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.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Education in Radio Theory Courtesy of the US Army

Anybody can be a Ham nowadays, the basic licensing isn't too hard to figure out, but if you're serious about the hobby, and serious about radios, it's important to learn how the Radio works. That's also the opinion of the US Army in training troops to operate & repair radios. The Army's been training troops fresh out of basic training to become Radio Specialists & Operators for decades. The training starts with the fundamentals of basic radio theory, and we can make use of the same training movies the troops had to view, for Ham Radio. While the films are a bit dated, the theory isn't. They offer valuable insight to the fundamentals of radio, especially in explaining that which is such a mystery to many.

Here's is what you learned about FM Radio Theory if you were in a Army Ground Radio School back in 1964:

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Secret Life of Machines: Radio

There's a story behind these magical devices we use for sending information wirelessly. One of the best "How To" Tv Series from the 80's, "The Secret Life of Machines" gave a very practical explanation of Radio Theory, and a humorous history of early radio. Take a break & learn something here...

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Portable HF Antenna as Adaptable as a Chameleon

The focus on communications under field conditions often involve UHF/VHF handheld radios, good for tactical point to point close contact. But to reach over the horizon, an HF Radio is the meat & potatoes for that communication task.
Modern ham radio boasts HF gear fitting in a backpack with globe spanning reach, however when the rubber meets the road, it's the antenna that far often makes the difference in making the radio do it's thing.
This is where Chameleon Antennas comes in. The Newport Beach based manufacturer has hit great strides in offering top quality, highly efficient and highly configurable field antenna systems perfect for emergency, space restrictive, and stealth operations.

Chameleon Antennas newest, the CHA HYBRID-MICRO is all that in spades.

The CHA HYBRID-MICRO is a lightweight highly portable broadband antenna system, designed to offer maximum portability and performance. The antenna weights about 1 lb. The antenna will operate at all frequencies in the 1.8-54 MHz band without any adjustment with most modern external antenna tuners. No masts or guying are required. The antenna will work successfully supported by trees, masts, the tops of vehicles or any convenient object or structure. The antenna works most effectively when elevated at a reasonable height. Like it's lizard namesake, the Chameleon, the antenna can be configured to adapt to it's surroundings.
The number of different antenna configurations is impressive!
To operate on the High Frequency Amateur Radio Bands, you must be licensed with a higher than Technician Class license. However it is easy to learn enough radio theory to pass. It is no longer a requirement to know morse code to get licensed, and armed with a General Class Ham License, you can be granted permission to operate on 90% of the world-wide HF bands.
With only a 12 volt battery, a low-power HF portable radio, and a wire antenna like the Chameleon CHA Hybrid-Micro, you can easily make contact over the horizon, beyond a disaster area, or around the world.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Weathering the (Solar) Storm

Those of you working HF are obviously looking for something to do. Band conditions are lousy for the moment as the sun has blasted some charged particles our way, rendering HF propagation into so much hash & static. Oh well...
Goes to show... unless you're a Ham Operator, or read stuff on the internet, you'd more likely never know that the planet is awash in a direct stream of solar flux. But by breathless accounts from the popular press, we should all be hanging on for dear life as the sun has sent a tremendous cloud of plasma our way. Funny... can't tell it from looking outside that's for sure.
So while waiting for the MUF (Maximum Usable Frequency) to get back to normal here's a look back at some of the most noteworthy solar storms Earth has had to deal with since... when someone started following such things... (Article courtesy of
1859: The Carrington Event
The Carrington Event of 1859 was the first documented event of a solar flare impacting Earth. The event occurred at 11:18 a.m. EDT on Sept. 1 and is named after Richard Carrington, the solar astronomer who witnessed the event through his private observatory telescope and sketched the sun's sunspots at the time. The flare was the largest documented solar storm in the last 500 years, NASA scientists have said.
According to NOAA, the Carrington solar storm event sparked major aurora displays that were visible as far south as the Caribbean. It also caused severe interruptions in global telegraph communications, even shocking some telegraph operators and sparking fires when discharges from the lines ignited telegraph paper, according to a NASA description.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

goTenna™ set to boldly take your smartphone where "no signal" has gone before

An ambitious startup hopes to expand the functionality of smartphones everywhere, solving common limitations to cellular service. It's often a problem in crowds, remote locations, or during power outages...cellular phone service is interrupted, a maddening circumstance, especially when the need to communicate can be particularly vital. But a new device, aiming to be available late this year, may fill the "no signal" gap by offering point to point communications with other similarly equipped smartphones nearby.
The patent pending goTenna™ is a 2 watt two-way radio, operating on the 151-154 MURS band, linking via bluetooth to your smartphone, and broadcasting your signal to other goTenna™ equipped smartphones. The device is currently undergoing compliance testing with the FCC. If accepted, it should be on the market by Christmas.
The device will be sold in pairs so two different smartphones can communicate, with an effective range of up to a half mile in typical urban settings, further in open terrain. goTenna™ promises to solve many of the common problems associated with current cellular systems by eliminating the need for cell towers, wifi, or satellite to communicate from one phone to another.

Learn more about goTenna™ or even pre-order your own set, on their website.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

BaoFeng Adds 8 Watt Handheld Radio to Lineup

Chinese Electronics Manufacturer Baofeng(Pofung), is offering a new dual band handheld radio, with more transmit power, a new generation chipset, compatibility with existing battery options, and clearer, more understandable instructional documentation.

John Miklor, with his's website, has been an invaluable web resource on all things Baofeng, and has good things to say in his initial review of this newest model in the Baofeng Radio lineup.  "Looks like a New Model BF-F8HP is a true 8 watt handheld. It appears Baofeng/Pofung is listening and moving in the proper direction."

The Chinese Electronics Manufacturer has taken the US domestic Ham Radio market by storm, offering a line of inexpensive handheld 2 meter & 70CM radios based upon SDR technology, taking a domestic business band radio & adapting it for US Amateur Radio use. Baofeng's UV-3, UV-5R & it's variants, are leading the wave in sales of affordable handheld radios, popular not just with Hams, but with the survivalist & prepping movement in the US & abroad. 
Some of the features of the BF-F8HP radio are:
- Tri-Power (1, 4, and 8 watt) 
- New 2nd Generation chipset
- DTMF keypad issue finally resolved (ABCD is actually ABCD)
- Compatible with AA and 3800mAh battery packs
- 76 Page User Guide
- CHIRP software compatible
The review shows actual side-by-side power level tests between UV5R, UV82, BFF8+, and F8HP performed using a calibrated Telewave 44A. READ FULL REVIEW HERE
Currently the BF-F8HP is available through Baofeng Tech on

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Ham Radio: An "Old" Technology is a Lifesaver in the Emergency Field

Article by Kara Tarantino / Georgia Health News

Like a black-and-white movie, ham radio may evoke an image of how people communicated in the old days. In fact, Hollywood legend Mickey Rooney, who died this month at 93, starred in a classic film as a teenager in which ham radio was a key plot device.
But ask someone in emergency management about ham radio, and you’ll find that this medium of communication is anything but outdated. In recent years, recognition of its importance has actually increased.
A case in point occurred in March 2008, when thousands of people were attending the Southeastern Conference basketball tournament in downtown Atlanta, and thousands more were at various venues nearby as a  tornado struck, cutting a path of destruction through the heart of Georgia’s capital city.
Unbeknownst to many, a lone amateur radio operator, using only a hand-held radio, called “CQ, CQ” — the ham radio code that signified he was reaching out to whatever stations could hear him. He hoped to alert any station on the air that he was located in the worst of the storm-affected area and needed help.
Barry Kanne, an active ham radio operator, and an Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) volunteer, happened to be listening to the main ham radio weather channel as the storm hit. He responded to the CQ call. Immediately, an ad hoc emergency net between the two operators was established. Soon other stations joined in to report storm damage. (READ MORE)
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