May 07, 2022

RCARC donations now tax deductible!

Donations made to the Rusk County Amateur Radio club are now tax deductible, thanks to the recent approval of the IRS. While the club was begun nearly a decade ago as a non-profit group, the club began working on the process of formal non-profit status several years ago. It was the most recent efforts of Karan Haverstock, our current club president, that finally pushed the paperwork through.

"I'm so excited to finally have this done," Karan told the club during a recent meeting. "It took some time, but now that we have our confirmation, I'm glad we did it."

The club is now formally recognized by the IRS as a non-profit "501(c)3" organization which allows donors to deduct most contributions when filing income tax forms with the IRS. Most corporations and foundations that offer donations or grants also require receiving organizations to be designated as a 501(c)3. It provides transparency and serves as verification that the organization it committed to a charitable cause. In the RCARC's case, that is to promote the Amateur Radio, provide education in the radio sciences and provide public service using radio such as storm spotting or emergency response. The designation also helps ensure that funds are used appropriately and do not personally benefit club members. 

The RCARC is also registered with GuideStar which helps to track non-profit organizations and provide transparency to the public. This opens the door for donations from companies like Amazon which will donate a portion of sales to 501(c)3 groups. (Visit Smile.Amazon.com to have your purchases count!) The RCARC is also recognized by TechSoup, a verification company that qualifies groups for donations from large technology corporations such as Google and Microsoft. 

April 11, 2022

ARES Ops support Annual 10K race

Rusk County ARES members were once again on hand for Henderson's annual Resurrection Run. This year, the race was expanded from the typical 5K run to include a 10K as well, which posed new challenges for the group.

"When are so glad to have you all help out," said Kayla, who oversees race preparations. "It was different this year, but your group is always so prepared and ready to go!"

Although the weather was perfect for this year's race, there was a snag during the middle of the event. Several of the 10K runners took a sudden wrong turn during the route and got lost. It was the quick work of the Rusk County ARES operators who were able to spot the wayward runners and report them back on track. 

Before the race began, ARES members were deployed to several locations along the race route to report on runners' progress and unexpected emergencies. One operator was assigned to a mobile unit driven by a race official. 

The race, once again, proved a valuable training ground for more serious emergency response scenarios while allowing all the operators a fun time to get active. Plus, everyone got a free t-shirt!




March 21, 2022

A little POTA during Spring Break '22

Don spent part of his Spring Break working Parks on the Air (POTA) from Martin Creek State Park last week. David tagged along for some of the fun as well. 

"Really enjoyed working a little POTA from Martin Creek this morning with Straight-Key Don," said David. "He got around 50 QSOs, I finished with 21."

The weather was nearly perfect for the activation. 

March 20, 2022

Saturday morning Fox Hunt a success!

Another Fox Hunt in in the books as several members of the RCARC took off around town trying to locate the hidden transmitter. Members met at Fair Park for to check in and get the initial details of the hunt before heading off in multiple directions. Several club members used new attenuators recently built at a the March club meeting.

Ultimately, the fox was hiding in the woods behind the HISD Admin building on Crosby Street, on the north side of Henderson. It took about two hours for most of the members to track now the VHF signal.


November 17, 2021

New Fusion Repeater In Service

The Rusk County Amateur Radio Club has recently upgraded its 146.780 FM repeater with a Yaesu, DR-1X Fusion repeater. The DR-1X Fusion repeater will be running in AMS, (Automatic Mode Select) and will operate in either the traditional Analog FM mode, or in the Yaesu C4FM Digital mode. This means that users who had the 146.780 analog repeater programmed into their mobile, base, or hand-held radios can still access the repeater with traditional analog FM transceivers.

However, users will want to program their radios with the 131.8 Hz. PL tone in the Encode and Decode modes. The PL tone was needed in the past to access the 146.780 repeater. Now it will be needed in the user’s radio to open the squelch in the user’s radio when the repeater is operating in the Analog FM mode. This will prevent the user from having to listen to the digital noise if their radio will not receive and decode the C4FM digital signal when the repeater is operating in the digital mode.

The new Fusion repeater is paired with a new SCOM 7300 repeater controller so it has some extended features and options that the old repeater’s controller did not offer. The new repeater is located at the same location as the club’s previous repeater but is operating a a slightly lower output power so the repeater’s coverage area may be slightly less than in the past.

If you have a Yaesu radio capable of operating in the C4FM digital mode try it with the new repeater and see how you like the C4FM digital mode, and as in the past any analog FM transceiver should work as well with the new repeater.

May 19, 2021

Tiny thermal printer for EmCom

(From W5CWT) The problem: During an ARES activation, passing Winlink messages for a local hospital, we have no way to print the relies for the hospital staff. We were not allowed to log on to the local LAN and use the hospital printers. We thought about bringing our own printer, but some of our stations were running on battery power or were mobile. Additionally, ink notoriously dries up in a few weeks without use which meant buying new ink (up to $30) for each drill. 

The Solution: I bought a tiny portable thermal receipt printer on Amazon for around $40. It operated on 9 volts and includes a 1.5Ah Li-ion battery. It's supports Bluetooth, but so far I've only gotten it to work via the USB cable on Windows. It uses thermal printer rolls which are 58mm wide. It's certainly not large, but very readable. Best of all...no ink or ribbon. The only consumable is the paper and it has a long shelf-life as long as you keep it away from high heat or direct sunshine. 

I charged the batter by connecting the power cable and installed the printer driver (POS 58) which came with the printer. I connected the USB and it found the printer. One issue was finding a paper definition in the printer setting that worked. I finally found "ZPrinter Paper (58mmx3276mm)" which worked well. I believe I had to install the printer driver for the ZPrinter to get this option.

I then exported my Winlink message to a text file and opened it in Notepad. I set the left and right margins to the minimum, the top to 1.0 and the bottom 0.0. Then I set the font to 9pt. Arial which seemed to be a good compromise between readability and size. The best thing is these settings carry over even after closing notepad. Then I simply printed the message and tore off the receipt. See the video for a look at the process. 


March 21, 2021

New Amateur Radio Licensing Fees

(From ARRL) The FCC Report & Order on new licensing fees that was adopted inDecember 2020 was published on Friday, March 19, 2021. 

As we all remember, the FCC originally proposed to burden Amateur Radio with a licensing fee of $50.00. This was vigorously opposed both by the ARRL and Amateur Radio licensees across the nation. Although we were not successful in persuading the FCC to exempt Amateur Radio completely, the combined efforts of the ARRL and many individual Hams did result in the FCC’s agreement to reduce the $50 fee to $35.00.

Although the majority of the new rules and fees become effective 30 days after the publication of the FCC’s Report & Order — April 19, 2021 — the new fees for Amateur Radio license fees will NOT become effective on April 19, 2021.

The FCC explicitly stated on Page 15061, Paragraph 44 of the Report & Order (https://tinyurl.com/y52ff2zy):

It is further ordered that Commission’s rules are amended as set forth in in the back of this summary, and such rule amendments shall be effective 30 days after the date of publication in the Federal Register — except for §§ 1.1102, …., — which require notice to Congress and also require certain updates to the FCC’s information technology systems and internal procedures to ensure efficient and effective implementation. Sections 1.1102, …. will not take effect until

(1) the requisite notice has been provided to Congress;

(2) the FCC’s information technology systems and internal procedures have been updated; and

(3) the Commission publishes notice(s) in the Federal Register announcing the effective date of such rules.

 Section 1.1102 is the section of the Report that applies to Amateur Radio.

It is the opinion of the ARRL’s FCC counsel that the three prerequisites will NOT be completed before this summer. But, whenever those conditions have been met, the Report is clear that the FCC will provide advance notice of the actual date the new licensing fees will become effective.

Thus it is not necessary for VECs to collect, or for any new licenses to pay, any license fees until the FCC publicly publishes in the Federal Register the date on which such fees must be collected/paid.

So, encourage everyone to get their licenses before this summer -- it will save them $35.00.

John Robert Stratton
N5AUS
West Gulf Division Director

January 15, 2021

The club takes a "Gamble" on CW

Don Gamble (KG5CMS) arrived early for the January club meeting with a radio, an antenna and about a dozen keys ready to work the world. After the typical club business, Don assembled his QRP station gave the club a demonstration on CW, otherwise known as Morse code.

The club gathered around as Don demonstrated a typical QSO on CW. He also showed off a variety of keys including several large and small straight keys, a pair of paddles, and a semi-automatic "bug." Club members took the opportunity to play around with the keys and practice sending. 

Don also demonstrated a Sked Page which is hosted by the Straight Key Century Club (SKCC) where operators can find someone on the air to make a contact. The SKCC hosts several on-air events as well as training and help both online and on the air. 

December 30, 2020

Using UZ7HO for Winlink (Updated!)

While there are several ways to access the Winlink system, some are easier than others. One way is to use a "software" TNC (terminal node controller). A TNC is basically a modem for a radio and was originally a piece of hardware. It converted data into tones that could be transmitted to another radio and eventually decoded back into text. But today, even relatively modest microprocessors are fast enough to use software as a means of encoding and decoding tones for radios. In fact, while some will still certainly argue the point, tests have shown that software TNCs can outperform hardware TNCs for many applications including packet radio. 

Software TNCs use a computer's sound card to listen for and play tones to and from the radio. Many modern desktop radios come with USB soundcard built in, which means all you need to use them is a USB cable connected to your computer and some software.

One of the software packages currently available is written by UZ7HO and is simply called, "Soundmodem". (On the website, the file is called soundmodem105.zip. The hs-soundmodem26.zip is a different program and not what you are looking for.) It has been around for many years but the programmer recently released an updated version which make it even better. Previously, you had to use VOX (voice activated control, or in this case tone activated control) so your radio would automatically switch back and forth between receiving and transmitting. Switching back and forth is called the PTT (or push-to-talk) function. (Another option was to use a Signalink which provides a soundcard and PTT functions.

However, the newest version of Soundmodem includes a new feature that allows you to automatically control most popular desktop radios. Simply download the file ptt-dll.zip from the UZ7HO's website, unzip it and place the files in the same folder as Soundmodem. Then, in the Settings menu, under Devices, you'll see a section called "PTT Port". Choose "CAT" for computer automated and hit Apply. You'll get an error which will be followed by a "Advanced Settings" where you can choose your radio, port, speed and other options. It worked very well with my IC-7100 and really make Soundmodem even more useful!

It's really a longer story, but to use UZ7HO, you simply install the Winlink software and then configure it to use the KISS port on UZ7HO. Then in Soundmodem, make sure to enable the KISS Interface so the two programs can talk to each other.

October 08, 2020

Club to visit OEM Station

The Rusk County ARC will visit the Rusk County's Office of Emergency Management radio room where the club's HF station is housed. The club will meet at 7 p.m. at the OEM office (behind the Rusk County Courthouse) for the tour and presentation and then will move to the South Main Church of Christ for the remainder of the meeting. Visitors are always welcome!

The OEM station consists of an Icom 7100, an LDG autotuner, a Signlink digital interface and a Pactor-4 Modem feeding into a multiband roof-top vertical.