Remembering a friend I made with a radiogram

Today would have been the 55th birthday of Michelle Mendez, a brilliant lawyer, whose career and life ended prematurely a couple years ago, but what is important for me is the way it all started.

It started when we were both in high school, and I had a radiogram to deliver. That’s a simple, voluntary job hams do. Mostly, you get the job done, and life goes on; This was different, though, because Michelle was so engaging. This happened back in ’79 or ’80, but hard to forget because it was simply so much fun!

Since I would have my own birthday a few days later, I asked Michelle if I could call her an older woman, and she said “Well, you can’t change it.”

I still deliver radiograms, though the process is not quite as easy now. Back younder, when you called someone, they actually answered the phone. The number was always correct, and it always worked.

There have been some received too late, because I know the recipient went SK (ham speak for dying) ages ago, but sad and reflective as those experiences are, they are also an opportunity to recall better times, when the news was better.

I will try to meet the nts of today with the same willingness to help make a day a little brighter if I can, because that is what a radiogram can still do!

Some new hot keys

I recently became authorised to transmit on the ZL2KS remote in Blenheim, New Zealand.

There are some interesting reasons why I requested to use this particular remote. First, it is in the same geographic district as the station I previously used here, ZL2TZE.

It became necessary for me to find a new remote because Phil ZL2TZE went SK, unfortunately, earlier this year.

Additionally, ZL2KS is solar powered.

This posed a problem, because the station is designed to conserve power by automatically powering off the TS590 when the user disconnects.

There isn’t a way to cause the power button to be activated so the user must perform this manually using a mouse. The button is visible on the screen, but not that it is visible by screen reader software.

First, I considered using Jaws scripts to accomplish this, because I primarily use Jaws, but I am not very capable of writing Jaws scripts. Few that are not licensed hams, but equally, very few licensed hams are also capable Jaws scripters.

This caused me to reject Jaws scripting as a reasonable approach.

Even though the approach I chose to take does require sighted help to address, I chose this route because ultimately, it will eventually benefit more users than myself, including those that use Jaws.

The solution I am eploying is called auto hot key, which has some similarities with Jaws scripts, though these are slight.

Auto hot key is a tool my local friend Ben Crowl is very familiar with this, so I requested he join the project.

First, we reated a hot key for accessing the radio’s power button.

Second, we created a hot key to allow me to adjust the CW speed slider, because CW is my primary mode, and because the developers of the RCFORB client don’t provide a keyboard shortcut for this either.

This works well, though this functionality is not entirely as straight forward as the power switch toggle, it is very good, because when I issue the command, it prompts me for the speed I wish to go to. The but is that numerous tests we did determined that the new speed I selected was not entirely guaranteed, I was always within about 1 wpm from what I entered on the keyboard. Therefore, I should be close enough to where I wanted to be that should pose no difficulty for the receiving operator to copy.

Finally, we created a hot key to toggle the VOX switch on the rig, again, because neither is this visible to a screen reader nor is it addressed by keyboard shortcut by the RCFORB developer.

I would like to thank Ben Crowl for his help with making this possible, and also acknowledge the assistance of Grant Simpson ZL2BK, who monitored our progress on line.

We chose to do this work using my Toshiba Windows ten laptop machine, largely because my desktop has no monitor, which would clearly disadvantage the sighted help.