Author Archives: AD8BC

In the News: KERO-TV News in Bakersfield, CA “Ham Radio operators can help save lives in times of crisis”

After this news disaster, it’s nice to see a well-formed profile of ham radio on the news.  Bakersfield California ABC affiliate KERO presents a 2 1/2 minute segment on ham radio and the support they provide during emergencies (click link for video):

Not only is it a hobby for people, but it could also save lives in times of crisis and danger.

Over the years many emergency communication centers throughout the country have relied on Ham operators. When all other forms of communication go down, the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service can still communicate.

They have been called to action during events like Hurricane Katrina and the Boston Marathon bombing.

Amateur radio operators were on scene and helped coordinate evacuations and assisted with emergency communications.

The Kern County Emergency Operations Center received a Homeland Security grant to purchase equipment and are currently constructing a permanent spot at the center for the group to operate during a crisis.

Nice job, Kern County hams!


Crosstown Traffic: KC5HWB-Ham Radio’s Forgotten Bands: 220MHz and 900MHz

Great blog post and discussion from Jason KC5HWB over at the Grapevine Ham Radio blog about 220MHz and 900MHz, the “Forgotten Bands” of ham radio:

When I was first licensed in 1994, the most inexpensive radio I could buy was the Radio Shack HTX-202 mono-band, 2 meter only, 12 memory channel HT. This radio sold brand new in the store for $189. You could also buy the 70 centimeter version of this radio, which had the same memory channels and features, for the same amount of money. Back then, if you wanted a dual-band HT, you were going to spend $300 or more. Today, however, anyone can buy a Chinese dual band for under $50.  20 years ago, if you wanted a 220mhz radio, you’d have to pay several hundred dollars. I don’t remember anything about 900mhz back then, the frequency spectrum belonged to us, but to my recollection there were little to no radios at all.

Today, you can buy a mono-band 1.25 meter radio from Anytone or TYT for under $200. Also, there are many 900mhz radios on the market, most of which are used, but many are obtainable for $100 or less. A good example of this would be the Kenwood TK-981 radio. I constantly see these radios sell used on eBay for $100-$125.

So the question is, why are these two bands forgotten? Today you can get a radio in either of these bands for a decent amount of money, and some people are using them, but they are not nearly as popular as the 2M and 40 bands in amateur radio.  The 1.25 meter band is widely unused in the DFW area, and the band itself, being VHF, could be as reliable as 2 meters.  The 900mhz band is becoming more popular in DFW, but radios are mostly purchased from used markets and surplus of businesses of local government agencies.

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Hamfest Review and Editorial: Fort Wayne Hamfest 2014

The Fort Wayne (Indiana) Hamfest has always had a place in my heart.  My first time in Fort Wayne was in 1989, just a few months before I passed my novice license test at the age of 14.  My elmer Bob Kehr KA9MDP took me to that swap, I think it was a couple of months after he took me to my first hamfest in LaPorte, Indiana.  After the LaPorte swap, which was held at a fairground, the Fort Wayne Hamfest was like going to a professional trade show — it was (and still is) held at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, which is a very nice, clean, well lit facility.  I can’t remember if it was a one-day or a two-day swap, my memory is telling me that it was Saturday only but that may have been because we only went on Saturday.  Also, I’m relying on my memory here again, I believe that it was only held in the EXPO1-2-3 hall.  At some time in the future it got too large and for some time the Hamfest also used the EXPO-4 room (I think that’s the room under the ice rink/basketball arena, I’m not sure).  Sometime in the last 5-8 years the Hamfest has shrunk back into EXPO1-2-3.

Last weekend (November 15 and 16) was somewhat of a disappointment that started at the beginning when I bought my ticket and walked to the EXPO rooms.  Instead of buying the ticket in the rotunda and walking straight into EXPO-3, I had to walk all the way down the hall to the side entrance to EXPO-1.  I discovered why as soon as I walked in.  EXPO-3 had been partitioned off.  This had the initial effect of making the place seem more crowded, as they had stuffed the Hamfest into a smaller space.  I think I know why they did this, over the past few times I have visited the Hamfest, it had some wide open spaces where tables had been in the past.  So this had the effect of mitigating the negative effects of seeing open space.

The physically smaller event could be blamed on the smaller number of vendors and dealers.  Attendance seemed kind of bleak this year as well, and some of that could be blamed on the smaller number of vendors which could in turn be blamed on the smaller number of people, ad nauseum.

The first thing that people bring up when someone complains about a dying hamfest is the “eBay excuse.”  People don’t wait to go to a hamfest to buy something when they can get it almost instantly on eBay or from a commercial online vendor like AES or Ham Radio Outlet or the countless other vendors online.  I have never accepted the “eBay excuse” because there are more reasons to go to a hamfest than just to buy stuff. Read more

Crosstown Traffic: EEVBLOG Anatomy of an eBay Scam

Dave Jones risks his identity to educate all of us on the anatomy of an eBay scam.  Actually he was never in any serious danger as he recognized the signs all along.  But an interesting story nonetheless about how a scammer can take you to a place where they end up sending you a manual invoice (not connected to the auction itself) so that eBay buyer protection will no longer apply to you.

So by now it’s clear how this scam works:

  • They set up new ebay and payapal accounts
  • A really good scammer would hack an existing ebay account, or increase the feedback by buying a ton of 99 cent items from other fake accounts of theirs etc, but this one was content with zero feedback.
  • List something exotic but one that would have high demand, and do a really good job with the listing making out they are the owner who needs to sell it because it’s not needed any more.
  • Deliberately set up the PayPal account in foreign currency so the (almost certainly US or other major country like Australia) buyers PayPal checkout will fail.
  • Make it out they have no idea what’s wrong and that they are sending an invoice manually, and try to convince you that ebay ok’d this.
  • Sucker pays the money and they vanish with it. Maybe they might complete the scam by sending you an empty box with tracking number, but they have their money, so they probably won’t bother.

Thanks Dave!


(Published from DFW, Texas)

Ham Radio on TV: ARRL reports that NBC to launch new TV series based on the 2000 movie “Frequency”

The ARRL reports that NBC is going to launch a new television series based on the 2000 movie “Frequency”:

Mike Baxter, KA0XTT — Tim Allen’s character in the “Last Man Standing” TV show on ABC — may be getting some competition on the ham bands, as NBC appears poised to launch a television series based on the 2000 movie Frequency, in which ham radio — aided by some spectacular solar phenomena — plays a central role in the sci-fi thriller.

According to a November 13 article in The Hollywood Reporter, NBC has already committed to the series. Jeremy Carver is writing the script for Warner Brothers Television and will be the series’ executive producer. Toby Emmerich, who wrote the movie, will be a co-producer.

While Amateur Radio has made only fleeting appearances in “Last Man Standing,” it is an essential plot device in Frequency. In the movie, a New York City fireman, Frank Sullivan, played by Dennis Quaid, re-connects via a bizarre ham radio link with his son, John, 30 years in the future. Jim Caviezel, now a star in the CBS drama, “Person of Interest,” portrayed John Sullivan, an NYPD detective. John Sullivan comes across his late father’s 1960’s-era Heathkit transceiver, through which — with the help of quirk of nature and some Hollywood magic — he is able to communicate with his father through time and space.

Once back in touch, father and son conspire in efforts to change the past while also untangling their complicated personal relationship. Both also attempt to prevent a murder.

The ham radio theme and the chance to see vintage ham gear and real, glowing vacuum tubes (Frank Sullivan’s old Heathkit has no cover) on the big screen were sufficient to generate considerable interest within the Boat Anchor community when the movie debuted. The ARRL worked with the film’s producers. Frequency remains widely available in DVD and through video services. — Thanks to John Bigley, N7UR, Nevada Amateur Radio Newswire

(Published from DFW, Texas)


Crosstown Traffic: Hackaday reports that the Larson Scanner namesake Glen A. Larson has passed away

Glen Larson will always be remembered for producing quality television shows such as Knight Rider, Battlestar Galactica, and Magnum, P.I.  But his association with a row of red lights that flashes in a back-and-forth pattern is legendary with those into building electronic circuits and programming microcontrollers.  After managing to make a microcontroller display “Hello World” on an LCD, or making an LED flash with a 555 timer, the next logical step was to emulate the “Cylon Eye” from Battlestar Galactica, or the eight-light scanner from the front of KITT using 7400-series TTL chips or an Arduino.  If you could make each individual segment ramp up or down with PWM instead of abruptly turning on or off, you were a genius!  Unfortunately, Hackaday reports via CNN that Glen Larson has passed away at the age of 77:

[Glen A. Larson] passed away on Friday at the age of 77. He may be most widely recognized for being a producer of the original Battlestar Galactica, Magnum, P.I. and Knight Rider television series’. But for us his association with a row of LEDs which illuminates in a back and forth pattern will always be his legacy.

When we heard about his passing we figured that we would hear about his invention of the Larson Scanner but that was not the case. A bit of research turned up a pretty interesting Wikipedia bio page. He has origins in a music group call The Four Preps and actually composed or collaborated on a number of television theme songs among other notable accomplishments. But nothing about electronics. Did this man of many hats actually invent the hardware for the Larson Scanner used as the Cylon Eye and on the front of K.I.T.T., or does it simply share his name?

Evil Mad Scientist Labs claims to have coined the term Larson Scanner. [Lenore Edman] confirmed to us that EMSL did indeed start the term which is used to name their electronics kit and directed us to [Andrew Probert] who lists effects for the TV series on his portfolio. We’ve reached out to him for more information but had not heard back at the time of publishing. We’ll update this post as details emerge. In the mean time, if you have any insight please leave it below including the source of the information.

If you are not aware, a Larson Scanner is so interesting because the pattern calls for a fading trail of LEDs. It is not simply a fully illuminated pixel moving back and forth but includes dimmed pixels after the brightest one has passed. This is an excellent programming challenge for those just getting into embedded development.

Rest in peace, Glen, and thanks for entertaining all of us in our youth.


(Published from DFW, Texas)

In the News: Fort Wayne Hamfest article – This is why you issue detailed and well written press releases for amateur radio events

So I caught this in on the WANE-TV website in Fort Wayne today about the Fort Wayne Hamfest that I attended this weekend.  This is why radio clubs need to draft detailed and well-worded press releases when you hold a public event.  Look below at the text of the article I copied in.  After each paragraph I break in to describe “interesting” text that can either be blamed on an incompetent reporter or an incompetent editor.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) Amateur Radio, also known as Ham Radio, is a hobby that features licensed participants whom operate communication equipment. The Fort Wayne Hamfest & Computer Expo was November 15 and 16 at the Allen County War memorial Coliseum.

1) “whom operate?” I’m fairly sure this is an inappropriate use of “whom.”
2) “licensed participants” — this is iffy.  “Licensed radio operators” would have been a better phrase.
3) Missed the capital “M” in “memorial”

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Crosstown traffic: Hackaday features my “FatFingerer” on their front page

Whether this was the result of people actually liking my project or just some random randomizer picking featured projects, I saw this on the Hackaday front page this evening (and no, I wasn’t logged into my account on Hackaday, and yes, I checked this from multiple browsers to make sure this wasn’t a cookie thing…) :

Screengrab from Hackaday, 11/14/2014 7:25 PM

Screengrab from Hackaday, 11/14/2014 7:25 PM

I detailed my FatFingerer to my friends on Facebook a number of months ago, I do plan on adding a detailed writeup to my blog in the near future… I use the FatFingerer every day at work when using AutoCAD and PLC applications, the heart of it is an Arduino Leonardo programmed to emulate common keystrokes.  And yes, if you’re interested in more detail right now, here is my project page for the FatFingerer.


(published from Fort Wayne, Indiana)

Crosstown traffic: The most extreme PC board repair I’ve ever seen

Extreme repair of PC board that was burned up after a capacitor failure. Hackaday photo.

Hackaday featured this guy’s extreme repair of his JBL subwoofer.  The power board had fried — it literally burned up in a catastrophic failure caused by leaking capacitors.  I looked at the details of his repair on his website and it was, quite frankly the most creative and professional repair I have ever seen.  Instead of buying a new board, or ditching the subwoofer and buying a new one, he actually cut out the damaged portion of the power supply board and used the amplifier service manual and Photoshop to create a new board to fit the hole.  His site is mostly pictures, the following quote is from the Hackaday article referencing his site:

[xsdb] had a real problem. His JBL L8400P 600 watt subwoofer went up in flames – literally. Four of the large capacitors on the board had bulged and leaked. The electrolyte then caused a short in the mains AC section of the board, resulting in a flare up. Thankfully the flames were contained to the amplifier board. [xsdb’s] house, possessions, and subwoofer enclosure were all safe. The amplifier board however, had seen better days. Most of us would have cut our losses and bought a new setup. Not [xsdb] he took on the most extreme PCB repair we’ve seen in a long time.

After removing the offending caps and a few other components, [xsdb] got a good look at the damage. the PCB was burned through. Charred PCB is conductive, so anything black had to be cut out. The result was a rather large hole in the middle of an otherwise serviceable board. [xsdb] had the service manual for the JBL sub. Amazingly, the manual included a board layout with traces. Some careful Photoshop work resulted in an image of the section of PCB to be repaired. [Xsdb] used this image to etch a small patch board.

The amplifier and patch were milled and sanded to match up nearly perfectly. Incredibly, all the traces aligned. [Xdsb] soldered the traces across the join with small sections of wire and solder wick. After soldering in some new high quality capacitors, the amplifier was back in action!

(published from Fort Wayne, Indiana)

In the News: Washington Times-KC1ACF “has world at his fingertips”

Another fantastic article featuring amateur radio in a positive light.  Yesterday the Washington Times featured Mark Vess KC1ACF:

While Vess has reached operators from exotic locations across the world, their conversations often revolve around everyday occurrences.

“In most cases, it’s your life that you share with other radio operators.

Vess said radio operators adhere to a set of unwritten rules that promote a cordial atmosphere over the air. Religion and politics are hardly ever discussed, and repeatedly trampling over other operators’ conversations will quickly earn you a reputation as a jerk.

Among the different countries Vess has reached by radio include Cuba, Italy, Spain and England. However, he said most of the conversation conducted voer the air is done in English.

“Amateur radio spans the world. It’s in every populated area and especially in unpopulated areas,” Vess said.

(Published from DFW, Texas)

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