Friday, April 24, 2009

Oregon to ban mobile amateur radio

I've discovered another state seeking to ban mobile amateur radio operation. This time, it's Oregon (link courtesy As with several other attempts by state legislatures to ban cellphone operation while driving (for example, Virginia's), this bill reaches far beyond just cell phones to ban the use of any "mobile communication device", presumably because they want to ban texting as well as talking, and using a laptop. What's especially interesting is the exemptions (quoted from the text):
(3) This section does not apply:
(a) To a person who is summoning medical or other emergency
help if no other person in the vehicle is capable of summoning
(b) To a person using a mobile communication device for the
purpose of farming or agricultural operations
(c) To a person operating an ambulance or emergency vehicle; or
(d) To a person using a hands-free accessory.
So ambulance drivers, firetruck drivers, and marked (but not unmarked) police car drivers are excluded, but truckers, taxi drivers, volunteer firemen (in their personal vehicles), and amateur radio operators are not. What's interesting to me is the exemption for farmers, which makes no sense from any public safety purpose, but is clearly there merely because the farmers got to the committee before the bill got out. From various comments by legislators and others behind this bill, it's obvious they haven't thought about this much at all.

I've dropped a note to Bonnie Altus (AB7ZQ), the ARRL Oregon Section Chair, asking her what the ARRL is doing to ensure that Oregon doesn't ban mobile amateur operation.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

World Amateur Radio Day

Today, April 18th, is World Amateur Radio Day.  Did you notice?  I didn't.  It's mentioned on the IARU calendar, and the ARRL ran a press release back in February, but the only press outside of the ham radio world (and even there it's getting far less attention that the fiber cut in San Jose) is a mention in the Times of India, and I can't even find that now.

It's amazing that there's no commemorative contest or something.  I did find mention of one special event station (A60WARD, operated by the Emirates Amateur Radio Society, UAE), but given that people will use just about any excuse for a contest, you'd think the anniversary of the IARU would be good for one.

It seems that as a collective group, hams just aren't that good at PR.

In any case, happy World Amateur Radio Day, wherever you might be.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Always back up your data loss

I bought a SATA card for an older computer I am trying to make useful here yesterday.  On the front page of its manual is this choice gem:
Before installing and activating RAID function, please make sure you have a complete backup of your existing data loss due to abuse, misuse, or neglect.
Here's what I'm not clear on: if I have a complete backup of my data loss, is it really lost?

Friday, April 03, 2009

Punished for passing a code test?

I was looking at the Part 97 regulations relating to transmitter power the other day, when I noticed something odd.  The operative regulation here is § 97.313, which I'm going to reproduce in part below because it's hard to link to ecfr searches:
(a) An amateur station must use the minimum transmitter power necessary to carry out the desired communications.
(b) No station may transmit with a transmitter power exceeding 1.5 kW PEP.
(c) No station may transmit with a transmitter power exceeding 200 W PEP:
(1) On the 10.10–10.15 MHz segment;
(2) When the control operator is a Novice Class operator or a Technician Class operator who has received credit for proficiency in telegraphy in accordance with the international requirements; or
(3) The 7.050-7.075 MHz segment when the station is within ITU Regions 1 or 3.
(I left out the sections past (c); they relate to the various bands on which everyone has power limits.)  The section of interest here is (c), and specifically (c)(2), which limits Novices and Technicians who have passed a code test to 200 W.  Since the regulation doesn't specify any bands, it applies everywhere.  Technicians who have not passed a code test are unaffected and therefore have the same power privileges as any other operator. 

In effect, this means that Tech Plus licensees (a dwindling lot, to be sure) actually lost power privileges even as they gained emission privileges.  And since there is now no other distinction in the regulations between Tech and Tech Plus, the net result of this drafting error is to limit the power privileges of Tech Plus licensees.

I am sure this is not what the FCC intended; I assume they intended to limit the power of Technicians and Novices operating in HF to 200 W.  Clearly § 97.313 should be amended, to clarify that section subsection (c)(2) only applies below 30 MHz (or whatever the FCC actually intended) and to remove the reference to "proficiency in telegraphy" language that is now obsolete.

Of course, they could amend it to restrict Technicians to not exceed the powers set forth in § 97.13(c)(1).  Those power limits (the limits above which the licensee must conduct an environmental evaluation) have been established as limits to ensure safety, and it would be reasonable to assume that a Technican-class licensee may not possess sufficient expertise to conduct such an evaluation properly, and on that basis restrict power levels that might endanger the public to General-class licensees or higher.  But that's just an idea.