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Welcome To IOTA NA-178 Mission Control
February 15, 2006 3:41 PM   Subscribe

Welcome To IOTA NA-178 Mission Control On behalf of IOTA Ham operators WorldWide, the SouthEast Farallon Island - Project NA-178 HAMS HELPING HABITATS project (conducted by K6VVA & K9AJ) will assist the Farallon National Wildlife Refuge ("The Refuge") by transporting materials and equipment via helicopter from the mainland for an important habitat restoration project on SouthEast Farallon Island ("SEFI"), as well as the return of old unwanted infrastructure water pipe from the Island for disposal.

If you thought Eco-tourism was passe, try a DX-pedition! Of course hams have also put their personal concerns aside for other things, such as helping provide emergency communications during natural disasters. One thing you might not realize is our penchant for broadband Internet via BPL (Broadband over Power Lines) may interfere with this hobby of radio enthusiasts.
posted by jackspace (34 comments total)

 
I had the good fortune of contacting K6VVA last night on 7.004MHz CW (Morse Code). 73 de K6JEB
posted by jackspace at 3:42 PM on February 15, 2006


"Internet via BPL (Broadband over Power Lines)"? I was under the impression this was still a pipe-dream. Or, is the ARRL trying to nip it in the bud? WB2MMR here....off the air since 1982 and counting...
posted by ParisParamus at 3:56 PM on February 15, 2006


The ARRL has been trying to work with the BPL folks by doing testing right there at W1AW. Apparently there are already a few models in place which are causing quite a ruckus.

Of course I'm torn because I think BPL would bring broadband to a wider audience, and would possibly even satisfy my selfish endeavors when I move out of the urban zone and into a QTH (location) with less QRN (noise, usually static) and QRM (usually interference caused by other stations).

I'm glad we can agree on something Paris. :) 73 de K6JEB
posted by jackspace at 4:04 PM on February 15, 2006


In the event of a disaster, the powerlines are likely to be down making BPL useless. The couple of hams I knew had generators and/or UPSs.

Any more, if you're worried about emergency communication, just get a cell phone. Mine has 20 days standby time/5 hours talk time. If that's not enough, then you'd better have a gun handy.
posted by skeeter1 at 4:38 PM on February 15, 2006


Hey, wb paris!
posted by delmoi at 4:58 PM on February 15, 2006


Any more, if you're worried about emergency communication, just get a cell phone.

Sucker bet. Your battery will last much longer than the battery of the typical cell tower. In a large area disaster, like a flood, you'll find the cell network collapsing quickly from a combination of cell tower failures and network overload cause by everyone trying to use cell phones.

Cell phones are networks, subject to network problems. HAMS are able to run two-way point to point, and many have built very self-reliable stations. Long after power and phones have fallen, hams are still on the air sending reports.

This is also one of the reason the feds keep EAS around -- building a few reliable stations and cheap, simple recievers is much easier than building a reliable network.
posted by eriko at 5:04 PM on February 15, 2006


Amateurs are really valuable, but I wish amateur radio could still be exciting, but it just can't; communication is just too damn ubiquitous these days. I must confess, however, that I still lust to get on 75meter AM with a highly modified hi-fidelity-ish signal....of course, no one knows what I am talking about, but what else is new in these parts...
posted by ParisParamus at 5:21 PM on February 15, 2006


dit-dit-dit-dit dit-dit
posted by jackspace at 5:31 PM on February 15, 2006


Once upon a time, discoving that you could speak to Japan through the air from your bedroom was incredible. Even, sometimes with a wire coat hanger.
posted by ParisParamus at 5:33 PM on February 15, 2006


Hey - this ham radio thing...is it kinda like a cell phone?
posted by Baby_Balrog at 5:35 PM on February 15, 2006


I dunno Paris, I got back into it after a fifteen year hiatus (got into chasing girls instead of DX) and although at the first few glances, it seems like ham radio hasn't made much progress during that time, if you look closely, there are a lot of coolt hings to get into. For instance, now you can work the AO-51 satellite using not much more than a hand-held 'handi-talkie' and preferably a decent antenna.

Is it just about talking? Not really. I guess it's more about understanding how these different communications work. In these days when every single moment of our lives is commodified into 'how can I make this time productive', ham radio provides, at least for some, a 'productivity-free zone'. It's the one aspect of my life which I can spend some relatively politics-free time. And it's also a hobby which I happily waste time knowing I won't and wouldn't want to make a red-cent from. It's just plain old fun!

(dismantling soap-tower)
posted by jackspace at 5:39 PM on February 15, 2006


Any more, if you're worried about emergency communication, just get a cell phone.

Until the tower goes out.

Or the network goes down.

Or if you're somewhere where there isn't cell coverage. There are still areas like that. (F'rex, where I live. Or the place we vacation.) Western Alaska has lots of ham radio operators. The nearest cell coverage is Anchorage, two hours away by plane.

During the Great NorthEastern blackout a couple of summers ago, the land phone lines came back before the cells did.
posted by jlkr at 6:09 PM on February 15, 2006


73 DE WB2KHA
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:15 PM on February 15, 2006


Ham Radio culture is retarded. Get over it, dorks, the internet ate your lunch. BPL is a bad idea, but whenever hams get all "EMERGENCY COMMUNICATIONS! YOU NEED US! WE'RE IMPORTANT, RIGHT?" all I can do is laugh at them.

Technologically, It's kind of cool, but the whole culture around it needs to crawl back into it's mother's basement.
posted by blasdelf at 7:27 PM on February 15, 2006


that I still lust to get on 75meter AM with a highly modified hi-fidelity-ish signal

Hyar, matey, there's music to be played!
posted by eriko at 7:44 PM on February 15, 2006


??? eriko.
posted by ParisParamus at 7:46 PM on February 15, 2006


nope. No pirate radio. There's a subculture of Radio Amateurs who build their own equiptment and/or restore 1950's and 60's vintage am equiptment. Then they sit around and have conversations up and down the East Coast. No music. 75meters, 3.885mhz.
posted by ParisParamus at 7:56 PM on February 15, 2006


"Technologically, It's kind of cool, but the whole culture around it needs to crawl back into it's mother's basement.
posted by blasdelf at 10:27 PM EST on February 15 [!]"

That's about right. Only if extraterrestrials are discovered, or we colonize Mars or the moon, will Amateur radio will again be neat...
posted by ParisParamus at 7:58 PM on February 15, 2006


"Ham Radio culture is retarded. Get over it, dorks, the internet ate your lunch."

What about the culture is retarded? I'm not a ham myself, but my Father-in-law is a dealer here in North Jersey. I have hung around he and his old-timer buddies a lot, and gone to work lots of hamfests with him all up and down the east coast, and I find it kinda nice.

Granted, the hobby is slowly dying due to attrition, and what new enthusiasts there are tend to be of the supra-nerd misfit variety, but that doesn't make the culture retarded to me.

Hanging out with the old timers is cool. They tend to be engineers. A lot of them built their own rigs way back when, because there weren't many commercially available. And most of them could still make five different kinds of antennas out of aluminum tubing today.

One neat thing about the hobby to me: digital voice is just coming out. My father-in-law has a D-STAR repeater at his store, and a colleague of his managed to install one on the Empire State Building somehow. These repeaters are connected to the internet. With a computer and a D-STAR-capable radio, then, you can tune into wireless internet within a 20-mile radius of each station. For free.
posted by dammitjim at 8:22 PM on February 15, 2006


No, they built their own rigs because that is/was part of the art; not because they didn't have a choice.
posted by ParisParamus at 8:37 PM on February 15, 2006


A lot of what I don't like about it is the intense super-regulation of the hobby by the FCC (or whoever administers the tests and issues all those inane licences), and the culture's complete acceptance of this regulation.

They'd probably fight tooth and nail any attempt to make the spectrum they use more open to unlicenced non-abusive use by 'normals'.
posted by blasdelf at 8:49 PM on February 15, 2006


"They'd probably fight tooth and nail any attempt to make the spectrum they use more open to unlicenced non-abusive use by 'normals'."




Ummm, you probably haven't been around the RadioPunks then. And you are doing the typical America-centric dance when you forget that amateur radio isn't just about America. It's International. Possibly more International than the Internet (at least as far as being able to transcend boundaries). There are International agreements in place that more or less say you can't 'broadcast' on the ham bands.



I think you'd be surprised with the actual demographic. Everyone is far more unique than you would ever recognize.



Go take your little bitty cell phone and all that and tell me about rules once your bills aren't paid. Tell me about regulation and intervention when you are probably many times more easily tracked and watched with that cell phone on you all the time.



If you'd open your eyes and see past your stereotypes, you would notice there is a place for everyone in ham radio. I haven't met a 'normal' I didn't like. :)



I think I'm going to go grab a beer and try and work the Farallons on 2meters simplex.

73 (best regards),
K6JEB
posted by jackspace at 9:03 PM on February 15, 2006


"No, they built their own rigs because that is/was part of the art; not because they didn't have a choice."

That depends how far back you go, I guess. During the 40s or so, commercially available radios were prohibitively expensive, so most built them from kits that they would mail order.
posted by dammitjim at 9:44 PM on February 15, 2006


"A lot of what I don't like about it is the intense super-regulation of the hobby by the FCC (or whoever administers the tests and issues all those inane licences), and the culture's complete acceptance of this regulation."

That's the ARRL, though I guess with a charter or something from the FCC. The reason for all the testing is to keep just anybody from being allowed to operate equipment that could potentially interfere with crucial emergency communications. I don't get why you wouldn't see the value to that.

"They'd probably fight tooth and nail any attempt to make the spectrum they use more open to unlicenced non-abusive use by 'normals'."

Well, the hands-off approach was tried with CB radio. Human nature being what it is, you can't count on non-abusive use.
posted by dammitjim at 9:54 PM on February 15, 2006


There's a subculture of Radio Amateurs who build their own equipment and/or restore 1950's and 60's vintage am equipment.

Ahh -- that's where the pirates are getting their fidelity mods, then. Many of the radio pirates I've heard are using old Collins or Hallicrafters boatanchors with various mods to boost the fidelity (and, of course, to make sure they're not transmitting on the ham bands, a fast way to get reported.)

Since they don't care about staying in a 3KHz bandwidth, some of them sound great. I keep hearing a few people pushing for a 10Khz bandwidth at the top of 80M and 20M -- 80M is almost wide enough that you really can't argue against.
posted by eriko at 5:29 AM on February 16, 2006


Well, the hands-off approach was tried with CB radio.

Yep -- and the hands-off initiatives in ham radio died with the CB debacle. It's also why FRS radios are so constrained.

The biggest constraint is that you rate the entire radio, including antenna, and they can't have swappable parts. Thus, you can't easily run your antenna output into a 5W amp, then into a big gain antenna with FRS.

GMRS is similarly constrained, but not as much -- and you need to be licensed to use it, though many aren't. There is a group of hardcore GMRS users who will try to get you busted if you step on them, so if you must use a quasi-legal radio, make sure you stay on the shared GMRS/FRS channels.
posted by eriko at 5:39 AM on February 16, 2006


I'm a ham and I am not old and cranky.

Yet.

Cheers & 73 de
KA8PFA/6
posted by birdsong at 8:26 AM on February 16, 2006


If one were interested in getting into ham, what would the best resource be?
posted by 235w103 at 8:33 AM on February 16, 2006


If one were interested in getting into ham, what would the best resource be?

ARRL and QRZ.com are good resources...
posted by birdsong at 10:09 AM on February 16, 2006


Eriko, I suppose it's conceivable that pirates are going to hamfests (ham radio flee markets) to buy transmitters, but there must be more efficient ways to get on the broadcast band.
posted by ParisParamus at 1:54 PM on February 16, 2006


Damn, I'd love to get into packet radio. Astronomy, too, while I'm imagining all this extra free time and money.
posted by sonofsamiam at 1:58 PM on February 16, 2006


"Damn, I'd love to get into packet radio. Astronomy, too, while I'm imagining all this extra free time and money."


Hehehehe, I know what you mean about the lack of time. But hey, you can build a packet station for less than a hundred bucks. OK, I lie, because that doesn't include the computer, but I'm assuming you have one already since you're reading this.


A handi-talkie for 2meters can be had for around $60 via EBay. Only issue with HT's is they tend to be sold when their NiCad battery runs out, so shop around and don't be afraid to ask "does the battery take a full charge?" I suggest the Radio Shack ('you've got questions, we've got blank stares') HTX-202 since they're built like a brick-shithouse and put out an honest and clean 5watts FM. Then you can type on over to www.packetradio.com and get the Rascal interface. For $39.95, you get the interface and the cable to connect it to your radio.


That's it!


Now I'm assuming you are licensed, or you are going to become licensed before you transmit on the ham bands. If you want a good place to start, go here: http://www.arrl.org/hamradio.html
or here: http://www.w5yi.org/.


As far as the broadcast band is concerned, I don't advocate breaking the law. But I DO feel it has been over-run with commercial and seemingly thinly-veiled propaganda. So if you're into getting set up for broadcasting or 'taking back the airwaves' I would direct you to Free Radio Berkeley which has training sessions for getting on the air as well as kits you can buy and biud to that effect. If you take this route, I highly suggest you get an actual low-power FM station license since becoming a felon would almost certainly step on your right to free speech.


The state can't give you free speech, and the state can't take it away. You're born with it, like your eyes, like your ears. Freedom is something you assume, then you wait for someone to try to take it away. The degree to which you resist is the degree to which you are free...”— Utah Phillips
posted by jackspace at 2:59 PM on February 16, 2006


Aw, thanx!
posted by sonofsamiam at 3:00 PM on February 16, 2006


but there must be more efficient ways to get on the broadcast band.

Lots of them aren't on the broadcast band (that is, the MW AM broadcast band.) Many of them show up at places like 6800, 7200, and 4200KHz -- in other words, just outside of the 40 and 80M bands.

Early gear is easy to modifiy off the band -- a modern, PLL driven superhet set to not transmit off the ham bands is difficult to impossible to modify. It isn't hard to pick up an old glowplug set able to put out 500W on 6800.

You could, if you wished, modify an old 160M xmitter to push out into the AM broadcast band, but there are areas the FCC tolerates more than others, and 550-1700KHz isn't one of them -- and off in Utility Land below the 40M band is one where the FCC will bother you if you step on someone, or they happen to be nearby, but otherwise, they won't go out of thier way to hunt you down.
posted by eriko at 3:53 PM on February 16, 2006


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