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SJC EMCOMM Freqs
SJC1 - 147.210 + 114.8 Stockton (Stockton Pri)
SJC2 - 146.655 - 100.0 Tracy (County Pri)
SJC3 - 145.210 - 100.0 Tracy (County B/up)
SJC4 - 147.090 + 114.8 Lodi (North Pri)
SJC5 - 146.985 - 100.0 Manteca
SJC6 - 147.165 + 107.2 SDARC
SJC7 - 147.015 + 114.8 Copperopolis
SJC8 - 147.105 + 94.8 Stockton
SJC9 - 146.895 - 114.8 Mt. Oso - Disabled
SJC10 - 444.400 + 114.8 Copperopolis
SJC11 - 444.325 + 94.8 Stockton (Stockton Pri)
SJC12 - 443.825 + 107.2 Mt. Oso
SJC13 - 444.575 + 107.2 Stockton
SJC14 - 444.850 + 114.8 127.3 Tracy 
SJC15 - 444.500 + 114.8 Stockton
LLNL - 146.775 - 100.0 Livermore


TAC1 - 146.550

TAC3 - 146.535
TAC4 - 146.430
TAC6 - 156.565
TAC7 - 146.595
TAC8 - 146.445
All simplex
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N5FDL/CEVOL Repeaters

Stockton: 147.210 + N5FDL and 444.500 + K6TRK Both PL 114.8 (linked)

Copperopolis/Gopher Ridge: 147.015 + and 444.400 +  (not linked) N6GKJ 

Mt. Oso: 146.895 - N5FDL and 443.825 + PL 107.2 (not linked)

Tracy: 444.850 + KB6EMK PL 127.3

Affiliated Repeaters

Bear Mtn.: 146.090 + and 444.250 + WB6ASU Both PL 114.8 (linked)

Mt. Delux: 145.210 - PL 100.0 WA6SEK (10mi S of Tracy)

All repeaters are open to all users.

Saturday
Sep132008

Yaesu VX-8: My Next New Radio?

I have not been in much of a radio buying mood lately, perhaps because I recently laid-out “too much” to buy an Icom commercial UHF P25 talkie so Elionora and her partner can listen to the local PD while working in their ambulance. As for other potential purchases, I’m completely immune to the siren song of Icom’s D-STAR. Of late, I’ve mostly been carrying around my trusty Yaesu VX-170. It’s a great, nearly bomb-proof, $120 2-meter talkie that Ive been recommending to my ARES group.

But, the new QST arrived today and on the back inside cover is a full-page ad for Yaesu’s newest small wonder, called the VX-8. What interests me about this radio isn’t the small size—I already have a VX-7—but the broad trasmit coverage and it’s support for APRS through an add-on GPS unit. I can hear the ker-ching! of the cash register right now. Pricing hasn’t been announced.

Heck, there is a big ad in QST and the radio isn’t even shown on the Yaesu web site. The best online reference is a YouTube video recorded by the ARRL’s Katie Breen at the Dayton Hamvention back in May. The 1:28 long video isn’t a demonstration. My guess is the radio shown wasn’t even functional. It’s not powered up, for example, and the Yaesu lady never even touches it.

Here’s what I like about the radio (based on the advertising):

  • Built-in APRS capability — though this probably will be a very expensive add-on.
  • Expanded transmit — the radio runs 5 watts on 50/144/440 MHz. and 1.5 watts on 220, a band that could use more support.
  • Built-in AM/FM broadcast receiver that can be used while you’re listening to amateur frequencies, etc. Stereo audio through earbuds.
  • Bluetooth support — It will be interesting to watch how this plays out. I don’t know how the Bluetooth adapter will work. If it attaches outside the radio, as I bet it will, it’s not nearly as interesting as Bluetooth added internally. Who wants something else hanging off the radio? Especially when the GPS is external.

Speaking of which, with the GPS module installed, the speaker/mic is almost as big as the radio. (I am writing this in near darkness and don’t want to wake Elionora. My memory is that the radio is 3.7 inches by 1.5 inches by .7 inches in size. I will correct this in the morning). There is an illustration in the QST ad that shows what appears to be the GPS module by itself attached to the radio, seemingly through the mic jack on the top surface next to the tuning/volume control.

Before even thinking about buying, I’ll want to know a whole lot more about the APRS functionality. Will the TNC inside the radio support other packet applications? I am hoping Yaesu has learned from Kenwood’s non-support of anything beyond APRS in its early digital radios and half-hearted support in the current line.

I’d like to have an easy way to hook a computer to the talkie and send/receive packet data. Wouldn’t a PC-to-radio Bluetooth connection be sweet? It’s hard to imagine that will be available, but I’m entitled to dream, aren’t I?

The VX-8 will accept a 2 AA battery holder that will power the transmitter at 1 watt. That isn’t enough for real emergency use, so the VX-170 (which can be fully powered by 6 AA’s) is in no danger of being replaced. Yaesu says if you purchase the optional $$$ Lithium-Ion pack that the radio will run for 9 hours. That isn’t great battery performance for my dollar.

I am expecting that, GPS and speaker/mic included, this radio would set me back $700. Add the Bluetooth module and one of Yaesu’s Bluetooth mics or headsets and I can imagine spending $1100 pretty easily. Maybe I’ll be surprised, but I am not expecting the VX-8 to be anything but pricey.

OK, maybe I am talking myself out of the market. Time will tell. Still, this looks like a sweet new radio.


Wednesday
Sep102008

Training in San Joaquin County

Become an Effective Emergency Communicator in Just Two Saturdays!
(Sorry for posting purely local content, but this is my event)

The Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Course provides 16 hours of classroom training aimed at new and experienced hams alike. New hams will quickly learn ideas and skills that might take years to learn otherwise. Experienced hams will learn new things and hone their existing Emcomm skills—guaranteed.

You will learn:
  • What you might be expected to do in an emergency
  • How communications systems work—and what happens when they don’t
  • Specific skills necessary for emergency communicators — including when to talk, what to say, and when not to talk
  • How to participate in emergency communications networks on-air
  • How to pass messages 100% mistake free
  • When Amateur Radio is not the answer—and how to use other emergency communications tools
  • How to choose equipment for emergency communcations and then set it up in a hurry
  • What frequencies to use for local, regional, national, and international emergencies
  • How computers and radios works together as emergency communications tools
  • What to expect in a major disaster—and how to protect yourself and your family
  • What to include in your emergency communications “go kit”
  • Specific things you must know to work with public safety agencies
  • And this is just a sample of what you will learn
This course was developed by the American Radio Relay League, the national organization for Amateur Radio, and is offered both online and in-person. This is an in-person class. There is a formal curriculum and study guide we will follow, with additional specific Northern California information added as well.

The 16-hour class will be offered over two Saturdays in November—the 1st and 8th—from 8:30am until 4:30pm each day. There will be at-home reading required and a simple final exam will be offered to those wishing to receive the official course completion certificate (necessary to take Levels Two and Three in the future). Everyone will receive a training certificate from San Joaquin County ARES.

This course is open to anyone who wishes to attend. You need not be an Amateur Radio operator—most of the curriculum is applicable to a variety of emergency communications groups and activities. Members of ACS, RACES, and other ARES groups are welcome. You need not live or work in San Joaquin County to participate.

The course will be taught by a team of instructors—probably 10 or more—representing Amateur Radio emergency groups, served agencies, State OES, and other organizations.

Cost for this class is $30. Limited scholarships are available. The cost includes printed materials. (
The online version costs $45 for League members and $75 for non-members).

The class is being held at San Joaquin General Hospital in French Camp, south of Stockton. We have reserved the Doctor’s Dining Room, where our HamCrams have been held previously.

How to register: If you would like to attend this course or have questions, please send email to n5fdl@arrl.net with “ARECC” included in the subject line. Or call me at 209-740-4300.

I have copies of the course syllabus available and can send additional course material to those interested in seeing it.

This is an excellent course, being offered in-person for what I believe is the first time ever in the Central Valley. Please take advantage of this opportunity and tell others who might benefit from this training.

I hope you will join us!

Sincerely,


David Coursey, N5FDL
Emergency Coordinator
San Joaquin County Amateur Radio Emergency Service

This class is made possible by support from the San Joaquin County EMS Agency, Tracy Fire/Tracy Amateur Radio Club, and the Manteca Amateur Radio Club. Thank you!
Monday
Sep082008

HF Antennas "The Easy Way"

Following up on my previous post on SWR Mythology, I want to point you to a book by my friend John Haerle, WB5IIR (SK). It’s called “The Easy Way — HF Antenna Systems” and puts the comments of Walt Maxwell into practice, sort of taking off from Maxwell’s “Another Look at Reflections” and continuing down a path most hams can understand.

The book is published by WorldRadio and is available for ordering from their web site. Look on their “Products” page. I would have linked directly to the book’s page, but WR has one of those oh-so-fashionable sites where you don’t get actual page links.

The books costs $12 plus $3 S&H and 93-cents sales tax if you live in California.

Here’s some information from the site:

“No-nonsense information on antenna fundamentals, basic wire antennas, special antennas (such as the sloper, DDRR, Beverage, folded unipole), beam antennas, 160M antennas, tuners and SWR bridges.” — L.B. Cebik, W4RNL (SK)

“I can recommend it wholeheartedly, 100% plus. It is a true learning experience and the Amateur Radio Community should be grateful that such a book exists.” — Kurt N. Sterba, K5KNS
    CONTENTS:
    • Feedlines • Balun • Ground Systems • Lightning Protection • Towers • Dipole • Zepp • G5RV • Windom • Coaxial Dipole Myth • Sloping Antennas • DDRR • Folded Unipole • Beverage • Vacation • Antennas • Mobile Antennas • W8JK • Yagi • Two-Element Quad • 160M Band • Receiving Loops
The book was published shortly after John’s death in 1984. He was involved in an accident with a DWI driver while on his way home from a Dallas Amateur Radio Club meeting, where he’d received an award. John used to do on-air code practice and other teaching on both VHF and HF and was a much-beloved figure. You will get a good sense of the man by reading this book, now in its second edition.

I’d been looking around the house for this book for a little while and happened to find my copy over in a friend’s shack. This is a good book to loan people who need to understand antenna’s from a real expert’s perspective.

The title, BTW, is NOT a reference to some magical antenna secret that makes antennas easy, but a comment on how you can do things one of two ways: The hard way or the Easy Way, which John’s book proves to be true.

Hints: Ladder line is a good thing, along with a decent tuner. Baluns, on the other hand, may be bad or good.

    Thursday
    Sep042008

    SWR: Bad ideas that won't go away

    Radio Amateurs should forget most of what they think they know about reflected power on their antenna feed lines and actually learn something. 

    That's not me talking, but it's the gist of a series of columns that ran in QST magazine by Walt Maxwell, W2DU (SK). What's sad is that the columns ran between 1973 and 1976 and the word still hasn't gotten out. 

    Maxwell was a lead antenna designer at RCA. We still use his famous balun design to solve antenna matching problems. His projects included space systems where any power loss in the feed line could be crippling--yet he describes successful satellite systems he built with SWRs of 4.4:1 and 9.8:1. 

    Clearly, there is something those of us--myself included--who yearn for the perfect 1:1 SWR don't understand.

    Maxwell's columns are truly enlightening:

    JUDGING BY WHAT we hear on the air, nearly everyone is looking for a VSWR of one-to-one. Question why, and the answer may be, "I'm not getting out on this frequency because my SWR is 2.5:1. There's too much power coming back and not enough getting into the antenna," or, "If I feed a line having that much SWR, the reflected power flowing back into the amplifier will burn it up," or still, "I don't want my feed line to radiate."  

    Any of these answers shows misunderstanding of reflection mechanics, and are symptomatic of the current state of education on this subject. Rational and creative thinking toward antenna and feed-line design practice has been absent for a long time, having been replaced with an unscientific and thought-inhibiting attitude, as in the days before Copernicus persuaded the multitudes that the universe did not revolve around the earth. 
    Much of what is written today about antennas is just plain wrong, including in some pretty prestigious places. For example, no matter what you hear on the air, an antenna tuner really does tune your antenna system.

    If you want to learn the real truth about Standing Wave Radio (SWR) and antenna feed lines, you need to read Maxwell's columns. They have been gathered into a 68-page collection that is available on the ARRL web site. There is a great deal of free information on that page, created by the League's Technical Information Service. However, to download the Maxwell reprint, you must be an ARRL member.

    This is a great series of articles by a master of the antenna-building craft. They deserve to be read much more widely and I am trying to help that along. Read the Maxwell articles and you can stop spreading antenna voodoo and misinformation--as I already mended my own ways.
    Thursday
    Aug142008

    The New Ham's "Antenna Phase"

    Just a quick reminder about free lunches and antennas that are tiny and efficient: Neither really exists, no matter what people tell you.

    Nevertheless, every new ham goes through a phase of trying the bend the basic laws of physics to make impossibly short antennas work wonders (and some never recover). I guess it's a rite of passage, where your enthusiasm bumps against an unwavering rule of science: Long antennas (up to a point) work better than short ones, and thicker wire beats the skinny "stealth" antenna wire all to heck.

    You want a good signal on 160 meters? You better have some real estate available because there is just no getting around  the fact that a half-wave at 160 meters is over 240 feet long. And the antenna really needs to be off the ground by a quarter wavelength, about 120 feet, for best efficiency. I don't care how big a capacitance hat you put atop a 102-inch mobile whip or even how big the coil is, you aren't doing to burn the ionosphere from your mobile at 1.8 MHz.

    The best choice for a ham new to HF is  a 20-meter dipole and a 40-meter dipole, ideally one without any tricks, like coils used to shorten the antenna. Just basic coax-fed antennas, maybe with a balun in the center.

    Why? Because 20-meters is our best all-around band, though if you aren't ever on-the-air during daylight you might not notice. (Though ask me about my midnight contact with Sweden during Field Day. The secret: Most of the path was in daylight--land of the midnight sun and all).

    Forty meters is a good nighttime band, though if space wasn't a consideration, the new HF'er would also want an 80-Meter dipole, too.

    Which brings us around to the would-be emergency operator. In a real-deal emergency, we can expect to be on 40 during the day and 80-meters at night. Sure, they run the Hurricane Net on 20 and a lot of other good things happen on 14 MHz. as well, but I am talking about reliable regional coverage, not trying to talk to your State Capitol via long path.

    I barely have an 80-meter antenna on my tiny suburban lot and, frankly, it doesn't get out very well. If I need HF during an emergency I am expecting to operate using some wire antennas we're hanging at the fire station. As for home, pending getting a no-radials vertical on top of the house, I am barely HF active,. When I am it's largely on 20-meter PSK, Why? Because most people don't run more than 50 watts on PSK and my 20 meter dipole, being shorter, is much better placed on my property.

    Almost every antenna stuck into the air by almost every ham everywhere on the planet is a compromise. I have read a fair amount about antennas over the years and the closest thing I've found to magic is--not the G5RV, easily the most over-hyped antenna in the universe--but the lowly J-Pole, which comes in so many flavors and solves so many problems--OK, the same problem over-and-over--that I'd be lost without it. Need an omnidirectional VHF, UHF or dual-band antenna? There is a J-Pole ready to meet your needs.

    If new hams could just understand that part of the "attraction" of antenna work is that you can spend your whole life and never quite get it it right, they'd end up much saner people. Better hams, too. The search for the perfect really short HF antenna is fruitless, at least in terms of high efficiency. But, any antenna that gets you on the air is better than no antenna, so have fun. Isopole anyone? I don't think so.