It's surprisingly easy to get a license, and you'll find that many of the older generation of radio amateurs are among the most young-at-heart oldsters you'll encounter.
Field Day is meant to be a test of emergency communications preparedness, where the idea is that hams from all over (the US at least) set up operation off-the-grid, and attempt to make contact with as many stations as possible.
This is a great way to meet the local Ham community, as it is one of the biggest social/public events in Amateur Radio. It's too bad they didn't mention it in the article...
- Check out a few field day setups, different groups have different goals and culture, and you may connect with one more than another.
- Stick around a while. Many hams will stop by the local field day and hang out for a bit. Someone who is interested in something that you want to learn about might stop by at any minute.
- Give it a try, you can operate the gear with permission from one of the licensed operators.
- Definitely check out CW (morse code). It's amazing that it's still in use but it's lots of fun.
Morse is one of those "unreasonably effective" technologies.
* Short of very advanced (and likewise constrained) digital methods, it's the king of long distance.
* You can whack together a radio out of $10 of scrap bits.
* You can't buy it. It's not a circuit or a thing. It's a skill that you need to learn and it takes way more than just learning the alphabet.
But for Amateur Radio in general, it is a very international organization, with widely different areas of interest.
First, the study material and sample questions were way out of my league. I studied physics in college so I am not completely ignorant when it comes to things like frequency, phase, modulation, etc. However, I could not figure out what the hell I was reading in the study guide.
Second was the cost. I am ok with building my own equipment out of repurposed electronics, or spending a few bucks on some type of add on card, but the guides I found were talking about $500 beginner radios.
It is quite possible that I was looking at some very advanced type of ham license and communications equipment. If so, what is the best place to start. If not, then y'all must be some kind of rich geniuses!
When you test you take the first, if you pass you can take the second - no extra charge. Same with the third level.
It is easy and inexpensive. For a starter radio, as low quality as they are, a Baofeng UV-82HP is the way to go. Find out if you like it, use it and have anyone in your area to to talk to before spending the big bucks. I went more than a year with the cheap radio, learned who is in the community and which repeaters I want to use and finally put down the money for a decent mobile radio.
Also, radio needn't been too expensive. Check out the Baofeng hand held units that retail for about USD 30 on Amazon. These are only for UHF and VHF. For HF (international), you could either use repeaters, or Radio gateways on the Internet, or EchoLink. I use EchoLink on my mobile phone when I'm in countries where I don't have a license to operate.
If you passed college physics, you can study enough to pass technician and probably general in a weekend. I passed all 3 in one sitting on my first go.
I used them with great success to pass all three tests on my first attempt.
> y'all must be some kind of rich geniuses!
The issue is that it's actually a really fun hobby, so it ends up feeling reasonable to spend a fair bit on it, but you certainly don't have to in order to have fun.
One of the old guys took me out in his brand new Tesla Model S around the time the cars had just come out and I had never seen one. It was pretty neat and a good memory I have of the community.
There are some really nice and knowledgable people on the radio. Listen for me, KK4PPF!
As it stands we don't, but a couple friends and I are working on a CTF team (the security competition kind) with weekly meetings. We have been meeting for almost two years now, but as we go on internships and even graduate, potential new members seem indeed more interested in drinking and Call of Duty...
I'm surprised we're not seeing more Amateur Radio style equipment used in drones but perhaps the FAA line of sight restrictions don't make range such a priority.
But that was at DEFCON. In general you are right.
They don't only talk about weather though.... they also talk about their health problems and rant about Obama.
If they want more young blood, ham activist should seriously lobby to abolish the licensing requirements.
The requirements are quite minimal. I was licensed as a pre-teen with no trouble, and many on HN describe passing after studying for a few hours.
The important thing about the license is that it is a knowledge-based test. Even though you can memorize the answers to the questions, you learn that there is theory behind it and it's not just magical technology.
There are also a lot of questions about band plans and operating procedure, which help keep things civil and organized (though we could use more FCC enforcement).
What exactly does ham radio offer than isn't done in a FAR superior manner with the internet?
I tried getting into ham radio when I was younger, but I quickly realized I had no interest in it beyond the technology itself (since I like electronics).
For my to get interested in a hobby, there has to be some real utility to it (such as car repair), or it has to bring me real enjoyment somehow (such as playing guitar). Ham does not offer this at all. There's no utility to it for me (I'm not really interested in being involved in emergency communications), and there's absolutely zero enjoyment in it (I have zero desire to "shoot the shit" with a bunch of random men and no women, and all of them in far-away places where I can't even see them).
It seems that the only real value the hobby has, once you have a working radio, is for socializing. But if I want to socialize, there's far better ways for me to do this using technology: dating apps, meetup.com events, or planning something with one of my existing friends in "meatspace". Jabbering with some random old guy 2000 miles away does not sound like fun to me.
- Radiosport: competitions involve completing short contacts with other stations, but the information exchanged is usually a serial number, location indicator, etc. This is fun because it's a flow activity that requires great strategy and knowledge of radio wave propagation, band conditions, etc. It requires no pleasantries or exchange of personal info whatsoever.
- Satellite stuff: Brief contacts are made during flyovers, but most of the energy goes into understanding the orbits, timing, doppler shift, antenna characteristics, etc.
- Low Power / experimental VLF bands: Some amateurs love to squeeze out the most from milliwatts.
- Designing / Building radios, circuits, filters, antennas, etc. There is always room to improve the state of the art, share designs, ideas, construction methods, etc. This is similar to hobby electronics however the communications use of the gear is a nice way to prove that your approach was solid (or superior to other engineering approaches used in the past).
I think for most who end up enjoying amateur radio, radio waves feel a bit like magic, and there is something very cool about understanding them and (relatively directly) manipulating them. If you don't feel a difference between communications on HF using gear you built or designed and using Skype, then I'm pretty sure you would not enjoy Amateur radio.
The same argument could be made about the other hobbies you mention. Why play your own instrument if you aren't better than whatever professional musician you like best? Why play casual sports if you aren't ready for the professional team?
If you look at the difference in band activity between popular radiosport events and casual conversation, there is about 1000x more activity during the radiosport competitions.
The nice thing is that many radio amateurs are fairly interesting to talk to and have interesting backgrounds and stories. Not all, but I'd say that compared to the people I typically meet at a meetup or random community event, amateur radio is a better predictor of someone being interesting, creative, successful, having good critical thinking skills, etc. There are always exceptions, but it is a pretty unique subculture.
If you don't find it a fit, that's completely fine, but it's likely to be your loss. I think your comment got downvotes because it comes off like a bro lamenting too many dudes at a bar.
As for the purpose behind playing an instrument, that's basically an enjoyment thing. If you're musically talented or inclined, you'll enjoy playing an instrument in a way you don't get just listening to someone else play. I don't think you even have to be musically inclined to understand the concept though: lots of people like driving cars, for instance; that doesn't mean they want to sit on their asses and watch someone else drive in circles. Having the experience yourself has a significant value, which you don't get by watching someone else have the experience.
The same partly goes for playing sports, except that playing sports also gives you exercise, develops your muscles and reflexes, etc. Sitting in front of the TV drinking beer and watching other people play sports just makes you fat.
I think my comment got downvotes because the people on this site are generally jerks who downvote anything that disagrees with their hivemind opinion. This place is far, far worse than Reddit that way, and this is usually a big complaint about Reddit. Reddit has nothing on the readership here. Because of this, I generally will upvote any comment I see here which shows up in gray, unless it's obviously a really bad comment that truly is worthy of downvoting. I see far too many comments downvoted here simply for expressing an opinion.
Re: usefulness of HAM radio - it's not really 'useful' in the developed world, but it's a good system to have in place during times of disaster. It's not a hobby for everyone, which is understandable.
That's fine, but every time it comes up in circles like this one, people talk about it like it's such a great thing, and lament how there aren't enough people doing it these days.
Some things fade in popularity for various reasons; sitting around whining that they aren't as popular as they once were is pointless and unproductive, and just makes one sound like an old curmudgeon pining for the "good old days". How often do you hear people whine about big band or swing music not being popular any more? Or disco? Is it some huge travesty that they aren't? Are you going to downvote someone who says "I've listened to disco, and I really just don't care for it"?
Amateur Radio is just a hobby and does not need to be useful or to have a point. Like many hobby activities, it offers a way to learn lots of useful things.
I think your distinctions about music and "usefulness" are simply your own personal tastes. There is nothing superior about a Drake song to a Mozart concerto.
There is nothing superior about a satellite phone to an HF transceiver. Each has its own relative strengths which depend a lot on context. It has nothing to do with the present vs the past.
Amateur Radio is not a nostalgia hobby any more than cooking is. Just because you can buy pre-packaged food doesn't mean you wouldn't enjoy a less pre-packaged version now and then. I'd also argue that enjoying Jazz or Classical music can be done for its own sake, with no nostalgia at all, even though you might argue that Drake has learned all the lessons from previous composers and artists and is producing an overall superior product today than was available in decades past.
But sorry, I completely disagree with you. Ham radio is absolutely a nostalgia hobby. It really offers nothing in usefulness over internet-based communications, unless you're one of those wackos who thinks civilization is about to collapse any day now. Normally, I wouldn't care much about it, because your second paragraph is mostly correct: a hobby doesn't necessarily need to be useful or have a point, and can offer a way to learn lots of useful things. My problem is that, for me, a hobby does need to be useful and have a point usually, and I don't see it here. I like electronics and all, but if I spend a bunch of time building a radio, WTF am I going to do with it? Chit-chat with a bunch of old men thousands of miles away? Yippee. I can't think of anything more dull. But what really annoys me are 1) expressing this opinion and being told I'm wrong (I'm not: it's an opinion), and 2) the constant whining I hear from ham radio enthusiasts about how the hobby has lost so much popularity, which is the only reason I even offer my opinion. I never hear disco fans whining about how discotheques playing 70s disco are all gone, but the hams are constantly whining about it. And then when someone explains from their perspective why they don't find it a worthwhile hobby, they get all defensive about it, as your post clearly illustrates.
I'm not sure who you are talking to about this :) The hobby has actually gained tremendous popularity in recent years. There are more licensed radio amateurs now in the US than ever before.
FYI this is Drake: http://www.drakeofficial.com/
I mentioned him because of your assertion that only the most modern version of something is useful and non-nostalgic.
> being told I'm wrong
You made a variety of incorrect assertions. I am not trying to change your opinion, just help you avoid making embarrassing false statements. I also do not believe for a second that you are unfamiliar with Drake.
If it's an extremely small niche application and there is a commercially-available product, it's likely far more expensive than the Arduino because of supply and demand. And it probably still doesn't do exactly what you want.
a) C, Ku and Ka-band VSAT terminals via geostationary satellite, to earth station anywhere else in the same hemisphere. Example: 1.2m VSAT in CA, teleport in TX.
There are all sorts of mobile VSAT systems including auto-aim/auto tracking antennas and military grade ones that will fit into a large backpack.
b) Handheld satellite phones: Iridium phones will work fine after a huge clusterfuck disaster. And run on a lot less power than a ham radio rig. They use a LEO satellite network. The Inmarsat iSatphone talks to the I-4 series of geostationary satellites and will work fine.
c) Portable L and S-band laptop sized Inmarsat terminals (BGAN), again speaking to the I-4 series satellites. These are about the size of a fat laptop and also require a lot less power than a ham radio setup. Speeds from 100 to 500 kbps depending on spot beam capacity/utilization and TDMA contention ratio. Some have built in wifi hotspots, others have a 100BaseTX interface to plug in your own router.
You can do all sorts of useful VoIP tricks with Iridium and Inmarsat satellite phones - both services offer regular US NPA DIDs that ring on your phone, and it's easy to set up a phone with a short 50 ohm coaxial cable to an exterior roof antenna if you need to semi-permanently install one on the desk of an indoor command center/disaster relief comms post.
edit: The major use of geostationary satellite in a disaster is to repair and bring back online a broken/islanded TCP/IP network. You can show up to a completely off-net command center (for example: Disaster operations HQ for City of San Francisco) and bring it back online to the outside world by parking a 1 to 2 meter sized VSAT dish on the roof and connecting a satellite modem to the WAN uplink of their router. Satellite serves a different and complementary purpose to ham radio which is almost purely analog voice in a disaster scenario. Two people can carry the equipment needed to bring a 5 Mbps x 5 Mbps pipe with 0.0% packet loss.
But for broadcast communication and coordination in a disaster (e.g. "which hospital can take a busload of people", or "family seeking missing person <name>"), amateur radio works very well.
Satellite can also be used to quickly restore portions of a badly damaged telecommunications system (mobile phone carriers and LTE networks) by giving an islanded/disconnected network a new multi-Mbps uplink to the outside world. With the right ground terminal equipment and transponder capacity you can do 130 Mbps full duplex through a relatively small portable satellite terminal. Such a pipe can be connected to a LEC network, to a mobile phone carrier, to a major ISP, to just about anything given the right network engineering expertise.
The problem isn't the radios. It's that the culture of operating with very limited communications bandwidth and slow message forwarding has been lost. Writing out messages on paper to be read over the air and copied by hand at the other end is totally alien today. You have to design your operations to minimize long distance traffic, and nobody does that any more.
So, I think they could use it if you gave them a limited interface with a popup like "Warning: This connection is slower than dial-up. Send messages frugally like on text messaging. If images, send tiny and compressed ones with lower, quality settings. Don't even think about video. Delays in responses could occur at any time."
I figure they'd get the idea and adjust.
There are VHF repeater chains, AX-25, and other fancier ham infrastructure, but if that's up and running, the cellular network is probably up, too.
The next ARRL Field Day is June 25-26. This is supposed to be practice for emergency communications, but it's really just a DX contest. Everybody just tries to contact other stations at random; there's no attempt to set up a net.
You'll see antennas in parking lots. Visit the people there and see what they're up to.
For the whole life of the service the regulations state that one of the many reasons for the service to exist is to help the public during emergencies. And for that entire time, there's been endless philosophical / political arguments over if helping the government equals helping the public or if the government and corporations can take care of themselves or only take care of themselves while hams help the general public. Does the public mean random dude off the street or does it mean licensed ham radio operators or does it only mean the government and corporations or every possible combination of the three? Furthermore there's a dimension of some people see emcomm as a calling for survivalism and societal collapse and post-earthquake exclusively, whereas 99.99% of actual over the air emcomm activity is just another boring day until one guy reports a car accident or medical emergency in a rural area with no cell coverage and it'll never make the news.
I don't want to fight the argument here, but the point I'm making is for decades there's been healthy debate, so if the loudest definition is making cognitive dissonance in your head, that's OK, because a very significant fraction of the ham population sees things like you do. For all values of what you're seeing.
Ham radio is extraordinarily big and one thing many people have in common across the entire hobby is a viewpoint that their small corner of the very large hobby is the only real ham radio and their interpretation of the rules is the only correct interpretation. That is about the only ham radio stereotype that is really true most of the time. If someone claims the only "real ham radio" or "real path to ham radio" is local FM repeaters or 75 meter SSB voice or contesting or not contesting or emcomm or not emcomm or restoring old radios or building new radios or microwave experimentation or pretty much any ham radio activity, the only thing that is certain is they're completely wrong.
Also, a geostationary amateur radio satellite is being launched in 2017: http://www.kb6nu.com/first-amateur-radio-geosynchronous-sate...
Seems like Ham would be much cheaper and just as good, funneling local emergency communications into more sophisticated setups (that are probably owning and operating satphones for you).
In my state the ARES/RACES people got together and made a "statewide emergency network" of repeaters using local IP for interconnect. Our rural WISP arm provides the IP for several of their repeaters (incidentally we also provide IP to local gov). Our gear: 2-3 days of battery and industrial/carrier networking equipment. Their gear: APC UPS with (optimistically) 45 minutes of runtime powering a old Gateway P2 running WinXP.
Maybe 20 years ago they would have been useful, but post 9/11 FEMA/DHS grants have been very good to local emergency comms. My county now has their own towers with a ton of batteries, generator, and 11Ghz/18Ghz interconnect.
I'm just not seeing a scenario where their repeaters stay online, traditional comms fail, and we still have enough societal function where you can call for (or provide) help.
Not all of us live in a major metro area, where I'm at it's ~20mi to a major city so VHF/UHF fits the needs we have.
Question, did you participate in Cascadia Rising? Just about all of our local ham club did. We've had some pretty serious things happen down south here over the last few years and the local club has always stepped up. They also do a fantastic job of helping with community communication for events in remote areas that don't have cell coverage.
I totally get geeking out over the latest and greatest tech, but that doesn't mean you need to dismiss a whole group of people who would be happy to help in any situation.
So, I knew a older ham once. Dude owned a commercial tower & paging company. Built his own power supplies because COTS switching power supplies were "too noisy". Gave me one to run our gear at one of his towers before we switched to -48 rectifiers. Awesome guy. Really knew his stuff on anything radio (RF, tower, grounding, etc) Got offed in a stupid employee payment dispute :(
Unfortunately most of the hams I know aren't like that. There's a type: generally older men with decent-sized egos who have been around forever and see ham insider tech (winlink, "high speed" data measured in bps) as the end all-be all of comms. They stress how they are first responders doing emergency communications. Throw lights on their cars, etc. Sometimes they've been around long enough to get a seat at the table and then everyone has to work around them. Generally ARES/RACES-affiliated, not SKYWARN. I haven't had any bad encounters with SKYWARN folks...
Of course, I'm sure there are a ton of decent hams around that I haven't encountered. Likely because they aren't being obnoxious :)
I mean, ham should be entering a renaissance and full of awesomeness doing hobbyist SDR and IoT things but there's so many people stuck firmly in the past...
Regarding the finances - projects funded out of peoples' pockets and small funding sources won't be able to build the sort of serious five to six nines reliability networks with significant N+1 redundancy that will survive a major disaster. The amount of money that has been thrown around via the US DHS to local agencies in the past 14 years is immense. Similarly, large ISPs and major telecoms and their infrastructure providers (major IX points, datacenters, colos) have put a metric shitload of money into being able to survive a major disaster. Look at the engineering of the NAP of the Americas in Miami, for instance. In a major disaster I know of at least a dozen ISPs that might lose 75% of their network, towards the edges, as sites run out of battery and generator and fall of the network, but the remaining 25% of the network including their core will remain online for multi-week periods with fun things like 50,000 liter diesel tanks and N+1 2 megawatt generators. The telecom industry has a long tradition of seriously overbuilding stuff to survive disasters.
In a serious disaster, small transportable first responder command posts and similar need access to services that can only be delivered over reasonably-close-to-broadband IP services: GIS mapping, sending/receiving photos and schematics, logistics manifests, VoIP with 0.0% packet loss, medical data and a myriad of other things that you can't do by half duplex voice alone.
I do believe there are many situations where Amateur Radio can help during disaster scenarios since not all places have these IP networks that you're pointing us to. There are lots of real stories, as recent as last year, where HAMs went out of their way to help during local crisis. See the Chennai floods last year, for instance. I have many more such stories from India at least.
Amateur Radio is within the reach of the average citizen. One doesn't need expensive equipment, or connections with the Defense, or lots of money. I've attended camps where we learned to put together antennae for under a dollar, which gave us a range of about 300 kms. I've seen simple radios put together which permitted VHF and UHF communications. I don't have a license in the part of the world I'm in at the moment, but in the US, I've spent time with HAMs who are active on CW - transmitting Morse code all over.
While it is certainly true that ISPs would have lots of fuel, and that most repeaters are powered from the regular electrical grid, I believe these are opportunities for like-minded HAMs to put together something that is independent of regular power grids. e.g. Solar and wind powered Repeater stations, spare equipment wrapped up in Faraday Cages, and lots of people getting licenses to become Amateur Radio operators.
Just because you aren't coordinate the "real" help doesn't mean having your own communications in the short term won't be handy.
Ham radio or classic cars or woodworking are different. You can safely assume an old guy will have a fabulous workshop in the years before death. I inherited a nice 1960s craftsman drill press and it works perfectly and looks stylish in a retro manner and when I'm 65 people will be subject to google image search pix of my shop. No 25 year old kid is proud of his workshop unless he's trust fund rich or there's a weird back story. My electronics lab is about the same as is my ham radio gear.
There is also a side dish of all computer people are noobs, almost all of them, who will leave the field in a couple years either fed up or ageism'd out or they were only in it for the $$$ or maybe its just a hobby that doesn't appeal to most people for more than five or so years. Whereas you have hams or woodworkers or car nuts who've been into one hobby from age 12 till 82 and 70 years of growth in skill and equipment will result in some impressive internet pix of some 82 yr old dude's shop.
Likewise if selection pressures mean you're only going to see old peoples workshops, the demographics are going to look very much like a college EE class from say 1965, because that's who's workshop you're looking at. Its highly likely that in 50 years you'll see old people workshops online that match the gender and racial demographics of the MSEE graduating class of 2016, but you're going to have to wait 50 years to see todays freshly minted MSEE's as old people.
Finally I'll admit my workshop is not terribly well organized, or could be improved, and there's that selection pressure that I'm not going to post a pix of my table saw with pieces of wood stacked on the table or sawdust shavings all over my router table. What you see online is staged and unusual and artificial, much as very few houses in the real world look like the pix in a "Better Homes and Gardens" magazine. And that staging taking piles of cash and time mean you're mostly seeing old people stuff. Even if most of the world in reality isn't old people stuff, most of the pictures certainly are.
In 5 minutes I can setup my D710 as a cross-band repeater to a VHF <-> UHF allowing anyone who has a $35 Baofeng within ~7mi of me to cover over ~100mi area. Sure sat phones are great but they aren't nearly as good for local communication.
On a side note, megabit speeds on HAMNET? Holy Crap. Most packet radio only talks maybe 9600 baud max. Hmm. Come to think of it, Linux does have kernel-level AX.25 networking support... Anybody up for Quake over radio? :-P
Other than that, it'd be pretty cool to see that.
I kind of wish that weren't the case. At a minimum the protocol should be documented and unencumbered by patents.
I play with a mode of communication called Earth-Moon-Earth, or EME. The idea is to bounce signals off the moon and have them get picked up by a pre-arranged partner back on Earth. It feels cutting-edge.
Were more people exposed to such off-the-wall applications of ham radio, I think there'd be a resurgence in the hobby.
Background: I have ADHD so I have to force myself to not jump in at the deep end whenever I hear of something novel and cool.
After getting licensed, you'll probably get frustrated with the UV-5R and look into a more capable hand held unit, or a mobile radio. These start at around $150 and go up from there (plus antennas, power supplies, etc).
Can I read somewhere about which frequencies are used by ham operators, and descriptions of things like UHF and VF and narrowband and such?
I roughly split spectrum in my head as "longer waves" (kHz, AM radio, needs impractically large antennas), "HF" (thousands of miles of range, largish antennas), "VHF/UHF" (line of sight, 25 miles, walkie talkies), and "microwaves" (1GHz+, short range, tiny antennas for wifi).
Someone already mentioned the Baofeng style of cheap Chinese radio. They're good enough but they also produce pretty dirty signals that there's a chance they aren't legally compliant. That being said, everyone seems fascinated with them right now so they get away with it for the moment. I wouldn't let that stop you since if you stick with it, you'll move up soon enough and it'll become the backup/beater radio.
I'll add on that $25 RTL-SDR (get a "TXCO" one like a Nooelec Blue) is also a pretty cheap entry into listening to absolutely everything. With that, you can start making antennas, listening to satellites, running your own FlightAware ADS-B scanner, etc. To listen to HF, you can add a $75 upconverter.
Will do wonders for what you'll be able to hear(and send). I've got a similar Diamond one on my VX-8DR and I can pick up the repeaters ~20mi away. Can't hit them though, but that's what cross-band is for :).
I'm able to run a pretty resonable APRS setup w/ BF-F8HP + above and a mobilinkd for ~$120.
This is as cheap as it gets, given that you've already got internet access and (I assume, not sure if it works on mobile - theoretically it should, it's all HTML5 now) a capable PC.
It would be cool to experiment with these radios but have it all communicate using TLS or something.
* Closed licensed users: cell providers, public safety, etc
* Location limits: immobile antennas like broadcast FM
* Technical limits: ISM devices, Wifi, or FRS walkie talkies
* Content limits: Amateur radio
Amateur Radio gets to bypass a ton of these restrictions:
* Anyone who can pass a test can get a license to use these frequencies
* You can transmit from nearly anywhere
* You can use tremendous amounts of power (1500W vs Wifi's piddly 0.5W or less)
* You can use whatever equipment you can solder together, no certifications other than an honor system of "I'm fairly confident it's within spec"
Encryption would negate the ability to police the few limits left but also notably, the content. And that primarily means preserving noncommercial purposes but additionally, you're required to periodically identify yourself using your FCC callsign.
The Amateur Radio community is already a little nervous with the influx of cheap $30 radios falling into the hands of unlicensed and inexperienced users (notably "prepper" types that read disaster readiness articles like this one).
Here's a fun one: wifi 802.11b channel 1 is in an amateur band, so if you have an amateur license, you identify with your callsign (using the ESSID works), and you transmit everything in the clear, you can use modified/amplified wifi equipment at higher power levels than wifi normally allows. (The standard common-sense restriction of "no more power than needed for the application" applies.)
An amateur rocketry group I worked with (http://psas.pdx.edu/) uses this to receive wifi at 1W from a rocket miles away (and going Mach 1.1).
Doppler shift might come into play if the rocket went much faster, but Mach 1 just isn't that fast compared to the speed of light. A quick calculation suggests that a 2.4GHz signal would get shifted by ~3kHz. Wifi isn't that sensitive.
> Why bother with a TCP/IP link, though? Seems like a less verbose protocol would be a better choice to use to get a simple data stream from your rocket to ground control.
We used UDP/IP for telemetry data (and had almost no packet loss). TCP/IP did allow us to SSH to the (Linux-powered) rocket for debugging, though.
Also, being able to SSH into a rocket is pretty fucking awesome on it's own. :)
For a preview of what this would look like, consider the push to run cellular service in the wifi bands (LTE-U). Wifi/Bluetooth/Zigbee devices are about to get crapped on, if Verizon gets their way.
A large part of that comes because nobody can hide anything on amateur radio. You can't encrypt, you can't use ciphers or codes, you can't do anything to obscure your message.
If amateur radio allowed encryption, it wouldn't have the universal international acceptance that it does today.
That can be distinguished as such, anyway. "Yes, Oleg. The hops are coming along nicely".
If they allow encryption, they can't enforce the ban on commercial communications. Hence they mandate broadcasting in the clear.
Encryption isn't really banned. You can still speak in code. It's just that automated encryption fills airways with private noise.
No, you can't. Other than one very narrow exception, you cannot use "codes or ciphers that hide the meaning of a message". (The exception is for transmitting control commands to a radio-controlled craft or space station.)
And how do hams share information that should be private, like a bitcoin wallet's private key? How do you shell in to the admin interface of a remote tower? You just don't, over amateur radio?
Other than that: right, you just don't. Hams share information that should be private via other communication mechanisms; amateur radio is public.
Gave examples of using PGP cleartext signatures and Cram-MD5 (shudder) challenge-response for authentication without obscuring the meaning of the communication. At the time I thought that IPSEC with Authentication, but Encryption may be the best thing, but that has been slow to take off altogether.
1. Without repeaters, which in the best situations only have enough battery for less than a day, you will not be able to reliably communicate farther than 10-20 miles in most circumstances. With handheld devices, only a couple of miles.
2. For repeaters that do manage to stay up, even less than a day, they are usually exclusively for emergency response use only.
3. Anyone you need to talk to has to have a radio. Most people don't. Most people don't even know someone who has one.
I looked in amateur radio as a tool for emergency situations and found that its usefulness was pretty limited. If I had a natural disaster in my city and needed to communicate to family in a city 300 miles away, it's pretty complicated and expensive to do so without a repeater, and repeaters can't really be relied upon in situations like that. My state even has a repeater network that accesses most major cities in the state, but given that only a single person can talk on it at a given time, the opportunity to talk to my family over it during a natural disaster seems pretty unlikely.
2. This is simply not true. Emergency traffic is prioritized over everything else (by law), but almost every repeater is publicly usable by anyone with a valid ham license.
3. Yes, that's how two way radio communication works.
I'd encourage you to connect with a local ham club, or even better, go check out Field Day (http://www.arrl.org/field-day) this weekend. Literally the entire hobby (as far as the ARRL is concerned, at least) is focused around how to most effectively communicate, no matter what the situation is.
As far as using the repeaters directly to contact your family members, this would be one of the situations where you'd need to coordinate with local volunteers to get a message out of a disaster area (if that's the situation you're talking about). It's very possible that you might get to pass the message over the air yourself, but even if you can't, at least you could let your family know that you're safe.
300 mile is a challenge. I'm happy being able to talk in my community and my wife. I won't be able to talk to extended family because if distance and that pesky problem that they don't have radios, but knowing I can find out where my wife and kids are and let them know where I am - that is priceless.
You're right, it's not good for everyone, but it's good for techies.
We've got a pretty active club here with is pretty awesome and I'm hoping to spend some time playing around with alternate data protocols later this year.
I find the amateur radio somewhat interesting, but on the dev level. I was about to buy a HackRf, and I'll probably do it when I have more free time...
EDIT: this is why differential signalling  over twisted pair is used for ethernet, USB, etc. Otherwise the radio waves already present everywhere would garble the signal for any non-trivial length of cable.
And I had a neighbor that had a microwave oven that splattered RF everywhere. It was older and cheaply made. I poked at it to see if there was an easy fix. Nope, so I just bought them a new one.
Hams work very hard to not be a radio nuisance.
You can hear it because your headphone wires will pick up wavelengths about the same length (ever heard of people making AM radios with wire and a tin can?). My understanding and I hope I can be corrected if wrong is that this only will work for FM transmissions.
I've heard the best thing to do in these situations is to politely inform your neighbor of the situation and to investigate a solution. Probably some filter on his transmitter would do the trick. But I'm sure if he's serious about radio, he'll have a grand time fixing it...
If a non-radio device is picking up radio signals it can never be the Transmitter which is at fault.
It must be RF breakthrough caused by bad (eg cheap) design in the device.
Source: Retired EMC engineer.
P.S. I've never heard of people building an AM radio with a wire and a tin can. And if it were possible, any fault would be with the poor receiver not the transmitter.
(Capacitor can be made out of foil and paper, crystal out of the graphite from a pencil and a razor blade. The radio pioneers were pretty inventive. Google early crystal radio receivers.)
"..any fault would be with the poor receiver .." is correct, but if you took the time to build your own crystal set, definitely go see the ham next door, he most likely has the parts in his component stash to add some better RF selection/rejection to your radio.
Just like most of you like to tinker with code, we like to tinker with radios.
What about nuclear war or a solar mass ejection event? I'm thinking a big fat EMP will smoke the semiconductors in most amateur rigs: they often have big antennae and sensitive pre-amps.
Is there any RAD-hard amateur gear?
Firstly hams equipped for emergency communications keep backup radios (disconnected from antennas) for this very reason.
And if their gear was damaged by EMP, the hams would have the knowledge to effect repairs, or at least build simple valve based gear by scavenging old TVs, etc.
Again, this is a popular activity at fields days: A race to see which team can first make contact by means of a simple Transceiver built from scavenged junk.
Tube gear is often quite cheap because nowadays everyone wants fancy electronic gear. About 12 years ago I picked up a 70s-vintage Kenwood TS-820S hybrid rig (tube finals, the rest as solid state) for about $150, when a comparable electronic rig would have been about $1k. I abused the crap out of that rig and it took it quite well. I finally need to have it serviced one of these days, the output power was starting to tail off (probably a tube finally giving up its magic blue smoke).
Tube gear has a bit more of a learning curve than solid-state gear (eg tuning up before operating) but it's very durable and easily serviceable. Generally the most you will do is blow a tube whereas with a transistor-based radio you definitely will smoke the semiconductors and the radio will be a write-off. Unfortunately tubes are getting rare/expensive, but it's still better to track down a couple of $25 tubes than to replace the whole rig.
Tube rigs are particularly common in high-power gear (again, especially if you are trying to keep costs down). Solid-state amps in the 1KW range only became feasible relatively recently and are still much more expensive than a tube-based boatanchor. They especially dominate AM/FM broadcast equipment, which can range from tens of KW up to megawatts of power. You just can't push that much power through transistors very easily.
I have trouble seeing where the creative, build-cool-shit part comes in, though I'd love to be wrong about this!
* Kits for peripherals usually comes next. Antenna tuners, power meters, etc.
* Kit radios themselves. Usually more complicated than regular kits but the potential for hands-on learning is huge.
* Tweaking and tuning. Like squeezing every ounce of performance out of your code, you can always refine your radio setup to go farther or do more on less power.
* SOTA - Summits On The Air. Assemble a radio setup that's light enough to carry to the top of a mountain then prove that it works by contacting other people with it. Typically this is a small COTS or kit radio running on AA batteries with a homebrew antenna.
* EME - Create a high-gain directional antenna and a high power amplifier. Aim it the moon and see if you can hear yourself.
Build a rig from scratch (using even discarded components for the most part) and then use it to talk to others across the town (VHF/UHF) or across the ocean (HF), completely off the grid!! How cool would that be? :-)
Encryption is also not allowed by law, since it's public spectrum. Allowing encryption would be akin to allowing somebody to just build a structure in the middle of a public park. That takes away usable recreational area from other people.
Further, allowing anonymity & strong encryption on amateur radio is possible.
If you're claiming there's a difference somehow in the use of spectrum bandwidth, I'm not seeing it; meaning even with anonymity and strong encryption it would be possible to manage bandwidth abuse.
In any case, it's the same argument for not allowing automobiles on walking paths: sure, it'd probably work, but it sort of takes the fun and utility out of it for other people. Encrypted messages converted to sound for transmission over the air sounds horrible, and for somebody that's scanning through the band, landing on that monstrosity is very unpleasant. Also,if you are transmitting encrypted traffic, you are by definition doing so at the exclusion of every other ham; they can't know what you're transmitting, and they can't transmit there. Plus, ham bands are 100% noncommercial, so there's also no way to enforce that rule.
The purpose of the ham bands is not for you to pass your tinfoil wrapped messages to other similarly paranoid people. If you want that, use unlicensed spectrum. You can pass whatever kind of traffic you want there, assuming you're not causing interference.