September 21, 2016

It's Thursday, which means it is net day!

The Rusk County Amateur Radio Club weekly net is tonight! All hams are welcome to participate in the net on the club's Henderson repeater at 146.78 MHz. Don't forget the 131.8 PL tone! You may also click on the Members tab and join us in the chat room during the net. So, grab your HT and join us at 7:30 pm for the net! NOTE: If this is the FOURTH THURSDAY, then there is NO net tonight, because it is our regular meeting night! You welcome to that as well!

September 07, 2016

CAUTION: How much RF is too much?

It used to be a simple matter of stick it up, hook it up and transmit. And for some hams, that's still the case. But the first rule of good hamming is "Be safe" and that means watching out for the seen (like guy-wires in strange places) and the unseen (like too much RF).

It hasn't been that long ago that the FCC began requiring basic RF exposure evaluations for certain ham stations. In fact, many hams still remember the firestorm of controversy that accompanied the 1997 release of RF exposure standards by the FCC. The storm has subsided and the regulations now include a complete table showing every ham band and the RF level that triggers and required RF evaluation.

New hams may find this all a little confusing. But let's be honest, experienced hams could use a refresher course every now then as well. Here's a great article from QST with a complete overview of RF exposure. The ARRL has a nice page with lots of additional resources. and The has some great info as well.

Bottom line...Have Fun, but Be Safe!

August 15, 2016

The Deep Mysteries of SWR Exposed!

You learn about it when studying for the Tech exam, but it's really not until you hook up that first antenna and find no one can hear you that you truly begin to understand the importance of SWR (or standing wave ratio). Of course, that doesn't mean you understand it, just that it IS important.

Sometimes it seems that SWR is one of the most mysterious creatures in the world of Amateur Radio. You can even hear on-air discussion of guys bragging about and comparing their SWR numbers as if it were a contest. There seems to be a relentless drive to achieve the most coveted 1:1 SWR at any cost. But why? This article (in PDF format from the ARRL) is written to help explain what SWR actually is, what makes it bad and when to worry about it.

Understanding SWR by Example

August 02, 2016

Shhh....Can your Pi wisper?

If you are not familiar with the Raspberry PI, it is basically a full computer on a single board. The current version (v3) has bluetooth, Wifi, USB, HDMI output for a monitor, audio and more--all for $35! It runs Linux as the operating system (which is free). It includes 40 GPIO ports on the board. GPIO are awesome (here's how) since they are FAST can be used for anything. Some hams figured out a way to modulate the digital signal on a couple of GPIOs in way that it generates an RF signal. Plug a tuned wire into it like an antenna and've got a transmitter.

One problem is that since it is a down and dirty adaptation, it produces lots of harmonics and outputs about 10mW. The TAPR folks created a new board that plugs into the GPIO, adding band-pass filtering and cleans up the signal. Another guy in the UK did something similar but also added an amplifier boosting the signal to 150mW. And the UK version is actually cheaper than the TAPR one.

So, what can you do with it?? Well, plug SDR stick into it and you could use it as a QRP rig. But many folks are using it as a WSPR rig (pronounced "whisper" and stands for "Weak Signal Propagation Reporter"). is a group of people who use the same (free) software to control low-power beacons all around the world. The radio transmits a digital message then listens and logs all the stations it hears. It automatically uploads the data to the website which compiles a comprehensive, real-time picture of world-wide propagation.

Other Interesting Sites:

July 30, 2016

Two new weather sites look great!

Two new weather sites offer some nice details in amazingly beautiful packages. Both sites have very similar looks and include some impressive animation that shows wind speed and direction.

Ventusky offers a nice set of options including an overlay showing current CAPE values. The temperature overlay has five options showing the temperatures from the ground level all the way to 9000 feet up. It also allows you to look into the future with wind forecasting.

The Windyty site offers a similar layout and has options to show as much or as little weather info as you want. It also has a free Android app available so you can enjoy it on the road.

You may not use these sites during severe events or for high-accuracy radar, but they seem to offer an impressive and unique view of current conditions.

July 29, 2016

Rusk County resident earns his ticket!

There is another new Rusk County ham this week after Danny passed his Technician license Thursday night before the club's monthly club meeting. Danny attributed his near-perfect score to lots of study leading up to the test.

Danny was one of several prospective hams who participated in the club's Technician Class over several Saturday's in April. Now it is just a matter of time until he is assigned a callsign by the F.C.C.

All the member of the club congratulate Danny on his accomplishment!

June 28, 2016

"Forever" for QSL cards!

QSL cards are one of the things I love about ham radio. I have collected them since I first got my license nearly 25 years ago. But trying to make sure I have the write amount of postage for my cards in the everchange world of postal rates has been a pain. Now, the worry is gone.

The United States Postal Service's popular first class "Forever" stamp concept has now been extended to postcards. The "Forever" stamp was created several years ago so that you would not have to purchase additional one or two-cent stamps every time the rates when up. They were printed with the word "Forever" on the stamp instead of a value so you could simply use the stamp on first class letters regardless of the current postage rate or how much you originally paid for it.

Now, the post office has introduced a "Forever" stamp in a postcard variety. The stamp has no value printed on it, but does include the word "Postcard". It currently costs 34-cents to mail a postcard, so a 100-stamp roll coast $34 but you can use them "Forever"! Ask for them at the post office.

June 24, 2016

Field Day 2016 has Finally Arrived!

Join us for Field Day this weekend at the OEM building (behind the courthouse in Henderson). Here's a map if you need directions.

We will begin setting up around 11am Saturday (June 25) and the event will officially start at 1pm. We will man the station all night until 1pm Sunday.

Thanks to several club members who will be bringing their own radios, you'll get a chance to see and USE some top-of-the-line equipment. We will have at least two antennas up including the vertical permanently installed on the roof of the OEM.

So call the kids and wake the neighbors and join us for fun, fellowship and food! It's a great way to introduce someone to the excitment of amatuer radio! You can even step up to the mic and make some contacts. Your efforts can help use repeat our first place for 2F stations in the West Gulf Division!

See you there!

May 13, 2016

The Shack of O'Dell Hunter, K5ILL (SK)

O'Dell (K5ILL) and wife Dorrthy
By Keith (KN5G) - This morning I had the rare privilege of visiting the shack of a fellow HAM that I had never met. O’Dell Hunter, K5ILL, of Henderson, Texas is now a Silent Key, but I enjoyed visiting with him vicariously today through some of his personal items that have survived him over the years. A quick search on the Internet when I got back home revealed that O’Dell had passed away in 1980. His wife, Dorothy, just recently passed away in March of this year, explaining the estate sale being held at their home, and how I happened to discover O’Dell’s “Shack”.

Suzanne, a friend of mine was helping with an estate sale being held at the Hunter’s home. She recognized a framed Texas Radio Operator’s license plate from 1975, and knowing that I might be interested in some of the amateur radio related items gave me a phone call and suggested that I come and look through some of them.

Arriving at the estate sale, there were two cardboard boxes of QSL cards on the living room floor that O’Dell had collected over the years. Many of these cards were from Europe, Africa, and South America. Most were dated in the mid to late fifties, about the time I was born. I wish I would have had the time to look through each of them. As a fellow HAM, I know that each QSL card held a very special memory for O’Dell. I have a few paper QSL cards myself that I cherish, but most of my contact confirmations are electronic, buried somewhere in the memory of my personal computer, or

May 06, 2016

Coverage Map added to About Us Page

by Dave (W5CWT) I was wanting a nice way to represent our repeater's (N5RCA) coverage area. I stumbled across a nice online service that allows you to create good-looking coverage maps. The site is called Radio Mobile Online. It is very bi-lingual (both French and English) so don't let that throw you.

Basically, you create a free account, then log on and you can create multiple coverage maps. Make note that elevations and heights are in meters, not feet. You can change a variety of parameters including frequency, type of antenna and even line loss.

I created a coverage map based on our current situation (as closely as I could guess) and it looks very accurate based on signal reports we've received. I put a link to the image on the "About Us" page in the discussion of the repeater.