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 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 (

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
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.