Listener’s Library, December 1997
Well here we come to the holiday season. With the sunspot cycle finally picking up I’m sure a lot more listening is getting done these days. And of course now is the time to finalize your plans for KULPSVILLE 1998. I hope you plan to come out and help us start the next decade of this grand radio hobby tradition.
Christmas came a little early for Old Uncle Skip in the form of a box of great books from the American Radio Relay League. Yeah, I know, in spite of my nearly constant harping on the subject here, in Monitoring Times and in American Scannergram, there are still one or two folks out there who haven’t become licensed radio amateurs. Well don’t forget that non-hams can get a lot of great radio information by keeping a eye on the amateur radio press. Dollar for dollar, ARRL publications are hard to beat for hard information. They have also entered the computer publishing age with some CD based periodicals as well as line of useful programs. Lets take the Kulpsville 98 scenario to its full potential with a few of these publications.
TravelPlus for Repeaters(TM)
The American Radio Relay League
225 Main Street
Newington, CT 06111-1494
Okay, you’re planning to drive into Kulpsville this year from your personal little corner of the world. If you are an amateur radio operator (or a dedicated scannist with a receiver that covers the VHF/UHF etc. hams bands) you may want a source for any repeater stations that can be used along the route. The old, and somewhat tedious method of figuring this out, involved a copy of a repeater guide (such as the ARRL’s own annually published Repeater Directory) and a pile of road maps that cover the area of travel. This is particularly a load of work if the trip is long and it follows a route that you don’t use every day. This problem is compounded if you do a lot of traveling outside of your local area. Taking full advantage of modern computer technology coupled with a complete data base of repeater information and mapping software, you’ve got TravelPlus for Repeaters(TM).
To run the program you will require at least a 386DX / 25 MHz processor supported by a Math coprocessor but a 486DX or Pentium is preferred. You’ll need at least 8 Megs of memory but 16 Megs are preferred. The program needs 4 megabytes of free hard disk space to set up and run. The program is runs only in the Windows(TM) 3.1 or better environment. You’ll need to support Windows(TM) 640x480x256 graphics mode. Of course a CD-ROM drive and a mouse or equivalent pointing device rounds out the hardware requirements. Sorry, this program leaves DOS and Mac folks out of the picture. I still appreciate that it does not require a 3 kilobuck “bleeding edge” machine to run. You could build up a computer that would support this program for under $200 if you sort through the piles under the tables at hamfests.
Installation is simple. Enter Windows(TM) and run the setup program from your CD-ROM drive. The manual has only four pages of text and two graphics and to be frank it is more than you will need to figure out how to use TravelPlus. In a nut shell, use the mouse to mark two or more points on the map along your route from launch to destination, select the frequencies and bands your interested in, hit the “Create List” button and you get a nice collection of places to tune your transceiver or scanner while you travel. Several pull down menus and screens allow you to further fine tune the data sort and management process.
Right out of the package I did a path along the route I drive to work and found 63 accessible 2 meter and 70 centimeter repeaters to throw my call out to. The route from my humble home to the next Kulpsville gathering came up with 71 machines (I’m fairly close). The all important annual trek to Sandbridge Virginia for male bonding with The Scanner Scum and “strike team” operations with The Burkey Boys selected 117 repeaters. All three lists were sorted saved to disk and printed out in under ten minutes. This is too easy. You can also forgo the map system and just sort through the data base directly.
The data file storage method is proprietary and can’t be directly translated into other database programs or scanner/transceiver management programs. It would be neat to just upload the data into a programmable handheld. I’d love to fast load my Yaesu FT-50R like I load my AOR AR-8K from the Percon CD-ROM. This is not so much a criticism as a request for a future feature.
The program is about a goof proof as any I’ve tried and I am known for being a bit of a bull in a china shop when I’m playing in Windows(TM). If you are and ham and you go on the road even a few time a year. This program is a great time saver.
Okay you’ve got your ham ticket and you’ve got TravelPlus so you know what you can hear. But you really need a transceiver to get in on the action. Maybe you are a brand new “No-Code” Technician class or, like me you haven’t upgraded your 2 meter gear since Reagan was in the White House. Before you succumb to the razzle dazzle of the magazine ads, take a look through
The ARRL VHF/UHF Radio Buyer’s Sourcebook Compiled by Rich Roznoy K1OF
The American Radio Relay League
225 Main Street
Newington, CT 06111-1494
The short take on this text is that it is a comprehensive compilation of VHF/UHF product reviews taken from the pages of QST magazine from between 1990 and 1997. Between its covers are full reviews with lab testing on 33 handheld and 52 Base/Mobile transceivers covering 6 meters and higher frequencies. These are set up in comparison groups of similar units to make the investigation process much easier. Also included are comparison reviews of antennas and amplifiers.
This book was of great personal use because I upgraded my mobile and handheld equipment to modern “dual-band” transceivers recently. I’m sure I got more than the cover price back in value and savings in picking my new rigs. And it sure beat the pants off of trying to dig through many years of equipment reviews in my QST stacks.
While I was in the market for new radios, this guide would be a great tool for anyone wading through the used market. It’s much easier to make an informed decision at the hamfest tables when you have a book like this in your back pocket.
For those of you not familiar with the QST review product review format, equipment is subject to laboratory testing for published specifications. The claims and the facts are displayed side by side. Equipment is also examined for spectral purity and the QST staff pulls no punches. They are also known to contact the manufacturer to get explanations for any anomalies on the record. Radios are further evaluated for ergonomics and are put to use in real world situations to give their reader the best possible picture of what they are getting for their hard earned cash. I wouldn’t buy a piece of ham gear today without first seeing what “The League” had to say about it.
If you in the market for a transceiver to “talk-in” to Kulpsville with the rest of us ham oriented monitors. Check this book out before you buy.
I imagine a few folks are fed up with my reviewing amateur radio and scanner books in our shortwave magazine. Lets review a few facts. The radio hobby publishing industry is rather small. I could saw off a few fingers and still name all the leaders in the field. My editorial operation has been simple over the years. I ask folks for a chance to review their books, some folks have sent me books, other haven’t. Lately the ham radio side of the house has been putting out the most publications and, more importantly, getting them into Uncle Skip’s hands. I’ll fill the column with all the relevant information I can from these sources because much of it translates well to the shortwave aspect of the hobby.
If you see this trend as a problem, please become part of the solution. If you know of a book that deserves a look in this column you can do one of several things. 1) Write a review of the book yourself and send it in to me. All views are published as they are received (Oh, I may correct spelling if I’m not too lazy that day) This column is a open forum for all its members. 2) If your not up to writing the column yourself, contact the publisher and ask them to send me a review copy. Most are happy to do so. It may help to send them along a copy or two of my previous reviews to show that the request is legit. 3) Drop me a line about the book in question including the publishers name and address and I’ll do my level best to accomplish both #1 and 2 above.