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Author Topic: I have my Technician license, what's next?  (Read 20925 times)

KK0G

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Re: I have my Technician license, what's next?
« Reply #15 on: April 27, 2013, 10:38:00 PM »
I'll second Quietguys advice, you can't just get a technician license, play with a handheld radio for a week or two then squirrel it away in your supplies and assume you're now ready to communicate when the SHTF. There's skill, art and science involved in efficiently communicating via radio that only comes from knowledge gained through hands on experience. After a while of playing with radio day in and day out things like what bands usually have good propagation to what parts of the world, at what time of day, during what time of year; what a likely frequency on that particular band to actually contact someone is and what type of antenna you'll need to do that because the hurricane tore yours to shreds so you now need to build one from scrap wire you find, will all be second nature. The things I listed barely scratch the surface, TEOTWAWKI is definitely not the time to learn all this stuff. Besides, it's a lot of fun, you might just enjoy it  8)
"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety" - Benjamin Franklin

KK0G

Geek

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Re: I have my Technician license, what's next?
« Reply #16 on: April 27, 2013, 11:11:18 PM »
I already said I intend to get the General license.  I'm starting to get the sense you guys don't believe me.  I also started with a question about extending my capabilities beyond where they are now.  That hardly constitutes squirreling the radio away and ignoring it until SHTF.
« Last Edit: April 27, 2013, 11:27:01 PM by Geek »

Geek

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Re: I have my Technician license, what's next?
« Reply #17 on: April 27, 2013, 11:21:32 PM »
First Geek, congratulations. Next 25m target is your General. I would highly encourage you to begin study for this ASAP and then test for it. Why? Much of the General exam you will find is regurgitated Tech material (or slightly re-done with a bit more detail) so you can focus more energy on the new stuff that comes with it. Do it while it's fresh. Honest.

Lots of trails the thread could take but I'll just mention a couple of things SPECIFIC to what you said you feel the need is, and want to expand on. You mentioned being able to contact others, particularly relatives or those OUTSIDE the affected area who may be able provide you critical info. That's because there's an informational black hole - oh, and you're in it. Another shameless marketing ploy for the General.

(Sermon warning)

If I lived in an area that could suffer a storm like Sandy (or many others through history) I'd have the General and have a basic workmanlike HF transceiver, 100 watts. (These will typically do CW, Single-Side Band (SSB) voice, AM and one or more types of RTTY (Radio Teletype) or digital modes. The comment about being able to also ID yourself to those outside willing to help you or provide info is something I heartily agree with. SWL is great, really and a good staring point - investiment very minimal. And it will continue to be great right up to the point that they're not telling you what you need to know.

The HF transceiver will, specifically, give you coverage of 80/75m, 40m, and 20m for sure. How much of that you can receive will be related to how much antenna you can do - 'nuther discussion but if you have room for 33' of wire you can do a fine 1/2 wave 20m antenna so you can do 2-way communications with.....

The Maritime Mobile Service Net on 14.300, who seriously watch weather systems like Sandy before they become formalized as hurricanes and up to the point where...
The Hurricane Watch Net on 14.325 stands itself up.

Except for contesters who have their brains & manners encased in Titanium, these are internationally recognized frequencies for emergency activity & the nets that support them. 14.300 goes 24/7/365 and depending on time-of-day may be the Intercontinental Traffic Net or the Pac Seafarer's Net.

These folks are all volunteers, lots of experience, very professional - general "howdy" check-ins are their last priority. Many of these folks volunteer for shifts on MMSN and will then go pull a shift or two on HWN when needed.  They know their stuff, and there are enough "fans' out there who've acted as relays that it's rare that someone doesn't get heard.  During Sandy, which I monitored, it was not unusual for them to get requests from INSIDE the area, research actual emergency management bulletins being issued, and then pass back to that affected station info specific enough that "hey, there is going to be some scheduled release of waterflow and it should only impact as far as the location 5-blocks from you, blah-blah." They are VERY good.

So if something like Sandy is approaching or likely, naturally you've got your deep-cycle batteries available & charged, the old laptop will be charged up & you're prepared to ration your power for stuff that matters and - if taken just a little further - your computer & HF rig can do digital email, over HF, and let everyone OUTSIDE who cares about you that you're really livin' large.  :)

There's one reason for your General. And you DO NOT need to run out & get a brand-new whiz-bang DX-RockStar transceiver.  There are LOTS of good ones on the used markets by hams who change their rigs more than their un...  well, you get the idea. You do not need to do this all at once; it's a journey. But as someone told me once, the two best times to plant a tree are 20 years ago & right now.

FWIW: I would do the same thing, with only a slightly different focus (like calling in groceries) if I lived in the hinterlands of Alaska.  I love CW, I really enjoy the satisfaction of making a low-power signal more than it is with an antenna, and copying weak signals, BUT - in this specific instance, a basic HF transceiver capable of voice signals as well is something that's called for. Just my $.02, but at that point it's not a hobby, its' YOUR situation not mine, not the guy surrounded by Secret Service getting a helo-borne tour of your area, it's you & yours.

I mention the 75m thing (the area typically 3.8-4.0 mHz) because alot of states' regional HF nets will fire up in that area because that band works very well for just covering a 300 mile area or so.  Contact them & find out what frequency that is.

I think your focus is on the right priority because what you mentioned can and has happened. In terms of running a risk analysis, likelihood not often, but consequences are in the potentially devastating category.

(End of Sermon)
 8)
Thank you for those frequencies for the nets.  Those are very helpful.  Now some questions:  How does one make use of RTTY or digital modes?  I have no idea what is required for that or what the benefits might be.  You used the acronym SWL.  What is that?  How do I do email over HF?

BTW:  Your description of being in a hole is what Sandy was like, what Hurricane Irene was like, what being inside the WTC on 9/11 was like, what the various NY or northeast blackouts I've been through were like, etc.  You're getting it.

gil

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Re: I have my Technician license, what's next?
« Reply #18 on: April 27, 2013, 11:24:41 PM »
Quote
The things I listed barely scratch the surface, TEOTWAWKI is definitely not the time to learn all this stuff.

What gets people is that it all seems deceptively simple... Until you don't make contact, and you don't know why... This is especially true of course for HF, but sometimes also VHF. I highly suggest getting into HF with a General license as well. Tech does allow HF, but only on 10m and lower, using CW. Like I said, General isn't much harder to get.

Most of all, do listen to people here with more experience... Had I not taken my time, I would have spent much more before actually getting what I really needed and wanted... My first inclination was to buy one of the big-name rigs, like a yaesu FT-897D at $1K. Not that it's a bad radio, but it doesn't answer my needs for portability and low current draw. Some radios draw 1.5A on receive. Others draw 0.04A... Think about battery size and weight... A battery that can power an IC-7200 for an hour will power my QRP rig for 37Hrs!

Then, we are getting into antennas, and that is whole new ball game, with polarizations, pattern graphs, impedance matching, and a flurry of other details which can help you or prevent you from making contact. So, sure, anyone can turn on a radio and press the PTT button. Whether anyone will hear them is another matter. Not to mention propagation...

The Technician license is a good start, but ommits a lot of technical and scientific knowledge. Even the General and Extra licenses far from cover it all. It took me close to a year to get to where I am at now, and that included previous schooling in electronics and messing around with CB. There are still many subjects I do not quite grasp. However, I do know now not to waste my money on gear that won't help me. For example, I have no family in the vicinity, so VHF is not a priority for me. Passing messages through HF nets or contacts over long distances is...

Also keep in mind that an HF transceiver doesn't cost much more (sometimes less!) than a good short-wave receiver, which it also functions as... Take the KX1 for instance: It received short-wave and transmits and receive Morse code... My KX3 does everything but serve coffee in the morning... Even a cheap MFJ-9440X will allow LSB and CW, and receive a few short-wave stations on 40m. You could even learn Morse and get on 7025 to 7125KHz with your Tech license! HTs are typically not good SW receivers... A lot of older radios can be found on Ebay for $300 or less that will do all that and more.

"SWL" means "Short Wave Listening."

Luck can tell you all about digital modes and email over HF...

I do email over HF too: I send a message to Ray in Morse, and he emails it for me  ;) Hahaha! Thanks Ray!

Gil.

Geek

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Re: I have my Technician license, what's next?
« Reply #19 on: April 27, 2013, 11:31:23 PM »
I SAID I AM GOING TO GET THE GENERAL LICENSE!!!!!

Is there an ignore button for the next guy who brings it up?
« Last Edit: April 27, 2013, 11:36:22 PM by Geek »

gil

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Re: I have my Technician license, what's next?
« Reply #20 on: April 27, 2013, 11:34:16 PM »
Quote
I SAID I AM GOING TO GET THE GENERAL LICENSE!!!!! Is there an ignore button for the next guy who bring it up?

LOL  ;)

Gil.

Geek

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Re: I have my Technician license, what's next?
« Reply #21 on: April 27, 2013, 11:35:53 PM »
Quote
The things I listed barely scratch the surface, TEOTWAWKI is definitely not the time to learn all this stuff.

What gets people is that it all seems deceptively simple... Until you don't make contact, and you don't know why... This is especially true of course for HF, but sometimes also VHF. I highly suggest getting into HF with a General license as well. Tech does allow HF, but only on 10m and lower, using CW. Like I said, General isn't much harder to get.

Most of all, do listen to people here with more experience... Had I not taken my time, I would have spent much more before actually getting what I really needed and wanted... My first inclination was to buy one of the big-name rigs, like a yaesu FT-897D at $1K. Not that it's a bad radio, but it doesn't answer my needs for portability and low current draw. Some radios draw 1.5A on receive. Others draw 0.04A... Think about battery size and weight... A battery that can power an IC-7200 for an hour will power my QRP rig for 37Hrs!

Then, we are getting into antennas, and that is whole new ball game, with polarizations, pattern graphs, impedance matching, and a flurry of other details which can help you or prevent you from making contact. So, sure, anyone can turn on a radio and press the PTT button. Whether anyone will hear them is another matter. Not to mention propagation...

The Technician license is a good start, but ommits a lot of technical and scientific knowledge. Even the General and Extra licenses far from cover it all. It took me close to a year to get to where I am at now, and that included previous schooling in electronics and messing around with CB. There are still many subjects I do not quite grasp. However, I do know now not to waste my money on gear that won't help me. For example, I have no family in the vicinity, so VHF is not a priority for me. Passing messages through HF nets or contacts over long distances is...

Also keep in mind that an HF transceiver doesn't cost much more (sometimes less!) than a good short-wave receiver, which it also functions as... Take the KX1 for instance: It received short-wave and transmits and receive Morse code... My KX3 does everything but serve coffee in the morning... Even a cheap MFJ-9440X will allow LSB and CW, and receive a few short-wave stations on 40m. You could even learn Morse and get on 7025 to 7125KHz with your Tech license! HTs are typically not good SW receivers... A lot of older radios can be found on Ebay for $300 or less that will do all that and more.

"SWL" means "Short Wave Listening."

Luck can tell you all about digital modes and email over HF...

I do email over HF too: I send a message to Ray in Morse, and he emails it for me  ;) Hahaha! Thanks Ray!

Gil.
Thanks for explaining the acronym.  So far it seems the HT is enough to allow me to listen to 1.8MHz on up, but the rubber duck just isn't doing the job.  I am interested in the antenna you recommended but want to know the length, and whether to set it up vertically or horizontally.  Once I get past that hurdle, I'll want to take a stab at the email.

Geek

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Re: I have my Technician license, what's next?
« Reply #22 on: April 27, 2013, 11:37:23 PM »
Quote
I SAID I AM GOING TO GET THE GENERAL LICENSE!!!!! Is there an ignore button for the next guy who bring it up?

LOL  ;)

Gil.
Thanks for taking that the right way.  :-)

Geek

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Re: I have my Technician license, what's next?
« Reply #23 on: April 28, 2013, 12:36:14 AM »
I've now ordered the PAR EF-SWL antenna.  The ad says it is 45' long.  I think I have the right connectors to hook it to my radio.  If I don't I'll lose some time getting those, but I know where to get them if I need them.  If this works right I should be able to pick up something besides the 3 religious stations I picked up with the rubber duck.

I still need to figure out whether I want it horizontal or vertical in order to know where to put it.  Once I have it working I'll listen in to find out what frequencies I can pick up.

KC9TNH

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Re: I have my Technician license, what's next?
« Reply #24 on: April 28, 2013, 08:44:51 AM »
Thank you for those frequencies for the nets.  Those are very helpful.  Now some questions:  How does one make use of RTTY or digital modes?  I have no idea what is required for that or what the benefits might be.  You used the acronym SWL.  What is that?  How do I do email over HF?

BTW:  Your description of being in a hole is what Sandy was like, what Hurricane Irene was like, what being inside the WTC on 9/11 was like, what the various NY or northeast blackouts I've been through were like, etc.  You're getting it.
The stuff done over HF using digital modes (that I was speaking of anyway) has its own forum area here and there are several good threads with many contributors; those discussing using a little Signalink  modem and WINLINK.org provided email software. That's all stuff several here can help you with after you've got a rig & are further down the path you want to go. But assuming all setup here's the caveman version of how it works:
- You draft an email in the software and stick it in the outbox.
- You start a session that interfaces your computer & your HF rig.
- You select a relay station from a big list that is likely to give you the best likelihood of the signal getting through. These are updated regularly; BEFORE the weather/event hits, if possible, get the latest update via the internet; your software will do this if your net connection is still running. But like alot of radio stuff, time of day, space weather conditions affect things. After awhile you'll have some "old reliables in your list. Not to worry now.
- You click Start and the software starts contacting the relay station, they hook up, the relay dumps to you any traffic that's been waiting for you, it takes your email , and then end of session.
- After the session you read the email from the Inbox and file or toss your little 9-liner (or whatever) "Hi folks, we're OK, power restoral 3-days out, cell service same, have water & chow, etc."

This relay then takes your message & passes it along to the internet addresse(s) via their internet connection - which is running because they didn't get hammered like you did.  Messages aren't meant to be real long and, face it, the longer you're up & running doing this, your batteries are being used. Beyond that, see the Digital Modes area.

cockpitbob I think covered SWL in post #2. One thing to remember with using wide receive capability as "dessert" to an HT is that it won't be as good as a radio designed for SWL. It works good on its transmit frequencies precisely because it does have filter walls on either sides of its primary frequencies. But anything out the window vs. the duck is a good thing.

Locate your new SWL antenna as far away from likely ground-wave noise sources as possible, such as residential horizontal power lines. Follow the manual as to orientation based on your primary needs as to where the source of the signal is. If the manual doesn't cover that, c'mon back - not personally familiar with that antenna. Based on my own experience with an end-fed HF antenna which happens to have a 9:1 on the end of it, and is located deeper into the proper away from some nagging noise sources, I'd say orient the thing horizontally (physical, not talking polarization here). First, follow the maker's instructions.
 :)

KC9TNH

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Re: I have my Technician license, what's next?
« Reply #25 on: April 28, 2013, 10:13:57 AM »
First, follow the maker's instructions.
 :)
Follow-up: Downloaded their notes on this antenna (which come with it) and they provided a few plots of horizontal vs. sloper on certain bands & they did something very nice for you with those. Their plots are oriented at 0 and 180 degrees, so when looking at them "fresh" orient the plot with the top - the far end of wire - North on your property layout, look at the lobes of where you want to receive from most, and modify the orientation of your antenna accordingly, e.g., you may want to orient it NW to SE.

One thing they mention that is important to keep in mind is that the outer-ring of those plots (think of it as the directions of best performance for now) are not the same value for horizontal & sloper. Visually the sloper seems like hands-down the best, but it might not be. Then again, it might be because of the shorter ground-run, shorter is good for grounding.

If I were doing this I'd do a compromise of horizontal & sloper. If thinking of the far-end as 30' high I wouldn't put the matching box right at ground level. I would locate it higher, if possible, maybe 1/3 that distance. You could still keep a ground run fairly short, and it also gets the unit up & out of the way from critters, kids & lawn care weapons while accessible with a common step ladder. Just a thought, not knowing your call or specific location.
 :)

Geek

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Re: I have my Technician license, what's next?
« Reply #26 on: April 28, 2013, 11:34:07 AM »
Thank you.  All of that was very helpful information.  To be clear on the radios, I intend to acquire the appropriate equipment for what I intend to do gradually and use what I have for learning.  To put that in perspective, I have one HT and a growing collection of antennas (rubber duck, aftermarket longer duck for 2M band, Larsen Mobile for car, etc.  High on my list is getting radios into the hands of other family members and getting them licensed.  Next on the list would be whatever "base station" radios I settle on.  I expect to go slowly in order to avoid buying stuff I am disappointed with and just having to replace it.  Based on what you are saying I would expect the base station to include at least one powerful 2M for the local communications and a HT radio for the long range communications.  Beyond that I don't know enough to plan.

I like your description of the radio email.  I believe I understand the basic process, but I am unfamiliar with the hardware to connect the computer to the radio.  Also, what bands are normally used for this purpose?


WA4STO

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Re: I have my Technician license, what's next?
« Reply #27 on: April 28, 2013, 11:42:49 AM »
Now some questions:  How does one make use of RTTY or digital modes?  I have no idea what is required for that or what the benefits might be. 

Please go back and read my previous http://radiopreppers.com/index.php/topic,432.msg3593.html#msg3593  since it relates primarily to the digital modes.

I know it's confusing.  It is to us as well, particularly when we consider the huge number of options available.

I already explained (but am more than happy to discuss it further with you, as we all are here) that you would need a $40-ish gizmo to do the digital modes with, but let's discuss the 'benefits' first.

With some of the digital modes (does not include RTTY) you get the benefit of error correction.  Thus, the info that was sent to you by your buddy in outer slobovia will arrive, letter-perfect and not garbled at all.  This is huge because if your question to him was "how many units of O-positive do you have on hand?" and his response back was "3", you don't know for sure that he got the "O-positive" part from you correctly, UNLESS you used specific digital modes that are known to support total error correction. 

With modes like voice, CW, RTTY and others, there is no error correction.  Errors happen.  You can't rely on what you think you got. 

That's benefit #1.

Benefit #2 is that, with some of the digital modes, you (and your equipment) become part of one or more specific networks.  Thus, if you have an itty bitty signal (quite likely during and post - SHTF) that's OK because the next guy in the network will accept your message and forward it along to wherever it's destined.

In my case, I utilize HF, typically 40, 80 and 30 meters and transmit my inquiries to the next station in the 'chain'.  I know which specific frequencies and bands the next guy is listening on, but if propagation is such that he can't hear me, we move on to the next guy and so on. 

The  key to all of this working is -- as others have already correctly stated here -- is practice.   I practice every single day by sending a thousand or so messages per month every which way possible.  That way, I know who's out there, scanning for my signal, and awaiting the opportunity to relay my signals.  You can do the very same thing.

Questions?  Fire away!  :)

Best 73

Luck, WA4STO


WA4STO

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Re: I have my Technician license, what's next?
« Reply #28 on: April 28, 2013, 11:56:27 AM »
but I am unfamiliar with the hardware to connect the computer to the radio.  Also, what bands are normally used for this purpose?

I presently have two different radio modems.  The first one:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/AEA-PK-232MBX-w-Power-Supply-and-Manual-/370792133079?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item5654eef1d7

is used for specific modes that my second one can not do.  I just sold one for $50 on ebay so they're cheap.  Plus, they're very attractive to have in the 'shack'.

The second one is for use with 'radio email' and goes new for just under a hundred bucks:

http://www.dxengineering.com/search/product-line/tigertronics-signalink-usb-digital-communications-interfaces?autoview=SKU&keyword=signalink

So one of those, plus an appropriate cable to link your gizmo to your specific radio, and you're golden, hardware-wise.

73

Luck, WA4STO

KC9TNH

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Re: I have my Technician license, what's next?
« Reply #29 on: April 28, 2013, 12:50:21 PM »
I expect to go slowly in order to avoid buying stuff I am disappointed with and just having to replace it.  Based on what you are saying I would expect the base station to include at least one powerful 2M for the local communications and a HT radio for the long range communications.  Beyond that I don't know enough to plan.
Actually, I think you do. It seems to me you're seeing in your mind's eye what an end-state might look like, over time & within the periodic wallet considerations. Questions? That's what the forum is for.

One consideration based on what you mention above about 2m base in conjunction with HT's for the clan. You can do workmanlike HT's with a couple of the different Chicom imports. These are also well-supported with programming software that can let you "clone" the radios to be sure everyone is on same page when needed. Same with the common big manufacturers out there, but they're pricier when you consider buying several. As to a base that also gives you fixed 2m capability, unless you separate that function from your base HF station that will limit your options (if you want it in 1 rig, FT-897 would be an example). In terms of terminology I think of "station" as you-with-call in your shack (or wherever) regardless of what you're using at the moment, vs. a single radio. But you're thinking through it all & that's very good.
 :)

WA4STO has contributed alot in the digital sub-forum and re-reads of his stuff are recommended.

Radio Preppers

Re: I have my Technician license, what's next?
« Reply #29 on: April 28, 2013, 12:50:21 PM »