Bitterroot Bugle post categories

Global Skywatch

Jungle Antenna Building Workshop

July 6, 2019 – Darby, Montana Six of us came to my Bunkhouse Road workshop from SE Darby hills, Hamilton and Alberton canyons – Technicians, Generals, Amateur Extras Some white-board work explaining the math in metric and inches Our calculations were primarily done in metric (Ted’s slide rule prefers it) 300,000,000 meters per second / 147,000,000 Hz = 2.04 meters = 204 cm a quarter wave antenna will be about 50 cm long, as will each radial Measurements were done with metric + inch tape measure Hardware: dual binding post to BNC connector BNC to SO-239 Adapter choices of light and heavy electric fence wire electric fence insulators home-made pvc pipe insulators Poly-pipe Tees and drip irrigation pipe for radial […]

antennas and cables

I do not recommend you begin connecting your radio to a remote antenna by building your own antenna OR cable. It is not as simple as it looks. Your first remote antenna and cable should be purchased from a reputable engineering firm. Here are three choices: Ham Radio Outlet DX Engineering cables DX Engineering vhf uhf antennas Doing it like that will get you a good solid start where setting up and operating your radio gear are the primary variables. IF you decide to immerse yourself into antenna and/or cable building you will have a pro-built setup for comparison and example. There are nearly unlimited resources in print and on the Internet. DuckDuckGo search for whatever you want – books, […]

personal Victory!

I determined to UP MY GAME in amateur radio knowledge this year. My primary methodology was to work towards passing the final hurdle in amateur radio to earn my Amateur Extra ticket. It demands a wide range of knowledge covering the spectrum of radio construction, operation and transmission. Two unanticipated things I learned from this effort were: 1) I really don’t want to know how radios are constructed… though much of that is required to pass the exam. 2) Simultaneously teaching a class of newcomers to pass their Technician level exams while studying to pass the third and final level was not helpful. Other lessons along the way. The ARRL study manuals are worth every penny and every hour […]

Bitterroot emergency comms

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, once again I address the subject of what do you do when your phones and Internet stop working? Wonder and Nothing useful Are the two answers most people will default to. I know I am unusual in planning and preparing for such a scenario. I not only think of ME and mine, but want others to have value in their radios as well. So I produce an attractive, sturdy laminated card that they just might keep with their two-way radio enabling them to find value in it when no other means of mid-range communication is available. I hereby introduce GEN III of my cards. I will distribute as widely as […]

Bitterroot emergency comms plan

BEARS, that is the Bitterroot Emergency Amateur Radio Services, works towards having viable communication resources in place when our neighborhood most needs it. A radio and operator are useless without another radio and operator at the other end. Two-way radio is by definition a sending and receiving operation. The more operators on the network, the better our information is and the wider we can spread it. Likely more than 99% USofA adults ASSUME their phones and wi-fi devices will never fail them. In real-life emergencies, they are nearly always shocked and hopeless because those systems do fail. I print, laminate and distribute 4″ x 5″ cards with information enabling unused radios in the hands of unpracticed operators to receive and […]

Bitterroot Emergency Radio Plan

BEARS, that is the Bitterroot Emergency Amateur Radio Services, works towards having viable communication resources in place when our neighborhood most needs it. A radio and operator are useless without another radio and operator at the other end. Two-way radio is by definition a sending and receiving operation. The more operators on the network, the better our information is and the wider we can spread it. Likely more than 99% USofA adults ASSUME their phones and wi-fi devices will never fail them. In real-life emergencies, they are nearly always shocked and hopeless because those systems do fail. I print, laminate and distribute 4″ x 5″ cards with information enabling unused radios in the hands of unpracticed operators to receive and […]

NVIS amateur radio antennas

Unless we are on a mountain peak or Kansas flatlands with line-of-sight views of everyone we want to talk with, there are barriers resisting our two-way communications. With our Very High Frequency (VHF) and Ultra High Frequency (UHF) radios we compensate by installing specialized radio systems (repeaters) on high ground to repeat signals over a much wider area than we can reach from our own radios. These can extend our VHF and UHF ranges to 50 miles or so. Repeaters are both expensive and could be a weak link in emergency comms – that is they may not be working in certain disaster scenarios. Amateurs with General or Amateur Extra class licenses can use their High Frequency (HF) radios to […]

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 […]