February 24, 2016

It's only a start.

CB, MURS, FRS, and Ham Radio is only a start.  It's the beginning step.

Some of you, probably most of you, will only (need to) go that far.

However when the balloon goes up,  depending on the balloon, it all might become obsolete in short order.

You have two choices:

  1. Go so high-tech that the opposition won't be able to figure out what you're doing.

  2. Go so low-tech that the opposition overlooks your technique.

I'm leaving you with a few book suggestions to help you out:



1960 US Army Vietnam War Field Wire & Field Cable Techniques 289p



Those are the more commonly available books that have had the most influence on my work over the years.  The rest are very obscure and out of print.  After 30 years you too will have such a collection if you keep up with it.


All future technical work will be released in the newsletter. If you subscribe sooner than later, you'll be able to start with the next issue, #3. There will be no digital edition and no back issues available. Just straight-up samizdat distilled from 30 years of collecting information from very esoteric sources, from low-tech:


To high-tech:



Got Low-Tech?



http://diy.smartkids123.com/heliograph-communicating-by-light/ - DIY

It's something you might see at a workshop.

February 23, 2016

A Book I Recommend You Read

I stumbled across this one at my (no so) local bookstore:


As your group's or tribe's "tech person" or resident geek, they will be coming to you for guidance on a lot of DIY/how-to things.  This book is a good start to help fill in your knowledge gaps.

I will also include another book that Dartnell mentions:


Both of these books should be considered "must haves" for your reference library.

Don't have one yet?

Then you better get started.

You're going to be the one responsible for keeping your tribe/group out of the dark ages, and improving their defensive posture after the balloon goes up.

Technical support isn't as sexy as being on point, but it's just as important.

And while you're at it, don't forget these folks.

February 18, 2016

Juice: Mtnforge sends.

Pay attention.  Good info here.

h/t mtnforge
I did all this. Some thoughts on power hope helps anyone interested.
Built me a solar/wind off grid system with a big ole fork truck battery. (1250 amp hours on a 20hr draw, after messing around for awhile to figure out how it all works). Keep your battery above 20% depth of draw, (based on 80% draw over a 6 hour period), and your battery will love you long time.
I fooled around various with PMA alternators:
The best pedal powered Permanent Magnet Alternator’s are 12volt ones wound for wind power, the slant core or non cogging are ALOT easier to crank. Usually you can expect a net charging current/voltage of 150-300 watts output at around 200 rpm. Don’t sound like much, but it is constant, it is a good kind of current too, nice square wave, what batteries like. If your people powering, rig into it a flywheel of some sort, the inertia really makes a difference. If your pedaling it, you don’t need a charge controller, a simple analog volt meter will do. Mount it to you grab handles, and when you reach 14.2 or so volts, your charged, stop pedaling. Simple, one less piece to break or wear out. The Delco cased PMA’s are easy to mount, they have a belt pulley already, no field to excite, just a positive terminal, the case is negative ground, they have the rectifier built in, though some models don’t, and you get 3 phase wild crazy AC, which is good if you want to send your output over long distance, you can use much smaller gauge conductor, and rectify your 3 phase into DC at your battery. Don’t have to worry about overheating if you have the auto style pulley fan, might find a larger size PMA pulley an advantage, depends on your ratios you are using. Use a notched half inch shallow Vee alternator belt if you can get one. Ask to mooch around behind the counter, get the thinest belt you can. Lot less friction. Your legs will thank you.
Its theoretically about 748 instantaneous watts to the horse power in a perfect world. 1HP is a lot of pedaling. How long you can pedal is the right question. Add in line losses, manufacturing inefficiencies mechanical losses, its probably 500 watts per horse power. But your talking pretty high amps output. And the voltage on a wind PMA is optimized by how the windings are set up, they have neodymium magnets so high flux is produced, it is good charging current, a regular car alternator doesn’t compare, and they use precious juice to run. A PMA puts all it’s current out the line. The lower the discharge voltage on your battery set the more it draws off your charging device, that decreases as full float charge is approached, (less current-more voltage-less drag on your generator/alternator you are powering).

Or you can go with the best. I know its large, but for a home base, this puppy below is the Bee’s Knees in PV cells:


These are the no shit cream de le creme of solar cells. Nothing comes even close, and this is the only high output panel made with a junction box. A really practical feature. These fuckers are hotrods with a true 25 year lifespan and don’t fade as the silicon wafers heats up in the sun. I got a rack of 4 and a rack of two, (with a 1200 watt turbine on a 40ft tower), the 4 rack puts out 34 amps at 21.7 volts (DC) as long as the sun is direct on them. That is what the meter reads with these connected to a charging battery. Let me tell you, one panel at 8 amps and 21.7 volts hooked to a charging battery is serious power, you can cook a 24 series 1000 cold cranking amps car battery to death from a dead flat discharge in 20 minutes. It will be smoking and the case will be ready to give up the ghost.
These panels are made like a piece of jewelry. Nothing is even in their class. No repurposed silicon in them either. Made in the US too. This size ships UPS.
Get one, you have a panel that will outlive you. For $289 bucks, and shipping from AZ to WV total is $309 for power that will not shit the bed on you. A charge controller, a switch, some crimp on fittings, a fuse block, 6 ga welding cable and a battery, you got real power that nothing can top or be as reliable. It is a no maintenance put up and run system.

I’m Running a big ole motive power battery, company in Chicago has a great deal on this size, weighs 850lbs with a beautiful armored powder coated liquid tight 1/4″ welded plate steel case, hinged cover, 00 cables with connectors, puts out 780 amps on a 6 hour rate to 80% depth of draw, 1280 amps at the 20hr rate.
Secret to batteries, is weight, everything else is a sales gimmick. Weight =’s plate materials. The more weight the better the plates the more capacity the longer the life. All else is BS. Gel cells, glass matt, space age metal batteries, deep cycle etc. Forget them. Nothing is better than an industrial motive power battery using wet lead acid cell design. (Cat makes some of the finest lead acid cell batteries in the world, maybe the best. Their generic model heavy equipment batteries are world class, they have pioneered a 20% increase in capacity in the same given case size, with a unique arrangement of grid composition.) It ships FedEx, to their commercial loading dock, you pick up, they load in your pickup, strapped on a pallet, total cost was $1650, fully charged with acid. Lot of power in that baby, and keeping the depth of draw above 20-30%, its a 30 year battery. A old fashioned MOTIVE power wet lead acid cell battery can not be beat. No matter what anyone tells you, these are the only battery to run if you can. They are specifically made to have the crap beat out of them, every kind of neglect and abuse imaginable, and keep taking and holding a charge. You put one of these in your off grid shack, its like Mount Rushmore, it lasts forever. They are made to go 1200 cycles to 80% DoD. 3.2 years of abuse. And they still have a ton of life left in them for other uses. If you can get a used one, they won’t have the depth of draw left as specified, but with proper use, keeping your DoD at 20% or around there, they are 10+ year batteries, for the price of scrap metal weight. You got to check all the cells, a dead cell you don’t want, unless you have enough cells to rewire back to 12 V.
Ask me anything, i’ll share what i know. I’m starting to get into comms, and figured a good off grid system was paramount. I figured all this stuff out myself, I’m just a regular guy. If i can help anybody be great.

PS, Lot of great 12 volt products on the market. We have been going that way. Lights, appliances, just got us a 24 inch LED TV, runs on 50 watts, has all the inputs/outputs, no smart TV bullshit, no spying on you crap. Half the price of a 110VAC TV. Whats not to like? A 12 volt freezer is next. Doesn’t even require a battery, runs on one 140 watt solar panel, has enough insulation to keep it cold over night and a day or so if its very cloudy.
Then there are “Dump Loads”, which are devices which are powered by excess current your system produces when the batteries are charged. Built a hot water system, uses 12 volt heating elements, screw in like your regular AC powered water heater elements. Got this rig so it convection heats my AC power heater, and draws the 12 volt heated water into the AC unit when we turn on the tap. There are so many thing you can do. It is a holistic operation. Besides, the second you produce power, every penny you put into it is now paying you. Awesome shit.

February 17, 2016

Yeasu 817ND

Down To Earth Antennas

Some interesting ideas we'll play with at the workshops.



Juice: Roll Your Own



Can always be scaled-up to meet requirements.

It's not rocket science, folks. It's electrochemistry!

Generators are easy too.



Juice: A Reader's Question

A reader asked:
"Would there be much inefficiency in using an Antigravity battery (believe this is 18AH) to juice up the Goal Zero? Unsure of a way to connect the two directly. Thanks!"

Short answer: It would work, but the technique is very inefficient.

The GoalZero power supply is 15V @ 1.5A,  which they say will charge the 5.2AH battery in a nominal 3 hours. I'm reasonably certain there's a voltage regulator in the Sherpa that limits the charging current to no more than 1.5A.  So, while you could take the nominal 15V jump start output of the Antigravity pack and use it to charge the GoalZero,  you'd be better just using the Antigravity pack to power your electronics.

I might add that while GoalZero makes a very good product,   many of us bought them before the introduction of the Antigravity batteries.  When I upgrade systems, I'm going with Antigravity.

February 15, 2016

Preparing For the Workshops

The first workshops of the year are coming up in April for Riverton, Wyoming, and upstate South Carolina.  Now is the time to prepare if you are attending.



February 11, 2016



When the grid goes down, you'll have to generate the electricity to power your communications equipment and keep batteries charged in your portable gear such as handhelds.  Eventually, when it all goes away for good, you'll may wind up being your own power company, and the power company for your like-minded neighbors.

If you have your ham license or otherwise have some basic electronics knowledge, you can figure out the electrical power requirements for your equipment, and how long your generating capacity can keep it going.


Many of us started out with something like this piece of gear.  It is a Harbor Freight 3in1 Portable Power Pack.  It has a 12V 17AH (twelve Colt, seventeen Amp-Hour) gel-cell battery in it.  The current model is $60, but you can find them on sale for as low as $40.

How long will your gear run on it?  Most websites recommend only discharging your batteries down to 50%-70% of their total capacity.  That means the 17AH battery in the Harbor Freight pack is good for 8.5-11.9AH.  You can drain them further, but it will shorten battery life.


The Yaesu FT-817, a common portable HF transceiver, has a max receive current draw of 450mA, or .450A.  Going with a 50% discharge, 8.5/.450=18 Hours of receive time. Full power current drain on transmit is 2A.  8.5/2=4.25 hours transmit time.  Best case scenario? The fully squelched current drain is .250A.  Going with a 70% discharge, 11.9/.25=47.6 hours.  So, depending on how much your transmit, the TX output power, and how much receive activity you pick up, the radio will run on this pack for anywhere from 4.25-47.6 hours.

In the picture, the FT-817 is hooked up to a GoalZero Sherpa50. The Sherpa50 has a 5.2AH battery in it.  Depending on how much your transmit, the TX output power, and how much receive activity you pick up, the radio will run on this pack for anywhere from  1.3-14.56 hours.

Then you have to recharge the packs, which will be the topic of another blog post.

Field power is among the topics discussed during the Workshops being held this year in Wyoming.

February 3, 2016

Exercise: Keeping an Ear on the Locals


Over the past year, I have tweaked my class material based on feedback I received.  Here is a look at some of the V2.0 Workshop material:

Exercise: Keeping an Ear on the Locals


This exercise can be performed with any available scanning receiver, such as the Radio Shack PRO-97 shown at left.


Locate, identify, and monitor local "jungle telegraph" frequency chatter. Perform basic signal analysis on discovered emissions.


  • Identify frequency coverage of receiver to determine suitability for exercise.

  • The PRO-97 has the following frequency coverage specifications: 25-54, 108-136.9875, 137-174, 216.0025-221.9975, 222-225, 225.025-405.975, 406-512, 806-960 (excluding cellular) and 1240-1300 MHz.

  • Based on requirement and frequency coverage specific
    2. rations, determine the following bands of interest:

    • 25.000-26.965 MHz.: bootleg CB "freeband", secondary

    • 26.965-27.405 MHz.: Citizens Band, primary

    • 27.405-28.000 MHz.:  bootleg CB "freeband", secondary

    • 29.000-29.700 MHz.: 10 Meter amateur band, predominately AM/FM mode emissions, secondary

    • 50.000-54.000 MHz.: 6 Meter amateur band, secondary

    • 144.000-148.000 MHz.: 2 Meter amateur band, primary

    • MURS, FRS, and GMRS service channels, primary

    • 222.000-225.000 MHz.: 1.25 Meter amateur band, secondary

    • 420-450 MHz.: 70cm Amateur band, primary/secondary

  • Perform sector searches on primary and secondary bands of interest for a time period of no less than 24 hours, preferably at least 72 hours.  Record frequencies detected.:

  • Perform point search on frequencies detected. Record following information:

    • Who - callsigns, names, handles

    • What - topics of discussion, net structure (formal, informal, "chatter")

    • Where - locations mentioned, conduct OSINT on FCC callsigns and possible repeater frequencies

    • When - date/time of communications

    • Why? - The CB and 2 Meter Amateur Radio bands have been determined via OSINT to be the most commonly used frequency bands used for local and regional personal communications in CONUS, with the vast majority of communications being in analog AM (CB) and FM (2 meter) modes on frequency ranges capable of reception on most police scanner-type receivers.  This makes them a useful monitoring target for the beginning voice intercept operator starting their COMINT education.

  • Perform RDF operations if possible.  Note LOBs.

This exercise can be performed with any receiver or transceiver that covers any of the bands of interest.  Communications will be mostly analog AM and FM, and unencrypted.

February 2, 2016

Time For Outband

As readers of this blog are aware, I terminated the Facebook group.  Here is one more reason why:


That time around it was about private gun sales, but it could be anything.  That's the risk you take when you use third-party infrastructure.

And for those of you who remember the Clipper Chip, here's another one:


Here's a quote from the White House Press Office:
"Advanced encryption technology offers individuals and businesses an inexpensive and easy way to encode data and telephone conversations. Unfortunately, the same encryption technology that can help Americans protect business secrets and personal privacy can also be used by terrorists, drug dealers, and other criminals."

Sounds very recent, doesn't it?

Actually, that statement was from over 20 years ago.

Well before 2008.