My “Last” Comment

I’ve just approved for posting a second lengthy comment from Dave VE3JX who is discussing my recent comments about Radio Amateurs of Canada.

I want to thank Dave for taking the time and staying involved by commenting on what he thinks might prove helpful in reorganizing our national organization.

Having said that I have come to believe that both Dave and myself are wasting our time and energy on a problem that is well beyond our ability to solve.

Take the time to read Dave’s comments and I’d offer a few of my own here but don’t expect anything more from me on this topic.

So for my final comments and I’m following Dave’s excellent email comment here:

I believe our national organization has a mandate (at present unacknowledged by the leadership group) to represent the interests of all licensed Amateurs in Canada. RAC needs not be all things to all people Dave but it does need to step up. (Much in the same say a national leader represents all the people and not just those who elected him or her.)

While you seem incredulous that a director of our national organization would actually state that RAC represented the interests of only those Amateurs who had paid their dues, I was there and I heard the statement. This director (at the time) was not alone in holding this misguided sentiment. Current behaviour would seem to support my observation.

And as you say you can’t imagine any board members saying this but Dave there was so much that went on (and continued) at RAC that I couldn’t imagine that eventually I quit rather than be associated with some of the actions and thoughts of others.

You and I are in agreement about the dropping of non-members from the email alias system. It was a dumb idea but it was only one of what was seemingly like a bunch of dumb ideas (like having two fractured websites. Young people interpret bad websites and social media mistakes differently than we do. It doesn’t speak well of us.) that again continues to this day.

I’m going to skip much of what we agree upon in our collective wisdom :) but the Industry Canada angle to all this has yet to be explored and commented upon. I don’t have sufficient information to make a statement but…

Isn’t it interesting how Industry Canada has stepped back from its involvement with Amateur Radio? For example, unlike during my time we now have volunteer examiners (a good thing) instead of going to an IC office to take the dreaded test.

There is no longer a licensing fee collected when you’re issued your ticket and subsequently it appears that Industry Canada hasn’t got a clue about how many licensed Amateurs there are in Canada – dead or alive.

Of course I’m betting that IC would like to maintain a relationship with one national group that speaks for all Amateurs but we don’t have that right now in RAC (by our directors’s own words) and I suspect there’s some trepidation in IC about what I’m saying right now.

Are we having regular annual meetings with top IC officials and our RAC board or representatives? And if so, what is being said and agreed upon in our name? What’s the future plans?

We really should look into this arrangement between our licensor and our “national” organization. Something just doesn’t sit right with me. (Must be the old newspaper reporter creepy feeling sensor going off.)

When it comes to The Canadian Amateur (which I know from my experience as a national magazine editor is a first-class publication) I can’t see how we can continue to pay for production, print and mailing costs based on RAC’s failing membership.

TCA costs RAC tens of thousands of well-spent dollars (as a former editor I wouldn’t touch it for less than $1200 to $1500 an issue) and then add print and mailing and you get the picture) but it’s a value-added product to the RAC mix which includes so much more (representation to the Canadian government, IC, ARRL, RSGB, IARU and a whole bunch more).

I say keep the editor (who is doing a fabulous job) and offer TCA online for free with added WiKi possibilities for special interest groups to add their own information and let it be the draw that brings in new members based on the soundness of our arguments that we post to non-members. Get some video channels running and stand back as young people will flock to RAC coming from this new “maker” culture.

Dave, you and I are not the future of Amateur Radio. We’re barely part of its glorious past here in Canada :) The only way we’re going to attract young people (And here I mean potential Amateurs under the age of 50 let alone the kids – under 30) is to embrace new media like Facebook, Twitter, Vimeo, YouTube, Google Groups and a whole lot more fully and unequivocally.

The days of dry lengthy newsletters and print magazines in the mail are like the days of AM radio. Nostalgic and filled with the glories of days past but dead as a doornail to more than half our potential audience.

As to your comments about ARES we are in total agreement and it sounds like I’d enjoy being part of your ARES structure as I too believe that the power of ARES rests with the clubs and that we have way too many overly enthusiastic folks who want everyone to buy a yellow vest and pass rigorous training examinations.

The para-police model isn’t going to attract young people nor is it particularly helpful when ARES teams actually deploy.

I’ve been in (and out) of club-sponsored ARES groups since the mid-70s and in all the special events, parades, charitable fund-raising walks, searches for missing people, weather-related disasters the only training most got was on the job consisted of remember to bring a lunch, bottled water and rubber boots if there’s rain. If you’ve got a second battery bring it.

Finally Dave, you question my thoughts about a clean slate. I would agree with you but I part ways when we think RAC is a democratic institution. It is no more. Too many talented and well-meaning volunteers have quit or been thrown under the bus never to be seen again. And despite the turnover, the old ways persist.

And (finally and at long last) my final comment. I will not be running for any position in Radio Amateurs of Canada. Been there. Done that. Got the t-shirt.

The days of persuasion are long past when it comes to RAC as are the days of confrontation.

I’ve done what I could and said what needed saying and I am moving on.

Dave, VE3JX, has sent us a lengthy, thoughtful and welcomed reply to my last post: Whiners, complainers and do-nothingers and I’ve taken some time to reflect on it before replying to his points.

Dave suggests (read the reply yourself as I’m paraphrasing and leaving a lot out for brevity’s sake) I tone down my complaints about Radio Amateurs of Canada.

He’s right of course. What I should do is quit writing and walk away. It would be better for all concerned expect of course the future of Amateur Radio in Canada. Besides what RAC doesn’t get is they should treasure and embrace their critics as we are still engaged. Hundreds, no thousands of other Canadian Hams have just given up in frustration and have gone silent.

Dave suggests it might be better if I and people like me did something positive to help correct the problems that plague RAC and “start or continue a positive discussion.” It’s a nice idea but Dave, like many others, may not understand what’s wrong. So let’s begin another journey into the heart of darkness as I see it.

Dave makes some very nice comments about my time as the VP of PR for RAC and I do thank Dave for adding these words as I didn’t hear much praise when I was there. If fact, one guy continually went out of his way to protect anything that was in place regardless of how broken and actively resisted and sabotaged anything that was offered that was new. Social media efforts and John, HK3C’s CQ Canada initiative come to mind. Frustrating to say the least but the ability to work together obviously wasn’t one of the requirements of being on the RAC leadership team.

And that’s at the heart of the issue as far as I’m concerned. RAC is a dysfunctional organization because of the lack of a functional empowering leadership team that knows the difference between serving the members as opposed to governing them.

ARES is falling apart across Canada for exactly the same reason. And essentially it comes down to a lack of talent at the top which causes great frustration among all those other talented and dedicated volunteers who find their efforts are frustrated – even sabotaged at every turn and eventually just leave never to be heard of again.

Dave suggests a club of clubs concept might be the answer. I would caution that RAC is already being run as club where all none members just aren’t represented. If RAC is to be truly a national organization it has to represent all Canadian Amateur Radio operators whether they are members or not. This is essential.

Here’s what I’d suggest:

  1. RAC proclaim itself the national organization that represents ALL Canadian amateurs (and not as some board members have declared only paid-up members which is an organizational model which just isn’t working)
  2. Develop a vision and mission statement and post it and put deadline dates on it
  3. Develop a list of the top 10 actions to be taken in 2015 and form committees empowered to proceed
  4. Reestablish our relationship with Industry Canada
  5. Give away the excellent digital The Canadian Amateur online and drop the print edition. In this way we’ll attract many, many more new members as nobody bought a RAC membership just to get TCA
  6. Fix the damn website. It’s a disgrace and has been for a decade
  7. Put more energy into social media (Facebook and Twitter) to attract younger people
  8. Open a video channel and allow upload by Hams videos of meetings, workshops, product reviews, contest activity and special events
  9. Fix ARES by empowering the bottom-down approach (clubs lead the way)
  10. Start with a clean slate of board and executives

Now number 10 is the major impediment to implementing points one to nine. With the numbers of volunteers who are quitting RAC continuing unabated it may not be long before the organization just fails.

Then we can go back to the drawing board and starting with a new group of folks, have a look at what needs to be done to create a truly national organization that represents the interests of all Canadian Radio Amateurs and my work here will be done.

Whiners, Complainers and Do-Nothingers

It never fails to sadden me when I read or hear of some Amateur Radio “official” who upon retiring from his exalted volunteer position decries those who complain about those of us who dare complain about the state of Amateur Radio today.

What Sparky seems not to understand is those who complain are still engaged. It’s those who have given up and gone silent are the folks we should be concerned about.

But after many years of commenting, whining and complaining about the ineptitude of some and outright laziness of others “in charge”, I and many others, remain committed to creating a better future for Amateur Radio in Canada.

Now of course there are some very bright lights within our Amateur Radio community in Canada but the overall drag of having to deal with a dysfunctional organization makes it hard to see any progress or even hope.

And those who find themselves upset, might have been better purposed actually doing something rather than just taking up space or pretending that all is well and nothing needs fixing.

Men and women with integrity are leaving their posts at our national organization and our public service arm in droves. And I’m not talking about a handful, I mean a lot of good folks are leaving. Just check out the organizational charts of both groups. There are more vacancies in some cases than volunteers still on the job.

What does this movement away tell us?

It says that what we’ve got isn’t working. It’s time for a change.

I am hopeful that a new movement in Ontario to form a provincial organization finds its legs and gets going soon. And it can’t be soon enough for me and many like me.

It’s time for a change.

Captain of the Concordia

I’m sure our RAC president must be feeling a lot like the captain of the Italian luxury cruise liner The Concordia.

Having struck a rock a few meters off the coastline some months ago, the ship listed and sank with a large loss of life never to sail again. The captain was tried and found guilty of abandoning ship.

Poor Geoff Bawden must be asking himself when would be a good time to swim for shore when it comes to the good ship Radio Amateurs of Canada.

And I’ll be honest here, it’s not all (or even mostly) Geoff’s fault. I can remember the very early days when he assumed the helm. We had a long telephone conversation with me on my cellphone pulled off the highway and him in Manitoba.

I was already really really pissed with RAC and the hijinks of some of the people I found myself working with on the board and national executive. Somehow after talking with Geoff I managed to convince myself to stay on and see if I could help change the toxic working environment but I wasn’t able to hang in there and I quit.

And I am very glad now that I did quit.

A short scan of either RAC’s crumbling old website or the partially built, incomplete new site show vacant position after position in the RAC and ARES lists of volunteers.

Look there is a need for a national organization when it comes to dealing with Industry Canada (which rumours suggest are heavily invested in only dealing with one organization when it comes to Amateur Radio issues in Canada) and international interests like the International Amateur Radio Union and several other international governing and consultive bodies.

It’s time to build a new boat.

I used to work for the Ontario Electrical League and at one time I ran the headquarters office while the president was off on sick leave. We represented the interests of all the provincial electrical players. We were loosely affiliated with the Canadian Electrical Association which represented the big manufacturers and other big industrial interests.

Maybe that’s RAC’s future. Represent ALL Canadian Amateur Radio Operators to our national government and international partners. RAC could throw an annual conference leaving the day-to-day work to provincial associations. And ARES, which always has been a ground-up run organization might just survive and even thrive.

It wouldn’t be perfect but it would beat lying here on the bottom of the ocean waiting for rescue that never comes.

Oakville ARES Report

We’re approaching our second season of reorganizing and revitalizing our ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Service) here in Oakville and the future is looking bright.

ARES groups are formed at the local level and most often sponsored by individual clubs which can provide insurance protection for members. While there is some organization to ARES, almost all of the initiative and energy comes from the bottom and flows upwards.

This means at the local level your ARES group is open to any licensed Amateur Radio operator and clubs can make a decision about whether to insist that all members of their ARES group are also club members.

Here’s a link to a PDF from the Grey County ARES group that can provide some useful insight into ARES.

Normally it’s considered good practice to join the local club especially if you’re a regular user of the club’s assets such as the repeater system.

Here in Oakville we run a VHF and UHF repeater plus a new D-Star repeater. All this costs the club money in materials and insurance and we’re always appreciative of users who have enough self-awareness to chip in. Some do not and that’s unfortunate and costly to the club.

Whoever is representing the ARES group, called the Emergency Coordinator needs to be someone with sufficient communication skills to work with people.

It’s especially nice if they’re presentable and mentally stable. That’s not always been the case. (RAC has been having a fairly major breakdown of its ARES organizational structure with many key people leaving in frustration with the lack of leadership and vision within the organization and the anti-social behaviour of some of the participants.)

When it comes to your local EC it’s great if they’ve got some current business experience so they can make a good impression on municipal officials and fit into the municipal government environment as there’s going to be meetings. :)

What you want to avoid in your EC is someone who is impressed with the own title and but doesn’t get around to doing any of the work or providing any leadership. This has happened in the past and nothing gets done.

Being an EC isn’t real hard and most of us learned by doing as it isn’t rocket science and can actually be a lot of fun.

And it doesn’t take much to make an ARES group work either. A call-out tree of names and telephone numbers combined with attendance at a few community events and you’ve got more training than most.

The really eager beavers might even build their own quick response box (called a Go Box) so they can be ready at a moment’s notice if they get a call and take some first-aid training.

Here in  Oakville we’re proceeding with the installation of our MESH network which will help us expand our ability to provide communication services across the entire municipality.

The Burlington group is considering doing the same and there is some activity in the Mississauga and Peel clubs.

If you’re a licensed Radio Amateur or you want to become one and you live in or near Oakville, Ontario consider joining the Oakville Amateur Radio Club.

We meet on the second Tuesday of the month (no meeting in December as its our annual festive Christmas dinner) at Abbey Park Secondary School 1455 Glen Abbey Gate or join us every Saturday morning at 6:30 for breakfast at Cora’s restaurant on Dorval Drive north of the QEW.

 

Where Are We Now?

“Coming together is a beginning,

Keeping together is progress,

Working together is success.”

– Henry Ford

How sad that our national organization has failed to come together, keep together or work together.

It’s time to move on people.

Is there anyone in Ontario willing to take up the challenge?

Contest-Ready WetWare Neural Processor

Still not sure about those expensive SDR rigs for contesting especially contesting under noisy conditions?

Well Sparky I can sympathize remembering how long some of you held onto your 80-meter AM mobile rigs back in the 50s.20130625_201013

Now via our friend Mike, VA3MW, comes this information from Stu, K6TU, who posted a media release on the FlexRadio Systems online group about his cognitive processor bus interface for the FlexRadio 6700.

Read all about it here and get ready to see a big influx of contesters switching to Flex in the very near future.

This changes everything!

Field Day 2014 Results

Originally posted on The Oakville Amateur Radio Club Blog:

We came in fourth or maybe third in all Canada in our category of 2A out of 393 entries.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo why fourth or maybe third?OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In the QST listings VE7SAR and VA7SAR were two above above us with both having identical scores.

That seems wrong to my eye and if so, we came third in Canada and 38th overall.

We actually scored more QSOs (1597) but lost on points (6,1o8).

The VE7 scores were 1541 Qs but they got more points 6,256.

The winning Canadian team VE1FO scored 1997 Qs and 7,218 points.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo what can we do better in 2014?

First off we’ve got to do a better job at getting the bonus points up. That was my job last year and I could have done a better job.

Can we win first in Canada?We’d need to work 400 more Qs and score 1,110 more points.

I’m not…

View original 132 more words

Three Watts Heard Everywhere

Just for fun I fired up my CRK-10a  3-watt xtal-controlled pocket-sized transceiver and had the Reverse Beacon Network listen for VE3HG sending CQ.crk10a_front

This is what three watts can do into a loaded dipole at 16 meters. Not bad, now to fire up the one-watt NorCal 40 :)

The Oakville ARC is doing a group build of the tiny rig in the New Year so listen for more VE3s on 7030.

VE3HG-Screen Shot

HSMM MESH Link Established

(This post originally appeared today on the blog of the Oakville Amateur Radio Club.)

At last night’s excellent meeting of the Oakville Amateur Radio Club, Brian, VA3BCO gave a very-well received presentation on HSMM MESH Networking.

Here’s a link to his slides.

And we’re not talking theory here. Thanks to John, VA3BL our technical director and his team the Oakville Club’s MESH link went on the air earlier this week.

So what is HSMM MESH (and forgive me if I get this wrong)?IMG_0109

HSMM stands for high-speed multi-media. Found on the Amateur micro-wave frequencies that parallel commercial WiFi channels, it allows licensed Amateur Radio operators to create their own private, high power (we’re talking milliwatts to maybe a Watt or two), flexible, resilient, ad hoc Internet.

So when we say high-speed what are we talking about?

PSK/RTTY/HF Packet run 300 – 300 bps. Pactor III or IV go 3 to 10 kbps. D-Star which supports high-speed data hits 128 kbps. HSMM goes up to 54 mbps+.

This means HSMM can handle things like streaming video.

MESH technology would allow for file sharing, IRC chat applications, IP cameras (think the Santa Claus parade), VOIP phone connection even web browsing.  complete-overview-of-mesh-for-amateur-radio-updated-nov-2014-12-638complete-overview-of-mesh-for-amateur-radio-updated-nov-2014-23-638complete-overview-of-mesh-for-amateur-radio-updated-nov-2014-71-638complete-overview-of-mesh-for-amateur-radio-updated-nov-2014-74-638-2

The equipment is cheap as some old Linksys routers can be flashed to work on the Amateur frequencies and easily available commercial units from Ubiquiti which put the microwave transceiver at the antenna need only power (from a modified standard ethernet cable or a battery perhaps with a solar cell.

These units sell for as little as $56 to $100.

Software and directions how to flash the units are readily available on the Internet.

Practical applications for ARES work are endless. For the rest of us, joining an HSMM MESH network would neighbouring contest stations to share logging programs in real time allowing for M2 class operation. Control of a remote Amateur Radio station from your laptop would be easy and secure.

HSMM MESH offers Amateur Radio a super cheap, super reliant and tons of fun new way to communicate.

The biggest issue is you must be able to have line-of-sight view of another HSMM MESH station.

The easiest way around not having someone you can see is the club could setup remote, solar-powered MESH nodes on cooperative apartment buildings or police and fire stations thus extending the network across the town.

Again thanks to Brian who gave us the presentation last night.

We’re planning a second slightly more advanced presentation sometime in the new year that will focus on how to add applications such as IP cameras to our MESH network.

Stay tuned :)