November 2020 Pickle Barrel Review
The official newsletter of the Weston Mountain Digital Radio Association
Greetings one and all to the Pickle Barrel Review! This is our regular monthly newsletter publication filled with the latest happenings not only of the W7NEO system, and the NE-OREGON room, but System Fusion and other Ham Radio related goings on as well. That said, we invite others to contribute with articles, or if your club or organization is having an event such as a tailgate, swap meet, VE testing, or whatever you can list it here as well. The only thing we ask is that your contribution be nonpolitical (unless it’s a government action that directly affects Ham Radio), respectful of others (no personal attacks), and relatively family friendly. So, all that said, feel free to reach in the barrel, grab yourself a pickle, pull up a chair and have a sit while we discuss the latest happenings in System Fusion, and Ham Radio in general.
KQ6QX – SK
I was just about to put the finishin
g touches on this month’s newsletter when I found out I had lost a very good long time Ham friend of mine, and we as a Ham community had lost a true mentor in emergency (digital) communications. On the 6th of this month at the age of 84 in Portland Oregon Joe Webb (KQ6QX) passed away. Joe was as amazing an individual as he was modest. But at the same time he was passionate about issues dealing with emergency communications and wasn’t shy about speaking up if he knew something wasn’t correct, or needed to be changed.
Born in the small town of Red Level Alabama (current population as of 2018 477), when Joe was old enough he joined the newly formed US Air Force and become a Communication Specialist air crew member on EC-121 Constellation or “Connie” with the 552nd ACW (Air Control Wing) Tinker AFB, Norman OK.
After leaving the Air Force, Joe began to make his mark in main frame computer programming and soon became a much in demand senior software developer. Now for those of you that have known computers to always have been either point and click with a mouse, or swiping your finger, Joe was writing complex and lengthy programs using punch cards. I can tell you from my own experience that the absolute worse thing you can do is drop a stack of those on your way to the data center!
Joe finally retired from all that and moved from California here to North Eastern Oregon to live in Umatilla, or “Umatillie” as he would call it. Joe could be found most days right around lunch time in their daily ritual having lunch at the local Dairy Queen with his brother.
Joe always had time to visit with company and many of the local Ham’s would come to visit and spend time with Joe on his front porch taking in his words of wisdom, and friendly conversation.
Myself, like many other local Ham’s along with others I’m sure, will sorely miss our dear old friend. Very best 73 my friend, although your mic may be now forever silent in our hearts you will always be there no matter the conditions….
I would like to begin with saying a big “Thank You” to all those that have helped to make this system what it is. This month marks three years since myself, Stephen Hutchings (WM7X) of the SSRA, and Ken Long (N7FIV – SK) placed the first repeater, Weston Mountain (147.040), on the air. Since then the system has grown to five repeaters spread across three sites with a footprint stretching just over 140 miles covering both North Eastern Oregon and South Eastern Washington and continues to grow. This isn’t even taking into consideration the other six repeaters and simplex nodes that further enhance the system by not only filling in the gaps, but also including all of our good friends on the west side in and around Salem. None of this would be possible if it were not for the generous support of our users. So, give
yourselves a big pat on the back with my thanks for being a big part of making this system an effective resource in the region, and a great place to hang out
and meet some really great folks. Thank You!
There’s an old saying that says; ”When it rains it pours.” After this month I’m convinced that saying was originated by one of the original crafters of Murphy’s Law. It began with the Weston Mt VHF machine (147.040) loosing sensitivity, which adversely affected coverage. After extensive trouble shooting by myself Eric (K7ELJ), and Will (N7WSY) determined that the issue was with a bad opto-isolator, a bad interconnecting coax cable, and the duplexers were out of tune. So driving up to the site in the snow and ice the three of us made the repairs and adjustments, and the repeater has been working great since!
If that wasn’t enough, myself and Eric (K7ELJ) decided to do a site visit to the Roosevelt machine (145.190) in order to perform some routine maintenance. During our maintenance we noticed that the SWR was way out of spec at 5.0:1. So as Eric was cutting the tape away on the bottom of the antenna to our horror about a cup of water came gushing out! Not only had the water managed to make it’s way into the bottom of the antenna (feedpoint) it also had leached through the pigtail. So after having wiped out the bottom of the antenna, and replaced the pigtail we managed to get the SWR down to 2.5:1 which although wasn’t perfect was more palatable, and we would at least be able to keep the repeater on the air. The thought is that a weep hole had been inadvertently blocked during installation.
As a result of the outcome of both Weston Mt and Roosevelt I placed two replacement antennas on order from Sinclare (Model SC246) via Talley which hopefully will be arriving soon and we can get the Roosevelt repeater back up to full operation.
On a more upbeat note, I spoke with the care taker of both the Roosevelt and Chandler Butte sites regarding moving the Roosevelt antenna up to the 100’ foot level on the tower from 35’ where it is now. Also, possibly beginning installation of the Chandler Butte (147.320) repeater. He assured me he would speak to the owner and get back to me. If we are able to get something installed before winter we’ve been discussing the possibility of the initial installation being solar power. So fingers crossed!
And from the analog side of the house, we’re still working on getting the two Kenwood repeaters ready to install replacing the Yeasu DR1XR repeaters on Weston Mt (441.700) and Cabbage Hill (146.880). Hopefully we’ll have made the switch before the snow gets too deep.
Other than that the focus has been on ensuring all of the repeaters in the W7NEO group are ready for winter. Given that the weather guess’ers are saying this winter is going to be a bad one, we want to make sure that our system is fully up to the task for our growing user base, but should the need arise to be of service to our local community as well.
Lynn Wilson, K7LW
With winter nipping at our heels it’s time to start thinking about winter preparedness. Along with wrapping pipes, making sure you have plenty of warm socks, and brandy, we also need to start thinking about just what to carry in our vehicles. Here are just a few suggested items to keep in your vehicle for winter driving.
1. Sturdy ice scraper and snow brush. This is one of the most crucial things to keep in your car during winter. You know the weatherman isn’t always right, so a small chance of flurries could end up leaving a few inches of snow on your car. Put an ice scraper and snow brush in your car as soon as the cold weather hits. Snow and ice on cars is dangerous because it could obstruct your view or fly off and hit another car. Always clear your ENTIRE car of snow and ice before driving to prevent a crash.
2. Shovel. Buy a small or collapsible shovel to keep in your trunk. It will be useful if your car is stuck in snow or if you have to clear a path to drive.
3. Gloves and other winter clothing. You have the snow brush and shovel, but now you need to actually use them. Wearing gloves and other warm clothing will make the task of clearing your car easier. It also doesn’t hurt to keep a few hand warmers in your car. Always be ready to bundle up to prevent frostbite! You’ll do a better job of clearing your car when you’re warm.
4. Blanket. Have extra blankets lying around your house? Put one in your car. If you get stranded or get into a crash, it’ll get cold fast, especially if your car won’t turn on. You can’t always rely on your car’s heater, so keep warm with a blanket.
5. Emergency flares or reflectors. Snow storms reduce visibility whether it’s daytime or nighttime. Reflectors will help other cars and emergency vehicles see you if you are stopped on the side of the road.6. Rock salt, sand, or kitty litter. These coarse materials will help your tires gain traction if your vehicle is stuck in the snow. Spread the material near your tires and in your car’s path to get out of a slippery situation.
7. First aid kit. A first aid kit is crucial if someone is injured in a car crash. Although it’s essential year-round, this is one of the most important things to keep in your car during winter because emergency vehicle response time may be slow if it’s snowing. Administer basic first aid to the victim until assistance arrives.
8. Extra windshield washer fluid. Make sure your windshield washer fluid has antifreeze components to prevent it from freezing. Clearing your windshield with fluid will improve visibility in a winter storm.
9. Flashlight. It gets dark early in the winter. If you stall or get stranded at night, use the flashlight to find out what’s wrong. It can also make you more visible to others on the road.
10. Rope or chain. A tow chain is a great tool to get your car out of snow.
11. Jumper cables. Cold weather can affect a car’s battery. You can’t start your car if the battery’s dead, which means you won’t be able to use the car’s heater for warmth. Waiting for a jump start in the cold is not fun. You won’t have to wait as long if you have jumper cables with you.
12. Small tool kit. You can fix minor vehicle problems with basic tools. Learn how to perform simple maintenance yourself so you don’t have to wait for help.
13. Sunglasses. While sunglasses are more of a summer accessory, the sun’s reflection on snow is bright. Wear sunglasses while driving to reduce glare.
14. Cell phone charger. Try to keep your phone charged before hitting the road, but always keep a cell phone charger in your car as well. You will need your phone to call for assistance if you are stuck or involved in a car crash.
15. Water and non-perishable snacks. If you get stranded, you may have to wait for assistance. The wait could be long if road conditions are bad. Storing water and snacks in your car will come in handy in these situations. A snack like a granola bar will sure taste good while you’re waiting for help to arrive. And don’t forget about snacks for your kids- they might get hungry and cranky in a situation like this.
*These are all essential things to keep in your car during winter, but before you even hit the road, make sure you have plenty of fuel and good wiper blades. Always keep a half-full tank of gas in your car during winter months and check that your wiper blades are in working order. You may also want to look into getting snow tires.
Of course as the always prepared Ham Radio operators we are, we always carry plenty of radios in our vehicles, and if that includes an HT or two don’t forget to toss a spare battery or two in your pocket on the way out the door.
So drive safe this winter, and enjoy the winter wonderland with all it’s beauty!
This month’s topic is “Latency,” and how it affects repeater operation on a digital voice system.
First off, just what is latency anyway? I’m glad you asked, here is the dictionary definition of latency:
“The delay before a transfer of data begins following an instruction for its transfer. i.e.
Poor performance due to network latency”
So, you see it’s basically a network issue, I know your shocked right?
To get an example of what this sounds like, just listen to the difference between the Roosevelt, or the Weston Mt repeaters and the Cabbage Hill repeater. The Cabbage Hill machine is on a PDN (Personal Digital Node) while the other repeaters in the system are all on regular nodes through HRI-200’s. What happens is that there is a noticeable delay on the Cabbage Hill machine as compared to the other machines in the system.
Okay, that’s all well and good but what does it have to do with me you ask. It has allot to do with you as a user and how you operate on a digital voice system as appose to how you operate on a regular analog FM system.
Some of you have heard me say that tailgating, or what some call “quick keying,” is highly discouraged, even though admittedly I’m probably the worst offender. But perhaps most of you have never really heard it explained just “why” it is that tailgating is such a bad thing. Unlike your typical analog FM repeater system, most digital voice repeater systems are networked. Add to that on a typical WiresX system most all digital voice repeaters, and nodes connected to the system are going through various routers and switches which tend to introduce latency to some degree along the way. This becomes accumulative as it progresses through the system so a few microseconds of latency can add up fast when your talking to someone that’s both geographically and network wise at some distance away on the system. Even through our relatively small system we can get a degree of latency anywhere from a few seconds to a minute or two. As some of you know from your own home networks, depending upon network conditions the degree of latency can go from minor to major at any time for a variety of reasons. The more nodes on the system the more this becomes a factor. Other factors involved could be additional internet traffic causing doubling or “data crashes” occurring between nodes and/or other repeaters.
So with all this in mind, there are some good operating practices which should be observed while on the digital voice system.
First off, and probably most important is to leave a pause between transmissions. After the other station unkeys, in your head do the two or three second rule and count to yourself; “One thousand one, One thousand Two,” and so on. By doing this not only will you be giving the various nodes on the system a chance to drop before keying up again, but you won’t be committing the ultimate sin of tailgating. Additionally, after you key your microphone give a slight pause before speaking to allow for the system to fully rise to the occasion so you won’t get part of your transmission cut off. Think of it as a cascading, or “domino effect” each time you key up and try to allow for it. What this also does is to remind you that even though the repeaters on the WiresX system are operating in digital mode they still have a time out timer (typically 3 minutes per FCC rules) which needs to be reset by allowing the repeater to unkey.
This will also allow you to leave a space for someone with emergency traffic to interject if they need to use the repeater system. Of course you’ll also be leaving a space in case someone just wants to interject and rattle your cage as well.
And finally, as in the case of the analog repeaters, always listen prior to keying up so as to ensure that the repeater system isn’t already in use.
Three are no exercises or drills that I’m aware of this month. However, I’ve noticed allot of conversation on the various local repeaters talking about go kits. I’m sorry to say I personally don’t have a portable station, but perhaps I could persuade those of you that do to share just what you have in yours, and perhaps we could get some ideas of just how to put one together.
- Please be aware that the WMDRA (W7NEO) does not participate in any of the above listed training, this information is made available to our users for the purpose of informing them of the event(s) only.
I am in the process of acquiring some equipment from a local Ham for MESH net. My plan is to install a node on Weston Mt and link it to my home in Athena, and possibly Cabbage Hill. I’ll keep you posted on my progress, and my observations. As they say;” Baby Steps.”
Lynn Wilson, K7LW
Thanks to COVID 19 most all of the normal yearly events such as Ham Fests, Swap Meets, etc. are pretty much all on hold until further notice. Hopefully once this plague has tired of ravaging the countryside we can get back to normal and go back to holding our cherished nerd conventions once again. But should you have any knowledge of events such as VE testing, or even something virtual locally going on let us know and we’ll get it in the Review for others.
Recipe of the Month
Since there seems to be an interest in food on the system, we thought adding a segment of “The recipe of the month” might be fun. So with that in mind, here ya go!
- ½ cup softened butter
- 1 ¼ cups sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ cup milk
- 2 cups blueberries, washed, drained and picked over
- 3 teaspoons sugar
- Preheat the oven to 375.
- Cream the butter and 1 1/4 cups sugar until light.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla.
- Sift together the flour, salt, and baking powder, and add to the creamed mixture alternately with the milk.
- Crush 1/2 cup blueberries with a fork and mix into the batter. Fold in the remaining whole berries.
- Line a 12-cup standard muffin tin with cupcake liners, and fill with batter (for larger muffins a 6 cup tin works great). Sprinkle the 3 teaspoons sugar over the tops of the muffins (This is optional since the recipe is already pretty loaded with sugar) and bake at 375 degrees for about 30-35 minutes.
- Remove muffins from tin and cool at least 30 minutes. Store, uncovered, or the muffins will be too moist the second day if they last that long.