Monday, November 12, 2018

Clipping the Diode

Two official .gov/.mil organizations hams get involved with are Civil Air Patrol (CAP) and Military Affiliate Radio Service (MARS). Historically, MARS and CAP were allocated frequencies just past the edges of the ham bands, such as 142-144 and 148-150 MHz. Hams in MARS and CAP would use their existing radio equipment on their organizations' frequencies. Typically, there was a jumper or diode on the radio's circuit board that would open up the TX frequency coverage and enable operation outside the ham bands. While CAP has adopted technical standards that preclude the use of most ham equipment for their comms, MARS still allows the use of ham gear. Most radios are still being made with a jumper or diode that will enable transmitting out of the ham bands when clipped. We call this the "MARS/CAP" or "freeband" mod. Most radio places will give a ham the mod info, or perform the mod for a small fee, if they present a MARS or CAP radio license. This would give an HF rig TX coverage from 1.8-30 MHz., and a dual band HT 136-174 and around 400-470 MHz. Some of the Chinese HTs come already opened up, which is what got that Baofeng in hot water with the FCC.

In the early 1990s it was considered a title of passage among radio hackers to "clip the diode" on their recently purchased HT. Many non-hams found themselves bootlegging on 151.625 MHz. and other low-power/itinerant frequencies where there were thousands of licensed users and no one paying much attention. This was before the creation of Part 95 services like FRS and MURS. CB skip shooters would buy a used Kenwood or Yaesu HF rig, clip the diode if not already done, and run 100 watts on 11 Meters and the 27.415-28 MHz range which is still a free for all today.

In regard to modified gear, the following provisions of Part 97 are of interest:


§97.403 Safety of life and protection of property.
No provision of these rules prevents the use by an amateur station of any means of radiocommunication at its disposal to provide essential communication needs in connection with the immediate safety of human life and immediate protection of property when normal communication systems are not available.

§97.405 Station in distress.
(a) No provision of these rules prevents the use by an amateur station in distress of any means at its disposal to attract attention, make known its condition and location, and obtain assistance.
(b) No provision of these rules prevents the use by a station, in the exceptional circumstances described in paragraph (a) of this section, of any means of radiocommunications at its disposal to assist a station in distress.
It is legal for an amateur radio operator to have a ham transceiver that will operate outside the ham bands, and in certain emergencies, it is legal to transmit out of band. Your typical HF-UHF amateur radio station, with the appropriate diodes/jumpers in the radios clipped or otherwise reconfigured, should be able to interoperate on CB, MURS, FRS, GMRS, and conventional analog LMR systems.

While this is legal under §97.403 and §97.405, in reality YMMV and keying up on the local PDs' repeater (assuming they still have an analog conventional system up and running) may result in you getting a rash of s**t if their idea of what constitutes an "emergency" is different than yours. I wouldn't expect the FCC to go to bat for you if that happens. Put aside a couple thousand bucks in case you need to lawyer up.

Realistically, you can expect most 2m radios to stay in original spec from around 140 to 160 MHz., and 70cm radios from ~400 to 470 MHz. Past that you can expect progressively worse transmit power output and receive sensitivity the further you get away from the ham bands. TANSTAAFL. Furthermore, running them regularly on Part 95 or 90 allocations is a regulatory no-no as they aren't "certified" for those services. Again, this is what got that Baofeng in hot water. Yes, I know everyone does it, and for the most part the FCC doesn't pay attention until they get a few complaints.

For what it's worth, my opinion is that if you want to run on Part 95 bands, you should run Part 95 gear as it is generally simpler to operate than Part 90 gear. I've met many a no-code, single test session Extra who despite being able to memorize all three test pools was still unable to program and effectively operate his Baofeng HT. I expect his clueless Aunt Matilda would be even less successful if handed one, and that's not taking into account what might happen if the wrong button was pressed. The simple CBs and FRS handhelds I pass out to non-techies have a minimum number of controls to get confused on, and are simple enough for everyone to operate.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

HTs and Cars

An HT is not the most ideal choice for a first radio, especially if you want to be serious about running simplex, which you should be. A VHF/UHF repeater is an unknown when it comes to reliability in austere conditions, and they have been known to fail when TSHTF. A good rule of thumb however is that ARES/RACES affiliated machines are more reliable in disasters.

Running a stock HT in a vehicle sucks. You start with an inefficient rubber duck antenna, and add the attenuation from transmitting inside a vehicle. I knew a few hams back in the day who would run a 25-50 watt amplifier and external antenna when operating mobile. That setup will give you the equivalent of a regular mobile rig, although the ergonomics won't be as nice.

Running a mobile antenna is probably the easiest way to increase the performance of your HT when operating from a vehicle. Since most amateur radio mobile antennas use a PL-259 connector, you will need an adapter to connect it to the BNC or SMA antenna connector on your HT.

Here is a Weierwei V1000 2m amateur radio HT, one of the higher-tier radios coming out of China. Opening it up, we were pretty convinced its design was "borrowed" from an EX600 or Visar.

Looking at the antenna connector on the radio, we discovered it was an SMA male, which is pretty typical for commercial LMR and Chinese ham radio HTs.

The HT with a generic dual-band (2m/70cm) cellular look-alike magnet mount antenna. It's a quarter-wave on VHF and 5/8th wave (or so) on UHF. Cheap hamfest find. It uses a PL-259 connector, so we need an adapter.

SMA female to SO-239 adapter cable. I prefer using cable adapters as they place less strain on the HT's antenna connector.

Everything all put together and ready to go.

You can expect a noticeable increase in communication range with this setup because you are eliminating attenuation from transmitting through a vehicle body, and running a higher-gain antenna than the stock rubber duck on the HT.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Finding Your Local VHF/UHF Net

So you just passed your Technician class license, and bought one of those <$50 HTs that covers the 2 meter and 70 cm bands. Your next step is to check into a VHF/UHF net on a local repeater (network). This is useful because it lets you know that your radio is working well enough to reach something, even if the repeater is doing most of the work for you.

First you have to find a repeater you access. In New England, we have the excellent New England Repeater Directory which you can reach at http://www.nerepeaters.com/. For other regions, you can try https://www.repeaterbook.com/, https://www.artscipub.com/repeaters/, or a search engine.

To get into a repeater, you will need to program in the receive frequency, transmit (TX) offset (which is usually +/- 600 KHz. on 2m or +/- 5 MHz. on 70 cm), and probably a PL/CTCSS tone. For example, my local repeater in Terryville, CT is on 147.315 MHz. with a TX offset of +600 KHz. (147.915 MHz.) and a transmit PL tone of 88.5 Hz. It is also part of a networked repeater system.

For ninety percent of you, finding which repeaters are active is simply a matter of doing a little OSINT research, and performing a point search on a few frequencies. If you are living someplace that lacks the proper OSINT material, then a band/sector search of 144-148 (2m) and 440-450 (70 cm) MHz. over the course of a few days will find what you need.  Even when idle, most ham repeaters will identify themselves every 10 minutes or so.

Once you have some repeaters identified, program the specifics into your radio, key up, wait a second or two, and simply say "<your_call> testing." If successful, you will hear a carrier from the repeater, maybe a courtesy tone, and maybe someone will come back to you with a signal report. If you want to rag chew a bit, just key up, wait a second or two, and say "<your_call> listening (or monitoring)." You usually don't call CQ on a repeater. if someone is listening and wants to chat, they'll come back to you.

So now that you've found a local machine or three, you need to find out when the nets are being held.  The ARRL has a net directory at http://www.arrl.org/arrl-net-directory, and there are, as always, search engines to help you. Usually VHF/UHF (repeater) nets are held in the evenings after dinner. Some nets may not be listed in the ARRL Directory. My local repeater's swap net (Fridays at 8PM) is not. I found it by listening.

When the net starts, listen closely for instructions from net control. Nets all have different check in procedures, and the net control station will tell you everything you need to know. For example, the WyoComm (Wyoming) weekly net on Sunday evenings does check-ins by region (Wind River, Big Horn, et al). The Donkey Dusters (CT) Swap Net takes Echolink check-ins first. RACES/ARES nets usually take emergency and low power (QRP) stations first.

Nets are a good source of information about the local amateur radio community, and something you should participate in even if only by listening. They are also good for setting a specific time to check your equipment.  I'm not normally a VHF/UHF repeater operator, yet among the first things I did  after moving back to New England was dig out an HT, program in the local repeater frequency and start listening.  Last night I heard the swap net start, checked in, and after the net had a quick QSO with a friend who lives in central Massachusetts and can also reach the same repeater network.  When I get some HF gear set back up, and try a sked with the same friend, we'll probably coordinate our HF comms on the same 2 meter repeater network.

With that said, the same local repeater network also has 10m and 6m nodes. When the bands start opening up, feel free to jump on and toss your call out.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Connecticut Intro Class - January, 2019

We'll be doing a one-day intro to communications and SIGINT class next January in Watertown, CT. Cost will be $100. More specifics once we finalize the date.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Gab Deplatforming

What is the one thing that I've said since starting Sparks 31?

Never trust anyone else's infrastructure.

The recent deplatforming of Gab is the latest reason why.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Last Weekend's SIGINT Class, Colorado

HF-UHF receivers, reference material, and solar battery charging.

Radio Direction Finding (RDF)

The ultimate TEOTWAWKI receiver.

Receiver and antenna test equipment.

Sloper antenna for HF reception.

Fire starting materials from my go-bag.

Flame from one Wetfire block.




Thursday, October 18, 2018

News

  • Enrollment is now closed for the SIGINT Class this weekend in Colorado. I look forward to seeing everyone!  If you missed this time, I have a full schedule lined up for next year, which you can see at https://www.sparks31.com/p/2019-classes.html.
  • I'm now taking advance orders for the second edition of my book Commo at https://squareup.com/store/sparks31/. Release date will be Spring, 2019. It's shaping up to be about 50% bigger than the previous edition, with updated and all new material.
  • Meanwhile, from down in Denver I received the following news story:
    https://www.denverpost.com/2018/10/17/why-did-i-lose-power-denver/

    30,000 Xcel customers in east Denver lost power Tuesday due to downed transmission line

    Infrastructure gets increasingly frail each day, and it becomes increasingly important to have alternative means of getting news and information from other than mainstream establishment mass media sources.

Friday, October 5, 2018

We Used To Build: Crystal Clear

Let's take a step back to something that is so utterly simple that any of you should be able to build it right now, and yet is the ultimate post-SHTF TEOTWAWKI radio receiver.
I am of course talking about the humble crystal radio.It requires no external power, and you can build them out of junk parts like they did in World War II. That's right, GIs were building these on the front lines with stone tools and their bare hands, so you it should be well within your capabilities at this point.

This receiver has four components: an antenna, tuning coil, detector diode, and headphones. You also need a good ground connection.

The hardest to find item is a good set of headphones. They need to be high-impedance, at least 2000 ohms. Most consumer electronics headphones are 8-32 ohms and will not work at all. I use the single-ear headphone from a CDV-700 Geiger Counter and it works very well. Its impedance is about 4000 ohms. Cheapest route is to get a "crystal radio earpiece" from Jameco et al, but the sound quality sucks compared to a set of old-skool high-impedance 'phones from the early-mid 20th century.
The tuning coil is perhaps the easiest part to acquire. You wind it yourself on an oatmeal container or piece of PVC pipe that's a few inches in diameter.
This is the coil from the last crystal set I built a few years back. It needs to be re-wound, but still works ok. The form is an 18 ounce Quaker Oats box, wound with 22 ga. solid core wire.

Every few turns I pulled up a loop and stripped the wire for connecting an alligator clip.

The second hardest part of a crystal set is a good ground. I use an 8 foot ground rod hammered into the high desert sand outside my shack. It does an okay job, but I'll soon be supplementing it with some radials. Cold water pipes were often used, and that works well when you have copper plumbing that goes all the way to your well, and not plastic pipe.

The easiest diode detector for a beginner to work with is the classic 1N34A, aka NTE109. They work consistently well. I find a Galena detector to have a nicer, more "soft" sound, some enthusiasts like pyrite, but YMMV. Try a 1N34A first.

Finally, you have the antenna. Make it as long as you can, at least 100 feet if possible. It doesn't have to be up high. Rural listeners insulate the top strand of wire on their livestock fences and use that. A quarter mile of electric fence wire makes a really good crystal radio antenna.

Using my 18 oz Quaker Oats coil, a 1N34A diode detector, and 90 feet of wire with an average (not great) ground, I'm able to hear my local AM stations, and more than a few of the Class A blowtorches in the region. A longer wire antenna, better ground system, and adding a tuning capacitor would improve that. There is plenty of room for experimentation with crystal sets, which is something you should be doing.


References:


http://www.hpfriedrichs.com/mybooks/votc/bks-votc.htm - The Voice Of the Crystal

https://www.midnightscience.net/ - X-Tal Set Society

Sunday, September 30, 2018

We Used to Build: Rolling Your Own Radios, Part 2

Many of you are worried about EMP. This concern is valid to a certain degree, but probably not in the way you think. The usual single high-altitude air burst over the center of CONUS should be less concerning than shorter range tactical EMP attacks in urban areas, particularly the coastal regions.

Many of you do the expedient of wrapping a couple cheap HTs and maybe a portable shortwave receiver in  an anti-static bag and then placing them in an ammo can. That works, but then the radios are useless when you need them the most, which is now and not when maybe after your TEOTWAWKI fantasy happens.

One solution is to run some uber-cheap sacrificial gear when you think your TEOTWAWKI SHTF fantasy is about to be fulfilled. I consider that an expedient, the last step in PACE planning. A better solution is to run EMP-resistant tube gear, especially tube rigs that can run off 12V DC.

Here is a 12V mobile transmitter that was found at a local hamfest.
It is a home brew rig. Someone built this from scratch. Sadly, the builder is a silent key.

You don't have to build something from scratch, or figure out something that was homebrewed before you were born.

After World War II, surplus gear such as this BC-229 receiver got many hams on the air. It is another 12V tube rig, part of the SCR-AR-183 aircraft HF radio set.


Look at the build quality of that rig. It was made before your baby boomer (grand)parents were even born, and will still be working after they pass away. Look at the manual that includes full schematics and wiring diagram. This radio was designed to be maintained and fixed on a jungle airstrip in the middle of nowhere. Compare the build quality and documentation of this rig to your Baofeng HT. If you think a Chinese HT is equal to something that was built with old-skool American pride, and that it will last as long as this BC-229, you are deluded.

I don't, of course, expect a beginner to be able to work on gear of this caliber. That is why you should first build up your library, study, find an elmer that can help get you up to speed, and start with some solid state kits first.

You have been given links and information to get you started. You also have these wonderful online resources known as search engines to help you along. In the next posting, I will talk about simple tube gear that even an impoverished radio experimenter would be able to work with.

In the meantime, we are in the middle of the autumn hamfest season. A nationwide list is available at http://www.arrl.org/hamfests-and-conventions-calendar. You now have enough information to visit a hamfest and look for certain things.

This is an example of some of the material covered in my Come As You Are and Get On The Air radio class being held next year in various cities. Specifics are at https://www.sparks31.com/p/2019-classes.html. I'm now accepting deposits ($50) for all classes. To enroll, please visit https://squareup.com/store/sparks31.

Friday, September 28, 2018

We Used To Build: Rolling Your Own Radios, Part 1


The first ham radio book I bought when studying for my license had the schematic for a simple 80 meter CW transmitter using a 6LR8 tube. The schematic looked something like the one above. This was back in the early 1980s when they expected someone at Novice Class level to be able to build a simple CW rig with the help of an elmer.

In an age where the Maker Movement is rapidly gaining popularity and adopting the manifesto of If you can't fix it, you don't own it, the original DIY hobby (ham radio) has degenerated into a bunch of appliance operators using equipment made in totalitarian countries.  When the balloon goes up, all the no-code, test-pool memorizing, Extras who passed all three tests in a single sitting are going to be left out in the cold with their Chinese dual-band HTs, unless they get up to speed.

What do you need to do?

  1. Find the local elmer who has had his license for the past 60 years and still runs something like a Harvey Wells Bandmaster or something he built himself.
  2. Put together your library.
  3. Get radios that you can actually fix, as opposed to appliances that become worthless if they break because they can't be fixed.
  4. Build a kit or three.
  5. Learn the techncial aspects of ham radio.
  6. Learn CW.
  7. Graduate to rolling your own radios.
Good elmers are hard to come by. The good ones are at least in their 70s, and usually older. They still exist, however. The hardest parts for many of you are going to be a) getting the gumption to actually put the effort into looking for one, and b) not coming across as a total cock-walloping asshole. Oh well, as Frank would say, "many are called and few are chosen."

There are plenty of online sources to build up your reference library, but you'll want a few books in hardcopy format. Start with an ARRL Handbook from the late 1960s up to the 1980s or 1990s. Older and you'll get into tube gear which is cool, but probably not something you want to start with. Newer starts getting away from sold state, discrete component, thru-hole PCB construction that's easy to begin with. Shown here are ARRL Handbooks from 1969 and 1975. My oldest ARRL handbook is from 1946. The newest is 2013. Most in my collection are 1970s and 1980s vintage. Don't spend more than $10 on one, $5 for the digest-sized ones.

Second book I would get is the ARRL's Experimental Methods in RF Design. Yes, some consider it an "advanced" text. They are idiots. I have some engineering books if you want to see "advanced." The classic reprint edition contains a CD with PDF copies of Solid State Design For the Radio Amateur, Introduction to Radio Frequency Design, and a whole bunch of good BIY articles from QST and QEX.  Between this and a couple late-edition ARRL Handbooks, you are off to a good start. I could go on about good books for your library, but I already did in my book, and by now you should have downloaded a copy.

Many of the references at the end of this article will direct you to homebrewing pages with lists of suggested tools and test equipment. I would start with basic electronic hand tools and test equipment: different sizes of phillips & slotted screwdrivers, wire cutters, wire strippers, a 25-watt soldering iron, solder sucker, various pliers (needle nose, etc.), wrench set, nut driver set, VOM, frequency counter, power/SWR meter, dummy load, antenna analyzer or grid-dip meter, and signal generator. This is stuff any ham who has gone beyond owning a VHF/UHF HT should have and be familiar with.

One of the best things I've read about homebrew ham radio was the Frank and the Five Meter Liberation Army (FMLA) story series by the late Michael N. Hopkins, AB5L/SK. Here is a synopsis by the author:

"A man of the '30s awakens one night in the '90s (episode 13) with a new mission: recapture 56-60 mc. He forms a Five Meter Liberation Army from his mobile home in a Barrio trailer park run by Tom Joad of Steinback's Grapes of Wrath (episode 9), and soon draws a decidedly uncolorful bodyguard (episode 7). A six foot tall half Mexican stockbroker named for Ayn Rand makes him rich and a demonic white ferret and a half-siamese cat become his familiars. (episodes 10 and 9). The leader of all this, called only "Frank," settles down in the narrator's basement to be joined by Maj. Armstrong (episode 8), Hiram Maxim (episode 23) and one-time pals Carl and Jerry from the 1950s Popular Electronics (episode 25). His huge 1940s sedan, with contemporary plates, is immune from police (episode 13 et seq) and his breadboarded electronic creations recall those distant days when a ham built his own rig and could "fix a radio." Of course all this is crazy. No one builds anything anymore and the other things Frank stands for, like self- reliance, tolerance and a generally Boy Scout viewpoint are simply out of step. Frank knows that too (episode 20), but he does not care. If you're standing in the middle of the road and see a big brown Frazer coming at you, you better jump - one way or the other."
The story series is chock full of references to some really good homebrew articles and authors. ARRL members can access the full collection of QST back issues online, and all the back issues of 73 Magazine can be accessed via archive.org.

No one expects you to be able to roll your own right out of the gate, but instead for you to start learning about RF and electronics, upgrade to rigs that are built in such a way that they can be fixed when they break, and maybe build a kit or two.

Some of the better values in used gear are old-school kits that were previously built. Here we have a late 1970s to early 1980s vintage Heathkit HW-8 QRP HF transceiver. It puts out a couple watts CW on 80, 40, 20, and 15 meters.
A lot of these found their way into field radio kits over the years.A lot of these found their way into field radio kits over the years.


By now you might be familiar with the late homebrewer and ARRL tech writer Doug DeMaw W1FB/SK. He founded Oak Hills Research, and the (now discontinued) QRP Explorer is one of his designs. This is a simple monoband QRP CW transceiver, and an updated kit is available as the OHR-100A.
That's the inside of a QRP Explorer II, and it shows you what you want to look for: discrete components and thru-hole PCB construction. A ham operator built this with basic tools and test equipment I already mentioned, but what if you want something simpler as your first project?
A QRP transceiver that's the diameter of a tuna can from Rex at qrpme.com. Toss it with a 8AA battery pack and 40m dipole into the pocket of your field smock, and you are good to go.

All of these rigs share a few things in common. They are all HF rigs. One is 4-band, and the others are on the very popular 40m ham band. They are all CW rigs. CW remains the best way to communicate under austere conditions. It works well with QRP ops, and does not require a PC (greater electrical requirements) to decode the signal. They are all kits, designed to be built, tuned-up, and repaired with test equipment and knowledge any self-respecting ham should have. They are all QRP rigs. That makes them more portable in size and power requirements. QRO is great until you have to lug it around with all it's support equipment. For grid-down and down-grid type commo, QRP is what you should be looking at. While QRP will reach across the globe if  band conditions are decent and you do your part, you are really more interested in reaching out to your AO and surrounding regions than you are in working DX.


To be continued...

References:

http://www.arrl.org/shop/ARRL-s-Low-Power-Communication-with-40-meter-CW-Cub-Transceiver-Kit/

http://www.arrl.org/qrp-projects

https://www.mfjenterprises.com/

https://www.qrpkits.com/

http://www.qrparci.org/links/qrp-kits-bits-and-supplies

https://www.qrp-labs.com/

http://home.windstream.net/johnshan/qrp_ss_rigs.html

http://www.ozqrp.com/

http://qrpme.com/

http://www.ohr.com/

http://www.w1wc.com/homebrewing/

http://www.af4k.com/hamlynx/hamhomeb.htm


http://www.ac6v.com/homebrew.htm

http://www.wa0itp.com/crystalsetsssb.html <- This


Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Field Radio With Heathkit HW-8

Sent in by one of our East Coast readers.

Knowledge Is Power - One Month To Go Until Greeley, Colorado SIGINT Class

The Communications Monitoring and SIGINT Class in Greeley, Colorado is only a month away, but there is still time to sign up. If you can't make it to this one, the schedule for 2019 has been established, and at this time only a simple $50 deposit is required.

The past couple weeks have been more interesting than usual. Hurricane Florence whipped through the Carolinas, causing massive storm damage. An over-pressurized natural gas system wreaked havoc in Lawrence and Andover, Massachusetts. An observatory and post office were closed in New Mexico, and several homes evacuated, under odd circumstances. In Alaska, NORAD intercepted Russian military aircraft flying a little too close to American airspace. Last week, Russia announced that they will be conducting war games with China.

You cannot expect to get complete information from the mainstream media. In many cases you can't even expect it to be accurate. You can, however, set up a monitoring post and collect info first hand to get a better picture of things. That's what this class teaches. 


Sunday, September 16, 2018

Radio Realities

  • The way things are going with the establishment media, I would not be surprised if we start seeing more accurate domestic news from China, Russia, and Cuba than we will from ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox. If you do not have a police scanner and shortwave receiver you should get one yesterday, as they will be the only way to accurately get information.
  • Your Baofeng or other Chinese-made HT will break sooner than later. You should upgrade.
  • If you are worried about EMP or a Carrington Event, you should have tube gear.
  • You don't have the capability to fix that brand new Icom, Kenwood, Yaesu, or Alinco with its surface mount technology. Get something you can fix like a Heathkit or other kit-based radio that uses solid-state discrete components and thru-hole PCB construction. I have mentioned several, and there are others.
  • Repeaters go down. Don't rely on them. Think simplex.
  • You should have more invested in test equipment and knowledge (books) than in radios.
  • All modern digital modes require computers. CW does not.

VHF Communincations

http://mirror.thelifeofkenneth.com/lib/VHF_communications/

Wyoming Ham Convention and Field Radios

Yesterday was the Wyoming Ham Convention in Rock Springs. Being that it was "local" (two hour drive), I opted to visit it instead of the Bozeman, MT hamfest which was a little less than 6 hours away and therefore really an overnight trip.


There were three tables selling used gear, and a few vendors including Tac-Comm whose excellent Tactical Radio Carriers are used by many graduates of the Sparks31 classes. Not much in the way of components or inexpensive fiddly bits those of us who roll our own radios look for. One seller did have an item that after the usual ritual haggling found its way home with me.
The item in question being a late 1970s to early 1980s vintage Heathkit HW-8 QRP HF Transceiver. It's CW only on 80,40,20, and 15 meters, and puts out a couple of watts. The quintessential old-skool QRP rig. Solid state components with thru-hole PCB construction. Hams used to build these from kits, and when something breaks, it's simple and easy to repair with test equipment and tools every ham should have in their shack.

It pulls less than a half an amp on transmit, less than a tenth of an amp on receive, which means you can run this thing all day on a $20 7AH SLAB you can pick up at Home Depot or any other hardware store.  Add a Harbor Freight Solar Panel, and you're now off the grid. With a simple dipole antenna you and your buddy across town can practice CW with each other on the old 80 and 40 meter Novice sub-bands.

The HW-8 is a good example of what you should be looking for in a decent field radio. It's simple, no frills, fairly compact, uses common solid state parts, easy to work on, and easy to run off-grid. They average about $125 on Ebay, but you might find one for less at a hamfest. The sellers asking $200+ for them are overpricing them in my opinion, since you can buy a new MTR-3B for around $300.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Expedient Am and FM Broadcast Antennas

https://sparks31wyo.files.wordpress.com/2018/09/775831.pdf

Lawerence

In the current news feed: the massive gas leak/explosion IN Lawerence, Andover, and North Andover, MA.

One internet writer has suggested that their readers monitor radio activity about the event with an internet scanner app.

Nice idea at first, but wrong.

You should be monitoring radio traffic for events occurring in your area of operations. If you live in, say, Montana, Massachusetts is definitely not in your area of operations. You should instead be concentrating efforts on keeping an ear on stuff in your region. Is the COMINT coming out of Eastern Massachusetts

You also should be using your own receiving equipment. Scanner apps use the internet via wireless phone systems, and as we've seen in the past both like to go down in disasters.

The Other Site

https://tlalclatlan.wordpress.com/

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Indicators

So another FB post goes up on a threeper page of a few military vehicles driving down the road. The usual comments follow.

Let's put things into perspective.

During the 1992 LA riots, there were approximately 10,000 California National Guardsmen, 2,000 soldiers from the 7th Infantry Division, and 1,500 Marines from the 1st Marine Division. 13,500 troops to deal with rioting in an area of about 90 square miles. Roughly a 9.5 x 9.5 mile square. Under modern US military Tables of Organization and Equipment  (TOE), that's 3 Brigade Combat Teams (BCT).

Why is this important? Because we know how many troops it took to suppress a riot in an area that is only 90 square miles. We also know that these troops need transportation for themselves, their gear, and their provisions.

Let's take a look at a Brigade Combat Team TOE from https://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/policy/army/other/msm3-90_2012.pdf.

That's a lot of vehicles.

Multiply it times 3 to get an idea of what they used in LA.

Now those half-dozen humvees driving down the road don't seem like such a big deal, do they?

Also consider that any major deployment of assets is going to generate a lot of radio communications. Got SIGINT and COMINT?

Still though, it's nice to know people are keeping their eyes open.  So how should they report activities of potential interest?

With a SALUTE report.

S –size
A-activity
L-location
U-uniform
T-time
E-equipment


Monday, September 10, 2018

Denver Class In October


There are still some slots available for the SIGINT Class next month in Denver, CO. Price is still $200.  Visit https://squareup.com/store/sparks31 to enroll.