May 2022 Meeting: Lessons from Baker to Vegas

At our May 4 membership meeting, Jeff Liter, W2JCL, presented a recap of ARES LAX Northeast’s deployment to the annual Baker to Vegas relay race. Each year, a dedicated team of volunteer operators from Northeast maintains a checkpoint along the race route. Below are a few of the pictures that Jeff shared.

The lunar landscape of the Baker to Vegas race.
A portable mesh kit for WiFi speed on the go.
This station monitors activity via cameras on the mesh network.
Robert, K6YZF, operates at Stage 8 of the race.
Baker to Vegas has a fun, positive energy despite (or maybe because of!) the difficult conditions.
The ARES LAX Northeast team takes a meal break.
The camp site at night.

April 2022 Meeting: The History of TELCO

On Wednesday, April 6, SPARC welcomed Bill Westphal, WB6YPF, the trustee of one of our area’s most important ham radio resources, the TELCO repeater in Pasadena.

TELCO, W6MPH, was originally installed by the amateur radio club of the Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company (hence the name). Bill joined the phone company right out of high school in 1969, and he has been carefully maintaining the repeater since 1992. In 2017, the Pasadena Radio Club stepped forward to contribute funds for the repeater’s continued operation. PacTel may be gone, but the legacy of its radio club is in good hands.

Bill gave a brief history of repairs and upgrades he has made to TELCO over the years. The most important recent repair to TELCO had nothing to do with the repeater itself – a microwave antenna located on the same roof as TELCO was leaking signal and causing interference. After grounding the offending equipment, the noise is gone and TELCO sounds great once again. Bill also revealed the origin of the station identification, “Welcome to the D Light Full W6MPH repeater.” The digital ID system doesn’t include the word “delightful,” so Bill programed it to say the word phonetically. For a time, Bill connected a PC to the repeater that would read “A Visit from St. Nicholas” on Christmas Eve.

TELCO’s current configuration. Its output power is 30 Watts. The small grey box with the dial is an exciter driver built by Allen Wolff KC7O.
Two rows of duplexers separate the input frequency (bottom) from the output frequency (top).

Bill recommends that anyone looking for more information on repeaters should check out the Repeater Builders web site and their associated Groups.io page.

SPARC thanks Bill for the evening of local radio history and for his many years of service to the ham community.

March 2022 Meeting: The Hunt Is On

On Wednesday, March 2, SPARC welcomed Scott Bovitz, N6MI and Bill Hacker, WB6MGT as they presented “Transmitter Hunting: How to Drive Yourself Crazy, Hunt Sometimes-Hidden Signals and Still Have Fun on a Weekend!”

Both Scott and Bill have been licensed operators since 1969, and of all the aspects of the hobby, t-hunting is the one they are most passionate about. Scott explained that the best way to think of t-hunting (also known as fox hunting) is “electronic hide and seek.” Scott and Bill have been on day-long hunts that have taken them throughout Southern California, into Arizona and Nevada, and as far as St. George, Utah. The image above shows a gathering of t-hunters earlier this year in Palm Springs.

A tiny transmitter, or “fox box,” made from an Altoids tin. This model of transmitter is a fun DIY project and the perfect size for a t-hunt in a park.

All it takes to get started in t-hunting is a handheld and, ideally, a four-element Yagi antenna. Scott’s mobile station is far more elaborate, based on an Icom 7100 and a sturdy antenna mast that slides in through the roof of his car. Hidden transmitters broadcast a beacon signal on 146.565 simplex, the nationally-coordinated t-hunt frequency. Typically, when a hunter finds the transmitter, there is a sign-in sheet for logging call signs, mileage driven, and the time. There are usually no prizes, just bragging rights.

Here are a few links that Scott shared for those who’d like to explore t-hunting:

Southern California Transmitter Hunters (greater LA)
Southern California Transmitter Hunters (San Diego area)
Homing In, a site maintained by Joe Moell, K0OV
Will Burt, a commercial source for industrial-grade masts
Byonics, manufacturers of pre-built transmitters

Scott on the cover of 73 magazine in 1988

SPARC thanks Scott and Bill for a funny and inspiring evening. Happy hunting!

February 2022 Meeting: Vital First Aid Lessons

At our February 2022 monthly membership meeting, SPARC welcomed a fixture of the local ham community, Nancee Darling, K8NBD. Nancee is an active member of several local groups including ARESLAX Northeast and ALERT. She gave an important presentation on Stop the Bleed, a program from the American College of Surgeons that teaches how to stop bleeding in a severely injured person. Nancee is a certified STB instructor, and she advocates that everyone should learning how to provide assistance in an emergency. Stop the Bleed is “a skill that can be utilized with your family, in your neighborhood or after that horrific traffic accident. You will enhance your ability and confidence to recognize life-threatening bleeding and intervene effectively. The person next to a bleeding victim may be the one who’s most likely to save him or her or yourself.”

Nancee followed up a few days later with more detail on liability concerns about intervening when someone is injured. “While Good Samaritan laws are different between jurisdictions,” she explained, “most of them share three common elements. They are that the helper is protected from liability if:

They obtain the permission of an ill or injured victim to render aid, when possible.
They provide care in an appropriate and non-reckless manner.
They provide care due to the situation being an emergency, and trained help has not arrived yet.”

Below is a video Nancee recommends on how to use a tourniquet.

SPARC thanks Nancee for sharing this practical and potentially life-saving information.

August 2021 Meeting: Raspberry Pi in the Shack

At our August monthly membership meeting — yes, six months ago, sorry — SPARC welcomed Jason Oleham, KM4ACK, the creator of Build-a-Pi. If you’re thinking about using a Raspberry Pi as your shack computer, Jason’s Build-a-Pi script can install many of the most popular ham radio apps and utilities automatically. Jason’s YouTube channel is a great source of information about Raspberry Pi, field operations, EmComm and digital modes. SPARC thanks Jason for speaking with us and for sharing his work with the entire ham community!

July 2021 Meeting: Propagation and Solar Cycle 25

At our July monthly membership meeting, SPARC welcomed Carl Luetzelschwab K9LA, an expert on the science of radio propagation. Professionally, Carl worked for forty-one years as an RF design engineer, and in his spare time he was a columnist for WorldRadio (and later CQ) beginning in 1997. He continues to write a monthly column on radio topics at his personal website. His presentation to our July meeting is linked below (2 MB PDF). SPARC thanks Carl for speaking with us and for his continued devotion to the hobby!

Click here to view (2 MB PDF)

June 2021 Meeting: Options for Field Day 2021

At our June monthly membership meeting, John Aboud, KK6ZVQ presented an overview of Field Day rules. This is the second year that the ARRL has modified Field Day rules to accommodate social distancing. You can download the presentation here (445 KB PDF). He also discussed two online tools that could make a socially-distanced Field Day more fun.

  1. Discord
    Discord is a chat and video streaming app much like Zoom. But unlike Zoom, which was designed for business use, Discord was designed by and for video gamers, so it has extra features that are useful for radio contesting. For example, rather than a specific, time-limited Zoom meeting, Discord “servers” are up and running at all times. Members of that server can log in and log out as they please and talk to whomever else is logged in at the time. Also, many people can share their screens simultaneously and stream their activity. You could share a view of your N3FJP screen or GridTracker or just your face. And you can selectively mute any of these streams — it would be overwhelming to hear all of them at once. If you’d like to join the SPARC Discord server, use the Contact Us page to request access.
  1. ContestOnlineScore.com
    ContestOnlineScore.com is what the URL implies, an online scoreboard for monitoring a particular contest. Once you create your account, you can affiliate with a club and/or a contest team. You configure your logging program (N3FJP, N1MM+, etc.) to share your score with the site. To affiliate with SPARC, you can select “South Pasadena Amateur Radio Club” from the pull-down menu of clubs. Click here for information on how to configure your logger to post the scores.

This year Field Day will start at 11:00 a.m. Pacific time (1800 UTC) on Saturday, June 26 and end on Sunday, June 27 at 1:59 p.m. (2059 UTC). SPARC encourages everyone to get out, make some contacts and have fun!

May 2021 Meeting: Using PinPoint APRS

SPARC welcomed Frank Watervoort, AB0WV, to its May 5, 2021 membership meeting. Frank is the developer of PinPoint APRS, a Windows client for the automatic packet reporting system. PinPoint APRS has been adopted by our local ARES LAX Northeast as a useful tool for maintaining situational awareness and sharing location information.

Frank explained the hardware requirements for using APRS with PinPoint or other software clients like APRSDroid. Devices manufactured by Kantronics, Byonics, and MobilinkD can bridge your computer or smartphone and your radio to send and receive APRS data. Certain radios, like the Kenwood D700 series, have APRS decoders built-in.

A shout out to SPARC in the position comment
The user interface of PinPoint APRS

Frank gave a detailed tour of PinPoint’s capabilities and encouraged everyone to explore APRS through such activities as public safety exercises and SOTA activations.

SPARC thanks Frank for his time and effort in maintaining this excellent program.

How APRS works

March 2021 Meeting: All About DARN

Forty-six members and guests attended to hear a presentation on DARN by Dick McKay, K6VGP, and Mike Lee, K6MJU. DARN stands for the Disaster Amateur Radio Network. It’s an impressive system of linked repeaters with coverage all over our region. K6VGP started the system back in 1959, but today it features the latest technologies such as IRLP, EchoLink, and AllStar. The technical aspects of maintaining the system largely fall to K6MJU.

You can listen live to DARN via Broadcastify. When you feel ready to add to the discussion, find the nearest repeater and join a net.

Managing such a capable network is expensive, and DARN depends on memberships to keep everything running. Different membership tiers offer privileges designed for the occasional visitor all the way up to the power user.

SPARC thanks Dick, Mike and all the members of DARN for providing this vital public service to Southern California.

DARN repeater sites