March 28, 2016

Another Workshop Preview


Thsi is just another preview of what's in store at the Communications Workshops being held at the following dates and locations:

      • April 2-3, 2016 - Riverton, Wyoming - THIS SATURDAY
      • August 6-7, 2016 - Dubois, Wyoming
See https://sites.google.com/site/sparks31commo/home/upcoming-seminars for more information.

March 27, 2016

What's the frequency, Kenneth?


Find out this weekend!

https://sites.google.com/site/sparks31commo/home/upcoming-seminars

Radio Workshop This Weekend!

The workshop in Riverton, WY is this weekend, and there is still time to sign up.

https://sites.google.com/site/sparks31commo/home/upcoming-seminars

  • Learn how to get the most talk range out of that handheld squad radio.

  • Learn how to select and set-up equipment for collecting news and information.

  • See field radios in action, and learn to to set up your own field comms.

  •  Take in the beautiful and majestic terrain of Wyoming.

When:  April 2-3, 2016

Where: Riverton, Wyoming

Next Workshop: August 6-7, 2016 - Dubois, Wyoming

How: https://sites.google.com/site/sparks31commo/home/upcoming-seminars

Suggested donation for workshop is $100 or as you can afford/honor system in FRNs, PMs, or barter (ammo, milsurp field gear, interesting electronics, etc.) 

Email sparks31commo@gmail.com to sign up.

March 25, 2016

Via MDT: Revisiting The Smock

Good piece of field clothing. You can find DPM and occasionally MTP (Brit Multicam) smocks at army surplus stores for $20-$30 each, if you have a decent old-school place nearby.

If someone came across a (repro) original Dennison Pattern in an American size Large equivalent, and wanted to attend a workshop, I’d definitely take it in trade.


https://masondixontactical.wordpress.com/2016/03/21/revisiting-the-smock-and-stocking-it-for-survival-pt-1/

https://masondixontactical.wordpress.com/2016/03/21/revisiting-the-smock-and-stocking-it-for-survival-pt-2/


Reality

This is an AR-15:
It's a handy, accurate little carbine in .223 Remington/5.56mm NATO.  Good out to 200 yards, maybe 500 yards if you do your part and the wind isn't blowing too hard.  Ammo is pretty cheap as centerfire rifles go.  A lot of folks use this as a working gun around their farms, as it does a good job on the various pests and varmints you may encounter.

Some folks however are on a budget, so they might instead opt for something like this:
 The $27 price tag is a bit out of date, but you can still find a decent milsurp bolt-action for under $200 if you look around some.

Both of these rifles, and many others, are more than adequate for defending yourself against bad guys of any stripe.  They're not going to stand there and critique your choice in weaponry.  Instead, they will make themselves as small as possible to avoid occupying the same point in time and space as the projectiles you'll be sending their way at Mach 1+.  You can also hunt wild game with either of these rifles, although for the bigger stuff, something in .30 Caliber should be your choice.

This is a shortwave receiver:
This is a police scanner:
With these two items you can acquire news and intelligence information from local to worldwide, and know what's going on around you.

This is a CB radio:
With one of these and a decent antenna, you can stay in touch with friends and like-minded individuals in your local area (10-15 miles), and be connected to a modern-day jungle telegraph system that operates independently of telephones and the Internet.  With a small solar or wind-charged battery system, you don't even need grid power.

That is reality.

I received an email from a friend a couple days ago warning me about some dire NWO/Obama/Moselm refugee thing.  It contained the usual garment-rending hysterical polemic these emails have.  It was just like the emails I received years back warning me about some dire NWO/Bush/Mexican illegal immigrant thing.


Like Mr. Natural used to say, "Don't mean sheeit."

Fuck the system, and that includes the pusillanimous ass clowns on "our side" who spread these sob stories about how (insert here) is going to invade middle Amerika to steal your women and rape your horses/goats/donkeys, all with the blessings of Obama and Henry Kissinger.




It's time for solutions.  Off-grid, meatspace solutions. Get your information collecting systems together, learn them, and then use them.  Get some good working guns that you can use to feed and defend yourself and your tribe.  If bad people come to do bad things to you, you shoot them.  If you find yourself on a jury where someone is being wrongly prosecuted because he/she shot bad people trying to do bad things to him/her, remember two words: Not Guilty. Get yourself set up in a post-industrial post-America trade of some sort, even if it's only a hobby right now.  Grow your own food.  Get with other like-minded people and build local support networks.

It's that simple.

For my part in all this, I'll do the Off-Grid Communications Workshops on a "what you can afford" barter basis for anyone, regardless of where they live, for as long as I can afford to do so.  I've got a workshop next weekend in Riverton, WY, and one in Dubois, WY in August.  In the workshop, I'll show you how to set up and put together your information collection and communications capabilities so you can find out what's going on and keep in touch without having to rely on the Internet or any other infrastructure other than your own.  Additionally, there will be an old-fashioned, rendezvous-style, swap meet at the workshops.  If you have anything prepper-related that you'd like to swap/sell, bring it and a blanket/tarp to put your goods on. The only requirement is that it has to be legal in Wyoming.



 “How to Overthrow the System: brew your own beer; kick in your Tee Vee; kill your own beef; build your own cabin and piss off the front porch whenever you bloody well feel like it.”


March 17, 2016

Any sufficiently advanced technology...

  • When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
  • The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
  • Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
- Clarke's Three Laws, by Arthur C. Clarke
 With the above in mind, here are three books:





Back in the 1980s, I was living in an area that was notorious for "UFO" activity at the time. The county was and is so "active", it makes the top 300 list. While doing some VHF/UHF radio experimentation with old TV sets, I noticed an esoteric (at the time) form of radio modulation that occurred during the UFO activity. I suspected at the time that the UFOs were of terrestrial origin.  Fifteen years later, I happened to have dinner with one of the pilots that was involved in said experimental aircraft tests in the area at the time, who confirmed my suspicions.  It was the third book on the list, published about two years before I discovered it in the library, that got me started.

You probably won't find anything otherworldly, but you definitely might find something interesting, as I did.

Expanding your RF test bench to UHF

In a previous blog posting, I talked about setting up a test bench to test basic functionality of radio equipment. The equipment, shown above, was good to VHF, but had limited functionality in the UHF region.  In this post, we'll expand the bench's capability up to UHF in order to test 70cm ham gear and higher-end GMRS radios.

The UHF testing issues with the test bench above were in the SWR meter and dummy load. The SWR meter was only good to VHF, and the dummy load, a Heathkit Cantenna, tops out at 400 MHz. (We need a top end of about 470 MHz.)  Those two items need to be upgraded.



Here are two UHF-rated dummy loads and a VHF/UHF power-SWR meter.  Two of the three are amateur radio test gear, and would enable you to upgrade your test bench to UHF for a reasonable amount of money.

This is an old Radio Shack 60 watt VHF/UHF SWR/power meter. Now discontinued, but you find them at hamfests, or can buy an equivalent like a Diamond Antenna SX-27P, or Workman Model 104.


A QRP dummy load once sold by radio shack.  Another discontinued item, but equivalents are available.  The Diamond DL30A is the closest one to this.  The DL30A is actually rated 15 watts continuous, and 100 watts peak (for 2 seconds).  If you're going to be testing mobile radios on a regular basis, you'll probably want a heavier dummy load.

This is a professional dry dummy load rated for 100 watts continuous/2.5 KW peak, at frequencies up to 3 GHz.  It's also $200, but it'll be the last dummy load you'll need to buy, provided you don't abuse it.

A lot of gently used test equipment shows up at hamfests.  If you are on a budget, that would be your best bet.

March 15, 2016

April Workshop Campout Saturday Night?

One attendee of the workshop in two weeks is interested in camping out Saturday night. If other's are interested, let me know.  Plenty of public land to camp out at in this state.

April Workshop Email Sent



If you have signed up for the April Workshop in Riverton, WY you should have an email with the specifics waiting for you.  If not, let me know: sparks31commo@gmail.com

If you are interested in attending, there is still time for you to sign up.  Details are available at https://sites.google.com/site/sparks31commo/home/upcoming-seminars

See you in class.

What I See: 26 Years Later

http://tidido.com/a35184374075663/al55f0a451a5f39075734622fa/t55f0a453a5f390757346239d
It's been 26 years since I started writing in the survivalist genre.  Back then, I gave the country 6 years before a total collapse, based on my experiences with the 1987 Stock Market Crash and resulting recession.


Turns out TPTB have managed to keep kicking the can down the road.

Funny part about it was that 1996 was the year I found a job with a New England R&D firm that had some of the most advanced electronic systems I've ever had the pleasure of working on.  Twenty years later I still remember a lot of the system details, and have seen a few bits and pieces make their way into the consumer sector.

1996 was also the year the Montana Freemen had their run in, and by 1999 most everyone in the Patriot/Militia movement went back to sleep.  Even the Feds figured that one out:

"Law enforcement personnel should be aware of the fact that the majority of militias are reactive, as opposed to proactive. Reactive militia groups are generally not a threat to law enforcement or the public. These militias may indeed believe that some type of NWO scenario may be imminent in the year 2000, but they are more inclined to sit back and wait for it to happen. They will stockpile their guns and ammunition and food, and wait for the government to curtail their liberties and take away their guns. When the expected NWO tragedy does not take place, these reactive militias will simply continue their current activities, most of which are relatively harmless. They will not overreact to minor disruptions of electricity, water and other public services."
Those of you who were around back then might recall those words from the FBI's Project Megiddo Report, when everyone and their sister's dog was running around worried about something called "Y2K".  Have things changed any, other than the name, in 16 years?  Not if "No Fort Sumters", the MV/SK Love Fest, and the recent lack of adult supervision in Oregon are any indications.

What I see, 26 years later, is a slow steady decline that has somehow managed to avoid turning into a total collapse so far.  Obviously there is a group out there, maybe a few of them, with some pull and resources who like to keep up the appearance of the status quo.  I see a bunch of "3%ers" ignoring history and repeating the mistakes of the past.  And I also see a few people who seem to have their act together, and that I'm hoping will turn out OK.

So, for the time being,  I'll be here at Casa Giardino di REDACTED Hog Farm & Industrial Artist Studio doing the writing thing.  I've also have two communications workshops in Wyoming and one in South Carolina this year.  I may try for a third one in Wyoming, and if there's enough interest, and enough people who can afford the nominal amount, I'll drive or fly out to wherever and do one in your town. And of course there's Signal-3 Newsletter where some of the more interesting technical stuff will show up.

Work on your survival and information/intelligence-gathering skills. Learn a good trade. Keep putting preps aside.  Keep your ear to the ground, and listen.  Don't worry about 90% of the BS you read on the blogsphere.  It's been going on longer than many of the websites that "report" on it.

Countering a Threat



Via GBPPR: http://mail.blockyourid.com/~gbpprorg/mil/dsss/index.html

Major threat bands are: 433-435, 824-849, 902-928, 1910-1930, 2400-2500, and 4915-5825 MHz.

Have a wireless consumer device?  Look for the FCC ID#, and run it through this database: https://www.fcc.gov/general/fcc-id-search-page

Try a Grantee code of "EW7."

Best low-cost receiver solution for experimentation?



The RTL-SDR will cover up to 1.7 GHz. The Funcube Dongle may go up to 2 GHz. You'll need to make/acquire frequency downconverters to extend the range. Your mileage will vary with other SDRs.

Since even Wal-Mart sells consumer electronics that operate on the 5.8 GHz. ISM band, a good tech specialist should be able to reach at least that high in frequency coverage.

And then there's the Hot Wheels Radar Gun that operates at 10.525 GHz. Some technical types have been hacking and "repurposing" these devices.  Fortunately, there's enough surplus X-band stuff out there for a technical specialist of even moderate means to reach there.

March 14, 2016

Back on FB

I decided to reconstitute our presence on FB:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/501337136732945/ - Modern Technological Survivalism

https://www.facebook.com/groups/748299165306565/ - Grid-Down Communications

If you're on it, and many of you are, then please feel free to join.  I trust you will act appropriately considering the venue.

March 13, 2016

Carrying Around Your Kit

One of the most important pieces of your kit is the item you use to carry it all in.  Being on a farm in what is considered “extreme rural” Wyoming, I've no real need for a “bug-out bag”.  Bug-out planning is beyond the scope of this article, although some readers in less desirable locales, such as cities, may want to consider finding a more sustainable location that they may be able to reach during less than ideal situations.   Around here, the primary functions of one's kit falls somewhere in-between woods runnin' and getting home.  Some survivalists intent on having a cool-sounding abbreviation for every thing call it a "GHB" (Get home bag.)  GHB is also the abbreviation for the central nervous system depressant gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid, used to treat narcolepsy, but I digress. Anyway, both functions are pretty close to one another in that the carrying device should be able to comfortably carry your essentials, and have enough space for a few select items you might find along the way.  The composition of those essentials will be left for another time, so for now we can look at different bags and packs.  I like the “Nessmuk system” in which one carries a small pack along with a musette-type bag for smaller items that are used more frequently and should be more readily available.  I also tend towards military surplus kit as it is rugged, inexpensive (unless buying collectibles), and gets the job done.

We'll start with the mundane.  Here is one of the two bags I use the most:
Picked it up on clearance at a Home Depot.  When I'm working around Casa Giardino di REDACTED, this is what I toss all my tools in.  The red top keeps me from losing it in the Sage Brush and Prairie Grass.  Running a homestead of any sort requires maintenance. Things break or need adjustment. Maintenance requires tools. Tools require something to be carried around in and kept in one place.  For me, this kit is as important as a bug-out bag would be to some.

The ever-popular CountyComm Maratac Bail-Out Bag, a/k/a "Preppers Briefcase".  Morale patch optional.  Great for a car kit, but there's better options for something you might have to lug around for any substantial distance.



A few pieces of military surplus field gear that would be suitable for use as a musette bag.  From top to bottom: SAW pouch, waist pack, sustainment pouch.



East German and repro US WW2-Korean War vintage field packs.  Perhaps suitable for a day trip or minimalist Nessmuk-type arrangement.


More modern commercial milspec "assault packs" made by London Bridge and (the now defunct UPDATE: Still in business.) SoTech.  Top one is one of the author's more-favored woods-running packs.  Bottom one is author's range bag.

Like everything else in self-reliance and preparedness, what you call it and who makes it doesn't matter as long as it's reliable and gets the particular job done.  When I was just getting started in all this, I bought a surplus Medium ALICE pack (sans frame), at my local army navy store.  I put my kit in it, and when I wasn't using it for woods running, it stayed in the trunk of my car for "just in case."  It did what was asked of it.

Testing Radios

Most of my communications equipment is procured inexpensively via used sources, especially common stuff like 27 MHz. CB transceivers. These acquisitions need to be tested to ensure they operate properly and to specifications. To accomplish this, some test equipment is needed.  Shown above is part of the initial test bed for checking radios. Its purpose is to test RF power output and receive sensitivity.  It's been my experience 90% of the time that as long as the radio can hear and transmit OK, the radio is either good or only needs a minor adjustment.

The test bed consists of the following items:
  • Signal Generator
  • RD Power Meter (Wattmeter)
  • Dummy Load
  • Power suppy
  • Connecting wires and coaxial cable jumpers.
  • RF adapters: N, BNC, PL-259/SO-239
  • Frequency Counter
Professional RF technicians use a multi-purpose piece of test equipment known as a service monitor that combines these functions.  Service monitors are expensive, even on the used equipment market.  For our purposes, separate pieces of test equipment cost less and accomplish the same functions. All the above equipment was purchased used over a period of a few years.  Some of it replaced previous purchases as the opportunity to upgrade presented itself.

Shown above are the signal generators.  The old Heathkit was the author's original piece of test equipment, and was later repaced by the HP8640B  (aka AN/USM-323).  The old Heathkit was good up to ~220 MHz. The HP goes up to 512 MHz. which makes it usable for testing up to the 70cm ham band.  90% of what I test operates at VHF or below so either of these are adequate.  Both get the job done, but the HP is a little more refined.

The SWR Meter is a hamfest find, probably 1970s vintage or so.  It's good for 100 watts up to 2 meters or so, which makes it fine for the CB I was testing.  Meters like this can be found new in the CB section of most truck stops.  It's no Bird, but it'll work for 90% of the ham gear you'll need it for.

Every broadcast transmit site I've ever visited had one of these stuck in a corner somewhere.  This is an original, oil-filled, Heathkit Cantenna dummy load.  Good up to 400 MHz. for 1 Kilowatt.  MFJ still makes a version of this, the MFJ-250.

 Finally we have the power supply.  This is a 30amp Astron RS-35A.  It'll provide enough current for testing a 100 watt 12V HF ham transceiver, which again is probably all you'll need initally.  If you were just testing stock CB radios, 2 meter mobile ham rigs, and QRP radios, you could probably get away with a lesser amperage rating.  Before finding this one, the bench had a 20 amp Astron supply on it.


A set of fused test leads ending on a pair of 30 amp rated clips are used for testing anything that doesn't have an Anderson Powerpole connector on it.  Note how there is a length of black electrical tape wrapped around one lead.  That's the negative connection.  With DC power, always mark your negative (- or black) and positive (+ or red) leads properly.  Actually, I should have used black primary wire for the negative lead, but didn't have any handy.  Thus the use of the black tape.

All of my equipment gets Anderson Powerpoles. This is the standard ARES/RACES power connector, and everyone in my group uses them for DC power connections.  This is the Powerpole test lead for the power supply.

Last but not least is the frequency counter.  It's just an old Radio Shack.  It's spec'd up to 1300 MHz. although it'll work higher than that.  There are now similar handheld models like the MFJ-886 that are spec'd out to 3 GHz.  I attach a rubber duck antenna to it, and place it on the bench somewhere near the dummy load.  There's enough RF signal for it to get a good frequency lock.

Not shown except in the periphery are assorted coax cable jumpers and adapters for hooking the radio up to the test equipment.

For testing purposes, this equipment set-up enables you to do the following:
  • Check receive sensitivity.
  • Check RF transmit power output.
  • Check RF transmit frequency.
  • Perform these tests on radio equipment operating from 160 to 2 meters.
Some of the equipment is actually spec'd out to go above the 2 meter ham band. The HP signal generator and frequency counter will do UHF.  By replacing the dummy load and wattmeter with something rated to =>500 MHz., you could extend the full capability up to UHF.  In a future blog post, I'll talk about upgrading this setup to UHF for testing 70cm ham band and GMRS radios.

March 12, 2016

Communications Packages

Having  your gear put together into a proper kit is as important as getting the gear itself.

This is but one example of a radio kit, put together by the author.  It offers HF-to-UHF amateur band transceive coverage, and auxiliary receive coverage from 100 KHz. to 1.3 GHz.

It consists of the following:
  1. Yaesu FT-817 HF/VHF/UHF amateur radio transceiver.
  2. LDG Z-11Pro HF- 6 meter tuner
  3. Anytone TERMN-8R VHF/UHF amateur radio transceiver (No longer available. Link is for comparable Anytone NSTIG-8R.)
  4. Icom IC-R5 communications receiver (Discontinued. Icom IC-R6 is current model.)
  5. Tac-Comm Tactical Radio Carrier
With the exeception of the Tactical Radio Carrier, all this gear is available on both the new and used equipment markets. The Anytone transceiver is just an example of a VHF/UHF ham HT, but a Yaesu FT-51 or other model could be substituted for the same functionality. Likewise, I purchased the LDG Z-11 before they came out with the Z-817.  Both are excellent tuners for use with the FT-817, but the Z-817 is newer and purpose designed to work with that radio. The Elecraft KX-3 is also a more recent model of portable HF-VHF transceiver with a built-in tuner option, and would substitute nicely.  However, they incur a greater cost than a gently-used FT-817.

Specific makes and models are irrelevant as long as the equipment serves its purpose in an adequate and reliable manner.

With the radios taken care of, what's now needed is electrical power, antennas, and related accessories.  That will be the topic of a future post.



Practical EDC Tools

EDC: Every Day Carry.  It's a big topic of discussion amongst survivalist types.  Here's what I usually carry, tool-wise, while working at Casa Giardino di REDACTED:

What's not shown is the first-aid kit and Channel Lock fence pliers that's always in my working tool bag, but I don't consider them EDC since they're not on my person.

Since I'm a commo guy, we'll talk about the radio first.  They are middle-of-the-line Cobra FRS/GMRS radios. I think cost $50-$60 a pair, including rechargeable batteries and a nice drop-in charger, at the local Wal-Mart.  They work well, are unobtrusive on the belt, have been proven to be rugged and reliable, and won't make me cry if they get dropped in the mud and stomped to death by livestock. As a bonus, they have NOAA weather alert (very useful out here in Wyoming), and will also charge off of standard USB-type phone/device chargers.  Their RF power output is more than adequate for talking around the farm, and the batteries last all day long provided one is not too verbose.  They accomplish their intended function.

The top right knife is a $10 special (on clearance) from Tractor Supply.  I've used it heavily for a few years now, and have yet to find fault with it.  It's an assisted-opening liner lock, which happens to be my second-favorite locking mechanism behind Benchmade's Axis-Lock.  This is another working beater that can be easily and inexpensively replaced at any hardware or ag store.  I'm of two minds regarding the half-serrations on the blade.  Depending on the cutting task they are either a significant boon, or a pain in the neck. Usually I find them to be more useful than not.  Figure out what works best for your situation and go with it.

Finally, there is the humble Victorinox Super Tinker Swiss Army Knife. This replaced a Leatherman Wave that I carried for many years. It's lighter, less obtrusive, and has proven to be more handy on the farm than the Leatherman. It's also a quarter to a third of the cost of the Leatherman.  The most commonly used tools on it are the small knife blade and scissors, followed by the screwdrivers.  Like any other pocket knife/multi-tool, the screwdriver's are "adequate", and given my preference I'd rather use a real screwdriver.  However, if I'm caught with having to fix or adjust something right then and there, it's handy.

These are real-life work tools that see regular use every day on a farm. So far they have proven to get the job done.  The reality of self-sufficient living is that you'll be maintaining, fixing, and quite likely fabricating things around your homestead.  You'll need things that will work reliably, and are affordable.

Note I didn't talk about working guns here on the farm, because a) It should be the topic of another post, and b) I'm not ready to deal with that level of gayfishery in the comments section.