Global Skywatch

popular class

Turnout for the Spring 2019 ham radio class first day was outstanding. Icing on the cake is that a highly-knowledgable, skilled, professional teacher is bringing his young son to every class. I could not ask for a better co-teacher. Sixteen students and two instructors filled the Darby Library meeting room. They came from all over Ravalli County most planning to earn their FCC Technician license, but a few will be testing for the next level, the General class. I’m studying double: their book to insure good mentoring every Saturday plus the Amateur Extra manual so I can take the third and final step up the amateur radio licensing ladder when we all test in May. My drafted co-teacher came from […]

Bitterroot Ham class starts Saturday

I am reposting this to catch any stragglers. Response has been good enough to assure the class will take place. I will know in a few days how many new FCC license holders will be testing mid-May. One thing that holds many potential licensed hams back is their lack of electronics, radio, electrical or related background. I absolutely promise that electro-mechanical incompetents can and do pass this test. Another question I get is the expense. Paperback Technician Manuals are $30. Spiral-bound are $33. The testing session costs $17. Passing your first test earns you the FCC Technician license with no further costs between now and renewal ten years from now. Radios can be purchased for $25. It goes up…up…up from […]

Darby ham radio operator class begins March 16th

I am bringing another amateur radio operator licensing class to Darby, Montana. I have not keept track, but think I have personally assisted 15 or 20 people to earning their FCC licenses through my study groups in the Darby, Montana library. My track record garnered me the assignment as the local ham club (BARC) education coordinator. The club has many people who know radio A LOT better than I do, but none who can teach as well. The snide saying goes, “Those who CAN, DO. Those who cannot, TEACH”. I’m okay wearing that. Good instructors are as rare as good anything else. I did not choose this calling, blessing or curse. It chose me. Run with your talents. If you […]

ham class begins in March

I am bringing another amateur radio operator licensing class to Darby, Montana. I have not keept track, but think I have personally assisted 15 or 20 people to earning their FCC licenses through my study groups in the Darby, Montana library. My track record garnered me the assignment as the local ham club (BARC) education coordinator. The club has many people who know radio A LOT better than I do, but none who can teach as well. The snide saying goes, “Those who CAN, DO. Those who cannot, TEACH”. I’m okay wearing that. Good instructors are as rare as good anything else. I did not choose this calling, blessing or curse. It chose me. Run with your talents. If you […]

area-wide comms

There are a lot of factors here, but the most exciting part for me is that I got a community comms network up. The BEARS (Bitterroot Emergency Amateur Radio Services) is a small local working group of mostly radio guys. Technologically I hang on by my fingernails in this company, but am an organizer, a real one. So I run the monthly meetings without title… this is a rather organic group. I am a good cat herder. I like driving the bus from the middle row. I have worked with the radio geeks on my white-board at meetings in order to determine best ways to provide EMCOM when the phones and Internet fail us. We were betting everything on VHF […]

Darby Dog Derby 2019 review

The 12th annual Darby Dog Derby sled dog and skijour races at Lost Trail and Chief Joseph Pass ski areas are now history. You can go see the official race results at the BITTERROOT MUSHERS website. My part in these events is to arrange and manage communications across the course over the weekend. This was my fifth year in that role. We learn from our mistakes and failures each year and improve the next. Along with getting better and better at comms comes being more appreciated every year. We received this nice letter of gratitude from the mushers for our help this year (jpg to the right; pdf here: 2019 Bitterroot Mushers thank you letter) call sign JOE This […]

shot placement

I have spent significant time with shooters and instructors thereof. There is much to know and always more to learn. Then of course there is practice, practice, practice. Having the right equipment is agreed by all to be a critical foundation. But there is a major factor they all leave out that is far more important than everything they teach. Communication. The world’s best shooting team is useless in the wrong place. A gaggle of tolerable shooters, acceptably equipped, in the right place is far more valuable. Surprisingly, almost none of the tacti-cool shooters and trainers I have met are radio guys. They strive and drive to get themselves and their shooters to put bullets on target in a wide […]

GMRS radio hardware

Tytera MD-390 $160I recommend GMRS radios as a backbone community communications system. I published a recommendation for handheld radios back in April this year… see http://www.bitterrootbugle.com/2018/04/08/handheld-radio-recommendation/. I will not repeat all of that detail or links here. I have not changed my suggestion, but am documenting more hardware in this post to make for a complete home and mobile set for the family. Your first move into GMRS radio is, according to me, getting a TYT MD-390 for $160. Everything built in. One tidy package. One modest price. For $25 and up you can get various BAOFENG models that can do two-way GMRS communications. Those are quite different in operation and have a learning curve that frustrates many new owners […]

EMCOMM Big Picture View

Working with the pyramid on our white board, the Bitterroot Emergency Amateur Radio Services team discussed the base layer as it applies locally: Establish Survivable Network. The upper layers are important, significant and worthy of our continued development efforts. When those topics came up they were placed in their appropriate layers, acknowledging their value without bogging down on non-foundational issues. The base currently includes GMRS, 2-meter, and CB. Emergency radio power is by batteries with solar systems and generators recharging those. Our area has a large population of radios using these modes. We also have a number of nets practicing comms utilizing GMRS and 2-meter radios. The next layer, System Flexibility, was where we placed our repeaters and NVIS (high-frequency […]

practical, tactical communications training

We have a unique opportunity coming to the Bitterroot. It is a big deal to have this particular North Carolina based trainer offering these classes here. For me, traveling there will never happen no matter how high-value the training is. The timing of next month’s classes does not suit my personal needs, but I am adjusting to fit the offering. Opportunity doesn’t always knock at the moment you are prepared to open the door. Take it on its terms and schedule … or miss it. The local sponsoring organization looks credible, possibly excellent. You can do your own research on The Order of the White Rose. The Hamilton, Montana classes may well include a number of people I will prize […]

Radio Field Day at Hamilton Airport

Amateur radio’s biggest event of the year is this weekend all across the USofA. The main event is to encourage individuals, groups, clubs and teams to deploy their radios into “field locations” – that is, to set up and practice the use of mobile, temporary radio communication centers. Part of the game is to contest and see how many contacts each unit can make across the nation. That particular aspect of the program runs from noon Saturday to noon Sunday. The Bitterroot Amateur Radio Club (BARC) typically will share contact information with other temporary field stations in 20 or more states during the 24-hour contest period. This also happens to be the weekend of Hamilton’s annual Fly In, which this […]

BEARS in the air

BEARS Bitterroot Emergency Amateur Radio Services —————————– When normal communications systems – phone lines, cell phones, internet, 911-call-centers, broadcast TV & radio – are unavailable or overtaxed, amateur radio can provide flexible communications resources. MISSION Provide our neighborhoods and communities with a pool of trained radio operators, technicians and resources to deliver essential communications during emergencies. ———————————————————- BEARS is an organization dedicated to preparing, practicing for, and being able to provide radio communications via amateur radio whenever requested , whether for emergencies or planned events throughout and beyond the Bitterroot whenever radio is superior, or other means of communication are compromised We are eager, able and willing to work with related organizations and other emergency service providers, but retain […]

Faraday comms case

Long on my ToDo list, today this one got TA-DONE! ๐Ÿ™‚ … HOORAY!!! PROBLEM: More often than not heading out without key components of my communications plan. RELATED PROBLEM: Want some protection from an EMP for my comms gear. I have tried less expensive solutions, but they always fail to satisfy form, function, utility and aesthetics. I finally recognized that I had to spend a little more to achieve satisfaction. The $140 T.Z Molded Aluminum Attache Case is an excellent choice. Real Aluminum – not plastic with a spray-on aluminum-colored coating. I looked above and below that price point with nothing competitive showing up. The other component that has had several false starts in my projects was THE FOAM. I […]

handheld radio recommendation

Tytera MD-390 Progress in two-way radios is similar to that in all other electronics. That is to say this recommendation will not be the optimum choice years from now. Nevertheless, this radio can serve you well for many years. The other caveat is there are many good choices. This is only one of them. I am making this suggestion to help the novice find a solid handheld transceiver that is well received within the amateur radio community. In a crowded field of feature-rich radios, the MD-390 has most of what you would want while being in the lower part of the $25 to $500 price range ($130). IMPORTANT NOTE: Make sure you order this in the 400-480MHz UHF (ultra-high-frequency) model […]