Readiness Roulette—
The Game Where No One Wins


by Harold Ort, N2RLL

One of the strange things about our great country is how easy it is for some folks to never have to worry about getting a new job if they get canned. It seems the higher up the corporate ladder—in either the public or private sector – the easier life becomes. It’s an unwritten rule that a canned Corporate or Washington Big’s salary or job stature will never be less than the previous job.

Today’s classic example is former FEMA director Michael D. Brown on whose shoulders the initial FEMA response to Hurricane Katrina lies. I’m sure by the time I’m finished writing this at least one or two more “big’s” will get fired or resign because of either ineffectiveness or impropriety, and end up in a cushy leather chair in a room with a view, probably making more money than in their previous position! Strange, isn’t it?

When I first heard the news about Brown starting his own disaster preparedness consulting firm, I know I must have looked like a deer in headlights. Did I hear it correctly? Indeed, it’s true, but like they say, life is sometimes stranger than fiction – or something like that. Brown having anything remotely to do with emergency preparedness would be a lot like, for example, the FCC’s former commissioner Kathleen “Broadband Nirvana” Abernathy doing PR for the ARRL. Not in my lifetime – I hope.

Brown told the Rocky Mountain News (he plans on moving back to the Boulder, Colorado area), “If I can help people focus on preparedness, how to be better prepared in their homes and better prepared in their businesses – because that goes straight to the bottom line – then I hope I can help the country in some way.”

Too bad he didn’t think that way in the months preceding Katrina.

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New, Interesting, And Useful
Communications Products

 by Harold Ort, N2RLL

New Ameritron Programmable 10-Memory Screwdriver Controller

Ameritron’s SDC-102 lets you save 10 screwdriver antenna positions in memory, and then with a push of a button you can quickly return to any saved position. The up/down buttons let you manually move the antenna to any desired position. A four-digit turns counter with bright LEDs gives you precise antenna positioning.

Ameritron's AutoPark feature automatically bottoms your antenna for parking in your garage and resets and calibrates your counter each time to eliminate antenna slippage and turns count errors.

Additionally, the SDC-102, that sells for $119.95, allows you to monitor motor current for signs of trouble and to determine stall current. Motor direction can be reversed so the UP button is always up.

To order, get a free catalog, or for your nearest dealer, call Ameritron at 800-713-3550; or write to Ameritron, 116 Willow Road, Starkville, MS 39759; or go online to http://www.ameritron.com; or fax the company at 662-323-9810.

New FM Atlas Announced

The 20th edition of the FM Atlas, published by Bruce F. Elving, Ph.D., is 264 pages of FM station news, maps and directories arranged by geography and station frequency. It covers the United States, Canada and Mexico.

The book started as a project by Bruce and his wife, Carol in 1971. Through the years its size and coverage of the FM industry has increased. FM has become the most popular radio band, now accounting for over 80 percent of listening in the United States. Technically, the book shows FM (main) stations, translators and boosters, which relay the main stations. It gives power and coverage radii to help take the guesswork out of FM listening. Low-power stations are also shown as are program formats, and slogans used by various stations.

The FM Atlas is $19.95 plus $2.05 shipping from FM Atlas, P.O. Box 336, Esko, MN 55733-0336. American Express, Visa, MasterCard or PayPal orders may be e-mailed to FmAtlas@aol.com

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News, Trends, And Short Takes
Australian Government To Adopt European DAB Standard

by Harold Ort, N2RLL, Editor, and D. Prabakaran

Australia's Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator Helen Coonan recently announced a framework to guide the introduction of digital radio in Australia. There will be a staged rollout of digital radio in Australia commencing in metropolitan areas as soon as practicable. The government will urge broadcasters to commence trials of digital radio in regional areas, so technical and other issues can be resolved. The government will then consider what financial support is necessary to expand digital radio services to rural and regional Australians.

Under the framework, Australia will implement terrestrial digital radio based upon European Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) Standards, also known as Eureka 147. The commercial, national and wide-coverage community broadcasters currently operating in the broadcasting services bands (BSB) in those areas will have the opportunity to participate and will share the available digital spectrum.

Other elements of the framework include dedicated spectrum for the two national broadcasters, a guaranteed minimum level of broadcast capacity to incumbent commercial broadcasters (more spectrum will be available if new services are offered), guaranteed access to the digital platform for wide-area community broadcasters, no simulcast requirement and a first right of refusal to broadcasters to control the multiplex and hold relevant spectrum for a nominal administration cost.

UK Short Wave Magazine To Merge With Radio Active

This month, the long-running UK publication for radio hobbyists, Short Wave Magazine, ceases publication as a separate title and merges with another magazine from the same publisher, Radio Active. The publishers are picking the best bits out of both magazines to create a new title, RadioUser. There isn't much else known about this at the moment as the publishers are still finalizing all their plans. However, this will not affect the company's flagship publication, Practical Wireless.

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Does Anybody Really Know
What Time It Is?

24/7/365, Here’s How Time Got On Your Best Side

By Michael A. Lombardi

Occasionally I’ll talk to people who can’t believe that some radio stations exist solely to transmit accurate time. While they wouldn’t poke fun at the Weather Channel or even a radio station that plays nothing but Garth Brooks records (imagine that), people often make jokes about time signal stations. They’ll ask “Doesn’t the programming get a little boring?” or “How does the announcer stay awake?” There have even been parodies of time signal stations. A recent Internet spoof of WWV contained zingers like “we’ll be back with the time on WWV in just a minute, but first, here’s another minute.”

An episode of the animated PowerPuff Girls joined in the fun with a skit featuring a TV announcer named Sonny Dial who does promos for upcoming time announcements— “Welcome to the Time Channel where we give you up-to-the-minute time, twenty-four hours a day. Up next, the current time!”

Of course, after the laughter dies down, we all realize the importance of keeping accurate time. We live in the era of Internet FAQs, but the most frequently asked question in the real world is still “What time is it?” You might be surprised to learn that time signal stations have been answering this question for more than 100 years, making the transmission of time one of radio’s first applications, and still one of the most important. Today, you can buy inexpensive radio-controlled clocks that never need to be set; some of us even wear them on our wrists.

Let’s “go back in time” and look at the history of time signal stations, beginning with the first radio experiments and continuing to the present day

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Uniden’s New BCD396T— A Scanner For MILCOM/MILAIR Monitoring?

by Steve Douglass

I’m always on the lookout for a new VHF/UHF MILCOM/ MILAIR receiver, even though I have several. In particular, I’ve been in the market for a portable scanner ever since I let my buddy talk me into selling him my venerable Realistic PRO-43. Why not? I thought. He really wants it and my ICOM R-3 works well, has features the PRO-43 doesn’t have and it was time to let someone else enjoy that trusty scanner as much as I had.

Funny thing is, after a few months I really began to miss my old PRO-43. It was easy to program, had good audio and was a good all-around scanner. Plus, as much as I liked my ICOM R-3, its slow scan rate left something to be desired.

I was, therefore, very interested when a Uniden press release announced that the arrival on the market of a new scanner, the BCD396T, capable of storing up to 6,000 channels was imminent. I quickly scanned the specifications, which were very impressive, indeed.
But does it receive the all important military frequency bands both on VHF and UHF? Lately portable scanners capable of receiving my two favorite military bands had become rare. No military, no sale was my motto, but fortunately the Uniden BCD396T does!
Here are Uniden’s published specs:

• TrunkTracker IV (Motorola APCO 25 Digital, Motorola, EDACS, LTR)
• 6000 Dynamically Allocated Channels
• Close Call RF Capture Technology—Instantly tunes to signals from nearby transmitters
• Fire Tone-Out
• Alpha Tagging
• 100 Quick Key System Access
• Preprogrammed Coverage of over 400 Cities
• Continuous Band Coverage—25 MHz to 1.3 GHz excluding UHF TV and Cellular
• Compact Size
• Audio AGC
• Automatic Digital Threshold Adjustment

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Radio Fun And Going Back In Time

by R.B. Sturtevant, KD7KTS

Q. You’ve said before that the first Police radios were one-way on the AM band. When did the cops get their own frequencies and two-way communications?

A. Shortly after World War II the FCC decreed that all police radio would shift to the VHF frequencies and operate between 150 and 160 MHz. During the War years we’d learned a lot about radio. The new systems, often using ex-military gear were two-way. Lake County, Illinois, claims to be the first to accomplish this. February 1, 1949, they went into service with a 250-foot tower and service building in Libertyville, Illinois. The Radio Department operated 200 radios for all the police and fire agencies in the county at a cost of $10 per agency per month. Anyone know of an earlier system?

Q. Is the Navy able to keep track of foreign military vessels at sea?

A. They sure are. The project is called “White Cloud” and is based on small satellites called Subsatellite Units or SSUs. Working in groups of three or four SSUs from 30 to 240 kilometers apart, they sweep the seas below and each takes a fix on the various vessels. They take their fixes from the communications, air and surface search and weapons control systems on the ships. When each has its fix they compare notes and transmit the information to the Navy’s ground stations. Passing over any one point at sea about 30 times a day they can work out course and direction of about any ship out there. They are thought to be transmitting their signals in the .5 to 10 GHz range but details are understandably hard to find. They have been up there since the early ’70s and were still being deployed through the end of the ’90s. Question is, are “they still up there?” Want to bet they’re not?

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All About Fleet Maps

by Ken Reiss

Uniden recently introduced the TrunkTracker III series. While that’s probably not news to anyone anymore, a lot of scanner enthusiasts are still confused about some of the new techniques and setups for this new series of scanners.

If you’re new to scanning, this whole concept of trunking itself can be a bit elusive. This can be complicated by the fact that not all systems are created equal, and different manufacturers have different ways of dealing with the differences between them. To explain a bit about the concept we’ll be focusing on the TrunkTracker III, but the basic concepts apply to other radios as well. Just how you apply the concepts may be completely different, depending on which radio you have.

The first thing you need to do is figure out the type of trunking system you have. Many excellent references, including Police Call available at most RadioShack stores, may be of some help there. Once that’s determined, you’ll need to do some calculating, or guessing, about how to enter the system into your scanner. Have your owner’s manual handy.

Trunking Systems

There are several types of systems out there. LTR systems are used primarily for businesses. Programming an LTR system into your scanner requires that you know all the channels in use, but after that it’s pretty automatic. You then only have to worry about finding the talkgroups that are of interest.

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Low-Power FM And Microbroadcasting:
The Latest News Will Surprise You!

by Bruce A. Conti

Have you heard the news? Community service is alive and well on the radio. There’s a revolution in public broadcasting going on right now across the dial. Small low-power radio stations are carrying the news of your community and serving the public with programming not found among the big guns, thanks to a relatively new low-power FM service created by the FCC. Meanwhile, alternative broadcasters in big cities are bypassing the FCC in order to serve their local communities. Welcome to the exciting world of low-power radio.

Low-Power FM

A low-power FM (LPFM) broadcast service in the United States was created partially in response to criticism of FCC deregulation that relaxed radio station ownership rules that, by most accounts, diluted local community service across the dial. The service also eliminates many of the construction and operating expenses of a standard broadcast station, which, at greater than 100 watts, are considered prohibitive for a small non-commercial operation, although start-up costs are still in the $10,000 range.

Initially it was proposed that LPFM broadcast stations be allowed on second adjacent frequencies or “channels” of existing broadcast stations. However the proposal was short-circuited by existing “full service” broadcasters concerned about increased interference. The final FCC ruling limited LPFM to within the third adjacent channel, significantly watering down the effectiveness of the service in urban areas where the FM broadcast band is too crowded to accept any new radio stations.

There have been petitions for restoring the original parameters for the service, but for now LPFM broadcasting remains limited to third adjacent channel protection standards, although expansion or strengthening of the service is under consideration by the FCC, at least in terms of protecting LPFM stations already on the air, while also extending the length of construction permits for those in the process of getting there.

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It’s More Than Ham Radio Volunteers!

by Rich Arland, K7SZ

The face of emergency communications (EmComm) is rapidly changing. The time honored position of the ham radio operator as a traffic handler in times of disaster is rapidly coming to a close. How do I know this? The weekend of October 22-23, 2005, my wife, Tricia, KB3MCT, and I attended the 2nd Annual EmComm Conference at Shimokin Dam, PA, sponsored by the Snyder County RACES/ARES and the Northumberland County ARES groups.

Chris Snyder, NG3F, ARRL Eastern Pennsylvania Section Emergency Coordinator/Snyder County ARES Emergency Coordinator/RACES Officer, and his group put on a tremendous collection of informational forums that spanned the entire weekend. If you live and work in Eastern Pennsylvania and have an interest in emergency communications, this is the place you needed to be. At that conference we came face to face with the future of amateur radio involvement in EmComm, and it is a shocker!

For many years hams have been at the forefront of disaster relief communications furnishing on the spot, real-time tactical communications for disaster response personnel. In addition, during the aftermath, hams traditionally bore the brunt of health and welfare traffic alerting the families and friends of disaster victims as to their status. This picture is changing as we speak. Amateur Radio involvement in EmComm is about to take a dramatic turn and if we do not respond quickly and accept our new roles as system administrators as opposed to radio operators, we will be left in the dust as professional disaster mitigators find new ways to communicate without the ham radio community!

It’s Not April 1, Folks!

No, I am not kidding. What I saw and experienced at the EmComm conference in October was sobering and has me wondering whether or not the Amateur Radio community can actually make the changes needed to keep up with the needs of our served agencies. It seems that in today’s EmComm world, everyone on the disaster site has a walkie-talkie.

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New Aurora Evidence, Armageddon,
And The Uniden BCD396T

by Steve Douglass

Just where did the year go? It seemed to fly by faster than an F-22 in full after-burner! I guess the older you get the faster it seems to pass. When I was a kid, Christmas took forever to get here, but now one barely has enough time to get the tree up and its over.

But it’s early in this shiny new year full of promise and time to clean some of the clutter off my desk and post here some things I’ve been meaning to write about for, well, almost a year now!

Aurora Redux

Remember Aurora, the almost mythical Mach 5 + methane-breathing unicorn of a spy plane that aviation buffs and journalists thought existed despite non-denial denials issued by the Pentagon in the early 1990s? Well it seems new evidence has come to light, some of it backed up by a radio communications interception.

The most talked about sighting from a reliable and trained observer was the famous “Chris Gibson sighting” of 1989. Gibson (an accomplished aircraft observer having served 12 years with the Royal Observers Corps) witnessed a strange wedge-shaped aircraft being refueled by a KC-135 and accompanied by two F-111 chase planes flying over the North Sea. At the time Gibson was an oil engineer working on a North Sea drilling platform. Because of Gibson’s credentials the sighting stirred much interest in aviation press.
This is what I wrote about the campaign to discredit the Chris Gibson sighting in my book, The Comprehensive Guide To Military Monitoring, and on my old website, “Project Black”:

Soon steps were made from within the Defense Department to debunk the evidence. The USAF went so far as to hire experts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Lincoln Laboratories) to discredit the skyquake evidence. They analyzed one of the seismic tracings recorded from Catalina island and in a report stated that the aircraft in question was a run-of-the-mill F-14 Tomcat on a flight test mission off the California Coast.

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Signal Tracing Techniques:
Put Your Signal Tracer To Work!

by Peter J. Bertini

Our last column covered the ins and outs for two representative signal tracers: a Heathkit model T-4 and a Heathkit model IT-12 signal tracer. I suggested how to select a nice working unit and gave a few hints on what is needed to keep these instruments running reliably for many more years to come.

This month I’m going to show you how to use a signal tracer, how to familiarize yourself with what the instrument can do, and how to use the instrument to trace the signal path through a radio from the antenna to the speaker! Like any other skill, there is a learning curve, and for that reason I advise starting with a known working radio. This lets you learn what the signals should sound like at various stages as you become comfortable using the signal tracer. It’s difficult for a novice restorer to dig into a dead radio, using unfamiliar test equipment without wondering if the radio or his interpretations of the test instrument indications are at fault! Learning by doing is good experience and builds your confidence before tackling more difficult endeavors.

A Basic Radio

I’ve drafted a partial schematic for a simple five-tube radio; this drawing is shown in Figure 1. Note that the power supply details are left out for brevity, and hence one of the five tubes—the rectifier—is not shown. On the other hand, the circuitry is reminiscent of most basic All American 5 AC/DC radios that were produced from the 1940s up into the ’60s.

The radio can be broken into two sections for the purpose of signal tracing. Points A through G are RF signal points, and to test these points for signals the signal tracer probe (Photo A) would be set to the “RF” position. In RF the probe switch places a small signal diode in the probe path. The diode acts like a wideband, un-tuned crystal radio, and will detect and demodulate any RF signal, and the recovered audio will be heard on the signal tracer’s internal speaker.

Where To Start

Let’s begin by setting our test bench up as shown in Photo B. Front and center is the radio that needs troubleshooting. Let’s assume that we’ve checked all the tubes, and that we’ve done a preliminary restoration by replacing all of the wax capacitors and out of spec resistors. We’ve checked the cathode, plate and screen grid voltages, and everything, so far, looks good. The radio still doesn’t work, and the next logical step is to systematically isolate the problem to a particular stage to make our repair task a bit easier!

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More On What Lies Below, And Look Ma—Less Noise!

by Tomas Hood, NW7US

Let’s look into our “Propagation Corner” mailbag this month and answer one reader’s comment on something we talked about in December’s column. Bob Roehrig, K9EUI, of Aurora University’s Telecom Department wrote:

Just received the magazine yesterday and was wondering how long ago you wrote the article [on longwave propagation] or if you bothered to do any recent research on what goes on below the broadcast band. On page 39 (middle column) you mention listening for both GWEN stations and OMEGA navigation signals. OMEGA went off the air Sept 30, 1997. GWEN has been deactivated, I believe deactivation started in 1993 (at least on paper), but has certainly not been operational since 2000. Some of the GWEN installations have been converted for DGPS transmissions.

Duly noted, Bob. This goes to show us that one must be careful when relying on information found on the Internet, as that information could well be out of date. I should have cross-referenced the information I was researching in order to uncover those facts.
The Differential GPS (DGPS) System is operated by the U.S. Coast Guard Navigation Center (NAVCEN). The Coast Guard Maritime DGPS System, at the time of this writing, consists of two control centers and over 60 remote broadcast sites. This is from the NAVCEN website at <http://www.navcen.uscg.gov/ dgps/default.htm>:

The Service broadcasts correction signals on marine radio beacon frequencies to improve the accuracy of and integrity to GPS-derived positions. The Coast Guard DGPS Service provides 10-meter accuracy in all established coverage areas. Typically, the positional error of a DGPS position is 1 to 3 meters, greatly enhancing harbor entrance and approach navigation.

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Capitol Hill And FCC Actions Affecting Communications FCC Gets Approval For Revised Indecency Complaint Form

by Richard Fisher, KI6SN

The Office of Management and Budget has issued a Notice of Action approving the revised Federal Communications Commission Form 475, General Consumer Complaint Form and new Federal Communications Commission Form 475B, Obscene, Profane, and/or Indecent Material Complaint Form.

“The new FCC Form 475B will enable the Commission to collect detailed data from consumers on the practices of those entities that may air obscene, profane, and/or indecent material by giving consumers an opportunity, for the first time, to use a specific form to file their complaints,” the FCC announced November 1. “Form 475B will be used only for complaints associated with obscene, profane, and/or indecent material.”

According to the Commission, both Form 475 and Form 475B “will significantly improve the informal complaint process for consumers, industry, and Commission staff by minimizing confusion on what information the Commission requires. Use of these forms also will improve the complaint process and the overall quality of the complaints received.”
More information about filing a complaint with the FCC can be found at www.fcc.gov/cgb/complaints.html.

CNCS Extends Grant For Hurricane Communications Volunteers

The Corporation for National and Community Services (CNCS) has extended its grant program for Ham Aid, offering limited reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses incurred by radio amateurs providing emergency communications in the wake of hurricanes Rita and Wilma. Hurricane Katrina volunteers were initially covered by the grant.

“To date there is adequate funding to support the hundreds of hams who traveled to the Southeast since late August,” the American Radio Relay League’s Mary Hobart, K1MMH, said in the ARRL Letter. The reimbursement procedures are similar to those in place for hurricane Katrina.

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Programming Software Overview— Understanding Which Software Package Is Best For You

by Joe Cooper

As I have pointed out in the columns that have been published over the past year, the “leading edge” of modern radio design has shifted from the use of “real” electronic parts to “virtual” components. These virtual components are created when specially designed software programs are run in a personal computer and, rather than tuning a signal as conventional radios do, they “process” radio signals as digital information.

Due to this significant change in radio technology many hobbyists who have enjoyed building radios in the past are now faced with a dilemma: how do we continue to enjoy “hands on” construction projects when radio circuits are now computer software algorithms? The answer is simple: if that’s how radios are now being built, learn how to do that too using the new tools we have available.

Frankly the radio monitoring hobby has faced several major shifts in technology in the past and has managed to survive each one successfully. One example I’m old enough to remember was the big switch that took place between the use of vacuum tubes to transistors, and then to integrated circuits.

Even today there is still a strong contingent of people who proudly claim, “real radios glow in the dark,” who take great pride in maintaining their vintage equipment in top form. Likewise, you’ll still find a significant group of people who will only use vacuum tube based amplifiers in their high-end audio equipment.

What’s really going to bring about the biggest changes in radio monitoring will be the new modes of digital radio transmission that will be taking over the airwaves soon, such as DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting), DRM (Digital Radio Mondiale), HDC (Hi-Definition Compression) and more. AM and FM radio, which have been with us since the 1920s and 40s, will eventually be retired from use in commercial broadcasting, rendering all of those wonderful analog radios we now own obsolete.

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by Gordon West, WB6NOA

When emergency communicators are called in to staff an evacuation shelter or maybe a field station totally independent of commercial power, we need more than just a handheld and a single 1-amp-hour NiCd internal battery pack. Okay, so your handheld runs on NIMH, then you maybe have 1.5 amp-hours of handheld battery capacity. If you have the new lithium ion battery pack for your handheld, you may have up to 1.8 amp-hours of battery capacity.

Field Experience

The radio operators who returned from hurricane duty all report that it took more than just a single handheld to keep them on the air from their shelter or field operating point. Most reported the need for an occasional 20 or 30 watts of output power, and the utility of a dual-band mobile with variable power output settings. There’s just no way you’re going to run a mobile off a handheld battery supply!

An excellent battery choice would be the well-constructed, automobile jump-start battery systems boasting up to 17 amp-hours of lead-acid, non-spillable battery capacity, and usually available for under $75. Even with the less expensive $39.95 specials with 12-amp-hour capacity, you are on the air with that mobile radio for at least 24 hours if you monitor with squelch on, talk mainly on the lowest power output, and keep your transmissions short to conserve your car jump-battery capacity.

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Ready! Set! Communicate!

by Kirk Kleinschmidt, NTØZ

Although I’ve been—among other things—a computer tech for more than 20 years now, I have only recently begun to take advantage of the various online chat and instant messaging services available on the Internet (and used more effectively by millions of teenagers every day, I might add!). Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I’m single again, but the conversations (QSOs?) I’ve been having online (DX and local) are quite a bit more interesting than the bulk of the conversations I have on-air—which is actually a bit upsetting!

Even in these dog days of the current sunspot cycle, when rampant, crazed, 24-hour DX contacts are impossible (and ragchewers exact their revenge on the bands), my ham conversations have become a bit stilted and “cookie-cutter.” To be sure, online chatters aren’t bound by the constraints of FCC licenses, but they’re also not bound by most hams’ often unfortunate tradition of limiting our conversations to radios, signal reports, the weather, and gall bladder surgeries, either!

The online “netizens” are real people talking about real things—some interesting, some funny, and some stupid. And there’s no reason why we hams can’t follow their lead. Imagine how much fun our hobby would be if we were people first and hams second? Wayne Green, W2NSD, the founder and former editor of 73 Magazine, used to periodically rant about how hams need to be conversationalists first, technology hobbyists second. He was definitely onto something, and his message is still valid today.

Until I visited www.waynegreen.com I didn’t remember whether Wayne was still with us! Apparently, according to his recent blog entries, he is—and he’s as outspoken as ever. If you’re too new to remember “Uncle Wayne,” check out his website and see if you can dig up some of his 73 Magazine ham radio editorials. They’re required reading for every budding communicator! Besides, after reading some of W2NSD’s stuff, your wildest ham chats will probably still seem tame!

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They’re Back…XEYU From Mexico,
And Bhutan SW Gets A Cash Boost!

by Gerry L. Dexter

There should be a newly refurbished and revitalized shortwave voice on the air now from the National University of Mexico. XEYU, long an on-again/off-again resident of 9600 has a new 10-kW transmitter and should be hearable by most of us, depending on the existence or absence of competing signals.

VT Merlin Communications, which operates several shortwave transmitter sites for the BBC, has dropped the Merlin name and is now simply VT Communications.

Shortwave from Bangladesh has ceased, at least for now. Bangladesh Betar is reported to be off the air due to transmitter difficulties. They are trying to get back “on line,” but this may not happen until they can obtain new transmitters.

It seems earlier reports of the imminent passing of the Bhutan Broadcasting Service from the shortwave scene were premature. In fact, just the opposite is in the offing. Instead of closing up shop, the BBS, with monetary assistance from India, plans to add a 100-kW shortwave transmitter. Unfortunately this doubling of power probably won’t make it all that much easier to hear the station, scheduled on 6035 from 0100 to 1600, Trans World Radio, working with HCJB, now has a broadcasting foothold in Liberia, with a license to operate a mediumwave station there—and the intention to add a shortwave outlet as well. As a guesstimate, this is at least a year away, so don’t go hunting for it just yet.

Also on the African scene, we learn that Radio France International plans to increase its efforts to better reach listeners on that continent. It’s unclear if this means an increase in power and/or broadcast hours or even new transmitters and sites.

Radio Tanzania-Zanzibar, 11735, is now carrying local the Spice FM in English. This airs from around 1800 but only a few minutes of news in English is aired before they go back to other programming at about 1810.

Australian Upgrades

Those always-elusive stations of Australia’s Northern Territories Shortwave Service are undergoing an upgrade. VL8A in Alice Springs was the first to receive attention and went off the air for a few weeks last fall while a new transmitter was installed. Local listeners were advised to tune to one of the other stations (at Katherine or Tennant Creek), which are next in line for a tune-up.

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N3AVY Is Alive And Well (Thanks To Loyal Friends!)

by Bill Price, N3AVY

No, I didn't almost die (well, not that I'm aware of, anyway) but the beloved ham license and that pretty neat callsign were in limbo for a while, but finally, the license has been renewed. While I must thank the people in Gettysburg and Washington D.C., I also owe a tip of the hat to Tom and Karen Mitchell (a ham-couple from seven-land who share other special interests with me), my friend John (who knows his own last name), several readers who nudged me via e-mail, and of course, Norm, who nudged me to the point of arranging to bring me a rig and antenna which I promise to use so long as he does not cause injury to himself, to me, or to any dairy animals during the installation.

And before I go any further, I'd like to tell loyal (and patient) reader Dwight Hanson, KB7AJE, that I am looking for a pencil and paper so that I can send him a proper answer to his letter, which is thumb-tacked RIGHT IN FRONT OF MY FACE until I write him an answer!

Now for those of you who face an upcoming expiration of your ham license, fear not! It was Tom and Karen who actually copied the link and included it in an e-mail to me and assured me that it was quick and easy, and didn’t cost a dime to renew. They were right, of course, and I now have (written on the wall, so I don’t lose it) some kind of FCC or FBI internal identification number so that I can either renew my ham license or get arrested with just the click of a mouse.

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