ARRL Knows Best: Rise of the Techs

Our ARRL wants to give the Techs more privileges. They say that “This action will enhance the available license operating privileges in what has become the principal entry-level license class in the Amateur Service.” Well, yeah…… Isn’t the point of the Tech Class, to be the entry level class?

I should preface that I was a Tech for most of my Amateur Radio life of +/- 26 years. I also want to make it known that I am not an ‘Ol Timer’ spouting stuff about ‘back in my day.’ I am 40, well below the age limit for such stuff. In fact I came into the hobby after another big change in the class levels in the early 90’s when cw was being down sized in a big way.

I liken the action by the ARRL to a recent story about a school district wanting to spread out the grading system. Where an ‘A’ was 90% or higher, it would change to 85% or higher and so on down the pipe. Does this help the students learn more? Does the ARRL’s proposal help Techs knowledge base? Will the test for the Techs be harder? Right now it is only 35 questions, if HF is added in will the question pool go up? Will the number of questions go up because of the amount of material that is required to know is more? I honestly believe that if HF is added in, then yes the test should be and needs to be harder. But that is actually the opposite of what the ARRL is wanting to do, they want to keep the Tech Class as an easy entry to Amateur Radio. The ARRL’s says that the Tech class question pool (see above link) “…already covers far more material than necessary for an entry-level exam to validate expanded privileges.” Their whitewash job is lacking at best. Techs do not come away from the test with the knowledge needed for HF.

I am a member on many Facebook Amateur Radio Pages. Just this morning there was a Tech that had no clue what a ‘beam’ antenna was. I won’t fault him nor did I call him out for this, but isn’t this something that a Tech should know from the test prep or at the very least learn as a Tech? Isn’t this something that someone using HF should know? Granted, there is a lot of basic information that does not get passed on while prepping or taking the tests. But isn’t this the reason for the different class levels? To help in the growth process of operators. Getting your ticket is certainly not the end of the learning process, rather pretty much the beginning. I see many people post that they passed not just 1, but 2 or 3 of the elements in one sitting. However, I’ll bet dollars to donuts that someone that has had a tech licence for a few years and is active on the radio, will have much more knowledge than a good test taker.

So, No. I do not support giving more privileges to the Technician Class. There is already a pretty easy and quick way to get those privileges & maybe even learn something in the process, upgrade.

IOT... It seems inevitable at this point.

About 5 years ago we bought our first house. In the apartment that we lived in previously we had DSL with a WiFi Router feeding a few phones and computers... and that was the extent of our online items.

However times are changing, and apparently I am getting caught up in it all:

  • Almost immediately I realized that the old WiFi Router offered to small of a footprint, Obviously! So that got upgraded. (One thing of note was that now we have Cable Internet... which is FASTER)
  • The first Domino to fall was the installation of 2 Nest Thermostats....
  • Home Security became a concern, so enter SimpliSafe...
  • It continued with a WEMO powered 110vac outlet followed shortly by a light switch that turned on and off some lighting automatically.
  • Then we got an Apple TV which led to Netflix, which lead to Hulu, which lead to DirecTV getting the boot. (Probably the best outcome of it all :)
  • The Water Heater went out and why just get a regular old water heater when they have them with an IOT interface? (Note, I am kinda of glad i have this now due to some odd internal sensor that keeps shutting the heater down. What do you know, I get an alert on my phone that such a thing is happening!)

Then the flood came of IOT's, and when a flood hits the order doesn't really matter: The WiFi Printer dropped from the sky, a TV went south and a 'Smart TV' grew in its place (and go figure, it was WAY bigger ???) Then a Roku slipped in the door, followed by different TV losing half it's color range and a darn Roku TV exploded onto the scene. Out of the corner of my eye I spied a few WiFi Camera's taking roost. Once again, my Internet was lacking (I wonder why?). So after a quick phone call to the cable company for a speed boost and then a realization that I need another boost at the Wifi level; enter the 'Mesh' WiFi Router!! If that wasn't enough, now my Doorbell can see you, seeing me, seeing you...

So far. I have refused the entry of the 'home assistant'. No Google Home, Echo Dot, Alexa, Samantha, Siri, Fred, Jane, Tom, Dick, or Harry have made their entry into these four walls. Both the YL and I are still set on this.... 

Yet, I am about to embark on another Sunday of IOT shenanigans.... It sure would be nice to see what is up with my Irrigation Controller from my office! 

(To have at least one Amateur Radio related item in today's blog, did you know that Alexa can give you Propagation Reports?)

 

Tragedy, may be a reason for Amateur Radio!!!!

I came across a blog post by W8BH that really hit a cord with me.

I have had my ticket going on 27 years or so and I wasn't active in doing much with it for a large part of that time. Not that I have been away from radio so to say, but for nearly as long I have had a Fire Department Pager attached to my hip,  a Bendix King HT not to far away, and a mobile rig in nearly every vehicle that I have had. 

Nearly 3 years ago my family had to evacuate from the subdivision that we live in do to the Valley Fire . At the time this was nearly the most destructive fires in California's history (as of now it's fallen to just 4th place). Without going into specifics it wasn't until a week after our evacuation that I realized my complete lack of realization of how Amateur Radio could have helped. Total Facepalm moment! In this situation, I was not one of the Firefighters, but one of the ones fleeing and trying to keep in touch with my family. The moment the evac order came, my wife and kids left and I stayed to a few minutes more to gather the essentials. But those few moments thankfully got my family ahead of the thousands trying to flee the area and put myself more than a few hours behind them. As you can guess, communications between my wife and I was not great with the cell network being taxed. 

Honestly, I don't even know what amateur radio traffic was being done in the area while this incident was occurring. But I know of some pretty high level repeaters in the area that have great coverage.  Lesson(s) learned? Just one of the changes was that my wife is now a licensed operator with a radio in her car.  My kids will have their call signs before I will pay for a cell phone for them. I have upgraded to General and have really gotten back into the hobby. 

Of course, this is not where the story ends, 2 years later the Wine Country Fires hit. These fires were a combination of the Tubbs Fire (The #1 most destructive), Nuns Fire (#6) the Atlas Peak Fire (#10) and finally the Redwood Valley Fire (#16). This was a little bit different in that my family wasn't in the path of the fire, and I was in the position of fighting the Tubbs Fire. The first night many cell carriers had either complete loss of service to the areas listed above, or significantly had their services impacted.   

However, even with my deep dive back into Amateur Radio, I have no clue if the local ARES or RACES were activated or had a roll. I was just to involved with my duties at the fire department.

Tragedy may well push new people into the hobby and bring others back, and this is a perfectly legitimate reason to get your ticket. But, as I have shown above, it's not just simply enough to have your call sign and a radio. There has to be a dedication for learning your radio(s), getting to know your area (more than just your commute drive). Joining or getting involved in the local groups whether it be the local ham club, Races, ARES, County S&R, Volunteer Fire Department, etc. 

I know that I have a lot of work still yet to do! What about You?

Something Smells

I ran across a story today about a ham that was accused of doing some not very nice things on the air. I am in no position to accuse this guy or defend him, but I do have some quick off the cuff thoughts that the article doesn't answer:

  • Why 10+ years to solve this?
  • So the guy is required to travel all the way from California to Washington D.C.? Really? I can see meeting at the FCC offices in Los Angeles or San Francisco, but D.C.???? That's a pretty significant cost outlay for most people. In the article is says "Crowell invoked financial hardship rules, but Sippel said those would not apply in an Amateur Radio case."  Good to know!!!! But why?
  • If the DOJ refused to prosecute, why is the FCC coming down so heavy handed? 
  • He was fined $25K in 2016, once again, 10ish years after the allegations? Does this fine still apply?
  • For certain I agree with the FCC that one cannot do or say anything they want on the radio waves because of the 1st Amendment.... A bit of a stretch Mr. Crowell.....
  • I am no lawyer nor am I an expert on Due Process, but 10 years is ridiculous. 2 - 3 years I can live with but after that people are gone, moved, dead, & forgetful. 

Social Media & Amateur Radio

I find it curious how the old timers love to brag about Amateur Radio being the ‘Original Social Media’. I won’t argue this point, I believe it has merit. But if it is the original, can we then blame the modern day mishaps of Social Media on Hams?

I am a member of many Facebook Groups, some of them have good admins and keep things civil, however many have what I will call ‘undesirables’, or in other terms ‘Alpha Hotels’. These individuals just troll about looking for ways to put people down and to try and show how smart or witty they think they are. We see these individuals in every group, their posts, and generally know that their input is just inflammatory, caustic, and meant to get a rise out of others. If your an admin, do something about it. We don't need a 'safe space' but I jut want to learn and grow in my hobby with civil discussion.

The FCC has been ignoring the issues on 80 and 40m for years and I am sure that these are some of the same people that troll our online forums whether it be Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, etc. Whereas we don’t have direct control over the actions of the FCC and their lack of band policing. We do have control over our own social media or radio practices in what we say, type, and do. I have only left one Facebook group and I prefer not to have to go that route unless the admin is the issue. Usually I just block the individual and call it a day, it’s soothing to know I just don’t have to deal with that person ever again. Unfortunately, modern day social media requires this.

For sometime now I have been trying to 'post' by the Golden Rule, do unto others as they do unto you:

  • Are your comments helpful to the subject and to the poster?

  • Are you belittling someone with your comment?

  • Would you say it to the persons face with their mother in the room?

  • Do you even need to leave a comment? I meant it, just like spinning the dial on the radio, just keep on scrolling to another thread. 

  • If you need to counter with 'better' information, do so in a respectful way. 

  • Let others enjoy the hobby that best suites them. 

If we want to claim Amateur Radio as the 'Original Social Media" then we need to set an example and do as one Podcaster always signs off with on every episode: "Let's Stay Above The Noise"

Every Operators Question to Another

I like to show rather than long boring descriptions

(Not pictured below is my field portable setup, I'll save that for another posting)

Alinco DM-330FX Power Supply (If I'm transmitting, it's only one radio at a time....)  HF: Icom 7300 / Heil icm Microphone / Elecraft KAT500 / Elecraft W2 Power & SWR Monitor / My Antenna EFHW-4010 (Yes, I live in an Antenna Restricted Community)  VHF / UHF: Icom 2730a / Diamond X50  15" Acer Laptop / Intel Core i7 / 16GB Ram / SSD HD / Sound is output to an older 'Sansa' portable speaker that is actually pretty decent.   I have both radios audio going to a Yamaha MG10xu Mixer that outputs to a pair of powered Edifier Speakers or my Sennheiser HD 598 Cs Headphones. I can control the left / right side of the 2730a individually. I have pretty good low-mid-high tone controls for the 7300 at my finger tips.   The Heil Mic is not going through the mixer, but straight to the 7300. I do have a Rode ProCaster hooked into the mixer via a Cloud Lifter for something......  Yes, there is an AirSpy HF+ in the background that I have yet to play with.  Weather Station: Just something off of Amazon, has an outdoor sensor as well. Nothing special at this time.  

Alinco DM-330FX Power Supply (If I'm transmitting, it's only one radio at a time....)

HF: Icom 7300 / Heil icm Microphone / Elecraft KAT500 / Elecraft W2 Power & SWR Monitor / My Antenna EFHW-4010 (Yes, I live in an Antenna Restricted Community)

VHF / UHF: Icom 2730a / Diamond X50

15" Acer Laptop / Intel Core i7 / 16GB Ram / SSD HD / Sound is output to an older 'Sansa' portable speaker that is actually pretty decent. 

I have both radios audio going to a Yamaha MG10xu Mixer that outputs to a pair of powered Edifier Speakers or my Sennheiser HD 598 Cs Headphones. I can control the left / right side of the 2730a individually. I have pretty good low-mid-high tone controls for the 7300 at my finger tips. 

The Heil Mic is not going through the mixer, but straight to the 7300. I do have a Rode ProCaster hooked into the mixer via a Cloud Lifter for something......

Yes, there is an AirSpy HF+ in the background that I have yet to play with.

Weather Station: Just something off of Amazon, has an outdoor sensor as well. Nothing special at this time.  

2015 Toyota Tacoma  Icom 2730a to a Diamond SG7500 (By the way, I have 2 more 2730a's as well (Work office and work truck. Can you tell that I like this Mobile Radio???)  Icom 7100 / LDG 100 Tuner / Alpha Antenna MOTO-FMJ (I can hear pretty well with this setup and have made a few contacts, but it is lacking....)  Lido Seat bolt Mount  Power for both of the radios comes straight from the Battery.

2015 Toyota Tacoma

Icom 2730a to a Diamond SG7500 (By the way, I have 2 more 2730a's as well (Work office and work truck. Can you tell that I like this Mobile Radio???)

Icom 7100 / LDG 100 Tuner / Alpha Antenna MOTO-FMJ (I can hear pretty well with this setup and have made a few contacts, but it is lacking....)

Lido Seat bolt Mount

Power for both of the radios comes straight from the Battery.

I rarely have them line up for pictures, but what the heck...  Icom ID-51A w/ a DVAP (50th Anniversary) There are actually 2 of these, the other is my wife's. (Yes she does in fact have her licence.) I really enjoy these radios, I got them both either used or new for really good prices. Don't let the lack of keypad turn you off, they are super easy to use and I love the dual freq receive.  Yaesu FT - 65 (fun radio to tote around) / Yaesu VX-8 (tons of features, but Oy Vey the menus... / TYT MD2017 / & the obligatory Baofengs....

I rarely have them line up for pictures, but what the heck...

Icom ID-51A w/ a DVAP (50th Anniversary) There are actually 2 of these, the other is my wife's. (Yes she does in fact have her licence.) I really enjoy these radios, I got them both either used or new for really good prices. Don't let the lack of keypad turn you off, they are super easy to use and I love the dual freq receive.

Yaesu FT - 65 (fun radio to tote around) / Yaesu VX-8 (tons of features, but Oy Vey the menus... / TYT MD2017 / & the obligatory Baofengs....

An Intro

I'm not going to go into every detail of my Amateur Radio past, but here are some high points:

- I first got my Novice and then Tech when I was about 13. Why might you ask? Because of my oldest brother. He got into it and then my Father did and I followed along. 

- I haven't been very active over the years, but I have always had a radio nearby and I do way more listening then talking.

- About 2 years ago my interest reignited and I upgraded to a General and I continue to be very involved. I still listen way more then Transmit, but I'll explore that in other posts. 

So, there you go. ENough to wet your whistle, but plenty enough left to blog about in the future ;)