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Topics - cockpitbob

Tactical Corner / Loss of House Water Supply
November 06, 2017, 06:50:06 PM
I thought I was doing OK with my preps, but there's one area I'm not happy with now.  My generator just makes life go on as normal when power goes out, but I don't have any way to deal with a loss of water without feeling a bit like I'm camping.

A water main just broke a couple miles from here and we may be without water for a while.  We've got 2-3 days bottled drinking water and I shut off the valves to the water heater, so I've got 30g there I can get through its drain, but...but...but...there's nothing for showers or to flush the toilets with :o

In my kit I even have one of those WaterBOB things you put in your bathtub and fill with 100g of water that will remain clean and drinkable for a long time, but you need warning to make use of that.  We also have a stream 1 mile from here where we can fill buckets for flushing.  We'll be OK, but I want my whimp-preps to be complete so we are totally comfortable when the bad stuff happens.

Oh, one more thing, I'm glad it's not below freezing outside.  Without water our house's forced hot water heat system doesn't work.  I never gave thought to how really dependent we are on our water utility.
Who uses what to see if their signal will get there?

For HF, I've been using the app DroidProp. It's a little clunky, but I love how it presents the information because it tells you what band will work now plus later in the day. It grabs the latest ionosphere info from the web before making its prediction.

Below is the output for the following setup:
Tx: Home
Rx: Houston, Tx
Mode: CW
Power: 100W

Horizontal Axis: Time (24hr GMT). Vertical line is the time right now.
Vertical Axis: Frequency MHz

Red means Very likely to make the contact. It looks like 20 and 17 meters are rock solid right now.

For VHF/UHV I just found
You input the Tx and Rx antenna height and polarization, power, frequency then click on the map the Tx location and pull a box for the Rx area you want to see. Here's my home for 50W on 2 meters.

One thing it doesn't seem to do is account for the 100' hill across the street from me. Still, it's pretty nice and in general seems to agree with my experiences.

So, what do you use?
Let's use this as a place to post interesting nets and activities currently on the air.

On the air now:
14,265 SATERN Net for Puerto Rico has been active with net control readable in to MA all afternoon. 

Until just a couple hours ago there were NO ham operators on the air in PR.  Among other things Net Control was asking for a condition report on the airport to see if the Red Cross can start flying in supplies.  I guess those with back-up power had to re-build their antennas.  Net control now is talking to someone in PR and taking traffic.
Batteries & Solar / Hydro Power
September 02, 2017, 07:12:14 PM
This isn't for everyone, but if you are near a stream on a steep hill, this has potential.

On the AmRRON website store I stumbled across this "Backpacking Hydro Power System".
Here's the manufacturer's site with a video.
{He briefly mentions the KX3 in the video.}

It's also for sale on Amazon, but no reviews.

1.4 pounds with hoses and funnel
Needs 10' head of pressure
12V output:  simple DC generator output.  No regulator
5V USB output:  plug the 12V output into included 12V-5V USB converter

It's actually a nicely thought out system with the funnel to gather the water and collapsible hoses.  It's light and packs small.  Give the video a look.

I have minor doubts about the 10W.  The turbine is rated for 10W but I think it needs more pressure than 10' to get that much power.

OR, you can roll your own.
Here's the turbine he's using($12)
(The link says $14, but it's available on Amazon for $12.  I used the $14 one because it had more reviews.

Here's the 12V - 5V DC-DC he's using($8)

Even if you only get 4W out of it, unlike solar or wind, that's 4W 24/7.  You can charge about 8 18650 cells in 24hrs with that.

Unfortunately, where I live the glaciers sandpapered everything flat 25,000 years ago.  I have to go 75 miles to get to a 500' hill, so I won't be trying this any time soon.
Batteries & Solar / My New Favorite Battery Pack
August 25, 2017, 12:07:02 PM
$11.29 shipped without 18650 batteries.

It holds 3 18650 batteries IN SERIES.  It has "12V" output(5.5x2.1mm), 5V USB output and a protection board.  The "12V" output is the 3 batteries through a switch on the protection board.  4 LEDs indicate its charge status and it turns off when the batteries get too low. 

This is just what I've wanted since when I'm out in the field the 2 things I want power for is a QRP radio and keeping my phone alive.  I've got 3,000mAh batteries in it.  That should last a long time in the field.

You can charge it through the 12V output with a current limited source.  I'm just experimenting with charging it now.  I don't know if it balances the 3 batteries(I doubt it) or if it will shut off at an appropriate voltage(I think it will).  I think the safest thing is to charge the batteries outside of the box in a dedicated Li-Ion charger.  More later.

I'm just educating myself on the Li-ion battery protection boards.  I'll update this when I know more about how this thing's board protects it from over charging and discharging.

General Discussion / Gas Generators
October 24, 2016, 11:06:27 AM
This is a little off center from our QRP/Portable/SHTF topics, but still pretty applicable, especially for minor SHTF situations.

I live in New England were a blizzard, or worse and ice storm, has left people without power for up to 2 weeks.  Losing power for more than a day is a problem for anyone with a few hundred $ of food in the fridge.  For me it's worse because my basement has 2 sump pumps and if a hurricane comes up the coast and knocks out power my basement will flood without power.  In the winter my pipes will freeze.

A few years back I had an electrician add a 30A circular receptacle to the back of my house for generator input.  He also added 30A breaker to my panel with a mechanical interlock so I have to disconnect from the street before connecting the generator to the house.  This was cheap, simple(reliable) and works great so long as we self-manage the house's load and don't overload the 5,500W generator in the back yard shed. 

I agonized over how big a generator go get.  Too big and my 25g fuel stash won't last long.  Too small and it won't do what I need:
* Winter:  run the furnace and 2 fridges and some lights.
* Other seasons:  run 2 sump pumps, 2 fridges and some lights.
That's how I settled on 5,500W with a big 8,000W surge.

So far it's been a joy.  The power has gone out several times for up to 18hrs.  I wait for 10-30 minutes to see if it comes back on and use my phone to check the utility's outage site, then I drag the cable from the shed to the house and fire up the genny.  Usually the internet, phone and TV still work since they all come into my house over the same optical fiber.  There have been times where my neighbors' houses were down in the low 50s inside, but life is totally normal for us, except we can only use 1 small stove burner or the microwave.  A couple times I was a little mean and left the driveway lights on so people going by could see we had power 8) ::)

But the generator burns almost 1/2g/hour.  25g won't last a long time.  The generator is a simple Briggs & Stratton I got for about $750.  For $2,000 I could have gotten a Honda inverter and my gas would probably last 3x longer, but I wasn't willing to tie up that much money in this.

However, my house has natural gas, and the previous owners piped it to the back porch for the grill.  I'm told natural gas is about the last utility to go down when the SHTF because it's so hard to purge air from the lines in all the neighborhoods.  So, I just bought a dual-fuel conversion kit to allow running the genny from gasoline or the house's NG.  The kit was $170, but what surprised me is the $140 I had to spend on a 20' hose and the fancy NG quick disconnect fittings.  I'm waiting on the hose and fittings so I haven't tested it yet, but assuming it works I'll be able to run the genny 24/7 with short shut-downs for checking the oil.

Of course for EOTWAWKI a 5,500W generator is useless as fuel will be unavailable.  But in my layered approach, it's been great to have and will be useful for "normal" disasters.

Anyone else got something similar?
I was going through my massive piles of boxes in the basement and found a gem in one.  In high school electronics class we all built a kit AM radio.  The Graymark Model-510 5-tube AM.  Apparently it's based on a fairly standard design my Dad referred to as "the all American 5 tube" design.

I have no memory of how much the kit cost or if the school provided it then, but the new-old stock kits seem to be going for $300 on eBay.

I took a risk with the capacitors and just plugged it in.  It still works after 40 yeas of sitting in a box!!!!
It takes about 30seconds to warm up.  And "warm-up" is the right term.  The top of the radio feels uncomfortable warm on one side. ;D
It seems just a little deaf, so I'm trying to find the manual for it so I don't have to do an alignment without guessing.

Beautifully clean inside.

It's all point-to-point wiring.  No circuit board!  I did pretty good soldering back then, though my dressing the wires wasn't very artistic.

So, if an EMP takes out all my transistor based stuff, I've got an all tube receiver.  Of course with the grid down I have no idea how I'll power it since it needs high voltage to run the tubes  :o
General Discussion / Hurricane Watch Net
October 06, 2016, 10:06:48 PM
The Net is active on 7.268.00 MHz and 14.325.00 for Hurricane Matthew.

It seems they have net controls in Niagra Falls and Minnesota.

Here's their live stream of the audio for 14.325 out of Niagra Falls with links to audio from other stations/frequencies.

Hey Gil, kind of a nice time to not be in FL, isn't it?
General Discussion / ARRL Conventions
September 11, 2016, 08:58:59 PM
After being a ham for 6 years I finally went to one of the ARRL conventions.  The New England Convention was conveniently 1hr from home just a little west of Boston.

My first impression was what I expected, as a 58 year old guy in reasonable shape I felt young and incredibly healthy.  The average age must have been well over 60 and most were over weight.  But that's expected.  Unlike 40 years ago, kids aren't into ham radio much.  However, the club I belong to put on their tech-in-a-day class Saturday and reports are of the 24ish attendees there were 2 "Kids" and the average age was under 40.  That's good news for the hobby.  I'll hear later tonight on the club net, but a rumor said everyone passed and got their ticket ;D .   (update) 22 of 24 passed and at least one passed the General test too.

There were a lot of seminars to choose from, and the 3 I attended were quite good.
* Radio Propagation:  I came in late to this 2hr presentation and I learned a lot.  The presenter had good slides and had a very down to earth way of describing things. 

* QRP: the New England QRP club (their web site is down at the moment) gave a moderately informative, but fun talk on QRP.  The usual stuff of why, how it compares to 100W, construction methods, etc.  The main presenter has build dozens and dozens of rigs and accessories and he passed around a bunch of his home brew stuff.  Later in the evening they held a 3hr build-a-thon where people built a kit transmitter useful in testing receivers or as a CW transmitter.  These guys are passionate about their hobby.

* The Enigma Machine:  The main guy running the for-profit Enigma Museum ( gave a great presentation on the history of the machine, how it impacted WW-II, how the machines work and some of his adventures being an Indian Jones trying to recover machines from fields, sunken ships and lake bottoms in countries that aren't that excited about him doing it.  It was a great WWII communications encryption history lesson.  One big take-away is that you can throw out every WWII history book you have published before 1975.  In what he says is a world first, about 10,000 people doing the secret decoding work at Bletchley Park in England kept the secret of their work until 30 years after the war when they were given permission to talk about it.  Until 1975 no one knew we were reading the German's communications!  Also, Alan Turing didn't invent the "Bombe" code breaking machine as depicted in the movie Imitation Game.  It was 3 Polish geniuses that fled to England after Germany invaded Poland.  After WW-I, Germany was split into East and West with Poland between.  The Polish government knew Germany would eventually invade them so they maintained a code breaking group.  When the 3 Poles fled to England with their Eingma and Bombe plans England gave them zero credit.  It wasn't until the 1990s that England erected a monument to them at Bletchley Park.

The convention also had tons of vendors and a big flea market.  I managed to buy very little though.

So, though conventions really aren't my kind of thing, I recommend the ARRL conventions.  Give one a try.
Technical Corner / MTR Protector, 3D Printed
September 05, 2016, 09:23:37 PM
{once again, read to the end for one of my Karma giveaways}
Reading the AT_Sprint Yahoo group, there's been several people that have broken the switches on their MTRs.  I had that same concern so I designed a 3-D printable cover for my MTR_3B.  It weighs 1/2oz and adds almost no size to it.  I'm so pleased with my MTR that I made sure the design didn't tend to scuff the paint.  It is supported by the black ends of the box's bottom and the round post in the middle hovers above the case unless pressed on.

More details and the 3-D print files here:

I sent one to Gil and I think it got there in time to go on his Pyrenees backpacking trip.

Gil, comments?  Yours lacks one design tweak where the clips do a better job of holding on to the belly of the MTR.  I was worried that I would pick it up by the case and have it drop out.

So, once again, I'm doing a Karma and giving away a few.  Postage is on me.  CONUS only.
- You must own an MTR_3B
- Your first post here must be older than 2 months
- Select black or circuit board green.  Sorry, I only have blue in the low temperature PLA plastic and if you leave it out in the blazing sun it will sag.

If someone can verify the MTR_2B uses the exact same size case as the 3B, I'll give some away for the 2B too.

EDIT:  I forgot to say, just send me a PM if you have an MTR and want one.
$40 for 2 panel, 12W, 11oz
$50 for 3 panel, 19W, 15oz

I mainly use NiMH AA and AAA batteries so I need a USB powered charger. 
This one looks really interesting because it's a charger AND power bank.  Unfortunately I'm not finding any USB powered chargers with great reviews.  EDIT: I just realized this charger only charges batteries in pairs.  That's a big negative to me.

Anyone got a favorite battery charger designed to work from a solar panel?

Edit again:
This one charges batteries individually but won't work as a USB power bank.  Still only 3.5 stars.

General Discussion / Portable Ops
July 25, 2016, 02:46:57 PM
Tell your stories of fun, problems, learning and adventure.
I just added another item to my list of why I like Morse code.  I encounter far fewer lids when I operate CW.

I don't operate a lot of SSB and I rarely join a pile-up.  However every year I participate in the 13-Colonies week long special event.  This year they added a station in England.  Tonight I tried to work it SSB and the behavior in the pile-up was disgusting.  It seemed like some lids deliberately tried to be as annoying as possible so the U.K. station would work them so they would go away.  People were calling in ridiculously late.  When the U.K. station switched to working numbers ("2 stations only please") stations outside of that call number repeatedly called anyway.  There was even a little tiff when one of those stations got called a jerk by someone in the pile-up and the lid station replied with "screw you".  The good old USA put on a pretty poor showing for that U.K. station tonight.  I was mad and embarrassed.
Just wanted to wish everyone a happy Independence day! :D   God bless America and all those that sacrificed so much to gain and preserve our freedom.

A special message to the French.  Without their help 240 years ago, we'd still be subjects of the Crown, speaking with a silly British accent (though it can sound hot on a woman ::) ) and in 2 weeks when I'm at the family get-together in Maine I wouldn't be blowing off 2" mortar fireworks ;D .

Once again I'm precipitating in the Original 13 Colonies special event. ( I'm trying to get all 13, plus the PA and U.K. bonus stations all CW.  I have 9 so far.  I have to say SSB is more fun because the CW exchanges are quick while the SSB ones usually involve "God bless America" or some similar patriotic salutation.  It's refreshing to hear patriotism on the air.

Tactical Corner / Venezuela: A Real SHTF Situation
June 10, 2016, 10:47:20 PM
If you haven't been paying attention to Venezuela, you need to.

We are seeing a real-world example of what can happen to a developed country. They are having a genuine mid-level SHTF situation: food, water and power shortages. Astronomical %500 inflation (paper money is becoming worthless). The .gov has basically declared martial law.

Anyone that considers themselves a prepper should be watching what happens in Venezuela very carefully. What's happening there is a prime example of what we should be prepping for. And we need to watch what the subjects people do and learn what works and what doesn't.

This may be the best "educational opportunity" we get on this topic.

Ideally, this thread won't fill with comments about what the .gov did wrong and how to fix it, but rather with observations on what's happening to the people down there, how it's affecting them, what they are doing and if it's working.  And of course, how we should prepare in the unlikely event something similar happens here.

QuoteVenezuela's middle class is dumpster diving for food

Quoteparty loyalists control {food} distribution

And straight out of Atlas Shrugged...
QuoteOn Saturday, he threatened to take over idle factories and jail their owners following a decree granting him expanded powers to act in the face of a deepening economic crisis.

Maduro said factory owners were going to "sabotage" the country by shutting down and he ordered "all actions to recover the production apparatus, which is being paralyzed by the bourgeoisie."

Paper money is becoming worthless.
QuoteInflation in Venezuela is projected to increase 481% this year and by a staggering 1,642% next year.

Tactical Corner / AmeriGeddon SHTF Movie
May 11, 2016, 02:17:13 PM
Produced by Chuck Norris' son.  Opens in theaters this Friday the 13th (5/13/16), though lots of theaters are not going to show it. 
I wonder if Mike Norris can beat a brick wall in a game of tennis like his dad ::)

QuoteWhen a globalist terrorist organization aligned with the United Nations disables the United States power grid, Martial Law is instituted. It will take a dedicated family of patriots armed with strong survival skills and the remains of the Second Amendment to save America and reclaim its freedom.

Having the grid go down for more than a few weeks is one of the bigger SHTF scenarios I can think of.  We have the electric utility and about a dozen other utilities.  Those others all depend on the electric grid.  Should be interesting to see how the movie portrays that.

Movie trailer

2 best lines from the trailer:
"The average American family only has 3 days of food."
"What's the mission?  Disarm the population and restore order!"
Technical Corner / Mini Paddle Kits from QRPGuys
April 24, 2016, 11:14:12 AM make several kits including this tiny paddle for $15.
I'm having a hard time believing the assembly/soldering time is 2 hours.

I learned about a guy on the AT Sprint Yahoo group who glued super-magnets to it and uses it with his MTR-5B.  Here's his pictures.

Not that I need another paddle, but for $15 (+$3.00 shipping to MA) I need another paddle :P
Get out your tinfoil hat and undies.  Alex Jones is transmitting with a 100KW station in TN on 12.160MHz
If you crave honest, unbiased and credible news....this isn't you place  
General Discussion / Atlas Shrugged: movie any good?
March 27, 2016, 11:28:00 AM
A bit off topic, but I'm sure some people here know what I'm looking for. 
I must live under a rock because I just discovered they made a movie out of Atlas Shrugged (3 movies actually).  Amazon has the trilogy of DVDs for $24 which is almost what it would cost me to rent.  So, is it any good?  Did they do the book justice?  The reviews are generally good, but I think that anyone that can make it through the book will probably have a positive bias towards the movie.
General Discussion / Public Service
March 13, 2016, 08:00:59 PM
I do very little public service, but what I have done has given me some knowledge and insight that is useful to a prepper.

As a ham volunteer I've provided comms services for the Boston Marathon the last 2 years.  Yup, I started the year after the Marathon bombings.  Today I went to a 4hr training seminar for medical personnel and hams working along the course; as opposed to Start area, Finish area or Transportation (shuttle busses). 

The Boston Marathon is a straight line 26.2 mile course spanning 7 towns.  The logistics for 30,000 runners and several thousand volunteers is staggering.  During my training and volunteering I've learned some things I thought I would share since they relate to prepping on one level or another.

Infrastructure for Disasters:
Especially when they talk about the lessons learned from the 2013 Marathon bombings, I start to get a picture of what we have for police, military, medical and fire.  It is substantial, but woefully inadequate for any large scale disaster or violent event.  Just to support the Marathon they pull resources from pretty far away.  If anything bad happens that affects more than about 0.1% of the population, we will be largely on our own. 

Active Shooter Situations:
Today we got a 1hr presentation from a Srgt in Massachusetts's SWAT.  It was much better than I thought, and he never once said the words I hate so much:  "shelter in place".

Here are some of my key take-aways from his talk:
* Active shooter situations are over in 10-15 minutes.
* The shooters usually end it themselves within minutes of help showing up, or at the first real resistance they encounter.
* Time is your friend. Use/create a buffer zone, relocate, escape, or do anything to delay encountering the shooter.

Strategies changed after the Columbine shooting. When the killing started at Columbine, the cops on scene secured the perimeter and waited for SWAT (standard procedure back then). But, all killing was over in 16 minutes. SWAT showed up about 30 minutes after the killing started. The 2 boys killed themselves about 3 minutes after SWAT showed up. This is how the majority of active shooter situations play out.  The shooters usually aren't ready for a battle.  They've come to die.

After Columbine, the S.O.P. changed to whoever is there when it starts, they should engage right away. Don't wait for SWAT.  It will all be over by the time SWAT arrives.

One other take-away I got regard a bomb scenario (like the 2013 Marathon). When a bomb goes off, don't everyone rush in to help the victims. At most, the minimum medical crew needed to deal with the number of injured should go in.
* If the bad guy knows what he's doing, there will be a 2nd bomb to take out the first responders.
* If everyone is there helping and a 2nd bomb goes off, there's no one left to help them.
* If everyone goes in to help, you have a crowd of people standing around getting in the way and adding confusion. This is what happend 3 years ago.
* The first cops on scene are NOT going to help the wounded, no matter how much they are bleeding. Their job is to make the area safe (get the bad guy, find the other bomb, etc.)

He never addressed the possibility of us being armed, but he spent a lot of time putting responsibility for decisions and actions on us. A couple times he sort of implied that going on the attack was our decision. He explicitly stated that we are responsible for our safety, not the cops.

You never know what you're going to learn in ham radio :)