For the last twenty years I’ve been intermittently reading 2600 The Hacker Quarterly. This magizine holds a special place in my heart because it perfectly captures my feelings thowards technology. Articles within 2600 are written by fans of the magazine, and you’ll find a broad range of topics of intrest to hackers. While I’ve enjoyed 2600 over the years, I’ve never submitted an article for publication until now. After six months of waiting I can finally say that my article Ham Radio, SMS, and the ISS has finally been published in the Spring 2021 issue of 2600 The Hacker Quarerly.
It’s been a while since I’ve composed anything on this site and frankly it’s because I consider most aspects of Ham Radio boring. This isn’t the first time I’ve taken a break either. Since last December I’ve exclusively worked digital modes, with FT8 as primary. This was fun for a few weeks as I learned more about my new Yaesu FTDX 3000 and how WSJT-X worked. After a month of operating FT8, I realized it didn’t in fact involve much effort to make contacts; after two months I realized I had completely mastered the art of pointing and clicking within WSJT-X. I never made it to the end of three months.
I just wanted to announce a brief update on the Radio Hackers YSF Reflector. I’m shutting it down for due to a lack of interest on my part, declining use by others, and for financial reasons. It only cost me a few bucks a month to keep the server running in AWS. But with it and my other side projects the cost does add up each month. It is possible one day I might bring it back online, but I’m not committing to that at this time. Thanks to everyone who enjoyed meeting up on the reflector.
I decided to create a new YouTube channel. It’s nothing extraordinary, just a place to some videos of the things I find interesting about ham radio. I have no asperations of becoming a YouTuber, therefore don’t expect weekly videos or reviews of the latest Baofeng radio.
Do you know what happens when you voice your opinion about the state of ham radio and it’s featured on Hackaday? You piss off a ton of curmudgeons; more importantly you uncover many likeminded people. I’ve been overcome with people contacting me over the last few days expressing their appreciation for my recent blog post. I’m not going to name drop anyone, but I will say I’ve had some fascinating people contact me. The odd thing is, I’m not noting anything that hasn’t been said before, as pointed out by several people with links to their own blog post written years before. I merely happen to be the guy that most recently expressed his frustration with the technical side of ham radio taking a back seat to emergency communications. All of this recent exposure has me to asking the question “How do I turn this excitement into a proper movement?” I’ve been pondering on this question for a couple of days and I’ve developed an action plan.
“Ham Radio is dying!” A phrase all to often uttered that it’s become cliché, but it’s partly true. You can’t deny a considerable section of the ham radio operators in the world are in the latter part of their lives.They won’t be around forever so naturally new people must assume their place. The good news is amateur radio licenses are on the rise. The bad news is the people induced to ham radio these days aren’t interested in pushing the limits of RF technology. To be blunt I’m talking about preppers and those solely interested in emergency communications. Neither of which have any desire to explore ham radio beyond a disaster fetish in which they use their $25 BaoFeng HT to save the world.
If you’re reading this post on my new LoneStar Electronics MMDVM hotspot, then you no doubt decided to explore the option of buiding one yourself after noting the price of some of the commercially available hotspots. For example the Zumspot form Ham Radio Outlet retails between $150 - $160, and that’s not including a case to safeguard it. And let’s not forget about BridgeCom Systems who absolutely rape you on the price of their SkyBridge Hotspot; $299 is rip off.
About three months ago I unconsciously or perhaps consciously lost interest in ham radio. This isn’t the first time this has happened to me, in fact this was what lead me to allow my license to lapse the first time in 2016. If it weren’t for a new coworker of mine showing interest in ham radio again after a twenty-five year absent; I presumably wouldn’t be writing this post now. His excitement about all of the recent advances that have been made since he was first license reminded me of the things I missed about ham radio. This forced me to reflect on the reasons that I stepped away from the hobby for nearly three months. After some time I narrowed it down to three primary reasons. Without further ado I present to you my three reasons I took a break from ham radio.
I’ve decided to learn morse code because I absolutely want to purchase a new Yaesu FT DX 3000 later this year. The radio is reasonability priced for all the features it comes with, in particular the ones for CW. Plus with the optional 300 Hz narrow filter this radio is designed to work CW well. I’m planning on purchasing this radio in December of this year, so what more practical way to pass the time than learning morse code?
On Sunday July, 12 2020 at 06:00 UTC I sent myself three SMS messages through the International Space Station’s APRS digipeater. Here’s how I did it, but first a little background on my motivation for this project.
I recently joined the AMSAT Ambassador program. I’m excited for the opportunity to share my love of satellite communications with others in the hopes that they too will explore this fascinating aspect of ham radio. AMSAT is a non-profit volunteer organization which designs, builds and operates experimental satellites and promotes space education. The ambassador program allows for volunteers to educate fellow hams and the general public about amateur radio in space. This additionally includes mentoring fellow hams in their quest for there first QSO through a satellite. It’s not the most straightforward thing to make contact through a satellite, and having someone to aid you understand the basics is a valuable resource to utilize. I have a few ideas that I’m working on that’ll allow me to share more about AMSAT and amateur radio in space. Be on the lookout for some presentation in the next few weeks.
I recently purchased a Yaesu FT3D handheld with the intention of making a few contacts through the International Space Station’s digipeater using the built-in Terminal Node Controller. Since the ISS only passes overhead a few times a day for a few minutes at a time, I thought I’d explore some other uses for Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS).
When I was first licensed back in 2006 one of things that helped pushed me out of the hobby was the high cost of radios. At the time there were only four manufacturers, Icom, Kenwood, Yaesu, and Alinco. While the price of radios from these manufacturers remains high, there are now lower priced competitors on the market. One such manufacturer is Wouxun. Does lower price equal lower quality? Let’s take a look.
I find it amazing that with a handheld radio and 5 watts of power you can send a RF signal 300 plus miles into space and connect to a satellite. A satellite that’s roughly the size of a softball, traversing space well over 17,000 miles an hour. Once these signals reach the satellite, it’s sent back to earth allowing you to communicate with someone hundreds or thousands of miles away.
On May 16, 2020 I passed both the Technician and General ham radio exams to become a licensed ham radio operator. This was not the first time I sat for a ham radio exam, but it was the first remote one I participated in due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.