Saturday, October 31, 2009

GROAN.....I'm Moved!

Thanks to the GF's son, Mike, and his buddy Steve, we got the last remnants of my stuff out of my old bachelor pad.
I'm trashed, and so's the GF.
Now to call DirecTV and have them install a new dish, call The Phone Company and have them terminate the service, and turn all my keys in on Monday.

Friday, October 30, 2009

In The "Home" Stretch!

GROAN....down to moving the last of my stuff out today. My landlord said it's OK to leave what old furniture I don't want, and he'll leave it up to the new tenant to decide if they want to keep it. I have the rest of my networking equipment to box up and move out, a box of books (UGH! Like moving a box of CONCRETE!), a case of "still good" MRE's, a big wire-frame storage rack that thankfully knocks down, and my laser printer.
I'll sure miss my little bachelor pad, but life progresses, and my GF is the best gal I've met in so long that it was worth the wait. Did I mention she loves going to the range, and can handle full-power 357 loads out of my S&W TRR8 without flinching?
And she's a great cook!
Oh well....back to moving. Next week I'm going to refurb my weather station and get it back on-the-air, refurb my HF vertical and get it mounted so *I* can get back on the air, and start photographing and listing on eBay all the collectible SciFi "Action Figures" her deceased hubby had been stockpiling for his "retirement fund".
We have almost ONE THOUSAND of said figures, from the little 6" ones, up to the full-size 12" ones. I swear we could restage The Battle of Stallingrad in the back yard!
And then there's the baseball cards, plastic model kits, pins, PEZ dispensers, and the FOUR THOUSAND comic books, all in nice little plastic sleeves, and indexed in an EXCEL spreadsheet.. It's gonna take six months to dispose of it all........

Monday, October 26, 2009


Been really busy getting moved, so that's why the EMCOMMS articles are on hold.
Almost done, though. We moved my big TV and all the other audio/video gear today, all the computer and Amateur Radio gear is moved, and all I have to do is pick up some odds and ends, and vacuum the old place out for the landlord.
I *told* the gf I had a LOT of stuff, but she didn't believe me until she started helping me box it up to move!
My bachelor pad was just one big room, a good-sized kitchen, and a bathroom. My son always described it as being a cross between an NSA listening post, and an explosion at a CompUSA! The building looks positively barren with all the antennas and weather monitoring stuff off the roof. One of my neighbors got the kitchen table and chairs, another got my nice big comfy leather sofa, and the rest I'm leaving for the next tenant.
GAWD I'll be glad when I'm finished! Next to plumbing, I hate moving the most!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

EMCOMMS Wired or Wireless?

I'll post a bit more about wireline stuff if anybody wants. Otherwise, I'm working on the "Wireless" section since I understand radio a whole lot better, and I think it has more utility for local, regional, and CONUS applications.
Feel free to ask away, or point out any "errors" you think I've made.

And Now, For Something Completely Different....

Channel 105 on Sirius is now "The Monty Python Channel"!
Wonder if they'll ever have a "Fawlty Towers Channel"?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Home-Made Electronic Components

In doing some research for the EMCOMMS articles, I ran across this fascinating page at MAKE about home-made electronic components.
I've seen several home-made vacuum tubes, and experimented a lot with various types of crystal detectors, I even made several "Fox Hole Radios" when I was young (see more here), but nothing like this stuff.
H/T to the Retrotechnologist for leading me there.

Monday, October 19, 2009

EMCOMMS -Wired Equipment-

Wired or Hard-Line Equipment

I'll start with some "Wired" equipment, since most people can relate to having wire between two or more locations. I'm not a "Telephone Guy", even though I did work for Western Electric out of college. I'd always wanted to work for AT&T Long Lines, but that's another story!
The military is (or was) fond of using "Field Telephones" for semi-permanent locations. Popular US equipment were the EE-8, TA-43, TA-312, and the later TA-838 units. Like most US military equipment, it was robust, well-designed, and easy to install and repair. If you can get these cheap (which I doubt!), then go ahead and use them. These units will require a battery to power them up, and some good old 'twisted pair' wire to connect them. Some of them even had a Ringing Generator to alert the person on the other end you were trying to call them. These were hand-cranked magnetos, and could put out one heck of a jolt if you got across the line while it was being cranked! Like most phone systems, the "Talk" circuit is D.C., and the "Ring" circuit uses A.C. There's nothing special about the wire used to connect the phones. As long as it has two conductors, and can withstand the environment, you should be good to go. Lamp cord (or zip cord), "Bell Wire" for doorbells, Thermostat Wire, or speaker wire can all be used. I've even seen people use electric fence wire since it's insulated from the posts by the stand-offs, and isn't *obviously* a telephone circuit. The gauge isn't that important, either. Anything 24 gauge or larger is fine. Stranded wire is preferred, as it unspools easier, and is more flexible. Telephones in the US generally use two colors for the wire that makes up a single "circuit" or "pair", red and green. The red wire goes to the "ring" connection, ("Red Right Ring" as they say), and the green goes to the tip connection. "Tip" and "Ring" come from the names of the parts of the plug the operator would push into the switchboard when they wanted to "connect" the calling party to the called party. They looked very similar to a modern stereo head phone plug. The 'tip' is the very end of the plug,, with the point on it, the 'ring' is the little band of metal further up the plug, and the body is called the 'sleeve'.
Since you don't want to pay "Collector's" prices for simple telephone equipment, two old desk phones can be wire up to make a perfectly serviceable comm-link. This guy has a good article on using an old desk phone as an extension to his working field phone, and there's tons of people with explanations of how to set up a simple phone system for very low cost.
Here's some Google hits to get you started with a wired system:
Farm Collector, Military Phones, Surplus Phones

And if you're interested in old phone stuff in general, try the Antique Telephone Webring.
The prc68 website also has a good list of military telephone stuff.

And if you're interested in the old Ma Bell stuff, here's the evolution of the American Dial Telephone.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

EMCOMMS Overview

OK, as promised, here's general overview of what I plan on covering.
This is pretty rough, and not quite finished, but I'm pretty busy moving this weekend and wanted to get something posted.
Feel free to comment or ask for additional sections, and I'll try to get something posted.


I. Purpose and Background
The purpose of these articles is to guide the new user, non-radio geek, into the world of maintaining communications when the normal system breaks down. I'm hoping you've provided water, food, medicine, shelter, and other items for you and your loved ones, so I'm not going to cover that.
If there's a natural disaster (Earthquake, Fire, Flood, etc) of some sort, or a man-made disaster (Riots, Terrorist Attack, Civil Breakdown, "TSHTF"), you can bet your rear-end that most 'regular' means of communications will be unavailable. The cell phone system will be overloaded, and even if you have a land-line available to you, it, too, will most likely be an unreliable means of communicating during the duration of the communications outage.
The reasons are many, but a lot of it boils down to the fact that while Ma Bell designed the system to be very robust, it was never designed for 7 million people in one area to all pick up the phone at once and dial out. In The Old Days, one of the things we were taught was that after some disaster, if you saw a pay phone with the handset dangling, please hang it back up, as an off-hook handset will request a dial tone, and enough of them off-hook would overload the system. In some cases (think 9/11 or Katrina), a major switching center might have been taken out, and all telephone and Internet communications in the affected area would be knocked out. Of course, there's always the possibility that The Government will deliberately shut things down, but I won't go there, either.

II. Scope
I'll be taking a few liberties here in an effort to make this as simple as I can, as I'm intending this for my fellow gunnies, and I'm going to assume that most of them don't have a background in communications. If you do, fine, and bear with me. If you don't, that's fine, too, and hopefully you'll at least absorb some of the basics. Most of this will cover voice communications, as that's what people are most comfortable with, and it's fairly easy to train people to use.
If you know Morse Code, and can use it, or you're an Amateur Radio operator, then these articles are probably too basic for you.
Keep in mind that NO communications system that you'll likely have available will be 100% reliable. We also won't go into secure or scrambled/encrypted communications, as if you have the gear capable of doing it, you're also far beyond the audience these articles are directed at. If you need a somewhat secure system, then work out a code with your group members ahead of time.

III. Equipment
I'm breaking the equipment down into two areas; “Wired”, and “Wireless”. I'll expand each of the areas, and give some reasons why you might want to use one over the other, depending on your requirements.

IIIb. Wired
"Wired", or "Hard Line", communications are those that rely on an actual physical connection. Whether it's a piece of copper wire between two field phones, a fiber-optic link between two computers, a hollow 'speaking tube' on a ship, or two tin cans and a piece of string, they all share the property of having an actual, physical connection from Point A to Point B. They can be very simple, to very complex. The simple systems are easy to deploy, troubleshoot, and keep running. Some don't even require a power source, although their distance is limited. Wired communications are fine for fixed station and point-to-point use.
IIIc. Wireless
“Wireless” communications are those which do not rely on an actual physical connection. Smoke signals, Semaphores, Heliographs and pocket mirrors, and even shouting at each other fall into this category, as does Radio. Since I'm a “Radio Guy”, I'll focus more on the radio aspects, as that's what I do best.

IV. Protocols for Communications
1. Analog
Analog systems are the oldest and 'simplest' systems in use. They use a signal which varies in level to represent the human voice. The louder you talk, the bigger the signal is, and the louder it sounds on the other end. The various frequencies in the voice are transmitted pretty much “As Is”, although the design of the equipment typically limits the bandwidth to about 2.7 kHz, with the frequencies from 300 Hz to 3000 Hz being sent mostly unaltered. These frequencies correspond to what's called “Communications Quality” audio, and contain the frequencies required for understandable communications. Not “HiFi” by any means, but more than adequate to do the job, and usually recognize the person talking. The original telephone system was all analog, and actually connected the pair of wires running from your telephone, to another pair of wires running to another another telephone, forming a complete “circuit”. A working system can be made with two old telephones, some wire, and a couple of batteries. Some systems are entirely 'Sound Powered', and don't even require the batteries.
2. Digital
Digital systems are much more complex, in that they take the analog signal, and convert it into a series of ones and zeroes, and then reconstruct the analog signal on the other end. This takes a lot of “stuff” to do, and is pretty hard to build from scratch. The telephone system has gone almost 100% digital in the Central Office, although the line to the subscriber is still analog. Even though you might have DSL (Digital Subscriber Line), the “bits” in the digital part of DSL are still sent using various discreet frequencies, but at much higher frequencies than voice uses.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Emergency Comms (EMCOMM) For All

Well, when I first started this blog I said that I'd be doing a few pieces on Emergency Communications, and I've been working diligently on that. I'll be breaking it down into several sections so it doesn't get too long-winded in any one article. I'll *try* not to get too technical, but if I do, you can always ask me for explanations. And since this is on the Web, I'll sprinkle the articles with hyperlinks so you can do further study on your own.
I doubt if I'll wind up with a Web Opus like "Absolved", but if I can help bridge the gap between my fellow gunnies and my fellow radio geeks, then it will have been worth the effort.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Ahhhh....The Joys Of Home Ownership.....

Spent part of the afternoon under the bathroom sink installing a new faucet, drain, and supply lines. 3 days ago we had "Bathtub King" come out and resurface the sink and counter top. They were the "Cultured Marble" type (read: "PLASTIC") and over the years the basin had deteriorated to the point it was cracked and pretty fugly. They did a great job, so to go with the "new" look, I decided to put a new faucet on. Actually I have to back up to the day previous, as we told them I'd have the faucets and drain removed for them when they got here.
WELL....the shut-off valves didn't, so I had to shut the water off to the entire house to avoid flooding the bathroom. Thankfully, the guy across the street is a *real* plumber, and showed me how to connect a hose _between_ the outlets of the old valves until I got new ones, so I could turn the water back on to the house. With that out of the way, "Bathtub King" proceeded to grind out and "Bondo" (he actually used something else, but everybody knows what "Bondo" is) the damaged area. Then he sprayed the new finish on, and left for lunch while it cured. 3 hours later he came back and sprayed the clear overcoat on, at which point we had to wait 72 hours for it to fully cure.
Back to the valves.....The plumber and I don't "talk" the same when it comes to tubing (measured by OUTSIDE diameter) and pipe (measured by INSIDE diameter), so I bought the wrong size valves....TWICE! He finally said he'd get the right ones, and when he came back the next day, we had the new valves installed in about 15 minutes. This afternoon the finish was cured, so I put the new faucet, drain, and supply lines on.
It looks beautiful, and now the GF sees why I didn't want to just clean up the old faucet and drain and reinstall it.
Last month we pulled all the appliances out of the kitchen, and tore up the old linoleum. Two of the guys that live in the apartment building I was living at are expert tile guys, so the GF and I went to Home Depot, and bought the tile, baseboard pieces, and the (matching!) grout. She wanted the tiles in a "brick" pattern, rather than just a "square" pattern, so it took him a couple of extra days because he had to custom cut a LOT of the tiles. It also looks beautiful, but between the backer board, mortar, and thickness of the tile, the floor is now about 1/2" thicker, and the dishwasher would NOT fit back under the cabinets! Took me two days with a belt sander and a 40-grit belt to *carefully* remove enough of the wood under the countertop so the dishwasher would slide back in.
The "Tile Guys" also reset a bunch of the brickwork in the front porch that had settled over the years, resulting in a lot of loose bricks and cracked mortar. I was stunned how fast they did it. I figured it would take them at least a day to do it, but having the right tools, and experience, makes a big difference. They just knocked all the loose bricks out, used their tile saw to cut the old mortar off, and had all the bricks reset in about two hours!
Earlier this year we had all the windows replaced, the roof replaced on the house and garage, and painted the exterior. A lot of this was "Deferred Maintenance", and things that she'd just let slide, due to some family issues, but the house is pretty spiffy again.
Our next "project" will be to build an addition off the back of the house for my workshop/radio room, and get the electrical service upgraded.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Governator Signs Ammo Bill!

Stock up now, if you can!
I just ordered some more from Cabela's and Midway. Cabela's has stated they'll no longer sell to Kaliforniastan, but Midway hasn't made any statement I'm aware of.
Since this POS "legislation" doesn't take effect until July 2010, I'll be ordering more over the next 8 months.
I pretty much buy my practice ammo at the range (if they have it) as it helps support them.
I'll see what they have in stock later today when I stop in today to pick up my Remington 1100 TAC4.
Yep, "mini" Range Report will be coming!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Please Call To Oppose AB962 and SB585

We only have a few days to call the Governor and let him know we DO NOT want these bills passed.
I've sent emails, faxes, and written letters to express my opposition to these bills.
SB585 is the ban on gunshows at The Cow Palace
AB962 is the ominous "Ammunition Bill" that will place insane restrictions on buying, selling, and even GIVING ammo away TO YOUR IMMEDIATE FAMILY MEMBERS!
Today I called, and I urge you to do so, too.
Here's how:
1) Call 1-916-445-2841
2) Press 1 for English (no comment!)
3) Press 2 to comment on a bill
4) Listen for AB962 option
5) Press 2 to oppose (VETO) the bill

Do the same for SB585

It might take you a while to get through, as the line is busy quite often, but please, KEEP TRYING

Sunday, October 4, 2009

First Aid Training

In all of our talk and blogging about being "independent", I see lots of writing about things like food storage, weapons training and storage, how to dig your own latrine, grow your own food, and keep the lights on, but I don't see much advice on getting some PROPER First Aid training.
This subject came up as I was yakking with one of my Ham Radio buddies, who was relating to me the story of his wife's recent medical emergency, and how he was glad he'd taken some basic First Aid training as part of his Amateur Radio Emergency Communications training.
I've had a ton of training provided by my current (for now!) employer. Basic, Advanced, First Responder, CPR, Emergency Defibrillator, Blood Borne Pathogens, and numerous other courses, including basic firefighting. Being on a ship with 240 other people, thousands of miles from nowhere, is a really good reason to have every crew member "ready for action"!
While it's important to know the other things we usually blog-on about, please take the time to find some First Aid training in your area. You just might save the life of a loved one, or critical crew member.
The American Red Cross is a good place to start, and they offer both local classes, and online training.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Differences In Outlook

Sent to me by a good friend.
Pretty much says it all.....

If a conservative doesn't like guns, he doesn't buy one.
If a liberal doesn't like guns, then no one should have one.

If a conservative is a vegetarian, he doesn't eat meat.
If a liberal is, he wants to ban all meat products for everyone.

If a conservative sees a foreign threat, he thinks about how to defeat his
A liberal wonders how to surrender gracefully and still look good.

If a conservative is homosexual, he quietly lives his life.
If a liberal is homosexual, he loudly demands legislated respect.

If a black man or Hispanic is conservative, he sees himself as independently
Their liberal counterparts see themselves as victims in need of
government protection.

If a conservative is down-and-out, he thinks about how to better his
A liberal wonders who is going to take care of him.

If a conservative doesn't like a talk show host, he switches channels.
Liberals demand that those they don't like be shut down.

If a conservative is a non-believer, he doesn't go to church.
A liberal wants any mention of God or religion silenced.

If a conservative decides he needs health care, he goes about shopping for
it, or may choose a job that provides it.
A liberal demands that his neighbors pay for his.

Egad....'Tis a Trifle HOT This Week

 Or for what's remaining of the week. It was 97* today, and is expected to be 100+ through Sunday. The humidity is only 17%, so you step...