Tag Archives: Freecom

Something to tuck away for rainy day: Popeye’s Guide to PSK the natural way

From the good folk at Radio Free Redoubt, this PDF explains how to listen to PSK – a very interesting, and in case of emergency potentially very important, amateur radio digital mode – with a receiver with some earbuds, a computer with fldigi and a piece of tape.

The PDF is “Popeye’s” article with the comments distilled into an paragraph appendix.

Of course other PSK software will work. The fldigi selection is solid and it is available for a lot of platforms.

This works – at our club we’ve done a demo doing it this way, including adding the other link between the computer & in our case transceiver to do the transmit side.

The technique fits very well with the Freecom idea of personal preparedness.

Source URL for fldigi http://www.w1hkj.com/

Download URL for fldigi (Linux, Windows, OS X, Puppy Linux and Source) http://www.w1hkj.com/download.html

Original Post at Radio Free Redoubt http://radiofreeredoubt.blogspot.com/2012/03/how-to-receive-ham-radio-digital.html

The Radio Free Redoubt main page http://radiofreeredoubt.blogspot.com/ (expected to change this Spring to http://www.radiofreeredoubt.com/ – that URL is presently in testing and will make their website MUCH more readable!)

Tuck this away for rainy day. It is worth downloading the fldigi program mentioned, as a “just in case.”

Of course you can try this now too!




LINK to the PDF: Popeye’s Guide to PSK the natural way.pdf

Tagged , , , ,

Radio Free Redoubt: AmRRON & The American Redoubt Network

A very interesting Freecom-style emergency network:


AmRRON is a network of Redoubters who have volunteered take their American Redoubt Network involvement to another level. These are patriots (men and women) who have volunteered to use their communications equipment to keep the American Redoubt connected when other means of communications (aka. “Comms” or “Commo” are unavailable or unreliable.
There are two types of AmRRON volunteers (Radio Operators):
1. HAM OPERATORS (or licensed Amateur Radio Operators)

HAM OPERATORS: Use their equipment and skills to keep the American Redoubt connected and informed, to coordinate the efforts of Redoubters, and to promote the American Redoubt movement. Many of them have capabilities that allow them to stay connected across the entire American Redoubt, as well as with other Redoubters and patriots (and other redoubts that will emerge in the future) across the country and even in other countries. They may also relay relevant information, alerts, coordination of efforts, and promotion of the American Redoubt movement to Redoubters in their local area using the CH3 Project frequencies. The frequency bands that are covered by many Ham Operators include HF (shortwave), 2m, 72cm, CB, FRS/GMRS, and MURS. The AmRRON frequencies are outlined in the AmRRON Frequency Plan on a separate site set up for those joining the American Redoubt Network.

RELAYS: A Ham Operator can also volunteer to be a “Relay,” which is encouraged. But Relays are typically Redoubters who have volunteered to monitor for radio traffic from other Redoubters, and then Relay that information across their local area, or to a Ham Operator, who can then pass the information on to others in the network. Most Relays have at LEAST one type of CH3 Project communications, such as a CB (Citizens Band radio), FRS (Family Radio Service), or MURS (Multi-Use Radio System). But they generally SHOULD have some type of communications that can monitor for radio traffic from Ham Operators, such as a high quality shortwave radio or a police scanner (typically from 30mhz to 800mhz). This way they can hear traffic from many, many miles away and relay that to Redoubters in their local area using CH3. The AmRRON frequencies are outlined in the AmRRON Frequency Plan on a separate site set up for those joining the American Redoubt Network.




Tagged , , ,

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 , , ,

Personal Emergency Communication Preparedness for a Modern Radio Amateur the Freecomm Way

What is the Radio Amateur’s responsibility for Personal Emergency Communication Preparedness?

Yeah, let’s get that answered and out of the way.

In absolutes their responsibility is “none” – zero, nada, zilch – none.

Personal Emergency Communications Preparedness, even for those of us who are ARRL members, is not a requirement.

[ Wipe Brow and Sigh here ]

That out of the way, it would be an extraordinary Radio Amateur who didn’t have some level of interest in Personal Emergency Communication Preparedness.

That interest could range from simply being glad there are ARES/RACES Groups, to having a grid-independent multi-mode station with portable personal go-packs.

What you do is completely up to your interests, resources, whims and desires.

Some years ago the Freecomm idea of active Personal Emergency Communication Preparedness without the formal structures & obligations was floated.

As a response to the increasing professionalization of existing Emcomm organizations the Freecomm idea is to share techniques, operating pricinples and ideas, without an imposed hierarchy and operating procedure.

Freecomm is most able to use innovative techniques and adaptive structure to accomplish Amateur Radio’s emergency communication desires, where Emcomm is about meeting the served agencies’ requirements in the ways & methods they dictate.

It could be argued that Freecomm is Emergency Communications for the True Patriots in our society.

Very curious what readers think of the distinction – am I making too much of the Freecomm/Emcomm difference, or is it as important as I’m seeing?

Comments welcome,



Tagged , , ,

A Decade of Remembrance and Our War with Ourselves

Today our prayers and thoughts are with those who perished and also those who were touched by the Terrorist attacks ten years ago today in New York.

God’s Mercy on those who died, were injured or had their loved ones taken from them.

It was a wake-up call to two tiers of evil – a religion infected with evil doers who were the terrorists, and that greater religious body that did little to take care of the evil sheltering itself under their mantle.

It was also a wake-up call that it seems we’ve never lost our fear of the “monster under the bed” leading us to all sorts of self-imposed limitations on our society, and curiously we fear death enough to not properly & freely live our own lives.

Many aspects of the changes we have inflicted upon ourselves are subtle – monitoring what books are checked out at the library & reporting it to authorities, the hassle to renew a passport or the new oilfield worker’s cards, – and some are very overt – Police Units with their own tanks, the Military Units moving with Government VIPs creating virtual no-go zones during visits inside their own country.

Some seem so daft – like the book reporting.  You have to question this as would recent immigrants bent on terrorism even have the language skills to check out complex studies of their own doctrine in what is to them a foreign language? Or wouldn’t they already be indoctrinated before they set off from their homes to our country for a mission?  And why would they break tradecraft to set off an alert system, unless it was just to yank our chains?

We’ve greatly spent the decade in negotiations – negotiations against ourselves on why we should accept all sorts of unconstitutional set-asides, why we should abridge our inalienable rights, and why we should accept limits to our lives to fight terrorism.

It could be argued that our Hobby has been degraded little, perhaps in response to the support Amateur Radio gave to all the post-9/11 communications needs and the role it played in the response to the actual event.

Or has it?

Today many repeaters are now grant money sponsored and now located where Government holds control of the on-off switch.  We’ve periodically been asked to listen for “chatter.”  We’ve made participation in Emcomm subject to various “reliability” background checks and Government training to “indoctrinate” to not our hobby’s standards, but to the government’s plans.

We’ve negotiated away some of our hobby’s Liberties with barely a whimper.

That is minor compared to the games played spending millions imposing various security programs on the populace & workplace, which here in the Heartlands misses that it seems that our risks remain higher from government mistakes (like the gunrunner fiasco) than external threats.

We’re building all sorts of Emergency Centers of various types, justifying with the false illusion that the “money is free” rather than recognizing we paid in taxes for these white elephants.

We remain at war with ourselves, diverting our rights & money against an imagined foe – that “monster under the bed” – rather than decisively dealing with those who support terrorism (for which pushbutton weaponry should be intended) and imagining that we can either effectively or economically police the world.

Even the lose of some few thousands – a fraction of what we loose to Heart Disease and Cancer EACH AND EVERY DAY in this country – should not have brought our economy to its knees.

It is “We” who brought the economy down to its knees by being afraid, and by doing to ourselves the damage the terrorists could never actually do.

Our media holds much guilt for the spread of fear and its results.

As do we as citizenry for basically wanting to believe we were somehow doomed for a single attack on the innocent.

Not even a hundred of such attacks should ever take down our spirits, or lead to our giving up our inalienable rights to mischief done by our own leaders under the false flag of a security for all we know they can never begin to deliver.

We pray today for those who were lost, and who lost their health and who lost their family members.

We also pray for our own weaknesses and that after a decade of fighting ourselves that we will again put our principles and trust in those principles ahead of fears we imagine in our weak moments.



Tagged , , , ,

First Winter Storm and the Tough Lessons Learned at the K9ZW QTH

A week ago we would have had power back on for only a few hours, and we were still facing a huge task of digging out. Even now a week plus later not everything is back running.

Here are some of the lessons learned:  (Many are NOT amateur radio, but more general preparedness)

Power & Water

Though I have a Generator, it is still in the factory box and I haven’t completed the switch-over/isolation wiring to run the essentials in the house. In our case we need to have control power for everything running on natural gas, except the gas fireplace. Needing fan & pump power are the gas furnace and the gas boiler/hot-water heater. Found that our kitchen gas cook stove has to have power to work, so need that added to the emergency power circuit.

We need to complete the wiring, put our stored fuel on a rotated used & stabilized storage system and set up a dedicated generator spot. The way it was snowing & sleeting a casual “outside” simply wouldn’t work.

Much of our house is plumbed differently than many homes, as we used circulating service loops with small pumps. This way when you turn on hot or cold water you have it RIGHT now and circulating water is much more robust resisting freeze-ups in the deep cold snaps that “bleed” cold even through insulated areas. These pumps all go still with the power out. We need to add them to the items supplied by emergency power and add check-valves to convert them to regular service-supply feeds if we want to run pumps off. I also should add isolation valves and drain-cocks if we want to discontinue use of an area due to cold. Most of this is PEX, so adding/altering is no big deal. Will need a chart to help someone unfamiliar deal with the system.

Some of areas of heat are also run by pumps feeding in-floor water pipes. I am told there are one-way check valves that can be added to help heat alone force some circulation and these pumps should be added to the emergency circuits.

Our house has an extensive inter-connected hardwired Smoke/Fire/Carbon-monoxied alarm system with battery back up. We’ve learned that after 2-3 hours of no power the very slight initial drop in battery is sensed as an all system alert setting the audible part off (think LOUD) but not the strobes. Pulling enough batteries to drop the system voltage below the minimum run level is the only silencing, which ends our protection. A couple things need to happen here – need to add stand alone battery only alarms at the most critical places and need to add the wired system to the emergency circuit if we run by generator for a while.

So highlights of power & water:

  • Finish the emergency circuit wiring
  • Create a Generator Spot
  • Set Up and Test the Generator
  • Add battery-only Smoke/Fire/CO alarms
  • Do some plumbing modifications

Lights, Flashlights & Communications

We lost internet as the small UPS we have didn’t keep it up. We lost cable and it turns out the cable service itself was down for 24 hours. I never bothered to pull out the line-powered phones we had, as we had put them in storage off-site – so we had no land-line. Ditto with my battery Shortwave Grundig which is stored with the camping gear. It also turns out that two of the local radio stations were dark (off-air) and the only ones running were remote streaming feed garbage (no real information). I didn’t bother with my HTs (2 meter hand held radios) as the one working repeater (the other was obviously down as it doesn’t have back-up power) would be heavily tasked for emergency use, and I wouldn’t even consider going out unless part of a team with a snow-plow.

My ham station was down as the remote antenna switch would require some power to lift the grounding shunts, but with the antennas covered in massive ice they were not usable in the first place. All the SDR (Computer Controlled Software Defined Radio) gear needs mains power, though we have adequate field gear that can run on about anything 12v DC. My go-kit antennas were also useless with 40 mph winds, below zero windchills, and icy-snow that would collapse what ever went up in moments. That there was lightening we could see (many snow storms are electrically very active) meant it was a “really bad idea” to play winter antennas.

So we had nearly no communications, except our 3G phones were working. We’ve a Blackberry and two Androids in the house, so we did have basic net access and emergency phone, but no way to recharge the batteries if we used them up.

I am keen on Surefire flashlights, which run on 3v CR123A Lithium batteries. Found that we had worked our way through a 75 battery backup pack and had only a handful left. Ditto on AAA, AA, D and 9v batteries. My two-bin discipline (buy more when we break into the bulk pack that takes us below our expected emergency reserves) had broken down through household misunderstanding and forgetfulness (to even tell me!), leaving us with diddle for reserves. Not an issue for this short outage, but we’d go dark in a few days rather than in a month. We similarly had depleted our candle stocks. I didn’t break into my Propane lanterns & camp gear, which is my back-up to the back-ups, though we’d have to in a day or two if the storm had stayed on.

Also found that the non-aircraft landing light power level flashlights had become victims of “let lay where last used” and were mostly “tubes to store dead batteries” or broken.

So highlights of lights, flashlights and communications:

  • Have already replenished the battery stocks and will placard the drawer with two-bin instructions. Will also add to a monthly checklist.
  • Bought two e-cheapo Sony AM/FM radios which will run on about anything 3v (meant for two AAs but a pigtail would let use run one on a single CR123A or a pair of just about any common batteries.
  • Will build several Joule-Thief Lights – a design that will milk the last power out of a battery often giving hours of reading light from cell too dead to power anything else.
  • Have replenished the low-power flashlight supply.
  • Bought a camping candle lantern with 16 9-hour candles. Will add to that stock down the road.
  • Bought an old-fashion oil-lamp, as the lamp oil we have on hand really needed a lamp to use.
  • Will put at least some sort of foul weather antenna system up. This is going to be tough and need some thought.
  • Also making a list of back-up supplies we need for these items and will relocate the camping stores to at home, rather than our storage unit.

Food and Drink

It is hard to go into this one without being crabby. I am a full larder sort of person and my English better half is accustomed to shopping nearly every day for fresh foods like they do in Europe. This storm was VERY announced, though it was several times worse than predicted. She simply blew off the stock-up shopping we made a shopping list for. This cross cultural misunderstanding of the severity of the situation left us with perhaps 48 hours of ready-to-eat foods before we would either need to get some sort of stove running and/or dig into emergency stocks. I simply don’t want to eat MREs or dig into my 30 day plus full-family freeze-dry food stores – which really need to have a stove to become something decent.

We did happen to have six cases of oranges & pears from a fund raiser on hand, so we’d do ok as long as they didn’t freeze solid.

Basically we lacked a way to cook unless I broke out the camping propane stove mentioned above. Using the outdoor grill in near gale winds wasn’t happening.

Water pressure never varied. I have learned that the sort of infrastructure power outage we had would cause water problems eventually. We basically haven’t addressed this other than having dry-containers on hand from camping.

So highlights of food and drink:

  • The pre-event shopping list WILL be adhered to. Think this storm did make an impression that we could be facing more than convenience issues by not keeping a storm season larder full.
  • Setting up a Minimum Larder list – not just for this, but because I am too often crabby when I cook because we’ve run out of something important, or have some Euro-Micro-Package on hand instead of a real supply.
  • Adding a dutch oven sized to fit in our wood fireplace as an addition to the camping gear for cooking.
  • Adding some water purification supplies (simple bleach works too) as we can always melt snow (it takes a HUGE amount of snow to make much water though – but if we are stuck here, it isn’t like we have too much else to do.
  • Adding more MRE type rations that can be eaten cold in a pinch.

Additional Heat & Warmth Items:

We have several full cords of wood on hand, though we’ve learned we cannot run the wood and gas fireplaces at the same time. This needs to be corrected. Our wood fireplace throws heat, but is very lossy in terms of net heat gain and use of exchange air. We could make it roughly 3-4 weeks on wood alone as it is.

Fuel for the camping gear was limited to the case of throw away tanks I had on hand. Simple not enough. My two 20 Lb tanks were 1/2 full and nearly empty (they are used for our Mosquito Magnets) and the charcoal starter tank on the grill was empty. No way to move between tank sizes anyway. This has to be fixed.

Our front Entry area is COLD! Single portal and while fashionable an energy pig. Every time someone had to go in or out we had a huge cold blow into the house that could be felt everywhere. This will change at our next remodeling phase.

We have several large glass sliding doors which give us Glass Heat Loss that is expensive at best and unacceptable in an emergency. Options are to have insulation panels on hand or swap them out for something else.

Hindsight we lacked a way to warm someone with hypothermia or frostbite. Only the gas fireplace and what hot water was in the system that might flow without pumps running. Bad oversight.

Also lack back-ups to the main systems. Electric space heaters are useless without power. Need some kerosene and LP heaters.

Summary of additional Heat & Warmth Items:

  • Put in a wood shed with another large supply.
  • Sort out the draft/draw issues, including replacing the wood fireplace with something efficient if need be.
  • Get the adaptors to use any propane for any use, and keep extra tanks full. (BTW propane is not a cold weather savior if it is cold enough – simply won’t vaporize fast enough).
  • Sort out the front door area. Have had it in plans for several years. On a interim basis create a blanket portal (people sized cat-flaps) that can be put up if needed.
  • The large glass will also be replaced at remodel. For now create & store “energy panels” to insulate & protect them. These can double a security closures.
  • Put in a supply of heat packs for emergency use to treat hypothermia or frostbite. These are cheap after hunting season when bought by the case-lot and store forever.
  • Buy a couple fuel-burning portable heaters. The type that can run self-contained in an occupied room would be best. Put in a stock of fuel for them.

Additional Logistic Items:

We found that our Garage Doors disconnects were impossible to reach with the vehicles in the garage without climbing over vehicles to get the cords. Simple fix to add a “cheater” to the side.

Stuck Vehicles were an issue – I stuck my 4×4 Suburban with the wet snow building up & lifting the weight off. With two inches of glaze ice under the snow I was beached! Found that we hadn’t enough Carpet Scraps & or Pails of Sand to do any good.

Went to fix some things that the wind had started to tear up and ended up asking family “Where are my Tools?” The same use it and leave it lay had happened to my tool box. Working 70+ hours a week I hadn’t even been in my box for a while, and while grateful that they take initiative to do household fit-it jobs, the leave it lay is not going to work. Have to change the family culture on this.

As we talked we realized we really don’t we have Charity Stocks to aid our neighbors – what provisions we put up were scaled for five. Believing we do have a moral obligation to help in time of need, we had left ourselves ill equipped to live to our goals.

You put my boots where??!! Yes we had put up some winter gear in cupboards that couldn’t be opened until vehicles were out of the garage, which needed the huge snowfall to be cleared, which was a task you should wear your winter weather gear – including boots – for safety, but they were blocked in the cupboard which …..

Thoughts on additional logistical items:

  • Extend the garage disconnects with paracord. This can be done pretty easy. BTW if you have disconnects your garage is NOT secure. Ten Seconds with a long stiff wire and your door is open in most cases.
  • Putting up a half-dozen pails of winter sand. Could have used all the expensive sweeping compounds and gardening bag stuff, but good old sand is best. Will scrounge scraps to have on hand (better half dumped the ones I had, her thinking they were clutter & junk).
  • Change the Tool Culture here at home, or will lock up a basic supply. Can get crabby in under two seconds thinking about this one.
  • Charity Stocks is a BIG DEAL that we will start to address with additions to our supplies. Big priority!
  • Do a dry-run on things like accessing winter gear. Never thought of the conflict with the vehicles in the way. Had spares elsewhere, but the best winter gear should have been handy.

If you’ve stuck with me in this self-assesment and laundry list of “to do items” you are likely thinking of some more things – yes our first aid kits needs refilling and out of date stuff pitched out, and one of the vehicles didn’t get its fuel tank filled before the storm.

And you might be thinking of items that apply for your situation.

We have based our planning on:

  • 100% basic self-sufficency for very short term periods (less than 72 hours).
  • Basic self-sufficiency for a month on a basically self-contained basis for 30 days using stores I have in a storage unit (never put all your eggs in one basket – this way if the house were to burn we would not loose all our preparedness stores).
  • Adequate Charity Stocks to help an family/neighbor in that 72-hour to short term time frame, even if it meant cutting into our 30-day reserves quicker.
  • A long term goal of having longer self-contained supplies and enough information/tools/supplies to be able to help out others in a bigger way.

We’re not scaling to be longterm survivalists or to go off-grid in the city. And that would be a separate discussion and plan if we were.



Tagged , , ,

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 799 other followers