"G7HZZ Blog"

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27 November

'Virtual Amateur Radio'

A recent post on Southgate News was entitled "How to start virtual ham radio and why ?" In it are several key points that make virtual radio - principally Hamsphere - a way to explore something that looks like, but isn't Amateur Radio.

As far as I can tell, Hamsphere creates a virtual ham radio experience, including (it seems) current propagational conditions based on VOAProp or similar. The core software costs 35Euro per year and includes a basic 'virtual radio station' which can be expanded by purchasing plugins and air time for repeaters . . .

It may give a taste of Amateur Radio to unlicensed people, but to me it looks like just a fancy interactive 'gaming' simulation  . . . However, I haven't tried it, I may have misunderstood what it's all about . . .  but, however good it is as a simulation, it ain't real amateur radio. For me, that makes it delusional codswallop.

20 November 2017

Is the internet destroying amateur radio?

I have just read aintriguing  webpage by Bob K0NR with that title.


I empathise, sympathise, but don't necessarily agree with all Bob's points (but some are 'seductive')  . .

The Internet is a great benefit to amateur radio in many ways . . . .  there were probably just as people who complained that the superheterodyne was 'destroying' amateur radio, and the semiconductor and de-regulating CW . . . let alone clubs 'destroying' it.

These all have one key thing in common - people.  OK it is a bit like the "guns don't kill people, people kill people"  argument - it is a truism, but not a fact, and maybe not really true either.

Nevertheless, when you unwrap the assertion that the internet is killing / damaging amateur radio it does point to a fundamental issue that no two people wholly agree on what the purpose of amateur radio is.

And there is little doubt that some of those people are pushing the hobby in a direction and which may be short-sighted, while others have their heads in very dark places. A few can see what the situation is but are generally keeping their own counsel . . .  even so, there are a lot of frustrated radio hams around nowadays . . .

All the moans, about modern 'technologies' affecting some vague and ill-formed view of amateur radio, tend to underscore individuals' particular views about the hobby, but don't represent a majority view and cannot therefore have any real relevance to the wider issue of where is the hobby going? . . .  There will probably never be agreement on that, so strong opinions are largely a distraction. Opinions flourish when actions fade.

What amateur radio needs is a broader and more universally recognised and supported purpose (or two) . . .  It won't find it easily (if ever) and so it's up to individuals to show initiative and leave the sheep to baaaa together and hope that the 'cutting-edgers' stop banging the drum of 'progress' and forcing their own agendas on everyone else - as well as dyed in the wool reactionaries complaining about picky little details, like QSL cards and Echolink.

If amateur radio was still an essential front-line service in emergencies, moans about the internet would be treated as highly reactionary and Luddite.

There's just as cogent a case for asserting that fifty-nining and weekend contests are destroying amateur radio for a lot of people because they are so lacking in 'content' or have no wider 'purpose' except ego-stroking (also know as 'willie waving'  . . . . Personally I believe that these two activities are much more damaging than the internet except that they are some of the principal users of the internet . . . . . .

The future of Amateur Radio?

October 2017

There is much talk at the very 'top' of amateur radio about how to re-invigourate the hobby. It has been suggested (at the IARU and elsewhere) that clubs should widening their remit to include broader electronics topics and getting involved with 'maker clubs'. Here's my heretical view:

'Maker clubs' are like Lego clubs - they assemble pre-made blocks into things of some use, or none at all.

Whether that teaches anyone anything, except how to build 'Lego', I don't know. Learning about electronics is a pretty good thing, but I am not sure that radio clubs - at least in the UK - can meet the necessary level of competence, and suspect that it might dilute the hobby even further at a time when it really needs to do a SWOT analysis. At best, a SWOT helps to define what needs to be done . . .

Strengths           >     build on
Weaknesses      >     overcome
Opportunities   >    maximise
Threats              >     minimise

However, it seems to me that UK clubs jumble up all those to give a plan for inaction:

Strengths           >    overcome
Weaknesses      >    build on
Opportunities   >    minimise
Threats              >    ignore

Radio clubs could dabble in electronics just as easily as they dabble in radio - but dabbling is not what is needed:  hard work and commitment is. If radio clubs cannot put hard work and commitment into their own hobby right now why should they be encouraged to dabble in another one? 

I think radio clubs should indeed look into bringing more electronics, computing, drones, etc, into the hobby and thereby make it attractive to more people, but the risk is that once young enthusiasts looks inside a typical, traditional club and finds resentful, disinterested, stuck in a rut old farts the club's subterfuge may be discovered (as happened with for many Foundation and Intermediate newcomers who were lured into the hobby only to realise that they risked being shunned by their 'licence factory' club).

Electronics 'maker groups' can only be part of a wider strategy for amateur radio - they will not be its salvation. A few people are 'drumming up' maker groups, etc, as a way forward  . . . but they could be a 'house built on sand', and I don't think traditional clubs yet fully understand that they are sinking in quicksand - further house-building is a not a good move.

Much older stuff

QRM Splatter

The biggest radio problem for me is QRM from people who either have a narrow filter and do not use it, or who produce too much QRO splatter, or both. There is little excuse with modern transceivers and online manuals, let alone common sense.

Poor audio

Some people evidently take a new mic out of the box and don't set it up correctly on their radiosy.

They seem offended when they receive comments that their audio output is not crisp and clear. There is also a popular infatuation with Big Name Germanic sounding headsets with fancy inserts that are little better than a basic mic (but costing 10 times more so must be good). I cannot tell a Heil 1234 Super XYZ from a fist mic . .  but I can tell good transmitted audio from bad.  I use a microphone: it works.

Lost Dogs

In Italy - possibly Spain too - there are lots of lost dogs. Everyone is whistling for them - sometimes for hours on the same frequency. I wonder if their dogs have receivers or transponders? Quite often I tell them that their dog is in the next street, but they never thank me.

The whistling is from people tuning up their linears, or simply ensuring their dentures are in place - but both are quite anti-social behaviours.

Having tuned their antennas or linears, and fixed their dentures, many do not then speak, but they continue to tune up. This is clearly intended to 'jam' people who they do not wish to listen to. There is an easier way to do this, you rissoles . . . QSY, or go and crawl back into your snug little 1960s ham dream-world.

"Again, again, again  . . .  5 and 9"

The usual "again" . . "again" . . . "again" then "5/9" is everywhere, especially from eastern Europe. Adding a 1500W linear without improvements to the RX is idiotic.

There is no shame in giving or receiving a 2/2 report - there is no cudos giving everyone a "59" report.

"Five and Nine QRZ" Rubber Stamping

It seems that the people who used to collect the numbers of locomotives - train spotters - simply to write those number in a notebook and file the book away in date order, have all come to Amateur Radio.

They  now sit on a 20m frequency and give out "59" but rarely ever announce their own callsign, name or location. Maybe their language skills are limited to numbers. Just using numbers makes life easy when ordering a Szechwan Pickled Duck's Legs in Batter in Chinese restaurant, but on Amateur Radio "What is the point?"

Contests  - Arrggggh!

I will say very little about contests, except that absolutely loathe, detest and abhor them, they are totally selfish and an abomination, and I would happily pay to see all contesters hung out on their towers to feed vultures.It's not that contests are inherently bad, the point is that there are too many and they occupy almost all of the 40m band. They do cause more splatter than 'regular' activities because contesters use lots of power and appear not to understand about filters.

IOTA, SOTA and Fauna and Flora Obsessives

People who will not say which island (amongst many) or summit they are on - just EU12345, or "Details on QRZ.com" - are infuriating. Often they are  contravening their licencing conditions too. This is not helpful to /P and /M stations. Getting grumpy with a caller who asks for a location is rude.  Many of these OTA activities are contests in disguise.

Special Event Stations - some, but not all

People running Special Event Callsigns that do not give any information about their purpose clearly do not understand the purpose of the S.E.S.  A Special Event Station is not a contest station, and the need to 'work' as many as possible is somewhat against the spirit of the S.E.S. (See next gripe).

"All information on QRZ.com"

In my humble opinion, anyone who declines to give their location or basic information, on the air, is unworthy of having an Amateur Radio licence.

Okay, QRZ.com is a great resource which can provide additional information about a particular radio station, especially if you have a computer in the shack, but bloody useless if you don't, or if you are operating a portable or mobile station with no broadband access.

QSL Card Fanatics

A guy from 'Holland' really irritated me recently when half way through our QSO he said "I see from your QRZ entry that you don't sent QSLs . This sort of thing is the end of Amateur Radio." And then buggered off.

What an asshole: he looks people up on QRZ.com for information he could ask about on the air and thinks that the whole point of Amateur Radio is about exchanging QSL cards! That is a classic case of 'head in a very dark place'. It is pompous asses like that who are killing Amateur Radio, not the ones with a much broader perspective on life, the universe and everything!

No gaps

QSO's that do not leave a pause for a "QSK" and who then consider the "breaker" to be rude for busting in on a "private" chat - arrgghhh!

Pompous Asses

'Recently' a British Pompous Ass was heard to make derogatory comments about a newly licenced operator (but only while the latter was transmitting) because the newbie said Whiskies instead of Watts. The comments were "He should go back to CB where he belongs" and the like. In Northern England this is called being a Gobshite.

That Pompous Ass would not give his callsign (a clear breach of UK Regulations) and he did not have the 'balls' to make his comments face to face, so to speak. Such arrogance - or cowardice -  shows that the Pompous Ass Syndrome is still alive and kicking and in need of psychotherapy or anti-depressants, etc.

Old Farts' Nets

I do not care much for nets; they become very long-winded affairs which bore me to tears. But the most wind-baggy nets on 40m and 80m are those involving old farts who mostly recite a long list of the signal reports they have noted for the other dozen people on the net, and who then relate their own medical conditions in gruesome detail.  These sorts of nets are often depressingly unfunny, although sometimes sadly hilarious.

It is generally recognised that the 'Medical Band' (160m) is the best place to hear Old Farts, but in the UK 2m can be good hunting ground too.

Callsigns ~ or lack of . . .

Some people just do not know what a callsign is for. Some do not use them sufficiently and others risk wearing them out through overuse.

Two likeable and very knowledgeable old farts near me fall in both categories, each one giving both callsigns (which are similar, rushed and unintelligible) at the start and end of every 'over'. It is as though they never read their licencing conditions and never speak to anyone else. This is on 2m VHF !

Also . .  two or more other guys near me use a VHF and a UHF frequency for a cross band 'natter' most nights. In 4 years I have never heard a callsign. These guys are full of opinions about amateur radio and they are never short on ego, so they don't need a callsign, they are much too important to need to use one .

No callsign operation - illegal in every country - seems to be especially popular with those DXCC chasers whose QSO is nothing more than a series of "fifty-nines" - no callsign, no name, no location, not even a "73" . . .  is life really so short?


A notorious 2m band pirate here in the UK used to say (with increasing rage): 

People tell me to get a licence.
I don't need a licence!
Radio waves travel just as far
without one!


Other hates

Fauna & Flora - they know nothing about where they are.
Special Event Stations with uninformed and uninformative operators.
Muppets on 2m who waste electrons and cause global warming (hot air).
People who call CQ, CQ, CQ, fifty times and their callsign only once before switching off.

If you have been genuinely offended by any of the above remarks you probably need to re-evaluate why you are a Radio Ham.

This link is to a website which gives factual guidance to radio hams on operational protocols:
Guidance for Radio DXers


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