Saturday, September 12, 2009

ARRL Registered Licensing Instructor

I recieved my official notification that I am now an ARRL Registered Licensing Instructor.

Friday, September 11, 2009

New Amateur Radio Technician Class

We started a new Technician level class this past Thursday evening. Over the next four weeks Kevin-KW4B and I will teach an amateur radio technician level class to a varied group of folks that are interested in getting thier FCC license. We had seven students this week and should pick up a couple more next week. I really love to teach, especially electronics and radio. The students did very well and seem genuinely excited about learning the material. Tom-K4GIV sat in with us and plans to become one of our local instructors. Looking forward to next week. Here are some photos that Mac-KF4LMT took for us.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Sept 5 Pre-Simulated Emergency Test Exercise

It all started with a couple of us here in the Savannah area wanting to get out and play some radio over the Labor Day weekend and it turned into a very productive pre-SET exercise. Since the statewide Georgia ARES Simulated Emergency Test is coming up on Oct 2-4 we decided we would test a couple of things that we want to do for the SET. This years SET centers around a total statewide electrical grid failure. Here in the Savannah area (Chatham and surrounding counties) we have over ten repeaters and we know that many of them have substantial backup power sources and would continue to run for quite an extended period of time. However, we decided that we would pretend that we had a total loss of all of our repeaters and come up with a plan to still effectively communicate. Here in Chatham County we test Simplex Network Operation weekly and have a great idea of our coverage area. Of course simplex operation calls for a dedicated net control operator to play traffic cop since not everyone can hear each other. We thought it might be a good idea to try something different using cross band repeat capability to see if we could set up an adhoc repeater system. So Dan-KF4MND and I came up with a plan and began to spread the word. We met for breakfast on Saturday morning at 7:00 like we always do then we then we headed to downtown Savannah. Here was our plan...........

Set up two cross band repeat capable systems on top of one of the parking decks in Savannah. We know there are higher places in town that we could operate from but a parking deck would give us great flexibility and allow up to come and go very easily as needed. Dan and I both drove our trucks to the top deck of the garage and began to set things up. Before we even started setting up the radios and antennas, we both set up our laptops and associated web cams to stream video of our activities to the Internet. Dan to his Ustream site and me to my blog. This way others were able to follow our progress live on the web. Pretty cool, huh?

Now it was time to set up the radios. Dan has a very nice "Go Kit" that he loves to take out in the field. He set up his Comet dual band antenna and then got his radio configured. I was using a less than optimal radio to do my part of the cross band but we had to make do with such short notice. I borrowed a Kenwood dual band handheld with cross band repeat capability and had a dickens of a time getting it configured right. But between me, Dan, and Robert-KJ4HAL, we got it figured out. So we put together a frequency plan and came up with the idea of using the frequency pair of one of our unused local 2 meter repeaters. Great idea since this frequency pair is already programmed into most of the local operators radios. Nothing to be added or changed, just key up on that freq like you normally would. So we programmed in 147.810 into my radio which would act as the recieve side of the make shift repeater. Dan programmed 147.210 into his radio which would act as the transmit side. We then agreed on a 70cm frequency from the SERA bandplan and each programmed that into our radios on the UHF side. This would be the frequency that my radio would talk to his radio on. So this is how things would flow. An operator would tune his radio to our local 147.210 repeater. When he keys up the radio transmits on the repeater input offset frequency of 147.810. My radio would recieve that signal and cross band repeat out the UHF side of the radio using the 70cm freq over to Dan's radio which recieves the UHF signal and in turn cross band repeats it over to the VHF side of the radio and transmits out on 147.210 which is the output frequency of the unused repeater. Any other operator listening to the 147.210 would recieve the transmission. After adjusting a few things to account for the less that optimal recieve side and the proximity related desensitization, things were working fine. We got some good comm checks thru our makeshift repeater from several local operators and were quickly able to gauge just how much coverage this setup would provide us in the event that we ever lose our local repeaters.

One other thing that tied in nicely to this scenario is the fact that we have been asked to support a local 5k Road Race in downtown Savannah on Oct 3rd. Yep, that's on the same day as the SET! My initial reaction when I found this out was "how are we going to be able to support this and participate in the SET at the same time?". However, after just a few minutes I realized that this would be a great opportunity for us to tie the road race net into the SET. Great idea. So this played a big part in our whole plan for testing the makeshift repeater downtown. On Oct 3rd we'll deploy operators along the road race course and and create a net leveraging this cross band repeat system of ours. With that in mind, we had Robert-KJ4HAL go along the race route all the way to the farthest point to be sure he could get into "repeater system". Shortly, Kevin-KW4B joined him and they began to test the connectivity. Everything was working fine and Dan and I were coming up with plans on how to mitigate some of the issues that we had discovered so that next time things would work even better. By this time Robert had to split and Kevin made his way back to the parking deck and we grabbed a bite to eat. We left Dan's video camera running on the parking deck while we watched the feed on my laptop from the sandwhich shop. I love technology. One we finished with the nourishment we went back up and broke down the cross band setup and decided to test just using simplex to see how far we could get out form on the top of the deck. Earlier Dan had gotten into a repeater in Florida and another near Dublin, GA so we knew we could get out pretty well from there but probably had a little band opening. Dan was able to make good contact to Mac-KF4LMT up in Rincon on 146.550. Mac had the 2 meter freq programmed in his mobile and was cross banding from there into his office where he recieved on 70cm on his handheld. Good test.

So after a very successful test on an absolutely gorgeous day, we broke everything down and packed up around 5:30 or so. I really enjoy operating in "other than normal" conditions and this certainly was. Now we are really looking forward to the GA ARES SET and incorporating this into our local scenario........K4GTM

Steve Jonas is Finally Home

Well, after nine long weeks in the hospital, Steve is finally home. Steve left the hospital last Wed and is now continuing to recover at home. I went by to visit on Friday and to see if there was anything I could do. Steve still has a long way to go to get back to normal. Because he has trouble getting in and out of his recliner, Bill-K4WP built an angled pedestal for the recliner to sit on. This gives Steve an easier angle into and out of the chair. Bill had also come by and cut up the tree limbs that Stephen and I had cut out of the pecan tree last week. Please continue to pray for Steve and Sue as he recovers.