All posts by David Lane

Creating an account with Element.io

  1. Visit app.element.io or install the Element package from Google or Apple. (Note, that some Android devices are not as feature rich in their support of Element’s widgets).
Web App Screen
Web App Screen

Andriod app screen
Andriod app screen
  1. On Android, click Get Started. On web app, click Create Account
  2. Select the matrix.org option.
Web App
Web App
Android
Android
  1. Fill in the username and password you desire. Note that the chosen username may already be taken. Passwords must be strong (The password SHOULD include a lower-case letter, an upper-case letter, a number and a symbol and be at a minimum 8 characters in length.) Use correct-horse-battery-staple to generate a useful password. Then click Next (Android) or Register (Web). Note: My Android client did not ask for my email address until after the captcha dance. It is strongly suggested you provide an email address.
  2. Prove you are not a robot by following the Captcha dance.
Captcha for Web
Captcha for Web

  1. Accept the terms and conditions
Terms for Web
Terms for Web
Terms for Android
Terms for Android

  1. Then check your email for the link to verify your account
Web verification
Web verification
  1. You are now ready to log in.
Web success
Web success
  1. There are a number of public rooms and communities. Please send your username to David, KG4GIY so he can add you to the PWCARES community and our current rooms.
  2. Because Element has an encrypted client capability, when you are asked to verify your account and given rescue keys, store them somewhere safe. You may need them later.

This is an experiment. Thanks for your help.

January 2021 Training

COVID-19 Rolls On

First, a moment of silence for the passing of Steve Frick/N4OGR who passed because of COVID at the beginning of this year.

By now, we all know there is a couple of vaccines available for COVID-19. The efficacy should be good enough, but full dosing will not be complete until middle to late summer for those that want it and can get it. Virginia has moved up to group 1B dosing as of Monday, January 11, 2021. There are still questions about reinfection, the effect of the vaccine on the variants (two that we know of so far (B.1.1.7 and B.1.351) (CDC). Regardless, COVID protocols will remain in effect for the foreseeable future and possibly into 2022. This means masks at all events, six-foot separations, and no exceptions.

Review of 2020

COVID heavily impacted the events in 2020 as organizers scrambled to figure out how to hold them safely, if they were held at all. Even training events were curtailed or canceled outright.

Marine Corps Marathon Program Office

As in prior years, the bulk of our events in 2020 were with the Marine Corps Marathon Program Office. Unlike last year, we only participated in two events – the August round-up of runs and the December Frozen Chosin. My thanks to those who came out and supported those events.

Willing Warrior

We had two events with our friends at Willing Warrior. While not technically ARES events, a large number of us did support them. Andy, KM4JTP organized a lovely day in the rain to help them celebrate their fifth year at the compound with a Corvette Show and celebration (OK, it really only rained from 2 PM on, but it did rain hard enough to soak everyone through to the skin), and the Warrior Bike Ride in September, which featured over 250 riders on three courses. Thanks to all those who supported those events.

Upcoming in 2021

Events in 2021 are in flux and will depend on several things. Many standing events have already been canceled or made virtual.

Marine Corps Marathon Program Office

As of January, the Marathon Program Office offers its slate of events as virtual events this year. The 17.75 Crossroads run will be held and will not be in the Park, but will be on base. They will announce other runs as they get closer and the details firm up.

Willing Warriors

Willing Warriors is planning their bike ride for Saturday, September 11 this year. We will release details once we get them.

Field Day

2021 ARRL Field Day is June 26-27. Greg, KM4CCG has lead our efforts in the last couple of years. We will update the cadre on plans as we get closer to Field Day.

Action Plan Review

Have you looked at the action plan lately? Please review Section 5 and 6, at least.

New Section – Behavior

I will be creating a new section about behavior while on station. I am proud that you have all treated each other professionally and acted professionally. However, to prevent future issues and make sure everyone is on the same page, I will add it.

Badges

The current badge will last through the end of 2021. At this point, the badge printer is not compatible with Windows 10, and I lost all the pictures when the database crashed anyway. We will need to update the pictures once we can be in the same zip code. And once I get a new badge printer.

Training

Training requirements for 2021 have not changed. Please check the training page for details. If you have started an ARES task book and need the pages signed, we will do that once we can be in the same zip code.

AuxComm

There is a tentative AuxComm course set for April. I will have the ability to volunteer one or two people from the cadre. If you are interested in taking the course, please let me know.

WinLink Changes

WinLink appears to be moving the VARA software and abandoning the built-in software. It requires a purchase to use the full features.

If you would like to participate in WinLink Wednesday, please feel free. Also, there is a PWCARES HF subside available. Check the Slack/Element channel #packetwl2k for details on Tuesdays for updates.

PWC ARES WINLINK WEDNESDAY SUBNET
ONLY VARA THIS WEEK P2P
3588 USB DIAL FREQUENCY
++++NOTE NEW CALL W4PWC++++
EACH WED 0001 TO 2359EST

The Big One

For some reason, we had a Statewide Simulated Emergency Test, on January 16, 2021. I am not sure how well it was attended. No details were available beyond the scenario below.

Operation “The Big One” is a scenario of a 7.7 earthquake in the active seismic area of the Mountain Lake area of Giles County Virginia. Major damage would be experienced in Blacksburg, Christiansburg, Pearsburg and Radford Virginia. There is possible damage to the aging Claytor Lake Dam near Pulaski Virginia. This lake is 115 deep, 27.7 miles long and covers 4472 acres. This stands on the New River.

This places all communities along New River down stream from the Claytor Lake at risk of catastrophic flooding. This also includes the Radford Arsenal which employees thousands of people. Virginia Tech and Radford University would experience major damage.

Internet service, phone service and power has been lost over about a 30 mile radius from the epic center of the quake. Communications support will be needed from throughout the Commonwealth.1

ARES Connect

If you have not signed up with ARES Connect, please do so. Rumor had it that it may be going away, but until it does, the site is still viable. I will continue to do double or triple entry.

There is a Virginia Section Website as well. It is operational as of January 15, 2021.

Slack Replacement

Slack was purchased by Salesforce early this year. As such, there appears to be an increasing probability that we will be charged for use of the service. We are looking at alternatives. At the moment we are kicking the tires on a product called Element.

If you want to help us kick the tires, please create an account at app.element.io or download the iOS or Android client. Once you have created an account, please email the EC your user name so I can invite you to join the group. It is not as intuitive as Slack, but it seems OK so far. Please be patient as we take it for a spin.

Recording and Slides

  1. Virginia has not experienced an earthquake greater than a magnitude 5 in its history. http://www.magma.geos.vt.edu/vtso/va_quakes.html

Back in the Groove

Let’s face it, 2020 has been a horrible year. Events canceled left right and centre, job losses, and who can forget spending ten weeks with your nearest and dearest. It is enough to make most operators go nuts. But things are improving!

On Saturday, September 26, 2020, the Willing Warriors held their delayed Warrior Bike Challenge Ride. This included three loops, one a metric century, one a 30-mile loop, and a 13-mile loop. Mother Nature spent Friday getting the rain from Tropical Storm Beta out of her system, so while it was not a beautiful, sunny day, it was at least dry and provided great riding conditions.

Here are some views from the course.

The view at Romeo 3 (WA4GSD)
The view at Romeo 3 (WA4GSD)

WC4J keeping us in line as Net Control and chief data wrangler
WC4J keeping us in line as Net Control and chief data wrangler

KG4GIY can do small setups at Romeo 6
KG4GIY can do small setups at Romeo 6

KM4CCG’s micro setup at Romeo 2
KM4CCG’s micro setup at Romeo 2

The antenna at Net Control
The antenna at Net Control

Congratulations to the team that participated and Andy, KJ4MTP, for herding the cats on this one, so your humble EC could sit and operate for a change.

Photos are copyright of their photographers.

After Action for the MCMO Combined August 2020 Runs

What worked

This was PWCARES first opportunity to get back into the field since the Honor 8K run in December, and the first post-COVID-19 event hosted by the Marine Corps Marathon Office. This served as both a chance to prototype how events might work in the future, and give everyone a chance to run through the woods.

  • CM11 and CM 12 were out in the woods with dead radios. CM12s radio was dead when he attempted to turn it on. CM11’s Radio was only viable for about 5 mins before it also went dead. W4PIO relocated from Mile 3 (assigned location) to CM12 to allow them to listen into the Amateur traffic.
  • We had an opportunity to practice relaying traffic for those that could not hear.
  • We had an opportunity to blow the dust off our gear and get out into the field again.

What needs improvement

The issue of base access is not something PWCARES can affect, however our issues have been heard, both by the MCMO and the PMO, who have overall responsibility for base access and access control. A number of issues have been identified and will be discussed internally at Quantico.

  • We did not stand up a net. We should have, especially with the need to relay traffic. ACTION: Stand up a net, even if you don’t feel it is needed, you can stand it down.
  • OSV was shadowed by Lejeune Hall and an HT just did not cut it. ACTION: We have been given permission to stand up an antenna and cross band repeater on the field opposite to the OSV. We will investigate the coverage in September or October in preparation for the Turkey Trot.
  • We need to work at relaying traffic. The traffic was successfully relayed, but it could have been done better. ACTION: More practice!
  • We need to identify the bib range for the multi-race events so we can tell who is who, even if we cannot see the actual colour of the bib. ACTION: Add this to the action plan as a standing requirement.

As our first event back, we could have done better. We certainly could have done considerably worse. We will find an excuse to practice as the year goes forward.

Field Day 2020

We are living in interesting times. When we started the planning for Field Day 2020, we planned to have a broader setup, extensive help from Prince William County in terms of equipment and other goodies, and better antennas. Field day is not a contest, but a chance to show our abilities in the field. In order to be successful, we have to work together, often in close proximity to each other, and the public. With the risks of COVID-19, that is not a reasonable request, nor a safe on at this time. There are just too many unknowns, and there is still a lack of proper protective equipment, necessary to make the event successful.

“Due to the unique situation presented this year, this can be an opportunity for you, your club, and/or group to try something new,” ARRL Contest Manager Paul Bourque, N1SFE, said. “Field Day isn’t about doing things the same way year after year. Use this year to develop and employ a new approach that is in line with the current circumstances.”

While I agree with Mr. Bourque on a certain level, the current field day rules do not allow much beyond individual station operation. A home location, depending on where we are in the phase lockdown and what other facilities/amenities are required or available, could be the best option. It is reasonable to believe that such things as public restrooms will continue to be off-limits for weeks, if not months to come.

This has been a challenging year. I do not like to cancel training events, especially when people have put time into preparing for them, both mentally as well as practically. The fewer chances we get to practice, the less prepared we will be, but I also am critically aware of the realities of this year. After talking to Greg, KM4CCG, our Field Day Chair, as well as listening to the comments from the cadre, we will not be holding a PWCARES Field Day event. If you are interested in participating in Field Day, I encourage you to do so. Please visit the League’s Field Day page for all the rules and other information.

Winlink Wednesdays

Standard check-ins this week (no weather snapshots or attachments of any type, please).

  • WHO: All amateur radio operators located in Virginia.
  • WHAT: Winlink Wednesday (Virginia’s Weekly Winlink Net)
  • WHEN: Wednesday, 13 May 2020, 0000-2359 EDT
  • HOW: This net will accept check-ins via Winlink only. Please do not use a “Telnet Winlink” connection (which defeats the purpose of Winlink). The goal is to have the message leave your station via RF.

Please remember to use the correct format for check-in, as shown below (check-in message on a SINGLE LINE), over an RF connection.

Sample

To: KW6GB

Subject: Winlink Wednesday Check-In

Message body:

call sign, first name, city or town, county, state (HF or VHF, etc.)

WA4GSD, Dan, Woodbridge, Prince William, VA (HF)
KG4GIY, David, Manassas City, VA (VHF)

On Thursday, all check-ins will be acknowledged, and a net report and complete roster will be published to the Web.

PEER-TO-PEER SESSIONS:

  • Morning session: 0730-0930L, Winmor P2P, 3582 kHz (dial).
  • Afternoon session: None.
  • Evening session: 1900-2130L, ARDOP P2P, 3582 kHz (dial).
  • Watch Facebook for details when active.

Weblinks

  • The current week’s net report and roster is now available at:

http://winlinkwednesday.net/WWRoster.pdf

(New home for Winlink Wednesday information – site is being developed.)

  • The current week’s participant map is available at:

https://www.qsl.net/kw4shp/WinlinkWed/WWmap.html

(Don’t forget to explore the interactive features that Steve has built into this map: pan, zoom, Virginia view, world view, etc.)

Training Meeting – 16 May 2020

This morning we had our regular training meeting via WebEx. The agenda and notes are below. Slides are at the bottom with the video.

Agenda

  1. Current Update from the County and Cities
  • PWC EOC moved to partial activation as of 1600 2020-05-13
  • ARES moved to “Normal” at 1700h 2020-05-15
  • Northern Virginia dictates that the region remain in Phase Zero until identified benchmarks are met. All current restrictions will remain in effect until at least May 28th, as identified in Executive Order 62.
  • Virginia Department of Health will be hiring 1000 contact tracers to assist efforts to identify persons exposed.
  • The Commonwealth is placing a focus on continuing to increase testing and Personal Protective Equipment availability, as these are essential to moving into and remaining in Phase One of reopening Virginia.
  • Potomac Mills scheduled to reopen May 29

Virginia Reserve Medical Corps is also looking for volunteers. It required FEMA 700 and 100. Link is: https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/mrc/

  1. Upcoming events (there are a couple)
  • Run Amuck/ReconRuck/Belleau Wood (June 20)
  • OSS/CIA 50 mile overnight run (June 20)
  • Field Day (June 27/28)
  • MCM New Run (July 14/15)
  • ARES Training (July 18)
  • Fox Hunt (July 18)
  • National Night Out (August 4)
    • PWC, Manassas Park
  • Quantico Tri (August 22)
  1. Field Day discussions (how, when, what?)

http://www.arrl.org/news/field-day-2020-a-time-to-adapt

Discussion:

  • Greg:
    • Nuclear option is possible – we just don’t hold the event
    • Difficult to physical distance
    • No rule changes to account for the times
  • Access to restrooms may not be possible
  • No shared food
  • No county support
  • David to make final decision in the next few days
  1. Fox Hunt (July 18 as possible date)
  • We have not had a fox hunt in the county in a long time
  • Proposed 0900 start time
  • Meet at Potomac Mills
  • Larry, K4MLA to write up a brief about what a fox hunt is and what is required to play
  • Demo event planned for a week or two prior to the actual event
  1. WinLink
  • Winlink has depreciated Winmore and will be removing it.
  • Suggested alternatives are ARDOP (included) or VARA (extra charge)
  • Winlink Wednesdays are a great way to play with Winlink. See the Winlink Wednesday blog post.
  1. Open Items and discussion

Winlink on VHF Options

As part of Sunday’s discussion about Winlink, the question of what if we don’t have a packet TNC came up. There are two options. One is VARA with a Signalink, and the other is software from UZ7HO. During the discussion we talked about VARA, and made a startling discovery.

1) VARA, while it can be used as freeware, limits the throughput. A license costs $70.

2) VARA will only talk to stations running VARA. A serious handicap here in Prince William County as none of our VHF/UHF nodes are running VARA (we run packet TNCs).

We will have to experiment with the alternate software. Until we get time to create some documents, K6OLI has posted this very comprehensive walkthrough for using UZ7HO’s software (a separate download, link in the document) that I suggest those with Signalinks or other non-packet TNCs take for a spin.

The Winlink Configuration session is now available to view.

Hurricane Season 2020

As we look for the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel, it is easy to forget that hurricane season is right around the proverbial corner. Hurricane season officially starts on June 1. The current Virginia Executive Order Fifty Five, telling us to hunker down in our homes, is set to expire, baring other things, on June 10. And of course, we have experienced years where the season starts before June.

Early predictions expect this year’s hurricane season to be busier than average. Dr. Phil Klotzbach and the Tropical Meteorology Project at CSU are among the first to issue an outlook for the season. This year they anticipate 16 named storms, 8 of which becoming hurricanes and 4 of those becoming major hurricanes. (Colorado State University)

I know we are all focused on keeping our families, and ourselves safe, but time marches on, regardless. Check your gear, fire up your generators, if you have not done so, and get out and play as much as you can.

COVID-19

Who knew, when I wrote about nuclear attack in December last year, that we would be facing something much more severe. Not that a nuclear attack is not critical, but with the devastation, we could at least hang our hat on something. The COVID-19 situation is very much like September 11, 2001. Everything is intact, yet it is not situation normal.

Over the last three weeks, we have learned how far a 2m wavelength is (that’s about 6 feet, five inches) because it is the recommended social distancing distance. We thought it would be over in fourteen days. Now, April 30th is the current first date when we can get back to normal. Depending on who you are and what you do, even that may not be true (Walt Disney World is not taking reservations for dates before June 1, meaning they think it will take that long to restart their enterprises, or worse, that this could continue well into May). It might be reasonable to expect gatherings will be limited in size right through Independence Day.

If you are working from home, and going a bit stir crazy, feel free to jump into the PWCARES Slack channel. We keep each other sane, somewhat. There is a digital group for sharing help and discussion, just ask to be added if you are not already a member. If you want to create some quick reference guides, there are several areas we need help in, such as FLDigi, WinLink, Antennas. Pull it together, and we will get it posted.

As always, check your gear, keep your wits about you, and we will see you on the air.