• [FOAR] The power supply connector dance contest... (18/21)

    From FOAR via rec.radio.info Admin@21:1/5 to All on Mon Jul 18 13:48:30 2022
    [continued from previous message]

    The antenna and coax you use matter.

    Posted: 23 May 2020 09:00 AM PDT

    Foundations of Amateur Radio

    During the week I climbed on my roof and installed a base antenna for the
    2m and 70cm band. The antenna is a Diamond X-300N. It's 3 meters tall, has
    a gain of 6.5 dB on 2m and 9 dB on 70cm. I've owned it for just under eight years and this week I finally took it out of the box and installed it. I
    know, I know, in my defence, you shouldn't rush these things.

    Truth is, until this week I really didn't have a realistic way of
    installing it. Several factors needed to come together. Some of them
    trivial, others less so. In the end, the antenna is now installed on my
    roof, connected via coax through my roof to my radio.

    Now before we get all excited about what that means, let's compare my
    previous outdoor setting to the current one.

    Today I'm using LMR-400 coax, 30 meters of it. Previously I used RG-58, but only 20 meters of it.

    From a coax perspective, even though I increased the length by 30%, my loss actually went down, on 70cm it went down by over 4 dB. If you recall, 3 dB
    loss is the same as losing half your signal, so before my 5 Watts even got
    to the antenna, I'd already lost more than half of it using RG-58.

    I will mention right now that the numbers I'm giving here are purposefully
    not exact. There's no point. Your situation and mine are not the same, and
    my two installations are barely equivalent, so actual numbers don't help

    The point I'm making is that the type of coax you use to feed your antenna
    can make a massive difference. In my case that difference means that half
    of my 5 Watts never even made it to the antenna.

    In addition to this the two antennas are different. Not by much, but enough
    to make a difference. As icing on the cake the new antenna is longer by a third, so my new antenna has a better horizon, it's higher off the ground,
    even if it's installed at a similar height.

    You might recall that loss and gain are dependent on frequency, so any calculation needs to be done for each band you're going to use. In my case
    I had to do this twice, once for the 2m band and once for the 70cm band.

    I should also mention that depending on the SWR of your antenna, the losses also change, but let's not go there today.

    If you want to actually figure out what this means for your station, the calculation goes a little like this.

    Take the power output from your radio, subtract the coax loss and add the antenna gain. The end result is a number that represents the gain - or loss
    - from the entire system. If coax loss and antenna gain are the same,
    you're not losing anything, but you're also not gaining anything.

    The reward for the aches and pains from climbing on and in my roof are represented by the fact that now my 5 Watt signal on 2m effectively became
    10 Watts. On 70cm it became 13 Watts.

    With the added height and gain in addition to being able to hit all the
    local repeaters, I can now hear the local beacon and I've successfully
    decoded the JT4 and JT65 messages that the beacon spits out.

    It's only been a week, but it's already made a massive difference.

    No doubt my on-air experience will also benefit from this adventure.

    Unfortunately, to do this for yourself is not quite as simple as giving you
    a link and punching in the numbers. I won't make any promises I cannot
    keep, but I am looking into it.

    I'm Onno VK6FLAB
    This posting includes a media file: http://podcasts.itmaze.com.au/foundations/20200524.foundations-of-amateur-radio.mp3

    Buying and using pre-loved equipment

    Posted: 16 May 2020 09:00 AM PDT

    Foundations of Amateur Radio

    The other day I received an email from Colin VK2JCC who mentioned that he
    was a keen home brewer and he was interested in a discussion about using ex-military gear in amateur radio. If you want to see his beautiful rig,
    check out Colin's Clansman PRC 320 Radio, does 2 to 30 MHz at 3 or 30
    Watts. Look for his callsign and you'll also find a video of him calling CQ.

    Colin also shared his efforts for the construction of a Ground Tuning Unit which started a whole different exploration, but I'll leave that for
    another day.

    Back to the topic at hand, ex-military gear in our hobby. My initial
    thoughts on the subject were predictable: "What on earth do I know about
    this and do I have anything useful to contribute on the matter?"

    It turns out that this isn't something new to me. You might recall that I'm
    an IT professional in my non-amateur life. In that role you'll likely never
    see me buying second hand or refurbished gear, unless I installed it myself
    and was the person responsible for its maintenance.

    This same mindset prevails within my hobby. Although I am the owner of
    several pieces of pre-loved equipment, it arrived either because I knew the previous owner and where they live, or because it arrived unencumbered at
    my door.

    I go to hamfests and look askance at the gear on offer. I'll buy
    connectors, a tower, but not so much anything in the way of electronics. I asked around and I'm not alone in this. Many of my peers have the same
    view. Why pay good money for something that has been abused?

    It occurred to me, that this mindset is based on the idea that something
    can go wrong because the equipment has been invisibly damaged. Of course
    that is possible. However, on reflection, the reality is likely different.

    In my professional life I've seen plenty of badly maltreated equipment. I remember being called out to a faulty computer that sat on the ground in
    the office in a car mechanics workshop. The computer, used for accounting, would on warm days just stop. On opening it up, in 2006, I found a
    motherboard with a Pentium processor on board. It was untouched from when
    it had been built in around 1994. The CPU fan was no longer moving and the amount of caked on dust - complete with microscopic motor oil - had formed
    a solid cake around the cooling fins. After removing the dirt, the fan spun back into life and the computer was once again rock-solid.

    That is the definition of abused electronics.

    Yes, in case you're wondering, I did recommend replacing the computer, but
    out in the back roads of Australia, that's easier said than done.

    Story aside, I came to the conclusion that while abuse might reduce the
    circuit life from a millennium down to a century, that was unlikely to
    happen in my lifetime.

    Back to the ex-military gear.

    Based on Colin's comments, his historic radio, and my insights into the
    scale of abuse and their impact, I'm more inclined today than I was
    yesterday to investigate.

    I will note that I'm spoilt for choice. I can pretty much buy off the shelf
    any gadget required, limited by my imagination and my budget, but that
    wasn't true for several of my amateur friends. I know of several
    modifications of aviation and military rigs, born from necessity, that eventually made it into amateur radio and come to think of it, there's not
    much difference from me adding a serial interface to my Commodore VIC 20
    back in the 1980's.

    Before I start shopping for radios that glow in the dark, there is another consideration. I did the same with computers over 20 years ago. I ended up
    with about a dozen of them in my office. Today that's replaced by a single
    one that runs as many virtual computers as I need.

    In radio terms, do I fill my shack with boxes, or should I spend my efforts
    on getting an RF signal into a black box with SDR written on the side? It's hard to know what the differences are without seeing both sides of the equation, but I'm sure that at my next hamfest I'll be looking around with different coloured glasses.

    Thank you to Colin VK2JCC for asking the question and showing his toys.

    I'm Onno VK6FLAB
    This posting includes a media file: http://podcasts.itmaze.com.au/foundations/20200517.foundations-of-amateur-radio.mp3

    How much is a bit worth?

    Posted: 09 May 2020 09:00 AM PDT

    Foundations of Amateur Radio

    During the week I finally made the decision to purchase my first software defined transmit capable radio. It wasn't an easy choice for me, given that
    the range of options vary in price from "not much" to "more than my car is worth" and an infinite number of choices between those.

    One of the considerations, other than price, was a thing called bit-depth.
    In the past I've spoken about how an analogue to digital converter or ADC
    uses bits to represent a radio signal. In short, a voltage coming from an antenna is represented as a digital value inside the radio. No signal represents a value of zero and maximum signal represents the maximum value
    that fits into the decoder. A concrete example might be an 8-bit ADC which
    can represent 256 different values.

    If you look at the choices available to you, you'll see that there are
    8-bit radios, 12-bit ones, 16-bit, 18-bit and 24-bit radios. On the face of
    it you could just say, more bits is better, but how much better?

    For example, an ANAN-10 and a FLEX-3000 radio, both costing about the same, have a different ADC. The ANAN is a 16-bit device and the FLEX is a 24-bit device. At the other end, a HackRF One is an 8-bit device and costs twice
    as much as an ADALM Pluto that's a 12-bit device.

    How do you choose and what are you choosing?

    Essentially you're choosing something called dynamic range. Think of it as
    the range of signal strengths that you can represent using a number of bits.

    As it happens there's a formula for that. It's 20 times the log 10 of 2 to
    the power of the number of bits times the square root of 3 divided by 2 and
    it represents decibels relative to full scale or dBFS.

    In more recognisable terms, it comes down to a bit being worth 6 dB of
    range. A good approximation is the number of bits times six plus two.

    For example, a 6-bit SDR will have a dynamic range of 6 times 6 bits is 36, plus 2 makes 38 dB of range. An 8-bit SDR has 6 times 8 bits is 48 plus 2
    makes 50 dB of dynamic range.

    I'm using rounded off numbers here but it gives you a pretty accurate sense
    of scale. Six times the bits plus 2 works until about 36-bits and then it's
    off by one dB, until we hit 85-bits - which we won't likely be able to buy
    at the local ham store for a little while yet - and then it'll be off by 2

    Another way to think of dynamic range is to think of it as the difference between the weakest signal you can measure and the strongest signal. Given
    your SDR is going to be using a whole chunk of radio spectrum, you likely
    will have to deal with your local broadcast stations as well as that QRP
    signal you want to decipher, so more dynamic range is better.

    Let's give this some context. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the
    ABC, has a local AM station on 720 kHz that has a transmitter with an EIRP
    of just under 155 kilowatts. My QRP station uses 5 watts. My signal is 45
    dB weaker than that local transmitter.

    This means that in order for an SDR to be able detect my signal in
    comparison to the broadcast station, it would need to have a range of 45 dB
    or 45 less 2 is 43 divided by 6 is 8 bits range at a minimum.

    Now this isn't precise or complete, but it should give you some sense of

    In this example, the amplitude range of my 5 watt signal is represented by
    a digital range of 1 and the broadcast transmitter is represented by a
    range of 255 values.

    That means that the best you could hope for in decoding my signal would be
    if I was transmitting Morse, the absence or presence of my signal would
    make the value representing my signal go from 0 to 1.

    As you might imagine, this is not suitable to decode something more complex like SSB. My Morse signal is also right at the noise floor, so it might not even be detectable at all.

    Similarly, in the absence of a 150 kilowatt station, but say a 1500 watt station, you'd need just under 25 dB range, or 4-bits.

    Now before you start pointing out that there are other issues, yes, there
    are, sample rate, clock stability to name two. We'll get to those. I should also point out that normally you'd represent the voltage range using both positive and negative values and I didn't mention that the maximum is calculated using RMS.

    In the meantime, I'm getting excited to see my new toy arrive. I'll let you know how it goes.

    I'm Onno VK6FLAB
    This posting includes a media file: http://podcasts.itmaze.com.au/foundations/20200510.foundations-of-amateur-radio.mp3

    So, you want to be an amateur?

    Posted: 02 May 2020 09:00 AM PDT

    Foundations of Amateur Radio

    The other day I stumbled on a social media post titled "So, you want to be
    an astronomer..." by /u/Andromeda321 on reddit. Look it up if you're
    interested how she puts together the prerequisites from her perspective as
    an astronomer.

    Apart from the fact that a few of my friends are astronomers, one even a
    radio amateur - and I have to confess, that's a combination that is
    exciting and intriguing - it got me considering how you become a radio

    In my mind I started putting together lists and links and other
    prerequisites that help you become an amateur when it occurred to me that
    being an amateur is in my view a state of mind.

    While it's true that there is a licensing process that gives you
    transmission privileges, that to me is not what makes an amateur.

    When I started my amateur radio involvement in 2010 I'd seen amateur radio exactly twice. Once as a sea-scout during a Jamboree on the Air at the end
    of the 1970's and once when my manager parked his tiny car, I think it was
    a champagne coloured Daihatsu Charade, with a massive 40m or 80m vertical
    in the car park at work.

    As I started learning about amateur radio and passed my test I'd commenced
    the journey into what I now consider to be membership of the amateur
    community. That same journey is undertaken by people across the planet. For some it starts like mine, with a course. For others it starts with a
    neighbour or a parent, a friend or an aunt. They might start with listening
    to short-wave radio, or playing with electronics.

    People start their journey at all different places and times in their life.

    There is a perspective within the amateur radio community that says that
    you're not a real amateur until you've passed a test.

    I don't think that's right. Passing a test is part of the experience and
    you may or may not start there, or even pursue the test. That doesn't
    describe your radio amateur status, that's just giving you responsibilities
    and regulations that permit you to expand your thirst for knowledge.

    In my experience, the real test of being an amateur lies in something much simpler than that.

    Being a radio amateur isn't a profession, it's a hobby. An amazing one, but
    a hobby. I know that there are plenty of amateurs that will argue that it's
    a service. I don't deny that there is a service aspect, but that doesn't
    take away the rest of the community, it adds to it.

    You might wonder why I'm even bringing this up. The reason is that all too often our community erects fences. "You don't have a license", "You don't
    know Morse", "You only have an introductory license", "You only own a cheap Chinese hand held", followed by: "You're not a real amateur."

    I think that you're an amateur when you decide to be one.

    So, if you're not yet here, what's stopping you?

    I'm Onno VK6FLAB
    This posting includes a media file: http://podcasts.itmaze.com.au/foundations/20200503.foundations-of-amateur-radio.mp3

    Permission to be curious

    Posted: 25 Apr 2020 09:00 AM PDT

    Foundations of Amateur Radio

    The activities that our community places under the banner of amateur radio
    are many and varied. I've referred to this as a thousand hobbies in one. If
    you look at the surface, you'll find all manner of activities that readily attach to our hobby.

    Activations for example are invented at any opportunity, from parks to
    peaks, light houses, bridges, trains, boats, lakes, roads, locators and countries. We pursue contesting, making contacts using different modes, different power levels, we pick the frequencies on which we operate.

    If you dig a little deeper you might consider investigating propagation, or antenna builds, electronics, physics and more.

    It occurs to me that there is an underlying activity, one that any amateur
    can participate in and most do at what ever level they choose.

    It's the act of being curious.

    You can choose to turn your radio on and be curious to what's going on
    around you on the bands, or you can be curious as to what the underlying principles are of the mode you're using to make a contact. You can be
    curious as to the electrical principles and you can be curious as to the
    maths behind that.

    Superficially you might think that being curious isn't really something
    that is remarkable. I'm here to disagree with that.

    If you drive a car, you can choose to be curious, but many just put fuel in
    the right hole and keep air in the tyres. Most will wash their car from
    time to time. Some will dig into the innards of their car, but the vast majority lacking even a superficial understanding will have their car
    serviced by an expert. The same is true for computers. You might not wash
    your computer, but doing maintenance is often a case of waiting for it to
    die and calling your local IT expert.

    There is absolutely opportunity for curiosity in relation to cars and
    computers and there are plenty of stories from those who follow that path.

    In our community I think that this balance is completely different. In
    amateur radio there are a few people who use their radio like the majority
    of the general public uses their car, but in the whole, I think that the
    bulk of radio amateurs travel down a rabbit hole on a regular basis, armed
    with multi-meters, screw drivers and soldering irons. I see their reports,
    I hear their questions, I read their emails and respond to their requests.

    You might say that I'm biased, since those are the amateurs I come across,
    but I think that's underselling quite how special this hobby of ours really

    I love that you can be curious about an antenna and keep digging and become curious about the underlying laws, right down to the fundamental principles behind the phenomenon we experience as radio.

    I've said many times that getting your license is like receiving the keys
    to the hobby. You have the ability to open the door and come inside to see
    and explore for yourself.

    What have you been curious about lately and what did you do about it?

    I'm Onno VK6FLAB
    This posting includes a media file: http://podcasts.itmaze.com.au/foundations/20200426.foundations-of-amateur-radio.mp3

    First ever digital contact!

    Posted: 18 Apr 2020 09:00 AM PDT

    Foundations of Amateur Radio

    When you start life you learn early on the difference between being told
    about an experience and the actual experience. There's a saying that comes
    to mind, I use it regularly in my day job: In theory there is no difference between theory and practice, while in practice there is.

    I thought I'd do the quote justice to see where it came from, not from Einstein, who was three years old at the time it was coined and neither
    Yogi Berra or Richard Feynman had been born. Quote Investigator puts it in
    the Yale Literary Magazine of February 1882 and attributes it to Benjamin Brewster, but I digress.

    A little while ago the regulator in Australia altered the rules of
    engagement in relation to amateur radio for people holding the license that
    I do. All Australian amateurs are now permitted to transmit digital modes.
    Not that this should have been any impediment to the exploration of the
    receive side, but I had a few other things on my plate to try. Still do.

    Over the weekend I sat in my driveway with my radio and had the urge to see
    if I could actually do some PSK31, a digital mode that had a low entry
    barrier, since there were defined frequencies, and I could use a decoder on
    my phone.

    So, I set about doing just that. I had already programmed in the various frequencies into my radio the week before. I hadn't actually heard any
    signals, but that didn't deter me. I set about getting myself set-up for
    what I'm calling a driveway hack.

    Picture this. A folding table with my radio. A stool next to it with me on
    it. The radio connected to an antenna, a vertical that was attached to a neighbour's roof with a magnetic mount and my phone running DroidPSK. I was tuned to the 10m PSK frequency, had the volume turned up, holding my phone
    next to the speaker, watching the waterfall.


    I called up a mate who had this all working and we set about trouble
    shooting my set up.

    He made some transmissions; nothing.

    I listened to the 10m beacon, loud and clear.

    He made some more transmissions, still nothing.

    Then we realised while I was switching back and forth between the beacon
    and the PSK frequency that his radio was set up for a different standard
    PSK frequency. Gotta love standards, there's one for every occasion.
    Changed my frequency and for the first time I could actually see stuff in
    the waterfall display on my phone.

    If you've never seen a waterfall display, it's a tool that helps visualise
    the signal strength of a chunk of spectrum over time. It's pretty nifty and
    a waterfall displays a lot of information.

    Starting with colour, the idea is that a colour represents a particular
    signal strength. Red for full signal, yellow for half, blue for the lowest detected signal and black for no signal. Fill in the gaps with the colours
    of the rainbow.

    If you represent a line made of dots with the start of the line at say 0 Hz
    and the end of the line at say 3 kHz, you could split the line into 300
    dots, and each dot could be coloured to represent the average signal
    strength for a little 10 Hz slice of spectrum.

    If you wait a second, move the line you drew down and then measure again,
    you'd end up with two lines. The line from now at the top, the line from a second ago below it. If you do this every second, you'll end up with lines flowing off the bottom of the screen, the oldest lines at the bottom and
    the newest ones at the top.

    That is a waterfall display. Over time you'll start to recognise what a particular signal looks like on the waterfall and there are even modes
    where you can draw on the waterfall, but I'll leave that for another day.

    As I said, I could now finally see signals on my waterfall display.

    I'm not going to dig too deep here, because there's much confusion in the language surrounding all this and I intend to get the names straight in my
    mind before I express them here, but after figuring out that you have to
    tell DroidPSK which signal you want to decode, I finally managed to decode
    the transmission from my friend.

    After putting on some headphones and realising that the clicks I was
    hearing from my phone were actually artefacts from the speaker, I also
    managed to transmit a CQ signal which my friend decoded. He then
    acknowledged my callsign in his next transmission.

    So, I now have two screen shots, his and mine, showing that we both saw
    each other using 10m PSK31. There wasn't a signal strength exchange, mainly because I have yet to figure out how to determine that and where it's
    visible, but for all the things that matter, I managed a contact with PSK31 thanks to Randall VK6WR, very exciting!

    Since then I've started experimenting with decoding WebSDR, that's HF
    signals coming in via the internet and being decoded on my computer from
    the web audio. I'm still working on that, but there is so much to learn and play with and a transmitter isn't yet needed to have fun. I should mention
    that you can also decode satellite signals like this.

    Digital modes, just when you thought that the rabbit hole couldn't get any deeper.

    I'm Onno VK6FLAB
    This posting includes a media file: http://podcasts.itmaze.com.au/foundations/20200419.foundations-of-amateur-radio.mp3

    When was the last time you played?

    Posted: 11 Apr 2020 09:00 AM PDT

    Foundations of Amateur Radio

    The other day it occurred to me that my callsign had been away from HF for months, probably longer. I didn't really want to think about how long it
    had been. I moved QTH over two years ago and ever since I've been working
    on a new antenna set-up. You know the kind, you shouldn't rush this.
    Anyway, having just had a camp-out with some friends for a portable
    contest, where I gleefully had fun with the station callsign, I thought it
    was time to actually do what I keep advocating to anyone who stands still
    long enough, to get on air and make some noise.

    So I did.

    You know that feeling when the longer you wait, the harder it gets and the
    more you put it off? That had invaded my thinking and my avoidance. The
    typical excuses of not enough space, too much noise, no antenna, radio not ready, too hard, all fought their way into prominence. I'd had enough.

    So, on Saturday I collected all the bits that make up my portable station.
    It had clearly been a while since I'd used it, since I couldn't for the
    life of me remember where the head of my Yaesu FT-857d was, that was until
    I remembered that it had previously been installed in my car, so that's precisely where I found it. The tiny jumper cable between the head and the
    body was located in my headset bag where I'd stashed it after forgetting it
    for a contest one year. The microphone was where I'd stored it in the car.
    The battery was easier, since I'd used that the weekend before. Pulled out
    a table, a chair and set about putting my station together right there in
    the driveway.

    I'd been meaning to test an antenna that to all intents and purposes was
    doomed to fail, a long-wire on the ground. I didn't have an un-un or a
    balun, but I did have my trusty antenna coupler, so I used that. One end of
    the antenna, twelve and a half meters going one way, the other half going
    at a right angle. That pretty much solved that.

    Then for the final touch, I turned the radio on. All worked and I set about figuring out what I could hear. Across all the NCDXF beacons and bands I
    could hear the local beacon about 30km away.

    I have mentioned the NCDXF before, but in short, the Northern California DX Foundation has since 1979 coordinated the installation and maintenance of a collection of transmitters that 24 hours a day, every three minutes
    transmits on a staggered schedule across 5 different bands. It's called the International Beacon Project. For funding, the NCDXF relies on donations
    from people like you and in Western Australia the WA Repeater Group
    maintain the beacon, VK6RBP.

    Each transmission consists of a callsign, a beep at a 100 watts, a beep at
    10 watts, 1 watt and 100 milliwatts. You can hear the beacons on 20m, 17m,
    15m, 12m and 10m. Their purpose is to determine what propagation is like
    across the world on each of the bands, in pretty much real time. It was the impetus for me to start learning Morse Code - in case you're wondering, no,
    I know, I'm still at it.

    On my wire on the ground antenna the local beacon on the 10m band was by
    far the strongest. I also had a listen on 80m and 40m and even found two stations in deep discussion about something or other. Didn't manage to
    catch their callsigns, but good readability, not so much in the way of
    signal strength.

    I called up a friend on 900 MHz, in case you're sceptical, yes I hold a
    licence for that, so do you, it's cunningly encapsulated in a sophisticated portable battery powered multifunctional gadget made of electronics and
    glass. He was in the middle of repairing some damage sustained to his G5RV
    Jr. antenna during our latest adventures - Hi Glynn - and afterwards we had
    a go to see if we could in fact hear each other. I was using 5 Watts, he something like 70 Watts. Neither of us could hear the other, even though
    we're a similar distance from each other as the beacon. Not yet sure if it
    was his radio acting up, or mine for that matter.

    I then started down the digital modes path. Installed a PSK31 decoder and
    set about programming my radio for the traditional PSK31 frequencies.
    Didn't hear anything, didn't decode anything, but had a ball none the less.

    You might think to yourself right about now what the point of all this was
    if I didn't make any contacts? The answer is simple, I got outside, in the
    sun, soaked up some Vitamin D and played radio, just like the weekend was intended for. My next adventures are likely going to involve the same
    antenna and a vertical for transmit to see how that goes.

    You don't need an excuse to get out and play and when you do you might not
    make any contacts, but that's not really the point of playing, is it?

    I'm Onno VK6FLAB
    This posting includes a media file: http://podcasts.itmaze.com.au/foundations/20200412.foundations-of-amateur-radio.mp3

    Breaking the isolation one QSO at a time.

    Posted: 04 Apr 2020 09:00 AM PDT

    Foundations of Amateur Radio

    In our hobby we regularly talk about its purpose, its need, its usefulness
    and other potentially abstract notions. Often there's a nod towards
    science, learning, self-discovery, challenge, emergency service or some
    other higher order concept. I know I've discussed many of those over the
    years and encouraged you to find what the hobby means to you.

    There is one aspect of our hobby that's pretty much left unsaid. It's left unsaid because it's obvious, since radio is about communication at its
    heart, the idea that we use our radios for communication is ingrained and unheralded. You might find a few new amateurs talking about how they made
    their first contact on the local repeater, or how they want to use the
    hobby to stay in touch when they're out and about.

    It occurred to me the other day that much of the world is subject to travel restrictions and social or physical distancing requirements. There's places that are in total lock-down and whilst there are strong recommendations for people over 70 to stay completely isolated, that's not yet a requirement
    where I live. It might come to that, but at the moment the COVID-19
    pandemic is changing habits and communities on an hourly basis.

    Technology is often sought as a solution. There's plenty of
    video-conferences being held. Local amateur clubs are going online to stay
    in touch with members while face-to-face meetings are off the menu. Then there's the ongoing access to social media, blogs, discussion groups,
    mailing lists and the like.

    There are a few brave radio clubs using something a little less technical.
    The radio. Shock, horror, imagine that, an amateur radio club using an
    actual, you know radio, to talk to each other. I must admit that
    communication via radio, as obvious as that sounds isn't always the first
    thing that comes to mind. I've lost count of the number of times when at
    the local club one member stood outside yelling back into the shack which
    way the rotator on the Yagi was pointing whilst adjustments were being made
    - turns out that the rotator was spinning on the mast in the wind. Took a concerted effort, seriously, to actually turn on a hand-held radio and talk
    to each other, like civilised people.

    On the weekend during F-troop, a weekly net for new and returning amateurs,
    I also asked how people were doing given the social isolation that is pervasive.

    I also started toying with the idea of running an F-troop every day, then I scaled it back to every Wednesday and Saturday and then it occurred to me
    that the power to host a net is in the thumb of any amateur clicking their
    push to talk button and I finally settled on continuing the normal activity
    of hosting F-troop on Saturday morning at 00:00 UTC for an hour.

    I understand that in a technically connected world with cheap internet and

    [continued in next message]

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