Wednesday, October 08, 2014

ARRL Web Server Breach

10/07/2014

Late last month, a security breach occurred, involving a web server at ARRL Headquarters. ARRL IT Manager Mike Keane, K1MK, said that League members have no reason to be concerned about sensitive personal information being leaked.

Link.

If you have a login at arrl.org, I suggest you go change your password.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Free Book: Radio Monitoring A How To Guide

N2EI has made his book, Radio Monitoring A How To Guide, freely available under the Creative Commons License. Go download it here.

{Hat tip to Sparks.}


Friday, September 19, 2014

Baofeng UV-5R with Extended Battery

It was just brought to my attention that Amazon carries the Baofeng UV-5R with a 3600 mAH battery included, instead of the 1800 mAH battery. At $38 shipped, that’s a great deal.

Don’t forget to order a better antenna than the stock rubber duck. If I were buying now, I’d order a SMA-female to BNC-female adapter and find a highly rated antenna that uses a BNC connector. By doing so, you eliminate wear on the radio’s antenna connection, and make it much faster to change out antennas.

An N9TAX roll-up slim jim antenna with a BNC connector would be a good match for the Baofeng when operating from a static location.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

FM Dipole Antenna

Out in my shop I have a CCrane CCradio-EP AM/FM radio for background noise while I work. I mostly listen to music on a few FM stations, including 102.5 WRFY out in Reading, for which reception has been iffy, so I looked into getting a better FM antenna. Not wanting to spend a lot of money, I got this simple dipole from Amazon.

The dipole appears to be made from 300 Ohm twinlead, and has plastic ends on each leg of the dipole, each of which has a small hole in it so you can tack it up to a wall. The feed leg has an F-connector, which attaches directly to the matching connector on the back of the radio.

This morning I got the chance to give it a try and so far I’m pleased with it. For about $8, it noticeably improved my reception of the Reading station, and even the closer stations come in better.

The CCrane radio has a separate, internal ferrite antenna for AM reception. The local AM news station, KYW 1060, comes in very strong in the entire Philly metro area, and beyond, so a better antenna isn’t needed in my application.

You can have the best radio but if you don’t have a good antenna it’ll be worthless. If you’re having problems with the built-in antenna of your radio, look into an aftermarket antenna.

More on Linked Repeater Systems

The other day I posted about the University of Pennsylvania’s N3KZ linked repeater system. Penn’s system is far from unique, even in PA. Going to Repeaterbook.com lets you find the linked repeater systems for your state.

Incidentally, Repeaterbook has a nice app for both Android and iThingies that will let you look up nearby repeaters, even if you do not have a data connection on your phone or tablet.

As I mentioned earlier linked repeaters are not a full substitute for an HF rig and NVIS, but they may be a useful tool in the event of an emergency. Many repeaters have emergency power, and many of us live within range of multiple repeaters. For example, from my home, I can directly hit two N3KZ repeaters which are geographically dispersed. The closest one is in the Roxborough neighborhood in Philadelphia, while the other one is near Robesonia, in Lebanon County. They are about 30 miles apart. I’m also able to hit repeaters in AllStar and WAN networks. Some repeaters may be linked to more than one link network. E.g., W3WAN in Roxborough is connected to both the AllStar and WAN networks.

Linking is done largely over the Internet. If it’s full-blown  TEOTWAWKI obviously you cannot depend on the ‘net. However, in a lot of SHTF situations you can. For example, on 9/11/01 I was able to communicate with family members on Long Island via AOL Instant Messenger even when phone lines into the NYC metro area were unusable.

In an emergency a lot of communications are done by hams over VHF and UHF. If you have a VHF/UHF rig, I encourage you to program as many nearby repeaters into is as possible, especially if they are linked.

Gear Advice from a Navy Seabee

“Machinegunseabee” posted a thread on Arfcom detailing what gear has worked form him in a (now) 18 year Navy career, over several deployments. IMO, a lot of his info is valuable for preppers.

Check it out here.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Penn N3KZ Linked Repeater System

The University of Pennsylvania runs the N3KZ UHF linked repeater system (Internet-linked, AFAIK). It covers SE PA, some of NJ, and NE MD. I was scanning through the memories on my FT-7800R and caught a call on the one in Eagles Peak, Lebanon County, PA. I wound up having a nice chat with a new ham who was using the N3KZ repeater in Havre de Grace, MD. I'm about 50 miles from the Eagles Peak repeater. My rig was set to 10W connected to a Comet GP-3 on my roof, while he was on a Yaesu FT-60R HT with a roll-up J-pole.

Internet-linked repeaters are a nifty blend of old and new tech. Obviously, such a system is more vulnerable to going down in a major SHTF scenario but it's a nice option when it is up, especially for those hams who can only operate on VHF or UHF.

Here’s detailed info about the N3KZ system from Repeaterbook.com: http://www.repeaterbook.com/repeaters/details.php?state_id=42&ID=168#sthash.FbOLU8Gt.dpbs

Solar Flare and Incoming X-Class CME

As reported in the news over the past couple days, the Earth was hit by a solar flare on 9/9.  An X-class coronal mass ejection is following the flare and is expected to hit us with a glancing blow early Friday morning, 9/12. When the flare hit HF radio transmissions were severely disrupted, e.g., 20M was pretty much wiped out for awhile.

Other than HF disruptions and some better than normal auroras, any other effects are likely to be minimal. That said, I’ll be unplugging my radio antennas and power cords tonight, just in case the predictions are wrong. Likeiwse, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to do things like fill the gas tanks in your vehicles and any spare gas cans, just in case.

Good sites to follow what’s going on with the Sun, solar flares, and CMEs are Solar Ham and Space Weather.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Baofeng UV-5RA Extended Battery

Up until recently one downside of getting the Baofeng UV-5RA HT was that the extra capacity batteries made for the other variants of the UV-5R did not fit it. At the start of last week I found a 3600 mAH battery to fit the UV-5RA. It’s from eBay seller radioshop8888 located in Hong Kong. This link should take you directly to the battery.

The cost was $21 shipped from HK to the US.

Here are some pictures, with a regular Bic lighter for scale. First, the UV-5RA with the stock 1800 mAH battery, then with the 3600 mAH battery, and finally the two batteries together.

Note that my radio is fitted with a Nagoya NA-701 2M/70cm antenna. It provides a little better performance than the stock rubber duck.

Aside from having double the capacity of the OEM battery, the extended battery makes the HT easier to hold, especially when you’re trying to work the buttons while holding it with only one hand.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Software Defined Radio

As explained in Wikipedia:

Software-defined radio (SDR) is a radio communication system where components that have been typically implemented in hardware (e.g. mixers, filters, amplifiers, modulators/demodulators, detectors, etc.) are instead implemented by means of software on a personal computer or embedded system.

Traditionally, SDR has been an expensive endeavor. However, some clever hackers discovered that some very cheap TV tuner USB dongles based on the RTL2832U chip can be used as wide range radio receivers.

Back on August 9th I ordered one of these RTL2832U-based USB TV tuner dongles from Amazon for $8 and change. It shipped from China and arrived today. I then downloaded and installed SDR# using this quick start guide. So far, I just have it receiving FM broadcast signals. Here’s what it looks like tuned to the local classic rock station:

SDR-sharp

As described by Sparks, this $8 dongle can be used as an RF spectrum analyzer to discover what signals are in your area. This cheap piece of hardware plus some free software, and a laptop, Raspberry Pi, or BeagleBone Black system can be used as a portable, low-cost signals intelligence gathering system.