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The articles and information provided here are for expanding the amateur radio and communications hobby experience. They are offered as one voice in many and not of a single over all authority. If you have a recommendation to be added, please contact the website administrator (callsign at

4/2/10 - ARRL, American Red Cross, MOU - A Positive Step Forward

When the American Red Cross (ARC) implemented the policy of having both background and credit checks for everyone who volunteers to support them, I personally applied the brakes on any volunteer support to that agency. My reasoning was that as a volunteer emergency communicator operating under the umbrella of ARES or RACES, should not be subject to an external agency’s internal requirements to gain access to my personal information. With today’s challenges in keeping personal information safe, I can’t say with confidence, that volunteers representing the different chapters of the ARC’s will apply the same level of caution as I do.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) agreed upon by the ARRL takes a positive step forward in protecting personal information by waiving the requirements for amateur radio emergency communicators to have a credit check. For individuals who may not want to be directly associated with the ARC, this is a positive step forward allowing for mutual aid as supporting communicators.

As for the requirement for background checks, this still has sticky undertones. Even as a volunteer communicator you must have this done as a prerequisite to supporting this agency. I understand the reasoning for this policy as it was driven by those who abused their volunteer positions. What hasn’t been provided for is the definition of what qualifies for a background check. The ARC will do this for you free of charge, but you run the personal risk of your personal information being compromised by those who do not share your concerns for privacy (Remembering that you are turning this over to a volunteer). So for those of us who opt for a alternative approach, we do not have a definition of what can used in lieu of the ARC check.

Here in Skagit County, we have Department of Emergency Management (DEM) ID cards. You can only get one of these from completing a background check. The question that comes forth is…

Do this allow me to serve as a volunteer communicator in support of the ARC here in Skagit County?

Do this allow me to serve as a volunteer communicator in support of the ARC anywhere in Washington State? How about expanding this to… The State of Oregon?

What prompts me to ask these questions are due to not knowing if the Official Red Cross Volunteer, at the place of service, will have the resources to confirm whether any background check document is factual or not. How can he or she verify that my DEM Card fulfills the prerequisite requirement? This hole in process can be a show stopper for the well meaning radio communicator. It also can serve as an embarrassing scenario for both the ARC Representative and Radio Operator if not handled properly.

As we move forward as volunteer emergency communicators, we have some additional challenges to consider while applying our art to external agencies.

The American Red Cross is a premier provider of health and human services. They are second to none in supporting those in need during and after disaster strikes. I encourage you to consider volunteering your services to agencies like the ARC. But I also ask you to exercise caution on who you entrust your personal information to. Once compromised, the expense of recovery will over shadow the enjoyment of community service and hobby.


6/16/10 - Al K7IEY... Silent Key

I'm sadden to announce that we have lost a leader here in the Amateur Radio Community. Al Norton, K7IEY passed on June 15,2010 at 10:30 pm. His sudden down turn in health was due to a very aggressive cancer.
Al was instrumental in providing leadership and guidance to Whatcom County hams and was the spear head for the many years of the MBARC Electronics swap meet and flea market.

3/26/10 - Radio Amateurs of Skagit County make it in the news...

Sometimes it is nice to see write ups about amateur radio by non-hams. The link below is a recent article written by the Skagit Valley Herald.

3/26/10 - Local Ham Getting Involved

I was sent this a couple of days ago and thought I'd share it on the site.

When we have an opportunity to inspire others, we should seize the moment. There are too many times we pass on an opportunity to engage others or even provide something to get them inspired. I have to admit that I am guilty in this also.

Bob (K7MXE) went that extra step at a local ham radio club meeting. He built and brought in a home brewed QRP rig for a club raffle. It caught the attention of the members to the point of drawing in $55.00 raffle proceeds. Wow! Way to go Bob! This small token engaged the membership. />

Thank you for sharing this!

12/30/09 - Travelling with Amateur Radio

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Happy Holidays!

Travelling can provide some additional challenges especially with the increase of airport securities. So instead of carrying my HT with me, I had decided to pack it away while in transit. Now stripped of my RF umbilical cord I'm resorting to alternative means to get that ham radio fix.

First thing is first! I booted up Xastir and relocated myself at SeaTac airport on the map. Then checked into a local seattle repeater (WA7HJR/R on 444.65) using Echolink under Wine. And finally, I went to an online SDR receiver site to listen in on HF.
This is actually pretty cool as I started to attract attention as I held a quick QSO using Echolink. Who said you can't take the hobby with you?

Now granted, this isn't "pure" amateur radio. After all, I'm not directly using RF for my listening and communicating. But with that said, it was much more fun than staring at the News Networks repeating each story dozens of times.

After a couple hour flight, I arrived at a hotel in Brisbane, CA. It's time to break out the VX-8 handi-talkie. Setting it up for 144.39 @ 1200bd, I did a test run with it from here to San Francisco and back. Running at 5 Watts without an out door antenna does create some challenges but over all I was happy that was being tracked.

I have attached a desktop captures of my laptop operating from the hotel. I'm using Ubuntu Linux V9.10x64 as the operating system. The programs diplayed and running are Firefox for the WebSDR (Software Defined Radios with web access), Pidgin (instant messenger client), Xastir (APRS Client through the Internet), and EchoLink (Windows program ran under Wine). I feel the need throw out a mischievous jab.. All the above software's including the OS is free! And all less the Echolink client are open sourced and our continuously updated with new features and capabilities.

As I travelled up and down the California coast, I found that APRS coverage was fairly good. It was interesting to see that 5 Watts and and HT antenna was able to hand shake with the digipeaters in the area. This along with a couple of QSO's on 70cm and 2Mtrs provided the RF fix needed. A word of caution about operating in the unfamiliar area. Please be careful operating if your not used to the roads and driving habits of the locals. I found it challenging to drive in the metro areas as there isn't a lot of patients for slow or lost drivers .

I have one notable in this trip that I thought was really cool. I ran into a couple of young women at a overlook along the "17 Mile drive" near Carmel, CA. They had a 3 element VHF Yagi and a beacon receiver tracking tagged sea otters as they moved around there habitat. They were using simple direction finding techniques to locate the tags. I have to admit that it sparked fond memories of days past where I participated in "bunny and/or fox hunts of hidden transmitters!

We know that in today's world, there will be challenges to over come when travelling with amateur radio. My suggestion is to contact the airline that your flying with to see what can be currectly carried aboard or has to be packed in cargo. This doesn't mean we can't take our hobby with. It does mean that we can be good ambassadors to our hobby and take a proactive step forward in being informed.

Safe journey on your travels.....

12/23/09 - Cellphone Ban in British Columbia, CA

I picked this up off the Pacific Northwest VHF reflector posted by Gabor (VE7DXG).

For those of you travelling into BC, be aware of the new laws being enacted on January 1, 2010. There are exclusions for Emergency Responders and Amateur Radio Operators but it appears to effective for those who are licensed in Canada. I didn't read any provisions for US licensed hams visiting the Province.

I have asked the question and am awaiting a reply from the ARRL. Meanwhile, I'm attaching the file and the link to download it directly from the site.

NOTE: Received note from the ARRL and it appears that the bilateral agreement has no bearing on both the Washington State and British Columbia laws. If you don't have a valid licence issued by the country your operating in, you are not extended the exemption for that country.

11/7/09 - In Memory of KD7NM (Robert Donnell)

This article is written in memory of Bob Donnell (KD7NM). With sudden events, it has been difficult to capture how Bob influenced our local community. Bob's life revolved around community and public service with willingness to donate technical expertise and personal time. His love of all things digital and sense of community were truly inspirational and in tradition of the spirit of amateur radio. Notes and memories collected below were gathered at the Wetnet Brunch on 11/4/09.

NOTE: This page is under edit as I compile reflections and thoughts. Please feel free to Email me direct or log into this site and add addition comments, thoughts and reflections.

For a photo galley capturing years of friendship and service, please visit
"Memories in Time... Bob Donnell (KD7NM) SK".

Present were members of Bob's family. Ham operators present were:


In total, there were in excess of 35 individuals gathered to share in Bob's memories, a tribute to his selfless contributions.

Many have reflected that Bob was the technical thread that has helped keep this and other groups together. His ability to interface and willingness to lend a hand on short notice was one of his core attributes. "Always there in time of need". We are at Big Daddy's in Woodinville, WA. This location is where Bob comes to help set-up evening recordings of groups on stage. It is another facet of him that many didn't know of.

Happy to share his wealth of knowledge and a key leader in the early packet radio net development in the early mid-1980's.

On the beach at Seaside, Bob provided many with life long memories. One of which being noted for his famous "Mudslide" drinks which became the standard.

A love life and willingness to share in it. Engaged youth while sharing his passion for technologies.

Mild mannered and very considerate. A very special friend.

Always had a good answer to difficult questions. A right hand man in the community, as in public service events like the American Lung Association Bike-A-Thon (from Seattle to San Diego) and the MS 150.

Anything Bob took on as a project, he went the extra mile to make sure it was completed right the first time. Quick witted and true to his word.

Bob served as the 44.24.XX.XX domain coordinator. For many here in the digital community, he was our mentor into programs like NOS and JNOS and TCP/IP technologies.

Active on the 146.97 Repeater in the mid-1970's. Instigator of the Wetnet Field Day events and always donated his room at Seaside, OR as the gathering place for . Was the instigator of having Field Day at N7RIG's house.

Good/bad was if you asked Bob a technical question you would get a answer that went well over most peoples head.

Was involved with assembling and installing repeaters systems around the Puget Sound. Helped get youth involved in Amateur Radio.

Bob was a "Can-Do" guy. If one gives a single sentence answer, Bob could come back with a 3 paragraph detailed wrap up.

Submitted by Doug (K7IP)

*** My Friend...***

2009 Northwest APRS Summer Gathering

Welcome to the information page for the 2009 NWAPRS Summer Gathering at Valley Camp in North Bend, WA.

Talk in frequency is 146.52, alternate on APRS Voice Alert 144.39 t100.

The tentative schedule is as follows:

  Saturday, September 12, 2009       Sunday, September 13, 2009    
Dave K7GPS Breakfast 0630   Dave K7GPS Breakfast 0630  
Herb KB7UVC APRS 101 0800   Show and Tell and Project Troubleshooting Day 0800  
Bob K7OFT UHF APRS, Propagation 0900   0900  
John  K7VE D-Star 1000   1000  
Bill WA7NWP APRS 3.0 1100   1100  
Lunch   1200   Lunch   1200  
Ken N7IPB WiFi Routers, OpenWRT, and embedded Linux, Oh MY! 1300   Everyone left General Discussion 1300  
Carl KD7ZUZ Washington Aerospace Club Rocketry APRS Tracking 1400     1400  
Larry N7BCP SDR - Flex 3000 Intro and Demo 1500     1500  
Barry KS7DX 4K0DX Russian Drift Ice Station Operation 1988-89 1600   1600  

For event directions, please visit the site calendar at

Contact to request an alternate time or to volunteer a presentation

8/13/09 - changes and The Evolution E-mail Client

I know this is off topic from the typical Amateur Radio and Communications topics. But since I hadn't seen this posted anywhere, I thought I throw this out for others to use.

Many of us use Ubuntu Linux as our Operating System (OS) of choice. And with Gnome being the default Desktop many use Evolution as our E-mail client. For the most part, this works perfectly find for my daily usages from different accounts.
Now comes the change from Verizon. They are in the process of changing over the default SMTP mail port from “25” to “587”. This is to help deduce unauthorized usage of their networks for spamming and increase securing (through obscurity) for the subscribing client.
Now to the informed, this is at best a short term solution to what is a global problem. It is like placing a piece of tape on a leaking balloon.... Slowing down the escaping air but not fixing it. But with that said, they are at least trying.
I went to their pages and found some very basic information that covered Outlook and Outlook Express mail clients. But I also found that though the mentioned other mail clients, the links were broken going to them. And there was nothing on Evolution which is used by a mass majority of Ubuntu users. In addition, I didn't find a "Menu Option" to select these changes. So the below is how I addressed the upcoming from
So Lets step through this quickly so you don't loose your email service from this ISP!
1.Lets open Evolution. Please refer to the three attached images
2.On the top menu bar... Select “Edit” then “Preferences”
3.With the Evolution Preferences window open, select your Verizon account, then the “Edit” button on the right.
4.You will have your Account Editor window displaying. Now select the “Sending Email” tab.
5.Under server configuration, change this to “” (Without the quotes).
6.Select OK and close out the rest of the windows.
7.Now this isn't mandatory, but I always close the program and restart it fresh to make sure all the changes take place.
8.Send yourself an e-mail. If this goes through, your client should be ready to go!

I hope this helps you out as changes like this take place.

7/22/09 - Mountaintopping Beginnings

I've caught the VHF mountaintopping bug big time. This all started with a QST article a couple of years ago about an EME contact that was accidentally made by a low power/small antenna station in Nevada with K1JT's wsjt software. That morphed into an episode with weak signal meteor scatter (before my relocation back to paradise), and several unsatisfactory attempts to do EME on my own. It was probably inevitable given that I'm something of a nut for Field Day and contesting too.

Mountaintopping is a logical extension of all of the above (well, maybe NOT so good for EME...). After the usual year of procrastination, I finally broke down and made the effort to get SOMETHING going that I could drag up to a high spot and make some noise with. Hence the Ranger acquisition. Now, the Ranger is a very basic 6 meter radio. It is simple and runs enough power (100 watts) to make a decent rover station. It does have a couple of drawbacks. I'm not really happy with the receiver sensitivity, but I think putting an internal pre-amp in it will help that. We'll see.. The other minor problem with it for meteor scatter is that there's no way to turn off the RIT without tinkering in the guts. If anyone out there has a schematic for the RCI 5054DX100, I'd sure like to buy, beg, or borrow a copy for a bit. I'm guessing that this thing is a clone of the Ranger 10/12 meter radio, which there IS some documentation on, but without the actual drawing it's hard to tell.

The first outing was this year's June VHF QSO party. I managed to work about 2 hours of the contest, six was in pretty good shape, and had a lot of fun even if the score wasn't very good. The only band worked was six meters, with the 2 el moxon about 13 feet up, and the whole show powered from the vehicle battery. The logging laptop (N3FJP logging software) was powered with a small 100 watt inverter. Everything worked...sort of...there's a photo of the location in the album.

The real problem, aside from not wanting to run the Durango battery completely flat, was that the inverter/laptop charger combination made a hellacious racket when it was plugged in. That was not satisfactory at all. It was a good experience, though, and the next effort was a little bit better.

Last weekend (July 19), I went up Sauk Mt in CN98 to work the CQ WW VHF contest. There's a nice little pullout at about 1900' with good views to the SE, S, W and NW. I also bought a small two-stroke 1200w genny and took 2m along as well. Working on the generator the evening before the trip, it was illustrated clearly to RTFM!!!!! I poured a few oz of fuel in the tank and proceeded to exhaust myself trying to get this brand new beast to stay running. It would run for a few seconds, then die. Of course, when I went back and read the instructions during the recovery period, it said clearly, "FILL THE TANK". Duh.

With a full tank, the little one-cubic-foot 40 lb genny fired right up and ran. Go figure.

What a pleasant outing! What a gross VHF disappointment! I'm not sure yet whether six was just crummy, or the location is not that great, or if the Ranger is a tad deaf. 11 contacts and 4 grid squares in four hours wasn't so hot. Maybe there wasn't much activity for that particular contest. Let's not talk about 2 meters. The trusty Icom IC-251 did a good job even though I wasn't using anything but a whip. It heard repeaters fine. Just nobody out there working contest.

Positive aspects were that the generator was great, purred along as needed. The computer worked fine, and without the hash that the inverter generates, the only issues were other noise sources hearable from that location. I even heard a couple of stations on meteor burst and tropo on six on wsjt. Of course, Murphy was there, too. When I grabbed all the junk to toss in the car, I conveniently forgot to throw in the Signalink USB. So much for digital modes...the wsjt experience was from a direct connect from the rx audio to the laptop without an interface. I tried for a while to use audio coupling with the computer speakers and mic, but that sucked.

All in all, it was a good trip. The weather was as good as it can get...72 degrees, cloudless sky, and a slight breeze. The road is gravel all the way to the parking lot at the top, with some SERIOUS ruts in places. Doable with care in a sedan, better in a 4wd.

Improvement list:

Better operating position arrangements. This balancing radio on the console-sitting in the back seat thing isn't optimal.

Screen tent with a table/chair, or some internal mounting arrangement is going to be required to get serious about this.

Pictures will be/are in the album.

7/21/09 - Goodbye Walter

I'm just barely old enough to remember hearing Edward R. Murrow's news broadcasts in the early 50's. When I was growing up in South Lake Wobegon, MN, we were over a hundred miles from the nearest tv station, so radio was pretty much the only entertainment and I got hooked into short wave at an early age. Ed was always there on CBS, and his steady and reassuring voice seemed to say that despite the problems in the world, unbiased news reporting would give us the information we needed to get through to better times.

When a TV first appeared in my family's house, it was a big deal. The antenna perched on the roof and swung this way and that, searching (usually with unsatisfactory results) for KGLO in Mason City, Iowa, or WCCO, KSTP, WTCN, or KMSP from Minneapolis-St. Paul. Occasionally the sporadic E would give us images from other more exotic locations, but we primarily tried to make sense of the snowy signal from those stations. WCCO, the CBS affiliate, had the most stable signal, and the evening in the history teacher's home was never complete without the newscast at dinner time. We watched Ed Murrow's program, and I vaguely remember the days of the Army-McCarthy hearings in the very early 50's. But Ed was getting near retirement, and a new face had appeared on the CBS evening news...Walter Cronkite. He wasn't especially handsome or charismatic. But he was sincere, always prepared, and much like Ed Murrow, had a way of reassuring you that despite whatever unpleasantness might be going on in the world, he could help you understand and deal with it. And then came The Twentieth Century. A new form of reporting, the documentary, made it's debut with this fine program. Walter Cronkite was the host, and that Sunday afternoon program was soon the center of my entertainment world.

It still seems to me today that the 1960's were the most interesting and newsworthy time in the last century. Although the world had gone through two global wars, the 60's were really about the technological and political aftereffects of them. Walter was there for us. He was an enthusiast of the space program, a compassionate reporter of the tragedy of Viet Nam, a pillar for us during that horrible time when John Kennedy was killed, and a powerful voice in reporting the racial unrest and changes during the struggle of minorities for acceptance and equal rights.

Although he came to ham radio later in life, I always wished I could have had even a short qso with him to say 'thanks' for his familiarity and steadfastness. He unquestionably earned and richly deserved the title of most trusted man in America. I never got the chance to speak personally to him, but felt that I knew him as part of my family.

I suppose there is a human tendency to lionize celebrity, for good or bad. If ever anyone deserved elevation to American hero status though, it was Walter Cronkite. I have known for years that I would unashamedly weep at his inevitable passing. I think about the 50's and 60's more and more these days as I myself age. His voice has not graced the news hour for more than 20 years, but I still hear it whenever I think of those days..."And that's the way it is..."

Goodbye old friend. You will be missed.

7/21/09 - Echos of Apollo 40th anniversary of Apollo 11

While waiting for input from one of the design engineers on my work project, I've had the opportunity to listen to the NASA webcast of the entire audio stream from the Apollo 11 moon mission. The timing has been such that when I have gotten to work, the crew is in a rest period and the link is pretty quiet. But the thrill yesterday of hearing "The Eagle has landed" again was just as real as it was when I heard it on CBS 40 years ago. Thanks to the marvel that is the Internet, we get to relive a major piece of world history.

My daughter, 25 years old, was blase about it. Her world is about MTV, 25,000 channels of cable tv, Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace. She gives little thought to the fact that virtually all of the technology that improves her life so much is derived directly from the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo space programs. As we boomers age out of influence in society, the one thing we have unfortunately not left behind is that sense of mission that permeated America during those days. Yes, we were embroiled in Viet Nam, and that certainly had an impact on the space program. But the key element of it was competition to prove that the American system of politics and economics was vastly superior to Communism. Let's not forget, though, that despite the fact we were first to put men on the moon, the Soviets were VERY able opponents in the race. They had an impressive string of firsts in nearly every aspect of the space program except for the actual landing on the moon. Without that competition, could we have accomplished the moon landings?

Today, talk is about retiring the space shuttle and developing a moon colony by the middle of the second decade of the 21st century. One wonders if we can make that goal, given the lack of international competition and lack of national focus. The space program pays indirect benefits, exactly the same as investment in the education system does. These are economic times during which the terminally shortsighted demand a visible return on investment. I'm skeptical that NASA, or any government agency or national political figure for that matter, can marshal the same spirit of teamwork that got Neal Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Mike Collins to the moon on this day 40 years ago.

7/10/09 - Traveling into a new area? Visit a local APRS Map.

Now that I have started to travel again, what can I do with amateur radio?

The answer is easy. Fire up a web browser and look at a live APRS map! When I arrived into the St Louis, MO area, I didn't have a clue to what repeater to use or what simplex frequency was active with the locals. As many of you have found out on your own, calling on 146.52 or 446.0 doesn't always provide best results. In fact, in most cases all I get is dead air space. Hmmmm, that can be a story all to it's own!

I ran into this when I arrived and figured that I take a peek using my live APRS web pages as a baseline to start from. I just zoomed them out and pulled it over to St Louis area and zoomed back in.

What did I find?? A bunch of operators and a couple of "APRS Objects" that not only showed a local repeater (W0MA) but a Hamfest location that will be taking place in a week or so! Way Cool and a bonus to go! I would never of know about it without the use of APRS.
This doesn't mean you should go out and flood the local area with objects on APRS. Something like this may get you some attention that isn't always noted as positive. Network congestion plays a big factor and in the Pacific Northwest we have a lot of that. So if you decide to do this, consult a knowledgeable individual or group within your local area to see what would be acceptable.
By the way.... I was able to meet Erv (N0NOB) on that repeater I mentioned earlier who in turn invited me to a local ham club meeting. Now.... That is the spirit of Ham Radio!

6/25/09 - Solar LED Cap

OK.... So I'm partial to gadgets and gizmo's... But when I saw this, I can imagine a bunch of ham operators running around on an ARES/RACES/SAR mission. A ball cap with solar charged LED's built into the visor. This can be handy for activities that involve having both your hands tied up.
I found this listed on If you haven't been to this site, your missing out on what up and coming in the gadget word. when you have a few minutes, feed the geek in you and take a look at this fun site.....

6/15/09 - 145.190/R (N7GDE) Update

The Lyman Hill site is being worked on!
I received a nice status updated from Roger (W6TOZ)today. From the following, it appears that in a short period, we will have some additional work done on the repeater system.
"Day wireless believes that our antenna replacement work should begin in about two weeks - around the last week of June. I am going to move the 300-ft roll of 7/8 Heliax and the corresponding connectors to the Day Wireless shop this week. Day has the big vehicles for transporting a 20-ft box of antenna and the 6-ft diameter coil of Heliax to Lyman - much better so than my Ford Explorer, or Lonnie's P/U truck. The precise time and day that the antenna replacement will take place is chiefly dependent on the tower crew's work load and schedule. We have no influence on that schedule. We can only be prepared, like a bunch of boy scouts or ARES 1st responders, to get the max work done when DAY presents the opportunity."
"The repeater will be down for a daylight 12 hr (max) period for antenna replacement (AR) on one day near June 31st or July 1 whichever comes 1st."
There you have it from Roger. We are looking forward towards the system performing like in the yesteryear.

6/16/09 - United States Amateur Radio Numbers on the Rise

This is a bit of good news for our hobby...

I found this posted by George (K3UD) on He has this broken out nicely there but here is the jist of the article....

Numbers of US population and the number of
hams at the start of each decade from 1930.

Year Population # Hams Growth Rate
1930 123,202,624 - 19,000
1940 132,164,569 - 56,000 +194%
1950 151,325,798 - 87,000 +55%
1960 179,323,175 - 230,000 +164%
1970 203,211,926 - 263,918 +15%
1980 226,545,805 - 393,353 +49%
1990 248,709,873 - 502,677 +28%
2000 281,421,906 - 682,240 +36%
2008 303,000,000 - 658,648 -3.5% (Est. population)
2009 306,684,279 - 671,525 -2.0% (Est. population)

Notice that over the last year, our total population has risen. This bears watching as it still doesn't make up for the reducing in numbers from the year 2000.
I highly recommend looking at the full article on to get the full scope of the picture.

4/18/11 - Richard (N7RIG) Caught in the Wild

Just when you thought it was safe.... Richard was caught in the the wild at Linuxfest Northwest!!! An avid user of virus latent OS call Windows, he was embedded in a conference session taking in the open source wisdom of the masses. And to note that it was Kool-aid free!

4/25/10 - Wetnet visits Linuxfest Northwest

Can you say fun and interesting? Yes, this annual event brings together many from all walks of life to celebrate innovation. The usage of open source solutions as a means to bridge the gap created by individuals around the world contributing to a common cause.
Linuxfest allows for the newly curious through season professional to come together and share experiences and ideas to further the promotion of innovation. I saw some great examples from star gazing and tracking through to network solutions. Gamers had fun while web designers learned new crafts. Using embedded software to having a desktop system that anyone could use.
I encourage you to attend these events as they do give you a flavor of the future of computing and consumer electronics.
Here are a couple of photos from the group visit...

5/21/11 - Radio Shack wants our input???

Can this be really true? I can't believe my eyes when I saw this. Radio Shack looking towards it's customer base to shape it's future.

It was back in the 1970's when I first shopped at radio shack. It saw a candy store for radio and electronics one time I used to look forward to going into town just to walk the isles of neat gadgets and components. It never failed that I'd end up going home with something.

Now, I avoid the store of canned garbage. It is not a resource, it is not promote innovative thinking, and it does not reflect good prices and selections.

I'm hoping that radio shacks fresh approach is followed through. I'd rather drive 2 hours to Fry's Electronics then go 10 minutes to Radio Shack.

5/29/09 - Troposhperic Ducting?

We have very warm dry weather creeping up the coast... Could that mean we will have tropo conditions?

Troposheric ducting is one of the more interesting and fun things in Amateur Radio. During ducting ,, it is possible to communicate with stations on the VHF and UHF bands up to over 1000 miles away. That is pretty darn cool for a range of frequencies which normally carry signals upwards to 100 miles.

The spectrum we are focusing is mainly within the VHF (30-300MHz) and UHF (300-3000MHz) bands. This includes amateur radio, Public Service like police, fire and medical dispatches, TV (Both old and new HDTV), FM radio, Aviation.... The list is quite expansive. So even if your a radio scanner enthusiast, there can be some really interesting monitoring.

Let's look at how does this basically works and how can we enjoy it? Lets focus on the word "ducting". Within your house/school/office we use ducts to shuffle warm and cool air around to create circulation. In nature, atmospheric ducts form that can shuffle VHF and UHF radio waves well beyond line of sight range as described above. Tropospheric ducting occurs mostly in the warm weather months of the summer and sometimes in the presence of large storm systems.

Here in the Northwest, the Pacific Northwest VHF Society members use these and other radio wave conditions to enjoy long distance contacts beyond those of our normal daily ragchews and chats. For additional information on this and other VHF/UHF related information, visit their webpage at

7/18/10 - CQWW VHF... A lot of fun and Great PR!

I ran small but had a big impact!

I went out this year with the intent to run the QRP Hilltop class for the contest. I looked around locally for a nice convenient site with having to drive hours out of my way. At a recommendation of Doug (K7IP), I decided to give a hilltop a try called Cap Sante located Northeast of Anacortes, WA. I wasn't disappointed!

I broke out an old 11 element yagi for 2 Meters and used my Buddipole as a 2 element yagi for 6 Meters. The rig I used was my Yaesu FT-817ND which at less than 5 watts on each band qualifies my operation as a QRP entrée. I can't say that I am in the award winning ranks as a contester goes, but I did do well enough to keep it fun.

I covered 4 Grid Locators on both 2 and 6 Meters. At less than 5 watts at 500 ft.... That isn't too shabby. Most individuals were members of the Pacific Northwest VHF Society which made this even more enjoyable as I have met many of them through the years.

I have uploaded the pictures into the photo album linked to this article for your enjoyment

7/3/10 - Android and Amateur Radio

CQDX.... Via cellphone? It's not that far off....

With today's blending of technologies I have to say that I'm having a bit of fun with my new HTC Incredible currently running the Android V2.1 operating system. with the I-Phone craze moving forward, I had been watching the technology as it has expanded.

Normally, I like to have some level of separation between Amateur radio and outside technologies, but in this day of age, that is almost impossible to do. So instead of being a nay saying dinosaur, I'm slowly adapting and embarrassing new technologies.

A couple of weeks ago I had made a purchase of a HTC Incredible running the Android V2.1 OS. I really was tickled over how cool and smooth this little gem worked. And that was before I started to search and play with some of the applications.

Since I am heavily into ham radio, I wanted to find applications that would wet my taste in this area. These are what I have currently...

APRSdroid: A APRS Client that allows you to use the data or wifi network for APRS tracking. This doesn't provide a display but since I have a web browser, I can watch things that way.
Calculator: This provides me a nice calculator cutting antennas and other basic mth needs.
Callsign DB: This provides a quick look up of callsigns which can be handy when your on the move.
ConnectBot: A SSH client for working on this webpage remotely. It also has a built in Telnet client for those who like to connect to a DX Cluster.
Ham: This gives me the current solar conditions which includes information for VHF.
HamSatDroid: An AMSAT client for tracking satilites. It's very basic but nice to have.
IRLP Finder: For those interested in finding a IRPL node near them.
Pire Wheel: For the OHms and Watts Law buffs, this has been nice as a teaching and mentoring tool.
Scanner Radio: Live scanner sessions. Here in Westen Washington there is a scanner connected through the internet to listen to.
Telnet: I prefer to use this client for my DX Cluster monitoring.

Soon to come is an Echolink client. That would be one of the coolest applications to have on hand when travelling. There is a function version already for the I-Phone so I imagine the Android version should be completed soon.

Of course there are not the only applications I have as I do have other interests outside of Amateur radio. But as for this quick write up, this is a great start forward. All the above are being used as a free version. As this technology moves forward, I'm willing to bet there will be many more to play.... amuse.... Oh heck... Just have fun with!

7/31/10 - Radio Amateurs of Skagit County Picnic 2010

Brrrrr... The weather was cold, the people were warm!

That title really sums up this years event. Out of all the days this summer, RASC had picked this chilly one. The marine layer hung in late, the wind was brisk and the sharpness off the water had laid out the setting of an early spring day..... At the end of July!

Don't let that fool you. It was the warmth of the club members that really unfolded into a nice event. There was Hamburgers and Hot dogs on the grill and the trimmings to match. The pot-luck approach allowed for the a diverse menu selection.

We were lucky to have some "Ole Timers" in presence. Ed (W7JGM), Greg W4TER formally N7HOC) and Rich (N7FDM) to name a few. Needless to say, this allowed for a wide range of rag chew topics!

I took some pictures and placed them in a site album at .

I like to take a moment to mention that it is events like this in which we capture the spirit of Amateur Radio. If your local club or organization doesn't do things like this, they are missing something special.

8/27/10 - Echolink on the Android

We asked and it came! The Echolink for Android application is out and working.

I downloaded it early yesterday morning and gave it a try why out in a remote location at Pacific Beach Washington. Using it was very easy and I had found it had some extra features the windows version didn't have.

My first connection was to the Echolink Server to give a once over. I had found that the transmit levels were a bit down but while still connected, I was able to give it an additional 6db to make it sound nice.

I did find one little item that wasn't working right on my HTC Incredible. It wa the push to talk function using the camera button. This could be the Echolink Software or the Froyo 2.2 I'm using as the phone has been jail broken. So I can't say at this time is it is a real problem. I was able to use the return button to release the PTT so I'm still good to go!

Well, back off to playing! Having a smart phone that doubles as a hobby toy is prety cool!

Senate Bill 5000 - Update January 18, 2013

This bill “Requires certain temporary or permanent guyed towers to be
lighted, marked, and painted or otherwise constructed to be visible in
clear air during daylight hours from a distance of
not less than two thousand feet.”

Amateur radio operators in the Western Washington Section are asked to
write their legislators in the house and senate requesting a no vote on
Senate Bill 5000. As noticed by several hams there are inconsistencies
in the bill that makes it preferable to ask our lawmakers to vote
against the bill. Use this link to locate your legislators and to send
them an e-mail:

A clarification is needed regarding the chair of the Transportation
Committee. Rep. Judy Clibborn is Chair of the House Transportation
Committee. The Senate Transportation Committee is co-chaired by:

Senator Curtis King (R) 14th District Yakima County

Senator Tracey Eide (D) 30th District King County

In 2007 Sen. Eide was helpful to the amateur radio community by
supporting HB 2335 which saved repeater operators from having to pay
commercial rates for sites on state property.

Since the Sen. Honeyford’s intentions are not clear your assistance
is requested by taking a few minutes to contact your legislators and
ask them to vote against SB 5000.

Thank you, your active involvement with this bill is very much

ARRL Western Washington Section
Section Manager: Monte L Simpson, K2MLS

5/23/09 - More Earthquake Potential? Emergency Preparedness.

Well... In short, Yes!

It shouldn't surprise us that there is a lot more to learn about earthquakes. And here in the Puget Sound area of Washington State, we are doing that. The U.S. Geological Survey has released information that there are signs that the earthquake fault that runs under South Whidbey Island is larger than previously understood. The estimated potential of this fault has been calculated to 7.8 on the MMS

KOMO News recently posted a nice article on this pointing out a recent discovery about the above mentioned fault. It extends into Eastern Washington State down towards Yakima!

Lets draw attention back to the Nisqually intraslab earthquake which occurred at 10:54 a.m. PST (18:54 UTC), February 28, 2001. Measuring at 6.8 on the MMS and lasting approximately 45 seconds, it was one of the largest recorded earthquakes in Washington State history. The epicenter of the earthquake was at a depth of 32 miles. Tremors were felt as far away as Portland, Oregon, across the border in Vancouver, Canada, and over 170 miles east into Pasco, Washington.

The event caused some property damage in Seattle and the surrounding areas. Although there were no reports of deaths directly from the earthquake, local news agencies reported that there was one death from a stress-related heart condition at the time of the earthquake with the addition of 400 injuries.

So lets not become complacent on our communications readiness. Make a habit of reviewing your personal emergency procedures for you and your family. It may be a good idea to let your employer know of your abilities as an emergency communicator as this could be beneficial to allowing time to spent in this activity. Have your emergency numbers programmed in and look into plans on where to meet during a localized event. And... How about your personal "Go Kit". There are many places on the Internet to get information on what you should have on hand.

Being prepared is the key to being able to provide emergency communications. As amateur radio operators, the community looks towards us for our leadership in this area till things normalize after a major event.

5/20/09 - Amateur Radio Clubs: Improper etiquette of asking for professional advice

The above titled situation happens all the time in our clubs and organizations.

As time passes, we gain friendships from individuals that
hold professional credentials or qualifications. Because there are friendships involved, we have a tendency to look passed good etiquette and ask for that "professional insight".

When I witness this happening, I instantly recall those medical or legal
ads we see/hear so commonly on our media. Something to the effect of... "not intended to substitute for informed professional medical, psychiatric, psychological, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice".

These types of statements are placed in to protect the individuals responsible for that product and/or service. So, right now is a great time to mention that I do not have any professional training in legal or medical advice. So this article is being typed to give a perspective in this area as it relates to our friendships and acquaintances within our organizations.

The questions on hand, as I see it, is "What are the consequences if we act based on the question(s) answered?" and "What happens to the professional if this leads to an unforeseen consequence?"

An individual that holds a professional credential like a Lawyer or Doctor is always considered just that. He or she cannot just take off the professional hat for a few moments to answer an impromptu question. This is exactly what we are asking of them when we approach them with a question that relates to their profession. The Professional at that time should decline answering as this could place him/her or yourself into a
potentially bad situation. If they do answer the question, the focus then shifts to an examination of question itself and how it could result in an "implied relationship".

This relationship could then be used as legal basis to sanction the professional thus impacting his or her standing and livelihood. This narrows circumstance in which it is
objectively reasonable for the individual to believe that a relationship has formed and has actually relied on the advice given.

So, even if you are friends with an individual with professional credentials, you should follow good etiquette by not asking for advice that relates to their credentials. If you or your club are in need of such advice, go out and retain a professional as this will cover all parties involved.

Within our Amateur Radio clubs and organizations priceless friendships are forged. Following good etiquette will maintain them into life long relationships.


5/10/09 - Is D-Star Dying a Slow Death?

The title was a question posed to me during a recent amateur radio swap meet.

It is a valid question that I couldn't honestly answer without looking at some of the demographics. About a year and a half ago, I had bashed the D-Star system due to it's expense, single vendor source and in part being closed sourced with a proprietary chip set supplied by a single manufacturer. This weakness to this day makes this technology vulnerable to the flavor of the day.. (money).

I had also made comment on how Icom's approach was, in todays world, backwards to the trend of communications technology. This being that they marketed a anolog voice radio design with a digital after thought instead of designing a digital radio with VOIP (Voice Over IP) system added on. I did step out on a limb back then stating that it was a nice first step but seriously lacked the thunder to be a serious resolution to emergency communications.

That was then.... This is now. Though this website has readers and followers throughout the world, I am going to focus a little more locally as this is where the questions presented originated.

The first step in evaluating a technologies acceptance and health is to take a snapshot of usable systems within a given region. My thoughts are to look right in the back yard of Icom America, Redmond Washington. After all, if there is any indication of long term health you would expect to see it in the vendors back yard.
I know there are many who will disagree with what I'm saying here in this article and that is fine with me as I only represent a single voice. But it's hard to over look the obvious.....

In my first look around... I'm seeing a very sad state of affairs for the D-Star infrastructure. and zooming in on Washington State (The home of Icom America) I see only four systems active.

Yes... That is only four. That is very sad considering that two of them reside on Icom's front porch in distance. The stations noted are only in Western Washington and don't have a wide area of coverage to be effective under emergent situations. I can't help thinking this is due to what my initial impressions of the equipment and protocols used. If this was to be the future backbone to emergency communications systems deployed by amateur radio, it would of been adopted by Yaesu, Kenwood and others.

There was a little arrogance by Icom as they tried to push this down the communities throats by donating full systems thus forcing a foot hold in common place USA. That my friends failed. Questions and concerns were being buried by free-bee's and those who bought into the hipe went out and invested into it. Now there are many rigs that sit on shelves or if still in use, being so as a very expensive analog voice rig.

The interesting thing is that besides what we see here locally in Washington State, there are pockets of D-Star networks functioning and being expanded on. Just to my North in Southern BC, Canada, there is a vast integrated network infrastructure in place supporting their communication needs. So to say that this technology is dead would be very much premature. As questionable as the design is, Icom is providing a solution that does meet the needs of certain areas. It just not the worldly solution as they tried to promote over the last few years.

On a side note. As I page through the write ups about the cool applications that are in constant development, I see a truly focused following that will keep this system alive for years to come. Many of these individuals will stand behind this technology, nay saying anyone who defies them. As with any other group within our ranks of ham radio, these few don't speak on behalf of us all, but do have voice. This is proven out by looking at the above mentioned site, zooming in and truly observing the lack of infrastructure throughout the country.

With the onset of open sourced software defined radio systems, it will not be long before you see a truly adaptable Digital transceiver. VOIP and other digital modes will be second nature leaving the D-Star system in the dust. The technologies are here right now.... So it isn't rocket science anymore.

Nope, D-Star isn't dead..... It is however just a slow fizzle.

5/8/09 - Field Day Grilling Option

Sometimes.... One just has to have fun. Take the serious and place a little humor towards it.

So lets look at one option for field day grilling.... "Po-Boys Style"! I especially like the upper rack for warming things up slowly!

Any ideas on how to make this better?

4/24/09 - Oh Know! We are in the Dark!

When you least expect it.....It happens.

A vehicle hitting a power pole at Vista View road and Hwy 20 knocked out commercial power in a 4 county area. Skagit, Island, Snohomish and San Juan Counties were in one form or another impacted. As individuals realize that this wasn't going to be a momentary outage, the local repeater lit up with activity.

First reports unconfirmed were excessive smoke and low explosions from our local oil refinery. This later was noted as an upset situation as they burn off the extra gases during a power outage to prevent major complications during a power outage.

Amateur Radio communicators from the surrounding counties started to check in to establish a baseline of information. Through this, an area of effect was established quickly and noted in case the local Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in Skagit County called for ARES/RACES activation.

One hour into the outage has over two dozen local stations standing by. An interesting note that our local commercial stations didn't provide much information. Most details were received from out of the area on stations 60 miles plus away from the event area. This was true unless you were listening to the 145.190 (N7GDE/R). It didn't take long to realize that the amateur radio population in it's diversity of communication options, was doing quick assessments of area and providing those updates to a common spot.... The local repeater.

With more than 33 check-in's from around the region, we had a enhanced picture that exceeded the county's EOC's information. I personally don't care what others think about Amateur Radio.... I believe we "Rock"!

Five hours into the event and I received power back on. The total impact was to 93,000 customers in the Northwest Interior of Washington State. I give thanks to the leadership demonstrated by W7ABF, WB7WOW and KE7GQO. The rest of the recognition go to those who took the time and effort to do the right thing.... "Being part of a solution"

4/21/09 - Lastest Information on the N7GDE/R (145.190)

After waiting patiently for the winter season to pass, the Radio Amateurs of Skagit County technical team gets ready to tackle the left over repeater issues.

Please note that RASC is fully aware of the concerns around the repeater status. Questions about the system have been forwarded to me and I have communicated this with the Leadership of the club. Like yourselves, they are looking forward to having the site back up to it's original plus status.

The snows are slowly melting off of Lyman Hill and the team has been busy. Winter has provided some time to gather and upgrade existing resources in preparation of the upcoming on site work parties. The team lead by Roger (W6TOZ) will embark on the next steps to resolving the performance issues of the site.,/p>

A recent email from Roger indicated that, with concurrence from Day Wireless (The site host), there will be work with the antenna and transmission line system. As currently mounted, the radiation is distorted and absorbed into the south face of the supporting tower. This has been emphasised by the placing of the upper support which drew the antenna in towards the structure last fall. The support is in place to protect the antenna from the heavy mountain top winds and ice build up.

The N7GDE/R antenna is mounted in the center of the tower as shown in the photo. This resides on the South face of the tower which creates a shadow towards the North into British Columbia, Canada.

The old site equipment has been in work with updates and tuning by the team during the course of the winters season. This should provide for quick turn arounds when the site experiences failures in the future.

4/4/09 - Communicating: A Dead Art Within Amateur Radio

In the world of communications, Amateur Radio has played a major role towards the technologies we enjoy today. In addition, it has also contributed towards how the surrounding communications community conducts itself. The orderly fashion in which ham operators handle emergent situations in less than favorable conditions is still looked upon as the premier model to emulate.

But with that said, WE SUCK AS COMUNICATORS. I'm watching us self destruct one opportunity after another. We cry that the younger generation looks at us as a bunch of old fogies and yet we refuse to use the tools that they use to draw them in. You say that I'm a nay sayer? Lets look at it a bit closer....

How many clubs have active members that are 35 years or less in age? Better yet, what are those percentages? If it is less than 45%, your organization is dying fast. I listen to complaints that Amateur Radio Clubs can't get anyone young inspired, yet those very same clubs go out of their way to be non-inspirational.

The younger generations following us really do want to get involved but we old timers can't seem to get it through our thick skulls that we need to embrace the technologies of today to do it. Hey you!!!! Look at how you communicate!

A typical club answer is “Lets do a website”. That is a great first step. And I do mean that fully. But as long as your going to do this, ask yourself this.... “What is my core mission that will inspire new and younger members?” Take a look at your 1995 styled pages with the cartoon animated .gif files, grainy graphics and funny sounding midi files. Now that will inspire someone young to stay and read your content... "NOT" It screams “Non-Valued Old Persons Lame Website”.

Remember the lessons of past that were taught to us. The first impression is the lasting impression. Maybe you have a club with leaders and members that are too good to be bothered with the effort. Maybe it is something to the effect that none of your current population has the knowledge to create and maintain a value added site. Then it just maybe you already had talent that you drove away because you didn't want to embrace new concepts. There are a million and one reasons for your current state and everyone can dwell on it while beating the dead horse. I have a suggestion, pull the cranium from the posterior, put your egos away and honestly get those with talent engaged.

Another club answer is to email. This is another good option if done properly. Do you have a stable club email address? Or is it Joe Snuffy's address because he was the only one roped into it? Better yet, how about a reflector that members can subscribe to. This way members can post and others outside can read and be drawn in. Hmmm, Geee, what a concept.

Hey there Mr/Mrs/Miss Club Editor!!! Are you reading this? Better than some club newsletter, why don't you have an online blog which allows the world to see what your organization brings forth? This can be hosted on your cartoon website (after you bring it up to todays standards) as an open means of engaging not only your members, but the very population that has escaped your ranks.

I really can go on and on tearing and embarrassing those who feel they are above all of this. After all, it is just a dieing hobby of old farts who can't be bothered. It's the very same ones who cry in their coffee's at the meetings and push away the younger talents who can make that difference. It's those who want the world but they themselves never contribute to it.

How did this write up start?

Communicating: A Dead Art Within Amateur Radio.... Rest in Peace for we are now Dead on Arrival.