Category Archives: Emergency Preparedness

Morse Code: Straight Key and Others

I enjoy a niche of ham radio called Continuous Wave (CW) / Morse Code sending and receiving.  There are all sorts of hand keys out there to use.  Lots of CW Contests occur every month for all levels of CW enthusiasts… you don’t have to send fast, if you don’t want to!  It’s a very efficient system of communicating when traditional modes of messaging are out of service, too.  Some say since the advent of the telephone and then the cellphone, it is a dying art… I say it’s a BLAST to do!

Every ham ought to try a little CW every once in a while.  Find a key you like and use it periodically to stay proficient but also pick up a straight key and join the annual Straight Key Night Contest around New Years.  (It’s not really a contest; it’s more of an opportunity to pull out a straight key and try sending Morse Code the old fashioned way.

I love to scour the hamfest flea markets looking at all the old time keys available to buy for a variety of prices.  Some served in Post Offices, Telegraph Offices, military communications, in combat and in ham shacks!  My favorite straight key is a 1950’s era South African Special Forces straight key… super compact… light weight… and darned cute… that I picked up at the Dayton Hamvention in 2015!  It wasn’t cheap, but it’s unique and has a good story.  See some of the key configurations below…

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Morse Code: Dual Lever Paddle Adjustment Tutorial

K7QO MFJ-564B Dual Lever Paddle Adjustment Tutorial

K7QO Chuck Adams website

This is an excellent explanation of the taxonomy of a dual lever paddle (i.e. Bencher and MFJ) and how to make the adjustments that are critical for efficient CW / Morse Code sending in your ham shack.

The alphabet in Morse Code / CW sent at 20 words per minute (wpm)…

 

Make your own Dipole Antenna

Randy does such a good job of explaining how to make your own 10 Meter Dipole.  Get on the air… 10 meters is a fun band when the sun cooperates!

Yaesu System Fusion Introduction

This is a good introduction video for anyone curious about Yaesu’s efforts in digital communications at the local repeater level.  It also sets aside some fears and misunderstandings about amateur radio operators making the decision to add or upgrade to digital from analog… you can do both!

2016 Dayton Hamvention Post-Mortem

Well… another Hamvention is in the books and it was the usual great time of fun and friendship.  WR8S  (Bill Shultz) and WV8TG  (Tom Graf) and I enjoyed three fun-filled days scouring the Flea Market and also inside Hara Arena for all sorts of treasures and trinkets.  Tom scored a pristine 1959 Hammerlund HQ-One Forty Five short-wave radio and several other vintage radios to restore.  (The Hammerlund was the first serious short-wave radio Tom bought and it eventually led him on the journey to get his Amateur Extra Class license!)  Bill and I invested in a couple Yaesu FTM100-DR System Fusion digital mobile radios so that we can explore the Monongalia Wireless Association’s new System Fusion repeaters here in the Morgantown, West Virginia area.  Below is a video recap of our annual trek to the Dayton Hamvention.  If you have never attended a Dayton Hamvention… GET THERE!  Enjoy!

Aluminum Soldering Demonstration at the 2016 Dayton Hamvention

I have seen this presentation several times over the years while attending the Dayton Hamvention.  Don Wilke does a great job demonstrating the process of bonding various metals at a low temperature using this special material.  I finally purchased a pack of these rods in May 2016.  As many things as I can mess up around the house and garden, I am sure it will come in handy soon.  I decided to film it for my blog and then sent the video to Don for him to use.

APRS… from the inventor, Bob Bruninga WB4APR

I would venture to say you can’t do better than hearing it from the inventor himself!

Published on Oct 19, 2015

Automatic Packet Reporting System overview by its inventor, Bob WB4APR given at the HACDC Amateur Radio Club. For more information about APRS, go to http://www.aprs.org For more information about HACDC Amateur Radio Club go to http://www.w3hac.org

Complete Overview of MESH for Amateur Radio (2014) by VA3BCO

MESH communications in Ham Radio is another area where Amateur Radio pushes the edge of the envelope and  has put a tremendous amount of work into this slideshare that goes from A to Z on how to run a MESH!  (Click on his website for more!)

Originally published on Nov 6, 2014

This is a comprehensive introduction to MESH for amateur radio enthusiasts. It is particularly useful for anyone new to MESH but will also include some nuggets sure to be helpful to the experienced operator. Topics include:

1. HSMM MESH vs. traditional digital modes
2. Router review & comparison
3. Firmware selection & configuration
4. Antenna considerations
5. Application scenarios for ARES and experimentation
6. Updates on local efforts & recent software announcements

Visit VA3BCO.COM for more details.

WinLink… What is it?

K4REF tells us from his YouTube Channel the basics of this interesting technology that we can use as Amateur Radio Operators.  It is most likely very similar to a technology we use daily… away from our radios!

 

Amateur Radio Go-Box and Go-Bags Examples

Ham Radio Operators need to be ready to roll out to a crisis quickly if it requires communication support.  Are you ready to “grab and go”?  How quickly could you have a functional ham radio station on-the-air ready to support an emergency situation?  Could you support your local authorities efforts, and for how long?  Can you personally sustain yourself with food and water for 3 days of support, without being a burden on the emergency relief efforts?  Constructing your own version of a “Ham Radio Go-Box” and a “Go-Bag” might be a great addition to your preparedness efforts.  Below are some pictures of potential Go-Boxes to stir your imagination and creativity.  You might even have some of the items laying around that could be put into the effort to BE PREPARED.

GO-BOX IDEAS

GO-BAG IDEAS

How Does a Crystal Radio Set Actually Work?

Here is an excellent YouTube video from RimstarOrg that breaks down the concept of how crystal radios actually DO their magic!  Yes, MAGIC.  Radio signals are all around us 24 hours a day.  Invisible!  You can’t really touch them.  You can’t smell them.  You can’t hear them without assistance.  We don’t really feel them bombarding us.  We don’t sense those signals without some mechanical help… but they strike us with many different frequencies constantly… so let’s explore the range of frequencies we can decipher with a homemade crystal radio set!

Crystal Radios. A blast from the past!

Many of us have looked at, or even built a crystal radio set at some point in our lives. Maybe it was in our Scouting days, youth group, science class, science fair… or just to DO IT!  The circuit itself is relatively simple to wire-up.  A long piece of wire acts like an antenna.  Some configuration of earphones or speaker will let you listen to signals.  And believe it or not, the signals are all around you!  The local AM radio station should be easy to hear.  You can even build a simple pre-amp (pre-amplifier) circuit to boost the incoming signal to add extra volume and signal strength to the fun.

Let’s understand WHY a crystal radio set is sooooooo cool!  SIMPLE CIRCUIT DESIGN.  EVEN KIDS CAN DO IT!  EASY TO GET PARTS.  NO EXTERNAL POWER REQUIRED.  INTERCEPTING INVISIBLE RADIO WAVES THAT ARE ALL AROUND US.  Plus, it’s just a pile of fun!

Here is a YouTube video from WonderstruckHow who teaches us to build a very rudimentary crystal radio set with parts that are easy enough to scrounge up.

After you watch the video check out the picture gallery of all sorts of crystal radio sets that can be built in just a short time.  They are great for kids working on a science fair project (and sure beats out a terrarium!)  Some of us “Seasoned Citizens” might actually remember the paper towel tubes or Quaker Oat cardboard cans we wound the magnet wire around and even some of the commercial kits sitting under our Christmas tree!

Straight Key Night… FUN!

Every January 1st there is a fun filled evening of laid back, “no pressure” CW (Morse Code) operating using a simple “Straight Key” to key your transmitter without the aid of added electronics to perform the speed and spacing of your sent letters and numbers.  This isn’t a contest!  It is designed for fun sending CW the “old fashioned” way.  The object is to simply enjoy sending and reading Morse Code.  There are numerous configurations and sizes of straight keys and a jaunt down any ham radio flea market aisle will often give you quite a few options for a great purchase!

Here is a video example of the annual Straight Key Night experience. MIKROWAVE1 explains and actually makes CW contacts with other amateur radio operators enjoying the annual event. (Below the video, look for some pictures of several types of straight keys you might find as a bargain to add to your own ham radio station!

Here are some pictures of various CW (Morse Code) keyers.  You can grab several to use for contesting or just simple rag-chewing.  Some hams actually collect various types of keys!

 

 

Yaesu System Fusion Introduction

Cory Sickles (WA3UVV) is active in our local ham club, Monongalia Wireless Association, and he has been guiding us in installing a new Yaesu System Fusion repeater system up on Chestnut Ridge.  Are you wondering what Yaesu System Fusion is?  What is C4FM?  What is the difference between Fusion, D-Star, P25 and DMR?  Well… here are a couple videos that might give you some insight into primarily Fusion… but the second video looks at some comparison.  (Spoiler alert… it gets territorial quickly.)  Hats off to HamRadioOutlet and HamRadioNow for spending the time on these cool systems!

Near Vertical Incidence Skywave (NVIS)

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I love DX.  I love chatting to interesting people all over the world and making new friends.  For short range chatting I use our Monongalia Wireless Association W8MWA Repeater on the 144/440 frequencies.  Sometimes it’s more difficult to talk short distances than it is to talk half way around the world.  Let’s consider Near Vertical Incidence Skywave  (NVIS) antennas with our HF radios.

NVIS is something every Ham needs to learn about.  The antenna system is not difficult to construct and can serve an important function for shorter range communications, especially in time of an emergency when normal local / regional communication systems are down for some reason.  (i.e. cell towers, cellphones, landlines, etc.)  Hams may be called into service quickly.

Here is what Wikipedia says about NVIS communications…

Near vertical incidence skywave, or NVIS, is a skywave radio-wave propagation path that provides usable signals in the range between groundwave and conventional skywave distances—usually 30–400 miles (50–650 km). It is used for military and paramilitarycommunications, broadcasting,[1] especially in the tropics, and by radio amateurs. The radio waves travel near-vertically upwards into the ionosphere, where they are refracted back down and can be received within a circular region up to 650 km from the transmitter.[2] If the frequency is too high (that is, above the critical frequency of the ionospheric F layer), refraction fails to occur and if it is too low, absorption in the ionospheric D layer may reduce the signal strength.

The most reliable frequencies for NVIS communications are between 1.8 MHz and 8 MHz. Above 8 MHz, the probability of success begins to decrease, dropping to near zero at 30 MHz. Usable frequencies are dictated by local ionospheric conditions, which have a strong systematic dependence on geographical location. Common bands used in amateur radio at mid-latitudes are 3.5 MHz at night and 7 MHz during daylight, with experimental use of 5 MHz (60-meter) frequencies. Broadcasting uses the tropical broadcast bands between 2.3 and 5.06 MHz, and the international broadcast bands between 3.9 and 6.2 MHz, Military NVIS communications mostly take place on 2-4 MHz at night and on 5-7 MHz during daylight.

Optimum NVIS frequencies tend to be higher towards the tropics and lower towards the arctic regions. They are also higher during high sunspot activity years. The usable frequencies change from day to night, because sunlight causes the lowest layer of the ionosphere, called the D layer, to increase, causing attenuation of low frequencies during the day [3] while the maximum usable frequency (MUF) which is the critical frequency of the F layer rises with greater sunlight.

NVIS is most useful in mountainous areas where line-of-sight propagation at VHF or UHF frequencies is ineffective or when the communication distance is beyond the 50-mile (80 km) range of groundwave, and less than the 300–1500-mile (500–2500 km) range of lower angle sky-wave. Another interesting aspect of NVIS communication is, that direction finding of the sender is more difficult than for ground-wave communication (i.e. VHF or UHF). For broadcasters, NVIS allows coverage of an entire medium-sized country at much lower cost than with VHF (FM), and daytime coverage similar to MW (AM) nighttime coverage at lower cost and often with less interference.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Near_vertical_incidence_skywave

Below are a few very good links to articles for the nuts & bolts of putting together a simple and good NVIS antenna.

http://www.tactical-link.com/field_deployed_nvis.htm

http://www.qsl.net/wb5ude/nvis/index.html

http://www.w0ipl.net/ECom/NVIS/K2GW-NVIS.htm

http://www.w0ipl.net/ECom/NVIS/cbp-nvis.htm

Here is a sample video by NG9D with an 80 Meter End Fed NVIS Field Antenna.

See How a Schematic Diagram is ACTUALLY Visualized

“How to read an Electronic Schematic” by Paul Wesley Lewis

Wonderful example of how to visualize and equate the schematic diagram with the actual circuit build out.

How Do I Read a Schematic Diagram?

How to Read a Schematic by RimstarOrg 

If you are going to build a simple crystal radio, a QRP rig or even a 100 Watt HF transceiver, you are going to want to understand how an electronic schematic diagram is read.  It’s not that difficult.  RimstarOrg has a great video on understanding the basic concept of reading a schematic.

 

Multimeter Tutorial by AfroTechMods

THE BEST Multimeter Tutorial

The voltmeter… the Volt-Ohm Meter… the Multimeter… digital or analog… continuity… amperage, voltage and ohms… COME ON, MAN!  What is it and how hard is it to use in the every day life of a ham radio enthusiast or just someone working in their workshop?  Once again, Afrotechmods has an excellent tutorial on his YouTube channel for us to learn from!

 

 

playwithlifeorg

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HarsH ReaLiTy

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Tinkertoytech's Blog

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KC4LMD

Chronicling my pursuit of amateur radio’s "Worked All Neighbors" award

Casey's Place

"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe." -- John Muir

Hackaday

Fresh hacks every day

VK4JAZ

Writings about Amateur Radio

Tactical HF

I love the smell of ozone in the morning...smells like...radio.

WB5RMG : RadioActive Blog

slightly sub-orbital testing facility

73, de N2HTT

A blog about ham radio, Linux and more...

Ham Radio Blog PD0AC

Thoughts of a Dutch radio amateur

Silver Bells Blog

Truth Appealing...

CQ de WT8WV... GraHAM's Dits & Dah's

My journey in amateur radio intrigues and hobby interests

K5UNX Ham Radio Blog

A blog dedicated to things Ham Radio related

Mountain Mists...

A pleasant journey into how I see things... big and small

playwithlifeorg

4 out of 5 dentists recommend this WordPress.com site

HarsH ReaLiTy

A Good Blog is Hard to Find

BG5TLA's Blog

Just another WordPress.com site

Tinkertoytech's Blog

Just another WordPress.com weblog

KC4LMD

Chronicling my pursuit of amateur radio’s "Worked All Neighbors" award

Casey's Place

"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe." -- John Muir

Hackaday

Fresh hacks every day

VK4JAZ

Writings about Amateur Radio

Tactical HF

I love the smell of ozone in the morning...smells like...radio.

WB5RMG : RadioActive Blog

slightly sub-orbital testing facility

73, de N2HTT

A blog about ham radio, Linux and more...

Ham Radio Blog PD0AC

Thoughts of a Dutch radio amateur

Silver Bells Blog

Truth Appealing...

CQ de WT8WV... GraHAM's Dits & Dah's

My journey in amateur radio intrigues and hobby interests

K5UNX Ham Radio Blog

A blog dedicated to things Ham Radio related

Mountain Mists...

A pleasant journey into how I see things... big and small

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