Amateur radio nerdgasm

Since I have children under the age of five, there’s pretty much zero chance of me doing cool nerdy things with radio on a regular basis at home, so I have been looking into one of the many sub-disciplines of amateur radio, mobile QRP (low power) operation. The idea is that you drive/hike/climb/fly somewhere remote and set up shop in a very minimal fashion.

Since I’m super cheap, I’ve been doing a lot of research to identify the best single radio that will do most of what I want to do at least halfway well; I can’t afford to diversify and own the perfect radio for each of the things, so I’m shooting for a good radio for (almost) all of the things. I had picked out a model and the gotta-have options and concluded that I’d have to spend about $900 to get the one I wanted and enough of the extras to really get started.

My plans to carefully save went right out the window when I found an eBay listing for $1300 yesterday. It had the exact model of radio I wanted, but with all of the factory options and just about all of the premium aftermarket upgrades–plus multiple antennas for different bands, solar charging arrays, extra batteries, foam-lined carry case, and a bunch of other stuff. I did a mental estimate of street value and jumped on the “buy it now.” After-the-fact calculations suggest I just netted about $2200 worth of gear, less than a year old, and all set up to work together.

[Yes, I had the money; it was just being saved for other things that I wanted. This was (almost) the last of my reenlistment bonus.]

I’ve been in contact with the seller, a 70-year-old Vietnam veteran who is divesting his mobile kit because he is no longer able to move around as well as he used to. He had sent me messages within 15 minutes offering his phone and technical help any time I needed it. Very cool.

I am ridiculously pleased about this. I am now one step closer to my pointless plan of setting up a BBS over HF radio on a mountain. Because you can do things like that.

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This is exactly the kind of thing that would make a great freelance piece—3-5k words on your amateur radio adventures!

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Style guides and submission guidelines are remarkably well-hidden, assuming they exist.

Fire off a note to my Ars e-mail with a short pitch (just a paragraph or so, describing what the article would be about), and I’ll get it to the appropriate persons.

This will happen, albeit not imminently; the adventures of fixing the cooling system in our '99 Subaru are less interesting, but more pressing.

Good luck with the article and cooling system. :smiley:

I’ve been reading more articles at Ars lately and have been enjoying them. I also find that for the most part, the comments from Arsians on the articles are a good read as well.

I’ve been reading Ars over the last week. It’s actually kind of interesting. Who knew?

Swapped the original radio back into the Subaru; we’ll see if that exorcises the electrical system demons that occasionally renders the car completely dead for no apparent reason, even though the battery and starter both test fine.

The radiator is leaking in the exact same place that the last one (replaced under warranty) was leaking. We will give the shop a third chance to make it right.

Now, back to more important things: the radio should arrive in the mail tomorrow. Huzzah! The seller upgraded the shipping and insured it (all at his cost); he rocks. Conveniently, Mom cancelled on our weekly dinner. I sense destiny at play.

This would have been great to see a couple days ago, since I just had to fudge some details regarding amateur radio for a project.

I don’t know a lot, but I know where to find it and I’m soaking up more rapidly.

Stuff arrived today. The seller is freaking amazing; this was just about the most thorough job of packing I’ve ever seen. All is in ordnung, but I haven’t had a chance to play yet; I’d previously promised Siglet Prime that we would play Lego Star Wars II this afternoon. He won’t always want to play video games with me.

But once bedtime rolls around…

Reception using the built-in filters and little whip antennas is excellent on the short range bands (UHF, VHF). But I’m not going to be able to reach out and touch anyone on HF until I get one of the big antennas up, and that won’t happen until I can get some antenna feed line to connect it to the radio.

This was literally the only thing that prevented me from taking it out of the boxes and hiking into the hills right away. It’s still preventing me from doing much because Radio Shack (“You’ve got questions; we’ve got blank stares”) pretty much only sells cell phones and home theater now; they don’t have anything I can use.

(Details involve alchemical and thaumaturgical concepts like “impedance mismatch.” Suffice it to say that home theater coax cable is The Wrong Kind.)

I exercised my trial Amazon Prime membership to get a cool radio bag and a cable with two-day shipping. I will use the wait to do map recon on some good intercept sites

UPS is utterly failing me. I get that the holiday weekend meant that 2-day shipping was going to be rather more, but it was predicted to arrive yesterday; I’m still waiting. I want my bag. Everything else is here. Of course, so are the incredibly rare (for us) thunderstorms, so I won’t be putting up any antennas today anyway.

In other news, I am going to the TAPR/ARRL Digital Communications Conference in a few weeks, which is conveniently located in Seattle this year. A selection of the scheduled sessions:

  • Web Based Interfaces for Digital 2-Way Radio
  • Providing authenticated amateur radio services on the Internet
  • Raspberry Pi Applications in Digital Communications: A Mobile Xastir-Based APRS Station
  • SDR [software defined radio] Architecture for VHF/UHF
  • Applications and Infrastructure for Marathon Support
  • Open Hardware – Why and How
  • HackRF: A Low Cost Software Radio Platform
  • GNUradio Companion module for openHPSDR Hermes / Metis SDR Radio
  • Narrowband IP over Amateur Radio Networks (NIPARnets): Next-Generation Networking for Amateur Radio
  • HamWAN: A Modern Microwave Network for Amateur Radio

Bruce Perens is a standby speaker to talk about encryption in amateur radio (and most likely why it’s a terrible idea).

The fact that work is probably going to cover my costs to attend is just icing on the cake. I’m super excited about this.

Conference is tomorrow. I am giddy with excitement.

Conference was awesome. I’ve been writing up my responses and trying to interpret for a less radio-familiar audience with mixed results. I did write about the FreeDV voice codec, Yaesu’s underwhelming announcement, and Bruce Perens’ response to same. As I should have known would happen, Bruce Perens commented on my post. So that’s kind of cool.

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Didn’t know you were a ham, Sig. I’m K8YSV. Started a blog a while back but haven’t really had time to do much with it. It’s over at My forays into QRP have been only temporary. I keep buying FT-817s and then selling them, and keep looking longingly at the Elecrafts, but won’t pull the trigger on one for some reason. I’ve still got a 20m QRP rig and an Ten-Tec kit I built for 40m but I spend most of my time on the radio focused on the HF bands running 100W out. Still, I dig portable ops and will drag my FT-897 out to the woods while camping and throw a wire up in the trees. It’s relaxing.

I’m pretty new to it (June) and (expensive radio purchases aside) have been taking it rather slow. I really did not need another hobby; I was supposed to get rid of some this year. Hoping to do some rainy day hill climbing soon, but it seems like someone is always sick or otherwise requiring my attention…

Not touching that one with a 3.048 metre pole… :laughing:

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That was rather informative for something written by a guy who doesn’t know a lot. :smile:

Wordpress?! @sig, how the mighty hath fallen! You should at least ghost, my friend.

Sometimes, you just want something that works. You note I’m not hosting it myself, so the biggest annoyances (keeping up with security updates and plugins and other weirdness) doesn’t apply. Eventually, will switch to something simple, portion hosted on my account.

I want to be able to access your blog via gopher.