January 2021 Pickle Barrel Review

The official newsletter of the Weston Mountain Digital Radio Association


Introduction

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.


Repeater Updates

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


Emergency Communications

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.

Specifically:

“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.


Local Events

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.


VE TESTING

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:

Good Luck!


CLOSING THOUGHTS

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.

December 2020 Pickle Barrel Review

The official newsletter of the Weston Mountain Digital Radio Association


Introduction

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.  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.


N7ZHG – SK                                                            

On the morning of December 16, 2020 at approximately 9:30am our dear friend Gary Cooper (N7ZHG) peacefully passed from this world to the next.

Gary was a good friend to many of us both in the Amateur Radio community and the county and state emergency communications responders. He was a driving force in establishing the potential of Amateur (“Ham”) Radio as a viable resource in emergency communication for Eastern Oregon. Gary continually raised the bar for quality of service, and service to the community in general when it came to providing emergency communication resources. He always expected the same level of commitment of others that he placed upon himself. More than once I recall conversations with him that began; ”So what are you doing this Saturday besides helping me install cable at the EOC?”

Gary always had a deep sense of family, and the importance of having a close relationship with family, always placing family before all else. This was evident in the living room walls of his apartment having been covered primarily with pictures of his family.

Gary took great pride in his 36 years working for the Union Pacific Railroad. He began his career with the railroad as part of a team of workers whose job it was to follow the rails looking for damaged power poles and repairing them. He ended his career as a Communications Systems Specialist and was a gifted technician.

Gary also was very into Radio Controlled Helicopters, and had quite a few that he had built and flew on a regular basis.

There is so much more I could say about Gary, but since first having let folks know of Gary’s passing it seemed as though everyone had a story to tell of how Gary had helped them with one thing or another.

I sincerely hope that Gary knew just how valuable his contributions to the community were. Given how long Gary’s battle with cancer was we can all find comfort in knowing he is no longer in pain and that the gift of himself which he so unselfishly shared in the many lives he touched will forever endear within us all.

Farewell old friend, you will be sorely missed by all those who knew you…


Repeater Updates

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 a little 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


MESH NET

I have acquired some MESH equipment and once spring returns in earnest my plan is to install some of the equipment at the Weston Mt repeater site and link it back down to my home. Once installed I will be able to play with it and learn as much as I can about MESH networks.

Lynn Wilson, K7LW


New DIGITAL REPEATER

There is a new digital voice repeater installed at the W7DP club house in College Place, WA and it is open to all licensed armature radio operators. The frequency of the repeater (N7DMR) is 445.300Mhz Offset -5Mhz.  

This repeater is a dual mode digital repeater supporting D-Star and DMR modes. The D-Star repeater is connected to the REF029A reflector with Washington Digital Radio Enthusiasts group in Spokane.  The DMR repeater features Brandmeister talkgroups with Reddit (98003 – Time Slot 1) and PNW Regional (31771 – Time Slot 2) as the static talkgroup. The repeater should have good coverage in the Walla Walla Valley reaching north to Dixie, south to Milton-Freewater and west to Touchet.

Please contact [email protected] if you have questions about the repeater.

Kun Lin, N7DMR


DIGITAL RADIO Operation

VARA: an exciting new digital mode

Oversimplified tutorials – part 1: VARA FM getting started

VARA is a rising star in amateur radio digital communication. It works on both SSB on HF and FM on V/UHF with a slightly modified application. Let’s focused at VARA FM for this article.

VARA FM is most frequently used alongside Winlink to send or receive emails. The speed of VARA FM could range from 1098 Baud to 12,901 Baud and even reach 25,210 Baud if your radio provides discriminator audio (sometimes labeled as 9600baud mode). This is a truly amazing speed compare to AX.25.  VARA FM also incorporated Error Correction and tests have shown it could continue to function all the way to 0db signal-to-noise-ratio (Tom Whiteside 2020). The capability of VARA FM bring speeds up and down based on condition allows it to crush AX.25 on speed. AX.25 has a constant speed of 1200, 4800 or 9600 baud. The speed must be decided before establishing the conditions. 

Let’s take a look under the hood of VARA FM.  VARA use orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM) where it will encode digital signals in multiple subcarriers.  Each subcarrier is modulated separately and runs at a lower symbol rate. After aggregating all subcarriers, it provides a similar or better speed compare to conventional signal carrier modulation. Author of the VARA mode, Jose Alberto Nieto Ros, implies that each subcarrier could be considered independent emission. VARA mode is compliant with FCC Baud rate limits because each subcarrier is within the baud rate limits.   (Alberto 2017) This is how VARA whether it is running on FM or HF could legally provides better speeds.

Now let’s talk about how to run VARA FM. To run VARA FM with your Winlink, you will need to install VARA applications first. Download the VARA applications from https://rosmodem.wordpress.com/.  VARA HF and VARA FM are two separate applications. The VARA application is considered a freemium software. The basic level is free to use. You will need to pay to use the premium feature. With free basic level, you will get speed comparable to packet network of 1200 baud on VHF and 300 baud on HF. The paid version will unleash the highest speed possible based on conditions. After you have the application installed, it needs to have an interface with your radio. All VARA needs is a way to send and receive audios from radio and PTT control. There are couple ways to achieve it. 

  1. “Give me something that works” mode:  Using SignaLink, RIGblaster or a build-in soundcard if available (e.g. Yaesu 991a or ICOM 7100). These devices function as a sound card and PTT control device on your computer. Pick appropriate sound card and PTT control port in VARA and Winlink application and there you go. These devices cost around $130 + cable costs.
  2. “Junior Ranger” mode: Master Communication provides a device “Digital Radio Adapter DRA-30”. You could buy them unassembled for $30 or fully assembled for $60. They function similar to SignalLink by create an audio device and PTT control on your computer. Be ready to get your hands wet as you need to solder and make your own cables.
  3. “Indiana Jones” Mode: You could very run audio cables from radio into your computer. VOX circuit could work. But if you could figure out a PTT control mechanism, it works more reliable.

Now you are ready to work VARA FM with Winlink. Type in the callsign of a gateway, turn to the frequency on your radio and hit start.  In next installment oversimplified tutorials, I will go into details on operating tips of VARA FM. Stay tuned and happy radio surfing.

References

Alberto, Jose. 2017. “Introducing the all new VARA High Speed HF Modem.” Accessed 12 8, 2020. https://digitalradio.groups.io/g/main/attachment/50139/0/varaHFmodem1.ppsx.

Tom Whiteside, N5TW. 2020. “A comparison of Winlink® digital mode performance based on simulation results using the Teensy IONOS Simulator1 – Take Two.” July 5. Accessed 12 8, 2020. https://www.winlink.org/sites/default/files/a_winlink_digital_mode_performance_comparison_based_on_the_ionis_sim_hf_vhf_channel_simulator_-_july_5_2020_0.pdf.

Kun Lin, N7DMR


Emergency Communications

This piece came from a posting to the Salem Mesh Network Groups I/O page and is reprinted here with permission from the author. I thought the author made some very good points in support of the value, and further possibilities of MESH net during a natural or manmade disaster. Here he gives us an excellent example by using the recent events in Nashville TN as a possible scenario. – Lynn

What if Nashville would have had a MESH Net available when the lights went out?

The below link is for a USA Today article; there have been several published articles related to this event and how a single point of failure can cause a significant, wide area outage. 

Nashville bombing at AT&T building exposed area communications network (usatoday.com)

This could be a useful real-world case study for alternative systems like our AREDN mesh network. 

One service that I’ve started thinking about that I think we could run over our network would be a text messaging provider, for person-to-person and bulletins. I’m imagining Part 15 hotspots accessible by the public in multiple locations (schools, shelters, libraries, community centers, etc) that are used by an end-user device to access a web interface that allows them to input their phone number as a (insecure) login. They can post messages to any other phone number (ideally the web interface would show when that login was last active), read any messages sent to their number, and post/read messages to predefined bulletins (that would be represented with # like: #911, #news, #inSearchOf, #resources). Since logins aren’t secure, messages would probably be marked “read” but remain archived for some period of time and autodelete (so a user can’t delete someone else’s messages), and bulletins would probably need to be actively moderated. 

I’ll work on a proof of concept. Ideally, I think this would have some sort of synchronized, distributed database so that it could continue to be useful locally even if mesh links are intermittent or lost. Similarly, the server software should be able to run multiple instances at multiple sites. I think I can work out the basic interface for a POC, but I’d need help on the distributed database piece.

Stay tuned… in the meantime, what other services can we develop that would be easily used by the general population or public services that have a very low barrier to adoption (assuming we may not get much opportunity to practice or train end users before an event)?

The Nashville event is another reminder that commercial systems will always have vulnerabilities, even as reliability improves. One of the ham community’s greatest strengths is flexibility, but we are stronger when we prepare and practice ahead of time.

I think our (Salem) mesh network is at the pivot point where we start working on services as well as building infrastructure. For me, this event was motivation to think about public facing services we could provide. 


Jason Conolly, N7IME


Virtual VE Testing

When I was in the military we had a saying, when the going gets tough; “Adapt and overcome.” With COVID-19 in the news on a seemingly non-stop basis we’ve all had to make adjustments in our daily lives in order to maintain social distancing and limit our personal interactions with others. In a word, in order to stay safe and healthy we adjust our norm adapting to a new norm, and thereby overcome adversity. In Ham Radio the task of bringing new folks into the hobby has been no less diminished by the plague. With everyone limited in our travels and remaining in self quarantine Ham Radio has provided a vital social link to the outside world, growing in popularity as a result. The Volunteer Examiners recognize this and have adapted to the need for social distancing, owning up to the challenge without compromising the task of providing license exams. The end result being to bring new blood into our beloved hobby.

Rob Skiba (W2RY) of Pasco Washington is a Volunteer Exam Coordinator having been certified through the W5YI Volunteer Examination program. Rob has done an excellent job of assembling a team of Volunteer Examiners (VE’s) and is sponsored through the Spout Springs Repeater Association (SSRA), a long-established organization that continually sets the bar for dedication to the local community.

Recently I was talking with my long-time friend Stephen Hutchings (WM7X) who is the current President of the SSRA, and the subject of VE testing came up. Stephen mentioned that the SSRA had been sponsoring VE testing, and they were always in need of VE’s to help administer exams. When I mentioned I had been certified with both the W5YI and the ARRL VE programs at one time it didn’t take long before I was shamed into joining the SSRA VE team (for anyone that knows Stephen this should come as no surprise).

Before I knew it I was sitting in on a Zoom call with several other VE’s observing a test session. Rob did an excellent job of keeping things well organized, and professional, while ensuring the examinee was completely at ease. Since the exam was being administered online examinees were from all over the US including one from my hometown of Chico California! In that case I couldn’t help but to share with the examinee that back in the 70’s I had taken my first license exam at the local High School with a very good friend of mine who later would become mayor of Chico. I was also able to suggest a local Ham Radio Club.

The examination process itself is a well-choreographed series of steps intended to dispel any possibility of cheating, ensure that all the proper paperwork is completed in a timely manner, and above all that the examinee is relaxed and ready to take the exam. From my own personal observations, I can assure you that Rob’s team does an exceptional job of achieving all of this.

If you or someone you know is looking to get into the hobby for the first time, or upgrade their existing license, here is the link to sign up for a test session:

https://hamstudy.org/sessions/w2ry

The cost per exam session is $14 and it is all online. for more information visit the SSRA web site:

https://wf7s.net/

So, if you already hold an Extra class license consider getting in touch with Rob and joining his team of VE’s. You will be playing a vital role in contributing to the furthering of this great hobby of ours.

Lynn, 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.


Local Events

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.


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.

November 2020 Pickle Barrel Review

The official newsletter of the Weston Mountain Digital Radio Association


Introduction

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….


Repeater Updates

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


Winter Driving

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!

Lynn, K7LW


Repeater Operation

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.

Lynn, K7LW


Emergency Communications

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.

Mesh Net

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


Local Events

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.

Thanks!


VE Testing

None submitted


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! 

Blueberry Muffins

INGREDIENTS

  • 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

PREPARATION

  1. Preheat the oven to 375.
  2. Cream the butter and 1 1/4 cups sugar until light.
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla.
  4. Sift together the flour, salt, and baking powder, and add to the creamed mixture alternately with the milk.
  5. Crush 1/2 cup blueberries with a fork and mix into the batter. Fold in the remaining whole berries.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

October 2020 Pickle Barrel Review

The official newsletter of the Weston Mountain Digital Radio Association


Introduction

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.


Repeater Updates

Well this month things settled down a bit compared to the whirl wind repeater work we were able to accomplish last month. But there was some progress worth bragging about.

Although the primary focus at the moment is to prepare all of the repeaters within the W7NEO system for winter, we have managed to accomplish a few things in order to further improve the system.

We attempted to install the two Kenwood analog repeaters on Weston Mountain (441.700) and Cabbage Hill (146.88), but unfortunately both of the Kenwood repeaters seem to have “issues.” So, for the moment we are holding off until we can resolve said issues.

We were able to swap out the Astron RM-35A with a 50A on Cabbage Hill in order to better accommodate the two repeaters along with future plans for expansion. We were also able to swap the DR1X that was on the 444.975 repeater pair on Cabbage Hill with a DR2X. By doing this not only will this enable us to link to a (Hopefully) future repeater in the Ukiah area should the opportunity present itself to install a machine in that area, but it will also stop the annoying “Beeping” that occurs with some of the stations using hotspots on the system. The plan is still to put one of the two DR1X (refurbished) repeaters up for sale, and once the DR1X currently on the 146.880 pair is replaced with a Kenwood TKR-750 it will go up for sale as well.

Speaking of the Cabbage Hill UHF (Digital) machine. So far signal reports have been considerably better than first expected. It seems we now have greatly improved coverage in both Stanfield, and in and around the Hermiston area, along with Boardman.

Still no word on being able to install a repeater on Chandler Butte, but then hope springs eternal so we haven’t quite given up on that project just yet.

Lynn Wilson, K7LW


Disaster Preparedness

Many homes in Oregon and California were burned to the ground. Flames lick above vehicles on Highway 162 as the Bear Fire burns in Oroville, Calif. The blaze, part of the lightning-sparked North Complex, expanded at a critical rate as winds buffeted the region. (Noah Berger/AP)

As if the pandemic wasn’t enough, September turned out to be an absolutely devastating fire season here in the Pacific Northwest, and in California. So much so that entire towns in Oregon and California were burned to the ground similar to what was witnessed in 2018 during the Camp Fire in which the entire town of Paradise CA was destroyed by fire.

Northwest Interagency Coordination Center (NWCC) map showing active wildfires burning in Oregon and Washington.

Power was out on much of the west side of Oregon due to high winds and fires, with several fires being started by downed power lines as a result of the high winds. Power in many areas remained out for extended periods of time leaving residence without electricity in affected areas for several days. Unfortunately, this also had an adverse effect on local Ham Radio repeaters in the area that were left running off battery backup for several days. As a result, use of many of the Willamette Valley, and other repeaters on the west side was restricted to emergency traffic only.

Clusters of Power Outages

In the nightly news we keep hearing about this city and that community being in various levels of evacuation. Not knowing just what these levels were I decided to do some digging, and found that the Benton County Emergency Services did a pretty good job of explaining it:

Level 1: READY – Level 1 evacuations are an Alert. Residents should be aware of a danger that exists.  Now is the time to “Get Ready”. Residents with special needs, or those with pets or livestock, should take note and prepare for relocating family members, pets and livestock. Refine your evacuation plans and gather the things you will need if you must evacuate. 

Level 2:  SET – Level 2 evacuations indicate there is a significant risk to your area. Now is the time to be set for immediate evacuation. Residents should either voluntarily relocate to a shelter or designated area or with family/friends outside the area or be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.

Level 3:  GO! – Level 3 means there is immediate danger. GO NOW!  You are advised to evacuate immediately.

During an emergency such as a wildfire these evacuation levels would be issued to local media and various social media sites. In Benton county WA these warnings are disseminated through a system known as “Code Red.” Code Red is a free emergency notification system which individuals residing in Benton County can sign up for. When signing up for Code Red the individual chooses how they would like to be notified of an emergency (text, phone call, email, etc).  For more information on Code Red you can call Benton County Emergency Services at (509) 628-2600, or visit their web site at:

http://www.bces.wa.gov/home/bcem-1/code-red

Given that during these fires many residence were given only precious few minutes to evacuate the question becomes obvious; “just how prepared are you in the event the unthinkable happens and your told you only have a few minutes with which to escape to safety?” As with everything else it always pays to have a plan.

Here are some things to consider when drafting up your plan:

  1. How will I receive emergency alerts and warnings?
  2. What is my shelter plan?
  3. What is my evacuation route?
  4. What is my family/household communication plan?
  5. Do I need to update my emergency preparedness kit?

And with the Coronavirus ever present it’s suggest that you ensure to get masks (for everyone over 2 years old), disinfectants, and check sheltering plans to ensure that the shelter you’ll be in is abiding by CDC guidelines for Coronavirus.

Check out this site for some very good information on planning for an emergency:

https://www.ready.gov/plan

A big part of your plan should also include a “Go Kit” with various items you might need when you get to wherever it is you’ll be spending time until receiving the “all clear” and (hopefully) returning to your home. Below are some suggested items you might consider including in your Go Kit:

  • Water (one gallon per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation)
  • Food (at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food)
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio with tone alert
  • Flashlight
  • First aid kit
  • Extra batteries
  • Whistle (to signal for help)
  • Dust mask (to help filter contaminated air)
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape (to shelter in place)
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties (for personal sanitation)
  • Wrench or pliers (to turn off utilities)
  • Manual can opener (for food)
  • Local maps
  • Cell phone with chargers and a backup battery
  • Five days of clean cloths

FEMA has an excellent suggested check list of items well worth printing out:

https://www.ready.gov/sites/default/files/2020-03/ready_emergency-supply-kit-checklist.pdf

Last but certainly not least are our furry companions, and what to do if you become separated from your pet during the process of evacuating from wildfires. The Oregon Humane Society (OHS) has some excellent suggestions:

* Make a plan for your pet. Have an emergency kit prepared for your pet in case you need to evacuate. Consider placing your pet’s crate out now so they can get more comfortable with it. 

*Sign up for emergency alerts. Know when an emergency is happening in your county. Getting info quickly gives you power to take action.

If you have lost your pet check your local animal services website to file a missing pet report or look for pets who have been found. The Oregon Department of Agriculture has a resource list of all the local animal services agencies in Oregon. They have also launched a new search tool to help you find your lost domestic animal or livestock.

More information can be found on their web site:

https://www.oregon.gov/oda/agriculture/Pages/WildfireResources.aspx

Always remember that in an emergency first and foremost your primary responsibility is to your family and keeping yourself and those that mean the very most to you safe. Once you are satisfied that they are safe and secure then you might consider, if you’re not already involved, availing yourself as a skilled radio operator to one of the Ham Radio groups providing emergency communications such as Ready Alliance, ARES, RACES, or one of any number of local Ham Radio clubs. Take it from one who has been there, the more the merrier when it comes to skilled radio operators in an emergency!

Lynn Wilson, K7LW

Some useful links:

*Pacific Power Outage Map – https://www.pacificpower.net/outages-safety.html

* Northwest Interagency Coordination Center (NWCC) map – https://gacc.nifc.gov/nwcc/information/firemap.aspx

*Oregon Humane Society: https://www.oregonhumane.org/wildfire-2020/


Repeater Operation

We all prepare for the big emergencies and how the various repeaters in the area will be utilized during these emergencies. But what about the smaller, more one-on-one emergencies that can and will crop up?

Here is what I’m referring too. Imagine your relaxing in your shack one afternoon, maybe listening to HF searching for that rare DX station that will get you just that much closer to your DXCC. Just when your about ready to haul it in, over the local repeater you hear a station indicating that they are in trouble and asking for help. How do you approach this? Now on the W7NEO repeater system we have a strict rule about not allowing nets on our system, but this is not a net, or is it? What we have here is an exception, and it really must be that way on ours, or any other repeater system because quite literally lives could be at stake based upon just how well you handle it.

The first thing to do is of course to respond to the individual in need. In doing so what you as the responder need to realize during all of this is that you have automatically established a directed net on the repeater, and you are the net control station by default. As NCS it is important that you maintain net discipline and focus on the job at hand. With that ultimately being to get the first responders to the scene of the emergency as soon as possible with as much information as your able to provide them with while reassuring the victim(s) that help is on the way. Additionally, when communicating over the repeater to the person in need always speak with a calm reassuring tone in your voice. This will help to relax the individual on the other end and reduce panic. 911 operators are masters at this.

Find out what the emergency is, his or her location, how many are involved in the emergency and just how severe are the injuries, and if any are life threatening. If you’re dealing with a vehicle accident then you need to ask questions such as; “Is there anyone trapped in their vehicle, is there fuel leaking out, is there fire, is the accident blocking traffic?” If it’s an individual then you will need to assess the situation by asking what is taking place (Heart attack, stroke, trauma, etc). Determine if the individual is in pain, where is the pain (chest, leg, etc) how severe is the pain (1 to 5 with 5 being the worst)? If they have fallen was anything in the way of bones broken, is there severe bleeding, are they in a position that they are relatively safe for the time being until first responders arrive? Be prepared to answer these types of questions because the dispatcher will be requiring allot of information in order to deploy the most applicable assets and give them the best picture of what to expect.

I should also mention that as NCS you will be expected to remain on frequency until the first responders have arrived on scene and your services are no longer required. Remember, your first responsibility is always to the victim.

One last point I really need to make that is very important. As I mentioned at the beginning, by responding to the emergency on the repeater you have assumed the duties of NCS by default. With that in mind, you will need to maintain net discipline by ensuring the frequency is clear of what I refer to as “Radio Lookie-loos.” You will need to be up front in telling other stations to stand by until the emergency has cleared, and the repeater can be returned back to normal operation. The absolute worst thing you as NCS can do in an emergency is to lose control of your net. So don’t be afraid to be blunt, lives may depend upon it.

Lynn, K7LW


Emergency Communications

  • The ARES folks (Both Oregon & Washington) are planning on having a SET (Simulated Emergency Test) exercise Saturday October 3rd from 0800 to 1400 +/-.
  • 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.

MESH NET

Friday, October 2nd, at 1930 local there will be a discussion forum taking place in the NE-OREGON WiresX room (40289). The topic of discussion will be AREDN (Amateur Radio Emergency Digital Network) MESH Network and will be presented by The Salem MESH Network Group.

As some of you may already be aware of, the Weston Mountain Digital Radio Association (W7NEO) has been working toward linking the W7NEO C4FM digital voice repeaters via microwave within the next year. Once we have this in place the plan is to begin setting up a MESH Network with the extra bandwidth, and eventually connecting to other MESH networks. The Salem MESH Network Group has a very impressive system currently setup in the Willamette Valley area based upon the AREDN system and have been a tremendous help to our efforts to plan for the implementation of our future MESH Network. They have generously agreed to meet in the NE-OREGON WiresX room in order to answer questions and generally discuss particulars of AREDN, and MESH Network in general.

The format will be a forum style discussion with one of their members fielding questions and referring them to others present. This will initially be a onetime event, but if it is felt there could be further benefits from an additional on the air get together then we will consider holding another one in the future.

So mark your calendars, and prepare to be enlightened!

Lynn Wilson, K7LW


Local Events

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.

Thanks!


VE Testing

None submitted

September 2020 Pickle Barrel Review

The official newsletter of the Weston Mountain Digital Radio Association


Introduction

Greetings one and all to the first issue of the Pickle Barrel Review! The hope is to make this a regular monthly 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 sit while we discuss the latest happenings in Ham Radio.


Repeater Updates

This month was a busy one for the W7NEO system. Work continued with the Cabbage Hill repeaters (444.975 & 146.88) trying to reduce, and or eliminate all together the noise interference that was trashing the 146.88 machine. Although we did install an inline A/C noise filter it appears that perhaps we may not have been the only ones falling victim to the noise. Although the filter was effective at reducing the noise, it seems to have simply stopped all on it’s own. Ironically it was after a conversation on the repeater in which a comment was made that we finally had the contact information for the FCC enforcement division and was planning on simply handing the issue over to them. I’m not saying that the originator of the noise was listening, but it is nice to not have to deal with the noise for the past few weeks. Fingers crossed it stays gone!

Another progress report pertains to the Weston Mountain repeaters. After (literally) years of talking the installation and raising of the tower is finally complete! For photos of this monumental undertaking check out the Photo Gallery section of the web site. Unfortunately, due to safety concerns we were unable to go the entire 45 feet and had to instead settle for 35 feet. Considering just how high the antennas “weren’t,” and how well they were still performing regardless, raising both the 147.040 and the 441.700 antennas up another 25 feet, in addition to upgrading both of the feedlines to 7/8” Heliax will most definitely result in some increased coverage for both machines. We might still add the missing 10 ft of tower at a later date depending upon availability of equipment such as a bucket truck, etc. So, either way I’m sure we’ll be doing the Happy Dance once we are able to verify the improved coverage.

Speaking of both Cabbage Hill and Weston Mountain, the analog side of each site will be undergoing a slight change. The 441.700 DR2X will be getting replaced with a Kenwood TKR-850, and for the 146.880 repeater on Cabbage Hill the DR1X will be getting replaced with a Kenwood TKR-750. These are both commercial grade repeaters, and if the reviews are correct both machines should provide excellent service for years to come. Although the DR2X is to be repurposed, one of the two DR1X (refurbished) will most likely be going up for sale. The other has already been spoken for.

Well that’s about it for our system status update for now. I wish I could tell you all that we have a date and will be installing the Chandler Butte repeater soon, but unfortunately this CONVID 19 fiasco that has a choke hold on everything is also delaying our installation of a new repeater on the system. Hopefully next month I’ll have some better news.

  • Lynn Wilson, K7LW

Disaster Preparedness

So last winter was abit on the crazy side with all the flooding, and what not, which makes most of us wonder if there have been any indications as to what we can expect for this winter? One of the things that has a significant effect on weather is the formation of either an El Nino, or an El Nina. Okay so what exactly is an El Nino, or El Nina? Well I’m glad you asked;

The El Niño/Southern Oscillation has a major influence on climate patterns in various parts of the world. This naturally occurring phenomenon involves fluctuating ocean temperatures in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific, coupled with changes in the atmosphere. Scientific progress on the understanding and modelling of this phenomenon has improved prediction skills to within a range of one to nine months in advance, giving society the opportunity to prepare for associated hazards such as heavy rains, floods and drought.

Organizations such as the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) track the potential formation of both the El Nino and El Nina’s in order to try and get a leg up on just what to expect for winter and summer weather patterns. Here is what their saying about this winter:

The El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) status in the tropical Pacific remains neutral, signifying that neither El Niño nor La Niña is currently occurring. However, since May both surface and sub-surface waters in the region have leaned to below average. The latest forecasts from the WMO Global Producing Centers of Long Range Forecasts indicate that tropical Pacific sea surface temperatures are likely to cool further, potentially reaching La Niña levels during September 2020. Given current conditions and model predictions, the chance of La Niña during September-November 2020 is estimated to be around 60%, with about a 40% chance for ENSO-neutral conditions to continue. Chances for La Niña decrease to 55% for the December-February 2020/2021 period. National Meteorological and Hydrological Services will closely monitor changes in the state of ENSO over the coming months and provide updated outlooks.

In summary:

  • The tropical Pacific has been an ENSO-neutral condition since July 2019. However, since May 2020, sea surface temperatures over the area have leaned slightly towards below-average.
  • Current observations show below-average surface and sub-surface water temperatures in the tropical Pacific, suggesting a likely tendency towards further decreases in sea surface temperature, possibly reaching La Niña thresholds during September 2020.
  • Model predictions and expert assessment indicate that the probability for La Niña development during September-November 2020 is about 60%, while that for ENSO-neutral conditions continuing is 40% and that for El Niño is near-zero. For the December-February 2020/2021 season, the probability for La Niña slightly drops to about 55%, while that for ENSO-neutral remains at 40% and that for El Niño marginally rises to 5%.
  • Sea surface temperatures in the east-central Pacific Ocean are most likely to be in the range of 0.3 to 1.3 degrees Celsius below average during September-November 2020, and 0.1 to 1.2 degrees below average during December-February 2020/2021.

The state of ENSO will continue to be carefully monitored by WMO Members and partners. More detailed interpretations of the implications for regional climate variability will be carried out routinely by the climate forecasting community over the coming months and will be made available through the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services.

So there you have it. As if COVID 19 wasn’t enough right?

As a disclaimer, the closest I’ve ever been to being a meteorologist is having maintained various weather monitoring sensors for the feds, owning my own home weather monitoring station, and watching the evening news for the local weather forecast. Other that that I’m just as confused as everyone else with this stuff.

*Information contained within this article was obtained primarily from The World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

  • Lynn Wilson, K7LW

Emergency Communications

  • The ARES folks (Both Oregon & Washington) are planning on having a SET (Simulated Emergency Test) exercise Saturday October 3rd from 0800 to 1400 +/-.
  • 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 informational purposes only.

Local Events

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.

Thanks!


VE Testing

  • Hermiston ARC – September 12, 2020 15:00 – 17:00 – Visit their web page at http://ai7ho.org/ for location, and other details.
  • Tri-Cities ARC – Sept 20, 2020 – Visit their web page at http://www.w7az.org/ for location, and other details.