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Showing posts from 2019

2019 Head of the Charles Regatta

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On Saturday, October 19th, 2019 and Sunday, October 20th, 2019, I participated as a volunteer in my first ever Head of the Charles Regatta, I visited the Regatta a few years prior to becoming a ham, but this was my first time being there long term.

This was the fifty-fifth edition of the Head of the Charles, which first began in 1965. The Head of the Charles Regatta (HOCR) is the world's largest two day regatta. Outside of the major league team sports and the Boston Marathon, the Head of the Charles is probably one of the biggest sporting events in Boston.

To quote rowing coach Susan Saint Sing:
Regattas such as the Head of the Charles in Boston and the Head of the Schuylkill in Philadelphia are to the rowing world what the New York Marathon and the Boston Marathon are to running. The job of the amateur radio operators at the HOCR is to be the radio communications for the volunteer first aid teams on shore and on the safety launches on the Charles River. There are various things …

NEAR-Fest XXVI

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Last Friday and Saturday, I attended my first ever hamfest.

NEAR-Fest stands for New England Amateur Radio Festival and is a hamfest that has been occurring every May and October at the Deerfield Fairgrounds since 2007. It was spawned from the ashes of a similar hamfest, The Hosstraders Tailgate Swapfest which had it's last event in October 2006.

At our September meeting of the North Shore Radio Association, it was brought up that NEAR-Fest was just under a month and that something should be organized to sell off some of the silent key stash we had (including me with three boxes of books).

At the end of September, on our usual Sunday night net, I called in via EchoLink to see if I could round up some help. Then a few days later, at the start of October, I posted on our Yahoo Groups mailing list to see if I could enlist some more help.

In the end, the club treasurer, Eric, KA1NCF, a ham friend of his who lives down the street from him, Joel, N1KTH and myself went to Eric's shed …

TSA's Radio Infrastructure

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As I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, I work for TSA, the Transportation Security Administration, the federal agency charged with protecting the nations transportation systems. Today, I'm going to give you a little overview of the agency's two-way radio systems.
Sensitive Security Information Before I begin though, I must go over Sensitive Security Information or SSI. SSI is a designation used by TSA which is coded in federal regulation that states that SSI "is information that, if publicly released, would be detrimental to transportation security."
SSI is essentially sensitive but unclassified information. As I work for TSA, I am automatically a "covered person" who is required to protect such information. Therefore, I am limited in what I can I use and say on anything that is considered SSI.
However, most of the sources I'm using for this blog post are publicly available third-party sources which are not SSI or if it is a TSA source, was not mark…

My own virtual scanner

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In February of this year, using a leftover Lenovo ThinkCentre M73 Tiny, that was original intended to be used a home theater PC, I made a "scanner" using it and 3 RTL-SDR USB dongles.

All thanks to Luke Berndt's Trunk Recorder project.
Trunk Recorder Trunk Recorder is open source software written by Luke, that using various SDRs such as the HackRF, RTL-SDR-based USB dongles and Ettus USRPs among others, allows the capture and recording of Project 25 (P25) and Motorola SmartNet trunked radio systems plus conventional systems that are P25 or analog too.

It runs on Linux, macOS and even on a Raspberry Pi (although it's recommended to be a Pi 3 because the rest probably won't be able to keep up). You can either build it yourself from the source code or use Docker like I did to get it up and running.

After configuring a JSON file that sets all the parameters for the instance you plan on running, a CSV file that defines the talkgroups you want to record, you should be…

Boston Marathon Amateur Radio Survival Tips

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I've participated in the Boston Marathon for the past two years and here's some survival tips for new hams. This is inspired by W3ATB's original Survival Guide. (Although it should be noted that the guide has been superseded by newer documentation.)
Be prepared As the Scout Motto goes, BE PREPARED. The Boston Marathon is probably the preeminent public service event in all of amateur radio. (My opinion, of course.) Mind you, the course spreads over 26.2 miles from Hopkinton, Massachusetts to Boston, Massachusetts.
You need to be prepared in various ways.
1. Make sure your radio is programmed beforehand. Whether you have a top of the line Kenwood or a bottom of the barrel Baofeng or somewhere in between, make sure it is programmed with the various repeater and simplex frequencies before the event. Make sure you have the offsets and tones correct also. You don't want to be hand punching in frequencies and tones on the front panel at the volunteer meetup, it wastes valuab…

2019 Boston Marathon After Action

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Yesterday, I participated in the 123rd running of the Boston Marathon. Not as a runner mind you, but as a volunteer; specifically an amateur radio communications volunteer. Amateur radio is one of the three radio systems going during the Marathon, operating along aside public safety radios that are interoperable for the event and the commercial DMR radios that the Boston Athletic Association (BAA), the race organizers, have rented for the duration of the event.

There are various roles amateurs play at the Marathon and it is divided into four segments, Start, Course, Finish and Transport. Start and Finish work obviously the start and finish line. Course, which was the segment I was assigned to, is split among the hydration and medical stations along the course and Transport works the sweep buses to pick up runners who have dropped out. Course and Finish also have Net Control Operation Centers that serve as the focal point of relaying operations for their respective segments.

There are …

An update on W1OCY's treasure

Back in January, I posted about silent key ham W1OCY and his trove of old ham radio items plus other odds and ends that went undiscovered for 8-9 years in a warehouse in Peabody, Massachusetts.

I missed out on our club's February meeting due to work commitments, but got an update at our club's March meeting.

At the time, we hadn't sold anything, but now I can report, that we've sold a lot of stuff and made a nice profit for the club, which is important because we just installed a UHF DMR repeater through the New England Digital Emergency Communications Network (NEDECN).

We're still not done, I have still have some of the books in storage as do others. If you need more information or are just interested, email me here.

My own virtual radar

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I'm an avgeek, so I recently setup my own Automatic dependent surveillance – broadcast or ASD-B receiver. There are plenty around. The most common setup is to use a Raspberry Pi with a PiAware image on an SD card, an RTL-SDR and a 1090 MHz antenna. There are also more dedicated setups using hardware provided by the major ADS-B tracking websites such as FlightAware and Flightradar24.

I went the Pi route. However, instead of using the FlightAware PiAware image that's commonly available; I choose to run the ADS-B Receiver image by Joe Prochazka.

My setup consists of a Raspberry Pi 3B, a FlightAware Pro Stick Plus and a cheap $7 1090 MHz antenna. The Pro Stick Plus is nice because it's essentially a RTL-SDR USB dongle with a built in 1090MHz filter and RF amp. FlightAware also offers the regular Pro Stick which does not include a 1090 MHz filter.

I used the dump1090-flightaware version of the image, although it is available with another dump1090 version called dump1090-mutabi…

W1OCY's hidden treasure

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W1OCY, Everett E. Chapman, is a silent key. He died in 2010, just two days shy of the new year at the age of 85. He was born on April 30, 1925 in Glen Cove, NY and grew up in Vermont and New Hampshire.

He served his country in the United States Navy during World War II and was part of the V-12 Navy College Training Program at Dartmouth College. He was at least an Ensign based on items we found in this "treasure." I don't know if he reached any higher ranks, I've tried searching through US Navy Registers online and so far, I haven't found anything.

He graduated from Dartmouth in 1948 with an A.B. and entered the business world in 1955 working for Dynatrol and other places in the aerospace industry such as Raytheon based on his collection of papers we found.

He didn't have much family, didn't marry, at least from what I can tell and obviously no kids. He was survived by brother Donald, who is still alive and will turn 90 on April Fools' Day this year.

He…