Tag Archives: ARRL

Radio Waves: Libre Space Foundation Reviews SDRs, ARRL VEC Statement, Pandemic Pastime, and Former CEO of RadioShack Now C-19 ER doctor

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers.  To that end: Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Ron, Paul, Marco Zennaro, and Richard Langley for the following tips:


The Libre Space Foundation reviews software defined radios (Hackaday)

If you want to go to the next level with software defined radio (SDR), there are a lot of choices. The RTL-SDR dongles are fine, but if you get serious you’ll probably want something else. How do you choose? Well, your friends at the European Space Agency Libre Space Foundation have published a paper comparing many common options. True, they are mostly looking at how the receivers work with CubeSats, but it is still a good comparison.

The devices they examine are:

  • RTS-SDR v3
  • Airspy Mini
  • SDRPlay RSPduo
  • LimeSDR Mini
  • BladeRF 2.0 Micro
  • Ettus USRP B210
  • Pluto SDR

They looked at several bands of interest, but not the HF bands — not surprising considering that some of the devices can’t even operate on HF. They did examine VHF, UHF, L band, S band, and C band performance. Some of the SDRs have transmit capabilities, and for those devices, they tested the transmit function as well as receive.

The review isn’t just subjective. They calculate noise figures and dynamic range, along with other technical parameters. They also include GNURadio flowgraphs for their test setups, which would be a great place to start if you wanted to do these kinds of measurements yourself.[]

ARRL VEC Issues Statement on Video-Supervised Online Exam Sessions (ARRL News)

Very few ARRL Volunteer Examiner teams have successfully conducted in-person exam sessions (following social distancing guidelines) and video-supervised exam sessions using fillable PDF exams and documents. So far, we have found that both types of sessions take volunteer teams two to three times longer to conduct and accommodate fewer candidates than sessions conducted prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. So far, the video sessions have included only one examinee per session.

We ask the community to be patient with our volunteer teams as they navigate uncharted territory. Please remember with the introduction of significant new processes such as these, that there should be proof of concept, establishment of protocols and procedures, and beta testing before expanding to a larger audience. Video-supervised exam sessions require a different skillset than in-person exam administration. Not all teams will be equipped to deliver video exams right away.

The ARRL Volunteer Examiner Coordinator (VEC) has been investigating options for an online examination system.

Fillable PDFs are cumbersome within a video-supervised exam session process. We recognize that online testing would represent a large-scale solution for our thousands of VEs and would make session procedures easier for our teams, but this will not happen overnight.

The ARRL VEC will continue to adapt and respond to the evolving crisis as we search for viable and easy-to-use online examination system solutions and conduct exam sessions in innovative ways.[]

Pandemic Pastime – Shortwave Radio (KFGO)

Ever since I was a little kid, I was fascinated that at night you could listen to radio stations from all over the country. My little Heathkit radio, which I built myself, could pick up stations in Minneapolis, Chicago, St. Louis, Denver, Little Rock, Pittsburgh to name a few. West coast stations were rare because it was tough getting a signal over the Rocky Mountains.

Then there was shortwave radio. A buddy of mine had one and he showed me a list of all the countries he was picking up. England, France, Germany, Latin American countries, numerous stations on the shortwave bands in America. Even Radio Havana coming out of Cuba. Anything from religion to hard edge rock and roll. He also noted he picked up Radio Free Europe and the Voice of America.

Well years later I would stop by my local Radio Shack and decided it was my turn to take up this hobby of monitoring shortwave radio. This particular radio also had a built in cassette player so you could record your found stations as well. It was really interesting to hear the news from other countries and get their take on what was happening in America.

One of the first frequencies I tuned in was WWV a shortwave radio station out of Fort Collins Colorado, that broadcasts the time via the atomic clock. The seconds tick off until the top of the hour when you hear a voice announce the time, followed by a tone that hits the top of the minute exactly on the nose. Great way to set the clock.

Now I know you can probably find all these shortwave stations on the internet, but what fun is that right?

With the covid-19 pandemic, this is a little something different than binge watching television, or building that 10th jigsaw puzzle or cleaning out that closet again and again.

Have a chair on the patio, a glass of your favorite beverage, extend the antenna, and start turning up and down the dial and see what you can find. I had a little notebook that I kept track of my searches. Don’t have it now though…lost it.

I’ll start a new one.

Stay safe everyone![]

Former CEO of RadioShack now an ER doctor (National Post)

‘I am just one of those people who was very fortunate, where things worked out, and where I could do not just do one thing I really enjoyed in life, but two’

Brian Levy loved science as a kid. He had a microscope, read up on stuff in the encyclopedia and messed around with home experiment kits. During his high school years, he took every science credit possible. By his own admission, he was a “geek,” one with an equally strong passion, alongside science, for electronics.

Levy knew how to operate a shortwave radio. Weekend teenage heaven, in his mind, was hanging around the local RadioShack store, a warehouse of gizmos where he scored his first part-time job in 1974, earning US$1.40 an hour at a shop in downtown Atlanta. He was 15, which, alas, was too young to be working for the company, according to the folks at corporate headquarters in Texas, who fired him upon receiving his paperwork.

The dismissal didn’t sit well with Levy.

“I actually called the vice president of human resources in Texas,” he says. The executive was impressed by the moxie of the kid. On the day he turned 16, Levy was hired back.

[…]Levy did not foresee the premature end to his business career. When it came, rather than being crestfallen, he felt liberated, and free to pursue an “itch” that he had always felt the need to scratch. So he applied to medical school at McMaster University in Hamilton, ON. (Levy came to Canada in the first place after relocating RadioShack HQ north of the border as CEO. He is now a dual citizen, although his soft, buttery accent betrays his roots in the American south.)[]


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ARRL: “Remotely Administered Amateur Exam Systems Showing Promise”

(Source: ARRL News)

Facing a growing demand for amateur radio exam sessions in a time of social distancing and stay-at-home orders, sponsors of some Volunteer Examiner (VE) teams have risen to the challenge and are developing systems to remotely proctor test sessions.

“Many of our VEs and VE Teams have been working on remotely proctored exam session ideas, employing both video and in-person components — following social distancing protocols,” ARRL Volunteer Examiner Coordinator (VEC) Manager Maria Somma, AB1FM, said. “We have been receiving interesting and innovative suggestions, and we appreciate the dedication and ingenuity our examiners have shown.”

The Spalding County Amateur Radio Club in Georgia is among those that have come up with plans to remotely administer amateur exams while complying with ARRL VEC testing standards during COVID-19 stay-home mandates and social distancing guidelines. Current systems leverage Zoom video-teleconferencing technology, the “Fill & Sign” feature of Adobe PDFs, reliable email, appropriate computer equipment and internet connection, and no volunteer examiners (VEs) present at individual remote test sites. The Georgia club collaborated and shared ideas with the Emergency Amateur Radio Club (EARC) in Hawaii, which has successfully conducted sessions since 2011 with its own remote testing system, initially with paper exams with a proctor on site and now with fillable PDFs, with no on-site proctor.

The Georgia club obtained ARRL VEC approval to administer video-supervised exams. The club’s David Robinson, K4WVZ, said the first exam session took place this week, with another set for next week, and “many more in the pipeline” going forward.

“We have started with testing just one candidate at a time but are planning to ramp up to multiple candidates — probably two or three — simultaneously,” Robinson told ARRL. “Before we do that, we want a few more single sessions under our belt and a few more Video VEs trained. It also gives us an opportunity to garner lessons learned from each test session and upgrade our procedures accordingly.” Robinson said this week’s session went “exceedingly well,” and the candidate passed the test.

The club’s procedures entail a pre-exam video interview with candidates to ensure they understand all the requirements and procedures. “This also allows us to test the candidate’s ability to work with the video and computer technology before the actual exam,” Robinson explained. “Training sessions were conducted for VEs to make sure they understood their role and how to use the technology.”

Following the exam, the VEs score the test and sign off on the paperwork, with the VE Team Leader submitting the application online and by mail, per ARRL VEC instructions. Application and successful exam are first accepted and then submitted to the FCC for processing.

New England Amateur Radio Inc (NE1AR), an affiliate of New England Sci-Tech, (NESciTech), has taken it one step further, Somma said. It got the approval of ARRL VEC to begin trials of what it describes as “completely online testing with strict rules and protocols for maintaining the integrity of the testing environment.” NE1AR is limiting candidates to one exam per candidate, due to the current candidate backlog and the “difficulty of administering exams online.” Candidates must agree to a list of protocols, which include no visitors (or pets) in the exam room and a cell-phone camera scan of the entire room and exam area “to show that there are no materials or people [in the room] that could aid in taking the exam.” If the VE team suspects the possibility of cheating, the exam may be terminated and the candidate barred from future online exam sessions.

“We began a series of trials on April 1 under ARRL VEC review and have now been asked to help train more VE Teams on the process,” NE1AR President Bob Phinney, K5TEC, told ARRL. “We have now tested 12 applicants and are still working on streamlining the process. We are working with the software developer of the exam delivery system to help them adapt the system for video-supervised testing.” At present, Phinney said, only one person at a time can be tested. Another time-related issue is how long it takes a candidate to go through the NE1AR security protocol. “Sometimes, the setup and follow-up for an exam take far longer than the exam itself, in order that we provide complete integrity of the exam session,” he said.

With pressure continuing to build to provide testing compatible with COVID-19 guidelines and stay-home orders, ARRL VEC Manager Maria Somma, AB1FM, has asked the amateur radio community to be patient. “Please remember that with the introduction of significant new processes such as these, that there should be proof of concept, establishment of protocols and procedures, and beta testing, before expanding to a larger audience,” she said this week. Somma said video-supervised exam sessions require a different skillset than in-person exam administration, and not all teams will be equipped to deliver video exams right away.

“ARRL is pleased to be one of the leaders in providing an opportunity, although limited initially, for video-supervised exams in this time of social distancing and isolation required by the current health situation,” Somma said.

Click here to read the full article at the ARRL News.

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On The Air: ARRL’s excellent magazine for newcomers…only available behind their paywall

Cover of the new “On The Air” e-magazine from the ARRL

Today, the ARRL released their new electronic magazine for ham radio newcomers: On The Air.

The ARRL describes On The Air‘s mission:

“On the Air magazine is the newest ARRL member benefit to help new licensees and beginner-to-intermediate radio communicators navigate the world of amateur radio. Delivered six times a year, the magazine will present articles, how-to’s, and tips for selecting equipment, building projects, getting involved in emergency communication as well as spotlighting the experiences of people using radio to serve their communities, and those using it for enjoyment.”

I checked out On The Air and was quite pleased with the scope of the magazine. The first issue covers topics such as: understanding the ionosphere, choosing your first radio, building simple antennas, and much more. I love the fact that the articles are written with newcomers in mind, too; less technical jargon and more explanations.

I mentioned in a previous post that I’ve been teaching a ham radio class to a group of high school students. Most of the students have now acquired their Technician licenses, and we’re even plotting a General class course for the fall.

Last month, I shared some copies of QST (the ARRL monthly member magazine) with my students. While they enjoyed looking through the pages of QST, many told me they simply didn’t understand the articles yet…There’s just not a lot inside a QST issue to grab the attention of a fifteen or sixteen year old who’s just gotten her ticket. Understandable.

Then, I learned about On The Air from a friend with the ARRL.  I was so glad to hear that the League was finally making a bi-monthly magazine aimed squarely at newcomers! I was also pleased it was an e-publication, because it will be that much easier to share with my class and propagate to prospective students.

But today, I discovered, to my dismay, that other than the premier issue, On The Air is for ARRL members only. Here’s a screen grab from the website:

But…”for members only”––?

Alas, in limiting access, the ARRL has essentially insured that most of their target audience won’t ever have the opportunity to read On The Air, and thus they’ve crippled the best ARRL recruitment tool I’ve ever seen. 

What a shame.

I’ve contacted my ARRL representative and asked that they reconsider the decision to hide this brilliant magazine behind a membership paywall. I’m pretty sure that ad revenue and membership fees could readily cover the cost of publishing this electronic edition. After all, On The Air could lead to a lot more ARRL members! And, indeed, I hope it will.

If you feel as I do, please contact your ARRL Section manager. It may be that those making the decisions are, in this case, a little out of touch with the future of amateur radio.

Update – To be clear about this post: I’m not implying anything bad about the ARRL here, I just think it’s a lost opportunity if they keep future editions of On The Air behind the member pay wall. I imagine that ad revenue alone could more than support this niche publication if they simply release it as a free PDF. The real benefit, though, could be an increase in ARRL membership as On The Air readers get a taste of what the League could offer! In other words: this is an opportunity!

What do you think? Should On The Air be free to anyone interested in amateur radio, or for members only? Please comment!

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WWV and WWVH special announcement marking centennial

Photo I took in 2014 of the sign above WWV’s primary 10 MHz transmitter.

(Source: ARRL News)

Starting on Monday, September 16, WWV and WWVH will broadcast a US Department of Defense message to mark the centennial of WWV and to announce the WW0WWV special event from September 28 until October 2 at the WWV transmitter site near Fort Collins, Colorado. The DoD message transmissions will air until October 1.

Kevin Utter, N7GES, a member of the WW0WWV Centennial Committee, recorded the audio track for the announcement. Utter has been an integral part of the Committee and is a highly respected member of the Northern Colorado Amateur Radio community. — Thanks to Paul English, WD8DBY

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FCC recommendation to make all ULS filings electronic

(Source: ARRL)

The FCC is seeking comment on a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that is part of an overall plan to complete its transition to electronic filing, licenses, authorizations, and correspondence. The notice proposes to make all filings to the Universal Licensing System (ULS) completely electronic, expand electronic filing and correspondence elements for related systems, and require applicants to provide an email address on the FCC Forms related to these systems. Although much of the FCC’s ULS filings are already electronic, the changes suggested in the NPRM (in WT Docket No. 19-212) would require all Amateur Radio Service applications to be filed electronically. Under current rules, Amateur Radio applications may still be filed manually, with the exception of those filed by Volunteer Examination Coordinators (VECs).[…]

Click here to read the full article at the ARRL website.

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Please Take Action: DOD Broadcast and Listener Survey on WWV and WWVH

A WWV Time Code Generator

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dennis Dura, who shares the following note from Paul English (WD8DBY), Chief, Army MARS:

DOD Broadcast and Listener Survey on WWV and WWVH

From 14-24 August, WWV and WWVH will be broadcasting a DOD message at 10 mins past the hour on WWV and 50 mins past the hour on WWVH. As part of the message, all listeners are asked to take a listener survey at the URL specified in the message.

www.dodmars.org/home/wwv-survey

The results of this survey are shared with WWV/H personnel to show their NIST chain of command how often their stations are monitored and how the various timing signals and messages are used by the listeners.

Please take a listen to this message and take the survey…as the saying goes, “every vote counts” and your input to this survey is being used to help demonstrate the importance of these stations.

Thanks for your consideration in this effort.

Paul English, WD8DBY
Chief, Army MARS

Many thanks for sharing this, Dennis. Readers have also shared this ARRL News item urging listeners to take the DOD survey.

If you appreciate WWV/WWVH, please take a moment to complete this short survey.

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Trial Run of WWV Special Event Station August 24 & 25

WWV’s transmitter building in Fort Collins, Colorado (2014)

(Source: ARRL via Eric McFadden)

WWV Centennial Committee Prepares for Trial Run of WW0WWV Special Event

The WWV Centennial Committee reports that it will conduct a trial run of special event station WW0WWV over the August 24/25 weekend.

Radios and antennas began arriving last week, and a tower and beam will be erected, along with several vertical antennas. WW0WWV will be set up adjacent to the WWV transmitter site in Fort Collins, Colorado. WWV turns 100 years old on October 1.

“We’ll be testing band and notch filtering, in an attempt to reign in the extreme RF environment created by WWV and WWVB,” said Dave Swartz, W0DAS, of the Northern Colorado Amateur Radio Club (NCARC).

The club will carry out the special event operation in conjunction with the WWV Amateur Radio Club and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which operates WWV/WWVH/WWVB.

The special event site is within 1/3 of a mile of all six WWV transmitters and the 50 kW WWVB transmitter. “On-air tests will start Saturday afternoon, August 24, and run through Sunday, August 25,” Swartz said, adding that organizers will post specific times and frequencies on the WWV Centennial Committee website.

The WWV Centennial special event is set to run from September 28 through October 2, and round-the-clock operation will take place on CW, SSB, and digital modes. Operations will shift among HF bands following typical propagation and will include 160 meters as well as satellites (SO-50, AO-91, and AO-92) and 6-meter meteor scatter.

Up to four stations will be on the air for routine operations. A fifth station will schedule contacts with schools, universities, and museums, as well as conducting unscheduled contacts. The additional station will periodically broadcast an AM carrier from a radio locked with WWV’s 10 MHz signal.

“At this point we have filled our operator’s slots and met equipment goals, but we need more financial resources to cover basic operating expenses, return shipping, and site logistics,” Swartz said. Members of the Amateur Radio industry have contributed equipment, including radios, amplifiers, and antennas.

NIST has announced that it will not be able to open the doors of WWV to the public for the event. “Due to a number of reasons, the scope of the formal celebration will be limited to only 100 invited participants,” the WWV Centennial Committee announced. “WW0WWV will be the main public event for the centennial celebration.”

Visit the WWV Centennial Committee website at http://wwv100.com/ to see how you can get involved.

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