Experiments, etc.

What hams are up to

We all like to hear what other hams are doing, and we'd love for you to share some of the fun projects you've been involved in, whether it's a new radio, new mode, antenna maintenance, or a crazy electronics project.  That's what the weekly round table discussion is for, but if you've got something noteworthy you'd like to share here too -- especially if you have pictures -- just email me the information.

2024-02-03 CARS Annual Mtg

The Cascade Amateur Radio Society held its annual meeting w/ breakfast today in Gladstone,OR.

2024 CARS officers:

2023-11-26 FCC 60m allocation proposal: comment deadline near

The USA has enjoyed a limited channelized 60m amateur allocation for a while now. The 2015 WRC established a small global allocation. Lately, the FCC has finally been considering how to incorporate that -- ignore it and keep things the same, get rid of our existing channels, or combine the plans. Also, the FCC currently proposes to reduce our allowed power to match the WRC's number -- not because the higher power has caused any problems in North America, but as far as I can tell, "just because..."

There are only two more days left to lobby the FCC on this issue. The ARRL has a page to make it easy for your voice to be heard:


PS: Here's my submission:

I appreciate the FCC's efforts to acknowledge the WRC's new 60m allocation, as well as the previous 60m allocation. As a ham operator and a member of the Civil Air Patrol, I've enjoyed access to the band both as an amateur and federal user, engaged in EmComm and other activities.  While the channelized plan has been very useful, I'm pleased to see the added flexibility of the new proposed sub-band.
I encourage you to maintain the current amateur channels outside the new sub-band if possible; they are well-known and and an established part of radio programs and Comm plans.  From my experience and discussions with others, the overlapped use (secondary for hams) has worked very well, providing a unique opportunity for collaboration between gov't & civilian operators.
I'm unaware of any problems caused federal users by the ham allocation. Hams are generally good both at recognizing their secondary status and at obeying the "minimum power required to maintain contact" principle. For these reasons -- plus the USA's large size, relatively low population density, and geographical separation from other nations -- I do not see a reason to reduce the allowed power from the existing 100W to the WRC's more conservative number, which was designed to be palatable to all countries. I think that maintaining the existing power limit and adding the additional amateur allocation will be decidedly beneficial to the US.

2023-04-16 KB7IFR, SK

With a little sadness but many fond memories, we announce this morning's passing of Terry Reams, KB7IFR, the father of Mercury Mount St. Helens and one of the original members of MARA NorthWest. Terry's been fighting the effects of numerous injuries and ailments the past few years, and for that we're glad to see him able to lose a bit of pain and regain some mobility, but will miss him greatly and sympathize with his sweet XYL Connie.

73, OM. Enjoy the DXpedition.

2023-04-01 Volunteerism

I (AD7UF) attended Cowlitz County's Volunteer Appreciation breakfast this morning (funded by the RIZAD foundation), representing the Civil Air Patrol and Cowlitz ACS, both groups being members of the Cowlitz SAR Council. It's always nice to connect with old friends, make new ones, and see a little more what some of the other groups have been up to. It was a good opportunity to talk a little more  to a few people about our club's AREDN project for Cowlitz & Columbia counties that we're seeking a grant for.

We took the opportunity to recognize (with an award) a person from each organization who had given outstanding service through the year. Some were "behind the scenes" folks that worked quietly.  It reminded me of all of the other people who selflessly give of their time to help others on a one-on-one basis or in a group. Some are in organizations that aren't big or wealthy or in the public spotlight; some are but quietly work to support others who get the credit.

Our society functions -- especially in times of exceptional need -- as well as it does not primarily because of mercenaries, but because of people who step up and do things simply because they need to be done, and they don't think themselves to be above the task.  They serve out of a sense of duty and self-worth, and compassion for others and a desire to better their world. Sometimes they stand out as lone leaders; sometimes they see someone else doing something and recognize that nobody has infinite time or energy, and they step in to assist.

I want to take this time to express gratitude for those I see serving, in this club and outside, as well as those who perform their work beyond my sight. I encourage every member of our group to pitch in and look for opportunities to help and to improve. Don't wait to be called, and when you are called, strive to magnify your service beyond what's expected. You may find it to be more rewarding than you think.

2023-03-18 Mt. Pleasant Repeater installed (testing)

We finally installed the 70cm repeater in its permanent home on Mt. Pleasant Thursday! After forgetting to put the radials back on the antenna before we raised it the last time, we returned today to accomplish that, dropping the mast enough to access it from the roof without having to unfasten things and tilt it over.  At present, it's set for narrowband, but I may ask to widen it back to 5kHz deviation. We're still testing and tweaking; I'll publish final usage parameters for it (and pictures) once we're done.

William installing radials on the antenna

2023-01-21 VHF Contest & CARS Mtg

The annual ARRL VHF Contest was a big event at the LCARA clubhouse this year, with an estimated 40 people in and out throughout the day.  It was great to see people. The club ran 3 stations most of the time.

AD7UF (Charles), KK7FNI (Jonathan), KK7FNJ (Kayliana), KK7FNK (Liliana), & KK7GME (Ariana) would've shown up, but spent more of the day than expected down in Tualatin at the annual CARS meeting -- helping cook breakfast and set up, attending, and debriefing. There was some concern that the COVID shutdown might yet prove to be the death of the club, but the meeting was a success and if indications are that 2023 is going to be a better year than 2022. Expect to see a tighter relationship between CARS & MMSH.

2023 CARS officers:

Committee Heads:

2022-11-28 Mt. Pleasant Tower erected

The concrete work was done, the tower base set, and today we hauled the main tower up and erected it.  Mother Nature somehow detected that we were doing antenna work; when we started on our journey the sun was shining and it was warm enough that I (Charles) left my jacket in the car, but by the time we got out of the truck it was hailing, and we endured more hail, sleet, and snow as we assembled the 40' tilt-up/crank-up tower.

Many thanks to those hams and non-hams who have assisted in getting us this far. We still need to bracket the tower to the eaves, I ordered the antenna and coax this evening, and we need to build inside before we install the rack, but we should have the repeater fully operational this winter.

Thanks to KSB for the truck & labor

So far so good


2022-06-03 Trees! grrrrr...

At least the mast and antenna mostly sprung back after we got the limbs off the guy lines! I still need to readjust the guys to take up the new slack.

2022-06-02 More New Hams

(and upgrades!)

The fruits of last Saturday's little exam session:

Boling, Steven      AI7NB    Amateur Extra
Boling, William     AI7ND    Amateur Extra
Jones, Talea        KF7CZA   General
Boling, Kayliana    KK7FNJ   General
Boling, Liliana     KK7FNK   General
Boling, Ariana      KK7GME   Technician
Eastwood, Elisabeth pending  Technician

2022-04-18 New Hams

Congratulations to Saturday's new/upgraded hams!

Ahrens, Robert     KK7FMZ   Technician
Cooley, William    KK7FNA   Technician
Eastwood, Kiera    KK7FNB   Technician
Eldredge, Elnathan KK7FNC   Technician
Ferrin, Brian      KK7FND   Technician
Garoutte, Douglas  KK7FNE   General
Godfrey, Timothy   KK7FNF   Technician
Healy, Richard     KK7FNG   Technician
Healy, Sean        KK7DSD   Extra
Kennington, Lester KK7FNH   Technician
Boling, Jonathan   KK7FNI   General
Boling, Kayliana   KK7FNJ   Technician
Boling, Liliana    KK7FNK   Technician
Boling, Steven     KK7FNL   General
Boling, William    KK7FNM   General

2022-04-11 What snow does to antennas

This month's record-breaking snow storm coated my antennas & guy lines w/ a thick layer. All was well until a tree branch fell and hit the top antenna. It didn't break it, but instead broke the wires that attached the pulley to the top of the mast (and apparently needed replaced) and dropped all 3 antennas down to where they were laying across the guys at a max height of 6'. It would be another two weeks (during which time I  continued to use them) before I found a few hours on a sunny day to collapse the mast and repair it.

How did I use the antennas? One mast used non-conductive rope instead of fence wire for guys. But even on the other mast, the aluminum fence wire that I used for the antennas (and the aluminum and steel wire for the guys) had enough oxidation that it fairly insulated the wires, preventing a short to ground. As a result, they worked surprisingly well!

2022-03-27 $35 FCC Fee starts Apr 19

We thought we'd get 180 days' notice, or at least 60, but no!

The FCC gave 26 days' notice, releasing a public notice on March 23 that the new application fee structure will take effect April 19th.

Beginning that date, all amateur license applications -- for new licenses or upgrades, will no longer be free, but will cost $35 each.  We have 3 weeks!

To reserve a seat in the exam session or in one of the license classes, to be kept apprised of class & exam info, or to ask questions, please email Charles Boling.

2022-03-21 ACS Simplex Test

Masen, KF7HVM, ran a simplex net after the normal Monday night ACS net. My reception log is below.

2022-03-21 ACS Simplex net RX rpt.pdf

2022-01-01 N7ETR featured in local magazine

Don Mitchell, N7ETR, the Vancouver Stk ECS and an active participant in area ERC nets, had a 3-page article written about him in the January issue of Vancouver Family Magazine. The headline's a bit odd (and pretentious), but the article's fine.

2021-12-08 SK: NU7D

With sadness I report the unexpected death of Randy Greeley, a long-time county volunteer who, as far as I can tell, is pretty much why Cowliltz ACS exists. He's put in countless hours, and aside from the practical effects of his loss, I will greatly miss his friendship.

I gave KF7JZN the news, and she started talking about how old he was, and hey, he's had a long life, and isn't it great that he didn't suffer a long painful battle with cancer, or Connie have to deal w/ years of dementia or something. I interrupted her and said "I don't care about any of that -- that's his problem -- I'm just mad that he's not going to be around anymore!" Isn't that funny, how if we're honest with ourselves, our emotional reaction to death is usually pretty selfish?

Randy's gone, but he hasn't left the group helpless. Other hams are capable and will have to step up to help fill his shoes. As always, I encourage active MMSH members to contribute their talents to ACS and other worthy organizations, not just MMSH, to broaden their ability to serve our communities.

2022-01-07 Update:

Here's an article about Randy from The Daily News. 

2012-12-02 Quick-n-Dirty VOIP remote base

using a PC softphone and SignaLink


It's been years since I've had an EchoLink node hooked up to my radio, and, shamefully, even longer since I first made a PC-radio interface and played with it hooked up to my PBX, (use this ugly version if the 1st link is broken) considering that I haven't done much new in the meantime. I just built an AllStarLink VM to play with, but since apparently app_rpt only works w/ specific hardware, not any ALSA device, it's not going to be hooked to the radio in the immediate future.

After 9 years, I didn't even remember doing what I described in the above link, so it felt like something new.  Anyway, I wanted a way to to get on the radio here while I'm on a trip later this month. I don't need to go the other direction -- initiate a phone call from the radio -- and I can use the SignaLink's built-in VOX, so I don't need anything special for radio control.

After looking around for simple VOIP software (and considering just using PulseAudio pipes, but wanted better performance over the Internet), I realized that I already had VOIP in the form of Asterisk (My smart phone runs Zoiper and is almost always connected to my home PBX when I'm out and about), so a soft phone client, running on my PC and set for auto-answer, would do the trick; all I had to do is configure it to use the SignaLink's mic/speaker devices.

I already had Zoiper running on my PC, but (1) I wanted to use it for regular calls, not hijack it for this, and (2) The unpaid version doesn't support auto-answer.  I don't have Ekiga installed on this machine, but I do have Linphone. Linphone doesn't appear to have an auto-answer option in the GUI, but has a command-line option to enable it.

I also didn't want to leave it running the whole time; I want to be able to launch it on demand from a terminal on my phone, use it, then disconnect it. Because Linphone is designed as a GUI app and doesn't have an option to disable it, it fails if you don't give it an X display (I'm running Linux) to run on.  Once I open an ssh terminal session from my phone, this command does the trick:

$ linphone -a --display=:1

At that point, all I need to do is pick up a phone (locally, or my smart phone) and dial the extension (either 72 or "ham-pc") that I assigned to Linphone, and after a warning ring on my PC's speaker, I'm connected to the radio. Use the mute button  so  I don't accidentally transmit, and I have 2-way radio communication! As expected, the kids got a kick out of being able to run around the house and have a conversation between a cordless phone and an HT.

2021-08-31 -  Google Sites is dead; Long live Google Sites!

Google "Classic Sites" officially retires tomorrow, so Mercury Mount St. Helens has moved to the new version of the web hosting platform.  Some features are gone (e.g. RSS feeds, automatic pagination of blog-style sections), some are about the same, and there are a few new capabilities to be used.  Nearly all of  content of the old site is still available, though slightly mangled in places.  Plans for new content and tools abound, so stick with us and watch the site grow.

Older posts (2010-07 -- 2021-08)

Old site

Old site (converted) -- ugly; use when the other link stops working.