Communicating in an Insurrection: Amateur Radio and You – A GUEST POST BY Nathan Brindle, KC9YTJ

Communicating in an Insurrection:  Amateur Radio and You – A GUEST POST BY Nathan Brindle, KC9YTJ

Amateur (or, in common parlance, “Ham”) Radio is an oft-overlooked piece of our national communications infrastructure.  With the rise of cellular telephone service, coupled with “smart” phones connected to the Internet, most folks under 50 these days may have heard of amateur radio only in the abstract, or because they happened to catch an episode of Last Man Standing, or saw it used in a movie like Frequency (2000).

For us older chaps and chappies, we’ve either been hams for years, or radio may be something we knew about in our youth, but never got involved in due to cost or other considerations.  I wanted to get involved in my teens, but Dad demurred given the startup price (even from Heathkit).  So it wasn’t until 2013 that a friend who was an amateur told me there was no Morse code requirement anymore, the test was multiple choice, and you could buy a dual-band VHF/UHF Chinese handheld and get on the repeaters for only about $35.  So I picked up the ARRL’s Technician Class License Manual and away I went.  I was first licensed in April 2013, upgraded to General Class in June 2013, and upgraded again to Amateur Extra Class in November 2013.  (I always thought it fun that my first Amateur Extra Class license was effective as of my birthday that year.)

For the even older chaps and chappies, they probably read stories like The Year When Stardust Fell, by Raymond F. James, which is merely the first such that happens to come to mind.  I seem to recall also that amateur radio got a nod in Heinlein’s Rocket Ship Galileo.  More recently, ham radio got a significant nod in a YA series I read by Sarah Lyons Fleming (Until the End of the World).  (Minor spoiler:  The kids mostly didn’t know how to use it.  A couple of them figured it out.)

Point is, amateur radio is still out there, and there are still a lot of licensed hams, with new ones coming in every day, men, women, boys, girls, kids of all ages.

Getting Licensed

It isn’t hard to get an amateur license.  The Technician license is the first step.  If you have any experience with electrical things, can deal with a little basic math, and have a reasonable dose of common sense, you can pass the test with ease.  Even if you don’t have all that (except, we hope, the common sense), it shouldn’t be that hard with a little study under your belt.  All three of the license levels require a separate test, and upgrading gives you more privileges.  (Unremarkably, this is known as “incentive licensing.”)

The tests are multiple-choice (or “multiple guess” as we used to say).  The test questions and answers (“question pools”) are publicly-available and can be studied in print format or online.  Sample tests using actual questions from the pools are available from multiple sources.  It is entirely possible to memorize the 400-odd question pool for the Technician test and simply regurgitate the answers when you have your 35-question test in hand, but it’s better to spend some time actually learning the material – particularly if you want to upgrade later.

When you sit down to take the test (in person, or in these days of WuFlu, there are even online testing sessions), you’ll be handed a test that contains 35 questions more or less randomly picked from the Technician Class question pool.  You have to get 26 of those questions correct to pass the test.  Yes, all you need is a “C” to pass.

If you upgrade to General, it’s another 35 question test, this time chosen more or less at random from the General Class question pool, and again, you need get only 26 correct.

If you really want to bleed from the brain (kidding – sort of), the Amateur Extra Class test is 50 questions from the Amateur Extra Class pool and you have to get 37 correct to pass.

Want to look, or try your hand, at a sample test?  See http://aa9pw.com/technician-license/ .

Tests are administered in your local area by testing teams consisting of at least three members who have passed another test and are known as Volunteer Examiners, or “Vee-Eees” in the common parlance.  The VEs are certified by what’s known as a Volunteer Examiner Coordinator, or VEC.  The three most common VECs in my experience are the ARRL VEC, the W5YI VEC, and the Laurel VEC.  The VECs in turn answer to the FCC, which long ago decided it didn’t have the manpower or the time to bother with testing amateurs.

(In the bad old days, you had to go to the FCC field office in person and sit for an essay examination.  AND you had to be able to send and receive code at a certain speed.  AND you had to be able to draw a schematic from memory.  AND none of this was available to the public for pre-study; if you were lucky you might find a tutorial somewhere, but the tutorials were “officially” frowned upon.)

Typically there is a fee of up to $15 for each test.  The fee is intended to reimburse the VEC for its actual expenses incurred in offering the test.  (Laurel VEC does not charge for testing; ARRL and W5YI do.)  In general, the $15 gets you one test, but if you pass that one test, you will be offered the next level test for free (if you take it right away, same day, same testing session).  If you can get studied up all the way to Amateur Extra, it’s possible to take and pass all three tests in one day and immediately become an Amateur Extra.  It has been done in the past by some folks; I don’t necessarily recommend it.

In addition, as a result of the RAY BAUM’S ACT in Congress a few years ago, the FCC was required to charge fees for just about everything, starting no later than 2021.  Consequently, the FCC recently (December 2020) announced a fee of $35 for each new license application, upgrades, renewals, and “vanity” call signs.  These had all been free for some years, so-called “vanity” licenses being the last to have fees removed just about five years ago.  So the bottom line is, expect to pay around $50 for each of the “incentive” license steps.  (It’s still unclear how the FCC fee is going to be assessed for new and upgrade licenses – will it be charged at testing time, or when your application is entered into the licensing system by your VEC?  My guess is you will have to pay the FCC directly in their Universal Licensing System (ULS) before they will issue your license.  Since the FCC also no longer prints physical licenses, you’ll have to use ULS anyway to print copies of your authorizations (what FCC calls a license).)

It should be noted that amateur radio licenses are good for ten years, so you’re only going to have to pay the $35 renewal fee once a decade, once you’re licensed.

So, Why Get Licensed?

I can hear a lot of folks asking that question.  What’s the point of bothering, and spending all that money, if everything goes to hell in a handbasket?

Well, for one thing, we’re not in the handbasket yet.  And becoming a part of the local amateur community is a good thing – you’ll create friendships and alliances, learn more about the hobby from those who have been there and done that, and even be able to assist your community if the shit really hits the fan in a non-political sense.  For instance, severe weather is one of amateur radio’s main briefs.  You may or may not be aware, but there’s an NWS program called SkyWarn that teaches people how to recognize and report on severe weather events from the field, because NWS can’t rely entirely on its own people and radars to see exactly what’s going on at ground level when heavy weather is happening.  So in most Tornado Alley counties, for instance, volunteer hams who’ve taken the SkyWarn training will stand up a SkyWarn “net” to gather and coordinate reports from their local hams when severe weather is threatening.  Likewise, states on the hurricane coasts have hurricane nets.  There’s even a “Maritime Mobile Service Net” on HF (14.300 MHz) daily to assist mariners on the high seas, not just during weather events, but for general breakdowns and other problems folks in ships and boats might encounter.  And you’d be surprised at how many land-lubbers take part in that net.

Your local ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Service) volunteers are also available for local emergency response, and also serve the community by providing radio services during public events such as marathons, walkathons, and so forth.  If you’ve ever participated in a marathon, the guy standing in the water tent with a handheld is probably an ARES volunteer.

And the point is, other than being a non-ham SkyWarn volunteer, you can’t get involved in any of that unless you are a licensed ham.  Most ARES operations require only Technician Class license privileges, too, so don’t think you have to take all three tests to become eligible to participate in ARES events.

If the SHTF and the government falls, nobody will care that you have a license (or don’t).  But until the SHTF, if you want to get into radio, the best way is to get licensed, become part of the ham community, and participate in various exercises so you KNOW you will be able to help if times get troubled.

Traffic Handling, or How To Communicate When The Lines Are Down

One of the things the amateur community does, and has been doing ever since the beginning, is traffic handling.  Traffic handling is the relay of messages, using standard formats, through what are known as traffic handling nets.  These nets are usually on HF (so they require General or Amateur Extra privileges to participate).

Ham radio really grew out of the idea that messages could be passed from station to station faster than by mail or even telegraph.  And of course these messages would cost nothing, because they would be handled by volunteers.  Hiram Percy Maxim founded the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) in 1914 in part because of this function.  The League provided early hams with something useful to do with the radios they were building and experimenting with.  In those days, radio was all CW (Morse) and all radios were of the “spark gap” type which was outlawed in the 1920s (because it spattered noise all over the spectrum and made the newer commercial AM voice stations problematic to hear).  These early radios did not have a lot of range, particularly in the daytime.  So station operators joined the League and formed the early wireless relay system that could pass messages from New York to California in less than a day.  And by and large, other than during the two World Wars when amateur radio was shut down, these relay nets have evolved and remained active to this day.  They’re wireless, so they don’t rely on the phone lines or Internet fiber; they’re volunteer-run, so they don’t rely on corporations timid about handling communications by certain elements of society; and they are perfect for sending short messages packed with information of the type that might be needed in a crisis – any kind of crisis.  (Think Superstorm Sandy and how long it took to get telephone service back to coastal areas that were hardest hit.)

There is a National Traffic System run by the ARRL that acts as a “backbone”, and handles most traffic passed in the US.  They’re always looking for new traffic handlers.

But You Can’t Send Memes Over The Radio!

Au contraire, mon frère.  Have you ever heard of packet switching?  It’s a big deal at the base of the Internet, where Ethernet TCP/IP is all packet-switched.  “Ethernet” is actually a radio protocol that runs on wires, thus its name.  There is an IP protocol called AX.25 that can send IP traffic over the air.  (See the Linux packet radio link in the next paragraph for a little more information on AX.25.)

Hams have been doing packet radio since forever (there are hams out there still running Windows 95 systems with ancient Packet BBS systems on them).  There used to be a lot of packet BBS systems where a ham could get on the air, log into the BBS, and send and receive mail and other files.  I believe computer BBS systems evolved from that.  Packet BBS systems still exist, but they are sort of few and far between.  Linux seems to be the OS of choice these days for newer systems. 

There’s also an amateur radioteletype protocol called Olivia, which uses “multiple frequency-shift keying” (MSFK) to communicate.  One use of Olivia is in amateur emergency response, as it is well suited for use with NBEMS (Narrow Band Emergency Messaging Software).  NBEMS is a suite that allows the sending of large data files over the air.  Typically, software such as Fldigi (and the associated Flmsg, Flarq, and Flamp applications) is used for Olivia and NBEMS.  There are a couple of PDF presentations on NBEMS found at the ARRL.  Olivia is an example of a “mixed mode” protocol where one can both chat AND share data files over the air.

If you just want to chat, older modes like PSK31 are still around.  And RTTY, though I’ve never been a RTTY guy myself.

Finally (and kind of hilariously), one can indeed send memes over the radio.  There are several programs that are specifically designed to send images (and even video) over the ham bands.  That’s all lumped together under the moniker “Slow Scan TV” or SSTV, and typically the folks who do it congregate at 14.230MHz and 14.233MHz in the 20 meter band, but it can also be used in the other bands.  Sometimes the hams on the International Space Station beam pictures down on VHF/UHF frequencies.  There’s more about SSTV here.

What About Antennas?  Aren’t They A Giveaway That You’re A Ham?
-or-
My HOA Would Have A Fit!

Maybe.  You could also be, like a friend of mine, an “SWL”, a Short-Wave Listener, who doesn’t actually have a license or own transmitters.  But you’re probably thinking about people who have antenna towers in their back yards with big beam antennas and rotators at the top.  Those people either have big bucks or bought the house with the tower.  Last I looked, it’s about $5K to install a halfway-reasonable tower.  Plus the time and money you have to spend getting your tower approved by your local building authority.  (No, you can’t just put one up, unless you live way out in the country where the zoning people don’t have any authority.)

Most hams, though, are probably are like me, and have a wire antenna strung between two trees and maybe a dual- or tri-band VHF/UHF antenna on the roof.  You have to look hard to see my antennas.  But there are other hams who live in neighborhoods infested by homeowner associations and have to get inventive when it comes to antennas.  An entire sub-culture of hams has developed that is dedicated to “stealth” methods of hiding antennas that can still be used at just about any power rating.  They put their antennas in PVC flagpoles, or in their attics, or on fence lines around the property.  Some even run coax to the back of their property, if it backs up into a wooded area, and run their antennas in the trees.  There are telescoping masts that can be used at night when nobody is looking, and couldn’t see them anyway.  There are even people who run HF in their vehicles and run a coax into the house when they’re at home to run their base station off the vehicle antenna.  Bottom line, there are a lot of ways to stealth your antenna installations.

So What’s It All Mean?

And I imagine you’re now thinking, that’s great, what happens if the government starts to crack down on speech, and happens to notice a bunch of USAians communicating on the radio?  Did I just waste my time and money on an amateur license and a bunch of potentially expensive equipment?

For the reasons stated above, no.  I don’t think it’s a waste, any more than investing in, say, guns, ammo, and range time is a waste even if they threaten to take away your guns.  Being legally licensed and learning the forms and protocols of the amateur radio community is hardly a waste.  We still have to live in this world and this world has a tendency to throw genuine emergencies at us.  As the Scout Motto puts it, “Be Prepared!”

But it gives rise to other lines of thinking.  Say it’s a Red Dawn scenario and the Chinese invade.  Or say it’s just the premise of Divided We Fall.  They’ll undoubtedly monitor the radio waves and use direction-finding (DF) equipment to smoke out patriots who are still trying to organize that way.

There are ways to get around that, just as there were in every 20th Century war where radio was a factor.  And no, I’m not talking about Hogan’s Heroes and the antenna in the flagpole – though that was certainly innovative.  But:

  • Keep your transmissions short, and wait a while before you transmit again.  If the people trying to DF you can’t get a fix, you’re still not entirely safe, but you’re going to make them work for it.
  • Move around, if you can, to help prevent them DFing you in the first place.  Mobile setups are great for this.  Even HF radios are small enough to be installed in vehicles, if you can get the right antennas for them.  If you can move around, drive several miles from home before transmitting, and keep moving while you do.  (In most if not all states that have cellular phone bans for drivers, ham radio is explicitly exempted.  Or use a headset mike.)
  • Use some sort of cipher.  Sentences from the Beautiful But Evil Space Princess’s novels that have been previously assigned other meanings by our crowd.  Or, you can’t go wrong with things like the classic “East Wind Rain” (though it’s questionable that signal ever existed other than in the mind of a certain Navy intelligence officer).  “The Face of Zuckerberg Appears Not In The Mirror”, maybe.  Or, “Corn Pop and me, we’re like buds.”  Or just be a numbers station – page number and word number on that page of an agreed-upon book.
  • Break the rules.  Once it’s illegal to be a ham, who cares that you can’t legally encrypt data over the air?  Use NBEMS, compress and encrypt your files, and share the public key to decrypt them only with people you trust.

I’m sure you can think of more.

“What if they jam us?”  They’re not going to do that.  First, if they do, they can’t find you.  Second, if they do, they can’t use the spectrum themselves.  Okay, I’ll grant that if they feel they have a real infestation and know where the culprits are, they might jam hell out of the frequencies used by those people, but that makes it pretty obvious they’re on to you and it’s time to skedaddle.

What Not To Rely On

When the political SHTF, my guess is VHF/UHF will be useless for anything but line-of-sight, local communications, because the opposition will shut down the repeaters.  Which will make ham radio’s 2 meter and 70cm bands line of sight, as well as GMRS (which is also effectively a 70cm service and has repeaters, though not in the numbers the amateur service does).  And when you remove the repeaters from the equation, even 2 meters becomes a very short-range band.  FRS (bubble-pack Family Radio Service radios) won’t be affected because they don’t use repeaters, but they share space with GMRS and are designed to be short-range radios in any case.

Granted, in a situation like that, it may take some time before killing the repeaters happens, but who knows; many repeaters are physically located in commercial broadcast facilities, and it may or may not be immediately obvious to the political commissars to order the station engineers to pull their plugs.

If you’re into DMR (Digital Mobile Radio) because it’s “poor man’s HF over the Internet” and you can talk all over the world with it, you’ve got two strikes against you right off the bat.  First, the repeaters, as above (and they can be cut off from the world by the simple expedient of cutting off their Internet links).  Second, even if you have a personal DMR hotspot and don’t rely on the repeaters, you’re screwed just as hard if the Internet goes down.  And it wouldn’t necessarily have to be a complete Internet shutdown, either, it could be only the master servers that do all the actual routing for the DMR networks being cut off.  At that point you are left with radios that can talk peer-to-peer, line-of-sight short range.  This is not to say that I don’t own two DMR handhelds, but they also do analog, and they’re nice robust Alincos, not throw-away Baofengs.  (Though I also have several of those.)

Like DMR, I imagine other high-band digital modes like IRLP, Echolink, D*Star, and WIRES are going to suffer the same problems, since they’re dependent on repeaters and the Internet being up.

This is why, to me, it’s the HF side (6 meters and up) on which hams who are interested in staying in contact nationwide need to concentrate.

Strangely, You Haven’t Mentioned Citizens’ Band

Yeah, and there’s a reason for that.  Legal CB uses spectrum just below the amateur 10 meter band, so in theory, it ought to give you some distance, like 10 meters does when propagation is good.  The problem is, the FCC limits CB equipment to 4 watts or less (unless you use SSB, for which they allow up to 12 watts).  At legal power, you’re going to get no more than a few miles out of your radio (and that may be stretching it, depending on local terrain, surrounding buildings, etc.).

Illegal CB power is another question, but in most cases, and because they’re illegal, the amplifiers the freebanders build and peddle for CB are mostly junk, and as likely to burn your house down as get you a distant contact.  I’ve seen some of the builds on those things.  They make the electrician in me shudder.  Please, no, just get a ham license and buy good equipment.

So CB is not a good choice, no matter how many truckers use it.  If the SHTF, realistically, how many truckers are going to be on the road jabbering away on Channel 19, good buddy?

Okay, But Why Voluntarily Add My Contact Info To A Government Database?

Like your contact info isn’t already in hundreds of government databases already?  Admittedly, this one is searchable by the public, but damn few of the public even know it exists.  And you can use a PO box or a box at the UPS store for the address if you must.

I have heard this argument in the past from people who ought to know better.  What’s one more government database among fiends? [sic]

You’ve Convinced Me.  What Now?

Find an “Elmer”.  That’s what we call a fellow ham who can help you learn what you need to know.  If you don’t know such a person, ask hams you know online if they can point you to someone local.  Maybe someone in your neighborhood has one of those towers behind his house with a beam antenna on it; ask him or her.  Or find the local amateur radio club; most large cities have one or more, shoot, a lot of rural counties have one or more.

If you can’t find an Elmer or a club, see if you can find a class being held locally.  Doesn’t matter who runs it, if it’s a class aimed at getting you licensed as an amateur, first of all it will have hams involved – and you may find your Elmer there.

Check the ARRL website.  Lots of resources for becoming a ham, and learning how to do the things we do.  Actually, that’s the FIRST thing you should do, but some folks prefer the personal touch.  Note that there are a lot of hams out there who talk smack about the League and claim it just wants your money, just like there are a lot of gun nuts out there who talk smack about the NRA and claim it just wants your money.  Admittedly, in the NRA’s case, that’s probably more true than we like to think about.  But the League is out there trying to protect your rights as an amateur.  You can’t influence the FCC and Congress all by yourself (well, you can try, good luck with that), but the League with its 160K members and its lobbying arm can (or can try awfully hard to do so).

That’s all I’ve got for now (4000+ words isn’t enough?)  So have fun out there, and as we say on the radio, “Good luck, and seven-three!”

275 thoughts on “Communicating in an Insurrection: Amateur Radio and You – A GUEST POST BY Nathan Brindle, KC9YTJ

    1. As an interesting data point: That brushbeater forum was announced as up on January 8th, and taken down on January 12th coincident with eth general purge under a “we reserve the right under our sole discretion to deny service for any reason whatsoever” clause in their terms of service.

  1. just like there are a lot of gun nuts out there who talk smack about the NRA and claim it just wants your money. Admittedly, in the NRA’s case, that’s probably more true than we like to think about.

    I have criticized the NRA enough here that I should give a defense of them when appropriate:

    Hey; at least they aren’t the GOP.

    1. If you’re worried about Wayne La Pierre building a swimming pool with your National Rifle Association money; you can instead donate to the National Association for Gun Rights. NAGR is a lot more legalistically militant than the NRA; and I think they have the second highest membership after the NRA.

      Tomorrow’s my birthday. Screw Sauron’s gold ring; I’m picking up my brand new AR-15. My Precious!
      (Stupid NCIS background checks/ Have to wait for them to come back, or 3 business days. And they’re apparently taking forever to process at the moment. I wonder why?)

        1. Heheheh. First phrase, right on target. Second one? Only a few will hand them over. And I’m not going to say anything more about what I think will happen. Let me put it this way, I would NOT want to be anyone signing onto gun and ammo taxation, mandatory buy backs or confiscations, or designation of any existing classes of firearms currently in owners hands as being illegal to own. At the very least, they can kiss their political careers good bye.

          1. Some years go California tried an all-comers gun buy-back. 90% were nonfunctional, and they got quite a few wooden guns made expressly to collect the bounty.

            1. Same thing happened in Tucson (before they got slapped down by the State law that forbids the destruction of valuable property). I knew a cop that was assigned to a couple of their events – he said that he was afraid to even handle a few of them; they were so corroded that there was no way to get the chamber open to determine that they were unloaded.

              1. Yeah, saw a photo of the CA pile and it was more rust and pieces than actual hardware. At least a couple naked busted stocks. One of the better wooden guns had a gas pipe barrel. 😀

              2. In Seattle a couple guys with an FFL took a bunch of cash and set up across the street from the buyback. Bought all the good guns for pennies on the dollar but more than the $50 the govt was offering.

            2. There were some designs floating around on how to build a “gun” using common hardware-store items – water pipe, lumber, nails – that would fire a… I think it was .32ACP – cartridge and probably not blow up. If you bought enough to make twenty or thirty of them, it cost something like $4 each for the materials. Guys would assembly-line them in their garages after buy-backs were announced, then turn them in for cash. Which is why you seldom see the $150, $100, or even $50 payouts any more. Last time the locals tried a buy-back, they were offering $10 worth of McDonalds’ gift cards. Some people were downright annoyed at the loss of a righteous source of new-gun-toy money…

              1. Damn. Knew they’d close *that* loophole sooner or later. *chuckle* A more stubbornly practical application of the Law of Unintended Consequences you’ll rarely see!

                Or, rather, a new one will come along in about five minutes or so, considering the incoming administration…

        2. I think the ammunition will get turned in. At least the bullets will, one by one…

          I went looking for powder and a bit of ammo yesterday. Not encouraging. The only ammo available seemed to be for some hunting rounds. I’m not sure what the .375 magnum cartridges would be used for here. Elk or MRAP, I’d suspect, though I suspect it’s overkill for elk. Anybody needing to feed a rifle in .nnnWSM is in luck today, though.

          Powder was even more disappointing. Three different stores, found A) Triple 7 black powder replacement, B) Winchester AA powder, presumably for trap loads, and C) Reloder 50. No, I don’t plan to reload for a Barrett. I knew I should have bought the Red Dot and Green Dot when I saw it before Christmas.

          I only glanced at the gun rack in the smallest of the stores; they had a few rifles (a kid’s .22 in pink stood out) and a couple of shotguns. That store had zero ammunition on hand. However, the reloading equipment shelves are full again. If you need something, it’s a good time to get it. Just don’t expect to use it with brand new components right now.

          1. I’m plain out of a couple calibers I wasn’t able to restock before the election (ok one of those I have 50rds, but 50rds of 5.7×28 is “out” by any reasonable standard).

            Core calibers I’m fine on. Hoping IMI M193 will be back in stock before the 20th.

            1. just popped on via my phone (ammoseek is blocked at work) Wolf, Tula, and Barnual must have come in, and they are .82 to $1/ with most else higher
              .223/5.56 is about the same price for PPU or whatnot all brass
              .45acp is .70 limit 10 for steel case. There is a few both new and reman brass case for under a $1.
              Most of the brass for loads in .45acp are small primer. The few times primers come up they are $249 a box of 1000, or more and only twice has it been small primer.
              Powder is annoying as well, though for pistol shotgun powder seems more available.
              Rifle is often the Magnum load stuff or stuff nearly no loads are well known
              Shotguns it is target, or steel loads for order and steel and turkey loads on shelves in the stores with target loads in bulk.

                1. I think I got my .308 powder (forget which, Accurate was all that was available, 2495? maybe) from Midway. I also have the LeveRevolution stuff that can be used for a milder load. I got Trail Boss for the Schmidt-Rubin, and I’ve seen loads (and tested it) in both .308 and .45acp (subsonic load in both, slow supersonic in the 308 with a hardcast lead) but prefer not to waste it on the modern loads, but it is quite quiet in the .45 out of a carbine.
                  I did learn my Schmidt’s magazine didn’t get the update to use the carboard loaders. I have some of the plastic repops given to me as a gift. use them to just hold extra rounds from rolling about.

                  1. > it is quite quiet in the .45 out of a carbine.

                    JD Jones (developer of the Whisper cartridges) maintained that much of the noise from a conventional cartridge was due to powder burning outside the muzzle after the bullet exited. His Whisper cartridges used heavy bullets, a heavy crimp, and minimal charges of fast powder to get complete combustion. Of course, the lesser gas volume helped suppressors work, too.

                    1. … the lesser gas volume helped suppressors work, too.

                      AND it is environmentally friendly, too! Fight global warming, use Whisper cartridges!
                      ~

              1. The not-Cabellas here had (yesterday, dunno about today) a bunch of shotgun loads, mostly hunting. Odd gauges were fairly well represented. Fans of 28 and 16 gauge, rejoice! There was a reasonable selection of 12 gauge. Bismuth rounds were well represented. AFAICT, they were stocking pheasant (and presumably duck) loads yesterday.

            1. A while back Wal-Mart had 9×19 Europellets in stock for $6 for a box of 50. Cheaper when it was on sale. I couldn’t even reload .45 for that, so I built a 1911 in 9mm to take advantage of cheap plinking ammo.

              [sigh] Not one of my best moves, as I made my first range trip just before Wal-Mart went completely Woke.

              On the other hand, the 1911 is a sweetie. It’s basically a CCO with a Para Warthog frame, so I only get two fingers on the grip, but it turned out to be one of my most accurate pistols. The first time she shot it, Mrs. TRX put all ten rounds through the bullseye. Of course, she’s generally a better shot than I am anyway…

            2. I passed on 2000 founds of 9mm two years ago because I didn’t have a 9. .20 a round. Lucky Gunner is now selling 9 for .90 a round. Now I have a 9 and no ammo. Sigh.

          2. you saw Red and Green before xmas!? all we had around here was WSF, 244, WST and plenty of the Pyrodex and 777 though some places had RS and P others only P or RS and the 777 was all FFG last time I looked.

            1. Yeah, early December. That store had Red, Green, 2f and 3f 777 on hand. Mini-box club store; $5.00 lifetime membership, and a godsend for rural areas. Not half bad for urban areas, too. I bought both of the 777s. I needed the FFFg, wasn’t sure about the FFg, but got it anyway. I’m debating about a .50 muzzle loader as a Just In Case hunting rifle.

              I held off because there weren’t a lot of pistol loads that wanted Red Dot. I’ll have to go back to notes, but I think the trap loads I did used Green Dot.

              1. I too considered a muzzle loader but all they had were 209 primed and the primers went poof. Though, I’ve an idea to try something odd, but I am limited in machining tools (and considering how long it’s been . . . skills too maybe).

              2. Eh, what?

                For some reason Alliant doesn’t show 9×19, but they show loads from .32 S&W Long through .44 Magnum, including .45 ACP and .38 Special. Some of the guys on Brian Enos’ forum use it in 9×19, so it’s not too bulky… hmm. Could be a marketing thing.

                1. I was looking for loads for a couple of rounds I could use more of; .38 Spl and .357 Mag (in a rifle). Speer doesn’t show the Dots for either. They do list Red and Green for .45 ACP, but I have a load that uses 700X that does well–though the instructor at Gunsite was amused at the amount of sparks it put out.

                  I should have bought the large jug of 700X this summer, but thought I’d wait until the shotstorm died down after Trump won in November. So much for that theory.

          3. .375? Good for squirrels, chipmunks…

            American riflemen are, by and large, big fans of “bigger is better.” Phil Sharpe wrote about a meeting at Winchester in the 1950s, and being told about a new cartridge (.458 Winchester Magnum?) they were adding to their lineup.

            “What possible use could anyone have for a cartridge like that?” Sharpe asked.

            “I have no idea, but we’ll sell a bunch of of them,” was the reply.

      1. Or Gun Owners of America (there’s also a GO of California, and I think of Wyoming? all states??) or Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership, or the Zelman Partisans.

        Their take on Recent Events:
        http://zelmanpartisans.com/?p=49737

        Read also the linked article in the third comment.

          1. Did it? Okay, didn’t realize. I fell off their mailing list a long time ago and haven’t been paying attention. The old ugly site is still up, tho.

      2. “And they’re apparently taking forever to process at the moment.”

        Their servers are getting crushed with traffic, is why. They don’t even try to keep up, they just make everybody wait 3 days. Remember, gun laws are not supposed to reduce crime. They’re supposed to make you believe that Lefty politicians Care. Deeply. About you.

        Even gun-hating pink-haired SJW sea mammals (of all 57 genders!) are buying guns this week. Welcome to the party, dweebs. Second Amendment looking pretty good lately, right?

        1. They’re supposed to make you believe that Lefty politicians Care. Deeply. About you.

          They do care about us … the same way citizens of Troy cared about Greeks, the way Ming Dynasty Chinese cared about Mongols, the way 1920s French cared about Germans.
          ~

  2. Nice to see this post. I hold an Extra Class license and was formerly a VE in our community. Yep, I’m one of the “old ones”. I came by my interest at a very young age. My grandfather was a railroad telegrapher. Night after night I sat beside him as he listened to his Hammarlund HQ129X. I was fascinated and said then and there, “When I grow up, I’m going to talk on the radio.” Eventually I did turn my childhood dream into reality.

    1. I’m an Amateur (General license). KM4GSF
      The thing is, you really do need to have a few of the HT’s (handheld radios) around. If TSHTF, you’ll want to establish neighborhood patrols, communications between supply convoys, and keep up on the local and national situation.
      You can get the national news relayed via the short-range radios.
      The higher powered GMRS have a little longer reach than FRS – every mile helps. If you buy one, get an extra, and use it for training purposes.
      TECHNICALLY, you need a license for the GMRS; in practical terms, if the situation is dire, that’s the LEAST of your worries. The license covers the whole household (an advantage over the amateur license). Also, no test to take.
      I can strongly recommend a radio club, or mentorship by an Elmer – nothing beats that help for the newbie.

      1. > If TSHTF, you’ll want to establish neighborhood patrols,

        At least half my neighbors voted for the incoming Commander In Thievery.

        If TSHTF I’m not going to protect them, their houses or any family member over the age of 10. They made their choice and if it’s fatal? Good.

      2. As noted above but worth repeating (hey! I’m a repeater!) that the GMRS license is a “fill out the form and pays us” license from the FCC, with the limit of the knowledge required to get one is how to enter your credit card number.

        I am absolutely certain that all those millions of two-pack GMRS handhelds sold at box stores have only been operated by licensee households which have registered and paid the fee – NOT!!!

  3. just an observation: surprisingly or not these days, a lot of truckers don’t use CB. Mom and Dad once had a bit of an accident, when Mom driving, Dad sleeping, she fell asleep while passing through the exciting Illinois farmlands, late at night, spun the car around and buried it the snow.
    3 truckers stopped to assist, and none of them had a CB. They used cell phones. This was some time ago, so I don’t know how much this may have changed.

  4. If you’re anxious about hiding your presence from Big Brother you may want to investigate spread spectrum. A few decades ago certain Eurasian country was operating nets several dB below the noise floor and a certain North American country never noticed. No doubt the enemy now has more effective means of detection once they know to look. But keeping your effective radiated power as low as possible will help avoid notice.

  5. Just to make a point: It’s an entry-level overview. So it doesn’t discuss things like spread-spectrum. The intent is to gin up interest in getting licensed, and explaining why one might want to do that.

    Re: truckers, I don’t know if they still use CB or not, but all the trucks sure seem to have antennas. I do know that truckers use VHF FM on the repeaters, at least around here. In particular, they like our wide-area open repeater with its antenna 700 feet up on one of the local radio towers 🙂

    Naturally, other hams are perfectly welcome to chime in with additions and corrections. I’m sure I left out more than I put in, but as we know, it’s a big hobby.

    1. The HAMs will have a serious role in making sure those who use BitCoin have a means of continuing to do so. If you depend on BitCoin, then you owe it to yourself to make sure you have some kind of ethernet access when, not if, they shut the ethernet down.

    2. Thank you Nathan for your entry level article. I forwarded it to my nephew who is showing intererst in the field.

        1. Parler’s CEO now says they may not be able to get back up and running, that he and other people at Parler have received death threats, and they are getting harassed at their homes.

          1. Also, the Epik guy (who pulled Gab’s internuts out of the fire) said Parler has NOT contacted him, contrary to rumor.

      1. I wonder about that. They might do a CCP social-credit system first, with lots of propaganda about how rich you are doesn’t matter and you can still get a high score, and anyway a low score is only for the “worst” scum. Then the ratcheting up will start, until only a few could even afford to explode. That few will be controlled by professional / business licensing organizations (goverrment and “private) and employers.

        1. If they decide to go there I would not be surprised if it were buried inside a vax tracking “allowed to travel” system – more long the lines of trusted traveler with down checks for badthink.

      2. They are doing the political equivalent of what the Duke Brothers did to Dan Akkroyd in Trading Places. except they are doing it more thoroughly on a much larger scale for thoughtcrime.

        Saw that Senior Dem Clyburn suggested waiting 100 days until sending Impeachment to the Senate; it is clear from their actions and statements that they are pursuing this not to remove him from office, but to try to prevent him from running again and to force him out of business, etc., THAT is an unconstitutional Bill of Attainder, no matter that they stick it with an impeachment label.

        Given the Democrats open vocal and financial support for BLM and Antifa rioters, Republican state and local prosecutors should file charges against Harris, Pelosi, Waters and other Dems who openly supported and in some cases financed rioters. After all, it is the Dems who say “no one is above the law”. Use their own statements about the riots and about impeaching Trump against them.

        1. Senate should just tell the House that since Donald Trump is no longer President, their charges are moot, and just throw the whole thing out.

        2. … Harris, Pelosi, Waters and other Dems who openly supported and in some cases financed rioters.

          PARTICULARLY as those rioters have been openly committed to insurrection.
          ~

          1. Good point. And a bill of impeachment passing the House under that condition means they established the precedent.
            And former President Trump has standing to pursue that since every one of them will still be in office.
            Oooo. Lawfare can be a bitch.

          1. Well, it could be argued by those of us who follow you that they were right, although not for the reasons they listed.

          2. Are you kidding me? An -insurance company- looked up your blog and turned you down over it? That’s insane. That they would do it at all is insane, that they’d turn you down over -this- blog five years ago? Crazy pants!

            You can’t sue them? That seems like a guaranteed slam-dunk win in court for an enterprising young lawyer.

              1. That sounds like religious discrimination to me. The USAian faith requires adherents preach the virtues of freedom and liberty!
                ~

          1. They called us paranoid when we told them to *believe* the people that *told* us they wanted us silenced, isolated, shamed, our businesses destroyed, disarmed, afraid, our children taken from us, and “re-educated.” To be honest, most of the same ones still say it- the ones that are left (pun intended).

            Be not afraid. Be prepared. Learn new skills. Polish old ones. Men are not insects. We should be at least competent at many things.

      1. That is going to expand to simply not being able to rent, buy or home, or get a mortgage. It will be far more extensive and complete than any McCarthyite blacklist, and it will be cheered by Democrats and their tech/media/finance arms.

        Expect extensive IRS audits and other regulatory persecutions of anyone registered as a Republican or who is known to have voted or expressed support for Republicans, or indeed for any non-leftists regardless of party affiliation.

        1. When you make it impossible for people to obtain necessities by legal means, then they have no recourse except to use illegal ones. And those that denied them no longer have any moral high ground to stand on to object.

  6. And the headline on my browser this morning was from the AP, talking about the House beginning to debate second impeachment for the President’s role in “Capitol Insurrection.”
    Dear Lord.

    1. From Fox news: Here are the GOPs who voted to commit political suicide:
      ========

      Ten House Republicans joined Democrats to impeach President Trump on charges of “incitement of an insurrection,” making him the first president in U.S. history to be impeached twice.

      The final vote was 232 to 197.

      With 10 Republican votes, Trump’s second impeachment was the most bipartisan one in history. By comparison, five Democrats voted to impeach Bill Clinton in 1998.

      Here are the 10 Republicans:

      Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming
      Rep. Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio
      Rep. Jamie Herrera-Beutler of Washington
      Rep. John Katko of New York
      Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois
      Rep. Peter Meijer of Michigan
      Rep. Dan Newhouse of Washington
      Rep. Tom Rice of South Carolina
      Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan
      Rep. David Valadao of California

      The article of impeachment is for “incitement of insurrection” and states that Trump engaged in high crimes and misdemeanors by “willfully inciting violence against the government of the United States.”

      =========

      Hope every damn one of ’em gets voted out next round. Idiots, to actually BELIEVE this bullshit (or claim that they did anyway).

      So, are we going to impeach all the congresscritters who EGGED ON and even HELPED FUND (eg. Kamaltoe) the BLM riots??

        1. Yeah, in fact… it’s a safe bet most of ’em WILL be voted out next time around… by bogus votes for whatever communist the Democrats paste the Candidate label on.

          It’s been mentioned that this can’t really go anywhere because the Senate isn’t officially in session and won’t be back til the 20th, when it’ll be too late to attempt a conviction.

  7. i was, at one point, licensed as a novice; i still have my heathkit hw-8 qrp transceiver around here somewhere. my problem with ham radio was more basic: as a serious introvert, i have nothing to say to anyone.

    1. This is always my thing with my husband’s fascination with ham radio — what’s the point of having a bunch of equipment if you don’t like to talk to people?

      I might encourage him to get his setup back out and make some local connections, though …

  8. My late-hubby was the Amateur radio hobbyist in our family (KV7J) for a long time. I now have his last call sign although I need to dust it off to remember. I used to run KB7BZE. I haven’t done Ham radio since the death of my husband. For one thing, it was banned in all of my apartment dwellings (although I think that is illegal). And I just don’t have the money — and after his death, a lot of things we did together I just didn’t do. However, I still have an Extra class license.

    1. Pick up an HT – they’re cheap, and it will keep your skills up. I can think of nothing more important than communications in our current situation.

  9. My Radio Shack handheld scanner can’t find any VHF traffic in our valley; we’re far enough away from the city that too many hills are in the way of any repeater in the city. (We had similar problems when I was on a rural fire department. We lost the transmitter site that was supposed to serve us one winter, and talking to Firecom was *interesting*. OTOH, there seems to be an active ham radio group in the city, and they are now offering monthly testing sessions. Before the lockdowns, they’d meet at one of the pizzerias every month.

    I went through the questions on Hamstudy dot org and would pass the Technician test with ease. (My rusty BS and MSEEs have something to do with that. 🙂 ) The General test is tougher, largely because I’m not familiar with the current regulations. Haven’t looked at the Extra class test, yet.

    I like the idea of stealth antennas; we’re seriously country, but the budget says no to a commercially made tower* and a couple of dipoles strung from trees are possibles.

    (*) There seem to be a fair number of DIY solutions, usually tilt-over or fixed towers.

      1. In my community, a clothesline is forbidden by the CC&R’s.

        On the other hand, an elevated wire is a foreign enough object that they don’t know to complain about it.

    1. “That’s not an antenna, it’s a lightning rod! It’s an important home safety device. Where’s yours? Does your insurance company know you don’t have a lightning rod? Maybe you need to fix that before they find out…”

  10. And for comm with the phone lines still working, don’t forget FIDOnet. It’s still alive (so is ILink). It’s basically the old dialup BBS messaging system, passed hand to hand via modems and Plain Old Telephone Service. Dialup BBS software is mostly free and some is still maintained.

    Back in the ancient days of analog TV and the nearest station 90 miles away, I had an antenna that consisted of old phone line strung to the metal roof of a shed, and a bunch of barbed wire wrapped around the top of the shed (this seemed to be the most critical component). It actually worked pretty well.

    1. I ran a BBS from 1992 to 2001. I was hooked up to a couple of “store and forward” networks (RIME and… I forget the other one) and had a usenet gateway. FIDO, on the other hand… besides the software being an utter mess, it was run (then, anyway) as a pyramid scheme, where you had to pay to get access to an upstream server, and you were supposed to make your money back selling connections downstream.

      Uh, no.

      1. Which BBS? just wondering if I knew it back then. Ours went from.. 1995 to 2006ish? EarthquakeCity BBS in L.A. Also hung out at Ledge and Mog-Ur’s.

        I know there were nodes not paying for FIDO (which might explain why over time it got flooded with Russians), but yeah, on the user side it was a mess, so imagine it was fun on the sysop side too. But the principle remains: so long as you can schlep mail packets via POTS, even if you have to do lots of short hops, it can be done.

  11. I’m effectively deaf for communication. I hear sounds but can’t understand most speech. I’m just not sure from what I am reading that there is enough packet traffic or people listening for it to make it worth investing time and money to do that alone.

    1. I honestly don’t know.
      And in news — my right ear is now completely gone. If I answer the phone and put it on the right (force of habit, also if I have something on my left hand) I hear NOTHING.

      1. Without my aids I’d give my hearing about a 2 or 3 on a 10 scale. Probably a result of loud headphone listening years ago. Aids are expensive and (even with added settings) annoyingly ramp up every sound when you’re just trying to hear speech. Restaurant conversations are dicey. Unfortunately, human voice details are hard to distinguish. Makes you appreciate how our given sense of hearing can sort it out.

      2. That sounds (sorry!) like an immune disease thing. Have you looked into acute inflammatory diseases for hearing loss? Sometimes they attack the cochlea hair cells. Your ears go bald inside, TL/DR version.

        Sometimes (usually, but lets be cautious) inflammatory conditions respond well to CBD oils and other forms of cannabis. Being in Lefty Colorado, you have access to all that stuff.

        Talk to a physician in Colorado who specializes in cannabis, I’m sure you’ll have plenty to chose from. The stuff knocks down inflammatory disorders like arthritis and fibromyalgia very well indeed. -IF- your hearing is being damaged by a chronic inflammatory process, it might help. Like, a lot. Best part, CBD does not have any marked side effects when taken in proper controlled doses.

        I happen to know a doc who specializes. (Obviously I’m not going to name them, because f- you flopping camel.) This person reports that CBD works extremely well in a wide range of patients, particularly the over 50 crowd. Fibro patients get relief, which in my experience from physical therapy almost never happens. There are damn few things that work on fibro. The doc sees thousands of patents a year, so that person’s opinion is of the informed variety, shall we say.

        Worth a look, if you’re having hearing loss. Maybe email me? You’ve got my email. Then I can name names, as it were.

          1. If my thyroid dosage is too low, or doesn’t contain any T3, my hearing goes to shit (variously no volume, poor voice distinction, “water in ears” effect, or shrieking noises). When dosage is just right, I get 100% hearing recovery (in mere hours), including getting rid of the tinnitus from noise damage. — Autoimmune thyroiditis, aka Hashimoto’s.

    2. I suspect, but do not know, that there is still plenty of CW out there. It is better and faster than voice (RT) for passing messages. You could probably understand CW (Continuous Wave (International Morse Code)) after getting trained.

    3. Keep in mind that you can also communicate with CW (morse code). You don’t have to be able to understand it to use it – there are communications programs that will translate your words into dots and dashes.

    4. riteturn, as Nathan mentioned there are digital modes where the computer does the “hearing” for you.

      I have a very minimal setup (Extra class here) where I have problems picking up signals on voice and often have problems understanding what the other person is hearing. But using digital modes (FT8 currently) I’m able to communicate around the world (73 countries since July, including Kuwait and Australia from Ohio), often with signals I literally can’t hear.

      Locally, my ARES group is using digital modes to practice passing message traffic using FLDIGI and Winlink. You can access the Winlink system using a standard packet radio system (we have multiple nodes in my area). My family regularly uses APRS (a specialized subset of packet) to pass messages to each other when mobile.

      So there are options.

    5. As far as I am aware, the only thing still using AX.25 in the wild is APRS.

      On the other hand, there’s more data out there than AX.25. I used to be partial to JT-9, although I understand few people use that any more.

    6. A couple of people have tried to interest me in ham radio over the years. It just sounded like whispers in a waterfall to me.

      I’m now at the point where the hearing aids aren’t worth the trouble.

    7. A while back I started running into a problem with cell phones. Now our land line is VOIP, and it’s affecting that, too.

      The human voice spans roughly 20 to 20kHz. A “Plain Old Telephone Service” or POTS line, snips that down into a “window” from 300-3,300Hz, where most of the useful information in a voice is. Everything below and above that is clipped off; that’s why voices on the phone always sound flat.

      I have a common hearing impediment, “cookie bite hearing loss.” For some reason audiologists plot frequency response in polar coordinates, so the loss pattern looks like a bite out of a cookie. (this name came about long before Pac man, obviously) That’s defined as a noticeable a loss of hearing between 500 and 2,000 Hz – the sweet spot of the sweet spot. So I hear all the *other* stuff just fine – past the threshold of pain sometimes – while just getting mrrmmrhf mmmmhm sounds from other people.

      Some modern digital systems take *only* that 500 to 2,000 range that I can’t hear, and crop everything else off. Not all of them,yet… but they’re all packet-switched networks, and your call, cellular or VOIP, is continually switched among “optimum” paths. So I’ll be talking to someone, and then they’ll suddly drop down below comprehensibility. Or, as is becoming common here in Verizon-land, the phone goes dead silent, as far as I can tell. My wife can hear it fine, but for me, it might as well be turned off.

      Interfacing with customers on the phone has become a *big* problem, and will probably force me out of business in the near future as the telephones are “improved” to complete uselessness.

      1. I know you said aids aren’t worth the trouble at this point, but they continue to get better. I would have a hard time with phones or face to face without them. A good hearing test will give you a chart/graph of what you can and can’t hear. That can then be overlaid with charts of which aids are available to cover your problem. I know. I don’t know anything about your situation and there are factors involved.

        I used to think I drove the quietest riding car on earth, until I got my aids.

    8. I too suffer a significant hearing loss, and yet I have communicated with over 100 countries on ham radio in less than 3 years. How? The digital HF modes. Free software like WSJT-X, JS8Call, and FLDigi have modes like FT8 (my favorite), FT4, JS8, and PSK31. They’re like Twitter or text messaging, in that the message length is short, and some of the exchanges are somewhat formulaic. Still, JS8Call is a “chatty” mode, as is PSK31, where you can have long conversations and back-and-forth. These modes are also excellent for passing information via brevity codes.

      There are many non-voice modes where one can communicate worldwide. Check it out.

      As we hams say, “73” (best wishes)
      –Backwoods Engineer

  12. OK, Nathan, I’m going to quibble a bit with your contention that repeaters will have their plugs pulled. Yeah, I can see the big stick machines on the 2000-foot TV towers and the tallest buildings in downtown and the like getting pulled. There are far more repeaters than those, though. (I’m the chairman of the Minnesota Repeater Council, the frequency coordinator for Minnesota, so I have some visibility into these things.) They’re not going to shut off every ham repeater on the local water tower or the commercial two-way 400-foot stick.

    So keep your nice Icom handheld and your stack of cheap Baofengs charged. If you go out, take a Baofeng; that way, if you have to surrender it, or it falls off your belt into a mud puddle or off a tower you’re putting another repeater up on, you’re not out much.

    I need to get something up here to get on HF with. The complication is that the radio is on the second floor, and I haven’t yet figured out how to get a good RF ground up there; there’s also the minor detail of actually getting wires in the air. I do have a good tuner, so I’m not as concerned about the length of the wires (though being resonant on 40 would be nice).

    I’ve been a ham for coming up on 50 years now. Got my first Novice ticket (WN5ENR) before I turned 11. I’ve had this call since 1977, and will keep it till I die.

    73, everyone…de K5ZC

    1. Not to mention how easy it is to put up a a temporary portable repeater, or set up a mobile parked on a high hill or atop a parking garage as a cross-band repeater. BTDT.

  13. One additional point…if you’re willing to spend a little more and get one of the more “name-brand” ham radios instead of a cheap-and-cheerful Baofeng, you can get a wideband receiver on most handheld radios. My two Yaesus, a scarred-up VX-5R and my newer FT-1D, can pick up broadcast AM/FM radio, air band, VHF and UHF public service bands, and even theoretically shortwave with a suitable antenna. It is hard to argue with the sheer almost-disposable value of the Baofengs, though.

    1. The Baofengs are not great radios. (I’ve had people argue, in all seriousness, that they are illegal even for ham use because they do not fit the spurious emissions requirements of Part 97. I’ve very carefully not put mine on my service monitor to see.) They are, however, good enough, and there’s a lot to be said for a $30 radio that’s good enough.

      1. Okay -now- I’m interested. For $30 I can get on the HAM bands? That’s worthwhile. I thought that stuff was ++ hundreds.

        Linky to favorite brands? Pretty please? ~:D

        1. Look on your favorite ham radio online retailer (Gigaparts, Ham Radio Outlet, etc.) or Amazon if you absolutely must, for “Baofeng.” There are other cheap Chinese makers of VHF/UHF ham gear but Baofeng is the one I’m most familiar with. Like Jay said above, they are not great radios, they may not even be good radios, but they are radios, and they seem to work as advertised. And they’re a factor of 5-10 cheaper than the better radios from the bigger-name ham manufacturers (Alinco, Kenwood, Icom, Yaesu, etc.). At those prices they’re practically disposable.

        2. I mentioned Baofengs to $SPOUSE and her reaction was Hell No!!!eleventy!!! To wit: we can afford better (probably), and no red cents to the Chicoms if we can possibly avoid it.

          I do wonder what Dad would think of Japan as highly regarded now. When he passed 50 years ago, they were just barely climbing out of the junk category.

            1. Not sure, actually. I was looking at the ICOM documentation for the IC-718, and the country of origin is conspicuous by its absence. OTOH, the price differential between that and the Chinese brand is about $100.

              FWIW, the 2007 vintage IC-F14 seems to have been made in Japan, according to the data plate inside.

            2. Well, most of the Japanese brands are made in Japan. I know that at least Kenwood and Yaesu are. I know this because my software (SmartBeaconing) is built-in to several models of both those brands of ham radios.

        3. The $30 radios are handhelds similar in form factor and size, and capabilities, to the radios you see in blister packs in the outdoors section of sporting goods stores. That’s because they’re the same electronics with different firmware in them. World beater’s, they’re not, but if you’re looking for VHF or UHF capabilities, they’ll do at least until you know what you want to do with it. Look for brands like Baofeng (Pofung) and Wouxun.

          Many hams think of HF as “real” amateur radio, and you’re not going to find any new HF radios for $30. You can get a Xiegu HF radio new for about $500 or the equivalent Yaesu (FT817) for a couple hundred dollars more, as long as you’re willing to run relatively low power, about 10-20 Watts. For another hundred dollars or so, you can get a 100W radio, which most hams consider “entry level” for HF communications. This is all for new equipment, which does, in fact, rise sharply in price from there.

          If that’s too rich for your blood, then you can buy used gear. Although I first got my license at 15, I was a grown man with children before I got my first new HF rig. A nice basic used HF radio can be had for relatively little, $200-$300. A disadvantage is that it may or may not still work. If a ham is selling it, you can pretty much count on getting an accurate assessment of it’s health, but a lot of the gear for sale is being sold by people who have no idea what the thing is, they might just know that it lights up when you apply power to it. If you’re good with electronics, and have access to some basic test gear, you might get a deal for a “for parts or repair” radio and be able to fix it yourself.

          I have bought single-band transceiver kits in the $30 range, but not only do you need to be able to to put the thing together, you’ll need to brush up on your morse code for those because they’re CW-only and in a lot of cases single-frequency only and many have a transmit power measured in milliwatts. I do actually like my Hermes Lite 2, which was a “kit” (you drill one hole and put three fully-assembled boards into an extruded case and screw it together) but it’s a software-defined radio, so you’ll need a computer and gigabit ethernet network to connect them, and it also closer to $300 than $30.

          Also remember you’ll need more than just the radio. Most of this gear made this century runs off 12V, so you’ll need a 12V power supply of sufficient capacity. You’ll need an antenna. Historically, I’ve cobbled my antennas together out of bits of wire, but you’ve got to have something to hold them up in the air. You will probably need an antenna tuner, too, which can cost more than the radios I’m talking about. You’ll need cables to connect the radio to the antenna and connectors and the tools required to put the connectors on the cables and all kinds of stuff like that. Microphones (or keys) and computer interfaces and USB serial ports and all kinds of similar things. You’ll need the knowledge to put it all together.

          The best thing to do, in my opinion, is to find some ham close to you, a local club is best, and act interested in what they’re doing. Like any group of people who do gear-based hobbies (guitar players being my other example) people who do this tend to accumulate gear, and often think it’s a shame that a lot of it sits around unused. I’ve been offered the indefinite loan of a lot of gear including a couple of radios and an antenna and loaned out my share of gear, too. So, make friends with the local community. If nobody has a radio to loan you, you’ll at least be able to borrow their expertise to evaluate what you might get, loan you crimping tools for the PL-259’s they also loaned you, and similar. They’ll be the first people who know of local hams who have gone “silent key” and whose gear will soon need a new home. Ham radio is not, primarily, a technical hobby. It is, instead, a social hobby. Clubs and face to face meetings happen a lot all over everywhere.

          Anyway, I hope this helps. I’ve been KA8KPN since 1980, when the Columbus (Ohio) Amateur Radio Association helped me get my ticket.

          1. Good tips on equipment. Never crimped PL-259s, but soldered a few. (Was in CB radio before “Convoy” came out. Ah, misspent youth! Should have gutted the code and got a General ticket.)

            The amateur radio groups sound a lot like the metalworking club I belonged to. I’ll have to get in touch with the local club, though with the Oregon lockdowns, that will be interesting. They used to meet every month at a pizzeria in the city, but Despicable Kate Brown killed that. According to their Fecesbook page (haven’t been blocked yet), they’re meeting on Zoom. Sigh. Looking at the meeting photos, it’s not a young group, at least not right now. Then, I’m not young.

            OTOH, the repeater situation, while not great, isn’t impossible. No repeaters on the handy mountain in line of sight, but on a good day, I should be able to get to the existing ones. My experience with the 911 repeaters indicate that it’s so-so with a handheld. Better if I can get out of the valley floor..

            1. Honestly, in the last 40 years I’ve soldered more connectors than I’ve crimped. However, it can be difficult to solder a coax connector properly (especially if you’re using foam core low-loss coax) and, truth be told, I’ve had way too many connectors that I thought I’d soldered properly just come off in my hand. Supposedly, if you use the right tool, crimping is more likely to produce a reliable connection. I just need to remember to use it.

              Different groups are different, and you might not like your local group. I’m kinda spoiled for choice here with three or four clubs of various levels of organization that I could participate in. I hope you are able to find some people locally that you really click with.

      2. I bought an Icom IC-F14 when I was on a volunteer fire department. After I left, I reprogrammed it to receive-only (it’s a great weather radio), but it looks like it might be useful if I can find 2 meter frequencies that actually get used. It’s considerably more sensitive than the Radio Shack scanner. Still doesn’t look like we have much if any 2meter traffic in our rural valley.

        Because of our location, it looks like HF would be a better option for me. Any recommendations on equipment for that? If I can get sufficiently motivated, I’ll review the General ticket questions and see if I can take the Tech and General in February. (I don’t know the rules well enough for the local Jan 16th test slot, but they are testing monthly. Far better than a few years ago where I’d need an overnight stay over the Cascades.)

  14. I’m the granddaughter and daughter of a couple of hams, W6PEI and K6TVU. Granddaddy’s gone now, and Dad has continued on advancing his interest in all things electronic so the licenses are inactive. Dad said I could have his, but he may want to resume it himself. I’m in the process of bumbling my way through getting the study materials and will work on getting my Tech license ASAP.
    Most of what they did was voice and was on a strict schedule. When the ionosphere was cooperating they could get to Hawaii and even Australia.
    And one last tidbit. Before the late 70s, the only vanity vehicle licens plate you could get in CA was your ham license.

  15. Great article, Nathan! I have been lurking here for ten years, but now I have to actually comment. I hold an amateur extra license, AK8T, and from 1997 through 2007 ran VE license exams at the Dayton Hamvention, which is the Ham Radio equivalent of Worldcon. Much bigger than Worldcon too, although my assertion of that fact got me banned from Making Light back in the day. If anyone needs help or information, you can contact me.

    1. I had always understood Worldcon to be the SF fandom equivalent of Dayton Hamvention or Oshkosh Airventure (for aviation geeks): an event that a fan should try hard to get to at least once in their lives, as the biggest and most comprehensive event of its kind. Now? Well, I’ll happily go back to Hamvention (even if it’s not in Dayton any more), and definitely Oshkosh, but Worldcon? I’m not welcome there due to wrongthink.

    2. I’ve never seen a city put up banners along the street welcoming Worldcon. Heck, we had banners in cities that weren’t even holding Hamvention put up banners, just because hams were staying at the hotels there.

      Making Light. Never was a blog title so aspirational and so set against their actual demonstrated purpose. I roll my eyes in their general direction.

  16. Is there a way to find out if there’s anyone to talk to without buying the equipment? See, I live in a cell dead zone because of the mountains. It is also an FM dead zone. We used to have a roof antenna when I was a kid to pick up broadcasts. Not sure AM gets through either, for that matter.

    I need to call the local club, don’t I?

    1. A local club would definitely be a good idea. You might even find someone that would loan you a receiver that you could use to test what you can hear at your location.

      You might also try a search on https://haminfo.tetranz.com/map which will show you a map of nearby ham radio operators (based on the address on file with the FCC)

      1. That’s a solid nope on the map. Good ridges between us and the nearest hams.

        From the location of the tags across the ridges, though, even odds I have someone’s phone #. It’s either her or her next door neighbor. Unless it’s the volunteer fire department, in which case it’s definitely someone I know. Probably the first someone, but maybe another volunteer. I need to talk to her anyway about a burn permit(s), so I’ll add that to the plan. Our place hasn’t burned over for over sixty years and I want to, carefully, before Nature does it carelessly.

        1. My next question is if there are any repeaters on any of those ridges? You don’t have to be able to hit the other person’s radio directly so long as you can both hit the repeater.

          I’ve never found an accurate, easy (especially for new users) to use map of repeater sites for the US (many repeater ops, especially those with remote sites, don’t advertise to avoid vandalism, theft, etc.), so the best source to see if you have a useable repeater in your location is to ask the local hams.

    2. The answer is probably “yes” if HF (shortwave) is used, because those signals get to you bounced off the ionosphere — 100 miles or so above the earth. That’s subject to the day/night cycle and the 11 year “sunspot” cycle, but in general there is some band in the 1.8 to 30 MHz range that will get you out, and with a bit of good luck all around the world if you like.
      A cheap shortwave receiver will give you some insights. In some parts of the world “shortwave listening” including listening to ham stations (without transmitting to them) is a popular hobby and often an inexpensive and no-license-required way to get started. That’s less true in the USA, I think.

  17. Interpretive Dance? This idea of talking with people one cannot see will never catch on. What next? Communication by Aldis Lamp?
    ~

    1. Whoops! That did not edit properly. Revise as:

      This idea of talking with people one cannot see will never catch on. What next? Communication by Aldis Lamp? Interpretive Dance?

      Not that it was all that clever to begin with …
      ~

  18. Halleluiah – the Republic is saved!

    AG Paxton: Woman accused of voter fraud in San Antonio arrested, charged
    AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said Wednesday a woman accused of voter fraud and depicted in online videos in San Antonio has been arrested.

    Paxton said Raquel Rodriguez is charged with election fraud, illegal voting, unlawfully assisting people voting by mail and unlawfully possessing an official ballot. If Rodriguez is convicted, she could face up to 20 years in prison, Paxton said.

    Paxton said the source of evidence used against Rodriguez was video taken last fall and released online by the group Project Veritas. The conservative group, led by James O’Keefe III, has been previously accused of intentionally spreading misinformation online and questionable information-gathering tactics during its undercover sting operations. Paxton says the Election Fraud Division of his office reviewed “dozens of hours of unedited, raw footage” provided by the group, which ultimately led to Rodriguez’s arrest.

    Paxton said the investigation into her case is ongoing.

    In Texas, 150 people have been charged with voter fraud since 2004, KXAN News investigator Jody Barr reported in October. He reported 138 of those cases ended with either a guilty plea or a jury conviction, with the “vast majority” of cases settled through plea agreements with the attorney general.

    Only 24 of those convicted spent at least a day in jail. The rest of the defendants were either given probation or pre-trail diversion deals, Barr reported.
    [END EXCERPT]

    Now we only need another twenty million such arrests.
    ~

  19. Re: cheap BaoFengs

    Can I get a recommendation on models? I’ve looked briefly at them on Amazon after reading various prepper articles, but I have no idea which is going to be the best value vs. whizzy features.

    1. I’m not up on the latest variants on the Chinese radios (I bought a most of my gear before they came on the scene).

      But taking on the subject of avoiding Amazon, some other online retailers for Ham gear are: Gigaparts, Ham Radio Outlet, DX Engineering, and R&L Electronics (my local candy store and I’ve had very good luck with them).

      Once you have some models in mind, you can go to eHam to look at review by users on a non-sales site:

      https://www.eham.net/reviews/view-category?id=49

  20. Great introductory article Nathan!

    I’m one of those guys that operates out of my truck. Longest confirmed contact I have is a Cuban station while tooling up I29 in South Dakota. The set up also useful during a Simulated Emergency Test. Parked on the roof of the parking garage next to my County EMA and made contact with the State EMA on HF.

    There is still a lot CB use by truckers out there. I can monitor 11 Meters on my mobile (IC706MKIIG) and occasionally do so, but not often as I lose interest quickly and rarely find any useful information regarding traffic etc. I never dig out my old CB radio in the trunk to talk there.

    I’m not making any comments on the quality of the conversations given what you can find in pockets of HF amateur operations.

    73

  21. Wow, Ed Driscoll has become an intolerable anti-Trump asshole. I’m going to have to practice not seeing anything from him at Instapundit.

  22. Completely off topic, but I wanted to get some Hun opinions on this. Here is a flyer supposedly for a Patriotic armed protest for Jan 17th:

    Instapundit warns that it smells like a trap (https://pjmedia.com/instapundit/425878/#respond), complete with Adm. Akbar references.

    Look at the flyer. EVERY detail of it is the exact opposite of what a patriotic graphic artist would produce. The colors, fonts, and style just scream that it was made by some variant of European Socialism. At first I thought it was just that the graphic artist who made it was just some college art major who has absorbed “This is what Revolutionary Art is” from academia. But as if everything else wasn’t enough, the artist looked at it and thought “Just to be sure even the densest viewer gets the non-verbal message I will add three ChicCom yellow stars to the bottom corner drawn as if they were graffitied on to Lady Liberty… oh! and I’ll even turn them upside down so they look like satanic pentagrams” Surely every single graphical choice can’t have been made to scream “not for Patriotic Americans” by accident or incompetence…

    This looks exactly like what a well-educated patriotic American graphic artist would produce if his boss at the F.B.I. said “Make up a flyer we can use to sucker those Militia nuts into coming to a seemingly legitimate event for us to create a False Flag killin’ at”. And the graphic artist could not openly warn the recipients, but tried to put as many hints in the flyer that he could that this was not a real American Patriotic event.

    Or am I overthinking it. Like I said, at first I thought incompetence… but turning the stars into pentagrams desecrating Lady Liberty was just TOO wrong to not have been done on purpose.

      1. It looks very much like the Antifa “call for action” posters, and I suspect are a false flag, if not by Antifa than by the FBI itself, with the intent to use it to round up everyone who shows up, whether armed or not.

        Expect a lot more of this from the party that conducted midnight raids for “campaign finance investigations” in Wisconsin well before they used the FBI to send SWAT teams to arrest unarmed people for white collar crimes in early morning raids.

        You WILL see Stasi style tactics being used by every single entity Democrats control.

        1. Sure. And once the unsuspecting show up, the organizers will fire into the crowd anonymously trying to spark a mass mutual slaughter as everyone starts shooting at everyone. Which really seems like a take away from Kenosha and the Rittenhouse case. Although in Kyle’s case, he only fired on his immediate, identifiable assailants.

          1. only fired on his immediate, identifiable assailants.

            The liberal-but-honest reporter Lee Quinn on the Dark Horse podcast marveled that all the protestors he saw inside the Capitol had “left their guns at home”. My thought was: I bet a lot of them were concealed carrying, but CCW types are disciplined enough not to draw unless there’s an immediate deadly threat.

        1. He’s saying that the posters themselves are Glowie, I think.

          Some of the early warnings I saw about the posters are anonymous.

          I’ve just had a mad suspicion that things are bad enough that folks low within the deep state are actually opposed to it. As in, maybe something the professional agent provocateurs can tell is evil, and so were early on making sure to warn us off.

          Things are definitely strange enough that there is no end to the crazy theories that would be plausible, or competitive with whatever is actually going on.

                    1. Cold has a conceptually simple solution: add energy.

                      Heat has a few terrible solutions, all of which just move the problem around in hope of making it briefly tolerable.

                    2. Also: cold can only go down ~300° C. Hot can go up infinitely. Not hot enough for ya? Have another 10°!

          1. I agree. But my question is… the graphic artist flipped Lady Liberty so she’s raising the wrong (sinister) hand and then depicts her graffitied with pentagrams. Is that the world’s worst graphic artist or is the graphic artist using non-verbal communication to say “It’s a TRAP” in a deniable way?

            TheDonald dot Win id’d the style as a the standard Cavana theme under political poster templates, btw. Clippy: “I see you’re trying to foment a worker’s revolution…”

    1. I knew my memory wasn’t playing tricks on me. The real Statue holds the torch in her right hand, and the tablet in her left. So they’ve flipped Lady Liberty around, which makes her, what? Bondage Lady? 😛
      ———————————
      Nobody has so little that some asshole doesn’t want to take it. And the government is full of assholes.

    2. After much discussion on TheDonald I’m convinced these flyers are created by our enemies.

      It most assuredly isn’t something any one of us would do. Look at the colors. There is no white. Our stuff always has pristine red, white, and blue.

      1. Refuse, Demand, or End [ie. variants of coerce] TARGETS rather than GOALS.

        March ON (attack) rather than TO (meet).

        That’s standard anarcho-communist rile-’em-up, always leaning toward intimidation through force.

    3. Nope. They’re still on the “let’s make a false flag attempt to make them do something stupid!” wagon. And still thinking we’re as stoopid as they don’t realize they are. Much like the fraud, it insults the intelligence of the person it is aimed at.

          1. Shapiro is a weathercock. Doesn’t even take much wind, he turns whatever way looks safe. Been saying that for years.

            1. Shapiro is a very smart guy, and has a lot of good to contribute on cultural issues and conservatism generally (from an Orthodox Jewish viewpoint). Just not regarding Trump. As far as I’m concerned that’s perfectly fine, I don’t have to agree 100% with him or any of the other independent conservative or libertarian thinkers.

              Hell, I still think Nick Gillespie and his crew at Reason have useful things to say sometimes.

              1. Agreed mostly, but I don’t like how readily he’s rolled over on the really ‘dangerous’ points. (Enough so that I stopped paying attention to him.) I don’t even remember what the first time I noticed was about, but do remember that he caught flak and 180’d his position, without any evidence of a legit change of mind.

    4. As nobody else has mentioned this element: armed march????

      Real patriots don’t have to be told to bring their weapons.
      ~

        1. Which is the perhaps the absolute BEST reason to utterly and completely ignore/boycott the damn thing.

          I plan to use that time infinitely more productively (and be infinitely more conscious than Fraudulent-Elect Ficus) by… sleeping through the damned thing.

    5. That looks like a kissin’ cousin of the it’s-a-trap-operation I was muttering about yesterday. Not the same “event” or group, but definitely one for whom Patriot is not a first language.

    6. Is there anything there about assembly points, routes of march or anything else defining where to “enlist”? Are there no parade permits, web sign-ups, or other IDENTIFICATION of these organizers?

      That alone is cause for suspicion.
      ~

  23. Nice article.
    Some observations. Cyn, yes it’s very much illegal for anyone to ban your use of ham radio. At the most a HOA or landlord might be able to restrict your use of outdoor antennas, which is the reason for “stealth” antennas.
    A good question to think about is “what attacks (or failures) are you trying to deal with?” This is the standard rule for doing security analysis (to decide what crypto etc. you need) or other types of failure or reliability design. For example: do you still have repeaters? Do you still have mains power? Do you still have access to gasoline? Has Kim 3rd committed an EMP attack on the USA and all semiconductors are now fried?
    You can deal with any of these scenarios, and a lot of them aren’t even expensive. No electricity and no fuel? Solar cells or a small wind mill will serve many applications. EMP? Keep a small radio in an all-metal cookie tin, and/or keep some vacuum tube radios around as I do. Some of us will even be able to figure out how to build spark transmitters and galena receivers again if we really have to (but I sure would rather not!).
    Encryption: as I mentioned on another blog just a day or two ago, all pencil & paper ciphers are long obsolete and too weak to stand up to any competent modern attack. If electronics are dead, fine, then the attackers are having a hard time too. If so there are some good options, not well known, and also lots of bad options, mostly far better known. BTW, did you know Thomas Jefferson invented an encryption device? It’s quite good actually. Look it up.

    The key message about “get licensed now and operate under the rules” is exactly like the shooter’s rule “learn the gun laws, buy legal guns and get the training”. You can’t be good at any of this if you haven’t practiced. Communicating effectively isn’t actually all that easy. Even if you use voice or keyboard messages, you need structure for it to work well. If you want to use Morse code, you need to learn that and practice it enough to get decent at it. I really recommend that, by the way. For simplicity to “get through if all else fails” Morse code is absolutely the very best answer. As I understand it, the Apollo space missions all carried Morse code gear as the final last resort communications backup. Remember what I said about old style spark transmitters? That’s all Morse code by definition.
    –ni1d

    1. Correction on encryption: “one time pad” is a pencil & paper system that’s actually “unconditionally secure”, the only cipher system with that property. It’s also quite hard to use, and easy to get wrong (look up “Venona”). But if used right it can’t be broken by anything, which is why USSR spies used it.

      1. Um… Maybe, maybe not. The true crime buffs just used their software to break one of Zodiac’s messages which was also cheating and lying about its own code (ie, probably-intentional misspellings and mistakes). Maybe a one-time pad is still safe. Maybe.

        OTOH, the real use of codes is to get info around for a short time, and then hopefully the message is destroyed. At which point it doesn’t matter anymore.

        1. And of course you still want to redistribute the pad every so often with new codes. Someone might have grabbed one.

      2. You can implement a one time pad electronically. It’s not even very hard, and it’s secure under the exact same conditions as a pencil and paper.

        Generate a large thumb drive full of random bits, dump it out into reasonably sized, serial numbered files, checksum those files and then write the whole thing to 2 thumb drives.

        Have a program that uses those bits to encode and decode traffic, then one by one deletes (and securely wipes) the “used” files. If you want to be even more brutal, use your own character map (e.g. get rid of everything below ASC32 except CR, and squash everything to lower case) and you might be able to get it down to 5bit messages character sets. Use bit level encoding instead of byte and you save a lot of bits.

        Securely deliver the thumb drive, with the executable to decode *BACK TO THE THUMB DRIVE* already on it.

        1. Yes, one time pad can also be done by computer. The same requirements apply: true random keys, of the same length as the data, and only used once. “Two time pad” is how you get in trouble. 🙂
          My point is that one time pad is the one example of a secure cryptosystem that can be done with nothing more complex than pencil and paper, exactly as USSR spies did decades ago.

    2. > If electronics are dead, fine, then the attackers are having a hard time too.

      It depends on whose electronics are dead.

      There are lots of EMP hardened systems. Isn’t even really that difficult. Sometimes expensive, but not difficult.

  24. A good write-up, and one that gets me curious about the difficulties in operating out of an apartment. Thanks for posting this. I’ll have to do some research.

  25. Expect the Dems to vastly expand the “no-fly” list and to use that to deprive people of not only flying, but any Federal licenses, with states run by Dems following suit. (Upchuck Schumer is pushing this). This will include professional licenses and even driver’s licenses.

    They mean to PURGE every single person who does not actively cheer the party line, and will move quickly from CCP social credit systems to Nazi style outright bans and then to concentration/re-education/death camps. We know this because leftists have a very lengthy track history of doing this. The only question is how quickly.

    1. I just got Izetta on Blue-Ray disk. Can’t resist a red-headed witch riding an anti-tank gun in place of a broom!

  26. One other thing I would throw in about radios is power. Handi-talkies like the ones we’re talking about here run on rechargeable batteries; car units require 12v, and big HF base stations need 110v wall power. HTs chew through batteries when being used to transmit. Make sure you have plenty of spare batteries if you need them and ways to charge them both on and off the grid. Some radios can use battery cases containing normal disposable AAs or AAAs–at least they used to, I’m not sure any of the cheap Chinese stuff can–but usually those limit transmission power and don’t last long.

    1. Not necessarily on the HF. I guess it depends on what you mean by “big HF” stations.

      My primary HF rigs (one in the truck and one in the shack, IC-706MKIIGs) run on 12V. My shack is run on a 35A power supply that fails over to a large deep cycle battery if commercial power fails.

  27. Behind the curve today with my reading. Still time to say that this is a WONDERFUL article. Thanks to Sarah and Nathan!! Beyond that, I’m thinking more about communication. Whatever unfolds in the coming days and months, being able to reach out and connect will be vital. The tools of organization are slipping out of our hands, very very quickly. Wisdom would council preparation, no? Why not buy a good, flexible rig? I see no downside.

      1. Great, thanks. That seems to happen often but only with this blog. It’s also the only one that asks me to log in, and it never remembers me if I do.

          1. I’m starting to think it’s a buffer problem. I’ve noticed that if a post gets stuck, it magically appears as soon as I make another one, apparently shoving the first post on its way. Might be the buffer doesn’t deal well with larger numbers of posters/posts, as it seems to get worse as the chain lengthens.

        1. At work I am stuck with Microsoft and limits on installs so it is Chrome (IE and Edge first edition hated ATH, Insty, PJ etc, and MGC) and I was having these issues there since fall. I was fine at home on the Mint box using Opera with some new minor issues until a few weeks ago and it got equally stupid as work. Open Reader and it has me logged in, but open ATH or MG and I am not logged in, though clicking the WP logo to log in logs me in automatically. At work it takes 2 or 3 loads before notifications will work one load often does not load anything but the bar above and shadows of where post should be.

          1. So far I’ve been doing well with Vivaldi (yes, Chrome based, but with some serious overhauling to de-stupid a *lot*) with ScriptBlock, Ghostery, and Click To Remove Element (I use it to get rid of winky blinky eyeball hijacking asshattery).

            1. My system seems to get irritated by Vivaldi for some reason. I been making system changes but had to time-shift last weekend (oops, don’t delete that!) stupid Mint update instructions. Haven’t redone some of what I lost.
              Can Vivaldi work with DMCA stupidity? I use Firefox only when forced, for watching sites like MotorTrend or Lucas Oil TV and they hork on Opera, Brave, Slimjet etc. Alphabet Chrome or FF only so far has worked for me. Brave has locked me up a few times in the past, too.

              1. Dunno. I’m running Mint (LTS) and so far the only time I use FireFox is for banking as I want a browser I do NOT have open normally for that. Gave up on Opera when they went Stupid years ago (I ran Opera 12.x for sooooo damn long…). They can die in a fire, the incompetent marketing assholes.

  28. When WWI began, one of the first things the British did was to use their control of the seas to dredge up and cut all the German undersea cables. This gave the British a huge advantage in news and propaganda dissemination to still-neutral countries such as the US. (Not absolute, the Germans still did have radio, but a big advantage still for the possessors of working undersea cables)

    I’ve heard that Signal Corps people like to cite General Bradley’s dictum: “”Congress can make a general, but only communications can make him a commander.”

    There is a lot of power in control of the communications links.

    1. “Congress can make a general, but only communications can make him a commander.” Lest we forget LOGISTICS. How, specifically, do individuals communicate when their blogs of choice go away? What’s needed to make that happen? Email lists are probably a start. Proton makes sense. At the other end of the spectrum … paper? How, specifically? Who organizes and maintains? One person, many, cells? At the minimum a known/agreed upon way of sending a basic message. Many or most all of you have private lines of communication with each other. The part-time lurkers who rely on you all as expressions of and links to sanity lack that kind of link. Contact and communication ARE logistics when they nourish and maintain the faithful.

      1. It all boils down to control. The harder we make it to control us or even know what we’re doing or thinking, the better off we’ll be. Dark web might be an option, though that’s only good until you invite the wrong person in or someone gets compromised. As freely as they’re throwing that ‘terrorist’ label around I can see it getting uglier.

  29. Given the HAM communities downright eagerness to help the Feds track down “Pirate Radio” operators, I’m not sure I’d trust that community very much.

    Individuals? Yeah.

    The group? No.

    1. If by “pirate radio operators” you mean people that jam repeaters, interfere with SKYWARN ARES and other emergency operations, and in general try to make the frequencies unusable by legitimate users then I got nothin’ for you and no sympathy for them.

    2. (Pet peeve: it’s ham, not HAM. Ham is a name, not an acronym.)

      Hams are self-policing, and recognize the need for operator and station licensing. We’ve been there and done that before licensing was a thing, and the airwaves were so bad they became unusable.

      If you put a signal on the air, you need to do it in ways that don’t cause others problems. Pirate radio stations often do cause them.

  30. By way of background for those not familiar with him, Michael Goodwin is an old-style Ed Koch NYC Democrat we is repulsed by the modern Democrats/left. He notes quite aptly that the Democrats are moving towards banning political speech under the guise of calling it hate speech. He also notes that Trump was correct when he said that he himself wasn’t the target but all of the many millions who dissent from what the Democrats seek to do.

    https://nypost.com/2021/01/12/dems-want-to-bring-down-anyone-who-ever-backed-trump-goodwin/

  31. Support Goya Foods and buy their products. Their CEO today warned “close down the economy and we all die” and “all businesses are essential”. He warned of the hard turn to the left and that “we have the iceberg of communism ahead of us.”:

    This after he took on “the commie squad”.

    Deserves as much support as we can give.

    1. Not long after the Nonsense and the calls for boycotting… a local store’s “ethnic food” aisle moved all the “Asian” stuff to another aisle and there was this big section of Goya products where there had been only three or four scattered Goya products before.

    2. Even if you personally don’t have need of Goya’s products they make great contributions to local food drives.

      Assuming the bleeding hearts do not discard those from the collections (a new target for Project Veritas or do they already have a target rich environment?)
      ~

      1. Ooh.. ANY “food bank” throwing away stuff not truly damaged (cans with dents on the seals, for example) DESERVES utter and complete clobbering into Cessation of Existence. With ALL parties names and publicized, in BILLION-point type.

  32. Some things to note about ham licenses:

    Ham radio is 90 percent reading, 7 percent listening, 2 percent building/playing and 1 percent transmitting. It’s about 90 percent knowledge/skill and 10 percent math. Radios and antennas are math and physics machines. Antennas are more important than radios, but nobody likes calling the hobby “Amateur Antenna”.

    You can take and pass more than one level of license per test session. So max out your time and money and at least get Tech and General. Getting General gets you access to all of HF except for the Extra sections of the bands.

    The tests are just the tests. They are there to give a smidgen of theory, safety and regulation exposure. They also keep the lazy from being licensed. There are sets of question pools that can be easily mastered with the help of software training. An above average person that is good at multiple choice tests can go from zero to Extra in 2 to 6 weeks. The training books can give more background, but there’s plenty of material on the internet. If you really want to master RF, get a masters in EE and get more confused… 😛

    Keep it legal. Have fun. Learn something everyday. Spin the dial. If you don’t like the local VHF/UHF scene, get on HF. The only gatekeeper is you.

    Note: There is no privacy and it’s trivial to track a transmitter’s location with modern technology.

  33. Thanks for the advice.

    I know very little about Ham radio. I have a GMRS license (WRJS284) I got so I can legally use GMRS when hiking or hunting. Neither of which I do much any more. Right now I have a couple of Midland handhelds and I am not even sure what the maximum power is.

  34. A good read. My father, RIP, was an ardent ham operator and did a lot of the volunteer things you mentioned. After he passed our family ended up giving away the equipment to some of his ham buddies. We had no use for it in the day of the internet. Now I read this and wonder if he was the smarter one by far.

  35. Possibly relevant: a public notice today (Jan 17) from the FCC:

    Click to access DA-21-73A1.pdf

    The Bureau has become aware of discussions on social media platforms suggesting that certain radio services regulated by the Commission may be an alternative to social media platforms for
    groups to communicate and coordinate future activities. The Bureau recognizes that these
    services can be used for a wide range of permitted purposes, including speech that is protected
    under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Amateur and Personal Radio Services,
    however, may not be used to commit or facilitate crimes.

    Specifically, the Bureau reminds amateur licensees that they are prohibited from transmitting
    “communications intended to facilitate a criminal act” or “messages encoded for the purpose of
    obscuring their meaning.”1 Likewise, individuals operating radios in the Personal Radio
    Services, a category that includes Citizens Band radios, Family Radio Service walkie-talkies, and
    General Mobile Radio Service, are prohibited from using those radios “in connection with any
    activity which is against Federal, State or local law.”2 Individuals using radios in the Amateur or
    Personal Radio Services in this manner may be subject to severe penalties, including significant
    fines, seizure of the offending equipment, and, in some cases, criminal prosecution.3

    1. t they are prohibited from transmitting … “messages encoded for the purpose of obscuring their meaning.”

      Well, I guess that means “John has a long mustache” is right out.

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