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Messages - gil

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Tactical Corner / Re: The Ever Useful Good Old Morse Code.
« on: August 17, 2012, 01:34:32 AM »
That vertical key is something else! I went to the Vibroplex web site, and I like their vibrocube.. Pretty tough looking.
I have started using the site.. The first time I tried it, it didn't quite work, and some sections still do not.
Probably a setting to change, flash version or whatever. I like the "Morse Machine" and "Word Training" options.
I'm going to stay on lesson 15 for  while to build up speed...

Today I converted my 2-band K1 filter board (I have the 4-band) to an 80/17m board.
Unfortunately the 17m side does not work properly. The board worked before, so either
I messed-up, or the tuning is really hard; but I tuned 80m in three minutes flat...

If I get sufficiently better at Morse code, I might just have a small SSB radio tucked away for emergencies,
but primarily operate CW. One can only hope... The LCWO site is motivating though, because you can keep track of your score...


Tactical Corner / Re: The Ever Useful Good Old Morse Code.
« on: August 15, 2012, 10:11:39 PM »
Amazing what the human brain can do!

You prob can handle 3, 4, & 5 char words in your conquered char list of 15, right?

Maximum, yes, but then the code coming after that distracts me...

One comment in one of the videos is very interesting:

You need just practice and you start hearing it. Not consciously, but unconsciously. You just write it down and you see that your guess was correct. You are surprised. It's like your brain does not belong to you. You type what you consider right, and you are amazed that your brain told you to type this variant and not the other.

I will definitely try to build my speed up as soon as I get all the letters.

We'll have to set-up a QSO once you get on the air, but you'll have to slow down for me  ;)


Tactical Corner / Sending Encrypted Messages in Morse Code.
« on: August 15, 2012, 10:54:01 AM »
In this article I will show you how to send an encrypted message that can not be broken. All you need is paper and pencil. With our privacy disappearing faster than the Mountain Gorilla, I thought that such knowledge might one day become more than a coffee shop conversation topic. I am referring to the One-Time-Pad described by Neal Stephenson in his novel, "Cryptonomicon." Highly recommended by the way. So, learn it and have fun with your kids. It's kind of like showing them how to start a fire without matches or lighter. It's fun, and who knows, they might have to use it some day..

By the way, this is one more reason to learn Morse code. You can't encrypt your voice, at least not without exotic hardware and software. After a natural or man-made disaster, our country could be a prime target for invasion. I know, extremely unlikely.. So thought many Europeans in 1939. Sending a coded message with a simple and small CW radio might one day be a life saver.

DO NOT send encrypted messages over the airwaves, it is illegal!

I have always been interested in encryption theory. Surprising, since I never liked puzzles or crosswords. Not to mention my poor math skills. For some reason I have always been driven to learn obscure, odd or outdated skills. Even though I am a programmer by trade, the level of complexity in encryption software is way over my head. I've had a PGP key for about fifteen years, but to my dismay, nobody ever sends encrypted messages but for the occasional server password; and that may have been two or three emails in ten years. Had I not insisted on it, I would have received none. You would think this feature would be built in every email program, but it isn't. You must add a plugin to your mail client, if one is even available. I know Evolution on Ubuntu has it built in, and Pegasus Mail on Windows has a plugin, my Mac does too. But computer encryption is not the subject today.

Let's see how it is done. It is pretty easy:

You need a way to produce random letters. These random letters will be the key used to code and decode the message. Do not rely on yourself or a computer to produce true randomness. Typing random keys on your keyboard doesn't work, it won't be truly random. Good for practice, but not for real messages. I would suggest putting letters from a Scrabble game in a bag and shake it vigorously. Pick one letter (without looking!), write it down. Put it back, repeat. Write down your pad in groups of five letters, like so:


You need as many letters as your intended message. Here is a one-time-pad generator, for practice (set group length and key length to 5).


Now, let's say your message is HELLO. Our first key group is GEXOJ.

HELLO is the message.
GEXOJ is the key, called a one-time-pad because it can be used for only one message.

We are going to count to the position of the letter H, but starting at zero, not one.
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7........ Etc...

Here is the whole alphabet to help you:


Our first key letter is G, and G = 6.
Add the two: 7+6=13 = N.
We keep going: E=4 + E=4 = 8 which gives I.
L=11 + X=23 = 34 ! Ha, problem! The alphabet has only 26 letters.
No problem, when we hit 26, we go back to A. 27=B, 28=C, etc. So, 34=I.
L=11 + O=14 = 25 = Z.
O=14 + J=9 = 23 = X.

Here is another way to look at it:


Our secret message is NIIZX.

Now, let's decode it:
We do the same thing in reverse...
(If a number is negative then add 26 to make the number positive.)

Minus (key)6423149

The encrypted message is as random as the key is. Therefore, as far as I know, there is no code breaking method available that could possibly crack it. Your message is of course only as safe as the key. If the key is truly random, has not been seen by anyone except you and the recipient and was used only once then destroyed, then your message is safe!


Tactical Corner / Re: The Ever Useful Good Old Morse Code.
« on: August 15, 2012, 10:38:29 AM »
Hi Brian,

Yes, I have done my homework on the radios. I can't buy anything without knowing I made the correct decision. I am not sure of my "target speed" The problem with 8-10wpm, is that it still allows you to count dits and dahs. So, some letters, I know by sound, some I cheat and visualize the dots and dashes. Not good. I would be happy with 15wpm to start. I downloaded a program called "CW Freak," which gives you call signs one by one, and speeds up every time you succeed, slows down when you miss. I still need to first learn all the letters at least. I'm up to 15 letters, but before adding more, I think I will try to increase my speed to 15wpm.

I think the record is about 140wpm, insane!

About head copying, I read a good article last night about a trick to increase your capability. You ask someone to read a book/article to you by spelling the letters, and you assemble them in your head. You can do it with a metronome... 100 characters per minutes I think might be 20wpm. Listening on my K1, I can only add up 3-4 letters before my "buffer" runs out of memory!

If you can already head-copy half the letters at 20wpm, my hat is off yo you! Stick with it.


Technical Corner / Re: Looks like I found a base for my DCP paddle!
« on: August 15, 2012, 10:17:40 AM »
Hi Brian,

The DCP paddle works great, though, of course I am no expert. It took me a long time to decide between the K1 and the KX1. The K1 won, but not by much. The KX1 has the advantage of wide SW receive and the 80m band with the 4-band module. To get 80 on the K1, I have to switch filter boards, and that means opening the box, removing the ATU, switching the filter board, then re-setting the band allocation in the menu.. The K1 though has a speaker, 7W output, and it's ATU is better. It is a tough choice. I might still get a KX1, so I'll have a backup. "Two is one, one is none." Golden rule of prepping!

More and more I have been thinking of not getting into SSB. At least, not until I can have a conversation in Morse code at 20wpm, head-copying. I plan on getting an SSB radio, maybe MFJ-9440, and just keep it in a box until then. I also have thought of the K2, but that is a lot of money just to add SSB to my present capabilities.


Tactical Corner / Re: The Ever Useful Good Old Morse Code.
« on: August 14, 2012, 11:03:11 PM »
Hello Brian,

I haven't tried QRQ yet, but heard of it. I have listened to 2m traffic, and I have a list of repeaters saved in my handheld. Not having my license yet, I can't transmit. Actually, except for the K1 I built, which can receive 40mLSB, I have no SSB radios. I can't justify buying more gear before getting my ticket. Up to 14 letters now with the Koch method...

Thanks for joining!

Reply from Don W3FPR, from the Elecraft reflector. Thanks Don!


As far as I know, you are close to correct, but why tune W1AW to 750 Hz when you have set your BFO and TX offset to 600 Hz?

You can use any FFT based audio spectrum analyzer in place of Spectrogram.
The procedure is:
1) Tune in "band noise" (no signals are desired)
2) Switch to FL3
3) Adjust the BFO trimmer to place the filter passband centered at you chosen sidetone pitch.
4) turn the switch on the bottom to TEST and tune the TX OSC trimmer at the back to set the tone at your sidetone pitch.
5) Check to be sure the STP menu parameter is set to your preferred sidetone pitch.
6) Set the operating frequency for each band - one can use W1AW transmissions, or other sources of known frequency.  I have a very accurate frequency counter, so I set the power to 1 watt and measure the frequency of the transmitted signal.

You may put this information on you blog - I did not send it to the reflector


Hello, I know this is a bit specific, but I am sure some new K1 builders might find it useful.

I heard about Spectrogram on the Elecraft email reflector, the PC version. Problem is, I wouldn't touch a Microsoft product with a ten foot pole. To my surprise though, there is an iPod application for $9.99. Bingo!

First I needed to set my transmit offset correctly. I first did it by ear, but it turns out that I was 50Hz off. Pretty good, but I like things to be "just so." I removed both top and bottom covers and flipped the tone switch to "Tune." I could hear the faint tone. I placed my iPod running Spectrogram near one earbud and could see the tone on the screen appearing and disappearing as I removed or replaced the earbud. I slowly turned C13 until the line perfectly aligned with the 600Hz mark. Next, I made sure my sidetone was also set to 600Hz under the Stp menu. Don't forget to flip the switch back to "Oper." Et voila!

To make sure your display shows the correct frequency, You can listen to either W1AW broadcasts on 7,047.5 or 14,047.5 kHz. See the ARRL web site for schedules. With Spectrogram on, you move the tune pot until you align their 750Hz tone with the same frequency on the screen. Then you go to the Cal menu and use the up/down buttons to set the displayed frequency to end in 47.5.

With WWV on 10mHz (30m), you move the tune pot until their tone matches your sidetone frequency on the screen, meaning, if you did set your tone to 600Hz, you move the tuning pot until their "main" tone (thicker line) shows on the 600Hz mark on the screen. If your display shows 10,000.6, you're right on.

I used W1AW first, then verified my setting with WWV. I was spot on. For $9.99, you get the assurance of being right on frequency. You can also use your app for zero-beating any station you hear. Priceless  ;)

Tactical Corner / Why QRP?
« on: August 12, 2012, 12:09:58 AM »
QRP means "low power operations." Usually, 5W CW (Morse Code), or 10W SSB (voice). Think of a 10W light bulb and how far it lights up your back yard at night... Not very far. A 5W CW signal though can cut through the ether like a divorce through your bank account. If 5W works fine, then wouldn't 100W work better? Sure, but there is no free lunch. Many preppers think that they will be able to stay home and ride TEOTWAWKI until the cows come home. If you live in a heavily guarded compound with lots of armed defenders, food and ammo, you might. But who does? There is a good chance that you may have to relocate a few times, or have to travel some distance to get food or other goods, reunite with family members (from whom you heard on the radio of course) and so on. Is that old 40Lbs tube-powered boat anchor going to help you?

Most QRP rigs can run forever on batteries so small, you can carry them in your pocket. They can be recharged from a flexible solar panel hung on your backpack. Sure, you might only run 5-10W, or even 1W, but after a few miles of walking, I can guarantee you that you will be throwing things away right and left, including that car battery you hoped to use to power your big Yaesu. Even mobile transceivers producing more than a few watts will require quite a power supply. Some allow to set their output power much lower, and that is great. You still need to look at receiver current draw. My Elecraft K1 draws 55mA on receive! A K2 draws 150mA, a Yaesu FT-817ND draws 450mA... Some radios draw much more. How heavy a battery are you willing to carry? I use the 2.9Ah model shown below, which is the maximum weight I am willing to carry for that purpose.

Then you have the matter of the antenna. You can't carry a disassembled vertical with you. For HF, you will need a substantial antenna, especially with low power. I find the end-fed dipole to be perfect. You can find the impedance matching boxes here: I made one, and it works great with a 35.5ft wire for 40 to 15m. Some models are single-band, without requiring a tuner. I plan on making more, you guys let me know if you want one. I get copper-cald steel wire (#532) from

I really don't want to carry any more than necessary. A trip started in decent conditions, given the circumstances, can quickly turn into hell in a New York minute. Even if you have a car, that might not last the whole way. Without rule of law, anything is possible. If you end-up on foot, make sure you can carry your gear at a fast pace for a while. Which brings me to another subject to explore in a future article: Are you in decent shape physically? Do you spend too much time on your favorite chair enjoying QSOs in you Ham shack, eating blueberry muffins? (I'm dying for one right now!). You can't prepare selectively. It might upset you to hear this, but unless you have valid medical reasons not to diet and exercise (one doesn't work without the other), you are fooling yourself.

Here is my first attempt at a "go-kit." I have a bug-out bag mind you, which is always a work in progress, that is another story. You are looking at an Elecraft K1, the above battery, a paddle mounted on a Rock-Mite 40 mini transceiver, and a wire antenna. Yes, there are two radios in that Pelican 1400 waterproof case. Even that I think is a tad too big. I plan on making a second kit with an SSB radio. Note that I always keep them in a grounded metal box for EMP protection.

I believe that when things really go bad, QRP is the way to go, for mobility reasons. It is also easier to hide a QRP transmitter. Take the Rock-Mite for instance, you could keep one in your jeans back pocket. Small 2m handhelds take little space. They are also in essence QRP rigs. Remember that you might be carrying your bug-out bag.. I have thought of buying a cart, just in case, but that would draw a lot of unwanted attention. "When All Else Fails," right? You need to prepare for that. Most hams or preppers do not.

Cost is also a major consideration, for me at least. There are quite a few other items I need to acquired before considering myself "ready." I am pretty far from it right now. In the meantime, the world seems to be going in the wrong direction at a rapid pace. So, the least I spend, still maintaining some standards, the faster I get ready. Buying small and light equipment is often more expensive (i.e. camping gear!), but fortunately that does not apply to radios. Look at the MFJ-94xx series for instance, they sell new for around $250, and you can occasionally find them for much less on Ebay. Much of the other stuff on Ebay is too heavy, but sometimes you stumble on a gem. I often search for "QRP," just in case. CW radios are the cheapest. A Rock-Mite mounted in an Altoids box might set you back $40, and will give you a nice minty breath! A Webber Tri-Bander kit costs $200 and outputs 5W. Ten-Tec sells a Chinese made CW transceiver for $249 (40/20m). A K1, the Ferrari of CW rigs, will set you back $300 to $530 (4-bands & auto tuner), and 30 hours of work. A Yaesu FT-817ND: $670. There is something for everyone.
As far as bands go, I am strongly leaning towards 40m, for CW and SSB. Why 40? Because it works most of the time, even during low solar activity. It works for long distance contacts as well as regional ones. A basic Technician license holder can use some of the CW portion of the band. The General license doesn't seem hard to get. I am already passing most of my practice tests on, and I read the book once. I'll go for both tests once I get my Morse Code up to speed. I know it isn't required, but since I want to operate mostly HF and CW, I am in no hurry. Honestly, the stuff I hear on 2m is pretty boring. My Yaesu Ft-270R handheld lives in a tin box in my closet somewhere, and I never take it out. I think the first Radio Preppers Net might end-up being on 40m... More on that in the near future. I thought about CB, but a Ham license is too cheap and easy not to get. Also, CB contacts are supposed to be with 250km, which isn't much. Nobody pays attention to that it seems, but why not respect regulations if there is no emergency..

Go QRP! If you can do it with 5-10W, then you can do anything.

Tactical Corner / Re: The Ever Useful Good Old Morse Code.
« on: August 11, 2012, 10:12:11 AM »

I was in the Philippines for two months, around 1990. I have always thought about coming back. One of the best countries I have visited! Welcome aboard. I am also a fan of the Rock-Mite. Are you guys also using other kits like the BitX20? Or small transceivers like the MFJ-94xx series?

Have a great week-end,


Technical Corner / Looks like I found a base for my DCP paddle!
« on: August 11, 2012, 01:40:34 AM »

You need a good base for your paddle, right? Well, I bought the DCP paddle kit from American Morse ( it is a neat little paddle, works really well, doesn't cost much, and is easy to build. I needed to put it on something solid, and what could be better than my Rock-Mite 40? A marriage made in heaven. The Rock-Mite 40 is mounted in a Mity Box, also from American Morse. It is held in place by one screw through the lid, and I used little rubber feet from Radio Shack on the box. The paddle itself has some, so it doesn't move at all. Wherever I take my K1, I will have a CW transceiver backup! I am up to half the alphabet in my code learning endeavor...

Have a great Week-end  :)


General Discussion / Elitism in Ham Radio and Further Thoughts.
« on: August 07, 2012, 12:59:24 AM »
New preppers should be aware that, besides Ham Radio being a great hobby and potentially life-saving in an emergency situation, they might come across an elitist mentality that does a great disservice to the Ham community. I am new to Ham Radio, though not new to radio or electronics. I will have my license soon enough, with Morse code. I am taking my time, it might be two months, it might be a year. I respect regulations. I've built my own radio from a pile of components and circuit boards. Yet, I have been refused access to a couple Yahoo groups because I was not a Ham yet. From reading many Ham forums, I also get the clear impression that some Hams feel like having passed a test most ten-year-olds can pass is something to feel special about. You know the type.. A-personality, middle-aged, out of shape, who craves attention and thinks a call sign pin, orange vest and walkie talkie will bring them status and better self-esteem. Unfortunately, these people are an active group in Ham events. I just hope they don't teach their values and attitude along with their radio knowledge.

This forum will not be like that. I will make sure of it. Everyone with a good attitude is welcome here, and we'll help you out.

Hopefully we will set-up a communications network for large-area disaster preparedness and information sharing. You won't need an orange vest or strobe lights on your car, and there will be no reporting to any three or four-letter-word organizations. You won't have to pay for classes to be able to help your community if you want to. It isn't that I don't think these organizations won't try to help in a disaster, but I have doubts. When it hits the fan, we have to think of our families and friends. I couldn't be a first responder and leave the people I love most to go help some strangers. My hat is off to those who can do that, but it isn't for me.

Have you guys seen the movie or read David Brin's novel "The Postman?" Kevin Costner plays the postman. He isn't really a postman, but in a post-apocalyptic America, he finds a postman's jacket and uses it to his advantage to gain access to communities along his way. He does however start to carry mail and his work ends up being pivotal in the rebuilding of the country. Good book by the way, and the movie is pretty well done. I think radio would fill that role after a nationwide disaster. That is why it is important that every prepper community has the means to communicate.

Take care,


General Discussion / Re: Introduction
« on: August 01, 2012, 11:17:05 PM »
Welcome aboard Todd  :)

Very interesting, thank you. I have never looked at surplus military antennas, but that is a great idea.


General Discussion / Re: Introduction
« on: July 26, 2012, 02:36:49 PM »
Welcome aboard! It looks like you might have quite a bit to share on this site, which is great. Thank you for signing up. I do read your blog on a regular basis, and suggest  anyone here do the same.

About the Tech test, I certainly think it has a useful purpose. I saw CB in the 80s, and what it is now. Not pretty.. While I own a CB radio, it is rarely plugged-in. I keep it just in case..

I think the purpose of this site should be education, as well as community building, an information exchange hub in case of emergency. Later, it would be nice to agree on some frequencies and establish a weekly net. But one thing at a time. Right now I am trying to get the word out, and everyone can help.

Have a great day  :)


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