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K5WLF – Electricity 101

Fellow SDFer, K5WLF , has posted a really good refresher on the basics of electricity.  Check it out.

K5WLF starts a new blog

A good friend of mine, fellow Ham and SDFer, Larry D. Barr-K5WLF, has started a new technical blog that will be good to follow. The K5WLF Tech Blog

From the first post:

Welcome to the first post of the K5WLF Tech Blog. Unlike my other blog, The K5WLF Blog, wherein I ramble and discuss anything from computers to ham radio to film directing to ??, we’re going to stay focused here and just discuss technical issues. In the course of those discussions, we’ll talk about the tech stuff and we’ll discuss some of the history of electricity and electronics. We’ll also take a look at some of the pioneers who made it possible for us to have the technology we have today. Folks like Faraday, Ampere, Volta, Tesla, Edison, Westinghouse, DeForest, Marconi and so many more. I’ve created a special category called “The Great Ones” that you’ll see whenever there’s a post about one of them.

Science Day at TSU

Today was the annual Science Day at TSU (Tarleton State UniversityStephenville, TX). The amateur radio club, Tarleton Area ARC, takes the opportunity to set up our emergency power solar array and operate a ham radio station outside as a demonstration of both solar energy and radio technology. This same day is the day that new students and parents tour the campus, so we have lots of foot traffic passing by us. It is a good opportunity to educate the public about the solar energy and stir up some interest in amateur radio. We had quite a few people stop by to visit and it was a very successful event I felt. We operated from my Elecraft K2 QRP radio to a half-wave dipole for the 20 meter band. Very good contacts were made to Indiana and Iowa via SSB and PSK31. The only difficulty for the day was with a laptop running Ubuntu 10.10, which I have blogged about here. Many thanks to Larry Barr, K5WLF, for providing the solar energy setup and being my operating partner on the air.

Python – it all starts coming together

I have previously blogged concerning my excursion into learning the Python programming language. In this post, I show how it has all started coming together with the code for a program I wrote at work. The purpose of the program was to generate an email with information about an Engineering Change Notice. It features examples of using the cx_Oracle module for accessing an Oracle database, the win32com module from Pywin32 for creating an email in MS Outlook, and Python’s native tkinter module for creating a simple GUI interface. There are lots of goodies here in a relatively short program. Enjoy!

My Engineering Change Notice Program:

On a side note, my buddy K5WLF is also learning Python and writing a program in the process. He has described the program as a calculator for Amateur Radio Operators to handle some of the computations we commonly perform.

From K5WLF – tech-note on battery run-time

K5WLF has written up a great tech-note on how to calculate battery run-time.  Very handy in any situation where running on battery power is critical.   A great overall blog post, the tech-note is found about half way down.   Check it out!

K5WLF post with tech-note:

An update to K5WLF’s previous blog entry with information concerning the C/20 discharge rate of batteries, please see it for important additional information:


Bill – WA5PB

K5WLF – Success on 160m

My buddy K5WLF has had big success on 160 with a Short Coil-Loaded Dipole.  This is great news for those without much room for a big 160m antenna.
K5WLF Blog

K5WLF – Heavy Weather

K5WLF discusses some useful WX watching resources.

Heavy Weather

After reading this blog post, I tried installing the GR Level 3 weather radar program K5WLF mentions on an Ubuntu system via Wine (the Windows emulator). It works!

Bill – WA5PB

K5WLF – an aid for Ham Radio projects

K5WLF highlights a very useful, free software package that aids the in the production of professional quality front panels for various Ham Radio construction projects.

from the K5WLF Blog

A lost art saves the day!

K5WLF relates an account of how the lost art of Morse Code saved the day, and many lives, when modern signalling equipment failed.

The Future of the Past

from K5WLF – The Public Face of Amateur Radio

An insightful article by Larry Barr, K5WLF, on maintaining good public relations as we practice our craft as Amateur Radio Operators.

The Public Face of Amateur Radio

K5WLF Blog

K5WLF just started up his own blog. Check it out.

Thoughts on proper use of Amateur Radio by K5WLF

The following was recently written by a friend of mine, Larry Barr – K5WLF, during an email discussion on the recent trend of Emergency Communications blurring the line between Amateur Radio and Commercial Radio. His comments were so insightful that I thought to share them here.

While I guess we ought to be glad that the “instant hams” at least want to join in the drills and training nets, I’m seeing what I perceive to be an underlying, and very real, danger in the current trend. It’s beginning to look like some of the hospitals et. al., are turning to amateur radio equipment to serve as their primary solution in the event of a failure in their normal communications system. Which, in my understanding, is generally internet based.

I believe that they should, instead, be creating properly engineered and well-installed commercial radio systems to serve in that capacity. For that is the proper service in which they should operate. If, in the event of emergency or disaster, their commercial system fails, then they can call on us to provide their emergency comms for them. And we will gladly help them.

I’m always happy to see new hams come into our hobby, but I don’t hold with the “teach for the test” approach to licensing courses. I personally will not teach a course that does not include operating rules and procedures, because I refuse to create a licensee that has no knowledge of proper operating skills.

The daily interchange of QSOs on the ham bands do more to form a skilled and practiced operator than one or two SETs a year could ever do. If we fail to instill in those whom we train a love for all aspects of our avocation, we deprive not only them, but ourselves as well of the joys of our hobby.

There is much discussion going on about the need to preserve our spectrum allotments and to maintain the vitality of our beloved hobby. Let us not drop the ball by allowing amateur radio to become a de facto backup service for institutions which are properly required to operate on other bands and under the jurisdiction of another radio service.

If the excrement truly impacts the turbine, let there never be a question that ARES, RACES and the entire amateur radio community will be there to give our full assistance, as we always have. But, in the meantime, we must work to ensure that the purity of our operations is preserved and that our service is not usurped by commercial entities looking for a cheap and easy solution to their communication problems.

The fine men and women of the amateur radio service have a proud tradition of giving their all when their help is needed. And we will forever be there for those who require our help, our equipment and our operating skills. But we must not tolerate the misuse of our service under the guise of emergency communications for commercial organizations. I don’t agree with the FCC all that often, but in this case, I believe that they were correct in their ruling.

There is one other question that I’ve never heard addressed. If I correctly understand the patient privacy requirements, there are certain precautions that must be adhered to ensuring that patient information is not divulged to persons not directly involved in that case. Transmission of patient info over internet or commercial radio service can be encrypted, preserving its privacy. Since encryption is prohibited on the amateur bands, how can a hospital transmit patient info on the amateur service without committing an infraction of the privacy requirement? It may be that the amateur service won’t legally provide all the capability that they’re looking for anyway.

I encourage all amateurs to continually strive to ensure that our bands and our service are used properly and in compliance with FCC regulations. For we are always in danger of losing our allocations, since we are the only service that doesn’t return a revenue to the government. We continue to exist primarily because of our ongoing response to emergencies; local, regional and national. If we permit our allocations to be misused, we will be in danger of losing them forever.


Larry D. Barr, K5WLF
PIO, ARRL NTX District 3
SKYWARN Spotter/Net Control
Erath County (TX) ARES AEC
Erath County (TX) RACES CLO (Alt)
Erath County (TX) Emergency Management