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Amateur Radio Info & Exams - Further permitted activities

This covers some of the additional activities permitted by Amateur Radio.

RDF

Using a directional antenna, such as a short yagi or quad, it is possible to locate signals, be they deliberate interference, a radio with a jammed microphone PTT, noise from arcing electrical equipment, or emergency locator beacons (including those triggered by being thrown into the rubbish).

T-hunts, hidden transmitter hunts, fox-hunts, or RDF = radio direction finding, or Radio-Sport are various names for events which involve locating and walking / running or driving to locate a hidden transmitters. Radio orienteering is a variation. Directional antennas, or systems with 4 vertical antennas which can resolve the direction to the signal are used to determine the direction to the transmitter. Switching attenuators into the antenna feedline can help, especially as you get closer to the transmitter. Reflection from metal buildings, or terrain can make working out the direction more challenging.

Contesting

There are a range of contests, which can run from an hour or so, to a month. The big American ones often run over a weekend. Australia VHF-UHF "field day" events go for 24 hours, but allows entries for 8 hours. The Ross Hull Memorial VHF-UHF Memorial Field Day runs for all of January, but only the best 7 or 2 days are used as entries, and the field day can be included.

For field days a system called Maidenhead Locators are used, these being 2 degrees wide, and 1 degree high. For example, QF56 covers Central and Northern Sydney, the Central Coast, and as far west as Jenolan Caves. Rover station moves between grid-squares. Perth stations can do this easily, as there is an intersection of 4 in the suburbs, two in the ranges, two on the low-lands. The north-south dimension is 111.12km, this being 60 nautical miles. At the equator the east-west dimension is around 222 km, diminishing to zero at the poles.

Some GPS apps, including HamGPS on Android (free) give these locators, sometimes with extra pairs of letters and numbers, for tighter location (like QF56nh), and more accurate distance calculations, as for some contests, scoring is based on distance. Contacting the same (or other) stations on multiple bands also gets more points.

For HF contests, scores might be based on number of contacts, countries and related entities such as islands contacted, and the number of bands contacts are made on. Some factors are called "multipliers", as they multiply the number of points.

Depending on the nature of the contest (and how serious the station is about a big score), only the minimum information needed for proper identification and the contest exchange should be sent, but some here can be a bit more casual, especially when signals are good.

A few "Downunder" contests are the John Moyle Field Day (mid-March); and the Trans-Tasman Low-Band Challenge (mid-July), covering 160m, 80m, and 40m. The Harry Angel Memorial 80m Sprint goes for 106 minutes on a Saturday evening, to celebrate his 106 year life.

Note that narrower bands, such as 60 metres; and the "WARC" bands, 30, 17, and 12 metres are often avoided in contests.

Some operating events, such as the International Marconi Day, held in late April are not contests.

There are also Awards, for contacting or activating mountain-tops (SOTA), national parks, states, counties, shires, stations at lighthouses or lightships, and gridsquares.

Internet Linking

Several systems use Voice over Internet Protocol, VoIP to transmit voice via data networks, usually the Internet.

IRLP is the Internet Repeater Linking Project, which uses Linux based PCs, embedded PCs, or Raspberry Pis to link repeaters via the Internet. To access another node, dial its number using a DTMF keypad on your radio.

When the link is via a simplex radio, rather than a repeater, the term "gateway" is used.

Other systems include Echolink, which also allows connections from PCs and Android devices. WIRES-II and WIRES-X are proprietary Yaesu systems. There are a range of linking systems for DMR - Digital Mobile Radio. Incidentally, DMR is a European system, hence the 12.5 kHz channel spacing. It allows two conversations at once, using Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA).

Always wait a few moments after the node connects before calling, and leave a couple of seconds after the other station's over before you transmit. The Internet connection has some "latency" or delay.

Weak-signal data modes

Several WSJT modes, such as JT65 and JT9, are Weak Signal modes named after Joe Taylor, K1JT; as is FT8. Some of these are suitable for specific tasks, such as tropospheric scatter, and bouncing signals of the moon.

PSK31 is a low data rate system which works via Phase Shift Keying. It uses narrow bandwidth, and can cross the globe with 25 watts.

MFSK is another mode which works with low signal levels, to the extent that, like PSK31, signals which cannot be heard by the human ear among the noise can be decoded easily. It uses multiple tones.

Packet is cited as a digital mode in the exam, but requires good signal strength. It does however include a "check-sum, where calculating on the content of a packet generates a number, which is sent with the data. If the calculation on the received packet gets the same number, then it is likely correct, and an acknowledgement can be sent, allowing the next packet to be sent, if there is one. If there is an error, then ARQ is sent, for a re-transmission.

Phase Shift Keying (PSK) is a system, where, instead of changing frequency, the phase of the signal is changed, by 180° or 90° 180° and 270°. Allowing 4 positions, 2 bits can be sent with one transition.

Allowing 8 positions (multiples of 45°) means 3 bits can be sent.

Smaller shifts, and multiple levels were used with high speed dial-up modems, allowing many bits to be sent in one element. The number of elements per second is called the baud-rate. Those of us who were around in the 1980s may remember 300 baud , which transmitted 1 bit per element, so 300 bps. Faster modems were flogged as 1200 baud, or 2400 baud, but this was a fallacy, they were 600 baud, but with 2, or 4 bits per baud.

IEEE 802.11, or WiFi can be hacked for use on the Ham bands, providing longer range high-rate data transmission, with some participants calling it "Broadband-Hamnet".

Off the exam, Hellschreiber in a system invented by Rudolf Hell in the late 1920s, thus his name and the German word for "writer". It sends the text as a graphical representation, so it can handle almost any language. It has been adapted to Ham radio use.

APRS

APRS stands for the Automatic Packet Reporting System. Unlike other packet systems, it does not require a negotiated connection between stations, as data is just sent out periodically. It does not use requests for retransmission. While positioning data, usually GPS derived, is most often sent, it can also send weather data from a fixed station.

It is useful in public service events, as the position of course sweep vehicles or vessels, searchers, and other operators can be sent, including as a data burst at the end of a voice transmission. Small waterproof (Pelican) cases containing a GPS module, mini TNC, and small transmitter can be clipped to a search team members backpack, so the team can be tracked. As there is no need for the team member to initiate transmission, their is no need for this person to be a ham.

NTSC is the standard North American analogue colour TV format, termed "fast scan" in amateur terms. It has mostly fallen out of use in broadcasting, due to a change to digital TV (ATSC or other digital formats), but remains in use for Ham radio. It stands for National Television System Committee. It is actually the work of the a second committee, the first set up to standardise B&W TV, setting it at 525 lines (about 480 visible, as in VGA), 30 frames per second, in two interleaved fields (60 per seconds). Adding colour, using the same scan-rates was done by the second committee, using a colorburst of crystal frequency 3.579545 MHz. These super-common and cheap crystals allow home-brew radio nets on this frequency.

A particularly dodgy piece of fake foreign aid was upgrading the broadcasting systems of poor countries using 625 line, 25 frame B&W systems to NTSC, instead of a compatible PAL system (like in Australia). Suddenly the entire populous had to buy US standard TVs just to keep watching, so really it was an aid package for their own industry.

In North America the change was mainly to ATSC, the Advanced Television Systems Committee's standard. Japan adopted its own system, ISDB-T, as has much of Latin America; and Bermuda and Taiwan the global standard DVB-T, as used in Europe and Australia. Cuba is moving to China's DTMB.

Radio Control

In the US, somewhat uniquely, Amateurs are allowed to send "telecommand" signals to remote-control aircraft, boats, cars, etc, using Ham frequencies. The power limit is 1 watt. As on-air identification is rather tricky half-way through a loop, instead, operators are allowed to affix their name, callsign, and address to the transmitter.

Relevant Questions

Actual exam questions, from the published NCVEC Technician pool.

T8C01=
Which of the following methods is used to locate sources of noise interference or jamming?
A. Echolocation
B. Doppler radar
C. Radio direction finding
D. Phase locking

This is RDF, or Radio direction finding, answer C. The recreational and practice version of this is "fox-hunting" or T-hunting.

T8C02=
Which of these items would be useful for a hidden transmitter hunt?
A. Calibrated SWR meter
B. A directional antenna
C. A calibrated noise bridge
D. All of these choices are correct

This is the directional antenna, answer B.

T8C03=
What popular operating activity involves contacting as many stations as possible during a specified period of time?
A. Contesting
B. Net operations
C. Public service events
D. Simulated emergency exercises

This is contesting, answer A.

T8C04≈
Which of the following is good procedure when contacting another station in a radio contest?
A. Be sure to sign only the last two letters of your call if there is a pileup calling the station
B. Work the station twice to be sure that you are in his log
C. Send only the minimum information needed for proper identification and the contest exchange
D. All of these choices are correct

Depending on the nature of the contest (and how serious the station is about a big score), only the minimum information needed for proper identification and the contest exchange should be sent, answer C. This might be a grid-square, signal report, sequence number, name, postcode, etc. For the VHF contests in VK these are something like QF36bc; 59008, Fred.

T8C05=
What is a grid locator?
A. A letter-number designator assigned to a geographic location
B. A letter-number designator assigned to an azimuth and elevation
C. An instrument for neutralizing a final amplifier
D. An instrument for radio direction finding

This is a zone on the earth's surface, a geographic locator, answer A. PF67 is an example.

T8C06=
How is access to an IRLP node accomplished?
A. By obtaining a password which is sent via voice to the node
B. By using DTMF signals
C. By entering the proper Internet password
D. By using CTCSS tone codes

Connection is by sending DTMF tones to an IRLP connected repeater, or a simplex IRLP node, answer B. Not a well written question, the meaning is, if you can access a local node from your radio, how do you cause it to connect to another node? Dial the node number using DTMF, just as you would on a modern home 'phone. For Wyee, between Wyong and Newcastle, transmit, and dial 6792, then de-key and wait for the connection message.

T8C07⇅≈
What is meant by Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) as used in amateur radio?
A. A set of rules specifying how to identify your station when linked over the internet to another station
B. A set of guidelines for contacting DX stations during contests using internet access
C. A technique for measuring the modulation quality of a transmitter using remote sites monitored via the internet
D. A method of delivering voice communications over the internet using digital techniques

In this case Protocol is part of "Internet Protocol", or IP, rather than rules about on-air behaviour or identifying. The term IP, rather than just "Internet" is used in VoIP, as it is possible to use IP over networks other than the Internet itself. It is the last answer, about the method, D for Delta.

There are remote software defined radios (SDRs), which do allow you to listen to various things, including to monitor your own station remotely.

T8C08⇅≈
What is the Internet Radio Linking Project (IRLP)?
A. A technique to connect amateur radio systems, such as repeaters, via the internet using Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP)
B. A system for providing access to websites via amateur radio
C. A system for informing amateurs in real time of the frequency of active DX stations
D. A technique for measuring signal strength of an amateur transmitter via the internet

It is connecting repeaters and simplex gateways via the Internet, answer A.

T8C09~N
How might you obtain a list of active nodes that use VoIP?
A. By subscribing to an on line service
B. From on line repeater lists maintained by the local repeater frequency coordinator
C. From a repeater directory
D. All of these choices are correct

A repeater directory may list IRLP, Echolink, WIRES, and other linking system nodes. However, local or other online lists; or the website for the system, or the related software is also useful. Answer D is now the right one, as the silly answers in the previous version have been changed to reasonably sensible ones, in addition to the directory option which won you the coconut last time.

T8C10*
What must be done before you may use the EchoLink system to communicate using a repeater?
A. You must complete the required EchoLink training
B. You must have purchased a license to use the EchoLink software
C. You must be sponsored by a current EchoLink user
D. You must register your call sign and provide proof of license

Use must register online, and provide the PDF of the "Official Copy" of your licence, which only you are able to download using your FRN and password, answer D, not a "Reference Copy". Amateurs with their licence printed on FCC "basket-weave" paper may be able to use a scan or photo of this. The organisation has been unlawfully asking for scans of Australian hams' driving licences, so yet another reason to get a US licence, and to use this on the system, as your author does.

T8C11=
What name is given to an amateur radio station that is used to connect other amateur stations to the Internet?
A. A gateway
B. A repeater
C. A digipeater
D. A beacon

This is a "gateway", answer A. This can be data related, or a simplex voice gateway for IRLP, Echolink, etc.

T8C12 and T8C13 moved up to replace two regulations questions on usng Ham bands for telecommand / remote control.

T8D01~
Which of the following is a digital communications mode?
A. Packet radio
B. IEEE 802.11
C. JT65
D. All of these choices are correct

These are examples of digital modes, JT65 use for weak signals, the "packet-racket" for stronger local ones, answer D.

IEEE 802.11 is a collection of standards relating to WiFi system developed by Australia's CSIRO (hey right-wing so-called "Liberals" & Nationals, stop cutting their funding!). Certain routers can be hacked to work on Ham bands, and to operate at higher power, connected to high-gain antennas.

T8D02=
What does the term “APRS” mean?
A. Automatic Packet Reporting System
B. Associated Public Radio Station
C. Auto Planning Radio Set-up
D. Advanced Polar Radio System

Automatic Packet Reporting System, answer A. While position is a popular use, it can send other data, including weather station data, so the P stands for Packet.

T8D03≈
Which of the following devices is used to provide data to the transmitter when sending automatic position reports from a mobile amateur radio station?
A. The vehicle speedometer
B. A WWV receiver
C. A connection to a broadcast FM sub-carrier receiver
D. A Global Positioning System receiver

This is the Global Positioning System (GPS)* receiver, answer D. The positioning receiver provides velocity and time data, in addition to position, making the first two unnecessary. I suppose the sub-carrier receiver is a reference to a device which receives signals from data channels hidden in broadcast signals to provide information on traffic blockages, and feeds them into vehicle navigation systems.

* This should say GNSS, meaning Global Navigation Satellite Systems, GPS, Glonass, Galileo, and BeiDou-2; and regional systems BeiDou-1, NAVIC, and QZSS.

T8D04=
What type of transmission is indicated by the term NTSC?
A. A Normal Transmission mode in Static Circuit
B. A special mode for earth satellite uplink
C. An analog fast scan color TV signal
D. A frame compression scheme for TV signals

This is the standard (fast scan) North American analogue colour TV format, answer C, named for the National Television System Committee.

T8D05=
Which of the following is an application of APRS (Automatic Packet Reporting System)?
A. Providing real time tactical digital communications in conjunction with a map showing the locations of stations
B. Showing automatically the number of packets transmitted via PACTOR during a specific time interval
C. Providing voice over Internet connection between repeaters
D. Providing information on the number of stations signed into a repeater

This is providing data tactical communications, including location information, with the option to display this on an map on a PC screen, answer A.

T8D06=
What does the abbreviation PSK mean?
A. Pulse Shift Keying
B. Phase Shift Keying
C. Packet Short Keying
D. Phased Slide Keying

Phase shift keying, answer B.

T8D07*
Which of the following best describes DMR (Digital Mobile Radio)?
A. A technique for time-multiplexing two digital voice signals on a single 12.5 kHz repeater channel
B. An automatic position tracking mode for FM mobiles communicating through repeaters
C. An automatic computer logging technique for hands-off logging when communicating while operating a vehicle
D. A digital technique for transmitting on two repeater inputs simultaneously for automatic error correction

It is a digital voice mode which can allow a repeater to handle two signals at once in a 12.5 kHz channel, using TDMA, answer A.

T8D08=
Which of the following may be included in packet transmissions?
A. A check sum which permits error detection
B. A header which contains the call sign of the station to which the information is being sent
C. Automatic repeat request in case of error
D. All of these choices are correct

Using check sums, it is possible for the receiving station to determine that there have been errors, and so it can send back a request for the repetition of the previous packet. The headers also include station callsigns. Thus it is ALL choices, answer D.

T8D09~
What code is used when sending CW in the amateur bands?
A. Baudot
B. Hamming
C. International Morse
D. All of these choices are correct

It is International Morse, answer C.

T8D10*
Which of the following operating activities is supported by digital mode software in the WSJT suite? A. Moonbounce or Earth-Moon-Earth B. Weak-signal propagation beacons C. Meteor scatter
D. All of these choices are correct

All these are correct, answer D.

T8D11=
What is an ARQ transmission system?
A. A special transmission format limited to video signals
B. A system used to encrypt command signals to an amateur radio satellite
C. A digital scheme whereby the receiving station detects errors and sends a request to the sending station to retransmit the information
D. A method of compressing the data in a message so more information can be sent in a shorter time

This is Automatic Repeat reQuest, where the station detects errors, and requests retransmission, answer C.

T8D12+
Which of the following best describes Broadband-Hamnet(TM), also referred to as a high-speed multi-media network?
A. An amateur-radio-based data network using commercial Wi-Fi gear with modified firmware
B. A wide-bandwidth digital voice mode employing DRM protocols
C. A satellite communications network using modified commercial satellite TV hardware
D. An internet linking protocol used to network repeaters

It is the hacked Wi-Fi (IEEE-802.11) based system, answer A.

T8D13+
What is FT8?
A. A wideband FM voice modev B. A digital mode capable of operating in low signal-to-noise conditions that transmits on 15-second intervals
C. An eight channel multiplex mode for FM repeaters
D. A digital slow scan TV mode with forward error correction and automatic color compensation

It is a digital mode capable of working with signal levels in the noise, answer B.

T8D14+
What is an electronic keyer?
A. A device for switching antennas from transmit to receive
B. A device for voice activated switching from receive to transmit
C. A device that assists in manual sending of Morse code
D. An interlock to prevent unauthorized use of a radio

It is the electronic circuit, used in conjunction with a side-swipe key with two contacts, one for dits, the other for dahs, answer C. It is also called an iambic keyer.


Congratulations! You have now reviewed all questions. I would suggest doing some drills on hamtestonline.com, which are available without charge.

It is also time to look at Exams.

You can find links to lots more on the Learning Material page.

This has taken a fair bit of work to write, so if you have found this useful, there is a "tip jar" below.

You may also want to get a Ham related shirt designed by your author: VK-73


Written by Julian Sortland, VK2YJS & AG6LE, February 2018.

Tip Jar: a Jefferson (US$2), A$3 or other amount / currency. Thanks!