Saturday, June 6, 2009

VE Session Held in Savannah Today

The Coastal Amateur Radio Society held a VE Session today at the Memorial Hospital. This was on the heels of a General Class that we just completed on Thursday. We had three operators test for General and three test for Technician. Unfortunately one of our Techs from the class was not able to make it to the test session so he might try it on Field Day. We had two folks pass the Technician exam and one pass the General exam. Congratulations to John Finn-KJ4KOF for his upgrade to General!

D-Star Work at the Pembroke KJ4GGV Repeater Site

We are very fortunate to have a D-Star system located fairly close to Savannah at the WVAN transmitter site in Pembroke. The Statesboro Amateur Radio Society has done a great job of learning and maintaining the system since it was installed last year. There have been some issues over the past few months with the Internet connectivity, which of course is what enables all of the D-Star systems to connect to one another. The guys suspected it might be a bad router this time so I volunteered to go out there with them to take a look since I had a spare router that I wasn't using. So I met Bob-KI4YRY and Larry-W4RA out at the WVAN tower Friday afternoon to take a look. We quickly found that the Internet router was dead. As in, won't even power up dead. I connected my router and began to program it to connect to the Internet via the Pembroke Telephone Company DSL modem. No joy. Called the help desk folks at the phone company to determine what type of authentication we need to configure for. Found out it was PPPoE which uses a telco provided username and password. She gave them to me and I configed the router accordingly. Still not syncing up to the Internet. Couldn't connect directly with the laptop either so we began to suspect the modem. The rep on the helpdesk dispatched a tech to come out and take a look. He was onsite with a new modem in about an hour. Don't expect that kind of response in Savannah! Gotta love small towns. Well, we installed the new modem, recycled the router and boom, we're on the Internet. Good stuff. While we were waiting on the tech to arrive we got the go ahead to run an ethernet cable from the DSL modem directly to the D-Star gateway. This is huge as it eliminates the need to connect from the modem to the gateway using Wireless LAN with two routers needed. Plus this would take away one more potential point of failure. We found about a 100 foot cable and began to plan how we would route it thru the facility. Easier said than done. In a totally different room about 50 feet apart in a building with cinder block walls! Well, I managed to find a suitable route after climbing around a little. We ran the cable and connected the gateway directly to the Internet router. Next, we ran into another problem. Whatever had killed the DSL modem and the #1 router also scrambled the brains of the #2 router which was connected to the gateway. Great. So Bob called his contact in Atlanta and he told me all the settings that I needed to re-configure the router for the D-Star gateway to connect to the network. Once I got it all configured and ready to go I made sure to save the config file to my laptop so that we'll have it in the future in case we ever need to re-program the router again. That will save alot of time. Once the config was complete we verified that the gateway could be seen as active via the Internet. We weren't able to get a good link established to another node or to the reflector cause no one was available that knows how to do that. So we packed everything up and decided that was enough for one day. Got alot accomplished and we should be better positioned going forward. We'll see how it goes. I sure enjoyed visiting the repeater site and getting a chance to play around with things a little. Thanks to Bob-KI4YRY and Larry-W4RA for letting me tag along.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

General Class Session #4

Well we finished up our General Class License Course tonight with Session #4. I really had a great time teaching the class and learned a few things along the way. Kevin-WD0GFG and I have already discussed how we can tweek a few things in the course for next time. Overall, I think the ARRL prepared course was adequate. The students all seem well prepared for the exam and have been studying regularly on thier own between classes. They will take the exam this coming Saturday morning, June 6th at 0900. Steve-K4SDJ has assembled a group of Volunteer Examiners to administer the test.
Kevin and I will get a break now and plan to teach another Technician Class Course to begin in late August. Which means we may not get to start another General Class course until January. Plus we have plans to offer an Amateur Extra Class course in the future.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

CARS Work Day at the SSFD Radio Station

We had a really great work day at our club station at the Southside Fire Station on Saturday, May 30. We began arriving at about 0800 and quickly began to plan out what needed to be done. Our primary goal for the day was to get the antenna tower refurbished and back in good working order. First order of business was to get the tower lowered so we could better inspect everything. Kevin-WD0GFG climbed the tower to the roofline and and unbolted the bracket holding the tower to the building. We installed a pulley on the bracket and used it to secure a line to the trailer hitch on my truck. This made us feel a little safer as we began to lower the tilt over tower since no one really knew how much it weighs. Lowering went fine and we rested the tower on a ladder so the HF beam antenna would not lay on the ground. With the tower in this position we began to go to work. In summary we replaced the rotor and it's control cable, replaced the old 2 meter antenna with a new Diamond dual bander, replaced the feedline to the HF and the VHF/UHF antennas, replaced the wire cable that is used to crank the tower up, replaced several pulleys, U-bolts, Eye-bolts, rusted nuts and bolts, and installed three new pulleys with line for hoisting wire antennas. We also installed a new ground wire from the radio room out to the ground rods and tower. Wow, we got a lot done. With everything installed and secure, we tilted the tower back up in place and secured it to the bracket and locked everything down. We oriented the HF beam to North and calibrated the rotor control to match. Paul-KJ4FAV climbed the tower and locked the antenna shaft in place and then Kevin tested the rotor and control. Good to go. We finished the tower work around 1400 or so. It took about 11 of us six hours to do but it was well worth it and we now have a refurbished and functional system. Awesome stuff!
We also got started on the radio room by installing a new operating surface. Also took the opportunity to clean out the room and throw away some junk. Decided to call it quits around 1630. We have another work day scheduled for June 13th so we'll finish all of the inside stuff and test the station. Should be fun. We'll have this station running well for the upcoming Field Day activities at the end of June.
Thanks to the following HAMs that came out and really busted thier butts to get this tower work done. We all had a great time and enjoyed the project and each others company.