ARRL ARES Communicator's Comments - 2017-12-17

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio Emergency Communications' started by W.T. Jones, Dec 17, 2017.

  1. W.T. Jones

    W.T. Jones Moderator Staff Member Silver Member Golden GPS Recipient

    Weekly Image
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    An ARRL ARES®Communicator's Comments
    Comments on the N1ZZZ Test Effort...
    - I want to thank all the LCARES members who gave it their all for N1ZZZ's testing last Tuesday. We definitely need more of this kind of thing but, and I am sure you that you all know that I always have a "but" for everything, hopefully I can get the inventory correct this Tuesday so that we can start making the go-kits fun to use.

    The fun of using the go-kits is something I'd like to have you do every week so that all develop a feel for them and how to use them. That is a great thing. And there is nothing I'd rather do than turn you loose on them because the more you use them the more I'll learn about what is needed for them. It is a very big benefit for everyone. And it is a lot of fun seeing them work successfully.

    Let me start with the issues that do not involve the testing.

    - There are supposed to be 8 go-kits. Right now we have almost 4 go-kits. I mean its a good start but it is not where I would have liked to be on December 17th of this year.

    - We have enough FT-2DRs for the 4 go-kits and maybe a few more. We are shy some batteries for the FT-2DRs. We are also short of some drop-in chargers for the FT-2DRs. I just ran out of funds for them. And some of the batteries that were shipped were not the right ones. 101 vs 110 means a lot to having the battery fit the radio.

    - Signalinks with adapters for the FT-2DRs, cables for the USB connections to the computers, and, what was missing until two weeks ago, the SLMODHT configuration boards.

    - Base antennas and the tripod masts are not here for the 4 go-kits. Only two of them have the Diamond antenna and the MFJ tripods.

    So while we are close to the bleeding edge that edge is rather ragged now. N1ZZZ did send me an inventory of his go-kit. Here it is in spreadsheet format.

    Go Kit 1261 Inventory

    Category Quantity Description Model S/N EMA Tag #

    1 VHF/UHF radio Yaesu FT2DR 70320376 2357


    2 Radio Battery SBR-14LI P23A

    1 Disposable cells pack FBA-39

    1 LiFePO4 12V, 6AH battery BLF-1206A

    Antennas 1 FT2DR Stock antenna

    1 Diamond portable antenna SRH77CA

    1 Diamond Mag/NMO mobile antenna base

    1 Larson dual band mobile whip


    1 50' ABR Coax with PL-259 240 UHF/8X

    1 25' ABR Coax with PL-259 240 UHF/8X

    1 UHF barrel connector

    2 SMA male to UHF female adapter

    2 SMA male to BNC female adapter

    Chargers 1 Dell computer AC charger 65W DF263 0DF263716156C86322

    1 Yaesu 12V mobile charger/filter SDD-13 2816

    1 LiFePO4 charger BPC-1502DC/FY1502000

    1 120V Base charger/cradle CD-41/SAD-11B


    1 Heil headset HTH-Y

    1 Eberry USB microphone

    1 Signalink H-t jumper board installed SLUSB N/A 1255

    1 Dell Latitude D810 computer PP15L P/N C5725A03 107898349890528 552

    1 Orange Safety Vest Large

    Documents 1 FT2DR Quick guide

    1 FT2DR manual

    1 Update/test procedure guide

    The above list is "almost" complete. The tripod and the Diamond X-30 base antenna need to be added to it. Now some of the things that need explaining. Each go-kit should have a Signalink for the FT-2DR HT. (During our tech session today I see that more Signalinks have arrived thanks to KC3IMJ's ordering!) The USB microphone is for situations where acoustic coupling may be needed such as the SSES drills but in most cases the go-kits should have the Signalink as the primary method of digital interfacing.

    The Diamond portable antenna, the magnetic base, and the dual band whip are for use during a deployment where the operator will be working out of a vehicle or required to go portable.

    The list includes (2) SBR-14LI batteries. There should be 1 14LI and 1 101LI battery and a drop-in charger with wall wart power supply. Again this is an issue that needs to be resolved. All the go-kits need to have exactly the same inventory as intended. Right now the inventory is scattered through out the LCARES room. Before we go to working with the go-kits I have to know what we need and I need to have that before January 1st.

    Here is what the original "want list" looked like back at the end of June.

    Manufacturer Model Description
    Computer --- Available One

    Power Supply For Computer
    Tigertronics SL-USB-HTY Signalink w/ FT-2D cabling

    USB Cable to Signalink from Computer
    Yaesu FT-2DR 144-148 / 430-450 MHz Dual Band
    5 Watt C4FM/FDMA Digital Touch Screen
    Hand Held Transceiver
    Yaesu FNB-101LI 7.4V / 1100 mAh Lithium Ion Battery
    - FT-1DR / FT-2DR / VX8DR
    Yaesu FBA-39 Battery Case for VX-8R - 3 AA Cells
    Bioenno Power BLF-1206W 12V, 6Ah LFP Battery
    (PVC, BLF-1206W) – LiFePO4
    Bioenno Power BPC-1502DC 14.6V, 2A AC-to-DC Charger (DC Plug)
    For 12V LiFePO4 Batteries (BPC-1502DC)
    Yaesu CD-41 Rapid Charge Cradle for FT2DR
    Requires PA-48B or SAD-11B
    Yaesu SAD-11B Battery Charger for VX-8DR
    100-120 VAC - Type B Plug
    Yaesu SDD-13 DC Cable with Cigarette Lighter Plug
    Fits Most Yaesu Hand Held Radios
    Yaesu CN-3 SMA to BNC Female Antenna Adapter
    LP SMA-27 SMA Male to UHF Female - SO-239 – Adapter
    Diamond SRH77CA 144 / 440 MHz TX HT Antenna
    15 Inches Tall - SMA Connector
    Pulse Larsen NMO-2/70SH Short 144 / 440 MHz Dual Band Mobile Antenna
    NMO Base - Requires Mount & Cable
    Diamond SPM-NMO Deluxe Mag Mount 4 Inch Diameter 25 – 500MHz
    With 13 Feet of Coax with NMO
    Diamond X30A 144 / 440 MHz Dualband Fiberglass Base Station
    Vertical Antenna - 54 Inches Tall - SO239
    MFJ MFJ-1918EX 6 Foot Portable Tripod Antenna Stand
    With Extendable 10 Foot Mast
    ABR Industries LLC 218XATC-PL-25 25 ft Coax Jumper UHF PL-259
    Male Both Ends LMR-240 RG8X Cable
    ABR Industries LLC 218XATC-PL-50 50 ft Coax Jumper UHF PL-259
    Male Both Ends LMR-240 RG8X Cable
    LP UHF-11 Double UHF Female - SO-239 - Barrel Connector
    Heil HTH-Y Handie Talkie Headset For Yaesu Radios
    4 Pin Mini
    Bucket Boss 60020 Gatemouth 20 in. Tool Bag, Brown and Green

    Right now we have the "potential" of having 2 complete go-kits. I really need to take this list and make sure that everything on the list is IN those 2 go-kits. HT, chargers, batteries, the works. Nothing should be on the desks. Everything should be in the go-kits so that they are really GO kits. And I need to make a list of what I need to have ordered so that we end up with at least 4 complete go-kits.

    I know that kind of goes against the grain of having the HTs in the chargers and things like that but the idea is the go-kits are supposed to be ready to grab and go. That means that everything is in them and when we have the base antenna and tripod they are attached. And that attachment really needs some more thought.

    I hope I am making this clear because sometimes I get it muddled in my own head.

    The reason for the TM@EOC Equipment Maintenance and Check is so that all the pieces are checked on a weekly basis. If the HT batteries show a discharge then assemble the charging cradle and top them off. That is the reason for the Lithium batteries. They don't develop a memory like ni-cads, they don't suffer from over charging like Nickel Metal Hydride batteries, and they hold a charge for a long time. The Bioenno Batteries are the same thing except they can be plugged into their charger and if the light is green take them off and put them back in the go-kit. Unless they were discharged because of use they usually hold a charge for months.

    I am laying all this out in the hope that all of you get the grand plan here. Seeing the chargers and HTs on the desk means that the go-kits are not go-kits. They are assemble and then go. I don't want that. I want them to be grab and go kits. That means that some work has to be done on TM@EOC. Not much but some.

    The computers are a problem. In theory we could let them go until there is an update to one of the Fldigi programs. I have set them so that they should not automatically check for patches. Having the computer ask for patches is not a good thing to have popping up during a stressful time and that patching routine takes cycles that those old computers just don't have. So the best alternative is to just get them out and run the patching on a weekly basis. I have reworked the patching script to that it will take a lot less time. I ran the patching while we were talking after the APRS session and it took about 5 minutes or so. So there is a significant improvement.

    The battery issue with the computers is something that I'll need to address but that will have to wait until the next budget cycle. And each of the computers should have a mouse on them. That touchpad is a pain where a pill can't reach but a laxative might.

    The goal is to have a laptop, albeit not a brand spanking new one, for each of the municipalities. These can be issued for each of the drills and then returned to the EOC. Maintenance will have to be done them but it can be a monthly routine. The go-kits need it weekly just in case they are needed.

    And the thing I am trying very hard to do is create a standard way of doing this checking the go-kits. A checklist of items. That way nothing gets missed but until the go-kits are some what in order making that list is hard to do. The other thing is that until you actually do it you don't know if it is the best way of doing it. But a checklist will let you come in, grab a go-kit run through the process, and be done with it. I really would rather be having more fun with these things than doing all this work but the work needs to be done first.

    Lets look at N1ZZZ's test run on December 12th.

    1. Incident Name:
    2. To: WN3LIF, EC
    3. From: Jeremy Allen , N1ZZZ
    4. Subject: Field Test
    5. Date: 12/12/17
    6. Time: 2115L
    7. Message:
    Field Test did not work as well as hoped. Cache radio worked from Kirby Park to EOC on simplex.
    Audio coupling with FLDigi failed to pass traffic either way with full quieting signals on MFSK32.
    Battery life on Kit computer was 15 minutes.

    Later testing at EOC saw failure of EOC computer properly decoding the TXID sent from the kit.
    Another kit modem decoded TXID no problem.

    Radio changing from FM to DM mode is a pitfall to be watched for and recognized.
    I'll take each item and comment so you can see what I see when I read this and this is not criticizing in any way. It is just me trying to figure out what went on.

    "Field Test did not work as well as hoped." Disappointment here but not unexpected. It was a "poke and hope" session because N1ZZZ was feeling up to the task. The test that was done on December 6th (IIRC) was a lot better than this one. So while I am disappointed I am not worried because the go-kits have not been setup or configured in any manner at all. Only three of the laptops were used during the last SSES drill.

    "Cache radio worked from Kirby Park to EOC on simplex." I hope it would but here lies some confusion on my part. I was originally told that the go-kit that N1ZZZ took did not have a radio in it. Did he return for another kit? Did he use a different radio such as one of the Spectras? So while I am glad to see that a voice simplex contact was made I am just as confused as to what was used. However I did talk to KB3VS today and get the story.

    "Audio coupling with Fldigi failed to pass traffic either way with full quieting signals on MFSK32" Not surprised at that. How was the audio on the computer setup? Was the USB microphone used? Most of the laptop computers don't have a built-in microphone. MT63-2KL would have been a better mode to try. Too many variables to determine the right issue. Why wasn't the Signalink used at the remote location? Probably because there wasn't one available. Questions questions. Always questions.

    "Battery Life on Kit computer was 15 minutes" I know and I know that something needs to be done about that. Just for future reference none of the laptops have sufficient battery life which is why they need their power cords and an AC power source. A fix will be had in the upcoming year. N1ZZZ recommended an inverter to power them. Good idea but I do want each one of the laptops to have a new battery too.

    "Later testing at the EOC saw failue of the EOC computer properly decoding the TXid sent from the kit." Since the EOC computer properly decodes the RSID information weekly I can rule out the EOC computer having a problem. Of course, when I checked the EOC computer later in the week I found that the mode had been set to Lower sideband which will never decode the RSID properly and several other items were changed in the configuration. And the EOC computer was not reset to its normal unattended state after everyone left.

    If anything is stopped, changed, or cleared on the EOC computer it must be shutdown completely and powered up so that everything restarts properly. If you are leaving you don't have to hang around to let the system start. Once you press the power button you can go on your way. See the Guidelines and Procedures manual. Please don't leave the EOC computer like that. That means an unnecessary trip to the EOC for me to do a hard shutdown on the system. I can do a lot remotely but a hard shutdown just can't be done with Teamviewer. So I would be willing to bet that the laptop is in need of configuration and some setting up.

    "Radio changing from FM to DM modes." That can be fixed via configuration in the FT-2DR but it something we needed to know. I will say that the FT-2DR is one of most feature filled HTs I have ever seen. I can also say that is one of the most complicated HTs I have ever seen. It is rather frustrating but I am hoping that I can develop a cheat sheet for it.

    The equipment in the go-kits is getting closer to being ready but for digital work there is a lot of work to do. The Signalinks need to be readied with the SLMODHT boards, the audio levels set properly. The FT-2DRs need to be programmed with the new frequencies (Chirp now does the FT-2DRs), and the audio levels set on the computers. It is just work that needs to be done. And in the 2 hours that we have at the TM@EOC means that a lot needs to get done and we need to concentrate on the go-kits.

    And in case I don't say it often enough - Thank you for all your hard work up to this point! We've done a lot but we still have a lot to do. When its done - Pizza for the crew!

    NORAD Santa Tracker...
    I have put this into the Bulletin for the past 3 Christmas Holidays. So I am going to keep with my tradition and list it again.


    You can click on the image to go to the web site but I am warning you. It can be a time sink if you are not careful.

    BTW, look at the lower left corner of the image. -15.2 degrees at the North Pole.

    Next Week's Bulletin...
    In case you might have missed it during the hustle and bustle of the Season - Next week is Christmas Eve. The night that Santa does his annual ride through the world delivering gifts to all the good little girls and boys. And maybe even some good Hams too.

    I was going to say "Aww the heck with it for one week!" But I am going to be here because our church services start at 11:00PM so why not send one just for continuity sake.

    So there will be a Sunday Night Bulletin on December 24th at the usual time. It will be very short but the string will continue unbroken for a while longer.

    Have a good week!

    EPA-ARRL Web site...
    - If you have not done it yet then what are you waiting for? Get to the EPA-ARRL web site and either submit your email address or like it on Facebook. It is the place to get the information and news about the EPA Section.

    Ham Radio Links
    N3LLR's Ham Radio Forum
    ARRL Eastern PA Section Web Site
    Luzerne County ARES®
    Harris County Texas ARES® - A great training resource
    Lake County (OH) RACES Personal Go-Kit for Emergency Operations - KE7LHR
    MecklenBurg County ARES® and RACES
    K0BG - The Website for Mobile Amateur Radio Operators (Perhaps the best web site on mobile operations I have found!)
    Origins of Ham Speak - Fact, Legends, and Myths??? - Compiled by AC6V from the Internet and other unreliable sources
    The Petite Prepper
    The VOA Radiogram
    Luzerne County ARES Facebook Page <-- New
    Thank you for copying our weekly digital information Bulletin to all Amateur Radio Operators.

    Send reception reports and comments to

    Have a good week everyone!


    ARRL EPA Section Emergency Coordinator
    ARRL EPA District 3 District Emergency Coordinator
    ARRL ARES® Emergency Coordinator
    Luzerne County ARES®
    ARES and "Amateur Radio Emergency Services" are registered service marks owned by the American Radio Relay League, The National Association of Amateur Radio. Use of these service marks is by permission only.
    wedgar likes this.
  2. wedgar

    wedgar Administrator Staff Member Gold Member

    Taffi's picture is splendid...

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge, energy and time for making amateur radio a better place.

    Your leading the troops rather than pushing them is an inspiration.

    - Bill

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