Letter Re: Using EMP-Hardened HF Ham Radio


I strongly recommend against using any Heathkit rig for an emergency radio. There was one solid state Heathkit but it was a rebadged, factory assembled Yaesu. All others were built by an individual, whose attention to detail you most likely have no idea about. They are known in the hobby as “GRIEF kits” for a GOOD reason. They fail – early, and often. They have too many disadvantages for the emergency backup purpose. Besides all the ones mentioned by the original author:

  • They have high (LETHAL) voltages inside.
  • They require 120V AC power.
  • They have no cooling fan on radio, nor power supply, and these digital modes are 100% duty cycle on transmit.
  • They have no easy way to “turn down the output power”, and hence avoid detection (OPSEC), and save precious (AC) power.
  • They are old, and WILL fail. (Did I mention that before?). Tubes are fragile, … Continue reading

Letter Re: Comms Using Photos – Would This Work?

Hi Hugh and James,

I just finished reading The Religion War by Scott Adams. It’s a short, very good book about Christianity vs. Islam in the future as both sides prepare for war. In it, he wrote something that made me curious if it would work. In order to defeat the use of computers scanning emails to find key words or phrases, his characters do something I’ve never thought of. “Cruz’s intelligence forces electronically searched every message that crossed the Internet, but their sniffing programs were looking for text, keywords, key phrases, and encrypted files. (His people) thwarted the filters by simply handwriting their messages on photographs of landscapes, scanning in the entire pictures, and sending them as email attachments. A human could easily read the handwritten message on the photo, but a computer wouldn’t find enough regularity or structure to identify where a tree ended and … Continue reading

Using EMP-Hardened HF Ham Radio to Send/Receive E-Mail During Nationwide Outage- Part 2, by PrepperDoc

Transmit-Receive Frequency Offset

This should be zero. Synthesized digital radios have no problem accomplishing this; however, vacuum tube rigs may struggle. Surprisingly, the less expensive HW-series transceivers and the SB’s with the vacuum tube based LMO (VFO), in my experience, have little shift between transmit and receive. Later SB-series transceivers with the solid-state VFO may have an offset. If this offset is > 100 Hz, you’ll notice it during SSB conversations (“leapfrogging” as you chase the fellow you’re talking to), and you’ll want to fix that for digital communications. Happily, the solid state LMO includes a FSK (frequency shift keying) terminal where a small trimmer variable resistor of (say, 25K or 47K) from “FSK” to chassis ground will easily adjust the frequency a few hundred Hertz. To make this automatically switch in and out for transmit/receive, add a small transistor switch (2N3904) between this resistor and chassis … Continue reading

Using EMP-Hardened HF Ham Radio to Send/Receive E-Mail During Nationwide Outage- Part 1, by PrepperDoc

There are multiple possible scenarios that may result in a regional an/or national combined loss of Internet connectivity and cell/telephone service, during which you would probably wish to maintain communications to loved ones and others. EMP may destroy routers, cell towers, and power sources; solar coronal mass ejection (CME) may remove power from all communications systems; cyber warfare may have similar outcomes. Travel in some of these circumstances will be difficult, or dangerous to impossible.

Ham radio VHF/UHF repeaters may go down, due to power outages or EMP. Direct, point to point simplex VHF Ham radio will still work (even after an EMP, if hand-held radios were at all hardened or protected) over modest distances. Long range HF direct Ham radio communications will work (possibly after a delay of any EMP), presuming you had protection (if EMP) and have your own power. However, they will be of less usefulness … Continue reading

Letter Re: Grid Down Digital Library



Downloading YouTube on Android. Remember micro-SD cards are interchangeable and inexpensive, so get a phone with a slot and make backups (and put them around various places). Often large (128Gb+, often U3 for GoPro) capacity cards will go on sale at least once a month, so I look for them and stock up. I’ve seen these as low as $15, limit 2. Sometimes there are excess stock or closeouts on prepaid, and I didn’t have to activate them though there was a trick to bypassing that screen. Most can be rooted. I have several, so it pays to look through the online bargain bin, particularly the refurbished section for things like tablets. One app to get is http://maps.me/en/home; they have OFFLINE maps (even if the Internet or GPS goes down, it works though it won’t track). It’s detailed and of … Continue reading

Letter Re: Learning Morse Code


You may find a quick blurb about the following site gets quite a good reader reaction. As a Ham of just under five years, the best site and aid I’ve found to learn Morse code is at lcwo.net. They focus on the Koch method and have several types of training courses. In just a few weeks of daily training, you’ll find that your comprehension will pick up quickly enough to start picking up operators on the air. – A Ham in Colorado

Letter Re: Prepaid Phones


Yes, criminals use prepaid phones, but Patriots do too. I have been using a monthly, no contract, prepaid phone for over 15 years. Why? Because I do not like contracts, hidden fees, data charges, et cetera. I use Virgin Mobile. For $35 a month, I get unlimited calls, messaging, and Internet. There are no hidden fees or surprise charges, and I do not have to surrender my personal information or SSN. I like having to NOT give up my personal information every chance I get. So, understand, it’s not just criminals who use these phones; it’s also the poor people with bad credit, people against tyrannical locked-in phone contracts, and people seeking a “private” phone. My phone is MY private business and not the government’s. So, when you hear “burner phone”, remember it is not just criminals who use them.

Letter Re: Advice on Learning Morse Code


Learning the Morse code is not particularly difficult, but there are several common pitfalls that typically interfere with the learning process. The best advice I have for learning the Morse code is to get together with someone who is proficient with the code and work one on one with that person. This way, you can avoid developing bad habits that you will have to unlearn later.

If such a person is not available, then learning the code becomes a bit more difficult. The most important thing to keep in mind is that the Morse code is an aural language. It is the pattern of sounds, not the number of dots or dashes, that make up the language. You can hum a song learned in your youth because you heard it a lot; you sang and/or hummed it a lot, and the sounds of that song became … Continue reading

A Random Walk Through The Risks of Silicon Valley, by Epaminondas

As a technology executive who has worked extensively with most of the big, high-tech firms (Microsoft, Google, Verizon, Dell, Qualcomm, and more), I thought that it could be helpful to share a perspective on the general role of technology on prepper thinking and planning. This readership is much more sophisticated than most, but the hard fact is that most of us cannot live an independent, off-grid lifestyle for a variety of reasons. Technology is the great enabler and force multiplier that can make it much easier to work remotely, maintain close contact with family and friends while benefiting from the vast knowledge of the Internet.

The danger zone here is around the data. Silicon Valley companies are not deliberately trying to repress freedom. They are providing technologies to drive new solutions and profits that can often have the unwanted side effect of providing Big Brother an unprecedented tool for compromising … Continue reading

Letter: Advice on Learning Morse Code

Dear Editor,
I have noted that the main characters in your novel Survivors use continuous wave (CW) Morse Code on occasion to stay in contact, around the globe. As a relatively new ham radio operator I am fascinated by CW Morse and have been trying to learn it for a couple years without a lot of success. Any words of wisdom or proven “best method” to learn CW especially for the over-50 age group? – J.S.

HJL Replies: There are a variety of inexpensive Morse code instruction tutor apps that will run on your smartphone or personal computer. While there are many methods of learning, I think one of the best is the “Koch” method. I’d highly recommend that you get a tutor program based on that method. Also, the skill of a straight key and a keyer do not really overlap. I really struggled to … Continue reading

Letter Re: The Vulnerability of Many Commonplace RF Electronics

Dear JWR,
Regarding the recently linked article on the hack of the Simplisafe alarm system, I’d like to alert readers to the fact that many, many radio frequency (RF) devices available on the US market have similar vulnerabilities. But it’s worse than that. These devices operate on one of several unlicensed radio frequency bands authorized under Title 47, part 15 of the FCC rules, most specifically Section 15.231.

There are transmitters available for purchase on 433MHz, as used by Simplisafe, and they are quite inexpensive. Many of these evaluation kits only require attachment of a battery and you are ready to transmit. Many car key (“remote door lock”) fobs use 315MHz, and 418MHz is also a common frequency for these low power transmitters. My point here is that you don’t have to have any computing or hacking experience whatsoever to mess with … Continue reading

Letter Re: Shielding Electronics From EMP

Another point on electromagnetic pulse (EMP) and Faraday cages is even something simple can be protective. There are 30 Gallon galvanized steel trash cans with lids (made in the USA!) available at my local farm and ranch store for $22. This makes for affordable and easy storage, and you can wrap things in common aluminum foil. Or even something like a steel cabinet or vault, but generally try to avoid gaps or spaces. It doesn’t have to be zero signal, but reduce the field strength enough to prevent damage.

Vehicles have some protection for many years. In the early days of electronic ignition systems, truckers with CB linear amplifiers were causing police vehicles to stall. And driving near powerful radio towers also caused some glitches. The protection added since the early 1970s isn’t military grade, but realize if your vehicle doesn’t even hiccup when it is next … Continue reading

Making Sense of What You Hear- Part 3, by Hal2000

Shortwave Radio

The next most important radio for preppers is a shortwave radio. Shortwave radio is generally defined as the part of the radio spectrum between 3.0 megahertz (Mhz) and 30.0 megahertz (Mhz). This is referred to as High Frequency, or HF spectrum. There are all kinds of transmissions you will hear on shortwave– Ham radio operators, International shortwave broadcasters, military communications, clandestine stations, numbers stations, and a whole lot more. You will also hear many different modes of communications as well. The bulk of what you will hear will be either standard AM broadcasting and SSB or Single Sideband transmissions.

I cannot stress strongly enough that every prepper needs a good quality shortwave receiver. With the advent of satellite and digital communications, the use of shortwave has diminished somewhat over the years, but there are still two types of stations you will want to monitor. These … Continue reading

Making Sense of What You Hear- Part 2, by Hal2000

It would take thousands of words and dozens of illustrations to explain trunked radio systems. So, we will look at the thirty thousand foot level.

What the communications industry did was to take lots of frequencies, lots of transmitters and receivers, and lots of computers to allow lots of users access to communications. They did what the cell phone industry did. For a large metropolitan area, they would build a dozen or so transmitter and receiver sites and connect them together with fiber optics and computers. This system would consist of anywhere from 5 to 35 frequencies, depending on the size of the area and the expected number of users.

By using a hierarchical structure, assigning priorities to users, and lots of software they could pack hundreds of users onto a trunked system using the minimum number of frequencies. It is truly mind boggling how it all works, and it … Continue reading

Making Sense of What You Hear- Part 1, by Hal2000

Knowledge is power. At least that is how the saying goes. For the sake of this discussion let us consider knowledge to be synonymous with information. When it hits the fan, where do you plan to get your information?

I want to make you aware of all the information available via radio. I don’t mean the AM and FM radios in your home and car. These will most likely be spewing forth whatever the government line is for the day. I am talking about police scanners, shortwave radios, and amateur or Ham radio.

I know some are going to think that there is nothing to hear on police scanners now days, but please bear with me. There has been a tremendous evolution of police scanners over the last five to ten years. Shortwave radio has remained pretty much the same, but Continue reading