A mesh go-kit operated by Jeff W2JCL is in the foreground.
Rick makes a contact on his beam. Antennas of Mt. Wilson are visible in the background.

If you’d like to know more about SOTA, check out this talk by Scott, WA9STI from our November 2018 meeting. Then use the following links to join in on the fun.

Main SOTA site: www.sota.org.uk
SOTA logging: www.sotadata.org.uk
SOTA Watch (alerts and spots): www.sotawatch.org
SOTA Mapping Project: www.sotamaps.org
SOTlas (SOTA altas): www.sotl.as

Prepare for an Emergency with These Member-Submitted Tips

We’ve added a new page to the SPARC website: Preparing for Emergencies. It is accessible from the navigation menu under “Resources.”

The inspiration for the page came from a discussion started by Bob Vanderwall WB6YJJ during our weekly on-air nets in 2017. Net participants discussed the state of their own preparedness, shared advice and recommended various tools. In the aftermath of the July earthquakes near Ridgecrest, there was renewed interest in emergency prep and new urgency to share our ongoing club discussion.

If you have suggestions on how to improve the page or corrections to any of the contact information listed there, don’t hesitate to contact us. Thank you!

Field Day Results Are In

Dear all,

I hope everyone is enjoying their summer while we still have some left. Below are excerpts from the PRC bulletin with this year’s Field Day results. As you know, we ran the Get On The Air (GOTA) station, and we did a good job grabbing contacts. Nonetheless, it was decided not to include our results with W6KA. Instead, our results were submitted separately as a 1A class station. The reason for not including the GOTA station was a concern that our procedure did not fully comply with ARRL rules. So, to be on the safe side, our results were not included with W6KA. I have to admit the ARRL rules are somewhat ambiguous with regards to operators and coaches. 

GOTA score for 2019

I don’t see this as a negative. We all had a good time, and our efforts were productive. If anything, this will be the first time SPARC has participated independently in Field Day. We’ll have to wait for QST to report our overall ranking later this year.

Let me know if you have any questions or concerns. We can discuss this at our next meeting on August 3. 
73,
Stan KR6CV
President SPARC

In the Pasadena Radio Club (W6KA) bulletin, Paul Gordon N6LL writes:

W6KA Field Day 2019 score

Our groups made 2150 QSOs. That’s 250 more than last year even though we had one less transmitter on the air.

Our Platinum QSO-Master Award goes to David Hodge N6AN with about 500 QSOs; the Gold to Stan Sander N6MP with 400 Qs; Silver to Mark Seigel W6MES with 300 Qs. The Bronze is shared by David Ockun N2JNR and Eric Farrow W9EO who each made nearly 200 QSOs.

At the GOTA station, over 60% of the people who sat down in front of our radios chose to operate. Most of them made fewer than ten contacts each, but likely the first HF QSOs of their lives. Contemplate the impact! For this Stan Tahara KR6CV and the SPARC GOTA crew win our Grammy award, The Elmer.

A score of non-contest operators Got On The Air. There was often standing room only at the GOTA station, W6SPR, as folk were lined up to make a QSO. Operators who had scheduled time in advance were yielding their time slots to kids who were hot to qualify for the Radio merit badge. Stalwart Michele KC6FSP kept the station running through the wee hours, becoming one of three GOTA operators to make twenty or more contacts. The other two high scorers aren’t even hams… yet. They all kept the GOTA coaches busy serving as control operators. Those coaches, led by Stan KR6CV of SPARC, mentored operations for the full 24 hours.

When the dust settled, 175 contacts were in the GOTA log and 20 participant operators had had a fine introduction to HF, having worked 24 states under the watchful eye of a mentor coach. N6LL declared it was the finest GOTA scrimmage he had ever seen. But then a yellow flag was found on the playing field. Illegal motion in the backfield, they said. We can’t count their score, they said. Woe unto us who have not read the rules. Rules? Rules. Thirteen pages of Rules! And another 15 pages of explanatory Q&A. Upon re-read- ing the rules… again… on the morning after, so to speak, Eagle Eyes discovered that GOTA Coaches are not allowed to do the logging for GOTA participants. Woe is us. It seemed innocuous at the time. And so we do not have a GOTA score. Instead, W6SPR will have its own entry in the listings.

We remain proud of our fine GOTA crew and of the camaraderie and public outreach they provided. You just wait ‘till next year. We can hardly wait !

Jim Mar AA6QI, Field Day chairperson, writes:

Thanks to our SPARC team members, our GOTA station remained on the air operating on HF for the full 24 hours, making 175 contacts. Unfortunately, none of those contacts count towards our score because our GOTA station didn’t strictly adhere to the exacting (and very complex!) GOTA station operating requirements in the ARRL FD Rules. This is clearly my fault as Field Day Chair for not fully understanding these rules myself so that I could ensure that the GOTA team also fully understood what those rules were. Specifically, each GOTA Operator must transmit, receive, log and ad- just the equipment themselves, no one else can do any of that for them. Coaches can only advise the GOTA operators and are not allowed to do any part of what the GOTA Operator must do. Additionally, the GOTA station records must clearly show which contacts go with which GOTA operators and who the Coach was for all times that the GOTA station was in use. While a log was kept, it did not contain enough information to match all of the contacts logged into the computer log with the operators who made them. Thus, we were left with the tough decision of disallowing all of the GOTA contacts. Still, with all of the youth and new operators who made con- tacts on the GOTA station, this was a really OUTSTANDING public outreach activity by the SPARC team that will earn us dividends in the future. We’ll do better with our rule compliance next year!

Thanks to everyone who helped make this year’s Field Day such a fun and productive event!