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The ARRL Letter
November 18, 2010
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+ Available on ARRL Audio News

+ Public Service: SKYWARN Recognition Day Set for December 4

The 12th Annual SKYWARN Recognition Day (SRD) Special Event will take place Saturday, December 4, 2010. SRD is co-sponsored by the ARRL and the National Weather Service as a way to recognize the commitment made by Amateur Radio operators in helping to keep their communities safe. According to SRD Coordinator David Floyd, N5DBZ, Amateur Radio operators can visit their local participating NWS office, working as a team to contact other hams across the world throughout the 24 hour event.

Floyd said that as SKYWARN Recognition Day has grown throughout the years, he has seen a greater use of digital communications in addition to SSB, CW, RTTY and packet radio: "Each year, more and more contacts are being made using EchoLink, Winlink and the use of e-mail reflectors." In keeping with the NWS setting, stations are asked to include a weather report for their location in their exchange. The 2010 SKYWARN Recognition Day will be held on December 4 from 0000 UTC-2400 UTC. Read more here.

+ ARRL Recognizes: Deadline Approaching for Nominations for ARRL's Leonard Award

Bill Leonard, W2SKE

Television, radio, magazines, newspapers, blogs, Webcasts -- Amateur Radio has been featured in all of them in 2010. And now it is time to thank the professional media people who made it happen by nominating them for the Bill Leonard, W2SKE, Professional Media Award. This national level annual award is sponsored by the ARRL and honors three professional journalists whose outstanding coverage in audio, video and print formats best reflect the enjoyment, importance and public service value of the Amateur Radio Service. The deadline for nominations is December 10. Read more here.

+ Dayton Hamvention®: Nominations Sought for 2011 Dayton Hamvention Awards

The Dayton Hamvention® is accepting nominations for its 2011 awards. Do you know an outstanding amateur in your club, community or from on-the-air contacts? Does this person excel in some phase of Amateur Radio? Do you feel this person deserves worldwide recognition? Is there an Amateur Radio club that you know of that has an outstanding record of public service? All radio amateurs and Amateur Radio clubs are eligible. The deadline for nominations is January 15, 2011. The winners will be recognized at the 2011 Hamvention, May 20-22. Read more here.

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On the Air: ARRL Phone Sweepstakes This Weekend

ARRL Sweepstakes has been part of Amateur Radio in the US and Canada for more than 75 years. In 2010, the tradition continues with the 77th running of the best domestic contest in all of Amateur Radio: the Phone portion of the contest runs this weekend, from 2100 UTC Saturday, November 20 through 0300 UTC Monday, November 22. Read more here.

Hints & Kinks: Sealing PL-259 UHF Plugs and SO-239 UHF Connectors

Don Dorward, VA3DDN, of Pickering, Ontario, sent us this idea for seals for PL-259/SO-239 connectors . Contact Don via e-mail for more information.

The popular and low-cost PL-259 UHF plug and its mating SO-239 UHF connector were never designed to be waterproof. In spite of this, many of us find ourselves having to use these connectors out-of-doors for an antenna or cable connection and then have the experience of trying to apply some form of weatherproofing.

If this is not done, and done well, then intermittent connections soon result, especially with wet freezing and thawing conditions, resulting in moisture and corrosion getting into the connectors and even into the coax itself.

Place the O-ring(s) at the base of the SO-239 barrel and use the PL-259 coupling ring to compress them into a weather-tight seal.

One well-known solution is to use a bondable rubber tape wrapping. That often seems to work using one of the soft, moldable, stretchable tapes that are available for the purpose. In practice, I have found that the hardest area to seal effectively using this method is the area from the rim of the male PL-259 shell to the mating SO-239 socket face. This is especially true when the SO-239 socket is located partially inside the cowl of the antenna mount (such as the Solarcon/Antron vertical or other similar types) and it is impossible to get sealing tape up into this tight location.

To overcome this problem, simply slip as many tight fitting O-ring(s) over the SO-239 barrel (see Figure) as needed to fill the space between the base of the SO-239 and the coupling ring. Lubricate the O-rings with a generous amount of silicone grease, often sold in the automotive part stores as "dielectric tune-up grease."

Important: Check that when the mating PL-259 plug is installed and tightened down, the outer rim of the PL-259 shell butts up against and slightly compresses the "O"-ring(s). The "O"-rings I used were ones I had on hand, about 9/16 inch ID × 0.10 inch thick. I am sure anything that's a snug fit will work. Of course, you will still need to wrap the lower half of the PL-259 shell and the spot where the coax exits the connector with tape to seal that part.

Do you have an idea or a simple project that has improved your operating? Maybe you've taken something commonly found around the home and developed a ham radio use for it? Why not share your hints with fellow hams in "Hints and Kinks," a monthly column in QST. If we publish your hint, you will receive $20. Send your hints via e-mail to h&k(at)arrl(dot)org or to ARRL Headquarters, Attn: "Hints and Kinks," 225 Main St, Newington, CT 06111. Please include your name, call sign, complete mailing address, daytime telephone number and e-mail address.

ARRL Publications: ARRL Introduces Exam Review Software for Ham Radio Licensing

ARRL announced today that it will begin including practice examination software with all of its popular license manuals. "The first book to include the new bundled-in software is The ARRL Ham Radio License Manual -- used by tens of thousands of prospective hams as their first introduction to Amateur Radio," said ARRL Marketing Manager Bob Inderbitzen, NQ1R. "The book includes everything to prepare for a 'first' ham radio license -- the Technician class license. A CD-ROM tucked into the back of the book contains the new software, which we've named ARRL Exam Review. The software includes the complete examination question pool, plus short explanations of every question to help make sure you understand the answer." Read more here.

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+ New QuickStats Poll Now Available on ARRL Web Site

Three new poll questions have just been published on the QuickStats page on the ARRL Web site. Let your voice be heard!

Questions in this month's QuickStats poll include:

  • From an operator's point of view, have modern Amateur Radio transceivers become too complex?
  • Looking back over the last several years, do you think the amount of time you spend on the air has increased or decreased?
  • Which social media platforms do you use most often?

Visit the QuickStats page and be sure to bookmark it in your browser. Results from this QuickStats poll will be published in the February QST QuickStats page, located in the rear advertising section. Along with monthly poll results, QST QuickStats offers colorful charts and graphs that highlight interesting Amateur Radio statistics.

+ ARRL to Close in Observance of Thanksgiving Holiday

ARRL Headquarters will be closed November 25 and 26 in observance of Thanksgiving. There will be no W1AW bulletins or code practice transmissions those days. The ARRL Letter will be published a day early on Wednesday, November 24, but there will be no ARRL Audio News next week. ARRL Headquarters will reopen Monday, November 29 at 8 AM Eastern Standard Time. We wish everyone a safe and bountiful Thanksgiving holiday.

Solar Update

The Sun, as seen on Thursday, November 18, 2010 from NASA's SOHO Extreme Ultraviolet Imaging Telescope. This MDI (Michelson Doppler Imager) image was taken in the continuum near the Ni I 6768 Angstrom line. The most prominent features are the sunspots. This is very much how the Sun looks in the visible range of the spectrum.

Tad "The sky won't snow and the Sun won't shine" Cook, K7RA, reports: Five new sunspot groups appeared in the past eight days, and the average daily sunspot number for the November 11-17 period rose nearly 28 points to 60.9, compared to the week before. The average daily solar flux was up nearly four points to 87.9. The current forecast from NOAA/USAF shows a planetary A index of 5 on every day through the end of November, and the predicted solar flux on November 18-27 at 91, 90, 88, 86, 84, 84, 84, 84, 80 and 80. Conditions should be good during the ARRL Phone Sweepstakes this weekend. The latest predictions show continued solar activity with low geomagnetic activity levels. Look for more information on the ARRL Web site on Friday, November 19. For more information concerning radio propagation, visit the ARRL Technical Information Service Propagation page. This week's "Tad Cookism" is brought to you by The Eagles' Desperado.

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+ Silent Key: John Champa, K8OCL (SK)

John Champa, K8OCL (SK)

John Champa, K8OCL, of Richardson, Texas, passed away from complications of cancer on Friday, November 12. He was 66. An ARRL Life Member, Champa was the former Chairman of the ARRL HSMM (High Speed Multimedia) Working Group and Executive Vice President of AMSAT-NA. He was also the High Speed Multi-Media Radio Contributing Editor for CQ VHF Magazine. Champa did early work in Amateur Television (ATV) and later Amateur Digital Video (ADV). His recent focus was on PropNET, Automatic Packet Reporting (APRS) and GPS navigation systems, HSMM radio and HF digital modes. Read more here.

This Week on the Radio

This week:

  • November 19 -- YO International PSK31 Contest; QRP Fox Hunt
  • November 20 -- Feld Hell Sprint
  • November 20-21 -- LZ DX Contest; All Austrian 160 Meter Contest; RSGB Second 1.8 MHz Contest (CW)
  • November 20-22 -- ARRL Sweepstakes Contest (SSB); North American Collegiate ARC Championship (SSB)
  • November 21 -- EU PSK63 QSO Party; Homebrew and Oldtime Equipment Party
  • November 22 -- Run for the Bacon QRP Contest
  • November 24 -- SKCC Sprint; QRP Fox Hunt

Next week:

  • November 26 -- QRP Fox Hunt
  • November 27-28 -- CQ Worldwide DX Contest (CW)
  • December 1 -- QRP Fox Hunt
  • December 2 -- ARCI Topband Sprint

All dates, unless otherwise stated, are UTC. See the ARRL Contest Branch page, the ARRL Contest Update and the WA7BNM Contest Calendar for more info. Looking for a Special Event station? Be sure to check out the ARRL Special Event Stations Web page.

Upcoming ARRL Section, State and Division Conventions and Events

To find a hamfest or convention near you, click here.

ARRL -- Your One-Stop Resource for Amateur Radio News and Information

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The ARRL Letter

The ARRL Letter offers a weekly summary of essential news of interest to active amateurs that is available in advance of publication in QST, our official journal. The ARRL Letter strives to be timely, accurate, concise and readable.

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