October 2020 Meeting: Winlink EmComm Tools

Our October meeting featured not only a presentation on antenna analyzing tools by Allen Wolff KC7O, but also Jeff Liter W2JCL discussing how to use Winlink during emergencies.

Jeff illustrated six Winlink templates that could be useful in an emergency:

  • South Pasadena Disaster Information Report
  • USGS Did You Feel It? Report
  • ARRL Radiogram
  • GPS/APRS Position Report
  • SMS Text Message
  • Severe Weather Report

Jeff created the South Pasadena-specific form himself and has made it available to all SPARC members.

Click here to download a zip file containing the templates for the SouthPas Disaster Information Report, the ARES LAX Quick Check-In form, and the SMS Text Message template.

Once downloaded and unzipped, install the templates in the following Windows directory:
C:\RMS Express\Global Folders\Templates

Click here to download Jeff’s full presentation (1.5 Mb PDF).

October 2020 Meeting: Analyze This

At this month’s Zoom meeting, Allen Wolff, KC7O presented “Pizza Pan Antenna Test Fixture, VSWR Bridges & NanoVNA.” He explained the differences between SWR bridges, antenna analyzers, network analyzers and the NanoVNA (vector network analyzer). He also illustrated how a humble pizza pan can be used to help test the characteristics of an antenna.

Click here to download Allen’s presentation (5.5 Mb PDF).

August 2020 Meeting: The Case for Winlink

SPARC’s monthly meeting was held on August 5 via Zoom and featured a presentation by Jeff Liter, W2JCL entitled “The Case for Winlink.” Everyone in attendance was familiar with the basics of Winlink, so Jeff took time to cover some lesser-known features. One such feature is a catalog request, which can return information like a propagation report or weather forecast. The below video from San Diego ARES illustrates how to perform a catalog request.

Jeff also discussed how to send an SMS text message via Winlink. You can send a short email that will appear as a text message if you know your contact’s phone number and their carrier’s email-to-text address. This article from Lifehacker lists the email-to-text addresses of most major phone carriers.

Click the title page below to download Jeff’s presentation as a PDF.

The lastest versions of the software mentioned in Jeff’s presentation (as of 08/05/20) are listed here:

Winlink RMS Express – version 1.5.30.0
Soundmodem – version 1.05
VARA FM – version 3.1.1
VARA HF – version 4.0.4

If you’re new to Winlink, Jeff’s presentation is the perfect place to start. Then, check out this introduction from 2017 and download the Winlink Book of Knowledge FAQ, which has all the information you need.

Another great resource is this recent video hosted by Oliver Dully, K6OLI who is the coordinator of our local ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Service) section, LAX Northeast. Oliver explains how ARES uses Winlink for emergency communications:

Here’s another video introduction as described in the July ARRL ARES newsletter. On June 6, 2020, Phil Sherrod, W4PHS, a Winlink developer, gave an excellent presentation on Winlink and how to use it. A Zoom audience of five hundred saw the Winlink presentation.

Finally, there has been a lot of excitement in the Winlink user community over a recent addition to the program: a way to submit data directly to the U.S. Geological Survey’s “Did You Feel It?” system. Again quoting the ARES newsletter…

On July 9, the ARES/Section Emergency Coordinators … hosted an excellent Zoom presentation on the radio amateur’s role in the United States Geological Survey (USGS) Did You Feel It (DYFI) reporting system. The speaker was Oliver Dully, K6OLI, who captured the audience of some 67 coordinators across the country with his galvanizing presentation.

Jeff W2JCL will discuss the development and use of the “Did You Feel It?” form in more detail at an upcoming SPARC meeting.

June 2020 Meeting: Options for Field Day

SPARC held its first-ever online monthly meeting on June 3, 2020. Until further notice, monthly meetings will be held via online conference systems like Zoom and Google Meet.

Our topic was how to prepare for Field Day 2020. If you haven’t already, mark your calendar for June 27 and 28.

Social-distancing measures prevent us from joining our friends from other local clubs for a joint Field Day operation as in years past. But Field Day can still be an exciting and rewarding opportunity to get on the air. The ARRL has made a rule change for 2020 that will let individual operators “associate” with a club and have their individual scores printed together in QST magazine. The scores will not be totaled; it’s merely a show of club spirit. (Note that if you choose this option, you should associate with “South Pasadena Amateur Radio Club” as opposed to “SPARC” because there are probably dozens of clubs with that acroynm across the country. There’s even another SPARC in South Pas!)

Below is a presentation from the meeting with more detail. As the presentation states, reading it is no substitute for reading the full Field Day rules published by the ARRL. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to email contest@southpasradio.org for help. We’re eager to have as many members as possible participate. Hope to hear you on the air!

Click here to download the presentation (282 KB).

Monthly Meetings Temporarily Suspended

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, SPARC is temporarily suspending monthly in-person meetings. This is part of a community-based effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Please note that our regular meeting location, the Emergency Operations Center at the South Pasadena Fire Department, will not be accessible to the public.

Effective Monday, March 16, all city facilities will be temporarily closed to members of the public except for public meetings of the City Council, the Cultural Heritage Commission, Planning Commission and Design Review Board, which will continue to meet to ensure the approval of projects move forward as required by law.

City of South Pasadena

We will continue to hold our weekly on-air nets on Wednesday nights at 7:30 pm. We will announce any additional club activities (on-air or online) via email and this website.

Click here for more information on the city’s response to COVID-19.

Follow the LA County Public Health Department on Twitter.

Oliver Dully, K6OLI, District Emergency Coordinator for ARES LAX Northeast, suggests the following activities for radio operators looking to sharpen their skills while “social distancing”:

– Take FEMA online courses 
– Complete the ARRL’s online introduction to emergency communication, EC-001 
– Use Winlink more regularly
– Improve your map reading skills: https://www.maptools.com/videos and https://www.maptools.com/tutorials
– Play with HF

On behalf of SPARC, stay safe and healthy, everyone!

March Meeting Wrap-Up: All About 220

SPARC welcomed ARRL LAX Section Manager Diana Feinberg AI6DF to our monthly meeting on March 4. Diana spoke about recent leadership changes at ARRL headquarters and gave a presentation about the state of “220,” a lesser-used VHF band. Our amateur privleges on the band are between 222 MHz and 225 MHz, but we refer to the band colloquially as 220.

One of the radios discussed in the presentation.

Diana has graciously offered to share the presentation on our site. It can be downloaded here (581 kb PDF).

Presentation on the 220 Band by Diana Feinberg AI6DF
Click to download the presentation.

SPARC thanks Diana for her expertise and perspective. Several attendees left the meeting inspired to operate on 220 more often.

February 2020 Meeting: Adventures in FT8

At our February 2020 meeting, Frank O’Donnell, K6FOD presented “Adventures in FT8,” an introduction to the popular digital mode. Frank received his technician and general ham licenses two years ago, and within nine months earned the ARRL’s DXCC award for verifying contacts with 100 countries — all on FT8.

In 2019, he received the Southern California DX Club’s Clipperton Award for newcomer of the year. He has verified 143 countries, has earned Worked All States certificates on two bands, and he is completing a third, also using FT8. Currently, he is experimenting with digital modes on the new 630-meter band below the AM broadcast band.

A selection of QSL cards Frank has received.

The following are links that Frank discussed during his presentation.

WSJT-X Homepage
In order to use FT8, you must install WSJT-X on a computer and set up your radio to be controlled by the computer. WSJT-X was written by Joe Taylor, K1JT. It runs on Windows, Mac OS and Linux (including on a Raspberry Pi).

WSJTX@groups.io
An active user community that discusses WSJT-X.

Frank explains all the fields in WSJT-X.

Maidenhead Grid Square Locator Map
You’ll need to know your grid square when setting up WSTJ-X.

Time.is and Meinberg NTP Software Downloads
These are tools to make sure your computer’s internal clock is accurate. If your clock is off by more than one second, you will not be able to decode incoming FT8 signals correctly.

The Daily DX Newsletter and ARRL DX Bulletin
Two useful emails covering propagation conditions.

PSK Info: Digimode Automatic Propagation Reporter
A map of beacons and signal reports in near real-time. Useful for seeing who can receive your FT8 signal.

eQSL and Club Log
Two sites for confirming your contacts.

Our next meeting will take place Wednesday, March 4 at 7:30 pm in the South Pasadena Fire Department EOC at 817 Mound Ave. Our guest will be ARRL Los Angeles Section Manager Diana Feinberg, AI6DF, speaking about the 220 MHz band.

Frank K6FOD will return in April to demonstrate FT8 with a portable station. Hope to see you there. 

January 2020 Meeting Wrap-up

SPARC held its first monthly meeting of 2020 on January 8. In February, we will resume our normal schedule of meeting on the first Wednesday of the month (7:30 pm at the SP Fire Department, 817 Mound Avenue).

Newly-elected SPARC President Rick Besocke, KI6ZKM led a roundtable discussion of members’ radio goals for the year. Rick shared his experience taking a SOTA hike on Barber Benchmark in the Mojave National Preserve during which he made a contact in Washington State on 20m.

Some housekeeping matters followed. It’s time to pay dues for 2020. Dues remain $20 per household and can be paid via cash, check or PayPal. If your contact information has changed, please fill out a new membership form and email it treasurer@southpasradio.org.

We have six SPARC T-shirts left, all in size XL. Email treasurer@southpasradio.org to purchase one. We will print another run in more sizes as needed.

Bob Vanderwall, WB6YJJ is developing a training schedule to teach club members how to run net control from the Emergency Operations Center using the city’s new Kenwood D710GA. Full details to follow. Our goal is to expand the number of net control operators and get all of them comfortable with the Kenwood.

SPARC’s executive board has accepted the Pasadena Radio Club’s invitation to once again manage a Get on the Air (GOTA) station at Field Day. The dates this year are June 27-28.

Next, we watched the trailer for A High and Awful Price, a new documentary about the destruction of Paradise, CA during the Camp Fire of 2018. Several members who have seen the documentary urged everyone in attendance to watch it. What happened in Paradise is a sobering reminder of how quickly a disaster can overwhelm a community and how emergency plans must be flexible.

We concluded by announcing some upcoming volunteer opportunities:

Eliot Science Night — The Eliot Arts Magnet Academy Middle School in Altadena will host its annual Science, Technology, Engineering, Environment and Health Night on January 24. Both ALERT and PRC will have a presence. Email website@southpasradio.org for more information.

Firecracker Run/Ride — Chinatown’s annual run and bike ride event takes place Feburary 15-16. The 40-mile bike route cuts through the San Gabriel Valley and Pasadena. Radio operators are needed for follow vehicles and net control. Email volunteers@firecracker10k.org.

LA Marathon — This year’s Los Angeles Marathon takes place March 8. If you’d like to help with communications, click here then click the blue “Sign Up To Volunteer” box, and in the next screen click Volunteer Shift “G1- Radio Operators” and fill out the form. Follow-up information will come from Greg Powell, KD6AIS, who is the Marathon’s amateur radio coordinator.

Hope to hear you on the air or see you at our February meeting.

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)