Family COMMS

MaverickNH

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A thread quite different from the Secure COMMS thread, but related. The topic here is Sustainment Communications, which includes comms when cell/landline comms are down and you want anyone and everyone to hear you or when cell/landline service is just not available - as opposed to Tactical Communications, where you want only “your side” to hear you.

I picked up a pair of Baofeng aftermarket kits for my eldest son and I to use while hiking. I’ll have a willing and able partner to practice comms. One person with a radio is not too useful…

What would you practice, in the Sustainment Communications category?

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The realistic range on these in the hilly woods of New Hampshire is probably a mile at best. Yeah you could get more with a repeater if everyone is in line of sight, but if cell/landlines are down there are very few repeaters that are sell sustaining power wise. If you're running security in your AO (neighborhood), these might be sufficient. My Yaesu vx-6r barely gets a mile in my AO because of the terrain. It receives fine, the transmit is the problem.
 
My plan is a IC-7300 at the house running 40 meters day or 80 meters evening with a end fed wire NVIS antenna. If I'm leaving the area I will take my IC-705 with me and have a similar portable antenna. This in theory should give my family about 300 or so miles of simplex coverage if everything goes down. I've tested this with a friend of mine on the north shore of MA a couple of weeks ago. It worked well.
 
My plan is a IC-7300 at the house running 40 meters day or 80 meters evening with a end fed wire NVIS antenna. If I'm leaving the area I will take my IC-705 with me and have a similar portable antenna. This in theory should give my family about 300 or so miles of simplex coverage if everything goes down. I've tested this with a friend of mine on the north shore of MA a couple of weeks ago. It worked well.

HF might be the next practice series iteration, if we get that far - the kids would need a Tech license and some more extensive gear. Something much simpler (CountryComm GP-7, uSDX/uSDR 8-band, etc.) for turnkey use maybe? I have an IC-705 for portable myself, lightweight NVIS & EFHW antennas, solar power and an Elecraft K3s/43ft Vert base shack and NVIS option with whole house propane generator.

What are odds cell/landline service is down but 2m/70cm repeaters are up? Maybe good for me, as the antenna cluster on nearby Mt Uncanoonuc South has b/u generators that might last days/weeks. Reaching the kids in NC and PHL area would take some planning & effort.

For now, I’ll start with FRS/GMRS on those Baofengs and demo Ham band use. A weekend Tech license class might be a family outing.
 
If you have a repeater that legitimately has solid power backup then that is great. There are some online test prep places, passing the tech with one of those sites is pretty easy. Require a little bit of memory and practice tests. For practice/radio testing purposes you guys really only need one more call sign on the band you intend to use.
 
The problem with Ham is everyone needs to be licensed. What I do for my Jeep is I have both Ham for my use and GMRS handhelds for everyone who would want a handheld. I also have a sat phone that doesn't need a cell network.

To me it seems GMRS is more suitable for short range communications between people (whether it's offroading or communication) who would be using the same frequencies and the Ham is my domain since it requires more knowledge to operate.
 
To answer the question, I would do some tests to see how well it does through terrain. VHF and UHF (~145MHz and ~440 MHz, respectively) have different characteristics. UHF does better with obstacles, but has worse range and is more dependent on line of sight. GMRS is UHF.

If you had two sets, you could do the old Baofeng repeater, and hoist it up as high as you can into a tree to see what that does for your range.

I'd try both antennas. Without going into the science of it, some radios do worse with better antennas. In short, they receive more of everything (the signal you want, the signals you don't want, noise) and the receive circuit can get swamped, effectively reducing your receive capability. I kind of equate it to having a conversation in a restaurant vs shouting at someone at a rock concert. Your S/N ratio may be the same, but the concert is so loud you can't make anything else out. With that said, my Baofeng does not seem to have that problem. I guess I went into the science of it.

If you want to do NVIS, your kids would need general licenses. Techs only have voice privileges on 10m which isn't very well suited to NVIS. Unless you want to do CW or data, 10m is as low as they can go. Ground wave on 10m may give you serviceable range, and doesn't rely on openings.

That being said, I'd really be interested to see how far you can go with packet on 2m/70cm. Or even some sort of fake CW on 2m/70cm FM.
 
To answer the question, I would do some tests to see how well it does through terrain. VHF and UHF (~145MHz and ~440 MHz, respectively) have different characteristics. UHF does better with obstacles, but has worse range and is more dependent on line of sight. GMRS is UHF.

If you had two sets, you could do the old Baofeng repeater, and hoist it up as high as you can into a tree to see what that does for your range.

I'd try both antennas. Without going into the science of it, some radios do worse with better antennas. In short, they receive more of everything (the signal you want, the signals you don't want, noise) and the receive circuit can get swamped, effectively reducing your receive capability. I kind of equate it to having a conversation in a restaurant vs shouting at someone at a rock concert. Your S/N ratio may be the same, but the concert is so loud you can't make anything else out. With that said, my Baofeng does not seem to have that problem. I guess I went into the science of it.

If you want to do NVIS, your kids would need general licenses. Techs only have voice privileges on 10m which isn't very well suited to NVIS. Unless you want to do CW or data, 10m is as low as they can go. Ground wave on 10m may give you serviceable range, and doesn't rely on openings.

That being said, I'd really be interested to see how far you can go with packet on 2m/70cm. Or even some sort of fake CW on 2m/70cm FM.
Good point about Tech limitations on HF - it’s been so long I had General I forgot! But JS8CALL digital might be a good option for messaging and distance with a pre-configured tablet and a 20m/40m EFHW antenna. The world needs a turnkey JS8CALL transceiver with build-in CPU, screen and keyboard.
 
Good point about Tech limitations on HF - it’s been so long I had General I forgot! But JS8CALL digital might be a good option for messaging and distance with a pre-configured tablet and a 20m/40m EFHW antenna. The world needs a turnkey JS8CALL transceiver with build-in CPU, screen and keyboard.
Digirig is about as close as I know of. A guy at work is a huge Mobilinkd fan, but they're out of production right now. It's only packet radio via bluetooth from your phone/laptop/tablet. Rumor has it he's working on a new design that doesn't rely on the unobtainium chips in the previous models.

I've all but abandoned digital modes; my brain hates them. "Just configure a couple settings, and away you go". But they're popular and I can see the appeal.

Settings:
1671287499228.png
 
Good point about Tech limitations on HF - it’s been so long I had General I forgot! But JS8CALL digital might be a good option for messaging and distance with a pre-configured tablet and a 20m/40m EFHW antenna. The world needs a turnkey JS8CALL transceiver with build-in CPU, screen and keyboard.
I'm a little surprised there isn't an out of the box unit simply for simplex HF box to box text communications. Kind of like a gotenna but with actual range.
 
The realistic range on these in the hilly woods of New Hampshire is probably a mile at best. Yeah you could get more with a repeater if everyone is in line of sight, but if cell/landlines are down there are very few repeaters that are sell sustaining power wise. If you're running security in your AO (neighborhood), these might be sufficient. My Yaesu vx-6r barely gets a mile in my AO because of the terrain. It receives fine, the transmit is the problem.
Did you take the antenna that comes with the radio and throw it in the trash? Most of the oem ones are dummy loads compared to comet, larsen, smiley, etc.
 
I'm a little surprised there isn't an out of the box unit simply for simplex HF box to box text communications. Kind of like a gotenna but with actual range.
I’ve never used RTTY on transmit, but my Icom 7300 and 705 will decode RTTY on-screen without any additional hardware. I believe small text memories can be set up to transmit canned calls and responses. Not quite keyboard to keyboard, but still pretty cool.
 

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I’ve never used RTTY on transmit, but my Icom 7300 and 705 will decode RTTY on-screen without any additional hardware. I believe small text memories can be set up to transmit canned calls and responses. Not quite keyboard to keyboard, but still pretty cool.
Did they do psk31 too? I forget. I should know better I've had a 7300 for years..... just never used anything except voice modes on it
 
Did they do psk31 too? I forget. I should know better I've had a 7300 for years..... just never used anything except voice modes on it
Sadly, no PSK native to the radio. That and a USB keyboard port would be a great thing to have. It’s simple enough to connect to a laptop via USB and run whatever mode you like (PSK, FT8, etc.) though.
 
Digirig is about as close as I know of. A guy at work is a huge Mobilinkd fan, but they're out of production right now. It's only packet radio via bluetooth from your phone/laptop/tablet. Rumor has it he's working on a new design that doesn't rely on the unobtainium chips in the previous models.

I've all but abandoned digital modes; my brain hates them. "Just configure a couple settings, and away you go". But they're popular and I can see the appeal.

Settings:
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I just sent for a DigiRig to do Winlink on a Yaesu Ft-65 - a little portable EmComm kit in the planning. By the time I wanted a Mobilinkd3 they were unobtanium.

I’m reminded QRP-Labs makes a QDX 5W transceiver that can do JS8CALL, so ordered a build kit. A cheap Evolve Maestro III laptop running Linux Mint and KM4ACK’s 73LINUX would control it well enough.

I wonder if anyone ever parsed FT8 spots against FCC license class - I’m going to bet a few Tech licensees might be found… 😉
 
One of my youtube guys (KB9VBR, my first HF contact) talked about people operating outside their privileges. The volunteer group that polices the bands puts out a report every so often and the bigger hitters that year (probably last year) were people using FT8 where they shouldn't be.


View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mWH6fUtIjf0

The fact that anyone actually cares about this is part of the reason why radio is dying unfortunately.... I mean it's easy enough to obey the rules but it's still stupid that there's like these Hall Monitor karen people like hanging out sending OO cards to people or some crazy shit....
 
The fact that anyone actually cares about this is part of the reason why radio is dying unfortunately.... I mean it's easy enough to obey the rules but it's still stupid that there's like these Hall Monitor karen people like hanging out sending OO cards to people or some crazy shit....
I can see both sides. Self policing is the bare minimum to keep anarchy at bay.
 
I can see both sides. Self policing is the bare minimum to keep anarchy at bay.
I'm all aboard wrt managing the frequencies wrt transmissions of any significant power and/or bandwidth. With low-power digital (WSPR, FT8, etc.) the signal volume is immense. At and below 1W power, a lot of communication can be facilitated. Am I correct I recalling FCC does not require licensing at <1W or is that only for specific channelized frequencies like FRS?

Below is a JS8CALL Heartbeat at 1w on 7MHz this morning from a Endfed Half Wave di[ole run out my window to a tree.

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And here's 200mW WSPR 24hr spots from another wire run to a tree.

1671366780758.png
 
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WSPR is bonkers. 200mw is less than a blister pack FRS radio puts out.

Maybe once I'm done learning CW I'll put some effort into JS8CALL. FT8 seems like it's just computers talking to each other, but JS8CALL is actual QSOs.

I'm interested in how that QRP Labs rig works out. How are those kits so friggin cheap? I have a different kit I'm going to build someday soon but their QCX is on my list too.
 
My JS8CALL FamilyCOMMS kit (two needed for two kids) thoughts so far:

HF Transceiver: QRP-labs QDX 5W 80/40/30/20 transceiver kit ($108 with enclosure & power lead delivered)
VHF/UHF Transceiver: Baofeng UV5R kit $55 Amazon w/spare extended battery) Pre-programmed with SHTF

CPU:
Evolve Maestro III Laptop ($110 Amazon, charges on 12V) running Win10, JS8CALL, WinLink (2m) (prefer Linux but my kids never heard of it)
GPS Time: If networks are down, need a GPS to get +/- 2sec for JS8CALL. Can be cheap battery handheld to manually set- I have a few. Or PC dongle/software.

Power: Bioenno 12V/9A & charger ($115, alternative - desktop UPS might suffice - buy used and replace battery)

Antenna: Antenna TBD ($25-50, KM4ACK or K6ARK EFHW no-tune 20/40m; really need a 20/30/40/80 option cheaper than a MyAntenna 8010 but limited by length to hang; maybe a small manual tuner kit to protect the QDX from high SWR but adds complexity)

Other:
Power Distribution Block ($35)
DigiRig & Cable for UV5R 2m WinLink ($95, assumes functional repeaters
Instructions (a binder with EZ instructions on how to use the kit)
Practice Schedule (maybe like 1st and 3rd Monday on one of the 3s (12am/3am/6am/9am/12pm/3pm/6pm) or as SKEDs - at 64yr, my hours are unlike 23/28yr-olds!

The kids would need a Bug-In Kit too, with light, food, water, AM/FM broadcast radio, etc. That’s a separate topic.
 
The fact that anyone actually cares about this is part of the reason why radio is dying unfortunately.... I mean it's easy enough to obey the rules but it's still stupid that there's like these Hall Monitor karen people like hanging out sending OO cards to people or some crazy shit....

I guess I can hardly cheer on folks in states that banned/registered >10rd mags and AR15s for their non-compliance and zip along at 75-80mph in 65mph roads and criticize those who use FT8 on a Tech license…call me an Anarchist
B71F4844-41C6-4764-8B24-A3FBEC0906D0.jpeg
 
My JS8CALL FamilyCOMMS kit (two needed for two kids) thoughts so far:

HF Transceiver: QRP-labs QDX 5W 80/40/30/20 transceiver kit ($108 with enclosure & power lead delivered)
VHF/UHF Transceiver: Baofeng UV5R kit $55 Amazon w/spare extended battery) Pre-programmed with SHTF

CPU:
Evolve Maestro III Laptop ($110 Amazon, charges on 12V) running Win10, JS8CALL, WinLink (2m) (prefer Linux but my kids never heard of it)
GPS Time: If networks are down, need a GPS to get +/- 2sec for JS8CALL. Can be cheap battery handheld to manually set- I have a few. Or PC dongle/software.

Power: Bioenno 12V/9A & charger ($115, alternative - desktop UPS might suffice - buy used and replace battery)

Antenna: Antenna TBD ($25-50, KM4ACK or K6ARK EFHW no-tune 20/40m; really need a 20/30/40/80 option cheaper than a MyAntenna 8010 but limited by length to hang; maybe a small manual tuner kit to protect the QDX from high SWR but adds complexity)

Other:
Power Distribution Block ($35)
DigiRig & Cable for UV5R 2m WinLink ($95, assumes functional repeaters
Instructions (a binder with EZ instructions on how to use the kit)
Practice Schedule (maybe like 1st and 3rd Monday on one of the 3s (12am/3am/6am/9am/12pm/3pm/6pm) or as SKEDs - at 64yr, my hours are unlike 23/28yr-olds!

The kids would need a Bug-In Kit too, with light, food, water, AM/FM broadcast radio, etc. That’s a separate topic.
I did KM4ACK's Shack on a Pi or whatever he called it. For someone as retarded as me when it comes to digital modes, I was able to get it to work. Now that I know more, I could probably have thinned down what I installed and not had a bunch of stuff I don't use. For time I used a USB GPS receiver. It has maybe 5' of cable so you can put it next to a window. It works just fine.

I really wanted a standalone unit so I used one of the 7" pi displays and the Pi attaches right to the back of it. It was just too small. I started looking at displays, keyboards, mice, and packaging it, and ended up just buying a cheap laptop.

I use an EFHW that I made myself. It's basically the same as everyone else's. A kit with an antenna winder built in is a bonus. Pro tip: shitty cardboard winders that you made temporarily 8 months ago are shitty.

The trouble with trying to get 30m is it's not a harmonic of anything. You could use links and tune every segment for exactly what you want, but that would be a snag nightmare, and it has to come down to change bands. Another option is to just make an 80m wire, a 40m wire, and a 30m wire. That would get you all of those bands and you wouldn't be locked into a 133' 80m wire when you want to operate on 20m.

I was close: Build-a-Pi - KM4ACK on building the ultimate Raspberry Pi for your shack - KB6NU's Ham Radio Blog
 
I did KM4ACK's Shack on a Pi or whatever he called it. For someone as retarded as me when it comes to digital modes, I was able to get it to work. Now that I know more, I could probably have thinned down what I installed and not had a bunch of stuff I don't use. For time I used a USB GPS receiver. It has maybe 5' of cable so you can put it next to a window. It works just fine.

I really wanted a standalone unit so I used one of the 7" pi displays and the Pi attaches right to the back of it. It was just too small. I started looking at displays, keyboards, mice, and packaging it, and ended up just buying a cheap laptop.

I use an EFHW that I made myself. It's basically the same as everyone else's. A kit with an antenna winder built in is a bonus. Pro tip: shitty cardboard winders that you made temporarily 8 months ago are shitty.

The trouble with trying to get 30m is it's not a harmonic of anything. You could use links and tune every segment for exactly what you want, but that would be a snag nightmare, and it has to come down to change bands. Another option is to just make an 80m wire, a 40m wire, and a 30m wire. That would get you all of those bands and you wouldn't be locked into a 133' 80m wire when you want to operate on 20m.

I was close: Build-a-Pi - KM4ACK on building the ultimate Raspberry Pi for your shack - KB6NU's Ham Radio Blog

You’re right there - 30m is not an essential. Maybe not in the repertoire…

Crumpled beer cans make 1/2-decent winders too, if you don’t have any shitty cardboard. The six-pack box is shitty but not useful…

And a 20/40 antenna is EZ. So why not a 20/40 and a separate 80, if possible? Brilliant suggestion! I like the Comet CTC-50M pass-through for easy window antenna penetrations. Costly, but they work great. The extra length wraps through a Mix31 ferrite to trim common mode RF (although on 5W, that’s less a concern).

A 133’ 80m wire is almost invisible if you use 26G stealth wire - I’d toss one up into a parking lot light pole in a SoBOS hotel and haul it up to my hotel window without anyone giving a care.

My Build-a-Pi is very nice, but “delicate” and not in “common use” for common users. OH8STN is a good follow - he’s switched from a RPi4 to a Windows/Surface for ruggedness and ease of use. Windows is such a bitch though - it breaks itself with every few “upgrades.”

D040F38F-8E77-4BC8-BBBF-BA89393E7540.jpeg
 
My 40m EFHW wire is the same 26 gauge stealth wire. I've walked into it more times than I care to admit, and I knew where it was.

If you're feeling crafty, I bought some of these when I built my DX Commander. It seemed kind of frivolous at first, but they were really helpful. A couple of these down by your spade connector could make setting up easier for casual hams.

1671414799951.png

 
My Build-a-Pi is very nice, but “delicate” and not in “common use” for common users. OH8STN is a good follow - he’s switched from a RPi4 to a Windows/Surface for ruggedness and ease of use. Windows is such a bitch though - it breaks itself with every few “upgrades.”
This looks like what Julian recommends for his Surface Go tablet for his ham programs. Amazon product ASIN B086QRQVD5View: https://www.amazon.com/NEW-Microsoft-Surface-Go-Touch-Screen/dp/B086QRQVD5/ref=sr_1_4?keywords=surface%2Bgo%2B2&qid=1671422619&refinements=p_n_feature_fourteen_browse-bin%3A23739462011%7C23739463011&rnid=23739459011&s=pc&sr=1-4&ufe=app_do%3Aamzn1.fos.ac2169a1-b668-44b9-8bd0-5ec63b24bcb5&th=1


For an all in one, it's hard to beat that price point. A raspberry pi 4, with case, sd card or ssd is more than the Surface he recommends. Microsoft Surface Go 2 FAQ | Ham Radio Laptop

It looks like only the LTE model of this tablet has built in GPS, so if you're not using an IC-705 you'll need GPS to sync time. He mentions it in the blog post.

Windows is a bitch, I figure for only using it to run a couple, three programs, I won't be updating the OS that often unless it forces me to.
 
This looks like what Julian recommends for his Surface Go tablet for his ham programs. Amazon product ASIN B086QRQVD5View: https://www.amazon.com/NEW-Microsoft-Surface-Go-Touch-Screen/dp/B086QRQVD5/ref=sr_1_4?keywords=surface%2Bgo%2B2&qid=1671422619&refinements=p_n_feature_fourteen_browse-bin%3A23739462011%7C23739463011&rnid=23739459011&s=pc&sr=1-4&ufe=app_do%3Aamzn1.fos.ac2169a1-b668-44b9-8bd0-5ec63b24bcb5&th=1


For an all in one, it's hard to beat that price point. A raspberry pi 4, with case, sd card or ssd is more than the Surface he recommends. Microsoft Surface Go 2 FAQ | Ham Radio Laptop

It looks like only the LTE model of this tablet has built in GPS, so if you're not using an IC-705 you'll need GPS to sync time. He mentions it in the blog post.

Windows is a bitch, I figure for only using it to run a couple, three programs, I won't be updating the OS that often unless it forces me to.

Wow - those are getting cheap! Having a keyboard, monitor and CPU in one piece of hardware is nice - juggling a RPi, Monitor & Keyboard while out-and-about gets annoying, although one can control with a remote tablet if you really have to have Linux. KM4ACK’s BAP is well developed and his 73LINUX to use on a laptop is still a work in progress. I really like the AutoConnect Winlink feature in BAP. Jason KM4ACK tweaked his shoulder (possible rotator cuff tear) so his work will probably take a pause until he gets fixed.

I suppose I can turn off WiFi on any Windows computer designated for FamilyCOMMS to prevent update nightmares. That’s what I’d do for the kids’ kits. If a useful app is upgraded with useful features I/they can turn WiFi back on as needed with a Win Update 7-day pause. Linux/RPi are more controllable wrt updates, so could stay WiFi on. I’ll put a remote VPN on their kits so I can do the work, if needed.

I wonder if a loading coil on a 133’ EFHW antenna will shorten it much? There’s a few discussion on various websites but if you ask in a forum, you get the “Read the ARRL Antenna Book, get a Masters in Electrical Engineering and then come back with questions” answers 🙄

While the Evolve Maestro III advantage is 12V charging, there’s a few other options too (miniPC below). It makes it all so easy if everything runs from the same 12V battery.

Amazon product ASIN B09373HTN7View: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09373HTN7?&linkCode=sl1&tag=pjoleham-20&linkId=12c5e2c57af98129ed795f5cb2195ada&language=en_US&ref_=as_li_ss_tl
 
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