220 & 900 Repeaters Fully Functional

2016-10-09After many days and hours of work, the SEMARA 224.800 repeater is now back on the air and interfaced to a new repeater controller.  It has the ability to link via IRLP, EchoLink and RF through a remotely selectable 16-channel UHF radio.  It is mainly parked on the New England Network (IRLP 9120 / EchoLink 9129 *NEW-ENG*), in which the Quahog Repeater Network based in Rhode Island is also linked most of the time.

The SEMARA 927.8375 repeater’s IRLP node is now back up and running.  It is once again parked on New England Amateur Radio 900 MHz Network or “NEAR-900” (IRLP 9125).  The repeater controller for this repeater was left in place, due to the fact that using the IRLP node itself as a repeater controller isn’t reliable.  This means that all three SEMARA repeaters are now using their own SCOM 7330 repeater controllers and each repeater also has its own IRLP node.  Keep in mind that the fans in this repeater still need to be replaced, in which I need to get together with Jeff-N1ZZN to swap them out.

The 147.000 EchoIRLP node had apparently froze a few weeks ago.  Joey-KC1FWN had brought this to my attention last week.  The node was rebooted this morning and it successfully began working again.

Looking to the future, the 900 fan swapping and mounting of the 220 equipment in the 2m rack are the next tasks to tackle.  The equipment doesn’t look at all impressive right now sitting around at the repeater site unmounted.  I start a new job tomorrow and my time will be limited, however most of the heavy work has been finished.  Eventually, a dedicated 220 antenna will also need to be mounted at the top of our tower as I had previously mentioned.  The 220 repeater is temporarily using the 220 section of a tri-band antenna (a Comet CX-333) which is less than ideal.  I recommend that the club looks into buying a 4-dipole array antenna next year and plans a hardline/antenna install around the summer of 2017 through NETCOM’s maintenance window in our agreement with them.  At some point at a future meeting going into 2017, I will try to be present to talk about this and to make a motion to do so.

Thanks for your patience and enjoy your 2m, 220 and 900 SEMARA repeaters!

73,

Richard J. Cabral, W1RJC
SEMARA Repeater Committee

Tech Talk on Solar Energy – October 6th

2016-09-09Joe Tavares, KC1BGF writes:

I’ll be presenting a Tech Talk on Solar Energy following the 7 o’clock SEMARA Business Meeting on October 6.

                                   Topics of Discussion
  • How Solar Panels work
  • Different types of panels: advantages and disadvantages
  • Power calculations
  • How to wire panels to batteries and load using charge controllers
  • The use of DC-DC converters to keep battery voltage constant
I will bring a solar panel and battery pack.

220 & 900 Repeater Update

2016-09-01Quick update before tonight’s business meeting:

The Raspberry Pi board for the 900 node which is used to link it into the 900 network was bad.  In the picture, the one in hand is the bad one with its replacement being tested behind it.  The board is $35, but I had this brand new one that I am donating to the club.  Also, the fans in the 900 repeater that cool the PAs have seized.  Via Jeff-N1ZZN, we will get replacements next week from another Motorola MSF5000, also at no cost to the club (thanks Jeff).

Planning to get the 900 repeater back on the air when I pick up the fans from Jeff.  The 220 repeater wiring is complete with a few level adjustments and programming of the repeater controller remaining.  I’d like to be able to make one trip to the repeater site and get both repeaters beck on air together when I get the fans from Jeff.

I hoped to have this all done in August as I previously stated.  Let’s aim for next week (again, please don’t hold me to it, but I will try).

Thanks for everyone’s patience during the downtime.

Richard J. Cabral
SEMARA Repeater Committee

220 & 900 Repeaters Temporarily Off-Air

2016-07-30SEMARA’s 224.800 and 927.8375 repeaters are temporarily off the air as of today for a repair and upgrade.

1) The 900 repeater’s IRLP node failed over a month ago and it wasn’t liked to NEAR-900.  After a couple of trips to the site, it was determined that I need to re-image the SD card.  That node is being repaired and reconfigured and it will now also act as the repeater controller.

2) The 220 repeater will receive the repeater controller that was previously on the 900 repeater.  This will allow it to be interfaced to both its own IRLP node (4215) and a UHF link radio for the first time.  This will allow the repeater to be configured in a few different ways for linking.  More info on its linking status/schedule will be announced soon.

I am working from home this upcoming week which will give me additional free time to work on this project.  This is why I decided that now would be a good time to take the repeaters offline and execute the above changes.  I will send out another update when progress and/or completion occurs.  The SEMARA business meeting is this Thursday and if possible, I’ll try and get it all finished before the meeting, but I cannot guarantee it.

Thank you and sorry for any inconvenience that temporarily being off-air may cause.

Please note: 147.000 and it’s node (4210) are still ON-AIR and are unaffected by this work.

Thanks,

Richard J. Cabral
SEMARA Repeater Committee

“License In A Weekend” Class & Exam – July 30th-31st

2016-06-13Update 06/20/2016 by W1RJC: W1MLD has provided more details and this story has been updated accordingly.

SEMARA will be sponsoring a class for candidates of a technician class amateur radio license.  The classes will be held at the clubhouse at 54 Donald Street, Dartmouth, MA on July 30 and 31 from 10 AM to 5 PM on both days.  The total cost is $15.00 per person and this will include FCC testing by a volunteer examiner at the end of the class on Sunday.

The lead instructor will be Marek Kozubal, KB1NCG on behalf of New England Amateur Radio, Inc. (NEAR).  Donations to NEAR will be accepted, but are not required.  Anyone interested in amateur radio is urged to attend.  To register or if there are any questions, please provide your name and telephone number in an email to SEMARA President Marcel, W1MLD – president [at] semara [dot] org.

SEMARA’s Clubhouse Addition Gains Steam!

2016-01-18Construction of a new addition, which will house the new SEMARA radio room, began this past summer when a former cellular communications shelter was placed on a newly built foundation behind the existing clubhouse.  Last month, construction kicked into high gear with the ground being graded, a floor and wall being added to attach the new building to the existing clubhouse and a roof being framed and shingled.

As construction continues, follow along with pictures from start to finish, with newer photos being added periodically at SEMARA’s Clubhouse Addition photo album.  The SEMARA Web Committee would like to thank Mike-W1BZJ and Michael Raposa for providing a majority of the pictures for this growing album.

2016 Site Updates

12/30/2016 K1KVV – Wrote new story “FARA 2-Meter QSO Party – January 23rd.”
12/29/2016 K1KVV – Wrote new story “ARRL Straight Key Night (SKN) – January 1st.”
12/8/2016 K1KVV – Wrote new story “SSTV Transmissions from the ISS – December 8th & 9th.”
12/3/2016 K1KVV – Wrote new story “VE Session Results — December 3rd.”
11/10/2106 K1KVV – Wrote new story “Extra Class License In A Weekend – December 2nd-4th.”
11/7/2016 K1KVV – Wrote new story “2016 SKYWARN Recognition Day – December 3rd.”
11/6/2016 W1RJC read more

2016 Slate of Officers

SEMARA Election Day was Thursday, December 3, 2015.  Incoming Officers for 2016 are:

President (2016):
Marcel L. Dumont, W1MLD

Vice-President (2016):
Jean Pierre Chiron, AG1Y

Treasurer (2016):
Michael J. McDonald, KB1NB

Secretary (2016):
Marc M. Dumont, W1MMD

Board of Directors (2016):
Bradford E. Paiva, W1BEP
Joseph E. Krisnosky, Jr., N1IXC
Martin F. Jordan, KA1YFV

Trustee (5 Year Term; Chairman in 2020):
William E. Gifford, WA1HKJ

New 224.800 Repeater On The Air

2015-07-16After an 8 month absence, the SEMARA Repeater Committee has restored 220 MHz service via our brand new BridgeCom Systems ComLink™ BCR-220 repeater!  The new repeater went live at 9:05 PM on Thursday, July 16, 2015.  Like our 2-meter and 900 MHz repeaters, this repeater resides at our 180-foot tower site and its antenna (temporarily a Comet CX-333 shared with our 2m APRS station) is also atop the tower.  Full technical specifications can be found on our repeaters section.

This new unit replaces our old Hi-Pro repeater and uses our existing Bird Technologies/TX RX Systems duplexer that was purchased new by SEMARA in November 2010.  Maggiore Electronic Labs which manufactured our old repeater went out of business in the Summer of 2012.  Due to a frequency drift problem, it had been off the air since October 2014.  At the July 2015 SEMARA business meeting, a motion passed to purchase the new repeater and to sell the old one.  There may be an interested local buyer, however if they decide to pass on it, we will place the old unit for auction on eBay.

The new 224.800 MHz repeater runs 30 watts output power as apposed to old one which was 20 watts.  The temporary measure of the repeater’s outgoing CTCSS (PL tone) being different to stop desense (the transmitter feeding back into the receiver) is no longer necessary.  There is a small amount of desense that still exists due to the sub-par antenna arrangement, however it appears to be mild in our initial tests.  The new repeater is running 67.0 Hz for both transmit and receive.  If you had set your radio up for a split tone, you will need to reprogram your radio for 67.0 Hz on both encode and decode.  For the time being, the new repeater is running on its internal controller, which provides a basic CW ID and a short tail without a courtesy tone.

Future plans on the “to-do list” include interfacing the repeater to our brand new S-COM 7330 controller.  This is the same 3-port full-duplex controller we currently use on our 2-meter and 900 MHz repeaters.  A completed PiRLP node (IRLP and EchoLink node 4215/W1AEC-L) and UHF Motorola GM300 link radio are ready to be interfaced to this new controller as well.  When that happens, we plan to have this 220 MHz repeater full-time linked into the Quahog Repeater Network (QRN) via the link radio to the North Providence hub.

The repeater committee also recommends that the club approve the purchase of a dedicated 220 MHz repeater antenna to be added to the top of our tower.  This would be the Sinclair Technologies model SD214 four bay offset dipole.  The offset pattern should be east/west to add slightly more gain over the South Coast and less south to the ocean.  We should request for it to be black anodized with a lightning spike.  This commercial antenna will greatly improve the coverage and will resolve the desense issue that remains.  The existing Comet tri-band antenna that is temporarily being used should also remain.  It will continue to be used for our 2-meter APRS station and future UHF link radio, plus serve as a auxiliary antenna system for our 2-meter and 220 MHz repeaters should our primaries fail.

On Tuesdays, we plan to setup an automatic scheduler setpoint to separate the repeater from QRN and participate in “220 Tuesdays”.  Via IRLP, it will link to the New England Reflector 912 Channel 4 (reflector 9124, the NEAR-220 channel) for the day, where it will be linked with other participating 220 repeaters including the MMRA‘s five 220 repeaters that link through their “HUB2”.  220 Tuesdays is a similar promotion as “900 Thursdays”, which you can also participate on via SEMARA’s 900 repeater.  Both 220 Tuesdays and 900 Thursdays are New England-wide promotions to gain awareness and generate activity on the 220 MHz and 900 MHz bands respectively.

Be sure to keep current with future SEMARA Repeater Committee updates by subscribing to SEMARA.org’s RSS feed, liking us on Facebook and following us on Twitter!

Thank you,

Richard J. Cabral, W1RJC
SEMARA Repeater Committee

Mystery QSL Card

Dragan Mihajlovic, VE3FF poses at his ham shack in 2014.

Dragan Mihajlovic, VE3FF poses at his ham shack in 2014. Photo Credit: QCWA.org

Getting QSL cards as much as 5 years after a QSO is not uncommon for cards coming through the QSL Bureau.   However, one that arrived at the club last week was especially interesting.  If anyone knows where these “Rip Van Winkle” cards sleep for as much as 13 years, please let me know.  HI HI.  I have emailed the OM in Canada and thought folks here might like to have a look:

To: Dragan, VE3FF
From: John, WA1ESO

I am the QSL manager for SEMARA, W1AEC in Dartmouth, MA, USA.

I just received your QSL card dated April 4, 2015 through the QSL Bureau.

I will be sending you a QSL card on Monday direct to your QTH in Mississauga.

Many requests interest me, but yours really has me tickled.

The date of your 7 MHz QSO as listed on your card is June 23, 2002 (Field Day).

DID THIS CARD REALLY TAKE ALMOST 13 YEARS TO TRAVEL FROM CANADA TO US AT THE CLUB??? HI HI

TNX FER UR QSL Card & 73

John WA1ESO