Passed my amateur radio license exams

Yesterday I passed my Standard amateur radio license tests. I spent quite a bit of time cramming lots of knowledge in my brain using the video course from the Radio & Electronics School, then took the exam out at the Waverley Amateur Radio Society.

I decided to go straight for the "Standard" license because I have little interest in voice and morse code modes. I want to jump straight into HF digital to communicate around the globe, and possibly play with bouncing signals OFF THE MOON.

The course was really fun. Good revision of my Year 11 Physics (which was a very long time ago, and I didn't really pay enough attention at the time) and Mathematics. Then while working through radio physics, practical receivers and transmitters there were quite a few "a ha!" moments where things I'd always wanted to know suddenly became clear.

In the end the exams were quite easy. You can get 30% wrong, which is pretty lenient, and the multiple choice format means usually two answers are obviously wrong, so your odds can be pretty good even when you're not sure.

It's made me think I should now go for the Advanced ticket. Lots more to learn and I actually really enjoyed learning again.

In 4-6 weeks (why does it take so long?) I'll hopefully be on the air as VK2VSR. See you there.

Notes on the course and Linux

I run Linux and the Radio & Electronics School's course assumed you're running Windows, so here's some pointers.

Ask Ron for the DVD image and mount it. Then uncompress all the video files with (the quotes mean the wildcard string isn't interpreted by your shell, which will not do what you want):

unzip '*.exe'

I converted the video files to mp4 so I could play them more easily on my tablet. I also sped them up because Ron talks very slowly, which might be fine for some but made me impatient. I did that with ffmpeg like this:

for f in *.wmv ; do  ffmpeg -i "$f" -filter_complex "setpts=PTS/1.7;atempo=1.7" "$f.mp4"; done;

The drill software runs almost perfectly using Wine. Just associate ".exe" with wine and you can double-click on them and work through them.

Finally, I created this cram sheet to drill myself on some of the rote learning components. I'm not brilliant at rote learning, so needed to work a bit on this. The phonetic alphabet wasn't too hard for me as I spent my childhood flying around in little planes with my Dad and evidently learned it through osmosis. The rest isn't all that obvious and just has to be crammed in. You could also memorise the frequency bands which are part of the regulations exam, but I just assumed they'd end up being absorbed by my 30% pass margin.