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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Getting Booted Off

I seem to have a problem, only the source isn't on my end.

It seems as though some people on a certain conference server (Which we'll keep nameless) which is bridged into several other places (Including a repeater I hang out on daily which will also be kept unidentified.  More on that later) either don't have their sysop settings configured correctly or don't realize what happens to other people when they log off.

I'm talking about those who DO NOT MUTE THEIR DTMF COMMANDS.  You may not realize this, but if you DO NOT have your DTMF commands muted, THEY CAN TRAVEL OVER THE ECHOLINK SYSTEM.  This can lead to a variety of things INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO DISCONNECTING OTHER USERS WITH A MATCHING CODE.

I've had this happen SEVERAL times on me.  At first, I thought it was just the sysop "cleaning house" as it were.  But the more I thought about it (Coupled with the fact that he never said anything upon reconnection) has led me to believe that some people are UNINTENTIONALLY disconnecting me because they don't have their settings configured correctly.

One person, I will credit is Steve Seacrest, W8WFO who, during tonight's EchoLinksters Net gave the following tips to alleviate this embarrassing situation (See the screen capture below)


Using the screen capture above as a guide, here's what he suggested & indicated MUST be done to alleviate what can be an embarrassing situation...

* When The Dialog Box Opens Up, Select The DTMF Tab
* Make Sure That The Box Next To AUTO MUTE is CHECKED (If it isn't, check it)
* Make Sure That The Box Next To DISABLE DURING PTT For Good Measure (If it isn't, check it)
* Click OK To Return To The Main Interface.

Now far be it for me to be some sort of "system cop" as it were, but you'd be amazed at the number of Hams whom I've encountered in the short time I've been a sysop who haven't even thought of these things.  I'm sure the disconnects ARE NOT intentional (And some are even caused by improperly configured repeater links - Some of those CLUB repeater links which the users have NO control of the technical aspects of).  But some people don't realize what they are doing to the network if they don't have things configured correctly.

As for my end, I'm using the default settings for uplink, downlink, etc. plus a few station shortcuts of some my favorite & not-so-favorite repeaters, links and conference servers (The shortcuts are on my website at the page below).  I don't wanna have to change the downlink code as this will make it harder for travelers & other locals using the system to bring it down if they don't know the downlink code and have never visited my website.  In addition, I'd like to keep it as standardized as possible.  BUT I WILL CHANGE THE DOWNLINK CODE IF I AM FORCED TO as I just put up with the idea of getting disconnected from repeaters, links & servers because someone out there is running an improperly configured node.

Now IRLP users really aren't the problem (Even when they are on EchoIRLP servers) as each node as its own unique downlink code.  I dunno - Maybe this is something TPTB running the EchoLink system might need to address systemwide?

Anyhow, this little "rant" if you will IS NOT intended nor "targeted" at any one individual as there are MANY links and repeaters out there with this problem.  I just figured I'd make mention of it since it does seem to be a problem which needs addressing.

My apologies in advance if anyone feels put off, offended, etc.  All I'm trying to do is shed some light on a problem I'm noticing on a (Growing) portion the system.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.

All the best.  Cheers & 73 for now folks. :)

Till we meet next time....

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Hard Times & Ham Radio

 The following post is taken from excerpts from a USENET newsgroup post by Jim Miccolis, N2EY to the newsgroup

The reason I'm posting this is because there is SO MUCH truth in what he says and the correlation between the economic problems of today & the era of The Great Depression.

I've been following the various political debates this election year, and the whole $700 billion bailout mess. How it happened, how to fix it, who is to blame, etc. From all that, it seems to me that we're looking at some pretty lean economic times ahead. But this isn't really a post about politics or economics. It's about their effect on ham radio, specifically, growth in our numbers. Looking back of the history of US ham radio, it seems to me that the worst economic times were the best for US ham radio growth.

Consider that: In the 1920s, the number of licensed US hams grew very slowly, if at all, despite the new technologies of tubes and short waves. By 1929 there were only about 18,000 licensed US amateurs, not much more than in 1920. The Roaring '20s radio boom was in broadcasting, whose development has many parallels to that of the internet in the '90s and '00s. Then in 1929 came two major changes for US hams. First were the "1929 regulations" that greatly narrowed the US ham bands and required much cleaner signals than before.

A lot of existing transmitters had to be extensively modified if not completely rebuilt to meet the new rules, and hams on bands like 40 and 20 were crowded into much less spectrum than before. (In those days the ham bands were far fewer than today, and simply getting a transmitter to work well on one band was a challenge). For example, 40 was reduced in width from 1000 kHz to 300, 20 was reduced from 2000 kHz to 400. Later in 1929 the stock market crashed and the Great Depression began. Hard times lasted all through the 1930s.

There was also the Dust Bowl that displaced large numbers of Americans from their farms. (May we never see such hard times again!) Yet from 1929 to 1937 the number of licensed US hams almost tripled. In percentage terms it was the time of the greatest growth US amateur radio has ever seen. As prosperity began to return in the late 1930s, the growth slowed down. WW2 shut down US amateur radio for the first half of the 1940s.

When the war ended, there was rapid growth despite all the disruption of the war, plus rising prices and shortages in the postwar economy as wage and price controls were removed. Of course a big part of that growth was from people who had put off becoming hams during the war, and later from the restructuring of 1951 that created the Novice license. But in the five years from VJ Day to the beginning of 1951, the number of US hams almost doubled, passing 100,000 in the process.

The 1960s were good economic times, yet through that decade US amateur radio growth was almost nil, similar to the 1920s. The radio boom in the 1960s was in cb, not amateur radio. Then in 1968 the new "incentive licensing" regulations came into effect, and in the 1970s problems of inflation, high interest rates, unemployment, energy crises and lack of economic growth hit the US economy very hard. Just look at gasoline prices - less than a quarter a gallon for cheap gas in 1969, a dollar and a half ten years later. It wasn't until the mid-1980s that things really stabilized. Yet all through the 1970s and into the 1980s the number of US hams grew steadily, from about 270,000 in 1969 to about twice that number in the mid-1980s.

Since the early 1990s until today, we've had (at best) slow growth in the number of US hams, and (at worst) a decline, even though the price of a ham rig in inflation-adjusted dollars has decreased greatly and the licenses are far easier to earn. The boom in these years has been in "wireless" (an old term reused!) rather than amateur radio. The only exception to the pattern of hard times = ham radio growth I can find is the 1950s, which were economic good times (at least the later 1950s). In that decade the growth of the late 1940s continued steadily, so that by the early 1960s there were about 250,000 licensed US hams.

Besides the then-new Novice license, the 1950s were a time when there was lots of WW2 surplus radio gear available at bargain prices. It was also the heyday of inexpensive but decent quality kit rigs from Heath, Johnson, Eico and others. The highest sunspot peak in recorded history happened in 1958, and the Cold War caused a lot of interest in civil defense communications by hams. Perhaps the connection is that, in hard economic times, people's recreation shifts away from going out, traveling, and making big purchases, and changes to things they can do hunkered down at home for a little money and a lot of ingenuity.

Certainly most of the ham stations of the 1930s fit that description. While new ham gear and a big station are expensive, a small homebrew or used-equipment station with a simple antenna can provide very good results if used with skill, patience and there are decent conditions. What do others think? Could we be in for another time of growth for US ham radio? The Dow is down, house prices are down, credit is tight and taxes are just about guaranteed to rise. But sunspots are on the way.... 73 de Jim, N2EY

The Importance & Value Of A PREAMP...

Boy did I quickly discover the importance & value of the preamp feature of my ICOM IC-706 MKII-G which I'm using as the link radio for my EchoLink node.

As many of you no doubt heard if you listened to the EchoLink Page I didn't even get 10 BLOCKS to the WSW of my QTH (Where the node is @ 7 floors, 10 ft. (Avg. height) for a total of 75 ft (This INCLUDES approximately 5 additional feet when you add the patio railing which the mag-mount base which holds my Diamond SG-7900 antenna is attached to).

Part of this was also due to my inability to hold my entire radio (My HT is an ICOM IC-T7H, though my hands are quite small) while I was traveling over a rather bumpy bike path in a small neighborhood park.  After I left the park, the RX signal started to weaken (I probably sounded a lot worse on TX).  From there, I just listened as the signal was only gonna get weaker as I moved further and further away from my node & closer & closer to the grocery store where I was headed.

However on the return trip, I got the RX signal within seconds after exiting the store.  From there it only got better as I only got closer & closer to the good ol' HOME SWEET HOME that is my QTH. :)

Well....That about does it for Today's Musing.  Cheers & 73 for now :)