Monthly Archives: February 2010

Kudos to the ARRL WAS Awards desk…

Kudos to the ARRL WAS Awards desk for quickly processing my application for Worked All States (WAS) – Basic.  I sent in the three QSL cards, representing the three states that I didn’t have confirmed via the LoTW, to the ARRL for checking.  Exactly one week after sending the cards to the card checker I received them back.  That’s quick service!

Why is D-Star being pushed so hard for emergency communications?

This morning I received the ARRL’s ARES E-Letter (24 Feb 2010) and found it riddled with how Icom’s D-Star system was so great and the answer to all our problems.  The entire letter seemed to be one big advertisement for Icom, actually.  What I can’t understand is why the ARRL feels like D-Star is such a good idea.  Let’s look at the facts of the system.

  • D-Star uses a proprietary codec for its digital voice.  So everyone that purchases a D-Star transceiver is also shelling out money to buy the license to use that codec.  So unless you are using Icom’s proprietary equipment you won’t be heard during an emergency.  The same thing was happening in the public safety market.  Different vendors were using different, proprietary codecs for digital voice.  This became a huge interoperability problem.  The solution was simple, however.  The Association of Public Safety Communications Officials International (APCO) created Project 25 (P25) which created a standard for digital voice and data among all public safety agencies in world.  This was an international standardization that has worked quite well.  The codecs used for P25 are open source and thus available for everyone to use, for free.  Because of this, P25 has taken off and is available in radios made by a variety of manufacturers.  Unfortunately Icom wasn’t very forward thinking and did not get on board with P25.
  • D-Star linking occurs only via TCP/IP.  So unless you can setup a wireless network with enough bandwidth to handle the data connection you will be using the Internet to link up your repeaters to other repeaters.  As this is for emergencies, shouldn’t you be using non-Internet methods of linking?  If I can just use the Internet then I have no need for amateur radio, you can go home now.
  • D-Star transceivers are expensive!  You can expect to pay $200 more for a D-Star-enabled handheld transceiver than you would for one that is not D-Star-enabled.  For $30 more, I could buy Kenwood’s D-710 mobile radio with APRS and have 50-watts of communicating power.  Plus APRS specification is completely open and can be, and has been, implemented by numerous people and manufacturers.
  • D-Star won’t have the same range that analog will.  Remember when cell phones went from analog to digital?  There were spots that I used to be able to make a phone call that I couldn’t when digital came about.  The reason is simple, actually.  The computer in your head (your brain) can understand what is being said even in bad conditions.  The computer in that repeater control cannot, however, and a dropped packet means communications lost.  During an emergency I don’t think lost communication is an option.

So all this said, what are the pros to D-Star?  Hmmm…  I actually cannot think of any.  If anything it makes us complacent about how to do our jobs and makes us reliant on a communications medium that we cannot control.  I’d be more apt to get behind a P25 system than a D-Star system because of the openness of the system but even that has limitations.

    2010 CQ WW WPX RTTY Contest is complete!

    After thirty hours of listening to “diddles” the 2010 CQ WW WPX RTTY Contest is over!  Band conditions did not let me down, this year.  I had excellent results from all bands and even scored a New Zealand contact!

    435 Contacts
    47 DXCC Entities
    47 US States
    17 CQ Zones
    15 Meters: 103 contacts (36 countries, 8 US states)
    20 Meters: 105 contacts (34 countries, 20 US states)
    40 Meters: 116 contacts (27 countries, 29 US states)
    80 Meters: 111 contacts (12 countries, 35 US states)

    My total score is estimated at 105,462 but I may end up competing in a single-band competition.

    Some contacts of note are (i.e. DXCC entities I need confirmation):
    5B/UT0U – Cyprus
    6V7V – Senegal
    SI4G – Sweden
    SM6NET – Sweden
    ZL1BYZ – New Zealand

    I also worked the three states (Utah, Vermont, and Wyoming) I need for my WAS so as soon as I get confirmation on these contacts I’ll be submitting my documentation for that award.

    Thanks to everyone whom I contacted this weekend and a special thank you to my lovely wife who kept me fed and tolerated the whole event.


    Last week I went looking for better logging software.  I have been using xLog for the last year and it did a good job but I found it lacking in features that I wanted.

    I found many solutions that did less than xLog in my search but finally found CQRLOG which is exactly what I was looking for.  This logging software does pretty much everything I wanted.  It’s built on a SQL database so running custom queries is easy.  There are lots of statistics (DXCC and WAS, just to name a couple) that you can pull from the software and it fully supports LoTW!

    I’d recommend giving CQRLOG a try if you are looking for a really good contact logging software.

    Confirmed DXCC entity # 90

    Received a reply to my QSL for TL0A, today.  Glad to make #90 the Central African Republic!

    QSL cards from Africa always make me stop and think about the world.  I’ve received sunset pictures from South Africa, mountainous sea-scapes from Cape Verde, and various scenery pictures from Madeira Island, but the picture of the village that Christian shows on his card makes me thankful that I have what I have and don’t have to live so close to the ground and cook on an open fire daily.

    I now need ten more countries to confirm their contact with me.  I’ve worked 104 countries and if I get ten more countries then I’ll qualify for DXCC.  I’d like to have this wrapped up before our August trip up north, if at all possible.

    10m and 6m band opening

    Heard 10m was open this morning but concentrated my efforts on 6m as it is rarely open this time of year.  Worked NJ2F, N2WB, N3LL, W4LT, and K4MM, all from Florida.  I didn’t really hear anyone else on but the Florida stations were saying that the bands were crowded!

    Ten-Tec Argosy

    I picked up this little beauty at FrostFest yesterday in Richmond.  I’ve been looking for a backup HF radio for the shack but this one is quickly becoming my primary rig!  It came with a power supply, hand microphone, mobile bracket, and the manuals.

    The audio is quite clear and clean and its fifty watts out is more than enough to make it across the pond.  SM5CAK was my first DX contact on this rig.  I received a 5-7 report through nearby QRM.  I should have flipped the switch in the back to drop it down to 10 watts to see how he was copying me on QRPp mode.

    I need to work on my HF6V antenna so I won’t have to use a tuner on this rig.  Right now the antenna has good SWR on 40m, 30m, 20m, and 10m.  I need to adjust it so the 15m portion is flat and I need to replace the matching coil for 80m.  The antenna also has the 6m add-on kit but that isn’t tuned properly so I need to work on that, too.  Maybe next weekend I can get on that.

    Privacy risk in your email client?

    Clean up (“Expunge”) Inbox on Exit

    That was a switch in my email client Thunderbird 3 that I did not have checked because I wasn’t sure what it was doing and I certainly didn’t want my Inbox to be cleared every time I exited the software.  So I decided to do a search for it to see what I could find out.  Here’s what I found:

    When you delete messages in an email program (“email client”) or move them to another folder in the program, they are not yet physically removed – even emptying the Trash does not remove them. Instead, Thunderbird and other email programs simply hide the “deleted” messages and mark them as ready for physical removal. The process of physically removing such no longer visible messages is called “compacting”. This means that messages that you think you have deleted are not actually physically removed until you manually or automatically compact the folder they were (are) in.

    This, to me, is a privacy and a security concern.  If you are following a policy of deleting sensitive messages after you have read them, you may only be hiding them from yourself and not actually deleting them.  This means that the messages are still out there and available for discovery.

    So do some research and make sure your email client is doing what you want it to do.

    Creative Commons License
    Sparks’ Fedora Project Journal by Eric H Christensen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.