Sparks31: Building Your Own Radio

Sparks31 has a couple of articles up about getting going building your own radio gear, whether you want to survive an EMP or just get on the air for a little less cash.

We Used to Build: Rolling Your Own Radios, Part 1

We Used to Build: Rolling Your Own Radios, Part 2

The first ham radio book I bought when studying for my license had the schematic for a simple 80 meter CW transmitter using a 6LR8 tube. The schematic looked something like the one above. This was back in the early 1980s when they expected someone at Novice Class level to be able to build a simple CW rig with the help of an elmer.

In an age where the Maker Movement is rapidly gaining popularity and adopting the manifesto of If you can’t fix it, you don’t own it, the original DIY hobby (ham radio) has degenerated into a bunch of appliance operators using equipment made in totalitarian countries.  When the balloon goes up, all the no-code, test-pool memorizing, Extras who passed all three tests in a single sitting are going to be left out in the cold with their Chinese dual-band HTs, unless they get up to speed.

What do you need to do?

  1. Find the local elmer who has had his license for the past 60 years and still runs something like a Harvey Wells Bandmaster or something he built himself.
  2. Put together your library.
  3. Get radios that you can actually fix, as opposed to appliances that become worthless if they break because they can’t be fixed.
  4. Build a kit or three.
  5. Learn the techncial aspects of ham radio.
  6. Learn CW.
  7. Graduate to rolling your own radios.

Good elmers are hard to come by. The good ones are at least in their 70s, and usually older. They still exist, however. The hardest parts for many of you are going to be a) getting the gumption to actually put the effort into looking for one, and b) not coming across as a total cock-walloping asshole. Oh well, as Frank would say, “many are called and few are chosen.”

There are plenty of online sources to build up your reference library, but you’ll want a few books in hardcopy format. Start with an ARRL Handbook from the late 1960s up to the 1980s or 1990s. Older and you’ll get into tube gear which is cool, but probably not something you want to start with. Newer starts getting away from sold state, discrete component, thru-hole PCB construction that’s easy to begin with…

Most of our local hamfests are over for the year as far as picking up used equipment and old books. The next big one in the state will be the Mike & Key Electronics Show and Fleamarket on March 9th, 2019. More locally, the Yakima Hamfest arrives in April, and they Kennewick Electronics, Ham Radio and Experimenters Swap Meet on May 4, 2019.

Covert and Hidden Antennas

Sparks31 has a brief article up on Covert and Hidden Antennas.

Whether you are setting up a field radio station for communications or a monitoring post for SIGINT operation, the antenna is the linchpin of your setup. The best radio in the world is useless without a decent antenna.

Let’s take a look at a common antenna design, one I’ve used with much success over the years:

discone-vhf-uhf-hardline

This is a discone antenna. I have one at my eastern QTH. For a first antenna it’s not bad. It makes an adequate wideband receive and transmit antenna for the VHF and UHF bands. It’s a unity gain antenna, but its advantage is that you can get on the air with multiple VHF and UHF bands with a single antenna. For permissive urban and suburban environments it’s a good choice.

However, it sticks out like a cow in church. Anyone with a modicum of RF knowledge will know what you’re doing when they see one on your roof. Not a problem in permissive environments like the U.S. today, unless you live in place that has a H.O.A. which restricts antennas, or for whatever reason(s) you want to keep your RF activity under wraps.

Antennas are one of those things that you can easily roll your own out of whatever stuff you have lying around your workshop, homestead, or wherever.

Marconi spins in his grave every time a ham buys an aerial instead of building it.
– Joe W1GFH

Continue reading “Covert and Hidden Antennas”

2019 Sparks31 Classes

Sparks31 is bringing some classes to Washington state in 2019. Sign up to get the early bird rates. Communication monitoring and SIGINT comes to Seattle on June 22-23, and Get On the Air Field Radio is in Yakima on Aug. 17-18. Check it out and learn some useful skills.

Sparks31 Signal Corps

I will be doing classes in the following cities next year:

Boston, MA – Urban Signal (Communications and SIGINT) Class – July 20-21, 2019 – $500 (early bird rate)

Denver, CO – Communications Monitoring and SIGINT Class – May 18-19, 2019 – $200 (early bird rate)

Denver, CO – Come As You Are and Get On the Air Field Radio Class – May 25-26, 2019 – $200 (early bird rate)

Seattle, WA – Communications Monitoring and SIGINT Class – June 22-23, 2019 – $400 (early bird rate)

Yakima, WA – – Come As You Are and Get On the Air Field Radio Class – August 17-18, 2019 – $300 (early bird rate)

I’m now accepting deposits ($50 non-refundable) for the above classes at https://squareup.com/store/sparks31/item/class-deposit.

There are still a few slots left for my Denver SIGINT Class in October. You have only one week left to take advantage of the…

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Sparks31 Starts Survivalist Website

Sparks31, who is well known for his communication/signals intelligence writings in various media — books, magazines, newsletters, blogs, etc., has just launched a new website to focus on non-signal related issues in survivalism and prepping. The new site is called The Modern Survivalist.

https://modernsurvivalistwyo.wordpress.com/

Here is an excerpt from his introductory post.

…Despite some rather good practical advice given by Kurt in The Survivor, most survivalists these days do the exact opposite of what was suggested.

The problem with those who have adopted this mindset is that they are concentrating and usually wasting their efforts on some nebulous future instead of concentrating and focusing on the possibilities that are presented now. You don’t need to have an “end times” because any level of observation in the real-world will show that you are presently living in a dystopia. A dystopia is a state which is characterized by such conditions as poverty, oppression, war, violence, disease, pollution, and the abridgment of human rights that results in widespread unhappiness, suffering, and other kinds of pain. One could present a pretty good argument that our country is currently, on many levels, in a state of dystopia. Yet, despite all of that there still remain unlimited possibilities for an individual to successfully operate and thrive in the environment provided they can acquire the necessary skill-sets to navigate through a dystopia.

This is an evolutionary progression of Kurt Saxon’s survivalist ideal from the 1970s.
They possess multiple skill sets, because as sci-fi writer and preparedness advocate Robert A. Heinlein said “specialization is for insects.” They are a combination of Ayn Rand’s John Galt and a Ninja warrior from medieval Japan. To wit, they can operate on a technical level from primitive to modern, are capable of field improvisation, can customize existing infrastructures to suit their needs, and if necessary create their own infrastructures if none previously exist. In matters sociopolitical they strive to support the current decaying establishment as little as possible, if at all. They avoid getting into altercations when possible, and when required to fight in self-defense use any number of neo-guerrilla tactics to gain a such of an edge over their enemies as possible.

Rome did not fall in a day. It actually did not fall at all, but underwent what many historians describe as a “complex transformation.” The United States will most likely fare the same way. The successful modern survivalist will be the one who can successfully observe, analyze, and take advantage of the new possibilities resulting from this transformation. When a Black Swan does occur, the modern survivalist will recognize it for what it is, adapt accordingly, and re-orient him or her self so he/she can successfully navigate past the hiccup. Good luck, and enjoy the ride!

 

Sparks 31: More Practice – SIGINT, COMINT

From Sparks31

radioshack-pro-34

Practice. Practice. Practice.

That’s how you become good.

You know where you live. (At least I hope so…)

You live in a state, county, and maybe even in a municipality (city, town, village, borough, etc.)

That means you will have a state police/highway patrol, county sheriff, and possibly a local municipal police force.

Each will have its own dispatch/operations frequency or talkgroup if they use a trunked system.

You should know what State Police/Highway Patrol troop covers your area, and what precinct your local PD your neighborhood is in (if your town/city PD is that big).

That should be three frequencies and/or talkgroups.

Go to Radio Reference.

Select your area.

Program in the necessary data.

Go to the local dollar store and get a composition-type  notebook.

Listen.

If there is too much traffic, then just listen to one. Start with your municipal PD  or county sheriff if you live in an unincorporated area.

Take notes.

Listen some more.

Keep taking notes.

Do it for a week.

Then do it some more.

Keep practicing. That’s how you become good.

Sparks has a class on all this in Denver in October.

Brushbeater has a radio operator class in Montana in September.

Forward Observer has an SHTF Intelligence class in Florida at the end of August.

Everyone is telling you to get trained. Events are telling you to get trained. Why aren’t you?

 

Brushbeater: Developing, Exploiting Signals Intelligence

NC Scout at the Brushbeater blog has an article up, Developing and Exploiting Open Source Signals Intelligence, in which he discusses the types of information that you should be collecting now for your data books on local communication capabilities as well as foreign.  A third of Americans expect a civil war in the next five years. If a civil war indeed happens, then it’s likely there will be foreign meddling. It’s easier to find out information about capabilities now than during any hostilities.

IMG_1309…Back in the early days of this blog I wrote short blurbs about the importance of things called Data Books– which should be nothing new for veterans of more elite units out there and for Long Range Marksmen. But Data Books are not limited to recording Data On Previous Engagements (DOPE) on our weapon systems– it should also serve as a quick reference on a large number of topics for us as we operate in an area. Things that really come in handy, such as:

  • Flora and Fauna, both good and hazardous
  • Key Terrain Features, including Human, in the Area of Operations (AO)
    • Local gathering sites
    • Local persons of influence
  • Equipment recognition guide and data cards
  • Technology present in my AO

That last bit is critically important- there’s a reason every Intelligence agency has a technology analysis branch. We have to know what a potential adversary’s capabilities are, beginning with his principle enabler- communications. As I cover in the RTO course, advancements in radio technology being fielded in all areas is changing at a rapid rate. Civilian data in the US is publicly published. Even military data is not terribly hard- the specifics take some digging but glossing over but FCC Frequency Allocations gives a great starting point as to what can be found where. It might be a really good idea, and one I cover in class, to write down all of the license free band frequencies; you know, like the frequencies those MURS, FRS/GMRS, and Marine are actually on? That way if I happen to come across a group talking on 151.82mHz, I know know they’re on MURS 1 and can begin communications mapping of their capabilities.

Wait, what? Communications Mapping is not at all a hard concept- I listen for you, write down where you’re transmitting and a compass bearing (if I can get it) while also writing down any other pertinent information. Things like callsigns, male/female voices, times, languages, accents, emotions, the level of training, and if they’re even hostile from the traffic itself are all items that can tell us the level of organization (or lack thereof) of our adversary. And while it sounds simple, it takes discipline and training to execute correctly and to also remember- you’ll be on the receiving end of this as well

Read the entire article by clicking here.

 

Related:

Sparks31’s TECHINT blog post and his SIGINT class

Sparks31’s Police Scanner Workbook

Brushbeater’s Signals Intelligence Resources

Brushbeater’s SIGINT for the Small Unit

Forward Observer Interview with Sparks 31 on Communications Monitoring

Sparks 31’s Reference Material

Selco: Observe and Prepare for the Confusion, Panic, & Mayhem of SHTF

Numbers & Oddities frequency database and files

Electrospaces blog on SIGINT and telecommunication security

Sparks31: SIGINT and COMINT

Why such an emphasis on SIGINT, and in particular COMINT?

It is a good solution for two problems everyone needs to solve. The problems being a short and long term way to get useful information that you can then turn into tactical and strategic intelligence…There are many ways you can answer these questions. One of the easiest is with COMINT. Tactical COMINT is easy. It doesn’t take much to listen for interesting dispatch calls. Strategic is not hard either. It just takes listening and taking notes over a period of time.

Sparks31: Monitoring Exercise

Sparks31 put up a couple of posts on running a monitoring exercise (MONEX) designed to use basic radio receiving equipment, get you experienced in listening, test your gear, and give you an idea of who is operating in your area and their frequencies. The first exercise in part 1 uses a portable broadcast FM radio and the second an AM radio, which just about everyone has. These are exercises that you can do on your own and only require the ability to receive. You do not need a license to receive radio communications.

MONEX Part 1

MONEX Part 2

MONEXes (Monitoring Exercises) are important because they help you understand what your listening equipment is capable of doing, they help you improve your skills in both COMINT and OSINT, and they help you figure out what frequencies in your area are useful for keeping an ear on events. Communications monitoring equipment is not something you can purchase and toss in a go-box for when the balloon goes up. You need to get proficient with the equipment before the s[tuff] hits the fan. Information gathering is as important a survival skill as firearms proficiency, or growing your own food. MONEXes are the way to COMINT proficiency.

RELATED

Consolidated Frequency List (pdf) This contains a long list of to whom various frequencies have been allocated for use. (H/t Sparks31)

Sparks31 Releases Commo Book

Sparks31, a frequent internet writer on emergency communications, has released a new book titled Commo.  It is available in print and as an eBook on Lulu.com.

Hardcopy – http://www.lulu.com/content/paperback-book/commo/2…

Digital (Free Download) – http://www.lulu.com/shop/sparks31/commo/ebook/prod…

Sparks31 has previously written Communications for 3%ers and Survivalists and also Down-Grid Communications.

Follows an excerpt from the introduction:

Imagine, for a moment, that right now the grid goes down, either accidentally or by design. Would you be able to:
• Communicate with family members to determine their safety/well being, and have them initiate contingency plans?
• Alert and mobilize the members of your group?
• Collect intelligence information to find out local conditions?
• Collect intelligence information to find out the geographical extent of a disaster or similar event/situation?

Now lets go to the actual present, our status­quo dystopian reality. Are you able to:
• Communicate with family and group members in a manner that minimizes your footprint?
• Collect intelligence information to find out local, regional, national, and worldwide conditions/events via alternative means?
• Minimize or eliminate your surveillance footprint when necessary for privacy reasons?

Communications skills in a down­grid situation, meaning both now and in an uncertain future, is an essential survival skill for anyone interested in maintaining control over their own destiny. You don’t need to be an electronics expert, although your group or tribe will
certainly need one. You do need to have a certain level of
knowledge, dependent on your aptitude and general skill­
set.