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Old 6 September 2017, 21:34
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Ham/Amature Radio

What are your thoughts about amature radio as a viable option should the usual cell, landline, net based avenues of communication be lost. I have only heard of ham radio, but that is it. I am thinking about studying for the Technician license at some point.

I know nothing about all this so I am researching away and wanted to hear about the pros and cons of this path of communication. Is there a better way?

I really do not know much communication options at all, so please pardon my ignorance.

I am trying to up my game when it comes to being prepared.

Thanks for your time.
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Old 6 September 2017, 21:50
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I know I read about their value in all of my SHTF fiction books. I think if they survive an EMP, they would be the word's Internet. I want and need to do this. I will check her often.

All I know is everyone says buy one and listen,but don't talk until you get your license.
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Old 6 September 2017, 22:26
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TFG, I am hitting this site up for info.

http://www.arrl.org
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Old 6 September 2017, 22:38
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Amateur radio is a skill you'll never regret learning. The tech license is simple to get, no Morse code required now. I've been a General class guy for a while and my wife and daughter & soon to be son in law all hold Tech rates. It is how we commo a lot of the time when I'm in the woods, daughter 100 miles away at college and wife at home.

Do it, you won't regret it.
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Old 6 September 2017, 22:42
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^^^That seals it for me. The license is $40 and 35 questions. Looking for study guides.
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Old 6 September 2017, 22:48
Akheloce Akheloce is offline
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I'm a Tech...

I have to say that it's silly not to have a radio as part of your kit. However, you have to know their limitations. The most common bands for techs is 2 meters, and 70 cm. These are FM, line of sight. Today, they are useful manly because of repeaters. Many repeaters are either club or privately owned, and must be maintained with power. Hence, if the power goes out, you're relying on the local nerds to have backup power for the repeaters.

On the lower bands like 10 and 6 meters, I think that there are a couple bands that a tech can use, but the equipment is expensive and require a large fixed antenna (usually).

For local family or team comms, a 2 meter / dual band 70cm handheld(s) are awesome. But a guy could be VERY well served by a shortwave receiver only to keep up on the news.

Also, you have to decide if it is the best choice for your local area. For example, in my area, marine VHF is the radio everyone has. There are like 5 people that have HAM 2m radios. If I really wanted to talk to the area, I'd buy a marine VHF rather than a 2m. On the other hand, some Chinese knockoffs like Baofeng can transmit and receive in the HAM bands, the marine VHF bands, and FRS GMRS bands (although to do so is illegal).

There's gobs more info about the subject, but that's all I got after a few Kirkland canadian whiskeys in me.
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Old 6 September 2017, 22:57
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Well, have a few more, come back and go crazy sharing all you are willing. This is all interesting and I really do not know much about the communication world.
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Old 6 September 2017, 23:27
Akheloce Akheloce is offline
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This is what I have, not saying it's the perfect setup, just what I have.

A yaesu ft-60r handheld for normal HAM use. It's a damn good 2m radio and is bulletproof.

Several varieties of Marine VHF- on my boat, in my UTV, argo, cabin, etc. All of my cohorts have them, and when I get in trouble, someone I know always answers.

A Ccrane CC radio. The best AM radio bar none. I'm 120 mountainous miles from the nearest radio station, and I can get it clearly all the time.

A Ccrane Skywave SW radio... BBC, voice of America, etc. great for news.

A Baofeng F8HP- this is a cheap piece of crap that does more than it should for the price. It xmits and receives (poorly) on darn near every FM frequency from 136-174Mhz and 400-520Mhz. It has poor build quality, has a poor front end, back end, and will cause the noise floor to raise on every band on either side of it's XMIT, but damn, for the price, it's just worth it to have. (they're like mopeds, don't tell your HAM friends you have one, but they probably secretly have a few too).

I live in a semi remote part of Alaska not too far from the shore (hence the Marine VHF), but in a valley separated by a 1400' ridge line from the shore. I can't expect to transmit reliably outside my valley on handheld 2M/70cm, but I also can expect that EVERYONE can hear me (in other words not secure).
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Old 7 September 2017, 21:44
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Found what I think is a comprehensive study guide, so I have started prepping for the Tech. license exam.
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Old 7 September 2017, 22:33
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Akheloce View Post
I'm a Tech...

I have to say that it's silly not to have a radio as part of your kit. However, you have to know their limitations. The most common bands for techs is 2 meters, and 70 cm. These are FM, line of sight. Today, they are useful manly because of repeaters. Many repeaters are either club or privately owned, and must be maintained with power. Hence, if the power goes out, you're relying on the local nerds to have backup power for the repeaters.

On the lower bands like 10 and 6 meters, I think that there are a couple bands that a tech can use, but the equipment is expensive and require a large fixed antenna (usually).

For local family or team comms, a 2 meter / dual band 70cm handheld(s) are awesome. But a guy could be VERY well served by a shortwave receiver only to keep up on the news.

Also, you have to decide if it is the best choice for your local area. For example, in my area, marine VHF is the radio everyone has. There are like 5 people that have HAM 2m radios. If I really wanted to talk to the area, I'd buy a marine VHF rather than a 2m. On the other hand, some Chinese knockoffs like Baofeng can transmit and receive in the HAM bands, the marine VHF bands, and FRS GMRS bands (although to do so is illegal).

There's gobs more info about the subject, but that's all I got after a few Kirkland canadian whiskeys in me.
What he said!
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Old 7 September 2017, 22:50
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I've had a Yeasu FT-857D with a nice power supply and antenna all set up for nearly three years now. No license, and have never tried to see if I can xmit
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Old 8 September 2017, 11:02
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So, go to QRZ.com and register (you don't have to have a call sign...), then study feor the Tech test, then take it. It should take you a couple of hours in front of a screen to get the answers down cold...

Once you have your tech, then re-register at qrz with your call sign - then take a day and cram the General test there. Best test prep I've used with people... Get a General ticket & the world is even easier for you to acess...

Even a Tech licence gives you a broad range of bandwidth & many capabilities. For example - my daughter is a Tech: we regularly make commo via satellite using handheld 5 watt radios hooked to handheld Yagi antennas. ..
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Old 8 September 2017, 14:09
Armitage12 Armitage12 is offline
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Picking up on Akheloce's post, it would appear that one's list should include:

(1) Ham radio (or Marine, depending on geography) for transmit and receive.
(a) portable, depending on how you expect to use it
(b) base unit, depending on how you expect to use it
(2) Shortwave, for receive only (news, weather if those bands are included on your receiver)
(3) List of repeaters in the AO (at home, whereever traveling)
(4) FRS/GMRS/MURS as an alternate, for much smaller area of operations
(5) Solid AM/FM old school 'radio'
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Old 8 September 2017, 16:02
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Given "normal" (not in a deep valley or with major obstructions) conditions how far could two certified HAM operators communicate with a Baofeng F8HP on each end?

Is there a way to have private communications once you're certified to use the airwaves or is it all public?
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Old 8 September 2017, 16:28
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I'm just now reading about Simplex and Repeaters.
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Old 8 September 2017, 17:15
Akheloce Akheloce is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EightyDeuce View Post
Given "normal" (not in a deep valley or with major obstructions) conditions how far could two certified HAM operators communicate with a Baofeng F8HP on each end?

Is there a way to have private communications once you're certified to use the airwaves or is it all public?
3 miles or so I think... so many variables it's hard to nail down a distance. Antenna height means a lot. Rubber duck antennas on handhelds suck, and even how you hold it matters.


There is no legal way that I know to keep conversations on HAM bands private.
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Old 8 September 2017, 22:23
Akheloce Akheloce is offline
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Something else I thought of since privacy of comms is a concern of us all...

The "private" channels on FRS and GMRS are NOT PRIVATE. Basically, by selecting the "PL" options on your radios, you are filtering out your reception of other people on the same frequencies. It makes it so you don't have to listen to others, but someone with a scanner, or someone who simply did not select "PL" can hear you.

To summarize, there is no easy way to have secure comms on Amateur Radio, or any other commonly available consumer radio. The best bet is to limit your transmit power to limit the receivability of nefarious persons.
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Old 9 September 2017, 00:13
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You can, however, have basically non-DF-able comms by using HF NVIS...

Secure comms is a whole other bag of wax, not insurmountable but illegal in our functioning society...
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Old 9 September 2017, 05:05
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sixgun View Post
You can, however, have basically non-DF-able comms by using HF NVIS...

Secure comms is a whole other bag of wax, not insurmountable but illegal in our functioning society...
There is some great info about the use of NVIS in WWII (particularly Normandy). Good primer here (the PDF download link for the full text is in the upper right):

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/3874636_Near_vertical_incidence_skywaves_in_World_ War_II_an_historical_perspective

There is more detailed document about NVIS operations on Normandy during D-Day that I believe was published out of Ft Monmonth that anyone with an interest in low power HF on two way firing ranges should read. Unfortunately, I was unable to find it during my 30 seconds of google-fu but it's out there.

Just to be accurate for those that don't know, Sixgun used "basically" for good reason. Everyone thinks of HF as skywave and the NV in NVIS stands for "near vertical" but since it starts at a radio, even a NVIS shot produces a ground wave. One as to control that groundwave in terms of power and attenuation to truly reduce the chance of being DF'd. Given the potential consequences in a denied environment, it's useful to keep this in mind. There is some interesting reading on this in the first half of Spycatcher by Peter Wright.
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Old 9 September 2017, 09:44
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Some general stuff:

Radio range is a function of antenna height. Both the Tx and Rx antennas have too 'see' each other in the electromagnetic spectrum. RF waves are refractive, meaning they 'bend'. The lower the frequency, the more the wave can bend. This bending means that antennas can see each other over the visual horizon. RF waves are also reflective, meaning they bounce off of objects that are RF reflective. The lower the frequency, the more reflective the wave.

In broad, general terms you can get reflective and refractive effects from 3 to 30 MHz, also known as the HF band. In the 30 to 300 MHz (VHF) band the effects taper off at around 100 MHz. Above 100 MHz, it's pretty much line of sight communications. Earth and solar weather conditions can affect the range as well.

Another range limitation is the receiver sensitivity. I didn't lump it with antenna height because Rx sensitivity is a function of build quality. Good receivers are sensitive in the -100 to -120 dB range. You can make your Rx more sensitive (lower dB number) by 'tuning' your antenna to your frequency, or using a directional antenna; or preferably both. The more sensitive your antenna, the farther away you can be from the transmitter; up to the radio LOS limit mentioned above.

The NVIS is a good HF antenna, but its peak performance is about 3 to 8 MHz and tapers to zero effect around 30 MHz. It's great for transmitting over mountain ridges because the skywave is sent straight up and bounces off the ionosphere back down in a cone-shaped pattern (about 300 miles in diameter on the ground). NVIS emissions are hard to direction find because the skywave direction is straight up, so DF stations have to be inside the HF ground wave to get a bearing.

Transmission power, at the antenna, does not affect range; however it does affect signal strength inside the range limits (antenna height and receiver sensitivity). If you transmit an analog signal, the signal usually breaks down into three, highly technical, categories: good, marginal and poor. The closer the Tx and Rx are to each other, the stronger the signal; and vice versa. Digital transmission signals are different, they have good signal strength all the way towards the Rx, then abruptly stop.

Digital signals travel as 1s and 0s on the carrier wave. Ideally, 100% of the bits should arrive at RX. However, there's always a little loss. The digital RX can 'reconstruct' the Tx if the signal didn't lose too many bits. Generally speaking a bit error rate (BER) of 5% or less means the digital signal will be correctly received. This affects the range because the farther away the Tx is from the Rx, the more bits that are lost along the way. So, a digital signal will usually drop in the marginal/poor boundary region of an equivalent analog signal.

So, depending on range limitations:

Analog signal strength will reach farther while fading good-marginal-poor.

Digital signal strength won't reach as far, but the signal strength is good up to the drop off point (5% BER).

A bit long-winded, but the purpose is illustrate the basic factors in radio selection.
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