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WB4APR's new mindset [was something else]

WARNING: This post is VERY LONG. I am sorry.  This issue has been 
bothering me and I felt compelled to get it off my chest.  I understand 
"netiquette" to be short and to the point, but I am not too good at that. If 
you've got some time, sit down with a cup of coffee and read this. Or read it 
later. Or just delete it.  

PLEASE do not quote this entire text in any replies/rebuttals.  Clip only 
what you need to comment about.  I am embarrassed enough by its length.  
Thanks!    -- Stan/W4SV --  

Posted to:  Re: [sarex] ISS PACKET 5/8/01 - 1418UTC PASS
Bob Bruninga, WB4APR, wrote:
> We need to get people to back off.  Try one packet a minute or so.  If
> everyone did this, then more people would have success, though still it
> may take many passes. 

Before I present my disagreement, let me say that I highly admire Bob for 
his invention and continued development of APRS.  I was part of a group 
registration of APRS back around 1993 or so, and it has proven to be huge 
success in amateur packet radio. I am picking on Bob's ideas here, but not 
Bob personally, nor his software. He has done very much for ham radio and 
I appreciate that.

Now... let me say that I preach a different gospel around here. I'm afraid I 
must brag a bit, but I am a one of the biggest proponents of SAREX/ARISS 
activities in my local area, or at least I try to be. A good friend of mine and I 
built the turnstile antennas described in QST in order to hear the first 
SAREX mission with W5LFL. It took me 10 years after hearing W5LFL to 
make contact with KC5ACR on Columbia in 1993. I have been fairly 
successful since '93... having worked packet and voice with many shuttles, 
with the Mir, and recently with the ISS.  My friend has been equally 
successful, and he is scheduled to be the control op for a school contact, 
although the details are still pending. (Hint, hint, somebody!?!?)

Well, anyway... the point I'm making is that I *ENCOURAGE* people to get 
out there and try to make a contact. I post pass times for my area on my 
radio club website. I have the same enthusiasm for these space contacts 
as the school kids out there... and that joy has never dimmed for me for 
nearly 20 years now.  This is "my obsession" within our hobby... and I try to 
share that obsession with others.

Yes, I encourage people to get out there and contribute to what I call the 
"noise floor" of the ISS receiver.  I don't like to think of it as QRM, 
intentional or not.  There are probably millions of 50 watt radios out there 
with endless varieties of commercial and homebrew antennas. I believe this 
represents the typical static level for the ISS crew.

So I tell people to use the best antenna they have... and transmit with the 
most power they have available.  I tell them that the ISS is rare and exotic 
like a DX station. It is a difficult target, but it can be done. More than power 
is involved in making a 2-way contact.  I like to think that operating skill can 
play a part in being successful.  But in my mind, without a doubt, the 
biggest factor is LUCK.  You can change the odds somewhat by building a 
better radio station, you can help your chances with good skills, but LUCK 
still must play a role.

Bob and some others I believe have been complaining about the uplink 
congestion. Bob has said in another post that he would like to see "shirt 
pocket HT demos" between schools using the Kenwood/APRS systems. 
Now Bob suggests one packet per minute, hit or miss.

I'm sorry... I can't see that. I can't see getting the word spread out well 
enough. I can't see that there would truly be cooperation. And for that 
matter, I can't see the congestion. Bob asked us to listen to the uplink. I did 
just that yesterday on packet and today on voice.  You know what I heard?  
Nuthin'... either pass. And actually I am saddened by that. I live about 60 
miles or so from Chicago. Its probably about the same distance to South 
Bend, IN from me. I switched polarity from horizontal to vertical. I had my 
horizontal beam aimed at Chicago.  Granted, these were mid-day passes 
and most people were at work.  But nothing at all? There are a lot of hams 
around here!

And on the www.ariss.net map there is a gaping hole in the central US 
where apparently no one is trying.  I cannot believe that they are trying but 
just not getting through. Too many people are indeed reporting contacts 
with low power and minimal antenna systems, including mobiles... yet I 
have only seen a handful of Chicago-area callsigns posted to the map. Bob 
guesses between 1,000-10,000 are uplinking on every pass, but I'm 
beginning to feel that even the low number is a high estimate.

At my station, I run about 100 watts (105-110W to be more precise) to a 10 
element horizontal beam (12 dBi). No elevation control. This is almost the 
exact same setup that I began using in 1993 when I first started making 2-
way contacts, except I used 80 watts then.  There were a lot of 50 watt 
radios back then too, but not as many as now. Getting just above that 50 
watt level apparently does work wonders.

Gee, some would say (and have said) that's a lot of ERP.  But my station 
fits the description of a "typical" station that is successful with SAREX or 
ARISS communications.  That's all I've ever thought about it... typical, or 
even "modest."  And I have been quite proud of the contacts I have made 
with this setup. There are many superior satellite-ready and EME stations 
out there in radio-land.  And we are, after all, allowed to run 1.5 kW of real 
power, not to mention ERP easily reaching the megawatt category. Why do 
we use or feel the need to use these amplifiers that we've spent our hard 
earned money on?  Because our object is communication. If possible, 
RELIABLE communication. We spend time and money so that, with a little 
luck, our signal will be heard... and we won't be there for days or weeks. 
Using the "minimum amount" of power needed is a point that is usually 
worked down to by people with amplifiers. With a rare, difficult contact, you 
give it your best shot first. Of course, others go QRP just for the special 
thrill that it brings.

Many of you are aware that I have been on the packet digipeater a lot, and 
especially this past week.  I've been on vacation this week and have been 
able to catch almost every pass. Guilty as charged.  But I've been having a 
heckuva good time. I've said hello to old friends and I have made some new 
ones. I have been a "first contact" for several other stations now, and that is 
also a great thrill for me. I've shared my tape recordings with a couple of 
folks out there who weren't able to capture their voice contact. I send a 
>GR##xx/- position report so the APRS users can see me out there.  Thats 
what they want, right?  To see folks on their map?  (Plus I think its cool to 
see my callsign on ariss.net too!) I think there is plenty of room for 
everybody to play together here.  But we have to accept the fact that there 
is a "noise level" out there, and some of us have different interersts besides 

I hope that I am not offending anyone out there by the term "noise level."  I 
truly do not intend to. Sometimes my 100 watts is also part of that noise 
level. But you hams out there have proven what I preach to my local gang... 
you CAN get through and make a contact.  To make that contact under 
less-than-desirable conditions (low power, mobile, etc) seems also to make 
that contact exceptionally sweet to those of you who have reported.  And I 
love reading those reports... people jumping into the fray and having a great 
time out there!  But the real basics of getting a contact are persistence, 
perserverance, and luck.  Lots of each.  You've got to be by the radio to 
hear them... you've got to transmit for them to hear you. And sometimes 
you have to keep trying. Please do keep trying... YOUR luck will come 
through too!

I'm finishing up here, honest.

If "shirt pocket" communciations become the order of the day, where at-will 
communications can be had... then to me, somehow the amateur space 
program will be diminished.  It would be as easy as the Internet.  The thrill 
for me is still there, after all these years, because the success is tempered 
by the failures.  I've been skunked on SAREX missions before too.  I could 
not make it through to the very last shuttle mission carrying amateur radio, 
which was a great disappointment for me. An even greater disappointment 
was not even hearing the Expedition 1 crew (except school contacts)... after 
listening for them for untold hours. Randy, KG3N, the only known 2-way 
with Expedition 1, showed great skill in getting that contact... being there 
for that engineering pass, and clobbering them with a super signal. Still... it 
was only LUCK that prompted "Shep" to answer his call... he could have 
quietly turned off the radio since his comm check was complete.

I have a few "personal goals" that I would like to achieve with the ISS.  My 
first is already lost... to work all crews.  Only a couple of individuals (ARRL 
says 2 have applied for 2-way QSL with Expedition 1) now have a chance at 
that honor. I'd like to work ISS on all modes that they eventually activate up 
there. I would like to work all crew members on any (or all) of the Expedition 
crews... and also guest operators, such as Dennis Tito and Jeff Ashby 
recently (and I got skunked there too on both of them... I didn't even get to 
hear Tito).  Perhaps Bruce, the new AMSAT Awards Manager, could create 
some real "wall paper" along the lines of what I'm saying here.  I'm sure I 
am not the only one who would like to earn a certificate for some special 
operating achievement with the space station. Set some guidelines!

For those who may think that I must be some kind of frequency hog 
(excepting the current bandwidth of this message, please!)... I will again 
plead guilty on packet (but you won't usually see any more packets from 
me than what you see transmitted from Bob's club station, the Naval 
Academy, W3ADO). I expect to be backing off more and more.  Summer is 
here, I have chores to do, etc.  I have a job and a life other than this also. 
But I do want to keep out there from time to time too... posting my positon 
to the APRS map, saying hi to folks and listening for new operators on the 

Finally, (FINALLY!!!!) let me fill you in on what I'm *NOT* doing... I am not 
making multiple voice contacts, but I have noticed that there are many who 
are. Susan is starting to learn some people's names now. As I said earlier, I 
myself have a childlike enthusiasm for space contacts... and it sometimes 
seems SO HARD not to call for Susan, who I worked on April 20th.  She 
seems to be having a great time with the radio and is very skilled at 
handling the pileups. God bless her and Jim Voss... they have been very 
active and have made many people very, very happy. I just worked Jim on 
May 9th... and now will no longer try to call him. (Although I may make an 
exception and try to QSO from my truck sometime.) I hope that others will 
also try to follow this principle and exercise self-restraint after you have 
made a good 2-way contact. Hmm, this kinda sounds like what Bob is 
asking for with packet.  Maybe I don't disagree after all.  Well, yes I do... I 
view packet differently.  Packet is a machine... its on-air time is not as 
valuable as that of a person... an astronaut.  I would like for the astronaut's 
on-air time to be spent making as many *NEW* people happy as is 
possible. I would like for as many new people as possible to know that thrill 
that many of us have now felt recently. There is plenty of APRS activity on 
every packet pass that I have copied to enable a "shirt pocket" RECEPTION 
demo for Bob's program. Transmitting successfully will remain more difficult, 
but folks have shown that an Oscar-class setup is not required.  Ask those 
5th graders in PA!!!  APRS proved itself very successful on the Mir, and it is 
again proving its success on the ISS. I worked the Mir in '94 and '95 on 
packet... and it was also always busy... very difficult to leave a message in 
their PMS, which was required for a QSL.  I predict the ISS will remain busy 
for all of its life as well.  At least I hope so, because I hope to see that 
much enthusiasm for its entire life span.  And I hate the thought that this 
might all become so commonplace that some lonely astronaut out there 
might someday be calling CQ, and not have anyone interested enough to 

I greatly apologize for this long message.  But while I'm here, I'd like to 
thank Frank Bauer and ALL the people at NASA, AMSAT, ARRL, and 
others for helping to provide this great pleasure to all of us.  I have never 
been an AMSAT member before, but I will be joining up soon. I am a Life 
Member of ARRL.

I hope to continue encouraging others to work the ISS. If this is a bad thing, 
somebody better straighten me out quick. Of the 5 local hams that I know 
of here who have seriously tried getting packet digipeats through the ISS, all 
have been successful (plus one other I'm not sure about). I believe all of 
them used 50-100 watts. One guy used a sound card packet setup. No 
elevation rotors or else no beams used by any of them. 

Very best regards to all,

Stan Vandiver, W4SV
Hanna, Indiana
http://stan.vandiver.com (where you can hear all of my voice contacts and 
now see a few ISS pictures that I took as it flew by near my house)

(flame me if you must)

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