Episode 331 - Michelle Thompson - W5NYV
QSO Today Episode 331 Michelle Thompson W5NYV.
This episode of QSO Today is sponsored by ICOM America, makers of the finest HF, VHF and UHF transceivers and accessories for the radio amateur, reminding you to check out their new IC 705 all band portable transceiver and their new ID 52A dual band portable. My thanks to ICOM America for their continued support of the QSO Today podcast.
Welcome to the QSO Today podcast, I'm Eric Guth 4Z1UG, your host. Flex Radio is one of the two Platinum sponsors of the upcoming QSO Today virtual Ham Expo that will return in March 2021. Please check out the link on this week's show notes page for more information. We'll be opening ticketing and registration in January.
Michelle Thompson W5NYV is a third generation amateur, beginning her ham radio journey in elementary school. Her interest in microwave circuit design in computers led her to a successful engineering career. And now as a board member of AMSAT, Michelle is an advocate for open source applied to satellite design, fueling future generations of amateur radio spacecraft. W5NYV is my QSO Today.
W5NYV, this is Eric 4X1UG, Are you there Michelle?
Michelle, W5NYV 1:27
Greetings, Eric. This is Michelle.
Eric, 4Z1UG: 1:30
Michelle, thanks for joining me on the QSO Today podcast. Can we start at the beginning of your ham radio story? When and how did it start for you?
Sure. I am extremely fortunate. I'm a third generation ham. My mother, father, my mother's father, and many other relatives were all amateur radio operators. And I now have my grandfather's call sign W5NYV. But I was first licensed A long time ago as KC5KYO, I was pretty young. I took the test in St. Louis while visiting my dad. And the exam was actually sprung on me as a surprise. My dad was all Hey, I've been studying off and on for this a while. Why not just take it this weekend. That was galvanized, I stayed up way too late cramming with my dog eared license manual the night before, I might have seen the early minutes of 10pm before falling asleep. And I remember the next morning pretty early there were folding tables and a big sunny room and really nice volunteer examiners. And they treated me like a big person. This was a great start.
Eric, 4Z1UG: 2:40
How old were you when you got your first license?
I was pretty young. I don't remember exactly how old I was. This would have been elementary school. I could have been 10. That sounds about right. I don't think I was any younger. Because I was a stubborn child and did not like sitting still for very long. The biggest impediment to to getting my license was learning the code. So this was something that I resisted and honestly resented. And the way that I got around this was my dad made me a code oscillator of my very own. This was a custom box circuit just for me, that did the trick. But up until then, quite stubborn about about the code. So think about ten.
Did you have siblings who also had an interest in ham radio?
I have a younger sister who was absolutely not interested in any way shape or form. Circuits were not her thing, and could not have been any more different from my beloved sister. But, so no, unfortunately she did not take advantage of the ham radio lifestyle that we had.
Eric, 4Z1UG: 3:55
And what did you do? What was the first radio?
Oh, my first radio! Now as a present. I got an Alinco HT. And maybe a DJ Delta Juliet. And I used it as a present for passing the exam. I used it until it fell apart. But I started building circuits to interface to computer audio cards. And I did that almost exclusively for years. So my first rig was whatever circuit was currently working, and whatever PC was available. And I was interested in digital modes from the beginning and gravitated sort of right away to microwave. And that's where I hit a really big roadblock. So microwave circuits at the time, were either clunky, dirty, broken surplus or really expensive. And in both cases, it was kind of hard to get a mentor. The books weren't really helpful to me. Kind of still too young didn't have the math background to understand at all. And there wasn't much to bridge the gap. So it took quite a while to get my first real actual rig. So I would say that that first rig would had to have been the Icom IC-756 Pro II. And actually, I think I had a pro one, the first version and then upgraded to the pro two when it came out. And that was my go to transceiver. And I used it up until very recently, when I replaced it with a Flex. And then the Flex is remote it on a local mountain. And that's my rig now. Now I have like I still have HT's and kept HT's all along, but I don't really consider them to be a rig. They are. I guess it may be somewhat controversial to say that they're not a rig, because they're real radios. And the modern ones are incredibly capable. And you can do so much with them. But I have a D-Star and I have a Yaesu and, DMR HTs all over the place. But as far as like an HF rig,
Eric, 4Z1UG: 5:59
So why do you have all of these portable radios? Do you use them for various kinds of projects, they do interface to them?
Yes, when possible, some modern radios are trickier to interface to than the others. The reason that I have so many of the digital handsets is because digital microwaves, software defined radio, digital signal processing, and cognitive radios, the vast majority of of what I do as an amateur operator and experimenter. And in order to build or to construct, to design, to use a digital mode, you you need to have a really good understanding of what's come before what other people what companies, what products have, are out there. And in order to say, okay, where does this fall short? What compromises were made in this particular design? What's the next step, you know, older digital radios, they can really give you an amazing snapshot or core sample of regulatory, you know, advances over the years, and also engineering advances, the things that we can do now, it's amazing, there's never been a better time to do microwave and digital, where we are awash in inexpensive parts, powerful computers, really capable software. You know, so having those radios and learning how to use them and figuring figuring them out studying the the protocols and the design decisions inform you as an experimenter. So that's why I have those.
Well, let's go back to your childhood a little bit. Where did you grow up?
I grew up mainly in Little Rock, Arkansas. That's where I spent most of my childhood. I spent some time in Austin some time in St. Louis. I don't remember my time growing up as a very small child in North Dakota. That's where I was born. I've spent my adult life in San Diego, San Diego, California.
Eric, 4Z1UG: 7:58
So you're this nerdy kind of kid that loves to interface circuits, right? Ham radio operator around the age of 10. What kind of peers did you have in those days?
Oh, that's a really good question. I had one or two other friends who also got their ham license. And this would have been like maybe middle school and high school. But hardly any peers at all. It was the, people that I primarily interacted with, before the internet, were very occasional visits to the local ham radio club, and books. So my peers were people that wrote me articles, and wrote me books, a lot of which wasn't really easily accessible until I got more math. But, you know, the internet completely changed everything, the ability to talk to people that have, you know, at the time of pretty rare on the ground, then on the ground interest with microwave and digital circuits, that things really changed with the ease of communication through the internet. But before then, it was primarily written word.
Eric, 4Z1UG: 9:07
Were you an early adopter of computer hardware, then?
Yes, that was just another hallmark of my family of origin. So the household I grew up in; my mother's a computer programmer by trade, and my dad, an engineer, all sorts of other relatives were either engineers or in science of some sort. So computers were in our household and learning how to code, I would say was, was relatively easy for me. The Scholastic Book Club routinely had, here's a coding game manual. Here's an adventure that you code into your Vic 20 we had a Vic 20 Commodore VIC 20. And, you know, you fire it up and there's the cursor ready with a basic prompt, and off you go. It's you type it in, you learn the hard way. way that it's easy to make a mistake and you learn, or some of us haven't have yet to learn that yelling at the computer doesn't change its mind. You know. So that's, that's how computing to me was just something that was in every household. And it wasn't until much later that I realized that this was an enormous privilege. And somewhat rare that being being comfortable with computing, and being an early adopter of technology, in general, that's a somewhat rare thing. A lot of households hide away the technology, or it's reserved for work or, you know, not not considered cool. But all of our technology, or amateur radio activities were spread out all over the house. And that's how that's how my household currently, is. I'm very fortunate to have a supportive family. And we're also a lot of engineers in the family. And that seems to make a big difference. It allows you to learn, adopt, and to take the time to make mistakes, and just get the seat time in order to be able to do this sort of stuff.
Eric, 4Z1UG: 11:05
Were you on the air in those days? Or were you mostly an experimenter that used your license as a way to confirm that what you were doing was working.
The latter. My operations on the air are infrequent, usually it's to confirm that something worked. And then on to the next big challenge with with one big exception, one of the major influences in in my ham life was the Southern California contest club. They were the ones that encouraged me to go ahead and get an extra class license, why in the world are you stuck at technician, And oh, by the way, contest is fun. I'm like contesting? And they got me completely hooked on contests. So if you look at all my operations, it's either a contest or a DXpedition. Or it's the last part of a lab demo to prove something works. And then and then go on to the next difficult challenge. But general operations like rag chewing, very, very rare, almost never.
Eric, 4Z1UG: 12:08
So it would be safe to say that ham radio influenced your choices that you made for your education career. What did you do for your education? And where did your career go?
It was an enormous influence. Amateur Radio is responsible for me discovering a vocation of engineering. So I'd be an engineer, regardless of what I was paid to do. It's just part of my identity. When I was able to choose education after high school, I chose engineering. And I got an engineering double major as a electronics and computer couldn't make up my mind. And it looked, and it was actually not too many extra classes. And then looked around for an engineering job. And this was in Little Rock, Arkansas. And I had some interesting experiences, interviewing. And I found a lead on a job in San Diego to a company called Qualcomm. And so I took a shot, rolled the dice and did an interview and led to another interview led to a visit on site interviews, and I was offered a job. And now I had to move that was a big deal. From there, amateur radio was embraced and supported at Qualcomm, most of the leadership that I worked with and under were amateur radio operators, and a lot of us, that's how we became engineers. And it was fantastic. It made a huge difference to me. And from there, I got a master's degree in information theory, and would not have been able to get that advanced degree without amateur radio leading me to a company that was so supportive of continuing education. So huge influence.
Eric, 4Z1UG: 13:57
Where did you go to school? Where did you get the bachelor's?
The University of Arkansas, Little Rock is where I got my bachelor's in engineering technology. And then my master's degree is from USC, University of Southern California.
Eric, 4Z1UG: 14:10
You said a little bit earlier that was very interesting, trying to find an engineering job in Little Rock, Arkansas. Your family lived in Little Rock and they were engineers. What was the engineering basis in Little Rock?
There were several large engineering presence there from the the phone company. So that was a major employer of communications, electrical engineers, some civil engineers and some mechanical engineers. So you could you could work for the phone company. AT&T had a facility there where they absorbed some engineers we had Alltel, which was a cellular company. But that was a little bit rickety. I worked while I was in Little Rock, I worked at a software company that made API's for networking. And so I did a little bit of absolutely everything. As a very small company, so lots of smaller companies and some contractors a lot, some military industrial contractors. But you know, it's not a very large city. And if you want to have a career in say, you know, communications, and you don't want to work for a large Bell System phone company, then your options are limited. You can try to do your own startup, but startups are hard, even when you have, you know, a metropolitan area with lots of potential employees and lots of funding, you know, so I've tried a bunch of different things. It was exciting times, I really enjoyed working for the small company, small software company. But the move to San Diego even though it was scary, was the right one. That's the sort of scene in a lot of midsize and smaller cities across the United States is that your your options are a few larger places, and then startups or smaller companies with with some instability.
Eric, 4Z1UG: 16:01
Now, where did you go after Qualcomm? Because I understand that you're not there at Qualcomm anymore, but you're still in San Diego.
Oh yes, I was able to retire from from Qualcomm, I worked in digital hardware, I worked in on global star and then worked for Kyocera, and then was able to retire. So after that, I decided that I would do volunteering, or, you know, startups that I would that I would give it a shot. And and that's been the adventure ever since. So I was able to retire in 2001 and have been contributing to either doing contracting and contributing to projects through paid work or volunteering in primarily amateur radio but also in the wider open source communities ever since.
Eric, 4Z1UG: 16:56
And now this message from ICOM America. Ham for the holidays, ICOM's new ID 52A and IC 705 give hours of fun and enjoyment working your favorite bands this holiday season. ICOM's newest handheld amateur radio is the ID 52A. The ID 52A is a larger radio with a larger color display and louder audio. This VHF UHF digital transceiver is much more than a replacement for the ID 51A, but it also is a new way of communicating. The color display is 2.3 inches for exceptional view-ability and the audio is 80% louder. This multi-function dual band D-star transceiver supports DR mode for easy access to local repeaters based on internal GPS information as well as terminal access point modes. The ID 52A has Bluetooth for audio and data control, providing improved mobility and control. And for the first time in amateur radio industry, you can now send photos from a connected Android device. Other features include wide-band receiver with guaranteed ranges of 144 to 148 megahertz and 440 to 450 megahertz. It has a VV, UU, VU and dual DV mode, integrated GPS receiver including grid square location, micro SD card slot, micro USB for data transfer programming and charging. And it's IPX7 waterproof the ID 52A is the perfect companion to the IC 705 both use compatible batteries and headsets. And you can also use the same Android app for D-Star operation. The IC 705 is the perfect sidekick to the ID 52A for hams that like to enjoy what both the great indoors and outdoors have to offer. This is the perfect QRP companion base station features and functionality at the tip of your fingers in a portable package covering HF, six meters, two meters, 70 centimeters. This compact rig weighs in at just over two pounds with RF direct sampling for most of the HF band and IF sampling for frequencies above 25 megahertz. Other features include 4.3 inch touchscreen with live band scope and waterfall. Five watts out with a BP 272 battery pack and 10 watts with 13.8 volts DC supplied. Single side-band, CW, AM, FM as well as full D-Star functions, touchscreen display, micro USB connector, Bluetooth and wireless LAN, integrated GPS with antenna and GPS logger, micro SD card slot, speaker, and microphone. The HM 243 come standard. Supports QRP and QRPp operations. The perfect accessory for the IC 705 is of course the optional backpacks. LC 192 with a special compartment for your IC 705 and room for accessories for SOTA activations, or a day of social distancing in the park, the IC 705 is now shipping. Follow the link in the ICOM banner ad in this week's show notes or go to www.IcomAmerica.com/amateur for more information on these fine rigs. My thanks to ICOM America for sponsorship of the USA Today podcast.
And now back to our QSO. So you mentioned that you also do some work with rural phone companies?
Yeah, my one paid salary job is as an executive for the phone company in Smithville, Mississippi. So “Sniffle” telephone, and Trace-route incorporated is the other name, that job consists mainly of deciding how to best deliver telecommunication services to rural Mississippi. And there's an awful lot of challenges here, it's very rewarding. And you and you get a chance to directly confront some extremely important social, educational, and public service issues. Now, the downside of this is that the majority of your work is dealing with FCC regulations navigating the relationship with the FCC. And this is a small independent phone company. And that means that you're somewhat out of step with with a lot of the focus of regulatory law, which is aimed at helping supporting much larger companies. Most people assume that the telephone system is just all large companies, and it's really not. There's a large number of independent small phone companies out there like ours. And so, it's a rewarding job. But it's difficult. And there's all sorts of competition over the many decades that the company has been in existence in the family for decades. There's been, you can just see the rise and fall of all sorts of different technologies. And you know, everything from if we were affected by the broadband over power line, that was a, something that a lot of amateur radio operators will be familiar with that was perceived as quite a threat to some of the HF bands because of potential for interference. You know, we encountered the rise and fall of BPL, and cable companies, providing telecommunication services, cellular companies, and now satellite companies providing telecommunications services. So all of this is in the history of that particular company and job.
Eric, 4Z1UG: 22:44
Were all those technologies in that company, or was this company trying to just maintain regular telephone service plain old telephone service?
Exactly, the plain old telephone service with broadband over fiber. We applied for and got a grant for fiber to the home. And we put it in and that is, that's actually the probably the most significant part of the business. Now, the plain old telephone system is still totally up and running. But you can see the migration even in especially in rural areas towards broadband serving telecommunications needs, either in addition to or replacing plain old telephone service.
Eric, 4Z1UG: 23:29
Now, are you guys using BPL power-line carrier for your really long runs out on a say a rural road?
No, we aren't, for the deployment of the services it's fiber outside of the one major town that we serve. So copper inside the town for in general and fiber outside.
Eric, 4Z1UG: 23:52
So rural customers could actually have fiber almost all the way to their property line, all the way to the house?
That's right, in our service area, you can have fiber.
Eric, 4Z1UG: 24:02
What does Elan Musk's Starlink look like out there to a company like the telephone company that you work for?
Well, you you have to look at it and evaluate it. Well, yes, there are some costs as far as we can tell, if a customer wants to use Starlink and say, Okay, we're gonna stop terrestrial telephony and use Starlink then the initial costs, at least right now are are looking like they're pretty high. And but it is a real, it's going to be a real competition for especially for rural providers like us, because in urbanized areas Starlink really isn't much of a competition, you can get a cheaper service still just dressed really. But for, you know, under-served areas, which is what Starlink really pitches and what they what they specifically address, I think we would probably be considered as a rural area under-served, and it's going to be going to continue to be rural competition. So you have to adjust to the market, whatever the market brings to you.
Eric, 4Z1UG: 25:12
These are interesting times, aren't they?
Very interesting times exceptionally interesting times, yes, the biggest current thing is that the power companies, not broadband over power, the way that we knew it before, but Power Co Ops, getting into the phone business and getting a large amount of money subsidies to to compete with traditional phone companies. So that's yet another area of rapid change and new markets and new products and new pricing schemes, and you have to keep up.
Eric, 4Z1UG: 25:46
Right, they own right of ways, exactly. Either on power poles or transmission towers, so they can easily deploy even wired services, which is quite interesting. Let me ask you, you mentioned earlier that your current rig is a Flex radio operating on a mountaintop. Talk a little bit about that what you got going there?
Oh, sure. That was a collaboration, my dad and I figured out how to how to deploy a Flex remotely. And it's managed by a web outlet. So if you can imagine a strip of outlets, that you have, you know, probably in your house to expand your outlet covers. And instead of just being outlets, it's also controlled over the web. So you log in over the Internet, and you can turn the outlets on and off. And so that's kind of the core of this particular deployment. It may not be as slick as or sophisticated to some other ones, but it works really reliably, add in a few relays. And I am able to turn off and on the antenna have a large loop antenna. And I'm able to manage the tuner and and then the radio itself. What I decided to do is is go with the Flex's service, so they have a smart link. And that has worked really pretty well. There are some other ways to set up your remote Flex radio, but but that's what I rely on on their their particular service. Where this has some drawbacks is especially with some of the digital modes, and for example, like getting SSTV or images, any image data is that you can see changes in latency. So delays show up as the image being skewed. So to me, it's like well, that's kind of cool. You know, I don't mind very much. But that's one of the penalties for having this system remote. That penalty is so far outweighed by the radio quiet. The noise floor is very, very low up on a mountain in East County, San Diego. It's quite good. And to me, it's completely worth it to be able to hear things. So this simply cannot here in San Diego.
Eric, 4Z1UG: 28:05
So you have a commercial building out there or a cabin, something like that out there.
Yeah, it's a small cabin.
Eric, 4Z1UG: 28:11
And you say east of San Diego east of El Cajon perhaps?
Cracked. It's on Palomar Mountain.
Eric, 4Z1UG: 28:18
Do you belong to the amateur radio club in San Diego?
I do! I belong to several. I am a member of the Palomar amateur radio club which which meets in San Diego and not on Palomar Mountain. I'm the trustee for the repeater system that we have which is on Palomar Mountain just a little ways up from from my place. And that's a general interest club and has been around since 1936. So totally fine. The clubs or organizations the communities that I'm part of that have been hugely influential for me as an experimenter have been the San Diego microwave group and the San Bernardino microwave society, which is a bit more of a drive for me. The San Diego microwave group is in town and enormous amount of mentor-ship and support from them. And San Bernardino micro society meets up in Corona in Los Angeles.
Eric, 4Z1UG: 29:13
I used to belong to the El Cajon amateur radio club.
I'm familiar with that. I've been to several of their meetings,
Eric, 4Z1UG: 29:19
I think 1972. So it was a long time ago, the web based switches that you're using in your remote Flex radio, are those made by Data Probe or someone like that?
Yeah, yeah, I'd have to look up the brand name that I got that, yes, that would be an equivalent product.
Eric, 4Z1UG: 29:37
For those people who put something out remotely and then all of a sudden your DSL router or your cable modem needs to be rebooted. They've got a cute little product for seeing that Google is no longer pinging and then rebooting the devices there.
That is actually a critical part of most of these remote setups, is being able to reboot your router because things get hung, things get wedged. And so being able to remotely reboot, everything is just so nice, it's really kind of necessary. Otherwise, you're going to have to go up there in person. For me, it's like a 90 minute drive one way. So it's expensive, in terms of time to go out there and fix everything. And when you do, roll out a system, deploy it and set it up, there's always going to be some back and forth, you know, that it's almost always you need to have a way to reboot everything. Another way that people do this is to set up a VPN, like they have a computer, a PC, and then you know, have a network that they can log into, and it's as if they're sitting right there. And, you know, go with it, if that's the way that you would like to do it, there's nothing wrong with that. You know, there's more than one way to remote one of these radios. And there's several other services that are over the web. So instead of Smartlink, you can you can also, you know, set it up over either a custom or any number of the other services. So there's several ways to defeat this. But in every case, having your router easily reset-able. Well, yeah, big thumbs up.
Eric, 4Z1UG: 31:18
I also use a Christmas tree light timer, 24 hour clock with one of the teeth set at like three in the morning. If I lose the router, at least I know it will come back the next day.
Yes, that's the equivalent of a watchdog timer in software and hardware control. Where, if you never see the tick, then you know that something has gone wrong. This is a huge time honored tradition and very, very important for high reliability, electronics and things like satellite projects where you can't go over and reset it.
Eric, 4Z1UG: 31:53
I also use the data probe High Boot. Have you ever heard of that device?
No, tell me about it.
Eric, 4Z1UG: 31:58
So you plug it into your router or it listens to WiFi. And it has an AC plug on it. And it sits there and it pings Google or whatever you put into it, it pings it and when it stops seeing the pings, it waits for a minute or so and then it will turn the power off to the devices that are plugged into it like the router. And then it'll bring the power back up. And it'll wait and it'll start pinging again to see whether or not it was successful in restoring the router to service.
Eric, 4Z1UG: 32:26
Yes, I'll put a link to that in the show notes page. Michelle, you're the co founder of the open Research Institute along with Ben Hilburn and Bruce Parens, Bruce Parens was my guest in Episode 15 of the QSO Today podcast over six years ago. What is the open Research Institute?
Oh yes, we are a nonprofit 501c(3) registered in the US. And we do open source research and development for amateur radio and beyond. So our mission is to increase the number of hardware and software solutions that are free and open source, open access so that amateur radio can have the most advanced designs possible. And we have made a lot of progress here. Our main focus is amateur radio satellite service. So transponders and ground stations have lines and protocols, free protocols, open protocols implemented and given away for free for anybody to use, reuse, copy, and take and learn from. And so that's our main focus the transponder, the multiple user access system that we have is also appropriate for terrestrial deployment. So you can you can use this radio system terrestrially as a microwave, amateur radio system or with some additional engineering and some careful engineering, you can turn this central node the transponder into a payload and put it into orbit. And so we are working on both of those efforts right now.
Eric, 4Z1UG: 34:04
So a guy like me, goes to your institute online, finds a project and I want to build a payload that goes on a satellite. How do I do that? How does a guy like me who may not have access to satellites?
How would you? Well, you would, you would be able to participate usually in a team. And there are many of them out there. There are a lot of universities that are doing this sort of work. And a lot of them use amateur projects and amateur technology and amateur operators as either mentors or volunteers. Many universities the students end up getting amateur radio licenses and supporting the amateur radio satellite service. So that's one way to do it. Another way to do it is to join any one of the organizations that do amateur radio satellite service work, though that would be any of the many AMSAT organizations around the world. You know, there they are all over and doing all sorts of amazing work. Or you join up a project hosted by Lieber Space Foundation, or Open Research Institute. or start, you could start your own.
Eric, 4Z1UG: 35:22
Let me take a quick break to tell you about my favorite amateur radio audio podcast. And that's the Ham Radio Workbench podcast with George KJ6VU, Jeremy KF7IJZ, and now includes Michael Walker VA3MW, where they pursue topics Technology and Projects on their Ham Radio Workbenches. Every two weeks, the group documents their projects and make circuit boards available to their listeners. They have interesting guests and go in deep, Jeremy may complain about the overall length of the podcast. But friends, let me tell you that I could listen to it all day. And that's good. Even if you are a seasoned ham radio builder or just getting started, be sure to join George, Jeremy and Mike now for the Ham Radio Workbench podcast on every podcast player, use the link on this week's show notes page by clicking on the image. And now back to our QSO Today.
I have kind of a vague familiarity with AMSAT mostly what I learned from QST or from reading online. But what you're saying is that there are other organizations that also launch scientific payloads that aren't NASA based into space.
Yes, there has been an enormous increase in the number of launches payloads activity. A lot of this that you see in the press is the emphasis is on the commercial, huge, very large constellations that have been proposed, such as Starlink, we were talking about before. There's also one web and Amazon has a big project. And so but that's not the whole story there, there's a large uptick in educational and scientific missions, because the, for a lot of different reasons. You know, we're taking full advantage of huge steps forward in technology, component technology, the availability of parts, you know, the, the ease of some of the software used to make some of this stuff has gotten easier over time. And it's just a very large increase in launch capacity that we've seen, and prices have come down. And there's a new space race going on right now. Now, this poses some challenges, especially to amateur radio, because, wow, you know, it used to be a long time ago a lot easier for an amateur radio payload to get into space. We've had difficulty over the years, we went through kind of a drought in most of the 80s and 90s. With it being very expensive and difficult the industrialization, it was only big companies that were doing space that is changed. And amateur radio really has such a great opportunity to take advantage of the sort of the new space race. This does mean that we will have to comply with a new set of regulations, several new sets of regulations from from the FCC, which regulates satellite technology, licenses, satellites. The biggest is debris mitigation. So the requirements are you can't explode or cause an explosion caused a collision that you have to prove that you've taken extra steps to make sure that you don't end up being space junk. And that means that you have to have attitude control. And it means that you have to have some sort of form of propulsion. For a lot of amateur and educational missions, they are very small CubeSat that are very relatively low in altitude. And they tumble, they don't have propulsion or attitude control. Adding that to a small payload done by a team of volunteers is a is a substantial additional costs in both money, you know, complexity, and also time testing, you know, it can it can threaten to put missions entirely out of the reach of many schools, and many scientific outfits and amateurs. However, we have got a really, really good tool. And that's open source. So there's a large variety of open source projects and R&D, which is why open Research Institute was founded to do research and development, basic research to support more capable payloads and to give these designs away for free. So that reduces some costs. Not all of them, but it puts the most advanced required technology To comply with the new regulatory environment that we are being faced with, it puts it into the hands of amateurs and educators. So that's an exciting part of the mission. It's also daunting, because we are still in the very early stages of open source propulsion. It's either open source propulsion works, or you have to spend six figures on on a motor. So that's kind of how it is. It's exciting, huge challenge, we're up to the challenge. We're making progress. And we will be able to be a full partner in space. The goal for me and a lot of other people out there that are active in amateur radio satellites, is to to participate not just at the very lowest LEO orbits where we may get an exception to these rules, but to participate in all of them, including GEO, geosynchronous geostationary interplanetary, lunar high, high orbits, to open that up completely to amateur radio using using open source as leverage.
Eric, 4Z1UG: 41:11
You know, here in this hemisphere, and I'm in Israel, we have the S Hale satellite, which is a geosynchronous satellite that has an amateur radio transponder in it. What is the plan for geosynchronous in the American hemisphere,
I could speak very positively about Q0-100, which is the Es’hail 2 / QO-100 satellite you're talking about (https://amsat-uk.org/satellites/geo/eshail-2/). And it's been a fantastic thing to watch happen. That was the first amateur GEO payload in orbit, a huge success that has sparked an enormous amount of really, truly wonderful engineering and amateur activity. And yeah, it is not visible from North America. So there's been several proposals for and at least one project that I that I know about, because it's an open Research Institute project. So it's a “6U”, the size of the payload, it's a 6-UGO project. And the area focus is the transponder that I talked about earlier. So the communications payload is our first priority. And we've started structural and thermal work with really wonderful volunteers and have enough funding to be able to do engineering models. So the you know, as as time goes on, that you'll see more and more demonstrations of the various pieces. As they come together. I know and have encouraged and spoken up about AMSAT, North America getting more involved with open source and more involved with GEO, specifically GEO and higher Earth orbit packages. So they have a plan for for high Earth orbit. It's about as of last October, this past October at the symposium about six or seven years out, hopefully we can pull that in make it happen a little faster. So that's, that's at least one other large body of work that's been going on in order to get back to higher orbits. And then there's other projects from universities that use amateur radio and then have to offer amateur radio payloads and some of those have targeted higher than than LEO, but the vast majority of them are still low Earth orbit. So that's some of the some of the plans. We had a proposal to rent transponder time on an Echostar. We got a great deal from a Echostar satellite that was at end of life. And the plan was to, Well, we'll go ahead and and put amateur radio and open source content programming on this channel. And since the frequencies are receiving it are very, very close to the 10 gigahertz down-link band that we could spark some ground stations design and build like we are seeing in QO-100 footprint. So we have not gotten funding for that yet. But we are we're still trying and getting a lot of feedback. It's a series of compromises. It benefits amateur radio operations by people building modern communications gear for modern digital down-links. You know, but it's not. The up-link is tricky. So it's not in the amateur bands. And that's the big impediment for that particular proposal.
Eric, 4Z1UG: 44:35
You're anticipating my questions, because I was going to ask you if there was an opportunity to re-task existing geosynchronous satellites for Amateur Radio Service, especially ones that are close to end of life. So Echostar is one of those. Are there any others?
Yes, we came so close to being part of a geosynchronous project that was going to go up. So that's another place where we are actively as a community trying to get amateur equipment on. It's not make the whole satellite but find somebody else going out and say, Hey, could we please be a hosted payload like this, can you stick our box on the side, here, our antennas won't bother you too much. Now, in order to pull this off, you have to go through an extensive engineering review with whoever is the primary payload. And a couple years ago, we got all the way through the engineering, with a wide field of view from project from the US Air Force, then the primary payload was delayed three times. And eventually, they figured out that amateurs had stuck to the side of it, and they want it wanted more money, and less years of life. So unfortunately, we missed out on that it was just too few years of operation, too many additional fees, and too long of a delay. But those opportunities, you work, you network, you listen, you, you know, you cooperate, you collaborate, you do whatever you can to sort of be involved. And there actually are some other proposals and collaborations going on right now that I am hoping will result in more opportunities like that, if we got so close, and we were, you know, if we got that close, and we're that successful with being part of, you know, hosted payload on something like that, we can do it again, as a community of very high confidence. It's question of luck, and good communications, good timing, you know, but there are some other options out there some other opportunities out there that a lot of us are pursuing. And, you know, I can't wait for the good news to announce them, if any of them pan out. So that's another option. You don't have to build the whole spacecraft. You can be part of another one. Most of these large GEO spacecraft are multiple payloads, you know, there's a lot of them are encrusted with different types of antennas do different services. That's pretty common for for GEO.
Eric, 4Z1UG: 47:21
Oh, that's very interesting. I would have thought that like the Es’hail satellite is a commercial telecommunication satellite. I think Qatar owns it. Right. It's a Qatari satellite.
Eric, 4Z1UG: 47:32
And I would have thought that perhaps the amateur radio transponder was actually part of the main radio package, with the advances in software defined radio and all of that stuff. Is that even possible to actually make one radio package that services multiple users?
Yes, reconfiguration in orbit is a big deal in the satellite industry, you know, and that's the sort of the goal what a large operator would really love is to just simply be able to reconfigure the radios on board, big powerful FPGAs that have lots of, you know, resiliency, and are designed to last and you carefully with a lot of redundancy, update the FPGA to do a completely different type of work. And there are satellites that do that. Most of the big commercial ones like Es’hail to have dedicated hardware, in the case of QO-100, people have described it as an extra transponder, it is a commercial transponder that's been tuned and adjusted to nearby amateur bands. And over time, there's been some some additional adjustments to make it work better. And it's just a huge credit to AMSAT DL in Germany and peer group, who's very responsible for this success. Huge credit to them for making this happen and, and showing such, you know, collaborative spirit to be able to work with such a significant asset in orbit. So, yeah, that's it I guess it's a somewhat long answer just says yes. That Yes, there is potential especially as we see, satellite operators move more to re-configurable radios in orbit, that if there is any excess capacity at all, if they would like to tune it for educational or public relations or public service reasons to also serve amateur bands, may see this start to happen with more and more re-configurable things in orbit.
Eric, 4Z1UG: 49:52
Now is there a difference of opinion in AMSAT between open source and perhaps proprietary design?
Yes, I think that's the current major discussion in at least AMSAT. Leadership and an active membership is whether or not AMSAT, North America will adopt open source policies. And it's not quite settled, the majority of the leadership wants it to remain closed, proprietary. Not open. And that is leaving a lot on the table, not just from a technological point of view. But from a regulatory point of view. This past year, we've had some landmark changes in the regulatory environment in the United States. I put together a team of people, and we wrote what's called a commodity jurisdiction request to the United States State Department. And what this asked was, would you please decide, determine, if open source satellite development, with the primary beneficiary being the amateur radio, can we get a determination that amateur radio satellite research and development, if it's open source, can we take advantage of the open source “carve out” that's already in the law? Could you just say yes, and they did. This is a big deal. Because yes, as you know, as we all know, it's a whole lot easier for people in charge to say no, and to keep it safe and secure than it is to say yes, but we worked very hard on this request, we got a favorable result. We went straight to an AMSAT and said, Here you go, this is a big deal. It solves a 50 year old problem. And they shrugged. But you know what? We will keep trying. So the next part of this process now that the that's ITAR, which, that's the hardest part to solve at the State Department, sort of said, okay, but you're still regulated by commerce, the US Commerce Department. And so that's the next step. And that's where the the current request work is focused. And we're waiting for an answer back from the US Commerce Department. According to everybody that is active in regulatory law, this is very likely to succeed. The next step after that will be an advisory letter opinion request to summarize all of this, which will, I think, also go to state and commerce. And there you have it, then we have a clear path, a regulatory path, to make it completely safe for volunteers in the United States, to work on open source, amateur radio satellites. And to be able to communicate freely with anybody in the world. The restrictions before were, you could only talk about these designs with US persons, you had to keep them secret. This really slows down collaboration. And it hampers innovation, you're stuck with whoever will agree to what are very onerous regulations, restrictions on your communication, having to have an air gapped computer, if you really want to comply. It's a lot to ask a volunteer, it's a lot to ask if somebody that's doing this for a living. So having done ITAR projects before, at various companies, this was a big deal for me to try to work on this. That's the reason why I ran for director of AMSAT in North America was to directly address ITAR problem. And I'm very pleased to say that the news is very good. Over time, I'm very optimistic that AMSAT will adopt open source policies, they will follow this path through regulatory law that's been opened and insured, and, you know, protected with a final determination letter. And we will see a enormous renaissance in US amateur radio satellite service work. So that's my belief, my hope, and I'm doing all that I can to help that happen.
Eric, 4Z1UG: 54:10
What is the United States has jurisdiction in space? Is it limited to satellite slots that encircle North America or the American hemisphere? Or are they the de facto regulatory body worldwide for satellite spaces or for satellite positions in space?
That's a really good question. I view the regulatory environment for satellites as being thoroughly global at this point. The United States has a large influence because so many launches and so many satellites came from the US and because of the power that the you know, State Department has over regulating communications satellites. Also, having overview of the Department of Defense is also involved in and the FCC. FCC is the one that licenses satellites here. That jurisdiction really is kind of focused on, you know, are you launching from here? And and that is the question that provoked all this debris mitigation regulation that we're currently dealing with. That's a global, sort of regulatory framework, and the debris mitigation rules from the FCC are a response to the fact that, you know, satellite insurance, satellite explosions, who pays for damage, you know, who's responsible as we, as we put more and more up? So I'm going to say, you got a really good question. And my opinion is that the regulatory environment is really quite thoroughly global. That's how we approached it, you know, when I worked for Global star, and, you know, that's how I'm approaching it now, is that any work done in order to provide any sort of regulatory relief needs to focus on the global aspects of the satellite industry, and, you know, the particular nation state jurisdiction sorts of things, to me, they tend to deal more with launches.
Eric, 4Z1UG: 56:30
I'm thinking that AMSAT, Germany was successful in working with Qatar in order to get an amateur radio transponder on one of their satellites, it seems to me that don't quote me, but AMSAT America could work with somebody that would have some influence in the Western Hemisphere, and might even be there to do their own launches, maybe Brazil, for example, or countries that maybe have some money and have some technology, but maybe their regulatory hurdles are less than the United States hurdles, perhaps,
Yes, that would be entirely possible, if you took advantage of open source and public domain carve outs in the US law. So a US organization doing open source could collaborate with an organization in Brazil, or Germany, or wherever, with a few exceptions.
Eric, 4Z1UG: 57:20
So that expands your potential opportunity.
Absolutely, it is a huge advantage, it's a big deal. And AMSAT, North America should do this, they should take advantage of the carve outs in the law that have now been, you know, as of this past August, that it's been, it's been documented, you know, it took a year to do but with the final determination letter, that's the, that's the best path forward for free and open international collaboration. If you want to stay proprietary, and use the proprietary ITAR rules, then those sorts of collaborations are almost completely cut off, because you have to, you can only work with other US persons. Now, there is a process, this is done. So US companies that want to employ a contractor from another country that not a US person can apply for that person to to be included. This is kind of a, you know, heavy lifting for a volunteer organization to do to go through and to, to individually, essentially license everybody outside of the US persons that are involved in the project. That's a lot to ask, it's a much, to me, it's a much better way to, you know, do your research, do your reading, figure out how to comply with the open source carve outs in the law and use them. It's a really a perfect match for an organization like AMSAT North America, and would allow collaboration internationally to take advantage of all the amazing things going on around the world and dramatically increase the volunteer base.
Eric, 4Z1UG: 59:07
Contribute to education too. I mean, every design that you publish, helps other people see how this stuff is done. If you have to keep something secret or private, if you have to, then there are ways to do that, you know, we have nondisclosure agreements for a reason. So if there is some product or some chip or something that you need to use in your otherwise open source design, then you specifically call that part out and you have to keep that part secret. Now that is not, you know, desirable. But this happens. This happens so often. That open source licenses recognize it and accommodate it. The one that does a really good job of this is the CERN open source hardware license, it's on version two, it was specifically written to address some of the proprietary tools and proprietary intellectual property cores that are common in field programmable gate arrays FPGAs. So if and the definition then becomes if I can then go take your design and recreate the work and find the proprietary tool, if it's available to me walking in off the street, you know, for either some amount of money, or, you know, I have to fill out a form or whatever, if I can get that tool and all of the stuff I can I can obtain it, then that is still a licensed open source design. And that's how you work around situations where you have no other choice except to use, for example, a proprietary tool chain from an FPGA company.
Eric, 4Z1UG: 1:00:52
So we're making a little bit of a commercial here, because you've been very helpful in creating a list of speakers for the next QSO Today virtual Ham Expo in March. So this is one of the reasons I have you on here. But I'm actually loving the conversation as well. You know, when I think of AMSAT, and I have my hand in hand right now, and I'm begging the forgiveness of all of the people that support AMSAT. Because if you're not involved in AMSAT, then my thinking is that somehow AMSAT is kind of in this retrograde orbit, like the American space program has been for the last, you know, 40, 50 years, including, I guess, I would say that Elan Musk, SpaceX, and what he's done with the Falcon rockets, and all of this stuff that he's doing, is really kind of invigorated or it seems to me to reinvigorate people's interest in space. But would you say that it's safe to say that what's happening at AMSAT. And what's happening in amateur satellites is actually not in retrograde, it's actually more exciting now than ever.
I think so, being being biased as starting and running a organization devoted to open source amateur radio satellite service stuff. So understand that this does come from overabundance of enthusiasm, I, it's never been a better time to get involved in this sort of technology in in amateur satellites. And in an amateur radio, in general, it's a real Golden Age. It's just amazing. There's so many cool things going on. The entry point now is RTL SDR and a Raspberry Pi with open source software and your little, your little receiver can be any type of receiver. And, you know, the, in order to get on, get on satellites, visit AMSAT NA or any of the AMSAT organizations close to you and see how easy it is to use some of the FM Leo satellites, it really is. Where you go from there has been in retrograde a bit from from, in my opinion, but it will get better. We just have so many cool satellite technology things happening right now. There's so many really good quality work going on for open protocols. And for microwave designs, we've seen enormous miniaturization. And going back to something you asked about in terms of satellite capacity, a lot of the big players that put up large payloads have been shocked to find that miniaturization for microwave components is moving so quickly, that there there actually is more capacity than they then they expect. That's that's one of the reasons why you see so many interesting payloads, you know, cobbled together, put together and integrated together. So the word on the street is that, you know, we we're at a point where microwave technology because of micro advance or or where we need to go for for satellite, that it's just a golden age. So there's a lot of things that are coming together for amateur radio satellite service, that are very, very positive. And so I would say that it's not stuck in retrograde. AMSAT North America does need to open up. And they need to take full advantage of the open source, the riches of open source and the regulatory framework that has fundamentally changed and if they move solidly and firmly in that direction, then it will get even better the next 50 years will be even better than the first 50 years of AMSAT which were pretty darn good.
Eric, 4Z1UG: 1:04:42
You won the Don Hilliard award for your amateur satellite work in 2018. What is the Don Hilliard award?
Oh that was an enormous shock. I love microwave update and try to go whenever I can. The The award is given at the The final banquet dinner. And usually it's a Lifetime Achievement Award, it's been given to some of the most remarkable people that have contributed to the advancement of microwave arts and amateur radio. And it was a complete total surprise. I view it as the award I'm most proud of in an amateur radio or an engineering. And it was in recognition of efforts to get that wide field of view satellite working, efforts to bring open source to AMSAT published designs, mentor-ship, networking, helping schools, helping groups, just doing what I do. So it was a huge honor. And it is the thing I'm most proud of.
Eric, 4Z1UG: 1:05:50
Now looking at the pictures of the award banquet, it appeared to me that the majority of the people there were my contemporaries are even older. How do we attract younger people, much younger people into this area of microwave and satellite development?
Well, that is from where I sit, they are attracted. And they're showing up. And they are offering to help and they're contributing. In some cases, in some groups, in some communities, they aren't being seen, because when they show up, they don't look like you would expect. In my own club here in San Diego, for a long time, new people, young people, underrepresented people would show up for one meeting, and never come back. The message that they got was you need to conform to us that you need to enjoy amateur radio the way that we enjoy it. And that was HF, single side-band. And watching videos of the expeditions, and what changed, at least for for our club was just having fun and loosening up on the expectation or the admonitions or the expectations of you know the that you need to enjoy it like, like we do. Another big change that resulted in a much more diverse group of people showing up for these events was to, I wouldn't want to want to say stop or drop but to to accept that, that new people coming into amateur radio today, my son, fourth generation ham, amateur radio is a part of a lot of other things. It's not a thing that's set off by itself. So it's not a hobby to him. It's something that shows up in all the other things that he does; the computing leverages amateur radio, you know, his interest in in space or science leverages amateur radio. And once that changed, then then it really changed the number of people that stayed and that kept coming back. So most of the new hams that I meet, and that I see at events and that I talked to and that are volunteers in either ORI or volunteers that show up for AMSAT. The younger ones approach amateur radio in a more interdisciplinary way. And they are coming at it from either computing, software defined radio, microwave band, that's where their entry point is, and running into people that just want to talk about HF single side-band or, why would I want to go to a Maker Faire? The Maker Faire people should come to our meetings, why should we go out there? And why should we go to them, they need to come to us and hearing that as an interdisciplinary person that's not going to gel well. So that's my point of view. That's what I've seen. What's been successful is meeting people where they are and understanding that the entry point to amateur radio seems to be shifting. And it's, you know, in my region in my area and what I do for digital signal processing and computing. The entry point is an RTL SDR or Raspberry Pi and GitHub and making your radio do cool things, having a different radio every day. Those are things generally done at microwave.
Eric, 4Z1UG: 1:09:32
What is algorithmic music composition.
Algorithmic music composition is an attempt to use artificial intelligence to compose music. After you teach your code, what music should sound like or what you think the underlying structure of music is and then using deep learning techniques or artificial intelligence to produce music. And so it's constructed by using different types of algorithms. The most common one that I go to is a Markov chain. And what that does is it analyzes a body of work of music, and it develops a prior large probability table, if this note is played for this chord is played, what most likely will follow it. And then when you want new music, you start it up, and you let it roll some dice on the inside of its computer brain, and it creates a path through this big probability field.
Eric, 4Z1UG: 1:10:39
How do you influence so that it's yours? So that it's your composition?
That's a really, really good question. This actually you've asked a question that is at the core of an awful lot of very spirited discussion in music composition. And in digital music composition. And in algorithmic music design like this. There are a lot of people who think that it can never be yours, because you did not, it didn't come out of your head, it didn't come out of your fingertips, with your pen on paper, that computers just rolling dice. Well, the computer rolling dice is actually very similar to how your neural net works. You know, it's not too far off, in our current understanding of what the brain is doing and what your computer is doing. So to me, it's definitely my composition, because it's my program that created that music. And it's up to me to carefully define how those probabilities and how those different fields, how those different search algorithms, my favorite is genetic search. So using techniques borrowed from DNA, you very, very quickly go through the whole search space, and you come up with the answer. So for very complex chord progressions, you're going to need a fair amount of horsepower to figure it out, you know, if you want to, you look at a symphony, the combinations of notes, chords, both in time and in frequency, enormous, the density in there is, is huge. And not all combinations sound good. As you know. Another way to to that this is done, my favorite way to do this is to approach it from an information theory perspective, and to carefully measure the amount of uncertainty in the music. So from a probabilistic point of view, you can measure the amount of uncertainty, that's the core, one of the core things that info theory does for you. And you'd be surprised, you know, we think that we'd like novelty, in music, we really don't, that level of uncertainty. In music, when you analyze it, you put it through all these matrices, and you look at the amount of entropy in the music, it's actually very repetitive, it's very predictable. That's what gives the algorithmic music design people so much traction, is because the things that we like to hear his music are derivable, and predictable. And then you manipulate the weights of the probabilities, you run it through a bunch of times, and then you have a large body of created music to work with. And this is where we, at least, for me, this is where the computer needs to stop. Because when you create something that's a coherent chunk of music, that's when the human needs to take over and use it either as an inspiration for another piece, as a incorporated into a symphony, or becomes a pop song, or becomes a hymn that we're not yet at the point where you can just simply create a symphony reliably with with software,
Eric, 4Z1UG: 1:13:50
Those of us in the West, we do like our 32 bar pop song form.
Oh, yes. And when you feed 32 bar pop songs into these, you know, when you feed it into your code, and you look at the structure. It's very structured. And you get all sorts of variety, you know, but but we just like with a novel, novels, in the West have a structure your your fictional works has an introduction, and you build up to some sort of climax. And then there's a resolution and some sort of conclusion. You feel like there's a, there's motion and movement, there's a journey up and then usually down to a conclusion. And if we don't get that it's not a very satisfactory story. And we approach music in very similar ways. The structure is rewarding and wonderful to listen to. For me, working with algorithmic music, it was a surprise to me how there's just a lot of uncertainty in these works. That's what people want. They want novelty, something interesting, something new, something experimental. And it was the biggest surprise in working through the math and then creating compositions was there's not a whole lot of room, too much entropy and it's very dull. Or sorry, you know, there is not a lot of uncertainty at all, you know, just a few tones repeated over and over again. Very few people like that. But too much uncertainty and it sounds just it sounds so unpleasant that you have to turn it off. And the difference between those two states, not so much. You can over constrain this.
Eric, 4Z1UG: 1:15:40
Do you have examples on YouTube or places like that where someone can actually hear your work?
Yeah, I have samples from the last batch of of work that I did, as IEEE visiting lecturer on my on my GitHub, and I can I can send you a direct link to that, so that you can have it for your notes.
Eric, 4Z1UG: 1:16:02
Right, we'll look forward to it. What do you think the greatest challenge facing amateur radio is now?
I think it's time, it's just simply time of a person that wants to get active and this sort of stuff that that I most like cognitive radio, you know, machine learning adaptive radio, radios that that sense, digital, you know, digital broadband modes, multiple user, those sorts of things. In order to really enjoy that, it does take some seat time, you can get in for under $100, with a simple SDR and some free and free software, open source software. But ramping up to the place where it's really exciting means a fairly significant, you know, amount of time and a learning curve. The biggest challenge to amateur radio, is the lack of accessibility of the software, the lack of ease of use, the hardware is fantastic, we get a new awesome SDR every quarter, at least. And the software's terrible, and people just won't install then it won't build. And what worked last week doesn't work this week, because something was updated. And our our cultural approach to software is not quite there yet. To me, that is the biggest impediment to the enjoyment of advanced digital modes and amateur radio is the software is in general, bad. It's just it's hard to use, when it when it does work. Oh, nothing better. It's absolute joy. Getting there, though, you have to sort of have some consensual amnesia. You fight through a problem or walk away, you know, come back later when maybe somebody has fixed it, or you fixed it. And then oh, you know, it's wonderful. It works. You can show it off and you've forgotten about some of those difficulties on the way. But but it's the biggest impediment is the lack of time most people have in order to learn and interdisciplinary, sometimes very math heavy part of the hobby, and the ease of use of almost all the software defined radio software packages and frameworks, they're not easy to use.
Eric, 4Z1UG: 1:18:15
What advice would you give to newer returning hams to the hobby
I would say SDRs. That's go get a inexpensive SDR if you just want to try it out, get or borrow maybe an RTL SDR and a computer running Linux and go explore and see how many different radios you can make out of this one little small circuit. And then if you want to transmit then start start looking there's they're only slightly more expensive. just dive right in. It's the community. There's lots of different overlapping communities and software defined radio. That would be my recommendation. I also like things like transmitter hunting. I mean, that's super fun and very accessible. Simple to do. I think there's just so much to do.
Eric, 4Z1UG: 1:19:11
We didn't talk about that. Are you a transmitter Hunter.
I have done it and I have put together some T hunts for events and field days. And it's just a lot of fun. One of the one of the most popular things that we were able to do with the local club was to combine T hunting with geocaching where you have a geographic location and there's a hidden box with a logbook. So geocaching is a whole other, you know, outdoor hobby and what we did is we combined the T hunt with the geocaching. So you would go to the geocache and it would tell you the frequency that you were now hunting for and now you had to find the transmitter and the transmitter would lead you to another location and then near that location was going to be another geocache with the next. You know, so you would hop back and forth between physically trying to find an object or container and trying to find a signal on the air. And we did have some people who figured this out and then got got an SDR and just scanned for all of the transmitters. It helped them all very, very quickly. So they they figured it out, you know, and they they had had an SDR and were able to go get it. So those sorts of events, I just find completely fun. It's just a blast. And I really look forward to being able to do those sorts of in person events. Again.
Eric, 4Z1UG: 1:20:39
Michelle, I want to thank you so much for joining me on the show today podcast, I really look forward to working with you on the QSO Today virtual Ham Expo, it looks like we're gonna have enough speakers almost make a space track. That'll be kind of cool.
Oh, very much looking forward to that. I just want to say thank you for all the work that you've done for Ham Expo. It is an answer to an enormous problem not being able to travel, not being able to meet in person. And it's just a remarkably well done event. I'm so much looking forward to it. And really appreciate all the amazing support that you've given.
Eric, 4Z1UG: 1:21:19
Thank you so much. Well, I think one of the things that unfortunately, this COVID 19 pandemic has done is that it's expanded our communities across the world in terms of now that we're doing so many things virtually, we've actually been able to pick up interest in members from around the world to the projects that we're doing. So the long term benefit after this is over is that I think our special interest communities will be that much larger. What do you think about that?
I completely agree. I have seen this, this effect that you have observed happen in San Diego micro group, our group has doubled in size, since we can no longer meet San Bernardino microwave society. With online meetings, they have added a lot of new members and the new members are from all over. And the conversations, the programs, they have only increased in quality. So, we are seeing some silver lining to having to do everything online. For the way that we do things at open Research Institute, we heavily relied on travel and meeting because we're volunteers from all over the world. And we would do a lot of work and get a lot done in person at these conferences, we've had to change the way that we approach it. So we are now doing a lot more online. And it has actually been a positive experience. So one thing that I can say is that if you have met in person before, it's much easier to work with somebody online, adding somebody completely new to work intensively with them on like an engineering project on online, it can be a little tricky. There's something about meeting in person that still allows you to more freely communicate with the other person to understand how to communicate, how to speak with them. And that's one of the things that I've noticed as an organizer is that integrating new people is is still a little bit of a challenge. But overall, the silver lining is that the productivity has actually gone up.
Eric, 4Z1UG: 1:23:29
Well, God willing will be through this pandemic, we'll still be enjoying virtual events, but we'll also have those opportunities to have a live eyeball QSO. Michelle, thank you so much. It was really a blast. 73
Thank you very much 73.
Eric, 4Z1UG: 1:23:45
That concludes this episode of QSO Today, I hope that you enjoyed this QSO with Michelle, please be sure to check out the show notes that include links and information about the topics that we discussed. Go To www.QSOToday.com and put in W5NYV in the search box at the top of the page. Be sure to click on the expo menu item at the top of the page for updates on the upcoming QSO Today virtual Ham Expo in March 2021. I'm updating it as we have more information. My thanks to ICOM America for its support of the QSO Today podcast. Please show your support of ICOM America by clicking on their banner in the show notes pages. You may notice that some of the episodes are transcribed into written text. If you'd like to sponsor this or any other episode into written text, please contact me. Support the QSO Today podcast by first joining the QSO Today email list by pressing the subscribe buttons on the show notes pages. I will not spam you or share your email address with anyone. Become a listener sponsor monthly or annually by clicking on the sponsor buttons on the show notes pages or use my Amazon link before shopping at Amazon. Amazon gives me a small commission on your purchases while at the same time protecting your privacy. I'm grateful for any way that you show appreciation and support. It makes a big difference as I head towards Episode 400. QSO Today is now available in the I-Heart Radio, Spotify, YouTube, and a bunch of other online audio services including the iTunes Store. Look on the right side of the show notes pages for a listing of these services. You can use the Amazon Echo and say “Alicia play the QSO Today podcast from TuneIn.” My thanks to Ben Bresky, who edits every single show and allows both this host and my guests to sound brilliant. Thanks, Ben. Until next time, this is Eric 4Z1UG. 73. The QSO Today podcast is a product of KEG Media Inc, who is solely responsible for its content.
Transcribed by W3TTT/JOE