Friday, April 10, 2015

Hatch Battening... Prepping for Spring & Summer Weather

The sweet early days of spring is time to make ready for a new season of storms. How prepared are you for lightning, rain, wind & hail to come visit you and your homestead? As seasons change, the number of storm events across the country increase in intensity & frequency. Strong winds & heavy rains often blow up in minutes with flooding, power outages, & wind damage the result. In preparing for a season of storms, it is power outages & wind damage the most common threats, so consider what you need to counter both.
For electrical outages, your prep list may include back-up power from a generator or battery bank.
A back-up converter to run household appliances is a smart idea 
In most instances power is usually restored within hours, but plan on at least a days worth of back-up just to be safe.  You don't need a huge back-up system, but is is nice to have something that can power some lights, a fan, or your comm gear.

Speaking of Comm Gear, as Ham Operators, we are usually more prepared than most to monitor weather events around the shack, with radios, computers & other gadgets that can alert us of storms & such. But for those new to Prepping, a great item to acquire is a weather radio, specifically made to monitor the National Weather Service radio frequencies which sends out automatic Severe Weather Alerts & Bulletins.
Some weather radios are feature packed
Most are simple desktop battery powered units, but some are available with built-in flashlights & able to charge cellphones & other devices. While all the whistles & bells are nice, the most important feature is the weather alarm function which goes off when the NWS spots dangerous weather in the area, giving precious minutes for everyone to take cover. In parts of the country where tornadoes are frequent, owing a weather alarm radio can be the difference between life & death.

Often the aftermath can be worse than the storm itself. Storms packing high winds often cause wind damage, torn up homes, roof damage from fallen tree limbs or smashed windows. A mess in itself, but what really makes things worse is in the damage which occurs to household things with exposure to the outside.
A "Blue Roof" Solution after a bad storm 
It's often necessary to have a way to cover things up. A smart idea is to always keep handy a heavy duty plastic tarp. Not only can a tarp offer temporary cover for roof damaged homes, it has many other handy uses as canopies or an outdoor primitive shelter.

Wherever you live, count on the occasional storm to come & however you prepare, count on prepping to weather a storms fury. Most often, if you prep for nature, you will have prepped for most dramatic events that may ever come your way.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Silent rooftop wind turbines could generate half of a household's energy needs.

Small wind turbines scaled to the right size for residential and urban areas have so far lived in the shadows of their larger wind-farm-sized counterparts. The power output has been too low for a reasonable return on investment through energy savings and the noise they produce is louder than most homeowners can deal with. READ MORE

Thursday, February 26, 2015

If in Doubt, Go to the Source

There's a steep learning curve for folk new to Ham Radio, brought on primarily by the plethora of terminology, jargon & idioms unique to the Hobby. While normal conversational speech is stressed when speaking on the air. Too often the content of the conversation is anything but normal. What's a new Ham to do in gaining a foothold in the rich tapestry of abbreviations, Q-codes, numbers, and assorted electromagnetic keywords? You consult a glossary of terms unique to Ham radio.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Field Ops is in the Bag

Operating into the night...
Being ready for the unexpected can be daunting, and in prepping a "Bug-Out-Bag" for excursions into the wild, acquiring proper communication hardware may just be one of several steps on a long list of provisions. It's not just a radio that's needed, but an operational plan, and a laundry list of support gear.
But ask any Ham who's worked a Ham Radio Field Day or two, operating a radio under field conditions is a far-ranging topic as well. Much depends on what your comm needs will be, from simple tactical communication in a remote setting, or an extensive communication base of operations, each has it's own. However, there are some items common to most settings, which often get overlooked. Let's run through a grocery list of items to make room for in your BOB, just as important as your radio, in maintaining proper communications.

Most field communications is the spoken word, but what's being spoken needs to be written down, hard to do when you haven't packed writing material. A Radio Log Book is an invaluable way to put "message traffic" on paper, all the better when it's waterproof.

Luci Inflatable Solar Lantern
You can operate a radio any time of day out in the field, but it gets a bit difficult in the dark. A handy flashlight helps, but even better is a couple of these inflatable solar powered lanterns.

ALPS Mountaineering Weekender Seat 
Sure you can do radio standing up, leaning, or in a crouch, but it's just more comfortable to have a place to rest your weary bones. Take along portable seating.

Throw Weight & Line Combo
A simple wire antenna can be a godsend in getting a good signal out as well as in, but getting it up in yonder tree can be a totally unattainable task. You're smart to have a way to toss a line over a branch.  Carrying a Throw Weight & Line Combo makes that task a snap.

3800mAh 7.4V Li ion Battery

You wouldn't think of packing for a few days in the field without packing enough food & drink to sustain you, it's the same thing to have on hand enough batteries to keep your gear juiced up. While you can consider packing additional recharging equipment, it's often not feasible to tote a generator, solar panel, or a very long extension cord. Pack fully charged batteries, ideally, one for each day of field ops.

Military Tactical Shoulder/Waist Bag
Mobility means portability. Meaning, you're packing in what you use. You need a bag made to pack it all, so you can carry it all. This Military Tactical Shoulder/Waist Bag can hold it all & more.

Me. 3 field days ago.
Packing for field ops will come down to how you need to communicate. Whatever you pack, will make your communications happen, one way or the other.

Monday, December 29, 2014

8 Watts is the new Black

In the fashion world, a trendy fabric, a stylish new cut, an innovative design becomes the next big trend... it becomes the "New Black".
With handheld Ham Radios, it appears 8 watts is currently the New Black, and from all indications, it's quickly establishing a benchmark in performance that defines "the next new thing."

Within recent months a series of handheld radios have entered the market with one defining difference, greater output transmit power. Normally, .5 watts, 1 watt, or 4 watts is the standard output depending on make & manufacturer, a range that pretty much has been a given standard industry wide.
But with Chinese Manufacturer Baofang/Pofung offering hand held radios with twice as much output power, that standard is now, "old fashioned."

Here's a short list of new "Blowtorch" handhelds available...

BaoFeng BF-F8HP

Seems strange. This radio has only been out for 3 months, and it's now the "Grand Old Man" of 8-watt handhelds. Baofeng's BF-F8HP debuted mid August 2014, to rave reviews &  tremendous demand. An upgrade of the UV-5R model, it rolled out new firmware, a new antenna & a great new user manual that actually makes sense. Just recently the BF-F8HP has been upgraded with a new stock heavy duty 2000 mAh Battery.

Baofeng PoFung GT-3TP Mark-III

The earlier GT-3 model's biggest difference from the UV-5R line was it's cosemeticly redesigned two-tone case. But just in time for Christmas it got a new name and 3 new power modes: 1,4 & 8 watts.
offered by "Baofeng Radio US", Houston TX based Foscam Digital Technologies LLC.
The BF-F9 V2+HP is a stock BF-F9 model, with the ti-power upgrade. That & along with more letters & numbers to it's name. Most notable unique selling point? Offering models in Black, Blue, Red, Yellow & Green Camouflage color cases.

Doubling output power to 8 watts essentially adds 2.5 dB. in transmitted signal strength. In practical terms, it makes for a louder signal, offering greater range.  The trade off is greater demand upon the radio's battery. Naturally, more output power means quicker battery drain, so it should be noted, only the BF-F8HP is currently offered with a larger capacity battery as stock. (In time, that too will change).

Maybe someday in style again...

Will 8 watts become the new "Standard" in Handheld Ham Radios? A closet full of Neru Jackets is betting on seeing more powerful handheld radios being offered by other manufacturers in time. 8 watts of output power is fashionable for the moment. As fashion statements go, it is indeed a powerful one.

Monday, December 22, 2014

A Preppers Last Minute List of Christmas Stocking Stuffers

If you've been a good little boy or girl, you might expect good things to appear in your Christmas Stocking on Christmas Day. If you were a good little boy or girl PREPPER... little handy "gadgets" in your sock means you've been VERY good!.

Here's short list of stocking stuffers that would bring a smile on any Preppers face...

MPOWERD Luci Inflatable Solar Lantern

You may have seen these on the internet, but it's not until you have one in your hand do you realize how such a game-changer this little blow-up solar powered light really is. With 10 hi-intensity LED lights, the Luci illuminates the dark as a collapsable can-shaped clear vinyl lamp, that deflates flat. You can pack a dozen Luci's in the same space of a stack of DVD's, After a couple hours out in the sun, the energy efficient Luci keeps the dark away. Available Here

Replica Ships Radio Room / Cream Wall Clock

In the golden days of Transoceanic Steamships, the Radio Room Telegraph Office was a busy place as Morse code operators sent messages from ship to shore. This replica of a Ships Radio Room Clock shows the time on the dial when operators were required to be silent to listen for distress signals. Uses 1 AA Battery Available Here

Water & Wood Multi Tool Set Adjustable Screwdriver/Wrench Jaw Pliers & Survival Emergency Gear

A pocket-sized multi-tool with a crescent wrench instead of a pair of needle nose! Not just your typical multi-tool! Available Here

A world spanning shortwave radio that fits inside your shirt pocket, and  in Fire Engine Red to boot! Don't leave home without the ability to catch news & weather reports or enjoy some tunes. AM/FM & 2 Shortwave bands. Available Here

Monday, December 8, 2014

Getting the Word Out by the Numbers

Scattered across the shortwave radio bands, often on the fringe of broadcast portions of AM shortwave, or Amateur Radio allocated frequencies, are mysterious signals... mostly repeating music tones with a spoken string of disjointed numbers... they are covert spy "Numbers" stations.  It is the surest method to send coded messages to deep cover operatives in the field, without risking compromise of both the message, and who is receiving the message.
The mysterious "John has a long mustache... the chair is against the wall" types of numbers & tones isn't just a Hollywood plot device, they're how Intelligence Agencies instruct their deep cover field agents covertly.  Despite all the technological advancements in internet, computers and smartphones, nothing offers a safer, & completely unbreakable method of communication.
You can hear these stations yourself, you just need a shortwave radio receiver to tune in the frequencies these signals are broadcast. Enthusiasts in the Shortwave listening (SWL) hobby often post frequencies & times they've encountered a "numbers" station, it's a hobby of sorts to seek out these signals. The fact of these signals being publicized doesn't diminish their effectiveness at all. Websites like The Global Frequency Database, are akin to a White Pages directory, for some of the signals you may encounter.

The importance of radio hasn't diminished one bit, despite all the advances in technology. It's proven everyday by these ghostly signals, showing they are not a relic of the past, but still a vital part of intelligence today.

How well are you Prepared?
Do you have a good portable Shortwave Radio? There's a wide selection of portable shortwave radios available today, most able to monitor police, fire, & rescue, as well as the worldwide radio broadcast bands. Some able to be powered with a hand crank or solar power and can even charge other devices. It's always a smart idea to have one handy, just in case. How knows? Maybe hearing "Mary had a little Lamb" may mean more than just a nursery rhyme.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

New Handheld Radio Offers Colorful Strength

Just when you got used to 8 Watts of power in a handheld radio, Baofeng/Pofung ups the ante with a new tri-power powerhouse that comes in a variety of COLORS.
 Recently released BF-F9 V2+ HP delivers up to 8 watts of transmit power in a colorful assortment of cases.  The BF-F9 V2+ HP has an expanded frequency range like the UV-82 line, and a new chipset with noise-reduction features that block out noises caused by signal intensity changes along with tail tone elimination when transmitting or receiving signals between 50Hz-55Hz. The BF-F9 V2+'s tri-color display makes for easy reading on the bright LCD, and this radio can be programmed with or without a PC to work on private repeater systems. The most powerful, versatile Baofeng, it has transmitting power selectable up to 8 watts. It is fully backward compatible with all UV-5R accessories.
Just in time for the holidays, Baofeng has pulled out all the stops by offering this newest model for even less than it's other popular 8 watt handheld, the BF-F8 HP.
Not only can you have the most powerful 2 Meter/70 CM handheld radio currently available, you have a rich variety of case colors to choose from. The handheld radios are available direct from Baofeng via Amazon.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Local officials say radio can fill in for Internet in event of cyber attack

By Victoria Taylor

MADISON COUNTY, Tenn. -- Life in the digital age is filled with the World Wide Web, which is why some first responders wanted to re-wire their ham radio skills Friday.

In order to continue communicating if the Internet fell victim to a mass cyber attack, agencies from across Tennessee would turn to radio.

"We can actually send email and attachments, video and what-not via ham radio without ever using Internet," said Mike Winslow, risk manager for Madison County. READ MORE

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Wide Range Receive Radio via SDR & Android

So much technology is changing the face of radio. A new type of "sound card"... this one processing RF frequencies instead of sound waves, has opened up the realm of low-cost radio receivers with virtually limitless potential to explore the electromagnetic spectrum.
Software Defined Radio, SDR, center around a specific processor chip... RTL2832, initially used to tune HDTV broadcast TV on desktops & laptops. But it wasn't too long before some imaginative types figured out that it can tune a lot more than the narrow part of the spectrum carved out for HDTV. Now it's like every day there's new apps, new circuits, and new things being done with a SDR dongle and some software.
The hardware being explored here is just a tiny example of what can be utilized. Matching up a Proscan Android 7" Tablet, to a UHF/VHF/HF RTL-SDR Tuner Receiver to receive FM Radio is a snap, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. It's not just local Broadcast stations, the set-up potentially can tune in ANYTHING in the UHF & VHF part of the radio spectrum. Adding a tuned antenna other than the one that comes stock, tuned for Broadcast FM, you'll have a capable portable receiver for a huge part of the radio spectrum.  Being that it's done on a portable Android Tablet demonstrates practicality & portability in spades.
SDR Shopping? Check these out...
UPDATE: The Software Defined Radio hobby is brand new territory. Practically each day, enthusiasts  are exploring new ways to utilize the hardware, creating new software, and coming up with new applications. No license is required to operate a radio receiver, so anyone can get into the hobby. And if you are inclined to "roll your own" and build your own electronic circuits, there's plenty of SDR kits, plans & schematics available to tinker with.

RF Analyzer: brand new App for SDR's driven by Android like the Hack RF One

One of best places to learn more about SDR's is a continually updated clearinghouse of everything SDR. From there you can unleash your inner geek learning about cutting edge SDR circuits, test new apps and software plug-ins that unleash more features and new applications.

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