Monthly Archives: November 2011

Why I only do Indepependent Personal Emcomm….

I’ve been asked why I limit my Emergency Communications involvement to little more than Personal Preparedness?

There is a whole raft of reasons:

Staying off lists.

I’m not interested in being on targeted lists.  In the best of times they lead to requests and demands I may have never intended to offer my services for, and in the worst of times they are ready-made radio confiscation lists.  Perhaps having a bit of  a background in doing the government side of working lists & information has made me edgy, as I basically want to keep my “private citizen, not involved” status whenever possible.

Family, neighbors, coworkers and community come first.

I don’t want to have some semi-official status pulling me away from doing what I have committed to do first – that is taking the best care & contributing where I can for Family, Neighbors, Coworkers and my very local Community first.

Not interested in “playing army” having really been a Soldier.

A real put-off is the paramilitary feel and games some parts of organized Emcomm have taken on.  While I understand the need for discipline and a standard methodology, I have enough experience at the real military that I’m not going to play around pretending I am still in service.

There are other forms of organization, motivation and coordination that can work for a volunteer group rather than the paramilitary model.

Just because you’re licensed longer, take more meds, and have plenty of spare time doesn’t mean I can trust your leadership.

One of the ways people arrive in leadership in many Emcomm groups is to have the time available to them.  This often means the energetic young leaders are expected to follow good folk who circumstances have put a lot of time in their laps.  Not every everyone who has retired, happens to be out of work, or is medically off work, makes a leader a volunteer can trust.  Many are great folks having their first stab at leading volunteers, which can be rather “interesting.”  Unfortunately some are prone to leadership flaws that keep them from being effective.

Demands that I compromise personal safety by disarming to help Emcomm are irresponsible demands.

This is a personal pet peeve.  Maybe these Emcomm Leaders don’t understand he life experiences I have had that leads me to select appropriate protection when prudent, but I am not delegating my individual personal safety to them.  Sitting back in their grant money funded Emcomm bunkers one could argue that they don’t even have enough skin in the game to say anything at all how a rover or home based Emcomm volunteer keeps themselves safe.

This demand to disarm by Emcomm crosses an non-negotiable infringement on how I keep myself safe, and I am certainly not altering my stance to volunteer.

Knowing the games played to place truthful information flow under political control, can a person keep their integrity intact in organized Emcomm?

Time has leaked out so much about the attempts to control information during Katrina – when cellphone systems were shut down to meet information control goals, that one wonders if  they can ethically be part of any repeat?  The moves to obscured transmissions and encrypted internet type traffic for Emcomm is not all about getting the information out there, is it?

I really didn’t get into this hobby to play traffic cop.

I love too much the varied aspects of Amateur Radio and originally became involved for technical interests with a special interest in the old HF long distance aviation navigation system for overseas flights.  I’ve built some of my own gear and have experimented with leading edge (and “bleeding edge”) gear throughout the 20 plus years I’ve been involved.

It wasn’t a civic duty as a focus that drew me to amateur radio.

So what do I do?  Independent Emcomm a.ka. “Freecom”

There is a lot an individual can do to be an Independent Emcomm ready – a Freecom Amateur.  I’d taken almost every ARRL pre-FEMA on-line course, have built up a very modest but well proven portable station and have kept abreast of the latest in Emcomm.

Having a generator and batteries to operate off grid, a selection of portable antennas, and enough gear to go to the field is useful.

Most important though is gaining enough knowledge and technical references to build & repair gear.  And to improvise.

All of this is a lot of fun – from building transceivers to satellite antennas to mobile-shack accessories.

All without attending a meeting, a drill or playing games.



Tagged , , ,

Why going Paid Digital Edition Only ends my Readership – Or You Won’t Get Any Money Out of Me for My Own Clicks and Hits

Why going Paid Digital Edition only ends my Readership?

Or You Won’t Get Any Money Out of Me for My Own Clicks and Hits!

As previously mentioned a few of the longtime Amateur Radio Publications have failed in their present busines models and have chosed to try and subsitute Pail DIgital Editions Only for either formerly free digital readership, or for former print publications.

Perhaps this is the only solution to their cost of good sold issues, where they feel they cannot get enough revenue from combined subscriptions and advertizing to cover costs and provide for profit.

Let’s get past the Pollyanna nonsense claim that the profit isn’t important. In all honesty to the investors – whether one person or publically traded- they need to make a profit to make their resources available for the job.

None of us surely go to work to just cover our costs, expecting to make a bit of profit above our daily costs to set aside to reinvest, spend to enjoy or just save.

Enough basic Adam Smith economics, there is a fundamental set of flaws with the switch to Paid Digital Editions as the only thing I would get for my money.

Tangibility and Durability.

Tangibility in that the Electronic Only version is not something I can touch, I would have to invest more to have a printed copy, I can share it, mark it up (with the pencil in my pocket), and simple hold onto it. I have to have some sort of device to look at it, and usually am dependent on having Internet of some sort.

Durability in that it is good only as long as the copy remains available online, or until the provider disappears/changes servers/has a mega crash/feels like it, and is full subject to revisions at the whim of people who are unlikely to have to tell me that they changed the file – it may be to roll in a correction or to censor something that they decide to exploit commercially. Or any old reason.

And unlike a print copy, that I can go back to years later dust off and reread, you usually need a current subscription to access back issues – even if you had once paid for them in the past!

Trackability and Profiling.

Ok these two exist in print copies, perhaps less so if you have your copies of correspondence sent to a no-name post office box or forwarding service, but at least in print they don’t know how fast I read, home many times I have read it, where I have travelled with a copy on my device, and they don’t construct a personalized marketing campaign based on that information.

Bubble Life.

I will only lightly touch on this, as most of you surely know that the Internet you are shown (more correctly “shown and allowed to see”) is personalized and will be different than what I see. Wonderful tool if you want the net to do your searches presuming that Amateur Radio is your main interest, but not so wonderful when we learn that for a fee someone else can control the whole internet “Bubble” you are allowed in. And again they don’t have to tell you.

Basically I have found Digital Online Editions a welcomed bonus to actual print magazines I subscribe to, but have found that that when forced to only have a Digital Edition that I stop reading the publication.

Excepting very specialist information requiring exceptional timeliness, none of the Digital Edition Only publications have caught my sustained interest.

YMMV of course, and I have friends who say they hate getting paper copies and actively seek out Digital Media.

But that isn’t for me.




Tagged ,

Why I skip the eHam forums

Recently I made a big mistake. I took a half hour to browse through some of the eHam forums.

Finding any nuggets of useful information was difficult as the signal-to-noise level is very heavy on the noise – actually on bad unexcusable undermoderated noise.

In any discussion there are always differing theories, opinions, view of what is fact/not-fact, and preferences. We all bring our personal bias to what we involve ourselves with.

I bring my bias to prefer to discuss facts, and work to a solution to whatever question is at hand – without the need to “prove I am right.”

That need to “be right” is something that we all have, and we’re all better when it isn’t the main reason for our participation in a discussion.

Kept in check it does encourage us to be accurate, fact-check our information, avoid gamesmanship & logical fallacies, and to work to a mutual cooperation hoping the others involved will at least understand our position and views.

Kept in check we can agree to disagree, and learn to share even diametrically opposed views in a “safe way” that lets us remain friends with those we may disagree with.

I was shocked to see little of that ideal in play at the eHam Forums. As a decades seasoned Moderator of forums (do you too remember FidoNet?) I learned that carefully word-crafted Troll Messages still spoil the soup, and a number of openly Troll eHam members were being allowed to run rampant in at least half of the threads I read.

Gallant attempts at fair-minded responses were being met not with a discovery of facts and discussion, but with open name calling and the worst undermining of a forum, the blatant use of Logical Fallacies to cloak the games – not discussions – that are going on.

Perhaps in the end the number of Clicks and Hits is really King, especially when a website needs the advertising revenue to survive.

That does seem to be part of the eHam game.

In discussing what a read with a few others, a positive side did come out – at least the Ham Radio Trolls have their own playground to play in, and hopefully stay away from the rest of the folk.

I should point out that Amateur Radio is not unique for Net Trolls. I have encountered them from the start of the old FidoNet BBS systems and they have always been there.

What is unique about the eHam mess is that usually requiring real names (or requiring call signs) puts a stop to 90% plus of the games.

eHam has attracted Trolls with no self pride who seem to think that we don’t see through their games and see them as wanting.

In this post I’m not putting links, as I haven’t taken time to do the good deed to individually contact the my fellow amateurs to tell them that they are coming over as trolls, nor have I taken the time to complain to the Moderators having found the product reviews enough of a mess that my energy to help eHam has already been spent in that effort.

Rather I publically issue a “Golden Rule” challenge to those involved to moderate those who are leaning towards or who have become Trolls, remove non-factual messages, remove name-calling and ban those Trolls, and actively encourage first hand factual based posting.

I’m hoping they are up to that challenge,



Tagged , ,

Alpha 4040 Automatic Antenna Tuner

Alpha 4040 QRO Antenna Tuner Rendition (Exterior)

Alpha 4040 QRO Antenna Tuner Rendition (Exterior)

Alpha is working on a new Mega-Antenna Tuner.

The custom inductor looks fantastic in both description and rendition.

Alpha 4040 Custom Roller Inductor

Alpha 4040 Custom Roller Inductor

A ways to go with the product:

Alpha 4040 4,000 watt Auto Tuner


IMPORTANT This document contains advance information on a product under development.

All features, functions and specifications contained herein are targets only, and subject to change at any time.

The artwork shown is computer rendered and not actual product pictures.

As we are able, we will post actual photos of the product.

We are accepting pre-orders.

These orders are non-binding, with no deposit necessary. They will be used for two purposes:

1. Gauge the demand so we can purchase enough material to deliver the first production run to interested customers.

2. Build a list of customers so we can deliver these tuners in the order that they are ordered.



The Alpha 4040 4 kilowatt 1.8-30 MHz antenna tuner is nearly complete.

We expect it to ship during the first quarter 2012.

This brochure will give some of the highlights of the product and some insight into the design choices that went into this exciting new tuner, but the design is subject to change.

We are accepting orders on the web site.

To make sure you have an opportunity to look at the actual product specifications before purchasing, orders placed will not require a deposit, and youll have the right to cancel the order any time before shipment.

Alpha Amplifier/RF Concepts is accepting orders on our website and by calling the company so we can determine the approximate number of parts sets we should buy mid next quarter to fulfill the demand for the product. As with many products, delivery estimates may be incorrect.

via Alpha 4040 Automatic Antenna Tuner.

The renderings are really nicely done.

Alpha 4040 QRO Antenna Tuner Rendition (Interior)

Alpha 4040 QRO Antenna Tuner Rendition (Interior)

Will sure would look nice in the radio room!



Tagged , , , ,

GUEST POST – Dale N6JSX on adding a 17m mod to his 18AVT Vertical Antenna

Dale N6JSX/8 sent along a write up of another of his projects.

Enjoy & 73


Hi Steve K9ZW

Well since I have time to do some HAM stuff I’ve wanted to do for a long time…. this task was to remount my HF Hygain 18AVT 5-band Vertical.

Recently we installed on the property a dog-proof fence. I figured I’d experiment and see if the fence could be multi-functional.

My 18AVT was last setup in CA (1985-1992), so I had to do some refurbishment and use Penatrox to make good.

My experiment was to use the fence as a counterpoise since the 5′ chain-link is buried 1′ making it 4′ high with fence poles driven 3′ deep.

This time I added an Ugly Balun (4″ PVC with 26 turns of RG-8x). Used my MFJ-269 to tune up all bands – 10/15/20/40/80m. I have a 3KW MFJ-989c Tuner to move the 1:1.2 @ 3825 up and down the band – works well.

I was amazed how well it initially worked talking to EU/JA/Med the first day, with ease on 10/20/40m.

I was really surprised, didn’t expect it to work so well.The only issue was the high winds this week that required I add guy ropes for improved stability.

My favorite band is 17m and the 18AVT does not work it at all. This week I came across an article of how to add elements to a vertical.

My 18AVT now sports 17m (12.5′ quarter wave). I used the MFJ-269 to tweaked in the wire length to be flat across the 17m SSB band. See attached pics.

From the article’s descriptionl I designed my own element brackets, I installed/tested it by late afternoon —-> WOW it works slick.

It is very easy to build & attach to the vertical. (I intend to replace the 17m wire later – installing a small SS spring to the PVC attachment and get rid of the rope.)

I now have a 6-band vertical.

They say Vertical polarization has some advantages for DX and Digital, well I will see, but so far so good.

So if you pick up a clunker 4-5BTV, using these pics it should be easy for you to install additional bands, like 17/12m elements.

My next antenna project is making a 17m mono-yagi, it will be a 2 or 3-element beam using 17m HamSticks. When I get my tower up I’ll place it above my A4S tri-band.


Dale N6JSX/8

Tagged , , ,

Suggested Audio listen – World War II Radio Heroes

If you can make time to listen to these short lectures and readings from a book about WWII Shortwave Listeners who reported about the POWs Germany was holding, you too may find it as moving as I did.

Lisa speaks of reading these old letters in any given session only until the tears came.

Hope you find it interesting,



Part I

This week: New ham Lisa Spahr tells the story behind her book World War II Radio Heroes (Part 1, 13 minutes)
The RAIN Report for 11-04-2011

Part II

This week: New ham Lisa Spahr concludes telling the story behind her book World War II Radio Heroes (Part 2, 14 minutes)

The RAIN Report for 11-11-2011

Tagged ,