April 15, 2017

     Worried about filing your tax return? I think they are giving you a few extra days this year since the 15th falls on a weekend. Don't you feel better now?

     Rockdale ARES conducted their monthly meeting on Thursday the 13th at the FD Training Annex. Minutes were distributed to all members. Status of this year's MCV event is unknown at this point. More information will be posted if and when it becomes available. 

April 6, 2017

     As you all know, wave after wave of thunderstorms rolled through in the last 24 hours. We needed rain but.....

     Intense lightning and thunder accompanied the rain and wind. I watched the lightning strike webpage and there were hits all around. I noticed one thing: where I thought lightning struck was often not close to where the webpage calculated it to be. 

     Once again, south Henry County and Butts County got the short straw. Hope everybody was okay down there. I need to go out in the morning and check for damage around here. I did see rotten limbs flying out of trees when the gust front came through. Would you agree we've had crazy weather this year? Oh well, we needed the rain badly. 

     A weather net was activated here in Rockdale County around lunchtime Wednesday. There were at least six people who checked in or tried to check in. Thanks folks for making the effort. 

     In the meantime I've been struggling with computers. Yep, struggle and computer seem to go together for me. Every corner I turn seems to hold a roadblock for me. There is always some reason I can't do what I want to do, even though I should be able to. Is there an official day for blasting your computer to smithereens? No? Well, there ought to be. 

     It wasn't a total loss. I was able to run WIndows 10 as a virtual machine on a Mac, but it would only run certain programs, and not the one I really needed. WHY? It's a wonder my head is still on straight. At least I know enough to shut if off and walk away when the frustration meter gets near 212°.

     One bright spot was that some folks down in Henry County are hearing 146.61 better than before. I did go up the tower to retrieve the gin pole, and while there adjusted the 2m transmit antenna. I thought it might be detuned, or at least blocked a bit the way it was mounted. Okay, that explains why they hear ME better, but it doesn't explain why I hear THEM better. Wuz up wid dat?

     The SE Metro digital practice net was cancelled so the repeater could be used for weather nets. I got on a weather net once but I still couldn't do anything about the weather. 

April 3, 2017

     April? Hmm, that reminds me of taxes and pollen. Makes you feel wonderful, doesn't it? Well, this year seems to be a little off as spring was way early, winter hardly arrived at all and March weather just rolled through.

     Yep, three lines of thunderstorms came through this morning and the third one was the worst. As I monitored the NWS Chat Room I could see in near real-time what was happening. Of course, with Amateur Radio you can really stay on top of things. Sure, the Internet and other types of connectivity are doing similar things, but hame radio is unfiltered.

     There were a number of nets activated and one that saw some real action was in Henry County. There was in fact, damage in southern Henry. I liked watching the lightning strike web page. That's cool to see. I am thankful nothing much happened around here and I am glad for the rain. We needed it. 

     Elements of Rockdale EMA were active of course. I hear we did have some 'lines' down. Well, somebody was transmitting APRS packets on a repeater output frequency so I had to learn how to use APRS on one of my HT's. These little jewels need to come with a professor so you can understand how to operate them. I did manage to get mine going on APRS and now it won't shut up. Where's my professor?

March 28, 2017

     Tonight's net brought in 10 folks on voice, 7 folks on D-Rats and 5 folks on Winlink. Da Moose is back on the loose. Thanks to all persons participating, and especially to those volunteers such as KM4UGS, KF4ASC, W4DEL and K1KC who were controllers or assistants. 

March 26, 2017

     Wow! Spring is definitely here. I suppose we could get a cold snap or even snow, but warmth and pollen are here now. We certainly could use more rain. I doubt we got our normal rainfall this winter, which is normally our wet season. No, it wasn't very cold. Was that the trade-off?

     Testing in C4FM has progressed from DN (what I call digital narrow) to VW (what I call voice wide). Unfortunately there are at least two, if not three names for each of these modes. That serves to make it confusing I say. Also, we are testing the 'Group Monitor' function. There's little this system won't do. Maybe even shine your shoes!

     These results seem apparent: Digital is not necessarily better than analog. Analog is not necessarily better than digital. Got that? The digital modes are FAR more effective (in being received and decoded) when the transmitter is stationary, rather than moving.  If you want to track or keep tabs on other stations, it can do that. 

     Linking of C4FM repeaters is currently possible, but promises to be much easier when the new repeater is released. WIRES-X is fun, but not much different than Echolink and so forth. Automatic mode select works quite well. You might not hear a distant station in digital narrow mode, but you might see their callsign. At least you'll know who tried to call you. 

     I researched digital multipath distortion and time coherence a bit and believe that's the main reason for not decoding moving digital signals well. Now we want to know how voice wide compares to digital narrow at the fringes. There's a lot to learn and I'm a novice in the digital realm. 

March 22, 2017

     A nasty line of thunderstorms moved through the area tonight. Unfortunately, I was in the middle of it. I was trying to leave a restaurant because I saw really strong wind gusts outside and knew bad stuff was coming. Between the customers ahead of me and the cashier, it took a very long time to leave. Outside were what I would describe as gale force winds. I don't ever remember a gust front that strong.

     So, when I finally got on the road, I only got a mile or two before there was trouble. Each car ahead of me kept turning around and going back the way they came. Eventually I got my turn to see what the trouble was. I thought there had been a wreck, but in fact, a large tree had crashed across the road and had it blocked pretty well. I'm not surprised. Big chunks of trees were hitting my car about that time.

     Before I left for supper I failed to disconnect some of the radios that were not lightning protected. Upon arrival I didn't smell anything burning, so perhaps I was spared. I went ahead and disconnected then. This brings up an interesting question: What do you do when you need to be on the radio, but when it's dangerous to be on the radio? Well, I put a long antenna in an HT and called into the local repeater, but I don't think anybody heard me. I wasn't receiving it very well either. 

     On came the computer so I could see what was happening on the local radar. There was a large , strong line of thunderstorms moving to the southeast. One page I navigated to was the lighning strike page. Very interesting I must say. There were strikes all around. 

     There's something about getting old: doing scary things is not fun anymore. I did not enjoy driving in that sorry weather! On the positive side: we needed rain, not only to replenish the groundwater, but to wash some of this pollen out of the air. So, has it been a crazy winter? Duh! It hardly got cold with a couple of exceptions and spring arrived early. Well, we know this much: March can bring really strong or unexpected weather to Georgia. Stay safe. 

March 21, 2017

     The weekly Monday night net drew 8 voice check-ins, five D-Rats check-ins and 4 Winlink check-ins. Thanks to all participants and to our net controllers.  

     We talk a lot about being prepared when cell service and other means are not available. Well, it's true! Cell service was not available to me Sunday morning. The power in my area went down, for about two hours, maybe more. The local cell site was dead. No ability to connect to it at all. It CAN happen!

March 16, 2017

     Not getting your digital exercise? Well then, join the digital practice net held every Wednesday night at 9PM for a group to exercise with! Last night we got over two hours parctice!

     We are constantly learning new skills and improving our old skills on the Georgia ARES mandated programs. They are: the FLdigi suite, Winlink Express and D-Rats. Not all of us have D-Star equipment but the three programs mentioned are free. The goal is to be digitally-fluent in these methods should the need ever arise to use them in an emergency situation. Besides, you can make some good digital friends in the process. The effort (in our area) is led by Del, W4DEL and has been doing quite well for some time now. I never miss it!

     Look for us at 9PM Eastern Time on the Covington, GA. 146.925 repeater, starting with MT63-2000L.


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