Author Archives: k9zw

Thinking Ahead – The differences between Security, Privacy, and Anonymity as an Amateur Radio Operator

The Thinking Ahead Series started with

Security, Privacy, and Anonymity in terms of ham radio are interesting concerns.

Anonymity is pretty much a lost cause, unless operating using tactical call signs. These alternative call signs may be authorized in an emergency or may be used less officially in times of duress. Tactical Call Signs aside, if you are using your own call sign every time you identify you lose your anonymity. This may make a case for using say the club station call to remain anonymous. Our local club had W9DK as a call, and perhaps you using W9DK-Tiger and W9DK-Bear for different club activation entities rather than you own call sign.

Why the anonymity?

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What makes a Ham? Tributes to the Mentors in One’s Life

Last night I received the phone call that another of the mentors in my life, Joe as mentioned below, had died. Back when he was first put on Hospice I had written but not posted:

Just spoke my long distance to another of my life’s mentors.  Unfortunately he was heavily medicated and in hospice.

I have people tell me that the friends you make and keep, help define you.  I would add to that phrase that those under whom you received mentorship helped make you.

I was also told that as you entered your fifties that you should keep a somber suit on the ready, as those who mentored you will gradually see their lives end.

Some of those who have mentored me are in fine fettle, like my father and my ham radio friends, so their tributes wait for another day.

Some, like CWO4 Joe H, who had major influences on my development are ill as I write.  Joe is one I just called.

Others like both my grandfathers – Sig and Spike – and my graduate school tutor Dr Norman Powell have been gone for some years.

Others who worked with me in important but less expansively in scope, have also departed.

My flying buddy Rick died after a hospice period just a few weeks ago.

My (West) German police buddy Gerhard died early from a brain tumor.  As did my British colleague and study buddy John C, who expired bicycling from an brain aneurysm cycling in the Lake District.

Throughout our lives we learn from others. Some passively but the best learning is more actively in a mentored relationship.

Often members of one’s family play a major role, and in my case I must thank my father for much of the drive and character he imparted on me. Truly a life-long mentor.

From these other mentors I learned things counterintelligence, systems theory, photography, working with tools, philosophy, much about the human condition, how to be at peace with adversity, and more.  Mentors every last one.

The worry is not that their time has finished and that they are now not an active part of my life, but that the worry is “am I mentor enough to others to have been worthy of their tutorage?”

In ham radio I am not so very certain if I have.  While I’ve encouraged a few people to pursue their hobby the feeling that one is an actual mentor (“Elmer” in ham-speak) eludes. This blog is a stop-gap at best.

Time for some personal deep thinking.



Second ZeroFive Flagpole Antenna Commissioned

My Washington Island QTH’s ZeroFive Flagpole antenna is ON THE AIR!  Yeah!!

This has been a silly long project, with the antenna waiting for a year to be put up, then two seasons where the conduit wasn’t getting installed, the lost “virus season” and finally this season being put on the air.

Hitting bedrock and the flagpole base:

Putting in the radials:

Correcting the antenna end of the conduits:

The conduit has been a troublesome part with the route being different than originally sketched, the electrician involved being taken away due to an extended family emergency, and my foot dragging to boot.

Conduit Ends as Left for My Work

Hmm, how to figure out where to run them inside?

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Your ISP Must Pass All Needed Traffic to Do Remote

Been receiving reports from other amateurs on Washington Island that the once dominant ISP for the Island is not compatible with remote FlexRadio operations. Door County Broadband (DCBB) simply will not pass all the traffic types needed to do a remote connection, and when asked to pass the traffic simply say “no.”

I haven’t had reason to directly speak to Door County Broadband in some years, as I had hit this wall with them trying to configure George W9EVT’s internet for remote access.

Technically the DCBB setup blocks the port forwarding process which scuttles SmartLink.

On-Island internet options that are presently not Flex-Ready are:

Marginal for SmartLink use:

Frontier Communications aDSL – I have this and when the system is working well I can do remote from the Island station. Usually I can access my mainland stations over Frontier. It unfortunately goes down often, usually peak-load weekends when we are on the Island or during storms. Achieved throughput is a fraction of the advertised/purchased, and you need to be on the Island during the work week to get it serviced, so ours doesn’t get fixed.

Possibilities on the Horizon:

  • Island Fiber” – the physical underwater link is laid, as is a limited underground setup for a small part of the Island. Grants, resulting build-outs and connections are needed to light the fiber. If your home is in the test area, you might get Gigabyte-to-Desk in a year or so. For the rest of the island fiber hooked to the existing systems should also offer improvements, though perhaps more in reliability and non-speed aspects. The new fiber may well kill off the DCBB wireless option for much of the island, while making the WISP (Wireless ISP) options like US Cellular and Blazing Hog more viable.
  • Full Constellation” Starlink – the are some rumblings that a dual-antenna setup when the full constellation of satellites is operational may mitigate the buffering, latency and satellite switch drop-outs.

While the Island is RF-quiet making it a great place to operate from, doing remote to an Island station remains challenging. Oh, that the power goes out fairly often (momentarily a couple times a week, 15 minutes or longer about monthly) doesn’t help. While you can do batteries or a generator, the internet often seems to be down at the same time.



W9DXCC – Taking a 2021 Pass – Mask Mandates and Risks

Just cancelled out of the 2021 W9DXCC this morning.

The Illinois new Mask Mandate was the tipping point, as spending a couple days Masked-Up doesn’t appeal, but more importantly the new Mask Mandate is an indicator that the CCP-19 Virus transmission rates in Illinois are high enough to reconsider “should I be doing this?”

The W9DXCC website includes information on how to cancel and if you made hotel reservations through the W9DXCC website you need that confirmation number when you call the event hotel to cancel. Deadlines are by September 5th for the event and 24 hours before arrival for the hotel, in my case.

As my XYL was increasing on edge about her joining me at the event prior to the new Mask Mandate, cancelling resolves some simmering domestic unease.

Learned that several others I had hoped to see at the 2021 W9DXCC have also canceled – N6JSX and KE9V emailed me that they had arrived at the same conclusion, and had canceled.

Hopefully we will have better conditions for future W9DXCC events.



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Non-Radio – Travel to England Virus Rules (August 2021)

An atypical post for With Varying Frequency, as the XYL made a priority Elder-care trip to England, which was booked immediately when the British Government announced elimination of the ten-day isolation quarantine when arriving in England from the USA.  What follows was my running notes as posted in a travel forum.  Despite the forum’s claimed large traveler participation, as the XYL left immediately on the rule change, we were the first timers in the process.  

As the rules, apps, and experience will evolve, they are offered as an accounting of the XYL’s August 2021 trip alone.   I am offering this here as many of us travel, and some might be contemplating travel for radio opportunities or DXpedition reasons.  Worth thinking about – and knowing if you break the rules or mess it up, you can be fined in the English case some thing like $7,000/person, put into quarantine until you can be sent home and have your future UK access put into question.  

This trip was a success though worrisome, and required a couple extra tests at the end as the XYL’s host was Pinged by the NHS (National Health Service) App during the period they were working together to help the XYL’s parents.  So out of caution a couple extra tests were taken.  



Navigating the UK Gov website, Airline Website and juggling all the documents is a bit of a tricky deal.

Not all are properly updated as of Monday August 2nd 2021, the selfie photograph taking part of the UK Gov site has a mind of its
own, and it is hard to answer some of the questions as they are already outdated.

Expect this will get better as the updates to websites are completed/harmonized.

Some really silly stuff like the email from the UK Gov has a pdf attachment that cannot be opened on latest iOS USA configured
phones, but can be opened once to save it to a desktop computer and then resend it back to yourself. I simply don’t have time to dig
into that error, as the workaround takes longer to write up to share than do for yourself.

Current rule extra costs up to the point of travel (so far):

  • About 14 hours of extra time spent.
  • Local C-19 test (out of pocket unknown)
  • Day-2 C-19 test – best deal found about UKP 85 (uses DHL delivery)
  • Extra Insurance (our choice, again we use EA+) – $105/pp

Expected additional costs:

  • Less than 4 hours anticipated for test and games
  • Pre-Return C-19 test – another UKP 85 (unless a better deal is found)

That is if everything goes well.

Summary – about an extra $400-500 per person C-19 “drag” for 3 tests and extra insurance.

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