14 May 2022

First Aid

Like a lot of Amateur Radio operators, there's a good bit of 'prepper' in me; taking the steps to make sure we've got the supplies and expertise to make it through the most likely disaster scenario is important. After 23 years in the Army, where we prepped for everything from nuclear war to frostbite, being ready for anything gets under your skin becomes a way of life. So a few weeks ago I did a post-COVID check or our first aid kits and was surprised to find that much of what we have on-hand has expired. Now, stuff like gauze and band-aids that are stored in cool, dry conditions actually have a long shelf life, but supplies that are stored under hot, humid or cold conditions for extended periods of time actually have short shelf lives and need to be rotated regularly. I was shocked to discover that much of what we have in our automobile kits was badly out-dated (2018 expiration dates), so I just tossed the kits and ordered new ones.

I like to build my own kits, based on intended use. For example, we carry a large medical kit in our camper I could probably use to treat a mass casualty event, and it also includes medications for our dogs, who we take camping. Likewise, the kit we keep in our house (which is really more like a complete shelf full of stuff in our linen closet) could stock a small emergency room and has supplies specifically for small children (our grandkids). 

I also have a small personal kit that I carry when I'm out fishing or doing something like a POTA activation. The contents of that kit were in pretty rough shape, with many of the wet packets, like alcohol prep pads, betadine wipes, and hand wipes having gone completely dry, and the packaging for some of the gauze packets starting to yellow. Ouch, that's bad.

So I did what I often do - I checked on Amazon to see if they carry what I need. Indeed they do! In fact, many of the standard supplies like gauze pads, tape, adhesive bandages, and single pack medications (acetaminophen, ibuprofen, Sudafed, antiseptic cream, etc) are dirt cheap when bought in bulk. This means I can rotate stock frequently and not really worry about the cost.

Out with the old, in with the new

A few quick observations. 

  • A personal kit is just that - enough supplies to get you and a companion through the normal scrapes and bumps of a short outdoor adventure. If you are stocking to be able to treat sucking chest wounds caused by automatic gunfire, well, you are out of the 'personal kit' league
  • Keep everything dry. All my personal kit supplies are in ziplock bags, and the entire kit is carried in a waterproof SealLine bag (see below)
  • Consider your unique health requirements. For example, if you are allergic to acetaminophen (Tylenol) then don't carry it. Double up on aspirin or ibuprofen
  • I've heard from more than one Army medic with actual battlefield injury treatment experience that you can never carry enough 4" x 4" or 3" x 3" sterile gauze pads. They are the swiss army knife of emergency supplies, used for treating everything from puncture wounds to burns
  • I hang out with a lot of old folks, and old folks take a lot of blood thinners. This means they can bleed, and bleed a lot, from the simplest cut. I include a lot of 'quick clot' powder in my kit. Trust me, I've had to use it more than I ever thought I would
  • I live in the south, where every damned insect either bites or stings. I carry a 'Sting-Eze' applicator, plus hydrocortisone cream packets 
  • Ticks are a constant problem here in the south, and the quicker you get them off of you the less likely the chance you'll get one of the many diseases they carry. I have a small set of tweezers in my kit for dealing with the little bastards, and splinters, thorns, etc.
  • Leave the snakebite kits at home. Better yet, toss them in the trash. Get bit? Get to the hospital ASAP
  • Have a supply inventory sheet you can check against to make sure you're not forgetting anything

Keep everything dry, and if something does get wet, toss it and replace it

Keep a supply list with your kit. This one's outdated, but you get the idea

Last, not least, and in fact most important - GET TRAINING! At a minimum, get training in basic first aid and CPR. Never think you'll use it? I took CPR training for over 30 years and never thought I'd use it. Then one day I found myself kneeling next to a heart attack victim, giving him CPR. It CAN happen. 

Be the Boy Scout. Be Prepared.

W8BYH out

22 April 2022

Sage Advice

On 09 April, the Coastal Plains Amateur Radio Club in Southeast Georgia hosted a presentation by Craig Fugate, KK4INZ, titled 'The Importance of Ham Radio in Disasters'. The club subsequently posted the video of the meeting and made it available on YouTube. 

I have to say, Mr. Fugate hit it out of the ballpark. He provided the best insight and guidance I've ever heard regarding disaster communications and Amateur Radio support. But Craig is no ordinary bubba with a radio who's been through a hurricane or two. Craig is in fact Mr. William Craig Fugate, former FEMA director under President Obama (2009 - 2017) and prior to that the Emergency Management Director for the State of Florida (2001 - 2009). Craig knows what he's talking about. Period. His bona-fides are unassailable. And his enthusiasm for Amateur Radio support during disasters is surprising, and encouraging. The video is long (about an hour) and it's mostly Craig speaking directly to the club members - no PowerPoint slides - so you have to listen. But listen closely, and take notes!


 When I watched the video I came away with a full page of notes that I've distilled here:

  • Focus training on low probability/high consequence events - hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, etc.
  • ARES and AUXCOMM are not the same, and ARES still has a primary role at the local level
  • ARES #1 mission needs to be making sure the local EOC can talk to the state EOC. The #2 mission is making sure that the local EOC can talk to its subordinate fire & EMS stations and, by extension, it's local medical facilities (hospitals, critical care centers, etc.)
  • One of the first consequences of any disaster is that all commercial comms systems will be overloaded, particularly cell circuits. The cell sites may be up and functioning, but the demand will overwhelm them
  • All comms systems, regardless of how well they are hardened, have multiple points of failure. It's not uncommon for EVERYTHING to fail. In fact, it happens with alarming regularity
  • Any comms infrastructure reliant on IP - cell phones, VOIP, internet, etc. - is particularly vulnerable. Even commercial SATPHONEs at some point tie back to an IP-based ground system, and the connections will fail
  • AT&T's FirstNet is IP based and is not well hardened (he wasn't very complimentary of the whole FirstNet concept)
  • Supporting local shelters with communications really isn't all that important. Most of them will have all the comms they need
  • Focus developing digital mode expertise. Digital can carry more traffic, more accurately and under more adverse conditions, than voice
  • Repeaters will fail and 2 meter simplex will run into coverage issues very fast. Focus on HF
  • Most emergency managers at all levels have no idea what digital capabilities ARES can bring to the EOC. Some have heard of Winlink, few know what it really is or what its capabilities are. Almost none have heard of FT8, JS8, etc.
  • In a disaster, antennas are more vulnerable than radios. Have spares
  • Backup power - YES! Generators fail with alarming frequency
  • Risk. FEMA reimbursement rules don't cover privately owned radio gear if it gets damaged or destroyed while supporting a declared emergency. The point here is to push your local EMA to fund the necessary gear and have the ARES operators fall in on it
Craig's strong focus was on the use of HF for both local and long-haul communications - get the local EOC talking to state ASAP and don't rely on anything that has a high risk of failure (like repeaters). His perspective is interesting - he's seen too many commercial and government communications systems fail during real world disasters, particularly IP-based systems. 

We can distill Craig's guidance down to one simple statement: EMAs at all levels need point-to-point communications systems that don't rely on any infrastructure. This is the key role that ARES is best suited to fill at the local and state levels, and that needs to be our primary mission and training focus.

I consider this presentation, the lessons learned it discusses and the advice it provides, to be a critical guide to future ARES and AUXCOMM mission definition and training. Craig's advice is both invaluable and unassailable. If there was a way I could force every local and state emergency manager to sit down and watch this video and absorb the lessons, I would. 

W8BYH out

18 April 2022

If You Can't Talk, You Can Still Listen

 And many times listening is more important than talking...

Yesterday Thomas Witherspoon's excellent SWLing Post blog offered a guest post by Jock Elliott, a frequent contributor. In this post, Jock details how is father, a WWII Canadian Royal Air Force lieutenant, was shot down over Germany and his status (dead/alive, prisoner/in friendly hands) was unknown.

Then, as if by a miracle, letters and postcards from complete strangers started to arrive, notifying Mrs. Elliott that a German shortwave broadcast had announced that her husband was alive and a 'guest' of the German government.

You can read the whole story here:


This was not an unusual occurrence. In early 1942 the US Government shut down all Amateur Radio transmitting activities. You know, spies and all that. Most Amateur Radio operators of draft age were quickly sucked into one of the services; if you could copy and send CW at 15 wpm or better, you had a golden ticket to a communications assignment. Older operators were ordered to pull their transmitters off-line. But unlike WWI, where the US Navy (which controlled wireless activity at the time) would actually come to your house and seize your gear and yank down your antennas, in 1941 operators were just told to go QRT, and everyone complied.

But nobody said you couldn't listen! Across the United States, and particularly along the northeastern seaboard, Amateur Radio operators and regular citizens routinely listened in on German commercial, government and military transmissions. There were formal and informal monitoring nets that listened faithfully to German broadcasts like the one discussed in Jock's post, in an effort to collect the names and service numbers of POWs. As brutal as the Nazi regime was, they were actually fairly responsible about reporting Allied POW information to the International Red Cross, and then broadcasting lists of POWs during their commercial shortwave broadcasts.

I'm guessing thousands of Allied POWs had their 'guest' status confirmed by shortwave broadcast. This information was a godsend to many families, who had no idea if their loved one was dead or alive.

The story of radio in WWII is incredibly rich. Radio didn't just inform, it was a true weapon of war. Both sides in the European Theater used radio skillfully, from broadcasting propaganda, to intercepting clandestine communications, to providing deceptive cover for battlefield operations, to pinpointing attacking aircraft and submarines, to communicating with spies and resistance groups.

And, as in this case, providing comfort and hope to an anxious family.

W8BYH out

06 April 2022

Modular Computers - Everything Old Is New Again

I come from an age when opening up and upgrading or maintaining your computer wasn't just a fun hobby, it was a necessity. Almost a survival skill for anyone in a tech related field. I clearly remember the day our Army unit received its first shipment of Heath/Zenith PC clones (very good PCs, by the way). The first thing we did was pull out the screwdrivers to have a look inside and pass judgement on the system capabilities. By the end of the day we were sticking third party VGA boards, modems, storage expansion cards and more into the expansion slots to test out compatibility and expandability. That was the norm. Even early generation laptops were designed and built to be tinkered with - adding RAM, swapping out batteries, etc. It was possible to keep a computer running and relevant well past its expected service life by doing simple component upgrades. 

Then came the era of the fully sealed laptop. I think I blame Apple for this. Starting in the 2010s the laptop market swiftly moved to what were little more than hermetically sealed disposable pieces of plastic (or for a bit more cash, hermetically sealed disposable pieces of aluminum). While you could usually open up these devices (with no small amount of fear-inducing prying) they were not really designed to be serviced or upgraded by the owner. Then manufacturers like Microsoft took it whole other level and began producing high end devices that couldn't be opened for repair or upgrade by any means, EVEN BY MICROSOFT. The classic examples of this are the Surface Pro tablets, high end devices with notoriously bad batteries.

SurfacePro 7. Great device, expensive, and unrepairable

Customers were paying MacBook Pro-level prices for SurfacePros and having the batteries crap out in about a year ('crap out' as in not being able to hold enough of a charge to power the tablet for more than an hour or two). If you had bought Microsoft's extended warranty you were ok - send it off to Redlands and Microsoft would ship you a new one. If you hadn't bought the extended warranty you were out of luck. Not even Microsoft could repair it. Their only advice was to buy a new model which, like the old model, was not repairable. This problem persisted right up through the SurfacePro 7, and may plague later models. Now, I pick on SurfacePros because I use them as my 'daily drivers'; my work laptop is a SurfacePro 7 and in my office I've supported the entire line of SurfacePros from the 3 through the 7 series, and a smaller smattering of SurfaceGo tablets. I actually like the SurfacePros, I really do. They are outstanding devices that bring a true laptop experience to a tablet format. But I'd never pay for one out of my own pocket. Why would I sink that kind of money into a device that can't be repaired or upgraded?

Which is why this video caught my attention:

I remember hearing about the Framework laptop initiative over a year ago, when there was a lot of discussion swirling around tech forums on the web about the relative unrepairability of most consumer laptops. At the time Framework was just a concept looking for crowd source funding, but now it looks like the whole thing has become a reality.


Watching the video I have to say that I love both the design and the execution. It's unlikely that Framework's laptops will win any awards in the gaming community, but for every day business-class computing, it's a winner. The design tackles a number of issues I've faced when managing hardware in an enterprise environment. Think of this fairly common situation. Both John and Sally need laptops. Sally needs one that has an HDMI port and USB C. John doesn't need HDMI or USB C, but does need a laptop with an SD card reader, two USB A ports and 1 TB of storage. Company IT will only provide laptops that have one USB C port and an SD card reader, and 500 GB of storage. Neither John or Sally are happy. With the Framework concept, IT can provide the bare-bones laptop and a stack of add-on modules that allow both John and Sally to configure their computers to meet their specific needs. And if something does break or wear out, like the battery goes dead or the keyboard goes bad, local IT can handle the fairly simple repairs in-house, without having to farm out the work or deal with warranty swaps of whole units. Turn-around time for repairs can be measured in hours, not days or weeks.

Modularity is one of the main reasons I'm fascinated by things like Panasonic Toughbooks and their Dell equivalents. These laptops are not just rugged, they are modular in design and are fairly easy to open up and modify. The Framework laptops certainly are not as rugged as a Toughbook, but as the video shows, they are well built. Even better, their modularity handily beats what we get with a Toughbook. Plus the Framework price is a whole lot less than a new Toughbook. Thousands less.

Ham radio guys and gals are a tinkering bunch. Its the nature of the hobby. Who else would order a bag of circuit boards and thru-hole components and spend a couple of days soldering up a gizmo, and call it fun? I know ham radio operators that have multiple 20 year old computers running in their shacks for no other reason than, if something goes wrong with one of them, they can tear it apart and fix it. What hams don't like is something that, by design, can't be repaired. That violates the ham radio secret codex that says "it must be able to be pulled apart and reassembled and still work"

While the cheapest Framework laptop may be too pricey for many hams, it could actually be a cheaper alternative if the cost is extended across its useful life. Issues that cripple a hermetically sealed laptop - a bad battery, a USB port that stops working, dead keys on a keyboard, etc. - are simple and easy component swaps. Of course this all assumes that Framework remains a viable business all the way through the useable lifespan of the laptop, and that's the great unknown at this point. What happens if  you buy a Framework laptop today, and the company disappears next year? This is why I'd love for a major player in the laptop world, like Dell or HP, to take this same approach to modularity and reparability. But I realize there's no chance either company would adopt a Framework philosophy; it's just not in their corporate DNA. Their business model is to sell in volume to repeat customers who need new laptops every few years. Selling them a competitively priced modular laptop that has a useful life beyond five years AND is cheap and easy to repair or upgrade isn't going to happen. Which is why I think Framework actually has a chance of surviving, and even thriving, in this niche market. There are plenty of laptop users like me who are tired of having to deal with unrepairable systems and want the ability to easily fix vs. replace. I may not be able to break my employer's addiction to Dell products, but in my personal life I can make that choice.

There may be a Framework in my future...

W8BYH out

02 April 2022

MARS Mod

In past posts I've hinted that I'm not afraid to get into the gust of certain radios to do what is referred to as the 'Mars mod'; open the radio up for wide band transmit for use on MARS and SHARES frequencies. To date I've done it on two Icom IC-7100's, two Yaesu FT-891s and, before I got adventurous with a soldering iron, paid to have it done on an Icom IC-7200, a 7300 and a Yaesu FT-991A.

A week ago, as part of my pure fleet initiative, I bought a used IC-7300 from a seller on QRZ.com. I've been haunting various ham radio equipment sale and swap sites for a while now, looking for a good deal on a used 7300, so when this one popped up I grabbed it. Even before I had it in-hand, I was thinking about doing the MARS mod myself. The modification procedures for many HF rigs are available on the internet, and for modern Icom radios it usually means removing a diode from the main board to open up the transmit stage (opening up the receive side is usually not necessary). In the past I used a soldering iron to loosen the solder holding the surface mount diode to the board, and that's a worrisome mix of shaky hands, teeny-tiny closely packed components and a hot soldering iron. But as I was discussing this process a few days ago with my good friend Ken, AI4UW, he asked two key questions: Do you intend to ever re-install the diode? Is the diode in a location you can get to it with a pair of miniature side-cutters? No to the first, yes to the second. Well, he said, just go in with a small set of side cutters and snip it off the board. Just make damned sure you snip the right diode! Ken does high level aviation electronic system repair for Delta Airlines. If you fly Delta into or out of Atlanta, odds are good that Ken has worked on an electronics system on that plane. He knows what he's talking about, so I decided to follow his advice and go the 'snip' route.

The diode we're after is on the underside of the main board, so we have to
remove the bottom cover

We're after diode D422, and ONLY D422

It's important to have your references at-hand when doing this work. The last
thing you want to do is remove the wrong component

You're gonna' need magnification. Lots of it. 

It was hard to get the camera to focus, but the diode is about where the arrow is pointing

Again, poor focus, but you can see the pad for the diode after it was removed by snipping it out

Glamour shot! Here's a wider view of the radio from the bottom, looking at the underside of the
main board and the build-in tuner. The IC-7300 is actually a very beefy radio

I have to say, it was a very simple process, and a lot easier and a lot less anxiety-invoking that trying to remove the diode with a soldering iron. The shears I used were the Crescent miniature wire cutters available from Amazon, Home Depot or Lowes. Because the cutters are angled and ground flat, they can also act as side-cutters, which allows you to get flat to the circuit board when performing this operation.



Easy and simple process, yes. But did it work? Have a look:


This gives me two identical high performance HF rigs that can be used across all the Amateur, MARS and SHARES frequencies, and allows me to dedicate a rig for each role. If one fails, the working radio can be easily and quickly re-configured to take over the job of the other. It's a simple configuration file upload from an SD card. I'm happy.

W8BYH out

01 April 2022

APRS

Last night (31 March), my good friend Joe Domaleski, KI4ASK, gave an excellent presentation to our local club, KK4GQ, on APRS.



Every once in a while I have to be re-reminded about how useful APRS can be. I simply don't spend enough time fooling around with it to develop any level of proficiency beyond beaconing my location. APRS, like Winlink, can be used as a two-way communications tool between ham radio operators and non-hams, using some of the neat APRS-to-SMS or APRS-to-email tools that have been developed. 

Looks like I'm going to have to invest more time in figuring all this out. Joe, I don't know whether to thank you, or curse you 😄

W8BYH out

02 March 2022

Cage Match

One of the key issues with the new(ish) Icom IC-705 is that it's designed to be a field /portable radio, yet it's also easily subjected to knocks and bangs in the field. I'm not saying it's a fragile little thing - it's essentially a magnesium 'bucket' inside a tough plastic shell, and all the board mounted components are neatly stacked inside the 'bucket' and are well protected. But the front panel, including the touch sensitive display, is not protected at all. Plus... it's a $1,400 radio, and even if it were made out of ballistic Kevlar it still deserves some protection from rough handling.

But protecting the 705 is a bit of a challenge. We can't simply wrap the radio in another hardened shell, for two reasons. First, the radio relies on ambient cooling. It has no fans or fins. The radio is a cool runner, even on digital modes, but wrapping it up in another enclosure could introduce a heat problem. Next, the radio has a built-in GPS, and the GPS patch antenna can be easily blocked by things outside the rig, like boxes, cases or cages.

For months I've been singing the praises of the Windcamp Ark-705 cage. It's a well designed and built aluminum cage that offers very good protection for the 705. However, it has a serious design flaw - the metal of the top portion of the cage blocks the GPS antenna. I'm not sure just where the GPS antenna sits inside the IC-705, but I have to guess that at the top of the case - that's the only location that makes sense. I've watched the only IC-705 tear-down video available on YouTube several times, but just can't figure out precisely where the GPS antenna is*. Regardless, my testing shows that the Windcamp cage does block GPS signals. Not completely - if you set the radio outdoors beneath an open sky it will eventually achieve GPS lock, but it takes a lot longer than if the radio is sitting 'nekkid'

Ark-705 case. Nicely made, but looks like it interferes with GPS reception

This discovery caused me to take another look at the Peovi 705 cage. The Peovi 'cage' as originally designed is really just a mounting frame and offers no protection to the rear of the radio. It is well designed and executed, but it falls short of offering any real protection to the radio. I was an early customer of Peovi, buying one fairly soon after they were introduced, but became disenchanted with the lack of protection it offered. It's at this point that I turned to the Windcamp.

The original Peovi cage looks good from the front, but...
 
Doesn't offer any protection for the rear of the rig

But recently, and without any fanfare, Peovi released an add-on for their original cage that ads a bit more wrap-around protection. I first caught hints of it on one of the IC-705 Facebook pages. Called the Full Wrap Protection Add-On Kit, it doesn't really 'wrap around' the radio, but it does offer some bump protection. As they say on late night TV infomercials, "but wait, there's more!". In cooperation with Peovi, Gemsproducts, the company that makes the highly regarded Side KX polycarbonate snap-on covers for the Elecraft KX line of radios, developed a similar cover that fits into the Peovi carry handles and fully protects the front of the radio. The new Peovi add-on protection kit and the Side KX snap-on cover caught my attention and drew me back to the Peovi solution.
    
Peovi 'full wrap' add-on kit

Side KX snap-on cover

I bit the $$$ bullet (add up the pricing for all the components and you'll understand why I use the term 'bit the $$$ bullet') and ordered the full wrap kit and the Side KX cover. They came in a few days ago and I assembled everything and did some testing. I have to say this - the Peovi full wrap kit is very elegantly machined; it's almost a work of art. It offers somewhat less protection to the top and rear of the radio, but as we'll see in a minute that's actually a plus. The Side KX polycarbonate cover is tough - tough to snap in, tough to snap out, and tough enough that I'm convinced you could drop the rig on its face and the cover would fully protect it. You could probably beat the cover with a baseball bat and it would just laugh at you. It's that tough.




Included with the wrap kit is what looks like a carry handle, but it's actually intended for use as a tilt stand or bale. It works quite well - folds away when not in use, swings out to prop the rig up at an ideal viewing angle when in use.

*So what about GPS reception? Well, while writing this post I was also holding a running conversation on the GPS antenna question with 705 owners over on the IC-705 Groups.io email reflector. Apparently full schematics for this radio have not leaked out (yet), but a few folks commented that the GPS antenna is part of the control head unit (along with the display panel, VFO knob control buttons, etc.). The GPS receiver is integrated into the front panel circuit board, and the antenna is snugged up into a small space between the speaker and Multi knob. If you watch the linked Japanese CQ teardown video and freeze it at the 2:04 mark you'll see the back of the control head showing the circuit board and the antenna (circled below):


One of the benefits of the Peovi cage seems to be that it interferes less with GPS reception. With the Windcamp cage the 705 rarely established GPS lock indoors, even when near a window. Outdoors the radio, still in the Windcamp cage, would establish a lock but it took several minutes and was easy to lose if you moved the radio. With the Peovi cage, the 705 quickly establishes GPS lock indoors or out, and holds that lock better when the radio is moved around outdoors. If you compare the Windcamp and Peovi cages in the area where the antenna is located there's not a whole lot of difference in the amount of metal. But the difference is just enough - the little extra metal in the Windcamp cage definitely interferes with reception.

So going forward I'll be using and testing the Peovi cage, and I'll report back time-to-time. Stay tuned!

W8BYH out

27 February 2022

A View From The Bench - 27 February 2022

Is it a dry spell, or am I just too busy? I honestly don't know for sure. Probably a bit of both. Sometimes you can get tired of writing and just need to turn your brain off for a bit. But I do have to say, on review, I do have a lot of little radio projects going on. 

  • DSTAR. I mentioned in January that our local DSTAR repeater is still operating, but has been disconnected from the internet. It was a business decision our club made after we lost use of a cheap Sprint hotspot for the wi-fi connection. The repeater will be back on the internet later this year, but until then if club members want to work the DSTAR reflectors they'll have to do it through a hotspot. Which is why I bought one. The ZUMSpot USB dongle finally arrived from HRO. I'm using PA7LIM's BlueDV application on my laptop to control the little gizmo, and I've got both my ID-51 and my ID-5100 mobile set up to talk through it. I gotta' say, it works pretty neat! I never really 'got' the need for a digital mode hotspot until recently, but I actually feel a bit better having one vs. having to rely on the local repeater. One more tool in the hurricane season toolbag!
  • Speaking of computers (were we?), my Winter Field Day experience, and the difficulty managing the Trimble T-10 (lousy keyboard, no backlit keys, doesn't stand on its own, not enough USB ports) has me re-engaging with my Dell 5414 ruggedized laptop. This means upgrading all the applications (like Winlink), adding new apps like BlueDV, transferring data over from the Trimble, etc. We'll see how it goes. I still like the Trimble - a LOT of capability in a small, exceptionally rugged package, but until I can come up with a better keyboard and stand solution I'll be using the Dell.
  • For the past few weeks I had been wondering why the ID-5100 in my shack was having difficulty getting a good signal into our local repeater (KK4GQ - 145.210). A few days ago I walked around the side of the house and found out why. The antenna was laying on the ground under an inch or two of leaf litter. Hmmm... maybe that had something to do with it? 😒 The antenna is an Ed Fong DBJ-1 that was hanging from a convenient tree limb. The tree limb decided it was time to give up the ghost, and down came the antenna. That I could hit the repeater at all is one heck of a testament to Ed's design. So on Sunday I went back out with my slingshot and put a line up over another, higher limb and the antenna is back up. The SWR is a touch higher that I'd like - about 1.8 on the repeater frequency, but for now I'm happy.
  • A few weeks ago a rare unicorn came up for sale on eBay at a very reasonable 'buy it now' price - an SCS 7800 P4Dragon Pactor modem. The seller wasn't giving it away - he knew what he had - but his asking price was about $500 below what a similarly configured new modem would cost. He was the original owner and was willing to chat about how he came into the modem and why he was selling it, and he assured me it was in like-new condition. That increased my sense of comfort that this was a good deal, so I took the leap and now find myself the owner of a shiny, nearly-new Pactor modem. I used a borrowed 7800 several months ago to test the new SCS ALE2 firmware, so I had a good base of experience with the modem and how it interfaces with Winlink (very nicely , thank you). I've got it set up with my IC-7200 'FrankenRig' (MARS mod, quiet scan mod) for testing. 

The modem works like a champ on Winlink, but I'm still working through some configuration issues on ALE. I'll have more on this topic in a later post.
  • Speaking of ALE, Devin Butterfield, the developer of the Ion2G ALE application released version 0.9.7.8 this week. This release introduced a number of neat improvements and upgrades. I've said this before - Ion2G is hands down the best software-based ALE application available, and may even be better than the hardware based implementations in devices like the SCS modems (above). I've personally run Ion2G, the SCS ALE application and MARS-ALE (a derivative of PC-ALE). Ion2G is by far the easiest to get up and running, and offers the best support (via the Groups.io reflector). If you have an interest in ALE, there is no reason to not try Ion2G.

That's it for now!

W8BYH out

13 February 2022

AAR

 AAR - After Action Review. Yesterday I served as part of a communications support team for a 5K race held at a local nature preserve. This race is an annual event that we've supported for years. We know the course setup and the checkpoint locations, and are familiar with the communications requirements. The comms team was made up of local ARES members whom I've worked with a lot in the past. Everyone was professional, knew exactly what to do, and did a great job. It's a pleasure to work with experienced communicators.

This race follows an out-and-back course, so the starting line is very close to the finish. I just grabbed a picnic table near the finish line and set up. The course is very compact, so VHF simplex using handhelds is all that's really needed. 

Side note: most Amateur Radio operators underestimate the reach of VHF FM. Here in the US we indoctrinate our hams to think that VHF is only useful if it's routed through a repeater. Most new Technicians don't understand how far you can communicate using VHF simplex. Remember, the US military - Army, Navy, Marines & Air Force - have been using VHF simplex for tactical communications since World War II. They seem quite happy with its performance. My personal best is 65 miles, from Cartersville, GA to Cleveland TN, using a 30 watt mobile rig and a mag-mount antenna on the roof of my truck. I'll take that any day.

Back to the race. Like any good net control, I did a small AAR immediately after the event. I captured some general comments that applied to all operators - the need to dress warmly (it was COLD!), the need to have dual-band capability, the need to have a flashlight or head lamp, the need to wear a safety vest. Simple reminder stuff.

Personally, I learned a few lessons. Some were new, some were lessons I learned long ago but keep having to re-learn.

  • have an adequate event map
  • use something like a smartphone app to track both real time and race time
  • conduct regular radio checks with the comms team to make sure everyone is still up and operating
  • have an inclement weather (i.e., rain) plan for net control operations
  • keep your eye on the race director and emergency response personnel - know where they are at all times, and make sure they understand your role 
  • make sure your emergency communicators are easy for event participants to identify. A small 2" x 3" callsign tag isn't enough. Be loud and proud - orange or yellow reflective safety vests for everyone
  • have a computer or internet connected smartphone to maintain situational awareness for things like weather
  • during times of expected bad weather (which in Georgia means any time between March - September), a NOAA weather radio programmed for SAME alerts in the area where the event is taking place, or an equivalent system
  • have a back-up for everything

A net control station doesn't need to be big and fancy, it just needs to be effective

A brief comment about assured communications. A net control's primary duty is to communicate. If you can't communicate then you are useless to the supported agency or activity. That means enough comms equipment - radios, antennas, power supplies, cables, etc. - to span the event footprint and get the job done. I had enough confidence in our ability to communicate at this race site using simple handheld radios that I didn't bother to bring out more heavy-duty gear. I just ran cross-band operations through the dual-band radio in my truck with its roof mounted antenna. However, if I was running net control operations at a site I had little familiarity with I would have deployed with a 50 watt mobile VHF rig, an external antenna, power supply (or battery), coax, etc. Supporting an event where the sponsor is counting on your ability to do your communications job is not the time or place to try to prove how well you can get things done with a 'shoestring' operation. You may be hunting squirrels but you need to show up loaded for bear, just in case.

Know who your medical support is, and where they are, at all times


Can you spot the Amateur Radio communicator? Of course you can, and that's the point


Keeping track of both elapsed race time and real time is important. There are plenty of
clock and timer apps for smartphones you can use

And last but not least - have fun!

W8BYH out

07 February 2022

LDR

Last ditch radio, or LDR. Think about it. All around you has collapsed. Weather, earthquake, fire, terrorism, loss of civil order (which often follows all other forms of disaster). 


You need to communicate, not among yourselves (you've got that covered with handheld radios), but with family members, friends and emergency response personnel well outside of the impacted zone. You need a reliable radio that has enough capability to provide assured communications and can survive extended use in an austere environment - outdoors, in inclement weather, subjected to rough handling. Reliability trumps capability, but there are some things we can't live without. Let's look at the operational requirements.
  1. Long-haul voice and digital communications - a minimum 300 mile reach on each mode under current solar cycle conditions
  2. Direct interface with a computer via USB or wireless (WiFi, Bluetooth)
  3. Integrated soundcard interface for digital modes (no external soundcard hardware)
  4. Either integrated Automatic Link Establishment 2G (ALE2G) or the ability to operate in 'quiet scan' mode when driven by an ALE software application (PC-ALE, Ion2G)
  5. 50% duty cycle operations - can run long duration digital mode operations without overheating or component failure
  6. Provision for integrated battery power (either internal or in an attached and integrated case)
  7. Minimum 100 watt output on external power sources / 20 watt output on integrated battery power with 6 hours of 50% duty cycle operation from each power source
  8. Internal antenna tuner capable of handling a 10:1 impedance mismatch
  9. Wide-band TX on HF (the 'MARS mod')
  10. IP67 rated for water and dust protection (includes the microphone or handset)
  11. The radio, integrated battery, microphone, power and computer connection cables and documentation must fit in a Pelican 1520 or equivalently sized protective case
No Amateur radio on the new or used market meets all these requirements. A few do come close. However, to meet all of the requirements I've laid out you'd need to turn to the high end MILSPEC manufacturers such as Harris, Barrett and Codan, This means using off-the-shelf equipment from any of the 'big three' (Icom, Yaesu, Kenwood) amateur radio manufacturers will require some compromise.

The easiest requirement to meet is #1 - a 300 mile reach. Just about any radio on the market that has a 10 - 100 watt output will meet this requirement. Ten watt QRP rigs like the Elecraft KX series, the Icom IC-705, the CommRadio CTX-10, the Xeigu 5100, the Lab599 TX-500, and even the Yaesu FT-818 (6 watts max) can reliably reach out 300 miles, particularly on low power digital modes. Of course, the more TX power the the greater likelihood that you'll reach where you need to reach. One hundred watts of output can provide a much greater assurance you'll be able to make contact. A last ditch radio shouldn't be an exercise in QRP operations. As Tim the Toolman Taylor would say, "More power!"

The hardest requirement to meet, and one that NO current Amateur radio HF rig meets, is #10 - IP67 rating. Virtually all rigs on the market - new and used - are wide open to water and dust. I know some of you are screaming "What about the new Lab599 radio?!" Fair question. Clearly, the Lab599 TX-500 looks like it's fully sealed, and the manufacturer touts its weather resistance. But it's not IP67 rated. In fact, it doesn't carry any IP or other industry standard rating for environmental protection, which I find odd. Still, reports from the field so far seem to be good, and nobody reports any issues with water or dust ingress. So we'll say that the TX-500 likely meets the IP67 standard, but it also falls woefully short in other areas.

Some of the requirements are, I think, fairly obvious - sound card interface, internal tuner, integrated battery. But why the need for things like ALE capability and wide band TX? Let's start with wide band TX. When things go south I'm not going to be too concerned about staying within the Amateur radio band segments. I'm going to want the ability to come up on the HF frequencies used by DHS, FEM, SHARES, MARS, etc. Many Amateur radios on the new and used market can be modified for wide-band transmit. Most require a simple hardware mod (remove some diodes or create a solder bridge across some open pads), but I particularly like how Elecraft handles it for the KX line - it's just a simple firmware update. 

What about ALE - Automatic Link Establishment? Amateur radio operators don't play around all that much on ALE. There is a small and dedicated Amateur ALE community (hflink.com), but most Amateurs don't see a fit for ALE in how they operate. However, ALE is in wide use in the commercial, federal and military communications spaces, and is becoming increasingly important in the MARS and DHS SHARES communities. ALE simply adds another layer of assurance to any communications plan. When not actively communicating during a disaster event, you can run an unattended ALE monitoring and sounding session to better determine what frequencies work best at any given time. Many commercial and military HF radios have ALE built into their firmware. The best example I can give is the Icom F8101, a commercial mobile HF radio that does see some sales into the Amateur radio community. The F8101 has ALE G2 built into the firmware. You simply program the ALE frequencies you want to scan into the radio, and off you go. But no Amateur radio I'm aware of offers embedded ALE. The best we can hope for is driving a suitable HF rig using one of two ALE software options running on a connected computer - Ion2G or PC-ALE. What makes an Amateur radio 'suitable'? A suitable radio is one that operates in what's referred to as the 'quiet scan' mode when operating split mode. The quiet scan mode bypasses the band filter relays during scanning. You don't hear the constant 'clack-clack-clack' as the filter relays engage during the scanning process. Since many of these relays are mechanical, they can actually be worn out by the scanning process. A number of modern rigs (but not all) use diode switched filters instead of mechanical ones, and can be used for ALE even if they don't have 'quiet scanning' capability. This includes a variety of Kenwood, Yaesu and Icom radios (check the HFLink website for more details). In theory any modern Amateur radio can work on ALE if you are willing to put up with the noise. I'll do an in-depth discussion of ALE in a later post.

The last consideration is portability. You need to be able to carry the complete setup - radio, mic, cables, documentation - in one hand. The Pelican 1520 has proven to be an ideal size - large enough to accommodate most radios but easy to carry in one hand. Any hardened case of equivalent size will do, but keep in mind that this case also helps mitigate the fact that Amateur radios are not environmentally protected. The case becomes a surrogate IP67 rated enclosure, protecting against moisture, dust, shock, etc. It pays to buy quality. Pelican cases are actually industry rated for protection against moisture and dust intrusion. The Harbor Freight knock-offs, not so much.

When I started to write this post several months ago I really didn't have an ending in mind. The concept of the last ditch radio was just rattling around in my head and I wanted to get things down to see if I could turn it into a post. I've returned to the topic several times since, and finally decided it was a topic worth maturing out into a formal post. Part of it was my recent writing on hardened laptop and tablet computers. Part was my continuing investigation of ALE. Part was some recent world events like the volcano eruption near Tonga in the Pacific and the devastating tornado outbreak in Kentucky this past December. Mother Nature and human nature will have their way, regardless of the measures we take. It's up to us to be prepared.

In looking at my personal radio arsenal I've got several good candidates. Nothing I own comes close to fulfilling all the requirements, but one radio I own comes close. The Icom IC-7300. It checks most of the boxes:
  • As a 100 watt rig it has no problem meeting the 300 mile voice and digital requirement
  • Computer interface via USB is a snap
  • It has a built-in sound card interface
  • From the factory it runs in the quiet scan mode for use on ALE
  • It has a built in antenna tuner. The tuner only handles up to 4:1 impedance matches, but as long as the antenna is close to being resonant on the operating band the internal tuner handles it just fine. Otherwise I have to insert a more capable external tuner into the mix
  • It has the factory wide-band transmit 'MARS' modification (done by the retailer)
  • The radio, microphone, cables and documentation fit into a Pelican 1520 case. It's a snug fit, but it fits


Of course there's no integrated battery or power supply, and the radio is wide open to dust and moisture ingress. It needs to be used in a protected environment. But the same is true for every other Amateur radio I own - and it's the same for almost every Amateur radio on the market. For power, I have portable battery power systems (20 & 30 amp hour) that each will power the radio for up to 10 hours on 30 watt output. I can run on one while recharging the other. If band conditions are good I can crank the TX power down and improve battery run time,. If conditions are bad I can crank up the power as needed and just live with the fact that I'll need to charge my batteries more frequently.

Of course, a radio is useless without a power supply and an antenna and, if you are working digital modes, a computer. I've covered computers and operating systems for Amateur radio ad-nauseum, but power and antennas still need discussion. I'll cover those in upcoming posts.

But for today your assignment is to take a look at your personal radio arsenal and pick one that could  serve tomorrow as your LDR, and think about how you'd configure it, support it and protect it for the last ditch communications mission. Get to work. Spring storm and hurricane seasons are just around the corner.

W8BYH out

01 February 2022

A Comedy of Errors - WFD 2022

I know my fellow hams who live north of the Mason-Dixon line are going to laugh at this, but for the Atlanta region it was COLD. And - OH MY GOD - we got SNOW!

OK, temps down to around 20, and a very light dusting of snow. Laugh if you will, but dang, it was cold.

My XYL and I decided to spend the weekend camping at Chattahoochee Bend State Park southwest of Atlanta on the Chattahoochee River. The park is a short drive for us, and has become our go-to park if we're just looking for a quick get-away. 


I had even arranged a gathering of local hams at the park for an informal Winter Field Day event. A few hardy souls like us decided to camp, others just showed up for the day. Overall we had a good time, but for my wife and I it became a steady stream of forced and unforced errors:
  • A power outage at the park that left us without reliable heating in our camper, forcing a one-night evacuation back home just to keep from freezing
  • Realizing, at 0100 in the morning, that my lone antenna setup was mounted on my truck and the truck couldn't be moved without an emergency teardown, meaning we had to evacuate in the XYL's SUV
  • Camp stove problems - my venerable Coleman 425 started acting up and by the end of the weekend refused to work
  • Inadvertently leaving one of the under-camper storage doors open - the door that just happened to be right next to the water pump and fresh water storage tank. Yup - frozen water pipes
  • Plugging in a combined 20 amp load into a 15 amp circuit results in... no power (again)
  • Frozen black and gray water tank valves, meaning only a partial flushing of both tanks
I was so consumed with dealing with the various issues that I didn't get much operating done. Perhaps worse, I didn't get any good pictures of my campground or antenna setup.

So here's the one picture of me operating Winter Field Day, taking refuge from the cold inside my camper:


Out of camera shot is the large coffee mug full of wine, as I try to drown my sorrows and wait for the next unforced error of the weekend.

But hey, there's always Winter Field Day 2023!

W8BYH out

24 January 2022

The View From The Bench - 23 January 2022

Happy (belated) New Year! Boy, what a January it's been, and it's not even over. Let's take a look at what's been going on since before Christmas.

  • Disgust. I've had it with Yaesu's overly complicated configuration settings on their HF radios. I've wasted more time trying to set -and keep - settings where they should be for digital comms on Yaesu's current line of HF radios. I can understand why ham radio software developers are programming first for Icom radios (the IC-7300 has become something of a default standard for radio programs - the developers will code for it first and then move on to other models). It's sad, because Yaesu makes really good radios. They really do. But I'm too old now to waste time trying to figure out Yaesu's command and configuration settings. I'm moving to an 'Icom pure' fleet just as fast as I can
  • China. I've also had it with China. I spent a good chunk of January helping to care for a very close relative who was near death for a few days due to the Omicron variant. Thank God she pulled through, but she left the hospital with scarred lungs and a persistent case of viral pneumonia. We can argue endlessly about whether the COVID 19 release was intentional or accidental, but there's no arguing that China intentionally hid the truth about the true nature of the disease long enough for the virus to get a devastating foothold in the US and other countries. I've never used this language on my blog before, but in this case it's deserved: Fuck You, China. I have stopped intentionally purchasing Chinese made products, and that includes Amateur radio gear. I know not buying Chinese products is impossible in the larger sense - damned near everything sold in Wal-Mart is made in China. But on discretionary purchases I will not intentionally buy a China-manufactured product. That includes Icom, Kenwood or Yaesu branded items that are made in China, and it damned sure includes Xeigu/Baofeng/AnyTone/Wouxun/Banggood/whatever
  • MARS mod. Six months after selling my Icom IC-7100 to a fellow ham, stupidly thinking my Yaesu FT-991 would fill the need (see above), I went out and bought another. Life is better now. But I needed to do the MARS mod to it. The mod isn't difficult - you just remove a single diode from the board - but it's a very small diode that sits on a portion of the mainboard that is tightly packed with diodes that need to remain unmolested. I've done MARS mods to Icom and Yaesu radios in the past, and in particular, I had done the mod to the IC-7100 that I had sold to my fellow ham, so I knew what I was up against. So, it was back inside the guts of this new 7100 with a soldering iron and shaky hands. Damn, these components are small!
That speck at the tip of the pencil is the diode!

Setting aside my previous rant about Yaesu radios, I actually prefer how Yaesu handles these wide TX mods. Rather than yanking something off the board, Yaesu just has you place a solder bridge across two open pads on the board. Much easier to do, and much easier to recover from if you make a mistake.

  • Things On The Horizon
    • Winter Field Day! Winter field day is next week, and our club is planning to set up at a nearby state park and have some fun. I'm sure I'll be reporting on it later. Right now I'm in the equipment selection mode. What modes do I want to run, and what hardware do I need? I'll probably make the final decision just before I pull out of the driveway. Stay tuned.
    • DSTAR. Our local DSTAR repeater has been disconnected from the internet. This was done as a cost saving measure as we work on relocating it to a new tower that provides better (and cheaper) internet access. We can talk on it using the local repeater mode, but we can't connect to any of the reflectors. We had some rough weather move through earlier in the week and the state ARES directors were telling folks to monitor reflector 30A. Oops. So I went hunting for a DSTAR hotspot. Talk about another supply chain and chip shortage victim! The only one I found was a ZUMSpot USB dongle, and the one I got was one of only two left in HRO's US inventory (up in the New Hampshire store). Right now I'm watching it wander slowly in my direction via USPS. 
    • Scanners. Our county (Fayette County, GA) is planning on switching over to its new P25 digital public service radio infrastructure sometime later this spring.  This means my old (but very capable) Radio Shack trunk tracking analog scanner will go silent. Grrrr... This transition is over a year behind schedule (COVID, contract issues, the usual stuff), but when it's turned on the transmissions will be encrypted. Double Grrrr... I don't know if the encryption applies only to law enforcement, or involves public utilities, transportation (school busses), and other non-LE users. Personally I feel going full time encrypted is a big mistake. I can understand it for certain tactical channels (for police or sensitive emergency operations), but there's no reason to encrypt EVERYTHING. There is good reason to keep things unencrypted. When bad weather hits, the first thing I do is turn on my scanner to monitor what's happening in the county. Discussions about power outages, trees down, roads blocked, etc. are  usually multi-agency discussions, between police, fire and public works. They provide much needed situational awareness without the need to phone  
W8BYH out

09 January 2022

Pandemic Radio

I'll likely expand on this topic in a later post, but I think it's important (and hopefully interesting) enough to do an initial report on.

Greetings from COVID land

A week ago I got a call that my sister, who lives by herself in Philadelphia, had been hospitalized with COVID-related pneumonia. She wasn't doing good. At all. She has very complicated underlying medical conditions that make her a prime target for any respiratory ailment, and Omicron hit her hard. As I headed to the hospital all I knew was that she was in a step-down ICU COVID ward and not doing well. Thank you, you CHICOM bastards.

I knew my trip would be open-ended; I could be there for days, or weeks. I packed a laptop so I could get work done, enough clothes to last me a week, then took a pause. This would not be my first trip to Philly in response to my sister's health issues. I knew that between hospital visits, doing what work I could remotely, and regular household chores around her apartment, there would be a lot of down time. I thought about bringing along a ham radio. I didn't want to schlepp it through TSA security, answering endless questions from clueless TSA 'professionals' (who, in ATL, are anything but...), so I knew it would have to go into my checked baggage. But could I fit an HF station (radio, battery, tuner, antenna, cables) into my one checked bag?

Everything had to fit into one checked bag...

Yes. This is another area where the tiny Elecraft KX2 absolutely shines. A KX2 with an internal tuner and batteries (two of them), a 20 - 40 meter vertical whip, an end fed half wave wire antenna, a counterpoise wire and 20' of ultra-thin 50 ohm coax fit nicely into a small carry bag that, with enough squeezing, fit into my checked bag. The radio had enough padding around it that I didn't worry about rough handling. I was really more concerned about a baggage handling monkey opening up my bag and saying "Oooh, this looks interesting". Yes, it does happen.

Everything arrived in Philly just fine. I dropped my bag off at my sister's apartment and headed to the hospital. It was rough, but she eventually pulled through and was sent home a few days after I arrived. Her care requirements, my work requirements and just the stuff of daily life - grocery shopping, doing laundry, preparing meals, etc. - meant I only got one chance to operate. My sister's apartment is actually a condominium in a high rise that was built in the 60's very close to Independence Hall. The 31st floor is a large community/party room that opens to a sun porch. The sun porch area was closed for the season, and it would have been too cold to operate in the open anyway. So I set up in the community room and had the place all to myself for an hour or so.




Conditions were tough. More accurately, my conditions were tough. Five watts, a compromised vertical antenna, inside a steel reinforced concrete structure, with hurricane-proof windows that only opened to the south, and shielded by metallic blinds. I was lucky to make the one contact I did - the USS New Jersey Battleship Museum's ham radio station, NJ2BB. The ship was just across the river from me, in Camden NJ, operating 800 watts into the ship's iconic bow mounted discone antenna. 

The USS New Jersey's iconic bow-mounted discone antenna.
This antenna was fitted to all Iowa-class battleships during their 1960's
refits for fire support service off the Vietnam coast

It may seem silly to put the antenna just in front of the guns, but the big 16" guns
never fire directly forward. They always fire to the side. The antenna is actually in a very
safe location

At 800 watts you can bet I heard him just fine. To my surprise, he heard me just fine on 5 watts! We had a lovely QSO, and I bagged a contact with one of my favorite museum ships. I heard a few other stations on 20 meters, but virtually nothing on 40, and I copied the daily 10-10 net on 10 meters but didn't try to check in. 

I'm happy with just that one contact. Why? Well, it proofed a concept. I can travel by air and carry along a complete and effective station that fits into a checked bag. I plan on visiting my sister again in April, when the sun deck will be open, and I plan to have my Elecraft along. I'm excited to see just how well I can do with a 20 & 40 meter vertical at 400 feet above ground level, in the open air. Stay tuned!

W8BYH out

01 January 2022

New Year, New Map

2022 is finally here, and with it a new Georgia ARES Situational Awareness Map!


The map has been rebuilt using a new web mapping platform provided by ESRI called Experience Builder. Experience Builder is a web app development environment that provides greater functionality and flexibility than the technology platform the old Situational Awareness Web Map was built on.

ESRI's Experience Builder is still a maturing product, so all the functionality I want to add to the Situational Awareness Map is still not available. But Experience Builder as a development platform is far enough along that I decided it was time to make the switch.

All of the data (map) layers that were in the old map have been brought forward into this new map - repeater information, weather watches and warnings, critical infrastructure, traffic data, etc.

The single biggest change in this new map is in how these data layers are managed. In the old Situational Awareness map, all the data layers were in one very long and often confusing stack. It could be tough to find the data layer you wanted to turn on or off. This new map takes advantage of the ability to create logical layer 'groups' - expandable and collapsible groupings of related map data. For example, the new Data Layers listing now groups all repeater data under a single expandable heading called Repeaters.


Most of the functionality that was in the old Situational Awareness Map has been included in this new map:

  • The ability to view the data attribute tables
  • The ability to conduct pre-formatted searches for repeaters by callsign, and search for street addresses and individual counties
  • The ability to identify points on the ground by latitude/longitude, street address, US National Grid and UTM coordinates
  • The ability to switch base maps
  • The ability to do basic linear and area measurements
  • The ability to share the map on social media
  • The ability to generate elevation profiles (a new feature not available in the old map)
There is some functionality that has not been ported over from the old map, at least not yet:
  • The ability to do markups (graphics) on the map
  • The ability to print from within the map
  • The ability to overlay custom grids
I'm confident this missing functionality will become available as ESRI updates the Experience Builder platform.

So, how do you find this new map? Simple! The new Situational Awareness Map is a component of the larger Georgia ARES Web Map Resources website


This website was launched in early 2021 and is linked from Georgia ARES website under the Maps pull-down listing on the left side of the page.


I'm scheduled to do a presentation on this new Situational Awareness Map at the 2022 Georgia ARES State Meeting scheduled for 8 January at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center in Forsyth, GA (COVID permitting). If you can't make this meeting, or want more information on this new map, or arrange a web-based presentation for your Amateur Radio or EMCOMM group, feel free to contact me at w8byh@arrl.net.

W8BYH out