I’ve got plenty to talk about this month as we dig into the questions, but please also stick around to the end for a quick channel update and a preview of a few videos to come. But first we’re going to unpack a few of the comments from my recent video were I discuss why our repeaters are so quiet. So many great comments came from this video, many of them echoing the statements I made. Also, quite a few believe that it doesn’t need to be that way.


I’ll start things off with a comment from regular contributor 1fanger:

Very good topic of conversation. “Conversation” is the operative word here. Just ham it up whenever possible. Search for local nets and make a point of participating. Show some enthusiasm and put on your best ham voice. Sound happy to be on the air. Write down the names and call signs of other hams so you can say to them that “hey, didn’t I hear you last week on such and such net?”  You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

That’s great advice, I always believe in positivity and a cheerful voice certainly creates a welcoming atmosphere on the repeater.

Commenter CWB has noticed a different trend:

I decided recently to make more of an effort this year to get more involved in ham radio and I’ve found that the repeaters around me here in Eastern MA seem to be more active now than 4-5 years ago when when I was first licensed. I also noticed more newly licensed hams on the air lately too which is a good sign. I currently only use analog repeaters and since most if not all digital rigs can also do analog there’s no reason to not put your call out on analog repeaters if digital repeaters are dead. My main thought is whatever you have use it to get on the air as much as you can and don’t be afraid to be the one to start some activity.

Thanks for your observation, encouraging new hams to be active on the air can be a challenge, so a welcoming attitude is key. And other commenters echoed the same thoughts and stated that they live in communities with good repeaters and great activity. To that end, Kevin reminds us:

Two comments:   Let’s try to be more active about calling back when someone throws out their call on UHF/VHF, even if it’s not a friend of ours.  Also, let’s always keep in mind that being prepared for emergency, grid-down situations is an important aspect of ham radio.  That is to say,  we need to stay in practice of communicating with each other using RADIOS rather than cell phones and the internet.

I’m in total agreement with that- if we don’t use our resources on a regular basis, how will we know if they will be available in an emergency.

Finally, TecDive gives a serious reason why there isn’t more conversation going on the repeaters:

Great question. And while you make some great points, I think you are too entrenched in HAM to see the real problem. While conflicting digital platforms may have something to do with it, as well as other competing past times – the internet and so many more things to do these days – the real problem is that most repeaters are BORING!!!!!!! One can go through an entire net, or day on any given repeater, where the subject matter rarely strays far from the WEATHER or RADIOS! I think all the HAM operators forgot that the purpose of a communication device – like a radio – is to have interesting conversations about things other than the weather (most people call this small talk), or the device facilitating the communicating! And for me, the most interesting conversations are the ones that are debatable – or have some controversy. I learn the most from those. But God forbid that there be anything controversial discussed on a repeater. So if users can’t have interesting conversations on repeaters, they automatically gravitate to where they can have interesting conversations – like the internet … Good luck

You bring up a good point, but controversial subjects are like a double edged sword. The reason it is recommended that hams steer clear of religion and politics is that they are divisive and in the long run do little to encourage goodwill. Plus when two individuals get on a controversial topic over the air it tends to alienate the listeners. The problem lies in that people are unable have a discussion on those topics without it becoming a zero sum game. What benefit is that? I understand taking a defensible position and backing it up with reasonable evidence, but when it no longer becomes defensible, you have to yield, otherwise the whole conversion no longer becomes ‘interesting.’ So, I’m perfectly ok with moving those arguments to other forums as they certainly don’t portray the amateur radio community in a positive light. Remember, these are the public airwaves and with subjects like that, it’s good to remember: It’s better to remain silent and thought to be a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.

Moving on, I got a couple of questions on my recent video on using APRS on the Yaesu FTM-400 dual band mobile.  James asks:

Thank you for the video. Can you do APRS on the B channel in the background and voice on the A channel? Can it be a TNC?

Well, I have good news and bad news. Yes, you can do simultaneous APRS on the B channel and voice communication on the A channel. The FTM-400 has two VFOs so it can handle voice and APRS simultaneously between the two channels. The TNC in the radio is not accessible externally (unlike the Kenwood TM-710GA). The radio can output APRS packets via the interface port so you can show them on an external display, but it can’t take input from an an external device, so a computer can’t control the radio. That means no packet radio or APRS control via a computer.

On to revadan’s question:

Had a TMD-710GA before and sold it, it decodes most of the strong packets it hears, BUT having 400xdr for 2 years am still wondering why the radio receives a strong signal but seldomly decodes it.. you can see the display it shows full bars of signal but no decodes.. hate it.

I’m pretty sure the radio is decoding all the packets, but it may not always show them on the screen. The FTM-400 filters out duplicate packets, so if it receives identical packets from two digipeaters, it won’t display both. Also stationary objects are filtered out if the radio received a packet from them and they haven’t moved in the last 30 minutes. Try clearing the Heard List and you’ll get a flurry of stations pop up on the screen as the radio decodes them.

And speaking of the Kenwood TM-D710,  MonkeyProof1 asks

Comparing the 400XDR to the TM-D710GA, what are some of the Pros and Cons of each model?

Both are excellent rigs and either is an excellent choice. The key difference between the two is that the Kenwood TM-D710GA allows external access to the TNC. There is a serial port so you can connect a computer or other device to the radio for two way TNC control. So the radio can feed APRS information to a computer running an application or you can use it for packet radio communication. The FTM-400XDR is APRS only, you can’t externally control the TNC- although the radio will output APRS packets via its control port, but this is a one way process. So packet radio and external control via an APRS application is out of the question. But the Yaesu has an excellent color display and the quality of information, along with the touch screen, I believe makes up for that downfall.

In a nutshell, If you require external control of the TNC or wish to run mobile with a computer or other device, then the Kenwood is for you. If you want the simplicity of APRS operation with a good high quality display, then go the Yaesu route.

Last summer’s Two meter quarter wave ground plane antenna video generated a couple of great questions that I really should address. First, Frank asks:

Do you have to strip the cover from the wire?  Great video.  thx.

Leaving the insulation on the wire will affect the velocity factor or electrical length of the wire. The formula in the video is assuming bare wire, so if you use insulated wire you will need to trim the antenna a bit so that it is resonant  on the frequency you choose. So, you can leave the insulation on, but be aware that you will need to make adjustments and a bit of tuning so it is resonant.

Next Carl asks:

Hi Michael

I built thetwo meter quarter waveground plane antenna ,I am measuring 2.7 SWR at 146 MHz . What would be a good SWR for this antenna ?any suggestionsto make my SWR better ,my copper wire is cut at 19.2 inches. Thanks in advance .

At 19.2 inches, you should get a better reading, in fact if you measure carefully, the antenna will be close to 1.2:1 or less.

Believe it or not, this is very common question that I receive, especially from hams that have just purchased one of my 2 meter J-Pole antennas. First off, check your coax and make sure you don’t have any bad connections or shorts in the connectors. If the coax is good, then may I ask what are you using as a SWR meter? Is it rated for VHF/UHF frequencies? A meter designed for HF/CB radio will give you a faulty reading above 30 Mhz and you will see an SWR of  about 3:1 when you use it on VHF. My recommendation is if you are still having trouble with the antenna is to borrow an analyzer that can do  VHF to further tune the antenna.

Finishing up, we have have some great topics coming this month. I’ll have my second part of the Yaesu FTM-400 APRS video and an upcoming review of the Chameleon Emcomm III base antenna. Wait until you see where we install it. Also I’m planning some portable operation this month, so hopefully I can squeeze one of those videos in here. Spring is here, so lets get outdoors. As always, do you have questions?  I’d love to hear them. Please leave it in the comments below, I’ll pick out the best for my next Your questions answered video.

For more articles and information, please check out my blog at www.jpole-antenna.com. Your support of this channel drives the production of future videos. So if you like this video, give me a big thumbs up and also check out this video right over here. And don’t forget to hit that subscribe button if this is your first time here. That’s the best way to be notified when a new video is released.   I’m Michael, KB9VBR, have a great day and 73.