FCC Universal Licensing System Down for Maintenance

Federal Communications SystemARRL Bulletin:

FCC Universal Licensing System, Other Applications to be Down for Maintenance

In early September the FCC USL will take the ULS, and other filing systems offline for more than 5 days beginning at 2200 UTC on Wednesday, September 2, and continue through the Labor Day weekend.

The FCC states that the systems should be back online on or about 1200 UTC on Tuesday, September 8. During the outage, Amateur Radio applications will be unavailable.

Most of the related resources will also be unavailable. Some of those resources include; all electronic filing and dockets.

The exceptions will be the Network Outage Reporting System, the Consumer Help Center and the Disaster Reporting System.

The FCC’s main Web site will be UP but with limited functionality. Other FCC functions like voicemail and email will also be offline.

Due to the outage, filing dates will be extended. FCC comments on public notices will also be extended.

For more detailed information visit ARRL News

FCC Eliminating Vanity Call Sign Fee

The FCC is dropping the regulatory fee to apply for an Amateur Radio vanity call sign. The change will not go into effect, however, until required congressional notice has been given. This will take at least 90 days. As the Commission explained in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Report and Order, and Order (MD Docket 14-92and others), released May 21, it’s a matter of simple economics.

“The Commission spends more resources on processing the regulatory fees and issuing refunds than the amount of the regulatory fee payment,” the FCC said. “As our costs now exceed the regulatory fee, we are eliminating this regulatory fee category.” The current vanity call sign regulatory fee is $21.40, the highest in several years. The FCC reported there were 11,500 “payment units” in FY 2014 and estimated that it would collect nearly $246,100.

In its 2014 Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) regarding the assessment and collection of regulatory fees for FY 2014, the FCC had sought comment on eliminating several smaller regulatory fee categories, such as those for vanity call signs and GMRS. It concluded in the subsequent Report and Order (R&O) last summer, however, that it did not have “adequate support to determine whether the cost of recovery and burden on small entities outweighed the collected revenue or whether eliminating the fee would adversely affect the licensing process.”

The FCC said it has since had an opportunity to obtain and analyze support concerning the collection of the regulatory fees for Amateur Vanity and GMRS, which the FCC said comprise, on average, more than 20,000 licenses that are newly obtained or renewed, every 10 and 5 years, respectively.

“The Commission often receives multiple applications for the same vanity call sign, but only one applicant can be issued that call sign,” the FCC explained. “In such cases, the Commission issues refunds for all the remaining applicants. In addition to staff and computer time to process payments and issue refunds, there is an additional expense to issue checks for the applicants who cannot be refunded electronically.”

The Commission said that after it provides the required congressional notification, Amateur Radio vanity program applicants “will no longer be financially burdened with such payments, and the Commission will no longer incur these administrative costs that exceed the fee payments. The revenue that the Commission would otherwise collect from these regulatory fee categories will be proportionally assessed on other wireless fee categories.”

The FCC said it would not issue refunds to licensees who paid the regulatory fee prior to its elimination.

 

Old Dog – New Tricks? Digital Mobile Radio

DMR Old Dog - New TricksThere are times when I feel that no more info can be squeezed into this old brain. Dragging an old CW operator kicking and screaming into the 21st century is no easy task.

Digital Mobile Radio (DMR) is not a new technology but it sure is for me. A local group has been using DMR technology for around a year now.

The DMR-MARC Networked Repeater Map shows there is only one networked DMR repeater system in my area. Luckily (so I thought) the system is within range of the home QTH.

Connect Systems sells high quality DMR (Digital Mobile Radio) HT’s for a very reasonable price. I recently received my Connect Systems CS750 HT. Connect Systems radios are basically Motorola-like quality with a very solid desk charger and 1700 mAH LIon battery. The CS750 model is both DMR and Analog for the 70 CM band.

Connect Systems offers an optional 2000 mAH battery and hand mic. The unit is shipped via 2 day priority USPS mail and is nicely packaged in a quality Connect Systems box. The box includes the CS700 user manual (yes CS700), radio, 1700 mAH battery, rubber duck, desk charger, wall wart, quality belt clip and hand strap.

The CS750 is so new that there is no specific HT user manual just yet. However, there is enough similarity between the CS700 and CS750 keypad, knobs and switches to make the CS700 user manual useful. The user manual only covers the HT itself, not the software or programming.

BE SURE TO ORDER the optional programming cable. IMHO you won’t get very far without it. The CS750 programming software and PDF CS700 user manual can be downloaded free from the Connect Systems Web site.

Most of the local Hams I know who have decided to learn/experiment/use DMR have purchased the Connect Systems CS700. One reason most locals decided to purchase the CS700 was that they shared a common codeplug for uploading into the HT.Connect Systems CS700

Once you file for your unique DMR ID, (scroll to the bottom of the page and select user registration) it’s easy to make a few quick changes to the CS700 configuration and have the HT up and running. Later on, making a backup copy of the codeplug and then customizing channels, zones, scan lists, contacts, etc is very simple.

Since the CS750 is a new radio with updated firwmware, I decided to order the CS750 rather than the CS700. Be aware that Connect Systems is working on a translation program so that a CS700 codeplug can be used within the CS750 software program. However, there is no ETA at this time. The translation program would have saved me hours.

Should you find yourself in my exact situation: REMEMBER TO DOWNLOAD FROM RADIO ONE TIME BEFORE MANUALLY ENTERING ANY DATA!

Why? Because if you don’t you will find out that the CS750 software is preset to the profile of a CS650 HT. Are you saying; So what? Well, don’t do what I did.

I entered all the data manually and then as the last step began entering the ZONE information. When I attempted to enter the 3rd Zone I was SOL! Why? Because the CS650 firmware/profile has a 2 Zone limit.

At that point I was furious! I called Connect Systems (who by the way have OUTSTANDING CUSTOMER SERVICE) and told them about my dilemma! Of course I knew what the answer was going to be. There is no way to “TRICK” the software into making it look like a CS750. SO BE SURE TO DOWNLOAD FROM RADIO once before manually entering your data! There is NO WORKAROUND!

Here’s my WORKAROUND! I temporarily set up a second monitor in the shack and loaded the CS700 software/codeplug on one monitor and the empty (downloaded from radio) CS750 software on the other. This gave me a reasonable way to view and manually enter the channels, contact list, scan list, zones and special configuration values into the CS750 software line by line.

By the way Connect Systems does offer a translation program to transfer ONLY the contact list between the CS700/CS750 software. Contact Connect Systems if you are in this exact situation and have a large number of entries on your contact list.

After about 4 hours of hand programming the CS750 was up and running, sort of… After uploading the newly cobbled codeplug, the screen on the HT said un-programmed and gave off a loud beeeeeeeeeeeeep! Perplexing. The software and radio both said that the upload was successful.

Here’s what happened. This is not unique to the CS750 by the way. Others have had the same experience. Stick with me here! Lets say you have a Zone, Zone 1 with 10 channels assigned to it. After uploading, the un-programmed / loud beep happens because the radio is sitting on an empty channel, in our example say it’s Zone 1/channel 11. Just turn the channel knob to a programmed channel and you are in business. Of course you can then use the keypad to go on your merry way. This situation is unlike any other HT I’ve owned over the past 30 years and it sure caught me off guard.

After all was said and done I was very unhappy with the performance of the CS750. Local Hams around my area who own the CS700 were able to open the DMR repeaters and unfortunately I did not have the same level of success. So, I contacted Connect Systems and they were apologetic about my CS750 experiences and had no problem processing a refund. So, after all of that, the HT is on its way back to Agoura Hills.

Again, Connect Systems is an outstanding company who stands behind their product. Customer service and support is EXCELLENT! In this day and age, any company who has a human answer the phone DIRECTLY is a HUGE PLUS in my book! I do expect to have a CS700 hanging around the shack in the near future. Stay Tuned!

Rochester Hamfest – June 6th

Come one, come ALL!

When: Saturday June 6, 2015

Where: MAP-> 360 Maiden Ln. Rochester, NY 14616

Gates open 7 AM – Rain or Shine

Website: www.RochesterHamfest.com

It’s “Back to Basics” with everyone’s annual favorite: The Rochester Hamfest.

Everything you want in a Hamfest is here: Good food, lots of fun, and a 16 acre flea market!

Only $8.00 per person admission and $10.00 per car to tailgate

  • Youths under 16 admitted free with a paying adult
  • Free VE Testing
  • Back at Barnard with over 16 acres of flea market space
  • Fantastic food
  • Hourly door prizes
  • 50/50 Raffle

Having Fun Experimenting with RTL-SDR Receivers

Realtek RTL2832U R820T DVB-T Tuner ReceiveFor some reason I still can’t figure out, I recently got interested in the RTL-SDR Tuner Receiver craze. As you may already know, these (toys) can be found on eBay for well under $20.

Like everything else there is a wealth of information about this gear, software, experiments and more all over the Web but I began with the Quick Start Guide.

Not knowing much about it, I started off by grabbing one of these Dongles from eBay with the standard accessories.

Next step was to follow the guide and install the free SDR# on a Windows 10 Preview System I have. This receiver worked well for the standard stuff above 50MHz and I got a kick out of listening to local repeaters, police and fire calls for a few minutes. However, I really wanted to find out how well these toys could tune down on the low bands.

100KHz To 1.7GHz SDR Tuner ReceiverListening to the HF bands required a different receiver. There are plenty of receivers listed on eBay which cover 100KHz to 1.7 GHz. Poking around on eBay, I found one here for around $55. Since I had an SMA to SO-239 adapter in the junk box, it was easy to connect the receiver up to the G5RV. 

After getting the unit going with the SDR# software I noticed that I didn’t hear diddly-squat on the low bands. Going over the Quick Start Guide didn’t help since it is only set up to get you up and running.

 

Sampling Rate and Mode Change For HF Tuning
I had to poke around for awhile and found the answer back at the source, the eBay page where I bought the receiver. If I had been a bit more observant up front and scrolled down the page, it would have saved me time Googling.

The settings within SDR# software requires that the Sampling Rate and Sampling Mode have to be temporarily changed for listening in on the low bands. —>>>

Once these settings were made, the receiver played well when connected to the outdoor antenna.

I’d have to add that if you want to experiment with these receivers it’s a minimal investment to get started. Like anything else, it’s also a fun learning experience.

WORLD AMATEUR RADIO DAY CELEBRATION

WORLD AMATEUR RADIO DAY CELEBRATIONEvent Date: 04/18/2015

World Radio Network: Special WARD IRLP net
1600-1730 UTC via the World Conference Server (IRLP Node 9251) and the Hi-Gate Server (IRLP Node 9250).
KD2HWN, net control. Stations around the world are encouraged to check in.

Website: http://www.iaru.org/world-amateur-radio-day.html

Public Contact Info:
ARRL  Public Relations Manager Sean Kutzko, KX9X.
Email: kx9x@arrl.org
Phone: 860-594-0328

 

100th Anniversary Special Event – Lusitania

Lusitania 100th Anniversary CommemorativeSpecial Event Station May 1st to May 31st

In Great Britain and Ireland there will be Special Event Stations to Commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Lusitania. She sailed to New York on 1st May from Liverpool when she was torpedoed and went down. 123 US citizens lost their lives.

An amateur radio special event station will operate from the Lusitania home port of Liverpool with the call sign GB100MFA and I understand in the Republic of Ireland EI100MFA as the survivors were taken ashore in Queenstown.
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More About The Lusitania: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinking_of_the_RMS_Lusitania

CQ WW CW 2014 and Antenna Testing

Originally posted on Klown Time is Over:

1922RCA3

Although I no longer chase band mode slots or DXCC Challenge, I do like to use the DX contests to test my antennas. The zones that have always been tricky have been 21 and to a lesser degree, 37. Zone 34 has a few entities that can be tricky as well.

wazmap4

When I worked FT5ZM earlier this year, my nested moxon on 20 and 15M did the trick, and the 40M phased array and low band vertical worked like a charm. But as it turned out – FT5ZM was actually TOO easy to work, and not really a great test of my antenna system. Far better was working E30FB on 20M and then FT4TA on 40, 30 and 20M.

This weekend sealed the deal – working 7O2A on 20M CW (I only had SSB QSO’s with Yemen on 17 and 20M before), and 9K2HN on 40M CW – on the…

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