Monday, July 27, 2015

Ham Nation 203: The Field Day Wrap Up



The Bloomington South segment is at approximately 38 minutes.  You can slide the bar at the bottom of the video to 38 minutes if you want to skip directly to it.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

I really don't blog that much...

Well, somehow today I ended up making a new web site. There was a lot of stuff out of date, and I noticed it's been a long time since I've put anything in the blog. Comcast is dropping their web hosting services that are normally included with internet service. So I moved everything to a new server, AlterVista.org. So far, it seems to be working well. I may start using it for other sites in the future, especially now that GoDaddy's rates went way up. Well, life is a lot better than the last time I blogged. I have to admit, it got way worse after that post. Thanks to God, things are much better now. But there are a lot of lessons I learned from that whole experience. I'm finding out that I really don't know as much as I thought I did. And I know not to take Ambien or Lunesta anymore! But, I'm learning more because of it all. I've gone through several heartaches since then, and I look forward to the day when most of those go away too. I've met a lot of new, great people. And I learned some things that I've been doing wrong, especially in the last month. So I've been working on those, and hopefully it will pay off soon. I recently took a week long trip to Florida. I really enjoyed it. I wanted to do all the things that I normally wouldn't be able to do since I was single and traveling alone. And that's exactly what I did. I didn't stay in one place very long. The longest was 2 days in Miami Beach. It was great to go there, and I'm already looking forward to my next trip. I couldn't cram in everything I wanted, but at least I did everything I wanted to do alone. Once I got to Ocala, I stopped at Walgreens to get a SunPass sticker since I'd be using the toll roads a lot. They are $5, and you just register it online or by phone. The toll booths didn't know my sticker ID until the following day. Next time, I'll try to remember to do it ahead of time. The scary thing is that some off ramps no longer accept even cash. If you don't have a SunPass, they bill it according to your license plate... and of course add on a big fee. So my advice to anyone driving in Florida on the toll roads is to do the sticker in advance. I'm probably trading the van at the end of the year, so I'll have to get a new one on the next trip. But hopefully, they will be compatible with the Illinois and Indiana systems by then. I spent the rest of the day in the Orlando area. I stayed in Lake Mary. It was the 4th of July, so the hotel rates were higher about everywhere. So I just stayed there, even though it was a bit out of the way. I went straight for Del Taco. I had it on the way home on the last trip, and fell in love with it. So I had to go there. I went to do a few other things, and since I didn't have anything else better to do... I drove down to Kissimmee and tried to watch the fireworks. There was a pretty bad thunderstorm most of the day, so it was doubtful the fireworks would happen. But, it cleared just in time. Unfortunately, the spot I picked out to park in didn't give me a high enough elevation. So by the time I found a place, it was mostly over. But at least I was able to see part of it. The next day after a couple of stops, I headed over to Cape Canaveral to visit Padraig, who was one of my students for the past 3 years. He is interning at SpaceX, where he is working on the old Launchpad 39 where the Apollo missions and space shuttle missions launched. SpaceX is reconfiguring the launch pad for their new rockets. He already loves working for them, even though it's 12-14 hours a day and 6-7 days a week. I'm really proud of him. He's done a lot of great things, but this is a big passion of his. He was named Young Ham of the Year 2 years ago, and won every big ham radio award and scholarship possible. He's going to go even bigger places. I can't wait to see what the future is for him. MIT missed out on a good one. Cornell is lucky to have him. Then I went to my room in Indian Harbor Beach, or more or less Melbourne. I really like the hotel there. It's not across from the beach... it's on the beach. Every room has it's own private balcony overlooking the Atlantic. Every time I go, I think to myself that I just need to stay there the whole time and forget Orlando and all the tourist stuff. Sometime I'll listen to myself. It's so relaxing, convenient, and not crowded. But there's still plenty to do not too far away. I really like the Space Coast. I tried out Pollo Tropical for dinner. It was good! The next day, I drove to Miami. This was my first trip to Miami. My main reasons for going was to check off another NBA area on my list, and to go to South Beach. I have seen so much on Travel Channel about South Beach, so I decided I had to go at least once. So after some selfies at AA Arena, off to the hotel I went. I had first picked the Savoy, but at the last minute I decided to switch to The Hotel of South Beach (formerly the Tiffany). I think I made the right choice. It wasn't right on the beach like the Savoy, but it was cheaper and didn't add on a fee for this and another fee for that. Beach chairs were even included. While the room was small, they made good use of every inch. It was a lot slower than I expected. The staff said it was the off season, since hurricaines are unpredictable and it's hotter than normal. But, the trip to the beach across the street the next day was well worth it. There was a lot to look at, and after a short time a storm tried to roll in. It dried up, but it created a little breeze, and the sun went behind a cloud. It was perfect. I didn't think I would stay on the beach that long just taking in the scenery, but it was so comfortable after the storm came in that I did. The bad thing was the traffic and parking. I drove around over an hour just trying to find a place to park to go to the bathroom. I went for the valet service at the hotel. It wasn't cheap, but well worth it. I don't know that I'll go back unless I have a reason to go, just because of the parking and traffic. But I'm glad I went. As I walked back to the hotel, I was looking for a chair to use for a while. I spotted one that was empty. In the next chair was a guy wearing a DX Engineering hat. I decided to sit there, and strike up a conversation. Sure enough, the guy was a ham and frequents the Dayton Hamvention. So we talked ham radio for a good while. He was from the St. Louis area, so maybe I'll run into him at Dayton sometime. He was also there on his first trip to Miami. He was smart though, and didn't try to drive! After that, I went across Alligator Alley through the Everglades. I found a radio station that was about the Everglades. So I learned a lot about how the road was built, and why they built some of the things they did. The next stop was Sarasota at McDonald's to see my best friend from high school, Andy. He moved down there several years ago, and I haven't seen him since. So it was good to catch up with him. I also went to Sun City and visited there. On the road back, I stopped in Atlanta to see another one of my former students, Brandon. Back at Harrison High School in Evansville, Brandon played on some of my basketball teams. His passion was always baseball, but he didn't play. So we decided to check into doing some baseball broadcasting. We were able to get a student at WPSR to stay after school to run the board, and we got a cell phone donated that had a mic input. We got a little suitcase with a mixer and some headsets, and about once a week we would broadcast a baseball game. This was his start in broadcast radio. He said we would be on ESPN someday. I ended up moving to Bloomington, so I wasn't around for his senior year. But he did some radio work at WPSR, and enrolled at Butler and studied there. He did some student broadcasts there, and ended up interning for Stephen A. Smith at ESPN. So one day, he was on ESPN. From there, he did radio play-by-play for a minor league team in Utah, and did some field reporting in the process. He was the radio station manager and radio announcer for the University of Evansville, which was always his favorite team. He then moved to Butler, where he managed the station and did play-by-play. Recently, he accepted a position at Georgia Tech. So now, he is the football and basketball play-by-play announcer there, and is able to do contract work for Westwood One, ESPN3, and Turner Sports during the down time. He has a new gig lined up to add to that list soon as well. He recently did some first round NCAA basketball tournament games, and the Division II championship back in his hometown of Evansville. He's another student of which I'm very proud. He is working his way up the ladder quickly. So it was great to see him as well. The trip was a lot shorter using I-69, even though it's not finished yet. I will be so glad when it's finally done! It has saved me a lot of miles and hours even in it's partial state. So, it's back to work full time soon... even though I've been working a few days already. I will miss the time to travel as much. Hopefully I will find a travel partner soon.

Friday, January 3, 2014

It's a New Year

I know I don't post here very often, but the last month has been a very eye opening experience for me. It's definitely been the most difficult time of my life. I realized a lot of things. I realized how much I missed my extended family and friends, and how much they are always there to help. My co-workers and even my students were there to help me, and show that they care. I realized how much I missed *really* being at church. I forgot what it was like to actually sit down and watch a TV show, let alone a couple of movies, without having to be productive at the same time. I forgot what it was like to have those really intense prayer sessions. I have been so busy trying to keep up with all the big things that I had forgotten about so many of the little things. I forgot how much I miss just having the energy and motivation to get up and do things around the house... put things away, cook, and even clean. I miss those late night Monopoly and Uno games that would seemingly go on forever. I miss sharing road trips. I miss a lot of things I would even complain about. I've shared in the pain of others, and understand now more of what they are going through. I am so much more thankful for what I've had. And most of all, I realized just how much people mean to me. Some are still here, some have passed on, and some I haven't heard from in a while or even years. But they all have a special place in my heart. I know it's easy to say and not truly understand the true meaning of it until you experience it. But cherish those moments you have with those you love. You don't always appreciate just how much they mean until they are gone. It's my goal to start doing those things a lot more than I did before.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Shortcomings of the DISH 922 Receiver

In 2008 when I heard about the Sling loaded receiver with a web browser being in development for DISH, I couldn't wait to get my hands on one. The big announcements at CES came and went, and every once in a while I would ask DISH about it. They kept saying that they didn't know when it would be released. On Charlie Chat (which isn't even an option for information anymore), they said they were really having problems with the web browser. But everything else was working great, and so they were going to launch it without the web browser for the time being. Then they would send the web browser as a software update once they figured out the last of the bugs (which never happened). Well, quite some time passed without a launch. Then, it finally came out. I decided to wait on a deal, because it was going to be too expensive for the upgrade. I was told to watch the announcements, because there was a "big" announcement coming out the following month. Well, that announcement ended up being something totally different. So, I kept waiting. Then, I heard some complaints about the 922 not living up to expectations. Then, it kind of faded away for a while, and it even disappeared from the DISH web site for a while. I was told I could still get one though. Then, the Hopper announcement came out. So, I thought I would wait it out again and go for the Hopper. But then I was disappointed to find out that I couldn't keep my 2nd receiver if I went to the Hopper, nor did it support OTA. So, the Hopper was no longer an option. But, the 922 was now a free upgrade. So, I went for it. There are many days that I wish I hadn't. First, it was installed without the OTA module I had ordered. The installer offered to put one in, but he couldn't find any on the truck, and said it had been a long time since he had any requests for one. So he was going to call and make sure the module was going to be shipped. I figured something was wrong, because I waited over 3 weeks to have the 922 installed because of my busy schedule and inability to be home. I never understood why they didn't just ship it and let me put it in myself. But anyway, I waited, and the OTA module never arrived. So I called DISH, and they said they had no record of my OTA order. So they promptly sent me one. I installed it, and it came right up. I was thrilled to find that it would actually send OTA to TV2, which I had not been able to do with my 622. I had to do some crazy wiring and careful modulator channel selection to make it all work before. Now, it just goes through the 922. And, the OTA receiver seems to pull in stations a lot better than the 622 did. Kudos for those 2 things! What I had NO clue would even possibly happen was that the OTA programming functionality would be horrible. Every time I go upstairs to turn the antenna, I have to rescan all the channels. I guess they think that all TV stations are all in one direction. I watch 3 different markets with regularity, and when the DX rolls in I get several more. I haven't had a good band opening since getting the 922, but DXing is probably not going to be an convenient option anymore unless they fix the software. I'm frustrated because even my old 622 would give you the option of rescanning without deleting, adding channels manually, or deleting everything and rescanning. I can't even add manually with the 922. So, I haven't been turning the antenna as much... which is a real pain. So now I rely on other means to get OTA from the Indy market, which totally defeats the purpose of the OTA module and my decision to go with DISH in the first place. Another nightmare with the 922 is recording OTA channels, more specifically subchannels. Most, but not all, of my subchannels and some primary channels do not have program listings in the guide. While DISH told me none of them did, that's just not true. I understand, it's not their fault. They buy their guide info, and if the station doesn't provide it to TitanTV (the provider), then they won't get it either. Of course, no one at DISH would tell me that. They just said that they didn't guarantee guide information on any OTA channel. Well, I've been used to that. It was that way with the 622, or any other receiver with OTA. The problem is that without the guide information, you can't set a timer on the 922. Yes, that's right... no manual timer option. That was always my workaround. I could set a manual timer for a channel, day, and time, and take care of the problem. Not anymore. When I contacted tech support, first they tried to tell me there was a hardware issue. Then, they told me it was a software issue, and they would research it and get back to me. When the finally got back to me, they said that manual timers were not possible on the 922 just yet. What I wanted to say was, "Just YET? I've waited 5 years for this receiver, 2 years of which were delays due to software development, and the software doesn't even have a manual timer for the DVR?" My only options are to either record it live or try to set a large block of time to record. The 922, as other receivers, break up channels that do not have guide information into large blocks of time. Now if these blocks of time were 30 minutes instead of 4 hours, it would be possible to record a 30 minute show, or even a 60, 90, or 120 minute show using the extended time feature. But instead, I have to record 4 hours of time just to get 2 hours worth of WKRP in Cincinnati each week. And, that's if the receiver doesn't lock up in the process. I haven't had much luck setting the large block of time more than 24 hours in advance. The timer just magically disappears after I've set it. And, a lot of times it locks up just trying to set the timer. So I have to reboot and try it again. And on top of this, the block of time doesn't really match up with the time in the guide. So I try to record WKRP from 9 to 11 pm, so I click on 9 pm. The timer comes up at a random time. Usually, it comes up from 3:30 to 7:30. Wait, 9:00 isn't even anywhere in that block of time! Then, if I go to midnight, it sets the timer for 1:00 am. So no matter what time I select it, I can't get the time that I need to program into the timer. Sometimes I can get it to work by advancing the guide a day or two ahead of time, and then scroll back to the time I need. But I have to do that each week, because the weekly timer keeps erasing itself. So either the guide needs to be in 30 minute blocks, or a manual timer option is needed. But the 922 will do neither. As for the missing guide info, one of the workarounds I used was to download the guide info for a subchannel that actually is included in the guide but in a different market but the same network. For instance, I could see what was on Antenna TV in Louisville using the Antenna TV listings from Indy. But, wait... even that won't work anymore because I can't save two stations in different directions. My other big problem with the 922 is the lack of a saved search history... on satellite or OTA. Every week, I have to do searches for the basketball teams I want to record. I never was a big fan of the "DISH Pass" on the 622, which was supposed to set a timer for a keyword. It was not specific enough, and would record way too many things that may or may not even be related to what I want. So, I could at least go in the history and repeat the same searches each week. Not on the 922. I have to set up the same searches each week, one at a time. So while the menus look sweet, there's logos for most shows and channels, and the Sling is finally working most of the time... I'm still pretty disapoointed with the 922. I'm thinking of "downgrading" to a 722k and add a sling adapter. At least it would let me set some manual timers and save my searches. There are 2 things that DISH needs to do immediately on the 922, if not sooner: 1) Provide a manual timer option 2) Provide a way to add OTA channels without rescanning If would also be very helpful if they would: 1) Divide blocks of time into 30 minute blocks instead of 4 hours that are not listed in the guide 2) Add the ability to save searches 3) Provide a way to add on an OTA rescan without deleting previously scanned channels 4) Allow mutliple OTA channels to be saved that have the same mapped digital channel number (For instance, I get an OTA Channel 2.1 from St. Louis as well as Terre Haute, IN. If I add the one from St. Louis, it wipes out the Terre Haute info. Yes, I know... I shouldn't be able to pick up St. Louis according to AntennaWeb and DISH. I do during band openings. DISH tells me this is impossible. It's not.) I've heard rumors that the manual timer issue is because SiriusXM doesn't wants to discourage people from recording it's programming. Well, just disable recording of SiriusXM instead of using these huge time blocks to mess things up.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Response to QST Feb 2013 Op-Ed about a 6 year old ham

Many of you have asked me about the February, 2013 QST Op-Ed article (page 99) about raising questions about a 6 year old being able to have a ham radio license. This is it:

I think the real issue that needs to be addressed here is maturity, not age. I’ve met a lot of young hams over the years, and every one of them so far have acted more mature both on the air and in person than some older, much more experienced hams. Being a teacher of young hams, I often get nervous when I hear some of “my kids” from my school getting on the air totally on their own. I am used to being there to help and support them while they operate at school. I have been known to grab my radio and have it ready to jump in… just in case they don’t know what to say or do something they shouldn’t. I have never had to do that. In every case, at least so far, they have always handled themselves properly and sometimes were more knowledgeable than the hams they were conversing with. Over the years, the amateur community has seen many young hams licensed, starting at age 4. Multiple 7 years olds have earned extra class licenses, and some even DXCC. Some I’ve heard on the radio, and some I’ve met in person. And some, I’ve only read about. And, my apologies if there are some younger hams than age 4 that I haven’t heard about which I’m not mentioning. But, my experience has been the same. All of them acted very responsible and mature for their age. They knew how to safely and properly operate. To generalize that everyone under 16 is not mature enough for a ham radio license just doesn’t make much sense to me. I get frustrated at times listening to VHF/UHF and hear how hams that are well into adulthood create feedback with their radios over and over again on purpose, berate other people, and show little respect for others. I have to be careful working with the kids at school to quickly pass over certain frequencies on HF (14.313 among others) because of what might be heard. But to say that all adults that are hams are immature would be going too far.

I was introduced to amateur radio when I was 5 years old, in 1976. My father decided to go to a ham radio class, sponsored by our local club. They placed a 13 year old age limit on the class. After the first week, my father asked if it would be ok if I just tagged along. He assured them that I would not disrupt the class in any way. They went along with it. They also made an exception for a 9 year old girl. So when my dad copied down a letter in Morse code in his notebook, so did I. Before long, everyone noticed that I was copying code just the same as everyone else. Several weeks later at the completion of the class, I had earned my novice ticket, as did the 9 year old girl. I upgraded to technician at age 6, general at age 7, and advanced at age 9. I finally decided to get my extra class at age 18. I made my very first contact at 5 years old all on my own… before auto tuners. I knew what not to touch, and what the dangers were. All this happened because I had good support. My dad, and others, took the time to show me what to do and what could go wrong. I knew the responsibility that came with a ham radio license. Needless to say, the next year there was no longer an age limit on the class.

Most of the young ham experts say that the optimum time for students to get into ham radio is in middle school. By the time they get to high school, cars and boyfriends/girlfriends often distract them and consume more of their time. I think that having an age limit on ham radio would be very detrimental. It could be nice to have a way to require a certain level of maturity for a ham radio license, but I don’t know of a fair and proven way to do that.

My students have had the advantage of having an elmer. It’s worked pretty well for us. In my time teaching at Bloomington High School South, our ham radio club has actively served 68 students, of which 28 have become licensed. Many of them have gone on to upgrade. Many of them have become an important part of our local and global ham radio community. In addition, several students did the same at other schools of which I’ve had the pleasure of teaching. And, most of them did it before earning a driver’s license. One even led his own DXpedition to Cyprus, which you can read about in an upcoming edition of QST, at the age of 15. There are many other similar experiences around the world. If I had been refused at age 5, none of that would have happened.

Neil Rapp, WB9VPG Chemistry teacher, Amateur Radio Club Sponsor Bloomington High School South Bloomington, Indiana

Monday, September 29, 2008

Someone finally figured it out!

Gee, this study is about 30 years overdue! It didn't take a rocket surgeon to figure this one out!

http://www.insideindianabusiness.com/newsitem.asp?ID=31512

Study: Teacher Sleep Deprivation Costs $100 Billion Annually
InsideINdianaBusiness.com Report

A new study from Ball State University shows U.S. teachers are suffering from a lack of sleep and admit to being impaired in the classroom. The trend is costing businesses more than $100 billion annually due to workplace accidents, decreased productivity and absenteeism. Nearly a fourth of teachers say their teaching skills are significantly diminished and half admit to missing work or making errors due to a serious lack of sleep. The study also found 44.9 percent of respondents work part-time jobs. Researchers say many teachers are forced to coach, farm, run a family business or work a second job just to pay the bills.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

BMV: The Sequel

Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse, I went to the BMV the very next day. Surprisingly, I didn't have to wait. But, I would trade waiting for what happened.

I went to pick up my plate, which I have to do every year, and only at the specified license branch, because the ham radio plates are special ordered from Indianapolis. So I can't just pick it up anywhere. Now, the BMV has changed it's policy. They don't send the plates to the license branches anymore. So I'm wondering why in the world I wasted all the time and trips to the BMV to pick up a plate that wasn't even there. So, I asked. Before I could stop myself, I had uttered "excuse me?" because I was in such shock I didn't understand what she said the first time. She said plates are not delivered to the branches anymore. I would be given a temporary plate, and my plate would come in the mail within 30 days.

So, I figured next time I could just mail my payment and get my plate by mail. That would solve the whole problem. Oh no. That isn't possible. You have to come into the branch to pay for the plate, and then they mail it to you. I said "well, that sure makes a lot of sense." And the poor clerk said she didn't make the rules. I told her I understood. So then I went to re-reserve my plate as I do every year. Then she informed me that I can't do that until I have the actual plate in hand. Of course, they don't have it and they are going to mail it. So now I have to go back to the BMV when it arrives to reserve my plate for next year. So now it takes TWO trips every year for a license plate!

So here's BMV reform at work again. Instead of just sending the whole stock of ham radio plates for the entire year to the branches, they mail them individually to each person. Then after it arrives at my house, I have to take the plate to the BMV branch so they can re-reserve it. So if I have to take it back to the BMV, wouldn't it save a whole lot of money and effort on both our parts if they just send it to the branch to begin with??????

If this is BMV reform, I'd hate to see a complete overhaul!