January 2021 Pickle Barrel Review
The official newsletter of the Weston Mountain Digital Radio Association
Greetings and welcome 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 (Sorry your cousins bachelor party doesn’t count). 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 (Although I’m sure your quite proud of it, we really don’t want to see your new tattoo). 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.
Given that winter is nearly in full array there isn’t much to report this month as far as the repeaters go. But we did manage to get alittle something done.
You’ll recall that the Roosevelt machine (145.190) had some water accumulation in the antenna causing the SWR to be excessive (5.0:1). Even though we were able to get the SWR down to something more reasonable (2.3:1) we still put a replacement antenna on order from Sinclair (Model SC246). We were also able to obtain permission from the site owner to move our antenna up from the current 35ft level to a 90ft position. However, when we attempted to do so we found the current coax runs to be damaged. So, we have ordered a run of 7/8” Heliax and will be installing that instead. Hopefully, this should provide a significant improvement in coverage for the Roosevelt (145.190) repeater.
Yeasu has just released a firmware update for the DR2X repeater. It mainly addresses the problem with the repeater sticking in analog while in the AMS (Automatic Mode Switch) configuration. Fortunately, although all of the W7NEO machines are DR2X’s, with the exception of the two DR1X machines running strictly in analog (Cabbage Hill – 146.880 & Weston Mt – 441.700) all of the DR2X’s are currently running in “Fixed Digital.” So, there is no immediate need to install the upgrade, and it can wait until spring.
Lynn Wilson, K7LW
As many of you are already aware, we have been working towards linking all of the W7NEO repeaters via microwave in hopes of making the system more robust in the event of a natural or manmade disaster. The microwave in turn will provide a backbone laying the foundation for a MESH net. So, when I received this in my email from one of the folks on the west side, to say the least it got my attention. This article was taken from the current Amateur Radio Newsline report (from February 5th) which I think you might find of particular interest:
CLUB OFFERS MICROWAVE NETWORK TO BOOST BRITISH COLUMBIA EMCOMM
JIM/ANCHOR: For one ham club in Canada, emergency response doesn’t just consist of HTs, repeaters and HF radios. Radio operators there are hoping they can soon assist local responders by getting their microwave network in the game. Christian Cudnik K0STH has that story.
CHRISTIAN: The Kamloops Amateur Radio Club, which already provides emergency support on the ground throughout its region in British Columbia, sees even more potential in their mountaintop-to-mountaintop broadband network. They’re offering to open its use to the TNRD, the regional governing body, in the hopes that the microwave links’ internet connectivity and large data bandwidth can provide an additional resource for local Emergency Operations Centers in the case of wildfires or other calamities.
Club president Myles VE7FSR said the idea of providing the TNRD, or Thompson-Nicola Regional District, with a higher level of assistance was inspired by a 2017 wildfire in the region. He and some friends in the British Columbia Wireless Amateur Radio Network recalled how the blaze had hampered the Emergency Operations Centers’ abilities to communicate vital information.
Myles told Newsline that for the region’s various municipalities to utilize the club’s high speed microwave system, they’d need to first establish that they have line-of-sight with the mountaintops and then install dishes there to connect with the EOCs below. Myles said this sort of operation has come of age. EOCS, he said, are more dependent than ever on internet access because the data bandwidth is so much greater there than on VHF, UHF and especially HF.
Christian Cudnik K0STH For Amateur Radio Newsline.
(MYLES BRUNS VE7FSR)
If you would like to listen to the entire broadcast here is the link: https://www.arnewsline.org/news/2021/2/4/amateur-radio-newsline-report-2258-for-friday-february-5-2021
FROM THE FCC
For those of you keeping track I shouldn’t have to mention that even though 2020 was best described as a “dumpster fire,” 2021 started out on a pretty rough note as well. With any luck January won’t be what sets the pace for the rest of the year. It seems that whether brought on by the pandemic, the economic downturn, or whatever else, a new norm has been thrust upon all of us. Unfortunately, it has even gone so far as to affect our beloved hobby of Ham Radio. Affecting it to the point that the FCC felt compelled on January 17th to issue an Enforcement Advisory reminding all licensed Amateur Radio operators (along with those in the Personal Radio Service) to not use their radios in order to participate in illegal activities.
“Amateur and Personal Radio Services Licensees and Operators May Not Use Radio Equipment to Commit or Facilitate Criminal Acts…”
The entire FCC Enforcement Advisory can be found here.
Now for those of us that have been in the hobby for a while this is really something out of the ordinary. I mean even when I was a young teenager first starting out in the hobby, we all knew exactly what was legal and was not. So to be told in an official capacity, to me anyway, implies something much deeper is afoot. But I’ll leave that to the conspiracy theorists to bander about and for now just stick to the facts as I understand them to be.
Nonetheless allot of very disturbing observations have come out since the events in Washington D.C. on January 6th. One thing in particular was that the group Oath Keepers had planned to utilize Ham Radio and GMRS radios in partnership with the Three Percenters, and the Proud Boys in order to coordinate their efforts aimed at our nation’s capital. Specifically, illegal, aggressive, and violent actions focused on the insurrection of the Nation’s Capital building and the committing of physical harm to our countries elected officials (from BOTH sides of the isle). According to reports the Oath Keepers had put together an elaborate communications plan based upon a paramilitary format which included both Amateur Radio and Personal Radio Service (GMRS, FRS, etc). Many of the rioters also utilized a walkie-Talkie application called “Zello” to coordinate their actions. Given that evidence such as this has been coming out since that day, it becomes more and more clear just why it was that the FCC felt the need to issue the Enforcement Advisory.
Case in point, within the advisory making their point clear with the following statement:
“…amateur licensees that they are prohibited from transmitting “communications intended to facilitate a criminal act” or “messages encoded for the purpose of obscuring their meaning.”
This can include everything from encryption of digital transmissions to the use of alphanumeric coded authentication similar to what the military uses when verifying another station on frequency as being “Friend or Foe.” Although in the military this was standard operation, in Amateur Radio, and the Personal Radio Service this is in direct violation of FCC rules (as was pointed out in the Enforcement Advisory).
On the W7NEO system we have been crystal clear regarding just where we stand on the subject of antigovernment groups such as militias that might attempt to use our system in order to facilitate their own ideological agendas. Within our Comprehensive Emergency Operations Plan we have spelled it out as part of our group’s overall philosophy on such matters with the following:
At no time will any militia groups, and/or groups otherwise representing antigovernment and/or racist sentiments within the fundamental ideologies of their organization(s) be permitted access to the W7NEO system under any circumstance whether real or implied. If individuals representing any such organization(s) are identified on the system they shall be informed that the W7NEO system does not cater to their ideologies therefore it is not available for use by their organization. After having made contact and informed said individual(s) of WMDRA policy pertaining to such ideologies they shall be directed to clear their station(s) from the system immediately. If said individuals refuse to vacate the system as directed they shall be blocked by a system administrator or control operator with no recourse to be reinstated.
This spells out our policy in specific terms leaving no question as to the views of the WMDRA with regards to our system being used in the committing and/or facilitating of such criminal acts. Additionally, also spelling out the consequences for those violators of our polices on such matters.
Amateur Radio has always been tasked by the FCC with being unique in that we are self-policing. In other words, we keep our own house clean so Big Brother doesn’t have too. In a perfect world that’s the case anyway, but we all know that a perfect world is, for the most part, really nothing more than an urban myth. But if we do try and maintain some degree of vigilance at maintaining a fairly clean house then perhaps “Big Brother,” AKA in our case the “FCC,” won’t have to remind us of just what the rules are when it comes to legal and illegal radio operation.
Lynn Wilson, K7LW
EQUIPMENT FIRMWARE UPGRADES
Yeasu has just come out with firmware upgrades for the FTM-400XDR, and the FTM-300DR. It looks as though the update primarily addresses some Bluetooth issues with the two radios. Make sure when you install the update that the FTM-400 that you are updating is a model “XDR.” Apparently, there is a difference in this case when it comes to the firmware.
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.
Looking for a place to take your first, or perhaps upgrade your existing Ham Radio license? Check out the Spout Springs group and sign up for an online testing session with Rob (W2RY) and his friendly group of Volunteer Examiners. You can get signed up for a session by going to the following web site:
And last but not least as the saying goes, we’ve started a new event in the NE-OREGON room originally requested by the Willamette Valley group. Every Friday evening at 7:00pm local there will be a technical forum to discuss Fusion, MESH, or any other topic of a technical nature related to Ham Radio. After obtaining approval from the WMDRA for a single night to see how it was going to work out, the response from our users was positive enough to make it a regular event. So be sure to tune in to the NE-OREGON room on Friday evenings at 7:00pm to learn or perhaps even contribute.