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Messages - gil

Pages: 1 ... 188 189 [190] 191 192
2836
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  :)

Gil.

2837
Technical Corner / The Retro-75 AM 75m Transceiver Kit.
« on: July 24, 2012, 09:17:55 PM »
Hello,

Another success! I got a Retro-75 from Small Wonder Labs and a nice blue case from TenTec, put the whole thing together in a couple days. It works. 75m AM is good for regional communications, but requires a very long antenna... I haven't built one yet. That's around 120ft of wire, if I am not mistaking. The quality of AM voice is great.



The Retro-75 is crystal controlled, with two crystals of your choice on the board. That's what the A/B switch is. Transmit is keyed by switch or press-button. It is extremely simple to operate. Output power is 3W.

That's what I love about kits, they will give you a working transceiver for often less than $100, capable of long distance contacts. That way you're not eating into your other prepping supplies budget.

Gil.

2838

The one question that comes to my mind regularly is: What bands and radios should I have to cover all possible emergency situations? The answer would be easy assuming a ?bug-in? situation. Taking mobility into consideration turns it into a whole new ball game. Not to mention cost. So, let's see what needs to be covered in terms of range and how it affects transceiver and antenna choices. I divide communication needs in three ranges:

  • Local: Within the family, group, or neighborhood.
  • Regional: Within a 250 mile radius.
  • Long distance: State, country and worldwide.

Local and regional ranges need to be absolutely reliable. Long distance, well, that's another story..

Local: A couple pairs of FRS radios will do fine. Your neighbors might have some too. Reliable range is limited to a couple miles (don't believe the ads), but they are light and small. It is more likely that someone could be listening in on your conversations, so you would have to keep that in mind. When splitting a group, even for short times and distances, you need to remain in contact. Anything can happen, and you do not want to lose anyone, especially family members!
A couple 2m handhelds could be very useful as well, to extend your range. Look at the Slim Jim antenna article I wrote in the antenna forum. You can hoist it up a tree, and it is portable.. You could count on a reliable 30 mile range. This would allow you to pick-up chatter from other groups, and learn about the situation around your position. Emergency Ham organizations would be using that band. Valuable information could be gained by scanning those frequencies.

You might also consider marine and aviation band handhelds. They cost about $200, and are pretty small. This adds gear to carry however, so plan wisely. You don't need a marine radio in Kansas..

We are up to already two or three handhelds, and we need to keep things light and small..

Regional: Two possibilities here, HF using NVIS (Near Vertical Incidence Skywave), or VHF using troposcatter propagation. For HF, you would need an 80m or 40m radio, with a pretty long dipole close to the ground. While a wire antenna packs easily, it takes a lot of space to install, and requires some kind of support, trees or poles. In a vehicle, you can have a base-loaded antenna up front, bent backwards and attached with a string to the rear bumper. The short antenna requires more power to get out, but you have a car battery for that. On foot, the antenna issue is more of a problem, especially on the move. See hfpack.com for information on portable HF.
One band that is probably under-appreciated is 2m SSB. Ranges of up to 250 miles can be obtained using beam antennas such as the Yagi-Uda type, which remain small and portable. I bought myself the MFJ-9406 6m SSB transceiver, but I might trade it for a 9402 model on 2m. That way, I can use the same antenna (assuming a wide enough tuning range) as my 2m FM one. Arrow Antennas (http://www.arrowantennas.com) has foldable Yagis at good prices..

Some thoughts about 6m... It is a great band that can use almost all modes of propagation, sometimes behaving like HF or VHF. If I could have only one radio for everything, that would be it. Like a seaplane is a bad boat and a bad plane, 6m has it's quirks, especially for long distances. Without solar activity, it is a local/regional band only. A 6m beam antenna is much bigger than a 2m one.. If everyone used it, it would be great, but it isn't the most popular band. 20m and 2m SSB radios will do everything 6m does, only better. Sure, that's two instead of one, but reliability is increased a great deal, especially on 20m.

Finding someone to talk to on HF is easy. On 2m SSB, it is another story. If you have relatives or friends within 250 miles, I would suggest setting them up with 2m SSB. That band only requires a simple Technician license, which anyone can easily get.

Long Distance: This means HF, and bouncing signals off the ionosphere. A CB radio can do that, using SSB, but only during the high part of the sun cycle (we are in it right now). If that's all you have, great. For more reliability, I am thinking of 20 and 40m. HF radios, but for a few exceptions, tend to get heavier and bulkier. Antennas get much longer, especially under 7mHz. There is however one mode that offers very small radios, low power consumption, and the best reliability, that is CW (Morse code) transceivers. My Elecraft K1 is the perfect example, with 20 and 40m bands. It uses only 55mA of current on receive, and packs in a small box. You can go extra small with a Rock-Mite from smallwonderlabs.com. I have one in my bug-out bag, with an end-fed wire antenna. You can transmit on 40m CW with a Technician license. Though a license would mean little in a real life-threatening emergency, practice makes perfect.
A small SSB single-band transceiver would work fine, if you don't want to learn Morse code. I like the MFJ-9420 and 9440 models. Be careful with MFJ products though, some are quite junky, but their transceivers work great. The BitX20 would be great too. It comes in kit form. See qrpkits.com.

There are radios that cover all the bands I mentioned. The best example would be the Yaesu FT-817ND, which amazingly covers from 160 to 2m I believe. It is very small for what it does. I am sure I will eventually get one. One reserve however: If your radio goes dead, you lose all means of communication. Buy two or have other radios as backups.

Short Wave reception: You might want to have a good Short Wave receiver for information gathering purposes. With the capability to receive both amateur lower bands and commercial broadcasts, you can be sure to know what is going on. I have my eyes on the MFJ-8100K, which seems like an affordable nice week-end kit project.

We now have two or three handhelds, two small transceivers, a Yagi-Uda or Slim Jim antenna, and an end-fed 20/40m (I have a PAR end-fed) wire antenna. Not bad, and not too heavy.. What else do we need?

Power of course. All these radios run on 12vdc. I use a 2.9Ah gel-cell battery to power everything (not at the same time). My next purchase is a flexible 10W solar panel (http://www.powerfilmsolar.com) and small charge controller (http://www.buddipole.com/sobaco.html). Don't forget EMP protection, get Faraday bags for each of your radios. I am also planning on getting a Pelican 1400 case for my K1.

Thanks to the recent trend of ?QRP? Ham Radio, it is now possible to cover most useful bands with small and light radios. My Rock-Mite, one FRS and a 2m handheld live in my bug-out bag, along with an end-fed wire antenna for 20/40m and a power cable with alligator clips. The rest of my radio equipment goes into another bag, meant to be carried in a vehicle or on a cart. Right now, my HF radio is the Elecraft K1. My 2m is a Yaesu FT-270R. I have a pair of FRS radios. My SSB CB radio would go in my vehicle bag as well, with another wire antenna. This makes for a heavy bag, with the other stuff I plan on putting in it, camping gear, some clothes, and other useful items. This second bag should be light enough to be carried on foot for short distances. The bug-out bag would never leave my back, wherever I go..

Your thoughts and comments would be appreciated... Thank you.

Gil.


2839
Tactical Corner / Re: The Ever Useful Good Old Morse Code.
« on: July 20, 2012, 12:36:09 AM »
Hello Ray,

I am using the Koch method right now, but I had to slow down to 7wpm to be able to copy anything? The characters are still 20wpm, but the word rate, 7. Hopefully I can pick up speed later.. I try not to visualize dots and dashes?

Gil.

2840
Tactical Corner / Re: The Ever Useful Good Old Morse Code.
« on: July 15, 2012, 10:01:35 AM »
Hello Surge, and welcome aboard. If you have an iPhone or iPod, try "Ham Morse." I had to reduce speed to 10wpm to be able to copy anything, but the app works well. Being on my iPod, I can use it anywhere when waiting...

Gil.

2841
General Discussion / Re: Hello from northern California
« on: July 10, 2012, 10:06:42 PM »
Hello Joe, and welcome aboard!

Definitely get your general! Now you also need to learn Morse code to use you privileges on 40m!  ;)

Gil.

2842
Net Activity / Re: 6m AM.
« on: July 10, 2012, 10:02:07 PM »
Hello Jim,

I did get a cheap MFJ-9406... It's SSB, 10W output on 6m. I don't have a very good antenna, and only listened a few times, never heard a soul.. The antennas are smaller, but still pretty big if you want a beam.. I should try a dipole. Mine is a vertical, and I doubt any SSB is vertically polarized.

I have been reading about 2m SSB and troposcatter propagation.. Pretty interesting. A 2m Yagi-Uda doesn't take too much space.. 200-300 miles range is pretty good for regional communications. 80m will do the same, but with a much longer antenna, not always possible.

You're lucky to be in the countryside.

My dream is a cabin in the woods somewhere, away from main roads or towns.

Anyway, 6m is sort of a curiosity for me.. It seems like a band that does it all, but not all that well.. I understand why it's called the magic band. For disaster preparedness, I would favor 40/20m for HF and 2m for VHF. That could probably cover all ranges, local, regional and long distance..

Gil.

2843
Technical Corner / Re: Building Hf Antenna
« on: July 07, 2012, 11:43:39 AM »
Hi Jim,

My K1 has three programmable filters, between 800 and 200Hz. It works pretty well. I wish it had a 2.6kHz filter to listen to SSB better. I can tune up to about 170kHz above the bottom of each band. No SSB transmit of course, only CW.

I could build a four-band filter board for it, which would get me 40, 30, 20, and 15 or 17m. Not sure if it would be worth it. I already have 40 and 20m.  probably couldn't sell the dual-band board, so I'd basically be out $100. Or I could unsolder some components off the 40/20 board and make it a 80/something. Though changing boards is a pain..

Have a great week-end,

Gil.

2844
Tactical Corner / The Ever Useful Good Old Morse Code.
« on: July 05, 2012, 09:58:12 PM »
I never thought of learning Morse code for emergency preparedness. Spending untold hours learning an archaic mode of communication wasn't on my list. I started looking for a small, portable SSB (voice) radio that would fit in my bug-out bag. The FT-817ND and MFJ-9420 caught my attention. The price of the Yaesu put it temporarily out of reach, and the MFJ was still around $300 shipped. Both radios are small, but not quite small enough for my bag. Maybe I would use one of them as my main radio, but I still needed a BOR (Bug-Out-Radio. I coined that one.. ;-)

After a few hours of web browsing, I somehow stumbled on the Rock-Mite kit, a CW ('Continuous Wave,' i.e. Morse code only) tiny transceiver from Dave Benson at Small Wonder Labs. Here was a very small radio with a 'sporadic range' of thousands of miles, for a mere $29! ($70 with MityBox and connectors). Many people mount them in a mint tin can. It took me a few hours to build the kit, which worked the first time, with no tuning required. My 20m version transmits on 14,059kHz. I just finished a 40m model as well. By the way, if you visit http://smallwonderlabs.com, see how Dave Benson built his own house in the woods! Pretty inspiring.

As I was pondering about learning Morse code, which I mistakenly considered a small detail, it hit me..  Morse archaic, when? Aren't many of the skills we like to learn archaic? Trapping, hunting, food preservation, living off the land, field medical procedures, camping, building shelters, etc. The kind of skills that can save your bacon when everything else fails. Morse is one of them! It can be used without a radio. You can tap your fingers, blink your eyes in Morse, and nobody but the intended recipient across the room would know.. You can bang on a pipe with a wrench, hit a drum, squeeze someone's hand, use a flashlight or a laser pointer to send a message in Morse. If regular means of communications were down, because of an electromagnetic pulse for instance, a simple telegraph could easily be built without using semi-conductors. The wires are already all around us.

With that epiphany in mind, I bought an Elecraft K1 kit. It is a 2-band version, 20 and 40m, covering 175kHz at the bottom of each band. I added the internal automatic tuner to be able to use random long wires as an antenna if needed.

Now I really have to finish learning Morse code!

Communications within your group would be via VHF or UHF, maybe 2m or FRS, even CB. For HF long distance, CW simply gets you more bang for your buck, especially in very small packages. It will punch through the ether with less power and more reliability than voice. My K1 uses very little current on receive (60mA), and runs for many hours on a small 2.9Ah battery. I will be getting a 10W solar panel soon to complete my kit. The Rock-Mite lives in my bag. The K1 will get a waterproof Pelican case (1200 model). Both will get Faraday bags for EMP protection. My antenna is a PAR 40/20/10 end-fed dipole. It packs into a small pouch. I also have a SOTA tuner from http://qrpkits.com, and wire for a 20m antenna. I really like the tuning bridge and SWR LED on the tuner. Perfect for the Rock-Mite 20.

Morse code is not archaic, far from it. It is an excellent mode of communication usable in many different ways, not just radio. The more I think about it, the more I find possible uses for it. Prepper families and groups should learn it. You never know when the need may arise.

Gil.

2845
Technical Corner / Re: I Built an Elecraft K1!
« on: July 05, 2012, 08:47:28 AM »
Hi Jim,

I am thinking about the K2. The K3 is surface mounted components, and building the kit is just assembling PCBs. I'd rather solder a kit myself, with through-hole components. That way, it it "craps out," you can always fix it, assuming you can find the parts or you have them in stock.. For an emergency radio, being able to repair it without support from the manufacturer is important.. If you want to get back to CW, the K1 is great! It's only $300, and if you can solder and follow directions, there is no reason it won't work. Moreover, it's small and portable, draws only around 60mA on receive, and outputs up to 7W. The K2 is a bit pricy, but there is nothing else like it..

Gil.

2846
Technical Corner / Re: Building Hf Antenna
« on: July 05, 2012, 08:39:54 AM »
Hi Jim,

I have a kit on order from Small Wonder Labs, a Retro-75, AM transceiver on 3880kHz. I think I'll make an end-fed dipole for it. There are no tall trees around the house here, so it might be a challenge to install. I plan on getting a 33' telescopic mast, maybe an inverted V...

How would you describe 80-75m as far as conversations go? I know different bands have different "feels."

Gil.

2847
Technical Corner / Re: RockMite 40m (7030)
« on: July 05, 2012, 08:33:59 AM »
Hey Medy, have you contacted anyone yet? I just finished my RM40...

If you want, I can see if I can hear you on my K1...

Gil.

2848
General Discussion / Re: FNG
« on: July 05, 2012, 08:32:13 AM »
Hello,

Certainly.. I have about half the alphabet down now, but I need to increase my reading speed. I try to avoid seeing dots and dashes, and translate sound directly to letters, but it is hard. I am doing well keying though..

When I pass the license exam and can copy Morse code, I definitely want to try contacting everyone on this board who uses CW! Maybe we'll have our own preppers net!

Gil.

2849
Antennas / Re: The Solarcon I-Max2000 CB Antenna.
« on: June 27, 2012, 09:47:10 AM »
Thanks Paul, nothing magical here I am sure. I have been reading numerous antenna reviews on Eham, and indeed, lots of them seems to be based on feelings rather than hard facts. There are always a couple reviews though by Hams who know their antennas, that provide valuable information. Eham does help. When I wanted an end-fed dipole, I saw that the PAR had a 5.0 rating, with 23 pages of reviews! There had to be something there.. So I bought one, and like it.

I might try one quarter wave counterpoise with the I-Max, just as an experiment.. Otherwise, it works, so I won't bother.. I almost never use my CB anyway. It's just an emergency radio, just in case. Sometimes I put the I-Max up and listen, but I'd rather listen to 20 and 40m. Even on 38LSB, CB is not so "civilized."

Have a great day,

Gil.

2850
Antennas / The Solarcon I-Max2000 CB Antenna.
« on: June 26, 2012, 09:02:29 PM »
Hello,

I thought I'd drop a note here about my Solarcon I-Max2000 CB antenna.. I was initially going to buy the A-99, but some bad reviews made me choose the longer (24'), better built model. The I-Max2000 mind you is not much more than a wire in a fiberglass pole. You can actually hear the wire rattle inside the tube. The magic is in the matching unit at the base. Although it can be used without a counterpoise, it does work better with one. I suspect the antenna to be sort of an end-fed dipole, though it is a 0.64 wavelength.. I am no expert.. I also suspect that the coax shield works as a counterpoise when a suitable one isn't present. That is why I use it with ferrite chokes on the coax at the antenna.. But enough techno-babble..

I've had very good results with this antenna. "NVIS." NVIS is when a signal is directed straight up and bounces on the ionosphere back down, covering a few hundred-mile radius. This is different from the usual low angle, long-skip pattern desired in multi-thousand-mile contacts. The radiation pattern of the I-Max is pretty vertical.. However, I do not think NVIS is possible on the 11m CB band.

My first two contacts were, unbeknownst to me, Jamaica and Western Utah. I thought these guys were local until they told me their location! They sounded that good, and they heard me just fine. I was using legal power on LSB. Even with the high angle of radiation of the I-Max, the signal was skipping off the ionosphere.

I like the light weight of the antenna and it's fiberglass construction. It is made of three 8ft. sections bolted together. It is very flexible and holds up fine in windy conditions. I did paint it dark green, and with the trees around the house, it is nearly invisible. It is also pretty cheap, which is the cherry on top of the cake.

I do highly recommend it. I have heard it can also be used on 10 to 17m with a tuner.. See the Eham reviews. Users rate it 4.5/5.


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