News and Commentary

Mildura Raspberry pi-Gate

I ‘ve been out of touch for a while, but I do see that the Mildura iGate is now VK3JUG-5. The previous callsign VK3WRM-10, has been relinquished.

Just to remind you, an iGate takes a string from a digipeater and gates it to the internet. If correctly configured, it can also gate messages from the internet to specified mobiles.

Thanks to Peter VK3JUG for keeping this valuable service up and running.

Balranald Repeater VK2RBL

Thanks to a big effort from Paul VK2PNH, Rex VK3OF, Matt VK3MDC, and Andrew VK3HDV, the Balranald 2 meter repeater is installed at its permanent site on the Balranald water tower. Drive tests have returned very good results with better than 50km coverage in all directions. There is good overlap with the Robinvale and Swan Hill repeaters, so once the Robinvale repeater link is up it will be possible to drive from Mildura to Balranald to Swan Hill and have a QSO all the way.

The Balranald repeater uses two Tait FM/P25 radios donated to Paul by Tait Australia. The site on the town’s water tower is also being supplied to Paul free of charge , including power. Given the “Hay Plains” nature of the geography, the water towers have proven to be a wonderful site giving the great coverage of the area.

VK2RBL is on 146.7250Mhz, -ve 6000KHz, no CTCS tone required. In other words a bog-standard 2M repeater.

Thanks to Balranald Shire Council for the great site, Tait Australia for the Equipment and Paul VK2PNH and team for seeing the project through despite the difficulties and indifference.

2019 AGM

Well the 2019 AGM has come and gone, and from all reports did not “Go gentle into that good night.” I must point out that my reports are second hand, so I need to be a little careful.

Suffice to say that the meeting was somewhat “orchestrated” by senior members of the club who were not members of the committee, let alone the executive, and that there was an interjection from the floor attempting to wrest control of the meeting from the chairman. John VK2AWJ is to be commended for his handling of the election of officers.

Regretably, yet another keen and active member has been alienated. That makes 4 in 2 years that I know of. It seems that being an “annointed one” is somewhat of a poisoned chalice.

Unconfirmed reports have Brian VK3BBB as President, David VK3ZUA Vice President, Therese VK3FMTT Treasurer and Carol Loag is again Secretary. There are no details of the rest of the committee at this point.

Thanks to the outgoing committee and Good Luck to new one.


Ham Radio Digital Modes

At the bottom of Solar Cycle 24, things look pretty bleak for HF propagation. A quick look at the propagation forecast says fair to good for 40 and 80 and poor for all bands higher. Why then am I hearing a plethora of strange signals on 14074kHz? That would be FT8 digital mode. At 50Hz bandwidth it is theoretically possible to fit 50 simultaneous QSOs into a single 2.5kHz voice bandwidth and decode signals with a s/n ratio of -20db. And there are other modes, on all bands from MF to SHF.
Digital is perhaps a misnomer, from the users viewpoint they are keyboard modes, requiring a computer of some sort, suitable software, an interface and a radio.
“A computer?” I hear the traditionalists say. “They’ll be the ruin of Ham Radio. Darned things, never could get the hang of them!”
To which I would reply…
“Goldarn it Elmer, you’re using one of them microphones? What the heck is wrong with a Morse Key?”
And all the time operating the latest Software Defined Radio!

The Craft moves on, and if we want to keep it alive we have to embrace the things that interest young people. Things like computers and texting. Young folk are more insular these days, preferring less intimate forms of communications. The idea of actually speaking to someone they don’t know and can’t see, is pretty scary. Text communication on the other hand is universally embraced.
There is also the technical problem of diminishing available bandwidth. New modes are much more efficient… 50 channels in one voice bandwidth!
“Digital Modes” are to the texting generation, what voice modes were to the telephone generation. They will develop the new techniques and modes, albeit in software rather than hardware. A faster, tighter Fourier transform rather than a new crystal lattice filter. We need them onboard.

See you on 14078, JS8 Mode.
Norm vk3xci