10.17.20

The Harry Caul Files

Harry Caul was the name of Gene Hackman’s character in The Conversation. It was later adopted as a pen name by the founder and first editor of Popular Communications, the late Tom Kneitel. He wrote a few articles under the name, but the first three were considered by many in the know to be among the best, and remained relevant over the years. In fact, perhaps even more relevant with the availability of $23 handheld radios on Amazon with frequency coverage of 136-174 & 400-479.995 MHz.

So without further ado, here is a PDF for you to download:

09.27.20

Just do it.

Get a receiver. Spin the dial. Tune in. Find alternate sources of news and information. Or just listen to some tunes and relax a bit.

Just do it.

09.16.20

Build It

From a fellow hobbyist we are reminded that BIY (Build It Yourself) is not dead.

https://swling.com/blog/2020/09/ron-reminds-us-that-mfj-still-offers-a-shortwave-radio-kit/

https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0289/7782/3843/files/MFJ-8100K_Manual.pdf

MFJ has been around forever, and has helped get many a ham radio operator get on the air.

09.14.20

Eton Grundig FR200 Emergency Radio (Shortwave Receiver)

This radio came out in 2002, and was marketed for use in blackouts and other disasters. It covers AM, FM, and shortwave broadcast bands. They were about $40 back in the day. It’s been discontinued, but you can find one on Ebay for $25-$30.

The main useful feature of this radio is a hand-crank battery charger for the radio’s replaceable NiMh battery pack. Turn the crank for a couple minutes, and you’ll get about an hour’s worth of listening. You can also run it off regular AA batteries or an AC adapter. This is a cheap portable with very good sensitivity that is simple to use, and has longer battery life than many other portables.

Before you buy that Baofeng that everyone except the guy who’s been writing about radio and self-reliance for 30+ years (me) says you should get, you should buy an FR200 or something similar. Scratch that. Go on Ebay and buy an FR200. When you as a beginner buy a Baofeng, or any other ham rig for that matter, unless you have a ham license and a local segment of the community to talk with, the thing will get placed on a shelf and never used. Unless there’s some ARES, RACES, or Skywarn activity going on, Amateur Radio conversations on FM VHF and UHF are pretty boring, and nothing most people will want to hear. You might have a local police or fire department that still uses an analog VHF-high band or UHF communications system, and can use that Baofeng as a scanner, but otherwise it’ll just sit there unused. The FR200 is something that you will be able to use every day to get broadcasts from around the globe, and expand the variety of your information collection (intelligence) activities to get a more accurate picture of what’s going on out there.

I recommend the FR200 over other receivers in its class for a couple reasons. It’s simple to operate. Turn it on, adjust the volume, select the band, and start spinning the dial until you hear something. Anyone, not just a radio communications hobbyist, can use the thing. Other radios are more complicated. It also can be just left on a shelf until needed, and still be operational. If the AA batteries in the unit are dead, turn the hand crank for a couple minutes and you’ll be up and running. Not that you should just leave it on a shelf in the first place. You should spend a little time each evening cruising the bands and getting information regardless of what’s going on outside.

04.15.20

Wildflower’s Favorite Crystal Radio Book

https://www.americanradiohistory.com/BOOKSHELF-ARH/Technology/Boys-Book-Of-Crystal-Sets.pdf

This one was his favorite, and the one he would usually reference when building sets. He liked it so much, he used to print out copies and give them to his techie friends.

03.29.20

Communications Monitoring, COMINT, and the COVID-19 Emergency

So many of you are home and have broken out those police scanners and shortwave receivers in a decision to listen for information on the current COVID-19 emergency.

You should concentrate on the VHF/UHF scanner frequencies, because that’s where all the emergency workers with their boots on the ground will be operating. Sites such as Intercept Radio (http://www.interceptradio.com/) and Radio Reference (https://www.radioreference.com/) are your best bet for information.

There have been lists of shortwave (HF) frequencies circulating certain prepper sites and blogs. The lists are 10+ years old, and may have incorrect data, especially for Federal government agencies. Federal government radio license data, as opposed to State/County/Local agency (and non-government) license data, is deemed unclassified but sensitive, and exempt from the FOIA laws. That determination was made in the 1980s, so much of what you see online is that old, and just copied from data that Grove Communications managed to get before it became restricted.

Something to think about is when you have a whole host of communications system capabilities like HF, VHF/UHF, landline, satellite phone, Internet, why would you use (HF) radio for communications when you can, at present, pick up a phone and make a call? The answers are:

  1. Radio is used for group communications (base/HQ->mobile/field units) that are not practical to do via telephone.
  2. HF is a backup for when your other systems are down, or when the communications range exceeds that of your VHF/UHF system.
  3. When you are doing daily/weekly/monthly radio system tests to make sure everything still works.

There are hobbyist web sites that I have mentioned previously where listeners have been doing an excellent job collecting data, https://www.hfunderground.com/ and http://www.udxf.nl/ are two that I like. And with that, I’m going to give you a warning: these are international sites for worldwide SWL hobbyists who specialize in a particular aspect of the hobby: non-broadcast (aka utility or “ute”) communications on the HF bands. Many, perhaps even most of them, don’t give a shit about American prepper stuff. So, if you follow Dean Ing’s (and mine for that matter) advice about treating this like a hobby, you’ll be just fine. If you act like certain members of a few prepper-oriented FB groups I monitor, you’re probably going to get your ass kicked off the site, and lose a potentially good source of information.

Now, with that said, you might not find what you’re looking for if other hobbyists haven’t found it, or aren’t particularly interested in the same service/agency as you. That leaves you to do your own research. In this instance, the FCC is a useful resource.

Regardless of whether the frequency is HF, VHF, or UHF, a state department of homeland security/emergency management agency will still need a license to legally operate on a particular frequency. There might be an exception for a primarily Federal interoperability system, but I don’t know and those who really do aren’t going to say anything publicly because they like their job. Yes Virginia, when I worked in the LMR biz my fellow employees and I were flat out told that disclosing radio system information, even if it was just commenting on publicly available information would be grounds for termination, and we were more or less encouraged to spread disinformation.

Anyway… I went over to the FCC General Menu Reports Site/Market/Frequency Menu to see what I could find. I searched for Private Land Mobile – Public Safety Pool, Conventional (PW) licenses from 2-30 MHz. in the Northeast US, specifically Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine. When I found a particular license, I further examined the details to see if it was for the state’s department of homeland security/emergency management. Here is what I found:

Freq. (MHz.)States
2.3274NYCTMARIMENHVTNJPA
2.4124

MARI

VTNJ
2.4154

MA
MENH


2.4204
CTMARI

VT

2.4724







PA
2.5884






NJ
2.8134NY







3.2024NY







5.1364NYCTMARIMENHVT
PA
5.1934
CTMARIMENHVT

5.1964






NJPA
7.4784NYCTMARI

VT

7.8064
CTMARIMENHVTNJPA
7.9334







PA

So we have some data here, and know it is factual in that this frequencies are currently licensed to the states listed. We also see that some frequencies have multiple states licensed to them, while others only have one or two. It would be safe to assume (although one might still be incorrect) that the former might be used for interstate communications and the later for intra-state. Listening to them would help prove or disprove what right not is onlt a theory.

This data is only for the Northeast US, but you can put together your own information by visiting https://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/General_Menu_Reports/engineering_search.cfm?accessible=NO&wild_select=on.

For those of you who might want to look for stuff that’s not licensed by the FCC, a sector search will be useful. Allocation data is available from https://transition.fcc.gov/oet/spectrum/table/fcctable.pdf, and by examining that table, we find the following ranges of interest. (Frequency ranges are in KHz.):

2000-2065, 2107-2170, 2194-2495, 2505-2750, 3155-3230, 3230-3400
4000-4063, 4438-4650, 4750-4995, 5005-5450, 5730-5900, 6765-7000
7400-8195, 9040-9400, 9900-9995, 10150-11175, 11400-11600, 12100-12230
13410-13570, 13870-1400, 14350-14990, 15800-16360, 17410-17480
18030-18068, 18168-18780, 19020-19680, 19800-19990, 20010-21000
21850-21924, 22855-23200, 23350-24890, 25330-25550, 26480-26950
27540-28000, 29890-29910

Under normal circumstances, HF frequencies below 7 MHz. best work at night, those above 15 MHz. work best during the day, and 7-15 MHz. is good 24 hours a day. This is not a hard and fast rule, but instead a good guideline to go by.

Like I said previously, any activity having to do with this COVID-19 thing is probably going to be on VHF/UHF, but moniotoring that traffic is simply a matter of programming your scanner and letting it run. There is less hard data available for HF systems, so those of you looking for a challenge or who are out of the affected area and want to see if you can hear something have the frequencies below 30 MHz. to try. Those of you in the Northeast have a list of frequencies to try, and the rest of you have some information on where to start looking.

Should you feel the need to share your findings, please send me an email to ticom.new.england@gmail.com. Your contributions are much appreciated!