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.

New Zealand may be the first country to put braille on the map in 2017

When time marches across the world, it mostly begins the journey in New Zealand, because only Samoa is ahead of New Zealand by an hour.

Therefore, it is a great privilege for me to make braille real on the bands this year, to celebrate the 208th anniversary of the birth of Louis Braille, in France in 1809.

That is why I will be using the secondary callsign of ZL208BRL on the bands beginning appropriately on the 20th anniversary of the birth of Braille which occurs on 4 January, 2017.

These days, I do most of my New Zealand operating /ZL2 from ZL2TZE in Blenheim, but plan to have the call on the air as /W0 and /W8 when using remotes in Minnesota and Ohio respectively.

I know that many agencies may find interesting ways to publicise the event, but this is my personal desire to make a dot of difference.

Many believe Braille is dead, but while it largely hasn’t quite kept up with all the modern technology, I believe it is still very much relevant in the lives of people for whom it is a native reading and writing method.

NTS old and new: Progress

In the old days, which I mean before I operated remotely, the common practice was to move a lot of traffic off the net frequency. NCS would direct stations down 3 or 4, or up 3 or 4 KHz, where the action actually took place. This largely still happens, but tonight, I was statled when the NCS sent me down 1 to pass some traffic. I briefly wondered if I’d copied it right. 1Khz? That would seem too close, and certainly would have been back younder, when receivers were wider. They are much tighter today, as I appreciated, after I moved to the newly directed frequency. Since I was using W8KF, he has the automatic mode set so that QSY anywhere automatically sets the mode for the appropriate sideband for the frequency, but I mainly operate CW, so it was necessary to press a few more keys to get back into the internal keyboard, because W8KF doesn’t have the serial interace installed on the server end. After this, I needed to change the mode several times in order to back into CW mode again. I was able to pass traffic even though I was only 1 KHz away from the net, and neither station suffered for the proximity. This was an incredible discovery to make!

Quicker CW

Server owners can arrange the order of the modes any way they want.
This isn’t a problem for accessibility, but it can sometimes mean that you may have to hit control m several times before you’ll find that you have got the rig into CW mode.

Also important, even if you know how far around the wheel the CW position is, you can’t press control m in rapid succession to get there, because you must pause briefly, following each press of control m in order to give the rig time to adjust to the new mode being now currently selected.

Therefore, I have found a quicker way to get the rig functioning in the CW mode, that takes less time than all that extra army strategy of hurry up and wait, hi hi.

So here is how I do it.

This stragegy seems to work reliably on all the remotes I use, and more importantly, it doesn’t matter whether the remote has the serial keying interface which both of the Handiham club stations enjoy.

1. Control f and listen for RC Forab to prompt for the new frequency.
2. Enter the new frequency on the numbers row of the keyboard. Note, pay attention to whether the entry should be in Kilohertz or Megahertz, because this does matter, where you are going.
3. Press enter.
4. Press alt shift f and listen for RC Forb to verify that you’re where you believe you should be.
5. Press tab once.
6. Press alt w, then c, twice. The first time you press c, RC Forb should respond with number. The second time you press alt w, c, RC Forb should respond with Edit.
This means you are now in the box for sending.
7. Press a letter, I generally prefer e because as all CW ops know, E is the shortest letter, and therefore, is the least disruptive.
You’ll hear the rig switch to CW.


Handiham CW Net Session4

We held the 4th weekly session of the Handiham CW net on Friday August 19 at 4 pm CDT.

The club station W0ZSW was used remotely from New Zealand, and the performance was great!

Besides WD8LDY/0/NCS, the only other QNI was VE5SDH, though conditions were poor for propagation.

Afterward, a message was formatted for NTS and sent via NTS to VE7KI.

Attempts to locate a sub NCS for running the 2 Septmeber session has not yielded any firm commitment, although Lucinda AB8WF did indicate that she could pick it up if no one else was found.

KE5AL was asked, as was VE5SDH, but Jim was unsure he could make it, and also concerns were mentioned about coverage from his Texas, which were also raised by Summer from Saskatchewan.

Handiham CW Net review

We’ve now had 3 weekly seesions of the renewed Handiham CW net. Briefly, it meets on Fridays at 4 pm CDT on 7112.

We have had a low QNI count, but progress has happened because we’re up to 2 QNI per the last two sessions. Thanks to Summer VE5SDH for joining me, despite some bad QRN. Hope more will join us for a chat next Friday.