"Signals allow the manipulation of a process from outside its domain as well as allowing the process to manipulate itself or copies of itself (children)."

"Signal(3) - SIGQUIT - quit program"


See also https://sites.google.com/ste/sparks31commo/.

April 20, 2017

Wyoming Class Update

The Wyoming Class is back at its originally scheduled date this Memorial Day weekend. Those who emailed me will receive a reply as soon as I get back home.

April 18, 2017

Sparks31: By Request: Reading List V0.7b

I have some additions since first publishing this list, but it remains a good start.

Sparks31: By Request: Reading List V0.7b: A couple years back, I started working on a reading list.  It generated some useful feedback and then it died off.  There was some recent in...

March 8, 2017

Issue #8 Editorial

Issue #8 will be out next week on the 15th.  Articles include info on QRP operation, radio repair, and a new column by your's truly called The Outland.  

If you'd like to subscribe, subscriptions are  $40/year via cash or money order to:
c/o Tom Filecco
PO Box 1351
Riverton, WY 82501

In the meantime, here is the editorial from Issue #8:

Signal-3 Issue #8 Editorial

It has been almost two years since I started this experiment known as SIGnal-3. Ancient history in the short-term memory of the InteNET and World Wide WEB, but relatively recent considering my 30 year career writing in the technological enthusiast and preparedness genres. Funny that, back in 1987 we considered the Russians an enemy, and President Ronald Reagan stood in front of the Brandenburg Gate in (West) Berlin and exhorted Gorbachev to “Tear down this wall!”

Those who do not study and remember history are doomed to repeat it. I remember the “unorganized militia” movement of the 1990s, and how it collapsed after a few high profile members gave informants enough information to result in indictments and convictions. Flash forward to 2016 and a group of “Three Percenters” make the same mistakes in Malheur Oregon. What makes the 2016 Malheur Debacle even more egregious is that the late founder of the “Three Percent” movement gave out specific advice, based on lessons learned from the 1990s, that would have likely prevented the entire unfortunate sequence of events from occurring. What's even more tragic is that in meeting more than a few self-proclaimed “threepers” across the United States, that level of (willfull?) ignorance appears to be the norm instead of the exception among those who publicly self-identify with that term. With Obama now off enjoying the benefits of the Ex-Presidents Club, many of them have gone to sleep, although the more hardcore are convinced that Donald Trump is, despite the populist start to his term of office, in on the proverbial New World Order scam. On the other side of the fence, the nominal left-wingers are convinced he is a fellow socialist, albeit of the old German National Workers variety, and are working hard towards gaining priority admittance into the facilities all good Nazi's have a historical reputation for building. So far, all they've done is piss off their fellow Americans by adding delays to their daily work commute, and getting themselves locked up in common jails and prisons instead of the more prestigious internment facilities. Stupid if ask me, because now with Cuba opened to American tourism, one does not need a government-paid plane ticket on a bare-bones C-130 to the island and be limited to Gitmo during their stay, when the stipend from their trust fund is more than adequate to fly commercial and see more of the place. Although the cigars have purportedly gone down-hill when they stopped using Connecticut River Valley tobacco leaf wrappers.

As a writer, particularly one who has transitioned from non-fiction to fiction, I have found Google searches and archive.org1 to be very interesting and useful tools for doing research. As interesting as my weekly visits to the local used bookstore, trading posts, junk stores, antique shops, occasional library book sale, and the in-between places that I use to define the region I call Interzone. When I first started work on this publication, I performed a Google search to see if anyone else was using the name. The “3” in Signal-3 was originally supposed to represent the 3% movement, because back then I thought things would be different this time around. I was wrong in that regard, but I digress. What I did find was that Signal(3) is a FreeBSD2 library function for “quit program.”(!)

One of the cool things I discovered when learning computer programming3 as a kid, was that if one didn't like the way a program ran, or if a bug was discovered, one could, if they had the skills, stop it and rewrite the program to make it better. Small-scale reality engineering in silicon, bits, and bytes.
TThis also applies to other creative ventures one is engaged in. We all have the capability to stop a defective program operating in a buggy manner, and rewrite the source code to make it work better. Your soul/mind construct is actually a carbon-based quantum computer, and you are the programmer, not just an end-user consuming CONtent off the global frequency network.

The word “signal” indicates communications, a transfer of knowledge and information. Signal also has the Germanic element “sig” in it, which means “victory.” Signals are the means to victory against ignorance. At first you see, as if through a scanner darkly, but then face to face: now you know in part; but then you shall know even as you are becoming known. Knowledge begets self-reliance, which begets freedom. Ignorance begets dependence, which begets slavery. Which will you choose? When someone goes out of their way to promote the latter over the former, what will you do?

SIG is also an abbreviation for “special interest group”. This was the term used by computer clubs that specialized in a particular aspect of the hobby. It actually goes back to 1961 when it was first used by the Association for Computing Machinery, and was made popular by the the old-school online service Compuserve.

After the last two years of watching what amounts to a 25 year long clown funeral, it's time to engage the interrupt, quit the program, and reset the counter to zero.

February 26, 2017

Sunday Link List

Living down-grid, you should be able to build your own gear (at least be able to assemble a kit), troubleshoot it, and have at least basic knowledge of  RF propagation.  These useful links will help further your education.

VHF Propagation Info

VHF Handbook (1956), by
William I. Orr, Herbert G. Johnson

February 15, 2017

Count Zero Interrupt

On receiving an interrupt, decrement the counter to zero.


"Signals allow the manipulation of a process from outside its domain as well as allowing the process to manipulate itself or copies of itself (children)."
"Signal(3) - SIGQUIT - quit program"

Victory Against Ignorance - The Five Meter Liberation Army

"A man of the '30s awakens one night in the '90s with a new mission: recapture 56-60 mc. He forms a Five Meter Liberation Army from his mobile home in a Barrio trailer park run by Tom Joad of Steinback's Grapes of Wrath, and soon draws a decidedly uncolorful bodyguard. A six foot tall half Mexican stockbroker named for Ayn Rand makes him rich and a demonic white ferret and a half-siamese cat become his familiars. The leader of all this, called only "Frank," settles down in the narrator's basement to be joined by Maj. Armstrong, Hiram Maxim and one-time pals Carl and Jerry from the 1950s Popular Electronics. His huge 1940s sedan, with contemporary plates, is immune from police and his breadboarded electronic creations recall those distant days when a ham built his own rig and could "fix a radio." Of course all this is crazy. No one builds anything anymore and the other things Frank stands for, like self- reliance, tolerance and a generally Boy Scout viewpoint are simply out of step. Frank knows that too, but he does not care. If you're standing in the middle of the road and see a big brown Frazer coming at you, you better jump - one way or the other."
 Plenty of interesting tidbits in this one...  

Things Every Hacker Once Knew


February 12, 2017

Issue #7 Released

Issue #7 has been released.  Details in your email via the Google Group.

If you would like to subscribe, please click here.

February 5, 2017

Why I Recommend The Uniden Home Patrol

By now you should realize why having good monitoring equipment is more important is being able to transmit.  You also by now should know that the recommendation of myself and others such as Sam Culper is the Uniden Home Patrol II.

Now despite the good reviews and recommendations of this unit, there are still a few ignorant folk who come up with comments such as:
"Wow. That’s kinda spendy. Anybody know of an alternative for those of us whose wives are accountants?"
 The short answer to that question is "No.", and here are the reasons why.

  1. The vast majority of public safety agencies are switching over to APCO P25 systems, and you need a scanner capable of decoding P25 modulation to hear them. The Home Patrol II does this.
  2. The Uniden Home Patrol II is the easiest scanner to program. You simply turn it on, enter in your zip code, and it loads your local frequency data in automatically. You are ready to go in seconds.
It's that second point that's most important.  I've seen a lot of you come through classes and show up at events across the country.  90% of you have serious problems programming in simple frequency data  into your dual-band ham HT.  You're not going to be able to program a P25 trunked radio system into most police scanners.  With the Uniden Home Patrol II, you don't have to.

That's important, because most of you when you buy something, such as radio gear, that perplexes you, you stick it in closet or a corner of the basement and forget about it, thinking you'll get to it during the great TEOTWAWKI / WROL / SHTF fantasy event.  The police scanner is for the here and now.  Buy another P25 scanner, and I guarantee that'll happen unless you have a resident techie who can set it up for you. Buy a Uniden Home Patrol, and you'll be up and running in no time. Getting the intel feeds you'll need to ride the storm(s) out.

Yes, it does cost $464 from Amazon. Good quality tools will cost you some money, and I know you spent more on that for your M4orgey. In fact, if you own more than one gun, especially if you have a duplicate, sell it and you'll be able to afford a Home Patrol II.  Then you'll be able to know what's going on around you, as in the raw unfinished truth of the signal. That's important.

Your wife is an accountant, you say?  Then sell some excess crap you don't need, and come up with the money.  Put aside a measly $25 a week, and you'll have it in four and a half months.  By then it'll be warm enough for you to install a proper antenna.

As an alternative, provided you don't need P25 Phase II reception, you can find a used Uniden Home Patrol I.  That'll do P25 Phase I, but not Phase II.  They're going for $200-$225 on Ebay.  You'll have to do some research to find out if that'll suffice for your area. That's half the price of a new Home Patrol II.  Get off your ass and do some research.

Finally, if your spouse isn't on board with your self-reliant and prepared lifestyle, then you have a problem that goes beyond money.  Fix it before she gets pissed off and files that false police report before handing you divorce papers.

February 2, 2017

Why Listening Is More Important Than Transmitting

    A lot of prepper/milita/3per blogs have mentioned how “listening is >2X as important as transmitting.”  In my book Down-Grid Communications, I mention how the first item you need to take care of is your communications monitoring capability.  This article will explain why it is more important to have your listening post set up before working on any of your other communications equipment setup.
    Communications monitoring is the one method that enables you, as an individual, to receive uncensored information regarding events, overall situation, and other happenings in your local area.  A police scanner gets you that raw information straight from the source in real time.  The equipment is a one-time purchase, requires no ongoing subscriptions, and is as affordable as a decent rifle.  With a good external antenna, you will be able to reach out and hear to at least a 20 mile radius from your listening post, depending on location.  A wide range of communications users ranging from public safety to critical infrastructure providers/maintainers will be available to you.  You can pick and choose from among these users, depending on your intelligence requirements.

    Communications monitoring is the electronic version of the “passive listening” HUMINT collection technique detailed by Tom Baugh in his recent article (http://starvingthemonkeys.com/2017/01/29/five-humint-collection-techniques/).  Just like its HUMINT equivilant, it's low-impact, low-risk, anonymous, and very fecund.  It also has the added advantage of not requiring you to attend expensive events with sketchy people.  You can't catch things off the electromagnetic wavelengths the way you can off a toilet seat.

    Finally, communications monitoring gives you the satisfaction of knowing what's really going on, and lets you effectively figure out the social/political alignment of the local establishment mass media, and how they “spin” their “news stories” versus what really happens.

    So what do you need to get started?  One item:

For those who can't see the Amazon Associates ad, it's a  Uniden Home Patrol II - http://amzn.to/2k9XzMQ

The built-in database is pretty good, and can be updated.  It'll even record audio for later analysis.  Operation of this unit is real simple.  You insert rechargable batteries, attach an antenna, plug in the AC power supply, turn it on, and enter in your zip code.  It'll load up the memory channels within a certain (selectable) mile radius, and start scanning.  Keep a notepad and writing instrument nearby, and start taking notes about what you hear.

This article is from the soon to be released February, 2017 issue of Signal-3.  If you would like to learn more, please subscribe.  Signal-3 is a monthly electronic newsletter, delivered in PDF format via email list announcement, that covers the technical aspects of down-grid communications, information collection systems, and other self-reliance and preparedness topics.  Subscriptions are $40/year.  Payment is by cash or (payee-blank USPS) money order sent to:
c/o Tom Filecco
PO Box 1351
Riverton, WY 82501

January 23, 2017


New year, new president, but the same routine.

Natural disasters and cyber attacks are still going to happen, regardless of who is living in the White House.

Make sure you can ride out whatever mother nature is going to toss at you where you live, and don't rely on common carrier communications.  What I mean by "common carrier" are systems such as the Internet and wireless phone networks that have been proven vulnerable to disruption.  Make sure you have alternative means to get in touch with friends and family when regular communications systems aren't working.

Spring is going to come sooner than you realize, and with that various projects that the prepared and self-reliant need to get their homesteads up and running.

Have your tools ready and in working order.

Remember to have a back-up coffee making apparatus.
Something that doesn't require electricity.

And don't forget your towel.

Recent Protests During and After Trump Inauguration

If a protest occurred in your AO, and you were watching it from a safe distance, kudos for going out and doing something.  Hopefully you had your video recorders going for later analysis.  (Remember: Collect first, then analyze.) If you had a Close Call scanner running, bonus points. If you up-channeled information to an ACE, even more bonus points.

Assuming you were operational over the inauguration and protest weekend, you should have collected some solid intelligence information on your local OPFOR elements.

Practice, folks. 

January 18, 2017

A Reader Sends - Mesh Networking Off The Grid

h/t Brian

Via Z-Man - Off-Grid Communications For Smartphones

Z-Man recently sent me an email asking about this device:

This is basically a 33cm license-free transceiver that uses Bluetooth to link with your Android or Iphone, and enables you to communicate off the common carrier networks among a group of people equipped with the device.  Has some interesting features, especially for blue force tracking.  I am, however, skeptical of the range claims.  Operating 33cm spread under Part 15 will give you an honest 2 mile range over most conditions, however when I tested similar technology in the Berkshires that range went down to 1/4 mile.  The cost is $180/pair.

There are also other companies making similar devices.  The go-Tenna http://www.gotenna.com/ - operates on VHF MURS channels, but only allows text messaging.  However, in more rural and wilderness type environments, MURS will work better than 900 MHz.  A pair of goTennas is $140.

My advice is that if you are interested in the features these devices offer, that you are best implementing the features using non-proprietary systems with common off-the-shelf hardware, this way you are not locked into a particular vendor, and are not orphaned when a product is discontinued.

To put things into perspective, a Yaesu FTM-3200DR is $180 and that's a C4FM/FM 65 watt VHF transceiver. 

Yaesu - What is System Fusion?

This Weekend - ARRL VHF/UHF Conference

 This weekend (Jan 21-23) is the ARRL January VHF Contest.  The objective: "For amateurs in the US and Canada (and their possessions) to work as many amateur stations in as many different 2 degrees x 1 degree Maidenhead grid squares as possible using authorized frequencies above 50 MHz."

This is noteworthy because:
  • All the ham bands involved are VHF+, which makes them available to Technician class licenses.
  • It gives you an opportunity to test your station to see how far you can communicate.
  • You can participate even if all you have is a 2M/440 FM HT.
Contests are a good time to check your station because you know other hams will be active on the bands, and all you have to do is exchange callsigns and the grid-square identifier that you are operating on (http://www.arrl.org/grid-squares).  No political discussions, no disclosure of just why you got your ham ticket, none of that BS.  Just a quick QSO involving the exchange of location data.  And you get to confirm that your station actually works, and how far out it can reach on the respective band(s).

Find a decent location above average terrain, take your HT and maybe a portable yagi antenna, and try to make a few contacts.  The ARRL removed the rule against contest operations on 146.52, although most contesters still steer clear of it as a courtesy.  Try 146.55 MHz. Tune around the simplex frequencies. The ARRL 2 meter band plan is available at http://www.arrl.org/band-plan and http://w2pe.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/2-Meter-BandPlan.pdf.

Get on the air this weekend.

For more info see http://www.k0nr.com/wordpress/my-articles/how-to-work-a-vhf-contest/ and http://www.fcarc.org/contest_vhf.htm.

January 11, 2017

Signal-3 Issue #6 released.

Issue #6 has been released.  Everyone who subscribed should have the link messages in their inbox.  If you don't, please email me - sparks31commo@gmail.com - so I can get you squared away.

Thank you to everyone who has supported Signal-3 and the Sparks31 blog over the years.

Let's hope this New Year is better than the last.


January 5, 2017

Slinky Antenna Links




A Reader Asks: Curious About an Antenna

Via email:

I received notice of this and, being a complete newbie to comms, wasn't certain if one or both were investing in to store away till I am able to use properly. I recall a story that soldiers used to toss Slinkies into trees for use as antennae but that may be a myth. This did remind me of that, though. Your thoughts much appreciated.

CountyComm makes good stuff, and the antenna is a good piece of kit, especially if you're at the stage where you're not yet confident to roll your own.

January 1, 2017

A Reader Sends: Arrow Antenna / Fire Story THANK YOU

Via email:

When I took your SC class you mentioned the Arrow Antennas.  You talked and demonstrated the loop and attenuator but I don’t remember a directional antenna suggestion.  I have seen the 146-3 suggested.

That is just VHF.  Do you agree or have a better selection for directional communications.

I want the best backpack solution.  I live in hills/mountains.

I checked in the signal-3 drive to see if you had discussed this antenna and checked your books but did not find anything.  I don’t want to bother you but I don’t want to waste money.



We here in the mountains of SC had a large fire in Table Rock state park that traveled to NC.  We had several family friends in harms way.  We went to an initial fire briefing by the park service and they gave us a web site to check for updates.  This websites was useless.  During our family fire assist operations we were running radios and I had a RS Pro-197 available to me.  I was able to use the signal stalker capability and pick up some of the air and ground frequencies.  Because of your training I was able to keep our group informed.   This was real life important and I can’t thank you enough for all you do to train us.

I had to go mobile for operations for one day and could not bring the scanner.  This led me to purchase the BCD436HP.  I am busy learning this scanner so I can get the most from it.  I made sure it had the close call capability.  I want to be ready for any storm ahead. 

THANK YOU so much sir.


  1. This is an example of why listening is >2X as important as transmitting. 
  2. Arrow Antenna makes a good product.  The one I use, and that you see in a lot of posts is the Model 146/437-10WBP.  The URL is http://www.arrowantennas.com/arrowii/146-437.html. It is the split-boom model that comes with the duplexer.  I usually store/carry mine, along with a few other antenna piece parts, in a CountyComm Maratac Sat-Com Bag. (https://countycomm.com/collections/view-all-storage-products/products/sat-com-bag-by-maratac-rev-3).

(Kinda Sorta) Happy New Year

Happy New Year. In a few weeks, President-Elect Donald Trump will be sworn into office. That may give the country a four year stay of execution, if his campaign was not a scam and if the majority of CONgress cooperates with him. The new administration is already off to a rocky start with many of the same members of the old-boy network that helped screw things up in the first place being recruited, various so-called “left wing” groups ramping up their protest and propaganda apparatus, and the usual protected minority group suspects acting up in public places. Not to mention the current lame duck POTUS pissing off the Russians and American gun owners as his first parting shots to the country who decided his party's choice was not the lesser of two evils. The reality is that a simple change in the leader of the executive branch of our government in and of itself is not going to fix this country. The legislative branch needs to get off their ass too, and 4-8 years may be enough time to get things started in the right direction if a majority decides to cooperate. For you, Joe Average, the realistic effects of this are simply and only two-fold.

The first effect is that “gun control” legislation, that is, legislation that impinges on your God-given right to arm yourself for sustainment, personal protection, and defense against a whole assortment of bad actors1, might be slowed or halted for the next 4-8 years, giving you the opportunity to get anything you might be missing, in particular stock up on parts, ammo and reloading supplies to keep your smoke-poles going. At some point in the not too distant future, I'll be giving my take on that from what I've learned and done over the years. There really are no right or wrong answers for this, and a lot of it is based on where you live and hunt. The key word however is “sustainability.” And with that word, I get to the second effect…

More important than getting your gun gear in order, is using that 4-8 year stay of execution towards getting your personal life in order. If you are reading this, and you live in what is now called the “Blue Archipelago,” you need to move your ass to someplace Red. Blue regions are bad, and will get worse, especially if you don't go along with the majority there. Most Red regions afford a better overall lifestyle, and will welcome you as long as you're not a total cock-walloping asshole. The artificial “economy” looks like it will be getting a boost for a while. That means you should be able to find a job that increases your income level, and affords you the ability to better get your act together. This country is now down-grid in Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged-style, and the smart person will acknowledge that fact and proceed accordingly. Do you have a decent paying job that pays your bills and affords you a little extra to help get your shit together? Good. Now do you engage in something during your free time that enables you to learn a decent practical skill, and might be able to provide a source of part-time or post-collapse income? If not, you better get on it! It doesn't matter what it is. Just. Do. It. The country needs more hobby blacksmiths, leather-workers, basket weavers, electronic tinkers, welders, rabbit breeders, gunsmiths, etc. etc. etc. When you become really good at it, I mean approaching professional level, then you can trade the products and services from your hobbies for other products and services from your neighbors who have different hobbies. I have seen this work with my own eyes. Barter = Freedom. It will also help with your resettlement from a Blue Hellhole to God's Country.

So despite the proclamations of many, matters in this country are not “all good” now because a seemingly populist candidate was elected into office, and his nominal political party2 achieved a majority in the legislative branch. Don't go to sleep. If you are not in a sustainable location outside the Blue Archipelago, you need to get there. If you are not working your way towards self-sufficiency, self-reliance, and preparedness among other like-minded individuals, you need to start. If you do not have a hobby or two that you not only enjoy doing, but can translate into part-time income in the future, you should work on that.

1 The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution only acknowledges that right, and even then they weasel-worded it when they had to write it down. You were born with it when God and your parents brought you into this world. You exercise it by killing bad people who try to do bad things to you, by declaring “not guilty” when you're a juror in a trial for some unfortunate person being wrongly prosecuted for doing same, and by using the ballot and soap boxes to remove bad politicians from office so they don't screw things up further. The Bill of Rights by itself is really only a bunch of words on paper. Its power comes from a people who will accept nothing less, and are willing to fight for it.
2 Remember, and never forget, how the Republican establishment fought him tooth and nail before he won the Primary, and how many acted the same even after he won.