Survival Radio Net #1

Hello Everybody, Frank here.

If you recall back a few weeks, our little community started and completed a Survival Radio Class. This class included preparation for those seeking their ham radio license, which ended up being about nine Technicians and three Generals. Pretty good turn out. Also, for the record, all of the students that took the test, passed. In most circles that is considered to be 100%.

But, back to the main gist. Besides the folks pursuing their ham radio ticket, the class was geared for those that wanted to learn to communicate by other means. Those means being scanner for listening, and folks listening is CRITICAL, also CB, GMRS/FRS,

MURS, shortwave and smoke signals. Just wanted to see if you’re paying attention. We had a handful of people in the class that this was their goal. Well, you say, this is all redundant information, and it is, but when I was a child and I went to cross the street, my daddy told me to look both ways every time I crossed that street. Just because somebody hears something once, doesn’t mean it’s going to penetrate or settle. Some folks, myself included, need to hear things more than once.

I know lots of you had CBs when you were kids. It was real popular. It was a form of freedom, able to get out. Pitch in four wheel mobility and life is good, till you have to start paying your own bills. 

GMRS came along later, new technology, FM not AM, higher frequency. For those not familiar with the term GMRS, these are the little handheld radios you can buy at any sporting goods store, and they work real well. Hunters use them, kids playing hide and seek, it’s a handy tool, and some businesses use them. Fern and I have used them for years.

MURS is also a free group of frequencies that is for citizens use. It is rarely, rarely used, a great way to communicate, FM, higher frequency than CB, lower than GMRS. It’s in about the same frequency range as most small and medium size towns’ police and fire departments. 

Let’s not forget the scanner. Most, if not all, scanners can receive the VHF/UHF ham bands, GMRS and MURS. Some scanners, but not all, can receive the CB frequencies. Remember, listening or being able to hear is CRITICAL

But again, you say, this is all redundant information. Go back and read the explanation of redundant above. Some of us need to hear something more than once before it soaks in. Does that need repeating again?

Let’s not forget shortwave. Everything we talked about above is pretty much short distance, line of sight, sometimes one mile, sometimes 40 miles depending on the terrain. Shortwave is the ability to listen to long distance signals. It lost popularity with the introduction of the internet, but there is still traffic out there to be heard. That means that there are things out there to be heard around the globe. Many shortwave radios will also receive the lower ham radio frequencies, because that is where shortwave is located. So if you have a scanner and a decent shortwave radio and the appropriate antenna, you can hear local and long distance. Remember, being able to hear and receive is CRITICAL.

So, one more time, where is this going? It’s going right here. Last Tuesday night we attempted our first ever Survival Radio Net. Now you’re going to have to follow me here because we did a lot of things in a short period of time. Most of the participants of this net were from the radio class with a few additions. I sent out an email to the folks that were in the class letting them know about what we were going to try to do. This email had time, date, place and purpose.

  • Time was 20:00 (8:00pm)
  • Date was Tuesday night.
  • Beginning place was our local ham radio repeater.

You say there’s a problem here. The CB, GMRS and MURS crowd can’t communicate with the repeater. Well, that is only half right. If they have a scanner, or a handheld that will receive the repeater, then they can listen to and follow instructions. 


A side note here. I got permission from our local emergency management director to use this repeater at that time for this purpose. He was more than happy to accommodate. 

The email included some instructions about what we were going to try to do, which are as follows.

  1. We would start at 8:00pm.
  2. I was the net control operator.
  3. We started off with basic introductions, took care of the legal things, and then started taking ham radio check ins.
  4. After the check ins, those of us that had CB capabilities, did the same activity, except on a local basis. Not everybody could hear everybody, but some could hear and others would relay.
  5. During this time, which took about 10 minutes, we asked those that could hear, who they could receive, and then we continued this process. Who hears who, their location, their name or call sign or handle. Now, get this, we had folks that could hear CB reception from 40 miles away. Okay, one guy lives on the side of a tall hill, and another man could hear him 40 miles away.   You see, this contact is what this net is all about. Hearing, listening, receiving. It is CRITICAL. 
  6. Next, we went back to the repeater, which was our base and we had a discussion, those that could talk on the repeater, about some of the contacts we had just made.
  7.  Then we proceeded with GMRS and MURS with the same activities.

Due to the characteristics of the different frequencies, CB, GMRS and MURS, different people at different locations could receive different transmissions. Like I said above, follow me here. Example. Two guys, 20 miles apart might be able to hear each other on MURS, but not CB. One of them may be able to transmit on CB to somebody else that can’t hear MURS.

A side note here. The big ham radio group in this country that has been around for a long, long time, is called the ARRL. Amateur Radio RELAY League. That second ‘R’ is what radio used to be, Relay. That’s what it’s going to be again in the future. RELAY.

This was a first time experiment and most of the participants would agree that it sharply exceeded their expectations. We’re going to do it again very soon, and we’re going to try to do it the first and third Tuesdays of each month. I was surprised at the number of people that eagerly participated in our net. But then it dawned on me that they also see an urgent need for communications. 

The reason I am telling YOU this, is that this same activity can be duplicated in your area. We need a time to communicate. Let’s pick 8:00 at night. Well, we need a frequency to communicate on. How about CB channel 22, which is 27.225 MHz? That’s a good start. How about GMRS channel 22, which is 462.725 MHz? How about MURS #2, which is 151.880 MHz? This is something that you can do. Anything that I can do, you can do better. Talk to your local emergency management director, these guys like public attention, remember that. Always say please and thank you. You could even talk to your local ARRL branch. Some of them will be helpful, some won’t. This is doable. Now do it.

Another side note. We developed a simple form, 20 lines, about 5 columns. First column was call sign or handle, next name, then location, then mode of communication (e.g. CB, GMRS, etc), lastly we left a column for comments, which could include people contacted or relays made.


Ladies and Gentlemen, most of you know we have perilous times right around the corner. But even if we don’t, how about a natural disaster, or a man made disaster? We need to be able to communicate. I’m going to leave these thoughts with you. Knowing what is happening in your area is of CRITICAL importance. You never know what a man made or natural disaster could look like, and you might want to know what is coming down the road. Ladies and Gentlemen, don’t get on the bus. 

We’ll talk more later, Frank

Homestead News, Volume 7

There is not a lot going on here right now, just a little bit of this and a little bit of that. We have told you about many of our latest activities, so we thought we would give you a run down of our general, everyday homestead life. I waited until evening chores with the sun going down to take the pictures for this article. Just as we were wrapping up and I was going to take the last pictures of the pigs, the camera batteries died.

And speaking of pigs, our American Guinea Hogs are doing very well. They are pretty friendly, and now come running anytime they here one of us holler, “Come on pigs!” They know that means we are carrying a bucket with something good to eat. The contents of the bucket tend to vary

widely depending on what we’re harvesting from the garden, whether we have whey from making cheese, or just getting rid of some older staples that have sat on the shelf for too long. I’m starting to eye the barrows and think of the future meat and lard they will provide. We really look forward to butchering one of them so we can see how they taste. Lance, the boar, and Liberty, the gilt, like to greet me in the morning with mud on their noses. They have become very adept at putting a nice big nose print smear on my jeans, especially if I have just put on a clean pair. I like to think they are just bumping me with their nose in greeting and not wiping their faces. What is it about pigs and shoes? Why does Lance think he needs to taste or try to bite my shoe when I go in there?

One Stripe. See it right there on her side?

We have been putting two of our does, One Stripe and Cricket, in the ‘boys’ pasture during the day for about a week. Cricket has fully recovered from the scours she had earlier in the month which prevented us from trying this a few weeks ago. Our temperatures have hovered just under or over 100* for a couple of weeks now, and we think that has, and will, prevent them from breeding. We had hopes for them to breed in July for December babies and a winter milk supply, but I just don’t think that will happen. Next year I will breed two does in May for October babies. That will require the does to breed not long after they kid, but then we should be on a more even cycle of once a year again. We will see. It is a real challenge to keep ourselves in milk year round, but continues to be an important goal.

 

We are still picking tomatoes, green beans and cowpeas from the garden. The last of the squash plants have succumbed to the squash bugs, and I have already replanted a few hills. The pepper plants are finally growing well and starting to produce. I will pick a few jalapenos next week to make salsa. Tomatoes are filling up my crispers in the frig awaiting enough company to can salsa for the pantry shelves. We have been out for a while and have missed it. We eat a lot more salsa than canned tomatoes, so it will take first place in the canning process.

 

The cucumbers are gradually growing and starting to bloom quite a bit. There aren’t many plants so I don’t know how many pickles we can make. I’d like to ferment them, so it may be in individual jars. I’m just not sure how well they will keep on the pantry shelves. I’m still hesitant to leave them there instead of refrigerated. We only have one refrigerator, and no other cold storage for jars of fermented food, so I just don’t know what to do. I’ve read that fermented veges will be fine on the shelf after they complete the fermenting process, but I don’t trust that practice yet. Any advice you may have for me would be appreciated.

 

In our efforts to clear the weeds and grass from parts of the garden for fall crops, Frank used the disc on the tractor (like we showed you in a previous post). Well, today we went out to work on it again and Frank got a great idea. Instead of raking and removing the dead grass, he scraped it all together with the bucket on the tractor. It made quick work in the hot sun, instead of using a rake and wagon. That was one of those time and body saving ideas that really paid off. Now after one more session with the disc, the ground will be ready to plant. 

Work on the greenhouse and other slated projects will resume before long when our one man crew returns from vacation. Frank’s list of things he wants to complete grows a few more items from time to time.

I continue to do contract work for the school district we both retired from, and with school starting before long, I will be more involved in that process than I have been for the past few months. I will be attending training on a new computer program that the state of Oklahoma is adopting, then spend a day at the school training the teachers how to use it as well.

Frank’s Ham Radio & Survival Communications class is going very well. They have two more weeks of class before some of the members will be testing for their ham radio licenses. The local county emergency management office has arranged for Volunteer Examiners to come to the class location to administer the tests instead of the students having to go 60 miles to another testing session being offered by an area radio club. This is the first time the local Volunteer Examiners have administered a test in this area. The ARRL requires them to administer four test sessions before they will be recognized as a certified testing group. It’s great that Frank’s request for a local test session has lead this group to start up their own program.

Once the radio class is over, the real work will begin. There are several class members that want to set up towers or antenna poles to begin the process of creating a communication network in our area. This is the whole purpose of this class and we are excited to see the interest that is being expressed. Many of these folks know that there are hard times coming and want to be able to look out for each other when they arrive, and for that, we are truly grateful. So even though we expect the deterioration of our country and world to continue, it’s comforting to know there are those that are willing to create a workable communication network in this area.
 

 

This morning we turned 16 of our eight week old hens out with the adult flock of birds. This gives the 17 or so young roosters more room in their pen to grow a few more weeks before they take up space in the freezer. We look forward to having fresh chicken again. We rationed out the last few from last year and are now out of chicken meat. 

 

The young batch of chicks are now a month old and will soon need both ‘baby’ pens to prevent overcrowding. We will be looking at the hens in this group of birds also to see which ones we want to keep. We plan to keep about 20 young hens to replace the current laying flock. We will also choose two young roosters. In about three or four months, the older bird will find their way into jars once the young hens start laying. Then the cycle will start once again.

Scruffy drinking fresh squeezed milk

 
The heat keeps us inside during the hot afternoons this time of year. Our busiest times outside have waned until the weather starts to cool in September. We will continue to work on our projects in the mornings, or when the heat allows. There is still so much to do, and we feel the time gets shorter everyday. 

Until next time – Fern

Radio – Technician Class, Romanchik Manual Update

Hello, Frank here.

Hi all, hope everybody is doing well. What I want to bring you today is the update to the Romanchik Technician manual. Every
few years or so, the FCC, the Federal Communications Commission, gets together with a group of ham radio operators and reviews the questions for each level of testing. This year, in July, the new questions and answers were put into effect for the Technician level exam. Now, I don’t know much about this process. I would presume that it is done through some type of coordination with ARRL, the American Radio Relay League. They get rid of some of the questions and answers and add some new ones. So, if you’re using the Romanchik Technician manual, which I highly recommend, then you will want the upgraded, up-to-date, ink still wet version. Here it is.

I want to send you to a post I wrote a few months back, it’s called Radio – Become a Ham. It has links to many sites that will help you get your Technician’s license, or for that matter, your General or Extra licenses also. Look  

around in the above mentioned site, which is Radio – Become a Ham, and it will answer most questions you have about getting your ham license. But, remember, ARRL is your best friend when you have local questions.

The FCC is the governing authority over all radio communications. There are three levels of tests, the Technician level, which for most people, with a little bit of study, is an easily passable test. The General level is just a little bit more complicated than the Technician level. The Extra class, I am told, is going to require some more work.

Some people think of ham radio as quite an expensive hobby, and it can be if that’s the route you choose. There are some folks that get into the Technician class level with a $40.00 brand new, hand held radio. So, you can take it from $40.00 to as high as you want to go. Many ham operators never go past the Technician level because their goal is to work with a local ham radio club helping with search and rescue type operations. The minimum equipment required for this duty is the $40.00 radio I mentioned earlier. Then there are other folks in ham radio that want to learn Morse code and talk to folks all around the world, and this can be done also. By the way, you do not have to learn Morse code for any of the three levels of licensing. But if you want to learn it, good for you.

There are safety issues with operating a radio. You are emitting, if you are transmitting, an RF signal, radio frequency. These are things you will learn, but don’t ever shortcut safety.

I have another short post I want you to read called Wanna Be a Ham? It’s short, easy to read, and has some information you might want to consider. 

FEMA and Homeland Security both use ham radio operators during emergencies. As you will find in my posts, I encourage people to get their ham radio license so that they will have communications during an emergency. Who knows, there may come a day when the electricity is off. It might be a natural disaster, a hurricane, tornado, flooding, earthquake, wildfires, natural disasters come in all shapes and sizes. Ham radio can be a very handy tool. There is also the possibility of disruption from government, martial law, quarantine, use your imagination. There are lots of reasons we need alternative forms of communication. And, besides that, it’s a cool hobby.

Go to “Things To Read” then, “Frank’s Radio Communications”. Take a look at scanners, GMRS, CB and shortwave. You may find some other interests you enjoy. You don’t have to be a ham radio operator to participate in radio communications. But if you are a ham radio operator, it will extend your world of emergency radio communications a great deal. There are also radio clubs if you’re the type that likes to join groups. It’s a whole lot safer than bar room fighting and you may enjoy a higher level of association with ham radio folks. Read the posts. Here is the new Romanchik manual. You can get your ham radio license from start to finish at a total cost of $15.00 from the included posts under Frank’s Radio Communications. That $15.00 is the fee you pay to take your test to get your license. 

That’s about it for today. Here in a few days, I’m going to introduce this $40.00 hand held radio I’m talking about. I will also introduce you to some functional, commercial radios that are perfectly legal on the ham frequencies. If you’re into the search and rescue thing, they’re also perfectly legal there with proper permission. Take care. Safety first.

We’ll talk more later. 73, Frank
 

Radio – Wanna Be a General, Part 7

Hello, Frank here.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are going to finish preparing for the general exam today. I’m going to have lower back surgery here in a few days, and I am going to be out of service for a while. This is the same reason the radio posts have been sporadic and far between. I have an old back injury that I decided to reactivate in full force. So, if I spell the word excruciating correctly, it’s the word I use to describe my stabbing pains, which will soon be over. Hopefully. So much for my whining routine.

Okay. I’m on page 47 of Romanchik, and this manual ends on page 66, and that’s where we will be at the end of this post. As I’ve stated more than once, if you have your Technician, then you know how to get in touch with the ARRL. You know how to find a mentor, or Elmer. And you know a little bit about safety. 

Speaking of safety, know the safety rules, follow them. If you want to cut corners on an antenna, wonderful. If you want to open your radio up and start whacking diodes and resistors, wonderful. But, never compromise on safety. Yesterday I was doing a little soldering. My tip was a little shaky, and without thinking, I reached down with an unprotected index finger, and stupidly, stabilized the tip of my soldering iron. After I got finished with my diatribe of expletives, I promptly stuck my burnt finger in my mouth. Next, I pulled out my trusty commercial handheld radio, called my wife on GMRS 20, and asked her to bring me the burn cream. Those were not the exact words, but for family publication, it will do. And if you think you’ll never do something stupid……

Okay, let’s go. Operating procedures. If you’re using Romanchik, then you know that all of the bold print words are the answers, and he surrounds it with the question. It gives you the number and letters where the question comes from. Example: G2A05. It talks about sideband, upper and lower, which is the outside part of the carrier. This is stuff you should already know. Now, I’m not an old salt at this stuff, but I do not remember everything I’ve learned in the past. By the way, this is not on the test, but if you use 11 meter, or CB, channels 30 through 40, folks use the lower sideband, even though the ham bands 10 and 12, are upper side band. Also do a google search, CB Free Band. With your HF radio you can listen to all of these frequencies. And if you have a modified HF radio, you can also broadcast on these frequencies. As you know, that is illegal.

You need to know what “CQ, CQ, CQ” means. And you also need to know what CQ DX means. Read pages 48 and  49. These are things you will need to know for the test. But most of them are just common courtesy. Page 50 starts CW, which is morse code. Whether you ever do CW, or you ever plan on doing CW or not, these questions are still going to be on the test. And they will be on the test, therefore, you will need to know the information about CW. Pages 51 and 52 are some very general rules. Remember, if you see a question about ‘all these choices are correct’, that is not the answer every time, but more than not, it is. Know what QRP means, and always use QRP.

I’m on page 53. Most of these terms are not going to be familiar to you. Most of you will never use these. But if you choose to, know what they are. RTTY, for example, means radioteletype. It has been around a long, long time. But, as usual, this information will be on your test, and if you never plan on using this information that is fine. Learn it long enough to pass the test. I know there are guys in ham radio that hate this type of teaching technique. Some of them believe that you should study and know everything, even if you’re never going to use it again in your life. There are those types everywhere. We’re not talking about studying for a medical exam here. So. If you’re in a crowd of old guys, talking about how you did, and you talk about the techniques learned here, it might be one of those good days to be quiet and listen.

Okay, I’m on page 55. Electrical and RF safety. You know that microwave oven you have in your kitchen? Microwave is just a band of RF. If you don’t know what you’re doing, DON’T DO IT. And you will not see this in any safety manual anywhere. But, if you are going to do something that you know you are not supposed to do, then do it at low power. Those brain tissues that you fry are not going to come back. We all do things that are stupid, trust me, I know. And we all do things we’re not supposed to do. But if you’re going to to it anyway, do it at low power. That does not mean it’s okay to go out and stand in a puddle of water, and work on an electrical outlet. That is categorized as ultra stupid. Okay. Read about safety and RF safety. Again, if you see, “all of these choices are correct”, in more cases than not, that is the answer, but not every time. 

This is a good time to know how to ground your equipment. And if by chance you are one of these guys, that took a sharp hit to your head when you were a child and find some pleasure in climbing towers, follow the safety rules. I can never understand how anybody would want to climb a tower. To get me up a tower past, oh, six feet, there’s going to have to be a raging water buffalo at the base of that tower. 

Okay, on page 57 it talks about AWG12. This is probably the size of wire that carries most of your electrical outlet current. So, now you know about what size #12 is. Okay, remember, the bigger the number, the smaller the cable size. #22 is a whole lot smaller than #12, and #6 is a whole lot bigger than #12. Ground your equipment. When you’re working on a piece of equipment, turn off the power. And, even if the power is disconnected and unplugged, you can still fry your piece of equipment if you touch the wrong capacitor. Know what you’re doing. And you say, “If I don’t know what I’m doing, how am I going to learn?” Find a mentor through your local ARRL. Find one you get along with. If you’re going to be the type of person that follows the rules 100% of the time, then find somebody that has that same belief. If you’re the type that’s going to experiment a little bit, then find someone that has that same type of belief. I would guesstimate the numbers are about 50/50, so just ask around. Don’t be afraid to ask. Tell the mentor what you want to do, and if he says you can’t do that, then ask him to direct you to someone who will teach you what you want to know. It’s no big deal.

Page 59. Rules. There’s a lot of stuff here that doesn’t seem to be particularly important, but it is on the test. Get out one of those ICOM band charts, a pencil and start playing with the edges of the bands, and this stuff will come to you pretty quick. There is a lot of it on the test, so therefore, you will need to know it to pass. 

And you might say, “Well, I can’t transmit on the 60 meter band.” So, what do you do? It’s legal to transmit there, but your radio won’t do it. You open up your radio. Is that legal? Yes. Will it then be legal to transmit on 60 meters? Yes. Will your radio then transmit on the CB frequencies? Yes. Is it legal? No. So, is it legal to open up your radio? Yes. Okay. To open up your radio means, to allow it to transmit on frequencies that it was not initially designed to transmit on. Can you go inside your radio and smash a diode and now transmit on 60 meters? Yes, you can. Is it legal? Yes, it is. One more time. After you open up your radio, you will also be able to transmit on many frequencies that are illegal. Remember, you can listen to any frequency in the HF spectrum legally. Also remember, your HF radio is a first class shortwave receiver. Okee-dokee?

If you notice on the bottom of page 60 it says, “None of the amateur bands are shared with the citizens radio service.” That’s in this country. CB radio in other countries has different frequencies, but that’s not on the test. But again, do a google and check out CB Free Band.

Proceeding right along to page 61, a few more rules and regulations. Talking about antennas. An antenna is probably the most important piece of equipment you will own. It does no good to have a $10,000 radio and a poor antenna. Now, I did not say cheap antenna. An inexpensive long wire antenna, or dipole, will do an excellent job if it is erected properly. Don’t forget that either. You’ll not impress your friends with a high dollar radio if you cannot produce an intelligible signal. Read the last paragraph on page 61, this is our government at it’s best. One other free piece of advice. If you see FCC in the answer, the majority of the time, that is the correct answer, but not all of the time.

Alrighty. Page 63. More stuff you will see on the test, and it’s going to be there. Go ahead and learn it. And the last part deals with volunteer examiner coordinators. There is a little bit more information about ITU. That will be the answer on at least one of the questions. 

Boys and girls, ladies and gentlemen. That’s it. Call your local ARRL, find out when they do testing. This is ham fest season, and many of them offer testing. If you have been taking the practice tests and you’re scoring 85 or above, then it’s time to go take the test. If you don’t think you’re going to pass the first time, then take a handful of $15.00 bills. A little humor there.

I talked on the radio to a gentleman in northern Ohio last night at 28.302. That’s the first time I’ve talked on the radio in about a month. The last guy I talked to was in Argentina. He was also on the 10 meter band. As stated before, I don’t contest, I have nothing to prove about how much my equipment costs. I listen to shortwave every chance I can, which is not very often. I am not intimidated by a man that has a $10,000 radio. I am happy for him, if that’s what he truly wants. I’m also happy for the man that likes to contest. I’ve told you before, ham radio has lots of opportunities. Connected to my HF radio, is a dipole antenna and an A99 antenna, which is considered to be a CB antenna. I use it for 10, 11, 12 and 15 meters. It works great. I also have a couple of antenna switches that I use the A99 and the dipole on my legal CB radio. I like CB, but my antennas work for both. If you want to take an HF radio and open it up, that is not illegal. It just depends on where you use it. If you don’t do something stupid, no one will notice you. 

Please go back and read some of the other posts. The information is put in a simple manner, and I hope you enjoy it. Here in a week or two or three, depending on how my back surgery goes, I’m going to put out a post about survival radio. If you believe there are hard times coming, then you might want to be able to talk to your buddy down the road, who might have an old CB radio in his truck. If he hunts, he probably has a couple of GMRS handheld radios, and you can talk to him, too. If you have an HF radio, you can listen to, and talk to folks, all around the planet. With a commercial VHF/UHF radio, you can talk on the ham frequencies, GMRS and MURS. Some of the above mentioned frequencies are not legal. But in a collapse situation, I’m not sure that will be an issue. Just don’t get stupid. Wish me well on my surgery. I wish you well on your test.

We’ll talk more later. 73, Frank

Radio – Wanna Be a General, Part 3

Hello, Frank here.

Hope all are doing well. Everybody got their tin hats on? All a tin hat is, is a Faraday cage for your head. You do know what a

Faraday cage is, don’t you? Well, if you don’t, then look it up. Because I know that everyone now knows what the gray line is. I’ve been reading lately about a lot of gray people. I’ve talked about it often in some of the other things I write, but I didn’t know there was an actual term for being nondescript, not attracting attention to yourself, kind of being plain, boring, well, maybe not boring. This is what the gray person is. It has nothing to do with the gray

line. But when you get into radio, or anything in life for that matter, if you want to be the type of person that is always hollering or screaming, “Look at me! Look at me!”, then that is your choice. But if you’re not that type, then you might be a gray person. Being gray will keep you out of tense and sometimes intense situations. But that’s not what a gray line is. I have seen gray line spelled ‘grey’ and ‘gray’, so take your pick.


So, I’m going to go back to page 10 and start talking about circuit components. Is it important that you know what all of the answers really mean? Well, that’s yes and no. If you want to design and build your own radios, then yes, it’s critical that you know what these components mean. You’ll need to know how they’re built, where they come from, and you will need to know a detailed knowledge of electronics and electrical physics. In

my neck of the woods, we have a very popular VHF repeater and most guys talk about the weather, sports, stuff like that. But every now and then somebody will chime in and ask a question related to tube circuitry. What amazes me is there are normally three or four guys waiting in line to answer the question. You see, I’m a plug and play type of survival radio guy. I don’t need to know whether a resistor is better if it’s coated in silver or gold. That’s just not on my radar. But for the guys that want to do this, that is wonderful. If you’re one of those guys, then you can probably find someone in your area that is extremely knowledgeable about radios. So, just because I make off colored jokes sometimes about these guys, that does not mean I don’t have the highest respect for their knowledge. But for our purposes here, you need to know the question and you need to know the answer. And with Romanchik, at the end of each section, example, the bottom of page 11, there are links to many of the questions he just discussed. So please use them.


Okay, I’m skimming through pages 11, 12 & 13, information that you will need to know. It will be on the test. If you don’t understand it, but you’re capable of memorizing the answer, that’s great. By the way, at the bottom of page 13, there is a link to diodes and LED’s that

has some really cool information. You might want to check it out. As you’ve noticed, I’m not going into detail during this part of this manual because during the Technician’s test, you should have learned what type of learner you are, and what techniques you will use to get to your end results. Okee-Dokee? So this part here, we’re just going to skim.


Like on page 14 at the bottom, it talks about DB-9 and RCA phono. These are two types of connectors. Romanchik does not provide pictures. If you need more information, copy, paste and search. As I mentioned before, I did not use Romanchik for my General. I used HamTestOnline, the paid version. But a buddy of mine only used QRZ.com, which is free, for both his Technician and General. So you should know your learning style by now. In the near future I am going to start working on my Extra license. My plan is to use HamTestOnline, the paid version. I also bought the Romanchik version online and I have invested in all three levels, Technician, General and Extra manuals from ARRL, because on occasion, there are questions I have that are not in Romanchik or the online testing services. An example of that would be, “What is a gray line?” So, we all have different learning styles. Some people can read this stuff one time, take the test and Wa-la! they pass. And it also depends greatly on how deep of a knowledge you want or desire.

Okay, back to Romanchik. Page 16, Practical Circuits. This is interesting talking about AC, DC, peak power and things like that. In this manual, it gives you a very simple explanation. Very simple. So to truly understand it you will need more information from an outside source. And I believe page 17 has our first circuit diagram, Figure G7-1. If I remember correctly the

Technician had two diagrams. These little picture looking gizmo things you do need to know what they are. It would be nice if you understand how everything functions and how they are related to each other. And if you really want to know, you can find the answers. But you do need to know what all of those symbols mean, because it will be on the test.

Okay, page 18. I always find this stuff kinda cool. Ones and zeros in a binary number system. This is not something that you will ever really use, but if you can understand it and grasp it, it just improves your overall knowledge of how the smallest circuits work. And, as usual, you will see these questions and answers on the test. And, don’t forget the links at the bottom of each section.

Okay to finish off today’s discussion, go ahead and read up to page 21. Because next time we are going to go into Signals and Emissions, which  

is something that you do need to understand. Some of it will be a repeat of what you learned in your Technician, just going a little bit deeper. At this stage you should have been in touch with ARRL a long time ago. There are going to be some items taught here that there are just not easy answers for, so you will need some type of a mentor. Not all mentors are a good fit. Find someone you can talk to and ask real questions. Don’t be afraid to ask what you may think is a stupid question. Let’s finish up here for today.

But let’s finish thinking safety. As we discussed earlier, you’re getting into an area of radio where you can use more power. It’s kind of like driving down the highway with your stereo going full blast. There will come a day when you will start seeing a hearing loss. It’s kind of like using extra power

in a radio. You may not notice that you are losing part of your brain, but over time, it could be a significant problem. Don’t be afraid of radio, it’s very easy, but do it right. And if you don’t know what’s right, call that ARRL guy that you have developed a relationship with. You want to do it right and you want to do it safe. You don’t want to key your microphone, and you’re putting out 1000 watts, and you forgot that you disconnected your antenna. If you want to know what happens, ask your ARRL buddy. It’s not something you will probably do twice.

Well, I gotta go. I’ve got baby chicks a hatchin’ and goats a birthin’ and every time my wife and I go up to the barn, we carry an HT in our pockets.

We’ll talk more later. 73, Frank

Radio – Wanna Be a General, Part 1

Hello, Frank here.

Time to put our thinking hats back on, tin foil inserted or not, is entirely up to you. But, I kind of like tin foil in my hat. The General test is going to be more complicated than the Technician. This is just the nature of things and it is nothing to be afraid of. The formulas are going to be a little bit more sophisticated, but as before, there are only so many formulas on a test, and if you can’t figure them out, then memorize the answer. 

This first post over the General test is going to re-familiarize you with some former sites that you used during your Technician test. But before we start, let me remind you of safety. Not only can you electrocute yourself, or your cousin Billy, you can also do internal damage with RF signals. This is not a joke. You heard me talk earlier about frying your little girl’s brain. Studying your General test, you’re going to step into more power, a lot more power sometimes, and if you don’t know what you’re doing, DON’T DO IT. Pay attention to safety. 

Again, throughout this series of blogs, I’m going to reference Universal Radio, because I find their website easy to use, and they provide data and information about the equipment they carry. I will also be referencing many other radio websites.

Whatever style or mode you choose to use, whether it be the Romanchik, General Class No Nonsense Study Guide, the ARRL manuals, online tutorials, or a combination of the above, use what works for you. I have a friend that studied QRZ.com only, which is a free online service, for his Technician and General, and it worked for him. So, if your goal is to just pass the test, then this is one way. I needed more information, so I used the Romanchik manual for my Technician and the QRZ website. For the General, I did not use the Romanchik manual, but instead chose to use the paid version of Ham Test Online. This worked well for me. Ham Test Online provides tutorial information about subject material. This is what I used, it works for me. By the way, the Romanchik manual, online version has links at the end of the units for additional information that the Technician manual did not. Just more food for thought.

Practice test resources:

   QRZ.com



HamTestOnline



   HamStudy.org

A resource that I found very valuable was ARRL. Their website has so much information, it’s just hard to discuss. But if you need to locate a local club, which I would recommend, and find yourself an Elmer, that you

can easily communicate with. Most of these guys are good, down to earth people. There are some things that you just can’t figure out from a book or a manual, so I highly recommend that you get in touch with ARRL and find yourself an Elmer. ARRL also has a catalog section where they sell manuals for the Technican, General and Extra, as well as other manuals for these tests also. This catalog also contains a plethora of books on ham radio and SWL. Use ARRL, they’re a handy, handy website.

FCC. The FCC is the group that controls the rules, regulations and licensing. I’m going to include a section for ham radio rules and regulations. I’m also going to provide you with a link to their licensing webpage. Amateur radio is pretty open to making your own modifications and adaptations, but you don’t want to get out of the rules. An example, if you’re broadcasting and you’re interfering with Gramma’s TV down the road, whether you’re legal or not, doesn’t make any difference. You need to stop and fix the problem. Another example, if you live close to an airport, again, whether legal or not, you don’t want to be messing or interfering with aircraft communications. So, there are some rules you do need to know and you do need to follow. But if you want to build your own antenna that looks like Sputnik, go ahead. Try not to burn your house down in the process. So, follow the rules. Did I mention safety? The General will cover significantly more information about RF emissions and proper grounding.

So, we’ve talked about manuals and ways to get there, ARRL contacts, FCC, safety. The need for communications. During your Technician studies we covered mostly VHF and UHF and, of course, we learned about bouncing a signal off of an asteroid, which was on the test, wasn’t it?

 And we covered a teeny, weeny portion of the 10 meter band. Getting your General license will open up the HF frequencies, plus the 160 meter band. The HF bands are what most people consider to be ham radio. It provides the opportunity to talk and listen very long distances, so this will open up a new world. Getting your HF radio will also provide you with a first class SWL radio. I enjoy listening to radio news stations from other countries and continents. This is really not ham radio, it’s just a bonus feature. 

The radio equipment, overall, is going to be little bit more expensive. The radios will have bells and whistles that you will not have heard of before. The antennas are going to be more sophisticated than sticking a 2 meter mag mount on your car. There are a number of different types of antennas, and everybody and their cousin will have a preference as to which one is

the best. If you remember from my previous posts, there is no best of anything, it’s all up to you. But then there’s that deer in the headlight look, “I don’t know which one is best.” So, you go to one of these ham club meetings, sitting in this room is a world of knowledge, mostly guys, and everyone of them has a different opinion of what is best. So, what do you do? That’s a good question, I can’t answer that one for you. I will tell you what I think is best. So, just pretend like I’m number 15 in that room full of guys.

I got into ham radio for the communications aspect of it only. I have no intention of ever contesting. I’m not trying to “work all states”. And for the guys doing this, that is fine. It’s a big stadium, and there’s lots of room for

everybody. I spend most of my time listening. I listen to Beijing Radio often on shortwave. I listen to folks all around the country and spots around the world. I use very simple equipment, and simple generally equates to less expensive. My entire purpose for listening is to ascertain information from around the world, around the country and local. Some of us believe that someday some catastrophe is going to happen, who knows what it will be, but there is a probability we are going to see reduced electricity and more government control. This is why I want to be able to listen. A couple of days ago, I was playing on my CB radio, which is an HF radio 11 meter. I was on AM and talked to a man in Boston and one in California, and I live in southeastern Oklahoma. 

So, during the Technician’s test, we talked about GMRS, FRS, MURS, these are forms of local communication. Now, with the General, we’re going to step into long distance, or DX. So, as mentioned above, this will open up a new world. If you will look at the ICOM band chart, you will notice that 10, 12, 17 and 160 meters are entirely open to the General class. ARRL also has a band chart that is a little bit different, but you can figure it out. The other bands not

mentioned above, are partially open to the General. So getting your General license will open up the majority of the HF bands. Don’t forget, you don’t need morse code for any level of amateur license. Decide how you want to pursue this. If you want to use Romanchik, go ahead and download the manual, borrow, or purchase any other books that you want to use. Check out the websites for tutorials, and I didn’t mention earlier, that local ARRL clubs often have free classes for the Technician and sometimes for the General. Another reason to check out your local ARRL. 

The pace on this particular class will be sharply quicker than the Technican. I will primarily use the Romanchik manual, but at a much quicker pace. This manual starts off like the Technician did, covering formulas and using some general math that occasionally intimidates people. As mentioned earlier, if you can’t master the formulas or the math,

then just memorize the answers. After the formulas and math, it is just general knowledge like it was in the Technician’s manual and it is a whole lot easier to learn. There are some old salts that disagree with this idea and technique, but don’t worry about them, they’re not the ones taking the test. So, if you need to, memorize the whole test. That’s what my wife did, she just memorized the whole test. She learned a little bit, but not much. I on the other hand, have a background in electronics and some of it I just memorized. So, do whatever you need to do to pass and don’t worry about what somebody else thinks, it’s a waste of time.

So, gather up the tools you’re going to use and we’ll get started here shortly. But, please do not wait on me, if you are a self learner, then you may be finished by the time I start. If you have your Technician license, and you take your General and pass it, you do not have to wait for the FCC to post your new license before you can start transmitting. If you pass your General test, you can start that day.


We’ll talk more later. 73, Frank


Radio – Become a Ham, Part 11

Hello, Frank here.

Hi everybody. I hope everybody is well. This, ladies and gentlemen, will

 be the last post for the Technician Class License Study Guide. Most of the information covered here will be basic FCC rules and regulations. You’re going to see a couple of ‘all of the choices are correct answers’, and in most cases that is the answer. Again, read these next four or five pages, understand the basic rules and whether you think they are silly, stupid or wrong is an academic exercise in futility. These are the answers that are on the test.

On a side note, I have received some criticism for what some say is teaching the answers to the test. But I don’t see it that way. Yes, there

is a whole, whole lot more information that you can learn from multiple Techinican level manuals. And if this is where your avenue of interest is, then by all means, please pursue it. And if all you want to do is pass the Technician’s test and get you a VHF radio and talk to your buddies on the repeater, then this will provide you with that venue. Remember, it’s a big stadium and we can all play whatever game we want to play. At this stage now, you should have been in touch with ARRL, located a local radio club, and made contact. These are the folks that will be giving you your test. Whether the test is at their local club headquarters, a special event like a ham fest, or down some dark alley on a late Saturday night, just wanted to see if you’re paying attention. If the day the local club gives tests is not convenient for you, ask them about other local clubs testing schedules. Some have their test the first Saturday morning of each even month, some clubs offer it on a Thursday evening. So if you try, you will find a place that the date and time fit your schedule. 

Also, you should be taking the practice tests. I read a ham radio study guide the other day that didn’t even recommend a book or course of study. This guy recommended taking the practice tests, whether free or a fee is involved and just continue to take them

repeatedly, over and over and over and over. His idea was even if on the first test you make a terrible score, no big deal. Just keep taking them and your scores will get better. I knew a man, and still know this man, that when he took his first practice test, he scored poorly. He never took another practice

test. He was one of those type that could not handle failure. Remember, life is filled with failure, what separates most of us is how we handle it. Here is a retail outlet site that I have yet to do business with, so I can’t speak pro or con. But at the bottom of the page is an interesting concept about taking the Technician’s test. This might be of help to some of you. While you’re there, I would take a look around the site to see if there is anything you’re interested in.

While your at the local ARRL club, you also should have established contact with an Elmer or teacher. Remember, it’s perfectly okay not to

know everything there is on the planet. If you have an Elmer and for some reason your personalities don’t click, ask for someone else to help you. It’s no big deal. If you want to get your license, find somebody to help you and let them teach you. There’s a lot of new jargon and things that you’re not going to know. It takes time for these things to soak in.

On a different topic. There are some great Black Friday sales going on right now. If you have an idea of the type of equipment you want or are going to need, this is a good time of year to save a few dollars.

 
MTC 
  
 

For those of you that are interested, I will start a General class in a couple of weeks. It’s going to be a little bit more challenging, but it’s not something that most people can’t get over. You will need your General license to work the HF bands.

Okay. We’re about to wrap up this post and I cannot stress safety enough. If you don’t know what you are doing, DON’T DO IT. That’s what your Elmer is for.

Next time, I’m going to give you my recommendations for entry level equipment. As I’ve stated before, there is no perfect radio. You can start listening right now. It just depends on what you want to use your ham radio license for. Guys like myself, I primarily listen. Other guys I know that have a sharply more competitive nature are into what’s called contesting. Like I said earlier, it’s a big stadium with lot’s of areas to play in. 

Now, read these last few pages. I hope you do well on your test. Each test will cost you $15.00. So, if you don’t pass the first one, just make sure you have plenty of $15.00 bills. Take care.

We’ll talk more later. 73, Frank