Information Net for September 16

Unlicensed “Cheap Chinese” Radios Can Cause Trouble

David Coursey, N5FDL Mon, September 2, 2013 at 2:37PM

Read by: PAUL KJ4WQN

Got a call the other day from a local man who said he’d paid something in the $80 range to purchase a pair of radios from Amazon. “I bought them to use when I go out hunting,” he told me.

You may already see where this is headed. He’s purchased two “Cheap Chinese” talkies in hopes of using them for emergency backup and routine communications while hunting in the Sierras. He wanted to know if, perhaps, he needed a license and what would happen if he used them without a license.

“Do it often enough and we will find you,” I hold him. “After that, we will turn you in to the FCC. You can expect a letter from a Mrs. Smith and if you don’t comply, the fine is $10,000. You should probably send the radios back before they get you into trouble.”

I went on the explain that a license wasn’t hard to get, but everyone who would use the radios would need one. There’s a HamCram in two weeks, I told him. “Yes, you can bring your wife.”

No, they didn’t show up, but I have his contact information here someplace, so I will give him a call and see what’s happening with him.Lacking a law to prevent unlicensed persons from purchasing Part 97 equipment, Amateur Radios can easily fall into unlicensed hands. Even HRO sells to anyone with $$$.

With the current generation of cheap Chinese radios selling for the same price as Family Radio Service (FRS)/General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) hardware it is easy for someone to buy a radio he or she cannot legally use.


Unlike jammers, these are people that if we hear them on the air we should probably attempt to contact.

I strongly recommend not chastising or challenging them over the radio, but instead to trade telephone numbers. Get them on the phone and attempt to educate them about proper and legal use of the radio they purchased.Above all: Be nice! We cannot compel these people to do anything, but we can make them angry, chase them off and perhaps even turn them into sources of malicious interference. No matter how upset you are, be nice.

If HamCrams are available in your area, you can use that as a carrot to offer a way to access the advanced features of the radio, such as repeaters.

I explained to the caller that with a license he could learn to operate through repeaters and find repeaters that cover his hunting area, would have more people to talk to and may even be able to talk all the way home. “That’s not something FRS can do, no matter what mileage is claimed on the radio,” I added.

Our goals should be two-fold: Helping people understand these radios require a license and helping those who buy them become licensed.

Remote Ham Radio Station Control


Experimentation seems lost in the hobby. This is my attempt to spread some new ideas and help enable those who want to explore something new..
The concept is increasing in popularity, due to renting or whatever the case maybe be that prevents one from setting up a home station.

Oddly enough there are very few straight forward ways to do this.

Not to long ago I detailed how to set up a web based receiver, using a Raspberry Pi, Icecast, and a CIV/CAT capable radio using hamlib:

Many are familiar with hamradio deluxe for local station control. It does have remote server and client functionality. What it lacks is a way to transport the audio. You have to use other software such as Skype to transport the audio.


One of perhaps the most elegant ways to operate remotely is with a fairly new product (2010) from Remote Rig. The RRC-1258MkII consists of two devices; one placed at the host, and the other at the client. They handle remote control and audio. They require no computer either (after setup), just a compatible radio with remove-able head. The head connects to one device, the RF guts to the other, and just ethernet between them.

It’s not the cheapest solution, but perhaps one day radio manufactures will adopt this idea of a an ethernet transport cable between the head and radio deck. Till then, ham clubs could invest in one. Many club stations see little use, and this way a number of members (some not able to afford a nice station or able to put up antennas) would benefit.

I have to say however the remote rig guys figured out the TTL communication between the head and deck and managed to encapsulate that in standard TCP/IP is truly awesome.

It even works with radios that don’t have direct CIV/CAT control, like the FT-8800, FT-7800, so you don’t need to own a really expensive radio to be able to use it remotely.

The “Space Fence” radar antenna in Texas


Technology: US “Space Fence” Shut Down
The Air Force Space Surveillance System (AFSSS) — the “Space Fence” — used to detect objects in orbit, was turned off September 1. Three transmitter sites operate on 216.983, 216.97, and 216.99 MHz, and there are six receiving stations. Some Amateur Radio meteor scatter enthusiasts enjoyed monitoring the VHF transmissions for indications of activity.

Attributed to the automatic budget cuts known as “sequestration,” the shutdown came a month earlier than anticipated. Early in August Space News reported that Gen William Shelton, commander of Air Force Space Command, had directed the AFSSS, located in Texas, “be closed and all sites vacated” effective October 1, the start of the new US government fiscal year.

Air Force Space Command Public Affairs reported August 13, “AFSPC officials have devised modified operating modes for the Perimeter Acquisition Radar Characterization System at Cavalier Air Force Station, North Dakota, and for the space surveillance radar at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, allowing discontinuation of AFSSS operations while still maintaining space situational awareness.”

A new Space Fence radar is planned for Kwajalein Island in the Marshall Islands. — SatWatch; USAF Public Affairs

Read by: RICK N9GRW

The other day I loaned out the computer I normally use in the shack to a friend, and yesterday I operated without it. I really missed not having it. For me, a computer has become an essential operating accessory.

First of all, I use the computer to log contacts. The computer log does more than just keep track of my contacts, though. When I type in the callsign of a contact, my logging program shows me how many times I have contacted that station, and the notes I make tell me about the station’s equipment and the operator. Many times that has allowed me to skip all the “boilerplate” of a QSO and pick up a conversation where I left off with another ham.

If I haven’t made contact with a station before, I’ll look him or her up on QRZ.Com. If they’ve added photos or a bio, it gives me some “talking points” for the QSO. They may have some pictures of their awesome antennas or cute pets. Mentioning that I’m looking at those pictures and asking them questions about their pets or antennas gets the conversation off to a great start.

My QRZ.Com page includes my picture and some information about me. This information often leads to interesting conversations.


A computer is essential, of course, if you’re going to operate the digital modes. In addition to using a digital modes program like FLDIGI to run PSK31, I also use it to zero-beat CW signals. I simply tune the radio while looking at the waterfall display, and when the frequency of the received signal matches the sidetone frequency I’ve set, I know I’m right on frequency.

A computer is also a handy accessory when building something or when troubleshooting some equipment. For example, you may want to know the pinout or the specifications of some integrated circuit that’s in the equipment your working on. You used to need a whole library of databooks so that you could look that stuff up. Now, you just Google the part number and you’re downloading a PDF of the data sheet in no time.

The computer I use is an inexpensive, Windows laptop. Being inexpensive, it doesn’t have the most powerful processor inside it, but so far, it’s run every amateur radio application that I’ve loaded on it.

And, as much as I hate to say this—because I’m normally a Mac user—I think a Windows PC is probably the best choice for the shack. Yes, there are amateur radio applications that run on the Mac, and quite a few that run on Linux machines, too, but Windows machines really have become the de facto stand for amateur radio software. You’ll spend less time fussing with Windows programs and more time operating and experimenting than if you try to run MacOS or Linux programs.

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