Off Grid Ham: When All You Have Is a Few Square Feet

Chris Warren of Off Grid Ham writes an article about operating off grid ham radio from small spaces like apartments in When All You Have Is a Few Square Feet. While this article is mostly power focused For information about stealth and hidden antennas, some of which can be used in small spaces see the Covert and Hidden Antennas article.

Hams are on their own. confined space ham radio

For better or worse, amateur radio is a hobby that typically requires a lot of outdoor space. Golfers can tee up on a golf course, and soccer junkies can use public athletic fields, but hams have so such dedicated public facilities. We have to work with whatever space we already own. Many hams are lucky enough to have huge backyards, sometimes many acres, to spread out their antennas and off grid equipment. Having enough space to do anything you want makes life as a ham a lot easier. This time we’re going to explore options for those who must operate confined space ham radio.

confined space amateur radio

STOCK PHOTO

Off Grid Ham reader Marlo sent in an email describing his difficult situation of living in a condo with almost no outdoor space for off grid power equipment. His dilemma is not uncommon. Many if not most hams have some kind logistical limitations to going off the gird with ham radio. It might be a lack of physical space, objections from spouses, or homeowner association (HOA) rules. I’m lucky enough not to live in a HOA, but I have in the past, and I think these organizations are for the most part a club for snotty power-tripping quasi-communist busybodies with way too much time on their hands. Regardless, it’s the reality many hams must live with. The situation is not hopeless. There are workarounds.

Getting something out of nothing. confined space ham radio

Suppose all you have is a small balcony. Or a deck or patio. How in the world can one have any kind of off grid operation with that? You do have options, but understand that there will be compromises. confined space ham radio

The Off Gird Ham 100 Watts for $300 power plant is one of the most popular and enduring articles on this website, with good reason. It’s a simple and easy DIY project that will easily work in a small homebound space. The solar panel can be stored flat under a bed, or vertically behind a cabinet. Since portability is not a main concern, you could even bump up the size of the battery, or have more than one battery and rotate them.

The Portable DC Power Pack is also a very viable and inexpensive option. You will need to reduce transmit power most of the time in order to keep within the technical limits of the pack. This handy DIY power source is 100% off grid and can also be used in the field. This gizmo is one of my personal favorites, and many readers have reported good results with them.

For those with a more outdoor space than the average condo, but still not enough to do anything big, I suggest the Portable Solar Power Plant. You can temporarily set the solar panel on a deck, patio, or small backyard. The battery & electronics will fit in a closet. This setup has enough juice to run a 100 watt radio if you go easy on the duty cycle. I also have a video on my YouTube channel demonstrating its capabilities.

Give it some gas? confined space ham radio

A less practical but still possible option is a gas powered generator. Even a small generator is going to produce much more power than the average ham needs. You’ll technically be committing one of the off grid mistakes, but it may be unavoidable. Generators are available at any hardware store for as little as a few hundred bucks. Keep in mind you’ll need to keep fuel on hand and change the oil every now and then. For hams in tight spaces, this might be a problem. Where are you going to store everything? There’s also one huge drawback: Noise. The cheap generators are colloquially called “screamers” for a good reason. They are oh-my-god loud! If you are in a condo or other high-density housing situation, the neighbors are not going to take well to a generator droning, at least not for very long. You might even be in violation of HOA rules. confined space ham radio

An inverter generator may be the answer…if you have money!

One possible solution is an inverter generator. Inverter generators run significantly quieter than conventional versions and are an excellent option when noise is an issue. The bad news? You can expect to pay 2x to 5x more than a comparable screamer. The legendary Honda EU-series is probably the best small generator, of any kind, on the market today. The EU2000i is the most popular. It barely makes any noise and with basic maintenance will run trouble free for decades. Honda introduced the EU-series inverter generator in 1988 and many of those early models are still in service cranking out the watts…(continues)

Off Grid Ham: Small Solar Can Give Big Results

Chris Warren at Off Grid Ham has another good article up on small solar arrays for power, Small Solar Can Give Big Results…If You Play It Right.

Call now! Operators are waiting! small solar power

You’ve probably seen the campy ads hawking small solar power systems and “solar generators”. These ads make some remarkable claims and the manufacturers are deliberately vague on the technical specifications of these products. They further fuzz up the facts with unrealistic depictions of hypothetical situations. small solar power

I especially get a chuckle from the TV commercial showing happy, cheerful kids playing a board game in a large, well-lit house during a power outage and raging storm outside. The entire house is powered by, we’re supposed to believe, the advertised product which is a small battery pack weighing almost nothing and fits under the bed. Are small solar power systems worthwhile, or are they junk? As anyone with at least one functioning brain cell should suspect, the truth lies somewhere in the middle grey area.

Pictures are better than words. small solar power

This video was recently posted to the Off Grid Ham YouTube channel. It’s just over three minutes long and demonstrates the power of small scale solar.

Small scale solar has been addressed on this blog before, and my advice is still the same. If you are looking to take amateur radio off grid with solar, your best option is a purpose built home brew system made from components that you personally selected for your application. Furthermore, a DIY system is almost always less expensive. If you don’t care about cost and just want a plug-and-play “solar generator,” then by all means go drop several hundred dollars for a glorified battery in a box (you’ll lay out another few hundred on a matching panel to charge it). To be fair, it’s a very cool looking box but in the end you’re only paying for looks so in that regard you’re getting your money’s worth. small solar power

I’m not knocking the functionality of these products. They actually do work very well if used within reasonable expectations. I’m sour on them because of their breathtaking price tags and marketing that vastly oversells their capabilities. The ads are targeted to non-technical people who will not bother or know to ask the right questions. The technically-savvy people who know what to look for will have a hard time finding even basic specifications such as amp-hour ratings on batteries. The information is usually dumbed down with generic statements like, “runs a laptop for twelve hours!” small solar power

The bottom line: They work, if you keep it real.

small solar power

Off Grid Ham original photo ©2017

The bottom line is that small solar power systems do work, up to a point. Forget about powering your house through a storm with anything that will fit under a bed, unless there is physics-defying alien technology out there I haven’t heard of yet. But if you need to run a QRP radio, charge up your handhelds, and have some juice leftover for other needs, a little 50-150 watt solar setup paired with a modest battery should suit the job just fine. And you don’t need to plop down six hundred-plus dollars to do it.

In the video a continuous 50 watt load is easily supported by the small system. It gets better: The system in the video is overbuilt for a 50 watt load. I used it for demonstration purposes, but you could get by with much less…(continues)

Click here to read the entire article at Off Grid Ham.

Off Grid Ham: Everything But the Ham (Non-Amateur Radios)

Chris Warren at Off Grid Ham has another good article up, this one describing the various radio services apart from ham radio which are available for use and their advantages and disadvantages – Everything But the Ham.

It’s about ham-less options.

I’m going to assume that everyone who reads this blog is either a currently licensed ham, or at least vaguely interested in becoming one. With that kind of a demographic, why should I even entertain the idea of covering non-ham radio communications? Well, it’s all about having options. Furthermore, there are some pretty good reasons why even licensed hams might want to consider other services. unlicensed radio communications

The king of communications. unlicensed radio communications

For non-commercial personal communications without reliance on a network or a grid, amateur radio isn’t just at the top of the pyramid, it’s about 95% of the entire pyramid. Without ham radio, your choices are very limited, but they’re not zero. What about that other five percent? Maybe you’re not a ham and don’t want to become one. Maybe you are a ham and want to expand your capabilities. What is out there? What is possible?

The good news is that there are several choices for non-ham communications. All of them are inexpensive and relatively easy to deploy. None of these options will allow you to communicate over long distances.

Multi-Use Radio Service (MURS).

MURS operates on five FM channels in the VHF band around 151 mHz. No license is required. Two watts is the maximum transmit power. The antenna cannot exceed 60 feet above ground or 20 feet above the structure on which it is mounted (whichever is higher). Non-voice communications such as motion sensors and security systems also use MURS. With only five channels, there is a possibility of competition for limited band space.

There’s one more hangup: MURS used to be part of the VHF business band. Commercial business licensees assigned to MURS frequencies were grandfathered in, meaning, they can still use the band even though their equipment may far exceed MURS technical requirements. Grandfathered business users have priority use over unlicensed MURS stations.

MURS-specific radios tend to be more expensive than those in other services. Many radios intended for licensed amateurs will operate on MURS frequencies. This is legal, but be sure to observe transmitter wattage restrictions as most amateur equipment by default exceeds two watts unless manually set to a lower power. unlicensed radio communications

General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS).

unlicensed radio communications

STOCK PHOTO

GMRS operates on thirty FM channels between 462 and 467 mHz. You will need a license in the USA; it costs $70 and is valid for ten years. GMRS shares 22 channels with the Family Radio Service (FRS). GMRS allows a maximum transmitter output of 50 watts, except for channels 8-14 where the limit is one-half (0.5) watt. Operators may use repeaters with GMRS if the input and output frequencies conform to established splits. Frequencies in between channels 1-7 may be used for simplex communications, but are limited to five watts. On interstitial frequencies between channels 8-14, simplex is also allowed but the transmit power limit is still 0.5 watts. unlicensed radio communications

True GMRS equipment can be costly. Be aware that manufacturers often market FRS radios as “GMRS radios”. This is technically true since the two services share frequencies, but read the fine print and know you are really buying. FRS radios are generally inexpensive and therefore poorly made.

Family Radio Service (FRS). unlicensed radio communications…(continues)

Click here to read the entire article at Off Grid Ham.

American Partisan: Frequencies For Monitoring When The World Goes Dark

From NC Scout at American Partisan – Frequencies For Monitoring When The World Goes Dark some information and links on what radio frequencies to monitor when something really big happens and normal communications go down.

Frequencies For Monitoring When The World Goes Dark

NCS,

What are the frequencies for FEMA to do informational broadcasts when the internet/cells go down?

Just a what if. – A Reader

That’s a good question. There’s a ton of crap floating around on the net right now, making it nearly impossible for the average person to sift through what’s real and what’s straight BS. But with that said, one of the main ones is the ‘looming‘ shutdown of the internet and cell phone service. I don’t know how much validity that actually has, but it underscores the ability to communicate and spread information through decentralized means- which is why I’ve taught communications skills in far greater depth and breadth than anyone else ever offered civilians, combining combat experience with practical end skills.

So with that said, go check out my first post on the topic, listing frequencies of interest and the second post, listing foreign military HF frequencies. And with that said, do not overlook the very vital role the American Red Cross will play, especially when it comes to HF message traffic.

HF
KNNP491
WQJI233
2326.0
2463.0
2726.0
2801.0
3170.0
3201.0
5135.0
5140.0
6858.0
7480.0
7549.0
7697.0
7932.0
7935.0

VHF Low Band 
KA3699
KGB223
WQEF834
47.4200
47.5000

VHF/UHF 
KB84508
KNJR836
WPEQ240
WPME641
WQHH921
WQMD985
WQXM300
27.4900
35.0400
43.0400
151.5050
151.5125
151.6250
151.7000
151.7600
154.5275
158.4000
158.4075
451.8000 / 456.8000
451.8125 / 456.8125
453.4250 / 458.4250
453.4750 / 458.4750
453.5250 / 458.5250
462.7625
462.7875
464.5000 / 469.5000
464.5500 / 469.5500
464.6000 / 469.6000
464.6250 / 469.6250
464.6500 / 469.6500
464.7000 / 469.7000
464.7250 / 469.7250
464.7500 / 469.7500
466.3125
467.9125

The VHF / UHF frequencies can be monitored with a Baofeng, but for the rest you’ll need HF gear. Check out this post if you need a primer to get that squared away.

American Partisan: Radio Quick Start Guide

NC Scout at American Partisan has written a short Radio Quick Start Guide, covering line of sight and over the horizon radio equipment to get you started if you’re asking “just tell me what to get, already.”

When people think of radio communications, they want a replacement for a cell phone. You’re not getting a replacement for a cell phone.

Alright, with that out of the way, I’ve been getting a ton of emails asking about jump-starting communications capabilities for an area. Since that’s something I’ve written a lot about over the years and teach two classes for building that capability, I’m going to cover the bare-bones basics to getting a local network squared up and running.

QYT KT-8900. Small, light, versatile and effective.

For local work, you’re going to want this:

It’s a 25 watt tiny little mobile radio that plugs into a 12v outlet. You can run it in your truck very easily. I have one mounted under my dash and another in my shop for making local contacts. Mine is programmed with all of the local repeaters and it’ll also do all of the license free bands (FRS/GMRS walkie-talkies, MURS and marine band).
To get it rigged up, you’ll need a run of 50 ohm coax that you can get in any truck stop. I just call it CB coax.  Next you’re going to need an antenna. I run an aluminum J Pole as my fixed base station antenna and I have it just drilled into the eve of the roof of the shop. On my truck I run a 2m firestick which is pretty much the same as my CB antenna and its mounted to my toolbox.
The nice thing about this setup is its portable to nearly anywhere and works really well. With a couple of deep cycle batteries you can run this little rig for a LONG time. I have.
On to HF.

Icom 7200 with LDG auto tuner. Rugged and simple.

This one is going to be a lot more expensive for a basic setup. Here’s a post from a couple of weeks ago on rigging your own simple antenna. The easiest HF radio to use out of the box is the Icom 718. It’s got a huge display, a really good receiver for listening to shortwave and HF transmissions and is very simple to use. I run the 7200, which isn’t too much different. But the other cool thing is that rigging it up for digital use is very simple. Here’s two links on the setup:

You’re also going to need a tuner for your HF radio. I use a short run of coax (8 inches) between the back of my radio to the tuner then run the antenna coax into the tuner. What this does it use two matching relays to create an electrical match for the antenna length to the frequency you’re using. Think of it as an insurance policy for your radio, since there’s too many variables with an HF antenna to make a perfect 1:1 SWR match every time. The tuner takes up the slack and protects your rig. It protects in other ways as well. I had mine take a lightning strike three years ago. Sent it into LDG and they sent me a new tuner, no questions asked. You’re also going to need a 120v power supply since all amateur radio gear runs off 12v. The one I use is an MFJ 28 amp switching power supply. Its got a 12v power plug to run that QYT mobile radio as well as your Icom.

This is an expensive list- but its one I’ve recommended to a lot of other people starting out and my own home station is not too much different. Everything I’ve got is kept pretty simple. But that said, having the gear is one thing, having the skill is a whole other animal.
Also see NC Scout’s dedicated web site at https://brushbeater.wordpress.com. He’s got a ton of useful information there and teaches classes, too.
Also see our related article on Suggested Radio Equipment for Community Safety.

Off Grid Ham: Sudden Interest in Radio

Amateur Radio – ready for emergency deployment

Chris Warren of Off Grid Ham talks about the recent surge of Sudden Interest in Radio Syndrome (SIRS) cases in If You Missed The Train, Don’t Worry. There Will Be Another.

There’s a buzz about radio, and it’s not on the radio.

The amateur radio social media pages and web forums are suddenly buzzing with activity. Mostly it’s from people who are not hams but want to become one. This anecdotal evidence is supported by a notable increase in web traffic to offgridham.com in the last three weeks or so. The search terms suggest that most of these visitors are directly looking for information about off grid communications. Surprise! That’s what we do here, exclusively. So if you’re interested in off grid amateur radio you’ve landed on the best web page on this or any globe. covid-19

Saying the quiet part out loud. covid-19

covid-19

Public domain image.

Let’s not be coy. This interest in off grid amateur radio is being driven by the Covid-19 virus calamity consuming the world. While most people are not outright giving it as a reason why they are interested in off grid radio, they are dropping enough hints that it isn’t hard to figure it out. c

The funny thing is, the corona virus is not a calamity in the traditional sense. The grid is still solid. The electricity is on, the plumbing works, and the internet is up. The roads are free for travel and the stores are (mostly) open and (somewhat) well stocked. No one is being burned or flooded out of their homes. Society is still functioning, albeit with a six foot space cushion between every living human. covid-19covid-19

So why do so many people suddenly want to jump into radio? There’s not too many ways it can aid in Covid-19 response efforts, so it’s not about “emergency communications”. Or is it? I think the real motive is not about a disease. Rather, the disease is giving a lot of people a reality check about being prepared. Maybe they’re thinking about what might happen if all the people who make the grid work suddenly fall sick themselves. Maybe they’re thinking ahead to what else can happen where amateur radio really will be a valuable resource.

I’m just speculating and have no firm proof of any of this, but it’s hard not to see an association between current events and the sharp upturn of interest in amateur radio.

What now?

If you weren’t prepared before Covid-19 upended the world, you’re not going to make up for it now. I have some shocking news for all the hoarders filling their basements with toilet paper: You’e panicking and reacting, not preparing. The truly prepared already had a stock of toilet paper before Covid-19 came to town. The good news is that it’s not too late to prepare for the next calamity…and you know there will be another one, someday, somewhere.

Passing a simple test and buying a $35.00 handheld radio off Amazon to stash in a cabinet “just in case” is not going to make you prepared either. Amateur radio has a low barrier to entry but the learning curve is fairly steep once you’re in the door. If you do make the step into ham radio, it’s going to require some effort and practice. It’s not a “set it and forget it” avocation, at least not if you want to be any good at it. Many if not most of the people who become amateurs solely for emergency preparedness purposes will not touch a radio until an emergency actually happens. Then, and only then, will they realize that being prepared is not about collecting stuff.

Skills vs. stuff.  Covid-19

Theres is good news: Learning about ham radio is fun. Amateur radio is after all a hobby that just happens to have a practical secondary application as an emergency communications service. You’ll be a better person and be better prepared if you don’t let the latter overshadow the former. Being prepared is about having skills and having a plan. Regular readers of this website know I beat the hell out of the importance of having a plan. They also know the operator with a lot of skill but very little equipment is better off than a wannabe with a roomful of the latest & best gear. Making the most of what you have and using skills as a force multiplier is the heart & soul of what Off Grid Ham is all about.

Welcome.

If you recently found this website as a curious outsider, welcome. I hope you’ll stick around for the long haul and enrich yourself with amateur radio. If you’re a long time amateur or a regular reader, I hope you’ll refer newcomers to offgridham.com and help them find a reason to take amateur radio seriously.

We are in the midst of a disaster. It’s too late to plan for what’s already happened. If you weren’t prepared, learn from experience. The next disaster is 100% going to happen so ready yourself now. Only a fool waits for the the house to start burning before they go shopping for a fire extinguisher. I believe the strength and spirit of America will pull us through but hope has never solved any problem. As a famous radio host once quipped, hope is just disappointment delayed. Start learning skills and come up with a plan right now.

Rainier Redoubt: Zello Emergency Communications

Rainier Redoubt has posted a brief article on using the Zello app for emergency communications. Zello is available for iPhone, Android, and for Windows PCs. The Zello app does require an internet connection, so why might you use it? In a disaster that doesn’t destroy cell towers or backbone fiber links, you may still find that you can’t make outgoing phone calls because all of the circuits are busy. You may be able to text or email, but using Zello may be your easiest voice option to contact someone outside of your area. It may also be available if authorities have blocked phone calls. If yu have radio mesh applications for emergencies in your area, you may still be able to get internet service even if the cell towers are down, but you’ll need to know about its availability.

Zello is an application startup located in Austin, Texas. The application emulates push-to-talk (PTT) walkie-talkies over cellular and WiFi networks. The app is available for Android, iOS, Blackberry, Windows Phone, Windows PC, rugged mobile devices and two-way radios. Zello is free for personal use, while the Zello@Work application is free for up to five users. For more than five users Zello@Work costs $6.00 per user / per month. Perks that Zello@Work offers include private networks, dedicated servers, management interfaces for users and channels, higher security, cloud history and tech support.

Zello turns your phone into a walkie talkie and works anywhere in the world as long as you are connected to the Internet! Please note however that the Zello app cannot function without an Internet connection. According to the Zello Support page: “Zello cannot work without internet access, but if both you and your contact are within one network, the voice will be transferred using the shortest way – WiFi network in your case. Internet will be used only to log into Zello network and do some service data exchange, it will be less than 1 kiB per second.”

Once connected, users can join channels and instantly send voice messages or photos, and the app even works over older 2G networks.

…Zello made the news in June 2013 when Turkish protesters used it to circumvent government censors. As a result, Zello was the top most downloaded application in Turkey during the first week of June 2013. In February 2014, it was blocked by CANTV in Venezuela. Zello issued workarounds and patches to overcome the blocks to support approximately 600,000 Venezuelans who have downloaded the application to communicate with each other amidst protests. It “has been one of the most downloaded applications in Ukraine and Venezuela.” In April 2017, the Roskomnadzor instructed Russian Internet Service Providers to block mobile access to Zello. Under Russia’s data privacy law passed in 2016, all companies processing the personal data of Russian citizens are obliged to store it on servers within the country’s borders for a half of the year and provide it to law enforcement if necessary. Zello had more than 400,000 users in Russia. In August 2017 during relief efforts following Hurricane Harvey in Texas, Zello became a popular method for communications between volunteer rescuers and people stranded by the widespread flooding. The app received over 6 million signups in one week as Florida residents prepared for Hurricane Irma. In 2018 Zello had over 120,000,000 subscribers world-wide…

OH8STN: Radio Preparedness vs Emergency Communications

This information comes from Radio Prepper by way of introduction from Julian – OH8STN.

Hello Operators.

Today I’m sharing another video from Gil F4WBY, the Radio Prepper. The topic is disaster Communications. More specifically preparedness communications vs traditional amateur radio emergency communications. Gil does a very good job of going over the mission differences between Communications for preparedness, versus emergency communications for disaster relief. This is something we’ve all talked about on the grid down Communications for preparedness series.

It’s important to remember it’s not a competition. There isn’t (or at least shouldn’t be), a one or the other mentality here. Radio operator should be quite Versed in the guerrilla nature of preparedness Communications, in addition to the more structured and traditional emergency communications, as laid out by organizations like ARES. It’s a good discussion and one I think all of us should be watching.

OH8STN: Raspberry Pi Field Computer – Off Grid Communications

Julian, OH8STN, has added another video to his Off Grid Communications series. This one is on the Raspberry Pi field computer he has been working on for a while.

The video starts off with an overview of my raspberry pi field computer, the QRP GoKit used in the field test, and some of the reaities of field communications when off grid. The video then moves on to discuss the reality of off grid field communications, and why we need to be smarter operators, with smarter yet easy to maintain gear.

OH8STN: Ultimate Raspberry Pi Build for Amateur Radio

Julian, call sign OH8STN, posted a new video last week about Ultimate Raspberry Pi Build. He uses the AmRRON Raspberry Pi scripts for part of the process and praises their work. Julian is using the Raspberry Pi with his radio to build a very light and portable radio communication system that could be used for emergency response operations or just for fun, portable operation.

Hello Operators.
Each of us has a different idea about what the ultimate raspberry pi build would be or look like. For my station, reducing the cable mess, replacing a large audio interface with a low-cost usb audio codec, and creating a lightweight, energy-efficient configuration for ham radio data mode operations. Also important was getting my raspberry pi to work off os 12 volts, just like my Yaesu FT-818 and Yaesu FT-891. In this video, we will go through all the hardware, hardware mods, hats, and software used to make this station the ultimate rasberry pi build for ham radio data modes in the field.

73, Julian #oh8stn

OG Ham: The Transmitters of Freedom Get a Little Louder

In a follow-up to his previous article The Transmitters of Freedom Should Be Turned Back On, Chris at Off Grid Ham has some good and bad news about short wave broadcasting and a little on who is doing what to whom.

The Transmitters of Freedom Get a Little Louder

shortwave broadcasting

STOCK PHOTO.

First, the bad news…

Shortwave broadcasting is not dead, it’s just being kept alive by the wrong people. Shortwave broadcasting is almost exclusively the domain of sleazy oppressive governments and religious outliers. Communist-run Radio China International took over some of Radio Australia’s old frequencies when Australia discontinued their international shortwave service. And here’s something that should make shortwave fans seethe: The savings from shutting down shortwave saved the Aussie government…wait for it…was less than two million dollars.

That’s right. To save what isn’t even a budget rounding error, the Australian government killed shortwave to tens of millions of people. They probably could have raised that money from private donations.

When a pro-democracy voice leaves the platform, someone will step in to fill the vacuum. That “someone” is usually a bad actor. It’s unlikely shortwave broadcasting will ever completely die. It’s also unlikely shortwave will ever go back to the glory days no matter how obvious its practicality may be. Expect to see oppressive governments increase their presence on the HF bands at the same rate democracies abandon them.

The BBC increases shortwave broadcasting to disputed Kashmir.

The victims of tyrants, socialism, communism, etc., still clamor for the news of truth and freedom. They unfortunately have few options due to the rise of the internet and subsequent decline of shortwave broadcasting. Old school analog AM radio may seem like a quaint anachronism, but unlike the internet it requires very little infrastructure and is difficult to defeat.

The BBC has increased –yes, increased– shortwave broadcasting to the Kashmir territory in Asia. The backstory is somewhat complicated, but the short version is that India, Pakistan, and China each control a portion of the area. All three nations dispute the territorial claims of the others. India shut off the internet, some of the media, and phone service to the area.

To fill the information void, the BBC added one hour and forty five minutes of programming to the region. While this may not sound like much, put yourself in the people of Kashmir’s shoes. If you were living under a media blackout, having nearly two extra hours of uncensored news would be deeply meaningful.

Dissidents use shortwave broadcasting to reach Hong Kong and mainland China.

Sound of Hope started as an effort to bring homeland news to Chinese people living in the United States. It  has grown into a full-blown pro-democracy shortwave broadcasting network beaming to mainland China and Hong Kong. They have even found a way to evade the jamming of their programming by using a network of small transmitters placed in strategic places. Sound of Hope moves its signal to whatever transmitters are least effected by the jamming. It’s an effective system.

As one of the few media outlets that can defeat communist censorship, Sound of Hope has become a significant player in supporting the pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong.  Sound of Hope is not sponsored or funded by any government. It is run mostly by volunteers, many of whom are placing themselves at great personal risk by helping the network. It should be a national embarrassment that a group of volunteers with little money are doing what large governments deemed “too expensive” and “ineffective”…

Click here to read the entire article at Off Grid Ham.

AmPart: Training – It Takes Work

This is a little reminder from NC Scout at American Partisan that you can’t just buy some stuff and say that you’ll be ready when disaster strikes and you need to use it. You need to train with your gear to find out what it and you can do together, and what may need to be tweaked or improved.

Training Notes: It Takes Work

Training Notes: It Takes Work!

We’ve all heard the people who say “I’ll be ready when the time comes!” or “They better not come to my front door!”

I got news for you, the time has come, and they are on your front door. Maybe not physically, yet, but that’s coming. If the lessons from Virginia are a bellwether for the near future, the communist machine at work will not allow American voices to win a so-called election again. And they don’t have to physically come to your door, because they can just legislate your rights away and you’ll do nothing. You’re a rule follower, and they make the rules.

So if there’s anything to objectively be gained from the legitimacy of government being ripped away in public fashion, its that the time has indeed come. We are living in an area absent the rule of law. The fantasy land nonsense of people running around in glorious combat and living in a Rothbardian voluntarist paradise is just that- an escapist fantasy that in no way mimics real societal breakdowns. But when you’ve got a very clear picture of a dual system of justice coupled with a common view that these people will never see punishment, you are indeed living without a rule of law. The only question then that should remain is what happens now that the velvet glove has exposed the iron fist? Neither legitimacy nor objectivity can be regained once lost. A failure of ruling hegemony thus requires force.

Do not forget that Brennan was a declared member of the communist party before joining the CIA. And of the feeder groups indoctrinating minds into the tenets of Marxism was the SDS, with their mantra of “Bring the War Home!”; code for invading the US with populations (in their logic) marginalized or exploited by US policy. Top among them, Central and South America. Ortega, Castro and Guevara are heroes. Groomed by the University system, Brennan finds himself atop the very bureaucracy created to entrench these communists for an eventual overthrow of the US government. These people are desperate to remain in control and they want you gone.

That’s outside our realistic area of influence, but does not ignore what we indeed can do.

What’s to be done on our end is preparing the mass base and guerrilla auxiliary for the next step; training and equipping the people in your area. The Left has indeed been doing that for some time now. Those networks need building, the information exchanged, and working hard to perfect the techniques now in order to save lives later.

In the last Advanced RTO it was commented to me by a longtime Extra-class ham, Engineer and Appleseed Instructor that the more covert ends of the communications training pipeline- data bursts, directional transmitting and physical encryption– takes a large amount of time just to comprehend let alone the training time to perfect. Far more than what can be done in just one weekend. And the same could be said of pretty much anything else I cover in my classes. I give you the basics, but it’s up to you to practice, perfect, and most critical, share it.

Making things work in the real world are the only way to continue to develop those skills. Two of the students from the last RTO and Advanced RTO Courses are doing exactly that, commenting,

Hey, I got the antenna up and working. DVM and I were able to make contact on 80M at around 1630. He has a different HF setup than I do – different antenna and less power, and I think the F layer was not helping at that time – it was a pretty weak signal. With the antenna I built (I built the same one you used in class) and pushing 100W, I was able to make a contact in GA on 40M very clearly. I also heard plenty of people from NY and CT to FL to OH and Chicago.

That’s regional capability that they’re actively creating, that they otherwise may not have been able to achieve. And most important, they’ve got the proper context to use those skills that they definitely won’t get anywhere else. For the people that we’ve all heard saying “I’ll be ready when the time comes”, if that’s your attitude, no, you won’t. All of this is hard enough when conditions are good. If you haven’t been actively training, been sitting on the couch living in a fantasy about fighting the good fight against the Reds while doing literally nothing but wasting time, you will reap exactly the results you’ve put into it. If it were easy, everyone would do it.

Take control of your own destiny. Get trained, get supplied, whether that’s arms, ammo, magazines, food or medical gear, and don’t let it be wasted on you alone.

Read the entire article by clicking here.

Off Grid Ham: Survival Skills – When It’s No Longer a Hobby

Chris Warren at Off Grid Ham has a nice article up for amateur radio licensees, talking about whether you know it or not when a disaster strikes you may become the person everyone around expects to communicate with the outside world. So it might be a good idea to do some planning even if preparedness “isn’t your thing.”

Survival Skills: When It’s No Longer a Hobby

Like it or not, you may become “that guy” (or girl).

Amateur radio means different things to different people. Some like to tinker and experiment. Others are into DX or contests, or maybe community service projects. No matter what your motivations are, amateur radio serves a secondary usefulness that goes far beyond just being a hobby or avocation. Threatening weather, fires, floods, civil unrest, large scale accidents, and a long list of other calamities can and do occur. No area of the world is truly safe from everything. The day may come when your pastimes are valuable survival skills. Are you ready to be the one others can count on when SHTF? You may get the job even if you don’t want it.

It’s not crazy doomsday paranoia.

You’ve probably heard all the stereotypes about survivalists and preppers. While it’s true a small but highly visible minority of survivalists have unconventional and even bizarre ideas, the survivalists’ root theme is perfectly reasonable and rational: Major disruptions in society can and do occur and it’s wise to have survival skills and supplies that will help you deal with the situation.

Do you have a fire extinguisher and smoke detectors in your house? Why do you have these things when statistically you’ll live your entire life and and never need them? Are you some kind of paranoid weirdo?

Do you see where I’m going with this? Being prepared for things that are very unlikely to happen does not make one a prophesying crackpot. To some degree everyone is a survivalist/prepper; at what point being prudently prepared becomes kooky is a matter of either naiveté or cynicism, depending on your perspective.

Amateur radio and survival skills.

survival skills
Hurricane Harvey. Photo courtesy of conservativetribune.com

The maxim that amateur radio works when everything else fails may be a cliché, but it’s not inaccurate. The average off grid amateur already has most of the required equipment. The only missing piece is coming up with a plan to apply those survival skills in an actual SHTF situation. Reviewing a few basic concepts offers focus:

Click here to read the entire article at Off Grid Ham

AmRRON: Quarterly Radio Exercise, Nov. 9, 2019

 

Emergency service drill participant.  Photo via Blue Mountain Eagle

AmRRON will be holding a 4th quarter 2019 Simulated Emergency Test on November 9th.

Quarterly Communications SETs (Simulated Emergency Tests) help AmRRON radio operators practice with skills, software programs, and procedures, preparing them for more complex training and real-world radio operations.

Get the website URL contained in the November 5th AIB, and on Saturday, get the ‘secret exercise code’ from the Situation Report. Then, fill out a super short survey online!

Who: AmRRON and all other orgs and radio operators wishing to participate

What: Quarterly Training Exercise (4 hours): Delivery of a single message, network wide

When: November 9th, 1800 – 2200 Zulu Time

Scope: Nationwide, beginning on HF using digital modes, and then filtering down to local VHF/CH3.

Objective: This is a one way traffic test. In this quarterly exercise, a single SITREP (Situation Report) will be generated at ‘AmRRON National’, and sent across the network to Net Control Stations (NCSs), nationwide. The NCSs will then disseminate the report across their regional network in each region on 40m and 80m using digital modes.

Local VHF/CH3 nets will then disseminate the report to the local radio operators. Then, all participants fill out a short online survey to verify receipt of the SITREP…

Click here for more details.

AmPart: An SHTF Perspective on Commo

NC Scout at American Partisan sends some communication insights from someone on the ground in the Ecuador civil unrest – A SHTF Perspective on Commo.

In a real deal SHTF situation, such as a nation in turmoil and civil chaos, how would you fare? When the infrastructure goes down and there’s dead in the streets, what will you do?

That’s a reality for one of AP’s readers living in Ecuador, who’s been giving me steady updates on the deteriorating situation there. He first contacted me over a year ago trying to get their communications up to speed at the local Red Cross chapter. Years of neglect and a focus on more convenient systems caused their antennas to deteriorate and a lack of any knowledgeable operators. If that was bad enough, Simply getting equipment into the country is a challenge…

Click here to read the entire article at American Partisan.