Op-Ed: My Open Letter To The FCC

Dear FCC,

Due to recent changes with vanity callsigns fees, There will be an increase of applications for cancelled 1X2 and 2X1 callsigns (N1ZZ NZ1Z for example) and other vanities now that it’s free to apply. It’s already difficult to obtain the short 1X2 or 2X1 callsigns. With the recent changes, it will make it much harder. Currently any licensed amateur with the appropriate class can apply for these short callsigns no matter what district they are located in. If multiple applications are submitted for a recently available call, the application is put in competition with the others and an application is chosen at random to receive the call. I would like to suggest that if there is a competition for a callsign, those who applied in the same district as the requested call have preference over those who are applying that reside outside the district.

For example a 1×2 or 2×1 callsign that has a number 1 in call becomes available and multiple people apply for it. Currently someone located within the 6th district can apply and possibly obtain the call while someone who is located in the 1st district can lose out. I feel that it should be assigned to someone within the district since they are currently living within it. If there were no applications in competition from anyone within the district as the callsign became available, then it should be up for grabs by anyone regardless of district.

Thank you,
Jeffrey Bail – NT1K

Before I got NT1K, I applied for a couple 1X2 callsigns that are in my District, I also have fellow operators doing the same thing. However most applications are awarded to those outside of district. It was upsetting to find out that I lost out on a callsign to someone located in a different call area. It’s also upsetting to lose out on a callsign that was awarded to someone who already has a short callsign. It’s even more upsetting when they have a short callsign and live in different district. I’m just asking that those located within the call area or district have preference if there is competing applications.  If no one within the district applied than it go to whomever applies first.

This is just my opinion, I could be wrong.

Thanks for reading,


My Yaesu FT-840 “Project”

After the K3, I had no real intentions of obtaining another HF rig. But when a deal comes by, I couldn’t resist jumping on it. There was an SK estate sale that I found out through another ham. However the estate was not located near by so everything had to be shipped. Among the items, the Yaesu FT-840 stuck out at me as the perfect HF for someone who is getting involved in the hobby. The guy was asking for reasonable offers. I didn’t want some commercial seller to swipe it. Since I had no need for the radio, I put in a low bid and sure enough it was accepted.

The horrors of buying before trying

Since the price was so tempting, I made a foolish mistake of buying the radio without seeing a picture of the radio, without asking questions and placing my trust in people I don’t know. I’ve done this a couple times in the past and thankfully I never had a problem. This time wasn’t the case.

When I received the radio, it didn’t look good. Knobs were bent and there was a giant dent in the corner. The dented corner had some very shiny metal expose with no rust/oxidation. However the box it was shipped in was in excellent condition. It led me to believe that the radio was dropped just prior to shipment. There was also a missing part. I’ve contacted the middle man explaining what happened and that’s when I’ve learned that other shipments from the estate were just as bad, if not worse than my radio. According to the middle man, the handler of the estate didn’t seem to care and that I would have to take it up with the shipper’s insurance company. I wasn’t even close to being happy with the situation.


Mic Gain / PWR adjustment pots after some attempt at strightening. Still rubbed and was bent so I had to strip it to the chassis

I’ve learned from this though. I will never jump on anything until I am certain that I am getting what exactly I want. Even if the deal seems too good to be true, It’s better to pass up the unknown rather than getting stuck with an expensive brick. I guess I am keeping the radio

Fixing the unknown

Soon as I started tearing into the FT-840, It started to look promising. The front panel chassis was bent and thought I can strip it down and straighten everything out. I was able to do just that. While I was in there, I cleaned everything I could and replaced the internal battery. When I thought I was finished, everything went back together nicely and now all the knobs move smoothly. the VFO wasn’t sticking and it looked much better than when it came in. I thought I was done. But once again, I was wrong.

Who needs ALC?

While checking power output, I found that when I went the SSB modes, the ALC meter was showing  either almost nothing or full scale with only a minor adjustment to the pot. I thought something was wrong with the mic at first but it turned out to be okay. Once again I contacted the middle man and was informed that the seller was aware of the issue but didn’t think anything of it. So now on SSB, I will either be barely heard or my signal will be overdriven. It made me more angry knowing that seller was aware.

I ended up tracing it to the pot that controlled the mic gain being faulty. It was also the same pot / knob that was damaged during shipping. With a DMM I checked the resistance while adjusting the pot. There wasn’t a consistent change throughout the adjustment. The service manuals were online and I was able to find the part numbers of the pot

 The hunt for the dual pot

Pulling the number from the pot itself found many hits online. However the part sources didn’t have any in stock and were not planning to put them in stock unless there was a 10,000pc minimum order. I thought I was out of luck and called Yaesu USA in California and contacted their parts dept as a last resort. Sure enough they had them in stock. They had the pots and they had the sub assembly.  I must say that it was wonderful dealing with Yaesu. The parts were here in just a couple days.

It’s FIXED!!! YESSSS! Or so I thought.

The pot was easy to replace and I thought the radio was finally fixed. I turned on the radio and I am now able to adjust the mic gain to where I am no longer over driving the ALC while outputting the proper wattage. I was happy! Until I heard it.

What’s going on now? 

While playing around with the radio I noticed something weird. I would tune into a conversation and while I was listening, I would notice the conversation start to move around and sound off frequency. OH WHAT NOW!!! Now I am back to being angry. Thinking something was up with the oscillator, I left the radio on and took a walk with the family. Upon return I notice the drifting was no longer happening, That led me to believe that the changes in temperature both in the air and in the case caused the drifting to happen. It would drift up to 400hz. The new operator in me never had a radio without some kind of controlled LO so I never had to deal with drift.


Put a jacket on that LO!

Why should I care about a slight drift? Well if you are into digital modes. If you are into low noise modes like JT65 and WSPR, having a stable LO would be beneficial. There is an TCXO or Temperature controlled oscillator that would help keep drift at bay but it’s not easy to get due to the age of the radio. There are not many 10.48576Mhz TCXOs out there either. So the next best thing is to insulate the LO to keep it from changing temperature drastically. I’ve do stuff similar to icom rigs using cotton balls. It appears FT-840 owners used styrofoam. I guess I will follow suite and make a nice little foam block to protect the sensitive LO.

I took a nice little block of foam, placed it on top of the reference LO and press down a little bit. I would remove the box and hollow out the impression. I kept doing that until the block sat flushed with the PC board. The crystal and trimmer is now shielded from quick changes in temperature. I’ve also adjusted the reference trimmer using WWV to make sure it was close to being on frequency as possible.


Much improvement

The LO insulator is doing it’s job quite well. The radio doesn’t noticeably drift around anymore. Been able to make many contacts with it. Too bad I didn’t have a soundcard interface because I would like to try out WSPR to see what I was getting back from those who could hear.


I think it’s safe to say that the FT-840 is now back in working order. However I may not hang on to it long enough to enjoy it. But I sort of grown attached to it now.

Thanks for reading,
Jeff (NT1K)

This blog/website is 5 years old. Some changes will be made.

This week marks the 5th anniversary of my website. I’ve created this website when I upgraded my license to general as a way to show others my adventures in amateur radio from there. Anything that I’ve done that was worth sharing was put onto this site. That way if anyone asked or I started to brag, I can point them to my website for a more detailed explanation. If others happened to stumble upon it then I  considered it an added bonus.

According to my stats, I’ve received over 300,000 views. Not bad considering it’s a personal amateur radio related blog. However I also did some number crunching. I’ve spent quite a bit of money as well as a ton of time working on this website and it’s content. It was a wake up call that I am spending money on this with no benefit other than possibly helping out other hams. I don’t mind putting in the time but I would like to avoid any more out of pocket costs. There are ways to offset my spending. Don’t worry, I am not going to annoy you with kickstarter or gofundme campaigns nor will I beg for donations. But I have to do something.

There will be advertisements 

I have enabled advertisements on certain youtube videos to get an idea of how things would work. My videos are nothing special and really don’t get many views, I use them to mostly compliment articles on my website. So as expected, I am not seeing any income. Do I care? A little. Otherwise I wouldn’t really be mentioning it. I’ve decided to give advertising a try here on the site since it generates way more traffic. Unless you have adblock installed, you can take a look on the right side of the screen and you will see an advertisement. You will also see one at the end of every post. I am trying to make it as less intrusive as possible but yet still be visible. Even though I resorted to using banner ads, I won’t stoop lower by trying to trick you, split articles onto multiple pages or have annoying pop-ups. If you would like to support this site, all you would need to do is just enjoy and come back. If you are running some form of ad blocking program, consider adding this site to your white list.

The goal is to offset the costs. Not to profit but If I do, I am not going to complain.  It may make me work harder on the site.

Other Changes 

The website needs some slight changes. I’ve made a mistake with wordpress when I created N1BMX.com and now NT1K.com. I downloaded a theme and modified it to the point where trying apply updates would have made things worse. I should have made a child theme of a popular theme but I was very new to wordpress at the time. This site is no longer mobile friendly and since more and more people are using their phones and tablets, I think it’s time for a change to be more mobile friendly. You will see layout changes in the near future.

Thank You

So far it’s been a fun 5 years in the HF game. I thought I would never participate in the hobby again but upgrading to general and getting HF has changed me. I’ve accomplished so many things, met so many people and had a lot of good times. It’s also great to see people benefit from my articles even though they articles are nothing special. I haven’t re-invented the wheel or found some technological break-thru. A lot of what I write is already all over the web but they are mixed with my opinions. So I am grateful to those who visit and more so to those who follow me on here and other social media platforms such as twitter.  Thanks!

Thanks for reading!

– Jeff (NT1K)

Update: QRZnow.com situation

Last week word got around that the website QRZnow.com (No relation to QRZ.com) was stealing content and bandwidth from other hams and making a profit from the work of others. They have been doing it for awhile but people finally had enough and started complain publicly in mass. There have been threads on Reddit.com’s amateur radio subreddit (forum) as well as activity on Twitter and G+.  Content creators who’s work was taken from them were speaking up. I even came out hiatus to make a post about this situation because my work was stolen as well.

I honestly thought it wasn’t going to end well. The staff over at QRZnow.com have not said a word and they we’re actively deleting evidence, comments and mentions of content theft on their websites and  social media streams. They even locked down their twitter account so @QRZnow mentions about content theft would not show up on their feed. I thought they were going to keep business as usual and steal content while denying everything.

They are not the only ones

I just want to make it known that QRZnow.com is not the only site stealing content from other amateur radio related websites for profit. There are many more but it seems that QRZnow.com was the most popular.

It appears QRZnow.com has changed their ways… For now. 

Even though the staff at QRZnow.com remains quiet about the situation, they have started to change their ways. Instead of stealing content word for word, stealing bandwidth and stealing images, they have captured and posted a low res screen shot and also posted a link to the source. That means the reader, if interested has to visit the source for more information. This a change in the right direction. There is still room for improvement on their end but it’s much better than stealing content. They still get advertising income and the source gets more traffic. It’s more a win-win for all.

However, due to the lack of communication from QRZnow, I am not sure if these are permanent changes. Who knows, after everything dies down, they might revert back to the way they used to do things. Even though it’s wrong, they might go back to what worked for them. They also might find some other ways to make a quick dollar from the hard work of other hams. I’m not sure what the future holds. I hope the staff at QRZnow.com have learned from this and can’t just take other people’s hard work and attempt to make profit.

It could be a good site

QRZnow.com could be a really good site. It could post interesting information and drive traffic to those site and create attention and awareness. It could be the place to go to see what other ham radio operators are doing. Due to the massive amounts of amateur radio related websites, we do need a website that brings attention to some of these websites, articles and projects.

They should take notes and learn from how hackaday.com does it. They’ve managed to become a very popular aggregate for the DIY electronic and maker. It drives a ton a traffic to websites, articles and projects that otherwise wouldn’t see much attention.

Hopefully everything works out and it benefits all who are involved. That’s all I hope for.

Thanks for reading,





Content Thieves – Please Do Not Support Them!


Let me start off by saying that I put hundreds of hours and a lot of money into my website. At this point in time, you don’t see advertisements on my website nor do I solicit money from my readers. This site was never created with the intentions of making any sort of profit. I wasn’t thinking about money. I just wanted a place to show all my adventures in amateur radio. Maybe someday I will come up with something that will change amateur radio for the better but I doubt that will ever happen. I think of NT1K.com as more of an online journal than anything. I’m glad people are reading.

Approximately one month ago I was browsing my  G+  account when I saw the 3D illustration of the 3 element tape measure yagi that I made. I was thinking, “Oh great, someone is sharing my website”.  Upon a closer look, I saw that it was a link to a different website, QRZnow.com (not to be confused with QRZ.com)


When I clicked on the link, I was amazed to see that my entire article including pictures and video were posted to the site. My entire article was taken word-for-word, grammar mistakes and all and posted on their site. They didn’t even bother to re-upload the images to their servers. They were stealing my bandwidth which I pay for. And to make it even worse, there was no mentions or links to my website other than my images that were marked with NT1K.com. This is strike three in my book.

I’ve seen my work on many other websites before and it never really bothered me because they were going about it  the right way for the most part. They didn’t steal my entire article and they placed a link citing the source. If the reader wanted more information, there was incentive to click on the link to the source to receive more information.  It’s sort of a win-win for both parties involved. Even though I don’t think it’s exactly fair, they get income and I get more visitors to my site. There are some well known news aggregator websites such as hackaday.com that give snippits of articles/projects with some input from the author. It gives the viewer the option to go to the source and check it out for themselves. It brings attention to the article/project while hackaday makes a little money. However QRZNow.com does not give the reader incentive to go to source website because they took the entire article and/or content. Why would someone click on the link to the source when they already have all the information from the source in front of their eyes.

At the bottom of every page on my website you will see the following image in two location


All my work listed on my page is licensed “Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs” . That means I allow others to use my content as long as they give appropriate credit, can’t use it for commercial purposes and they can’t edit/transform the material and redistribute. QRZnow.com  has basically broke the license agreement by not giving appropriate credit and they’re using my article for commercial purposes by collecting revenue from advertisements.

Am I the original designer of the tape measure yagi? Nope. A lot (not all) of my articles are from projects that I’ve seen from others. I was interested in the project and documented my experiences with it and if possible, improve on either the design or how it’s presented with up-to-date parts lists and blueprints.

After looking into QRZnow, it became very clear that they are harvesting content by taking content/information from other websites, blogs and social media websites. It appears there is not one thing original in their content and it’s all copy and paste. Even though some articles on QRZnow have a links to the source, There is no incentive for their readers to go to source because QRZnow has completely copied the material giving no reason.

What’s Being Done About It?

I’ve attempted to e-mail the webmaster asking to have my article removed. All I received is a generic “Thank you” message. Nothing else. At that time I didn’t pursued it much further. I also mentioned  my issue on an online amateur radio chatroom where it caught the attention of some other hams that took more issue to it than I. After seeing more and more content being shared from QRZnow in the /r/amateurradio subreddit that I’m quite active in and help moderate, , a fellow moderator took it upon himself to make as many people know about what QRZnow.com  is doing. He did some research and gathered many examples and created a thread stating what QRZnow.com is doing. It caught the attention of some facebook users and a lot of those on twitter. Since then, other content creators came forward and claimed that QRZnow.com stole their material as well.

Instead of trying to remedy the situation, QRZnow.com decided to cover it up by deleting the articles on their site that were used as examples in the Reddit thread. They’ve also deleted any mention of content theft on their social media streams and even locked down their twitter account so any mentions of theft will not be displayed in their feed. Then they tried to attack the reddit thread by reporting it stating that it was “attacking my site with false accusations”.  Since this article was written, they are still taking content from others. I am assuming that they still doing it without permission. Even though it appears they are linking to the source, they are still taking the content in its entirety giving their readers no reason to visit the source.

It shows that they don’t care. That’s what bothers me. They have over 60,000 followers on facebook and is most likely making a good deal of money from advertising on their website. They are profiting from the hard work of fellow hams

I’m not calling for QRZnow,com to be shut down (yet). I just want them to change their ways. Give their readers some incentive to actually go to source so the person who actually did the work can benefit. That can be done easily by not re-posting entire articles. Give a portion of the article and then give a link to the source. If it was done  with a “Click-Through” type of platform, both QRZnow.com and the original author would benefit. They would get to advertise and the original author would get more attention. A part of me thinks they will never do that because it involves more work than CTRL-C and CTRL-V. I hope I’m proved wrong.

In most cases, I’ll support any site that is trying to help promote amateur radio. Even more so if the people behind it are not trying to make a profit from it. But if they are stealing the works of others and they are making a profit from it, I think they should not be supported.

Sorry for the rant but I felt this needed to be said.


At this point in time, We’ve heard nothing from the staff at QRZnow.com. However they’ve made changes on their website since this article and the threads on reddit were posted. They have stopped directly taking articles word for word. They now grab  low res screenshots of the source and give the reader much more incentive to visit the source. They have also unlocked their twitter account so it’s now public again.

Since we’ve not heard from QRZnow.com, I have no clue if these changes are going to be permanent or if they are going to revert back to what they’re used to doing after everything settles down. There are still rumors that they are taking and posting photos without permission or credit on Facebook and other social media sites they run. Due to the uncertainty of the future, I am leaving the above article up. QRZnow.com appears to be changing their ways but they are not the only site that is guilty of stealing content from other hams for the sake of profit.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t “hate” QRZnow.com, I think it could be a really good source of information and a great way to promote other ham radio related websites as well as amateur radio in general. At the same time they get to collect money from their ads (there could be less ads). There is still a ton of room for improvement and hopefully they work at it as long as they don’t steal content and bandwidth from others.

So I am putting my pitchfork away… for now.


NT1K Op-Ed: Preppers and Ham Radio

I have been seeing a lot of preppers out there on the internet promoting Amateur Radio. For those who don’t know what a prepper is, you can compare it to a survivalist as they are similar in some ways. In my opinion a Survivalist learns how to live off the land and a Prepper is “Preparing” for an event. It can range from someone preparing for a storm all the way to someone preparing for when the S#!T hits the fan ( SHTF as they call it) or “Doomsday”, the end of the world.  Some of them go far as building huge underground bunkers equipped with enough fresh water, food, power and ammunition to last for years. Recent TV shows like “Doomsday Preppers” have increased the spotlight on these types of people.

I think some of these extreme preppers are nutty but as long as they are spending their own money and don’t bother anyone else, they can prepare all the want. Who knows, they might have the last laugh but I am not going to spend my life worrying about a “What If”.  By the way, I do believe that you should have at least some preparations such as a flashlight, weather radio and the plans that are mentioned on the Ready.Gov’s website. I am not here to put down the preppers.

At some point along the way in the prepper movement, it was mentioned that Amateur Radio is a necessity as it allows you to communicate with the “Outside World” and to keep tabs on what’s going on. It’s suggested on many websites and there are a lot of YouTube “Prepper” videos which promote Amateur Radio. I am all for promoting Amateur Radio but the way it’s being promoted is what bothers me. Instead of focusing on Amateur Radio as a whole, it’s only focusing on the prepper aspect of it with a sprinkle of EmComm.  I know it’s their angle but there is more to Amateur Radio than just for using it during an emergency or when “Doomsday” happens and I wish more of these sites would mention it or dive into Amateur Radio a little deeper.

Preppers getting licensed at what cost?

I am glad they are getting licensed and I am sure certain radio organizations are glad so they boast about higher numbers, but at what costs? Sure, they have a license but are they going to use the radio other than listening? Are they going to take advantage of their new license? Are they going to be interested in the hobby other than from a prepper standpoint? I would rather see 10 people licensed that are active and really care about the hobby than 100 people get licensed to check into a couple nets and put their radio into storage mode.

I am NOT stating that Preppers shouldn’t get licensed!

I am glad they are taking the steps in being legal. It’s better than having the equipment in the hands of someone who has no clue what they are doing or don’t care. Hopefully while in the process of studying for their license that they see what Amateur Radio is all about and end up being more involved. All I ask is for these websites/bloggers/podcasters/youtubers that are promoting prepping and amateur radio to consult an active and established amateur radio operator. You wouldn’t want me on your show giving prepping advice just because I’ve read a couple blog sites. There are many operators that would love to make an appearance to correctly promote ham radio. all you would have to do is just ask.

This is just my opinion, I maybe wrong!
Thanks for reading and 73,

Jeff – NT1K

NEARfest 2013 Recap

That’s right folks, I went to NEARfest. No, not the progressive rock  festival but the New England Amateur Radio festival held every spring and fall in Deerfield NH. It’s considered to be New England’s largest and most attended hamfest. If you’re an amateur radio operator in the Northeast then there is no way you never heard about it.  Due to other things going on in my life, it was either play in the New England QSO party (NEQP) or NEARfest. I can’t do both so I went to NEARfest but for only Friday.

Even though it’s not true, I’ll just say I’ve never been to NEARfest. I’ve been to Hosstraders which was the name of the hamfest before but I was very young and didn’t really pay attention to anything that was going on.

I left early Friday morning in hopes of getting there early. Further east I got, the more traffic started building up for those who are commuting to the Boston area. I got to the Fairground around 8:00 with a line of 20 or so cars of those who didn’t have tickets  to “Get In” the fairgrounds.  As the gates opened I was impressed in how fast people and cars were herded into the fair grounds. I was expecting  a long wait because I assumed  they were going to “inspect” everyone’s tickets. They did a great  thing and sold tickets to every car in the waiting line.

Upon entering and parking, I wanted to shop right away to scoop up any deals before anyone else did. However I found out that most of the tailgating vendors were in the line with me and still had to setup.  So the walk around the fairgrounds was to get a layout of the land. As more tailgaters and vendors were lining up I went around again and started purchasing stuff

My Shopping List
– 250pf Variable Capacitor (Antenna Project)
– Toroids – Various sizes and types (Antennas / RFI projects)
– MCX to SMA connector (RTL-SDR)
– Soldering Station (Grounded Variable Temp)
– Various RF connectors
– RG-213 cable

What I ended up purchasing:
– Rigrunner  – Well within my price range
– MH-31 Handheld Dynamic Mic ( For my FT-736R)
– 250pf Cap (not the butterfly type like I was hoping)
– Toroids – Two tailgaters were selling various toroids. Wasn’t sure of value but purchased anyway
– Various sizes and values of variable caps – They were cheap enough
– MCX to SMA cable
– Battery for my Motorola XTS3000
– RG214 cable

So I purchased some stuff that was not on my list. Who doesn’t

NEARfest Atmosphere

 To be honest I didn’t know what to expect when I showed up. For the most part everyone was friendly and you can see the “cliques” forming.  All the military stuff was in one area, all the whackers had their light shows parked next to each other and it appeared that it was more of a social gathering of hams than a “Flea Market”.  I was expecting NEARfest to be similar to the Swap/Sale section of the QRZ forums with everything marked up because it’s “Vintage”, “Rare” or “Barley Used” but I was glad to see that most of the tailgaters and vendors had decent prices with a sprinkle of those who think their equipment should go for as it were new.

Personal Observations

When it comes to anything amateur radio related, I expected the smelly ham, the mega obese ham, the scooter ham, the mega nerd and the high visibility whacker ham. What is a Ham Fest without them. I was expected to see them, I did and I am used to that. However this year I saw quite a few “Boston Marathon” hams to point where I could have made a drinking game for every one I saw. I guess by wearing the neon yellow (or blue) jacket you’re telling everyone in eyesight that  “I was there man”.  I am not sure of a reason to wear that jacket other than at the Boston  Marathon or to show off that you were at a tragic event. I’m still not clear as to why someone would constantly wear it. Haven’t notice people wearing previous years jackets like what I saw this weekend.

On another note, I got to meet and have a very small chat with Burt Fisher (K1OIK), who is a known in the Amateur Radio world for his youtube videos, some of which are very controversial. Some might find him to be offensive, a trouble maker and demeaning to amateur radio but I really don’t think so. I may not agree with everything he says but he is just a person with an opinion. With differences aside, He has a lot of very informative videos so I give him credit.

 Overall experiences

I would have to say that I had good time. However I wouldn’t return unless I had a reason to go that would make the effort worth it. I could have purchased all the stuff that I got from the fest online for similar prices including shipping. If I had a bunch of stuff to sell or was looking to purchase a big ticket item such as a transceiver, amplifier or antenna rotor then I can see it worth returning. If you’re active in amateur radio in the Northeast, then  I would at least go once.

Thanks for reading,
Jeff – NT1K




EmComm And Whackers

Let me start off by saying that I understand the need for Amateur Radio operators when it comes to emergency situations. I saw it get put to good use when a tornado ripped through the area I live in. This article is about the small fraction of people that are involved and is not meant to discriminate the entire EmComm community. These are just opinions on what I’ve witnessed throughout the years of being licensed and my personal views about  it. I could be very wrong about it.

For those who are new or do not know, EmComm i.e., Emegency Communications, is a part of Amateur Radio. It has been since as far back as World War II (and possibly before).  They consist of  amateur radio operators who volunteer their time and resources (e.g., transceivers, antennas) to assist other operators and their community during  times of disaster where normal means communication has been compromised and/or during significant weather events. A large percentage of these people also volunteer  to provide communications during non-profit events like marathons and walk-a-thons. It’s been proven time and time again that these operators are an asset to their community. I am not going to deny that. It’s what got some people interested in Amateur Radio in the first place.

Most EmComm operators are involved in a related group(s). It could be governed by the group itself, by a national/regional chapter, by a municipality or even by state or federal government. These groups provide the necessary training needed so the operators can quickly establish communications and provide vital information to those who need it. The major groups are RACES (Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services), ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Service), MARS (Military Auxiliary Radio System). These groups work with each other, municipalities and other emergency management groups that spring into action during an event.
For weather, there is SKYWARN among others. SKYWARN is not really an Amateur Radio group per say but uses amateur radio and their operators as a tool. They provide localized weather related information to the National Weather Service and other weather outlets.

Most, if not all of the people in these groups are made of people who really care about their community and take pride in volunteering and providing much needed information. However some of these people like it a little too much to where I would put them in the “Whacker” group. Whacker is a term first coined by the volunteer firefighter community. It’s when the volunteer treats their duty as it were a full time paying  job and beyond. They would buy more gear than necessary, decorate their personal vehicle with lights and sirens and start showing up to calls when they are not even scheduled to show and possibly do no work while taking a lot of the credit. That term is also used in law enforcement, medical profession and even amateur radio.

In amateur radio, it’s the person who owns and uses one or more of the following

  • Uniform – Similar to a uniform worn by Law enforcement or Military.
  • Duty Belt – Once again, worn by Law Enformcent or Military
  • Multiple radios w/ speaker mics worn on said duty belt
  • Badges – I’m talking TIN baby
  • High Visibility Clothing – Extra points for saying “Emegency Communications” on it
  • Police gear – Things like holsters (for their radios), big flashlights (With optional traffic cone) and tactical vests
  • Amber lights – Like the ones you see on Police Crusiers. Extra points if they are permanently attached to their vehicle
  • Decals – Either a sticker or a magnet that shows you that they mean business.
  • Law enforcement type vehicle –  This is the ultimate form of Whackerdom. A typical example would be  either a Ford Crown Victoria or Chevy Impala (depends on what brand of vehicle is most used in the area) that its setup to look exactly like a police cruiser. That would include multiple antennas placed in similar locations, Push/brush guard, steel rims with “Center caps” and amber lights throughout the vehicle. Some will go as far is actually buying an ex-police cruiser.

This can range from the most expensive high tech gear that even municipalities can’t  afford; all the way down to old surplus gear that is on the verge of being broken, rotted, worn and non-functioning. Yes, there are even well-to-do whackers that are caught up in it.

When these whackers are attending public events like a Marathon, they tend to focus more on their “style” and their attempts to be “authoritative” more than actually helping out in a situation. You’ll see them walking standing or driving around in their gear trying to look like they are actually making a difference and are important. They also LOVE the sound of their own voice. They love the sound of their voice so much to the point where they are reporting in every minute detail that has little to do with or no effect to the reason why they are there in the first place. If it was something important that actually happened, instead of just giving the facts, they would give out way too much useless information and find ways to prolong the communication so it gives the appearance to spectators and others who are listening that they are serious business.

You will also see this stuff in weather related events as well. They will be out in their “Official Storm Chasing” vehicles reporting on things that either have no relation or no effect to  the weather event taking place. And if there was actually something to report, it would be greatly exaggerated. 1/4″ or less size hail (if any) would be reported as golf ball to softball size hail. A gust of wind would be reported as 60 Mph force winds. A tree branch snapping off a tree in someones back yard would be reported as an entire tree fallen into the street. For SKYWARN, it’s encouraged to stay inside a safe location during an event and there is a toll-free number that can be called to send reports. But that’s not fun… Is it?
You also have armchair weather whackers that are just as bad, if not worse  as those that are outside. They sit there and stare at online radar maps, listen to the police scanner and actually report on the things that appear they’ve seen with their own eyes.

All these people do is get in the way of things. Tying up the airwaves with nothing but useless information just so they can flex their jaw muscles and puff their chests to show how important they think they are. I just hope that they’re not on the air when an actual life threatening situation occurs. Just imagine what would happen if someone is in cardiac arrest and the only mean of communication is ham radio. But they can’t get through because some whacker is going into great detail about a twig coming off the tree in their backyard.

Sometimes it’s just one or two people in a group that casts a shadow over the entire group. There are groups where everyone in it is a whacker. There are even some whacker groups that get so involved with the town, city or county that they convince them that they need to invest money, equipment and even property to their cause. Some of these town/city councils have no clue. They are just trying to look out for the well-being of their residents. In some places the decision makers are whackers themselves. Some of them don’t even know that they fit the definition of a whacker.

How come these people exist? How come they haven’t been kicked out, excommunicated or shunned from their group? It’s really simple… It’s all volunteers.  These organizations need bodies to survive and stay operating. They will take anyone they can get and will put up with their “whackerness” up to a point. Some of the whackers do really care about what they have signed up for and possibly listened and paid attention to their training and followed the guidelines and reporting criteria. Even though their “whackerness” shows, they really care about their purpose.  But then you have the whackers who didn’t listen and didn’t pay attention to their training  just to get an excuse to go out and inflate their own egos. You’ll never get rid of these people and they will always be here. Back in the day when cell phones we not even existent and not everyone had a landline in their house, Radios were depended upon and taken more seriously. With todays technology, Ham Radio is looked at as a last resort.

Is it preventable? Yes and no. People view whackers in all different types of ways. Some may think they are dedicated to what they do and others may think that the person is just nuts or somewhere in between. Since they are mainly volunteer positions, it’s difficult to “Fire” them unless they have done something really wrong. If organizations started getting rid of all their major whackers, it would be seen by the entire community that it’s a unfriendly organization. It will discourage the closet whackers from joining. They also might not be whackers when they first joined up. They either get sucked into it by another established whacker or become one once they get a little taste of it. They might even have no clue that they’ve become a whacker.  They love to congregate with other whackers and feed off each others egos and whackerness. They also become really defensive and sometimes irrational when they are labeled as a whacker or the term whacker is mentioned. You’re basically attacking their livelihood by poking at their whacker ways. They are too proud to admit to it and will give you reasons trying to justify their whackerness. It can range from the truth of “Hey, I just like dressing up this way” to some stretched out lie like “When I am not at this walk-a-thon, I work for the (INSERT CITY, COUNTY, STATE OR FEDERAL AGENCY HERE) doing some important stuff” to justify their actions.

Why do you have a stick up your butt about these kinds of people?

Due to possible major interactions with the public, It will lead to a negative impact on the Amateur Radio community as a whole. When people that I know outside of amateur radio find out that I am a ham radio operator, one of three things come up. What are you, a nerd? Isn’t that for old people? Are you one of those guys running around with a vest and a Radio pretending to be a cop?  I can always argue and say that I’m a proud nerd, that a lot of young people are getting back into it and that it’s only a tiny percentage of operators that actually run around pretending to be a cop.  It’s also really embarrassing to me as an operator to hear and see people having no clue that what they are doing and are just making things worse. I am sure deep down they are just trying to help but I don’t think we need a 5 min report about a tree falling in your backyard and then to hear it again 3 more times because net control doesn’t seem interested in your report. Obvious exaggerated reports coming in also really annoy me. The whole point of emergency communications is to get on the air, give the facts and get off the air so others can help. Not to sit there, holding up the frequency because you need to tell others in your area that it’s raining in great detail.

Other than to rant a little bit, the whole point of this article is to show others that these people exist and they do not make up the majority of EmComm community or the Amateur Radio community.  Hopefully a full blown whacker reads this and changes their way. Hopefully the airwaves will get less polluted with crap. Hopefully the police gear disappears. I doubt that will happen but you may never know!


CQWW CW Contest / Rants

I decided to participate in CQ Magazine’s World Wide CW (Morse Code) contest. It’s one of the, If not the biggest CW contest of the year.
I have been trying to learn CW off and on since the summer so I needed some help if I were to even make one QSO on CW. I setup N1MM logging software for the contest and used DM-780 that comes with Ham Radio Deluxe to decode and encode the CW.
Since I never participated in a CW contest before I wanted to see how it worked so I can configure my macros to work with the contest. I was very impressed on how fast contacts and exchanges are made. It’s way faster compared to SSB, RTTY and PSK31 and I felt even more compelled to learn CW after playing in this contest. I worked the contest off and on so I wouldn’t get overwhelmed about the activity. I started off searching and pouncing (S&P) on only the strongest signals. I would wait until I have their full call and exchange before even attempting to contact the station. N1MM does help out by looking up the CQ zone which came in handy a couple of times. After establishing contact I would get the typical 599 and zone exchange. After the first night working the contest. I have learned what my new call sounds coming back to me and phrases like “TU”, “TEST”, “?” and some of the shortcuts ops used to make a faster contact like instead of a RST of 599, it will be 5NN and A5 would be zone 15. I went to bed with code buzzing around in my head. I woke up the next day to play again. I’ve managed to make 100 contacts even though I know for a fact that I can make more. I just wanted to see what it was like to play in a CW and I liked it. Nothing like just jumping right in with both feet and absorbing everything. Once you learn the key terms in code the contest went much easier. I would encourage ops who want to learn CW to work in a contest. After learning what some of the stuff sounds like, the only trouble would be on decoding the call sign. I just hope that the people on the other end got my call right.

This now leads me to my rant. I lurk around on a lot of Ham radio related forums and also hear it by ear. I see a lot of people saying something along the lines of “These No-Coders are going to ruin HF” and “Amateur Radio is going to be just like CB” because the FCC dropped the Morse code requirement years after many other countries dropped the requirement. Now all these “Techies” or Technician license holders are upgrading to general and/or extra without passing a Morse code proficiency test.
After spending a couple of years on HF I have not seen much (or any) evidence to support this claim that has been spewing out of the elders mouths for over 4 years now. A lot of the Issues I see have a lot to do with elder hams. For example, when it comes to contacting a DX station I see a lot of things happening. Things like after the DX station acknowledge someone, there are still people trying to crowbar their callsign in because there is a second of silence. I also hear 1KW amps tuning up RIGHT on frequency of the DX station then spew out their call (like we don’t know who you are when you’re 40+ on my meter). Then you got those that see a massive pileup trying to contact the station and when acknowledged, will try to strike up a rag chew session by describing their town and the weather and their medical ailments even though there are 100’s of people waiting. And if the DX working split… FORGET ABOUT IT! They endlessly send their call even though you have a bunch of people telling him that the DX is listening 5KC up. Try listening to the RX Frequency of the DX station working spilt. Wholly crap there are a lot of people who don’t even come close to following the DX code of conduct. I’ve jotted a bunch of these calls down and looked them up on QRZ to find out that a majority of them are elder hams (By the age of their call and station setup).
For a Hobby that is so-called “Dying”, I wouldn’t spend much time complaining about those who are actually trying to stay interested in Ham radio. Not only should you welcome these “No-Coders”, you should thank them for showing interest. Because with that negative attitude you will drive away the young Hams that are genuinely interested and you will see a truly dead hobby. After a couple of years on HF and thousands of contacts, It’s rare that I run into someone around my age (28). I basically think that those who bitch and moan about it are just jealous or feel that they are “A class of their own” because they had to pass a 20wpm (or 5wpm) CW proficiency test. The funny thing is that since I’ve upgraded, I wanted to learn CW more than ever so I can make even more contacts farther away.
This is just my personal opinion, I could be wrong.

Please stop the Noises! STOP!

Ever since I moved to my house I always had noise in my receiver. It wasn’t loud enough for me to care until now. For the past couple of months the noise has been real bad. Bad to the point where I didn’t even go past 20m (14mhz). I Figured when Field day comes around I will be able to see if its something with the radio. I turned on the radio at field day and the noise was still there. I was upset that I was going to have to ship my radio to YAESU for repairs. That is until someone turned off the light that was 3ft near the radio. THE NOISE IS GONE!!! YES!!! Found out that the cheap-o CFL Bulb (or it’s ballast ) was causing the RFI. I thought that this might be the same cause at my QTH. So after field day I setup back home and tried the radio without the lights. Noise was still there. Today I finally got off my ass and started to track down what was causing the RFI. I went to cellar and turned off all the circuit breakers except for the room which the FT-950 is in. The noise is still there. I unplugged everything in the room except the power supply and the Noise was still there. At this point I took a TV car battery (sealed) and hooked it up inside. The noise is GONE! With the process of elimination, I found out that the power supply was to blame. Back when I purchases the FT-100, I Moved the power supply close to the radio so I could power both the radios.

The power supply that was causing the RFI is the SAMLEX SEC-1223. I googled the model number and there were numerous sites that mention the RFI that power supply generates.

Two sites that stick out when it comes to getting rid of the noise are



ZL2DF used ferrite beads and ceramic disk capacitors  (about US$10 for part modification) placed right before the output terminals  and OZ1DB used two 1.5uf 100V Capacitors ( US$ 3) on the output terminals