11.28.20

So you want to get on Two Meters…

You are a newly minted Technician class Amateur Radio operator, and as usual you want to get on the 2 Meter (144-148 MHz.) band. You go and buy one of those sub $100 Chinese HTs and you are all set, right? Wrong. Without getting into the well-established fact that the Chinese HTs, especially the Baofeng, are junk (see http://www.nf9k.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/ARRL-Lab-HT-Testing.pdf), you are doing yourself a disservice by starting out with an HT, regardless of which company made it.

You take your HT, program in a repeater that’s 10 miles away, throw out your callsign, and someone 10 miles in the opposite direction comes back to you saying you’re “full quieting” into the machine. All with a 5 watt handheld and rubber duck antenna? Great, right? The only thing that’s great about that is the effort the repeater owner went into getting the machine on the air. The repeater is at a much higher elevation than you, is running 50-100+ watts (versus your 5) into an antenna system with some pretty high gain, and perhaps even a has preamp on the input to help the receiver hear better. In short, the repeater is doing all the heavy lifting so you can use that HT.

Get a friend of yours who also has an HT, and go on a hike to see how far away you can hear each other on simplex with 5 watts and a rubber duck antenna. I guarantee you that under normal circumstances you won’t get more than a mile or two range. Now HTs are nice in that they are portable and you can carry them around, but unless you and your local ham buddies you like to ragchew with are all within a mile or two of each other, you will be out of luck if the repeater goes down, and repeaters do go down. Sometimes it’s because of a natural disaster. Other times it’s because the repeater owner is unable to maintain the machine any longer, and takes it off the air. Either way, being able to properly operate simplex and be self-sufficient on the air is a wise idea. The solution is to get a mobile/base 2 Meter transceiver in the 25-50 Watt output power range, and install an external antenna. Now your 1-2 mile simplex range becomes a 20-50 simplex range, and you won’t have to worry if the local repeater goes down because you will be able to reach out further to hit a more distant repeater, or work simplex. Here is what you will need.


Oops. When heavy weather takes down a repeater like this, HT users will be screwed.
  • Two Meter Transceiver. Since I like Icom, I went with the IC-2300H.
  • Antenna. The best antenna out there in my opinion is the Spectral Isopole (https://www.isopole.com/).
  • A 12V power supply with enough current capacity to run the radio at full power. The IC-2300H, according to the manual needs 11 Amps. The old-skool trusty Astron RS-20A (16 Amps continuous, 20 Amps intermittent) is a good choice.
  • Some coaxial cable to connect your radio to the antenna. Most of you probably wouldn’t need any more than 50 feet or so, and you can get a preassembled 50 foot length of decent VHF-rated coax, say LMR-240, with PL-259 connectors on each end.

Looking at the “buy it new” route, setting up a station via Gigaparts, Ham Radio Outlet, or one of the other mail order outlets will cost the following:

Icom IC-2300H – $150.00
Spectral Isopole- $180.00
Astron RS-20A- $149.00
50 feet LMR-240 with PL-259 connectors – $50.00
Total – $529.00

If you go the brand-new mail order route it would cost you $529.00 to get on two meters. That’s actually less than the new cost of just an entry-level HF rig. There is a better and less expensive way to get on 2 meters.

You can save a lot of money if you buy used, and build your own antenna. You can buy a used two meter mobile rig off Ebay for less than $100. A good used Icom, such as the 1980’s vintage Icom IC-27H shown to the left, runs about $70 or so. That almost halves the cost of your radio. I have seen older 2 meter mobile rigs for sale for even less at hamfests, around $25-$50. That knocks down your radio cost anywhere from half to a third. You can build an antenna out of $10 worth of parts with information from an old copy of the ARRL Antenna book you find at a hamfest for $5, or from data you find online (https://www.hamuniverse.com/2metergp.html). Used Astron power supplies cost about half their new price at hamfests, but for now you can get away with buying a suitable deep cycle battery from Wal-Mart or your local auto parts store for about $60. The charger for it will be about $20. Finally, if you measure out your actual coax length from your radio to your antenna, you will save some money there. At under 50 feet, you’ll be able to get away with a higher-loss coax than LMR-240 because the differences between it and say RG-8X will be minimal at short distances. A 20 foot RG-8X coax jumper will set you back about $18 at a local truckstop like Flying J or Pilot. Let’s take a look at how much a station will cost.

Used 2 meter mobile rig (average) – $70.00
Used copy of ARRL Antenna Book and parts – $15.00
Deep-cycle battery – $60.00
Battery charger – $20.00
RG-8X coax jumper – $18.00
Total Cost: $183.00

By going the used equipment route, and engaging in a little DIY, you can get on the air for about a third of the cost than if you went and bought everything new.

The two meter band goes from 144-148 MHz., and most of that is unoccupied these days. There are, however, a few places where FM simplex operation is commonplace. Stay above 144.300 MHz, because below that is where the weak signal (SSB/CW) hams operate. Repeater inputs and outputs should also be avoided, for obvious reasons. Preferred FM simplex frequency ranges are 144.300-144.500,144.900-145.100, 145.500-146.000, 146.400-146.580, and 147.420-147.570 MHz.

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.

07.19.20

Covert Antenna Placement In Residential Radio Communications Stations or Listening Posts #sigint #comint #diy

If you already haven’t been there, check out our social media presences on Twitter and Facebook.

https://www.facebook.com/cybertekzine/
https://www.facebook.com/cybertekzine/

You can also get a look at the history of Cybertek and read some of the earlier issues at http://67.225.133.110/~gbpprorg/2600/TAP/cybertek/index.html. I don’t run that site, and the guy that did is an idiot despite his high technical skill level, but it’s still nice to see someone decided to put it all online. All of that material is now public domain. Copy, fold, spindle, mutilate, make derivatives, write fanfic, set up a mirror, have fun, enjoy!

The site was hosted by Joe Loritz/GBPPR who I have no connection with, and with whom I disagree with sociopolitically. Considering his legal issues, it won’t be up forever and I’m surprised this mirror still exists. Anyway, please do what you will with it, and tell me about any derivatives which I’ll then promote and mention on cybertekzine.com.


In a previous post, I mentioned how good intelligence collection and analysis can help you with ferreting out deceptive information whether it’s from some some troll living in his friend’s basement, or a professional operation setting up a honeypot, perhaps in the hopes of catching a bunch of a particular special interest group with something like an IMSI catcher. To that end, links to a couple of nice intelligence and counterintelligence manuals from archive.org were posted up.

One of the nicer means of collecting information to be turned into intelligence is communications monitoring. The discipline is broadly known as Signals Intelligence (SIGINT), and for our purposes we concentrate on a subset of SIGINT known as COMINT or Communications Intelligence. COMINT can help confirm or deny a lot of data you come across on the internet.

DIY hobbyist COMINT has been a thing since the 1990s, and there is a plethoria of information out there. I first wrote about it in 1991, and have since written many subsequent articles. This article puts a more covert, security-oriented spin on things.

In the United States, it is currently legal to monitor non-broadcast radio communications as long as they are not encrypted. Other countries are less fortunate in this regard. However, even in this country you might decide to enhance your level of discretion.

In this picture, there are two antennas on the roof of this house. The lower one is a VHF vertical dipole element often used for land mobile radio stations. When mounted on a mast like this, it is broadly directional in the direction the antenna is pointing. The antenna on top is a 2 Meter Amateur Radio horizontal loop used in VHF weak signal (SSB/CW as opposed to FM) operations. It is obvious looking at this installation that the resident is a ham radio operator with more than a casual interest in VHF operation. A discone antenna would present a different appearance and send a different message to an observer, as they are often used by individuals engaged in communications monitoring due to their broadband non-directional characteristics. In certain situations this level of advertising may not be optimal for some people. More realistically speaking, mounting a mast on the roof with antennas is a bit of an undertaking some may not be quite up to accomplishing yet (if at all).

Here is the same antenna mounted in an attic. To simulate a mast and put the signal lobe in the desired direction, it was mounted on a piece of scrap 1/2″ copper pipe. Functionality is not seriously compromised compared to a rooftop installation. From a security standpoint, there is no external indication of a communications station in the structure, and also no way an observer can determine the frequency band in use by estimating the length of the antenna.

Lest anyone think that using antennas is anything new, here is an example on HF (Shortwave) from the communications chapter of the old US Army Special Forces Field Manual. It’s just easier to do on VHF and UHF.

From a communications monitoring standpoint, you might have multiple receivers to hook up to a single antenna. In that case, you will need a signal splitter. Consumer grade TV splitters will work fine. You just need adapters to go from the F connector to whatever your receiver uses. You may also come across an LMR grade splitter. This one splits the input into four outputs. It’s spec’d for VHF high-band, but works fine elsewhere in the bands too.

By getting a proper antenna in your attic, you’ll see increased signal gain from the added elevation and noise reduction from getting away from all those consumer electronic devices on the same floor as you. You can also enjoy the fact of having a super secret squirrel listening post that your neighbors and random people passing by are unaware of. Extra style points if you have a Brill Lyle lab tucked away in a closet.

Mucho bonus points if you have one of these in there.

https://watkins-johnson.terryo.org/