Ham Radio Q&A thread

Gunfighter14e2

Rusty Nail
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If you have a question about getting into, or about Ham radio please ask it here. There are many radio operators on the Hide, some are Ham's, but there are 2-3 communicator's that now work for uncle or have been tasked as such before. All questions are welcome, from regs, gear, procedures, an how to keep your info quasi safe, to "Finger Printing" a transmitter.
 
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uffduh

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Funny, does Ham radio operator status make you clairvoyant?....I saw something the other day and thought to message you or @W54/XM-388 as I think he's also into it.

So here's a recap of what I was going to write...
I live in a heavily populated area with lots of electronic interference and no line of sight communication even if I put up an antenna mast (which I can't). Handheld is of interest for local info from EMS. I know police and fire here have gone digital, but the local VFD might not have done so there could be a place for this and they'd likely appreciate a relay. I had a lot of experience in past years with SSB radio while sailing offshore and always enjoyed being on the various nets. Internet and not being dependent on weather forecasts have changed my needs, but not necessarily my interest.

So where do I start with addressing the antenna recognizing that houses are stucco covered plyboard with plenty of chicken wire? Drilling holes in exterior walls is something I prefer to avoid having dealt with the previous owner's lack of moisture mitigation concerns.

Let's say I have $500 to spunk on a beginner's setup that won't get in the way of complying with @ArmyJerry telling me what to do. Can you recommend a Father's Day gift to ask for? (and yes, I know there's a licensing exam to write to transmit)
 

W54/XM-388

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Funny, does Ham radio operator status make you clairvoyant?....I saw something the other day and thought to message you or @W54/XM-388 as I think he's also into it.

So here's a recap of what I was going to write...
I live in a heavily populated area with lots of electronic interference and no line of sight communication even if I put up an antenna mast (which I can't). Handheld is of interest for local info from EMS. I know police and fire here have gone digital, but the local VFD might not have done so there could be a place for this and they'd likely appreciate a relay. I had a lot of experience in past years with SSB radio while sailing offshore and always enjoyed being on the various nets. Internet and not being dependent on weather forecasts have changed my needs, but not necessarily my interest.

So where do I start with addressing the antenna recognizing that houses are stucco covered plyboard with plenty of chicken wire? Drilling holes in exterior walls is something I prefer to avoid having dealt with the previous owner's lack of moisture mitigation concerns.

Let's say I have $500 to spunk on a beginner's setup that won't get in the way of complying with @ArmyJerry telling me what to do. Can you recommend a Father's Day gift to ask for? (and yes, I know there's a licensing exam to write to transmit)
@Gunfighter14e2 is the one to ask, as he really knows his stuff, way better than most you are likely to ever meet & actually does it all the time.
I don't have a clue which end is up compared to him.

However from my limited knowledge, I'll say that you can easily put up some fairly decent antennas if you have a house with access to the outside walls & the attic, that nobody is going to be able to see or know are around. If you have a back yard with a fence, even better.

If you want to get into digital modes, as long as you have a decent PC, you can get started with a little $100 or so digital signal processing box from SDRplay or others.

The first USA license is really easy to get, probably with a couple weeks studying, you'll pass it without a problem.

You can also easily kit out your vehicle starting out pretty cheaply and going up from there.

Ammo and guns are good, but communication lets you know where those guns and ammo need to be showing up at and also when not to be on the X for others with guns and ammo showing up at your AO in an unfriendly manner.
 
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uffduh

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Interesting point to extending into the attic. Wife is away this week and I’m conveniently off. I’ll add this to the list of what she doesn’t know might not have transpired today....


Fuck me, she’s only been gone four hours and I’ve gone broke three times!
 

W54/XM-388

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Interesting point to extending into the attic. Wife is away this week and I’m conveniently off. I’ll add this to the list of what she doesn’t know might not have transpired today....
Fuck me, she’s only been gone four hours and I’ve gone broke three times!
Remember Antennas can go horizontally as well as vertically depending on what you are doing with them.
The basis of an antenna is a wire, then it gets more complicated from there as the options are endless.
 

Gunfighter14e2

Rusty Nail
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To add to what W54/XM-388 said depending the bands you want/need there are lots of options open to you.
Do you have a fence on any part of your property? If so a 1/2 or 1/4 wave 40 meter NVIS antenna can be installed an hidden there as well as in your attic like W54/XM-388 made reference to. A tuner may be required unless you go with tuning studs depending the final antenna length. You car/truck can hide a transceiver very easily. You can shield your VHF/UHF antenna to some degree from local noise, or track it down an correct it, one way or the other. Line of sight (LOS) is important with most freq's between 144MHz to 1300 + depending but there are ways around many things.
What are the freq's you want to monitor?
Do you have any trees, if so, how high are they an how many?
Do you have a flag pole/s? Could you install a flag pole?
 
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uffduh

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7200 sqft lot, mostly occupied by the house, think raze and rebuild to put in perspective. Approx 250 linear feet of fencing x 7ft tall, tallest oak is 50’ give or take, three story house with independent two story garage. No flag pole.

House is literally a faraday cage, which is why I like the attic idea as that’s notionally likely to be the most permeable and highest area. Bear in mind, I haven’t done classes involving radio waves since high school so everything I’m thinking could be moot, but I know that mobile reception on the ground floor and even in the back garden sucks and WiFi throughout the house is spotty depending on time of day or whims of the Gods.

Frequencies I want to reach, I haven’t a clue. I did contact a buddy during this exchange in local EMS and have confirmed that they go to analog for power outages
 

W54/XM-388

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7200 sqft lot, mostly occupied by the house, think raze and rebuild to put in perspective. Approx 250 linear feet of fencing x 7ft tall, tallest oak is 50’ give or take, three story house with independent two story garage. No flag pole.
You've got a great setup, structure and tree wise, with that many options you could probably get setup to go all over the world without anyone being the wiser to what you have installed.
 

uffduh

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But how many holes do I have to drill in the house to do it if I’m not willing to sit outside when it’s 100f?!? Wife already says I smoke too much and gets pissed that I play with my mates on here she doing it.

Should I put priority in the tree for height, fences for maxising area or amongst rafters in the attic for simplicity? I don’t know whether it’s the right way of thinking of it, but netting like chicken wire or mesh for shocking monkey’s comes to mind
 

Gunfighter14e2

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7200 sqft lot, mostly occupied by the house, think raze and rebuild to put in perspective. Approx 250 linear feet of fencing x 7ft tall, tallest oak is 50’ give or take, three story house with independent two story garage. No flag pole.

House is literally a faraday cage, which is why I like the attic idea as that’s notionally likely to be the most permeable and highest area. Bear in mind, I haven’t done classes involving radio waves since high school so everything I’m thinking could be moot, but I know that mobile reception on the ground floor and even in the back garden sucks and WiFi throughout the house is spotty depending on time of day or whims of the Gods.

Frequencies I want to reach, I haven’t a clue. I did contact a buddy during this exchange in local EMS and have confirmed that they go to analog for power outages
With you lot size, trees an fence, I'd put up a 1/2 wave 80 meter NVIS with one reflector, a 20 meter end fed vertical an a 2-1.25 an 70cm J-pole an call it a day. Add a good tuner an you would be home free for most anything.
 
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uffduh

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And does everything have to be hardwired or could I put a relay point (powered base station?) in the attic with a wireless set up in the house to avoid having to run cabling everywhere? Much more palatable if I can sit in my den with a minimum of stuff running everywhere
 

Gunfighter14e2

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You'll have to run coax, but depending how the antennas are set up an how you switch them to the TX'er it all can be done with one coax from the TX'er to outside the home.
 
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uffduh

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With you lot size, trees an fence, I'd put up a 1/2 wave 80 meter NVIS with one reflector, a 20 meter end fed vertical an a 2-1.25 an 70cm J-pole an call it a day. Add a good tuner an you would be home free for most anything.
You’ve gone well outside of my cocktail party knowledge of all this, but I like the sound of it. Any chance your can point me to a reference of what it all looks like for installation or send me a list of what I’d need? Not trying to be lazy about looking it up, you’re just light years ahead of what I know. A bit like telling me to tune an EFI system when the best I can do is get a carburetor rebuilt.
 

uffduh

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You'll have to run coax, but depending how the antennas are set up an how you switch them to the TX'er it all can be done with one coax from the TX'er to outside the home.
One and done is good for holes. Wife already thinks I’m a nutter, but confesses she won’t think that way when it matters so I’m a step ahead of most.
 

W54/XM-388

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If you study a good set of books for your Technician and then General license, a lot of things will start to make sense to you quickly. Beat your head around a bit studying for the Extra license and you'll start thinking of a lot more out of the box stuff.

I can recommend a few ones, but Gunfighter probably can tell you better what he would recommend.

If you have a long commute, you can also listen to the audio of some of the study materials.
 

uffduh

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Feels like cheating if the audio is connected to my ears by my phone though when we’re talking about me having to potential to listen fromouter space!!! Hahaha. (Seriously though, listening to transmissions from ISS would be cool. I have a video of a video conference call I had with the commander saved and remain in awe at what’s possible)

Very happy to read into it before starting construction with a steer in the right direction
 

uffduh

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n.b. Wasn’t trying to become a ninja overnight,the forum said ask questions
 

Gunfighter14e2

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What W54/XM-388 just said.
Remember if all of your HF antennas are resonant the tx'er will fine them, an all you will need is a duplexer connected for the VHF/UHF freqs TX'ed to the J-pole. That said when tuning the antennas always tune the longest band first. The J-pole will not need tuning unless your making your own. You can buy one cheaper if you don't have the required tooling.
The ISS as well as most orbiting sats have a ham station on board, as well as the ability for you to up load data that will be dumped to a bud where ever he/she is on this rock. The issue with that is time lag depending needs. If your going to working with sats or the ISS research "Doppler effect" an how to over come/work it or buying gear set up for it from the outset.
 
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uffduh

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Awesoke, you’ll hear from me soon, I promise...though initially it will likely be from here. Hahaha
 

W54/XM-388

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Gunfighter may have a better recommendation, so get what he says. Here is what I recommend you invest in to get started:

Get BOTH these from either Amazon, or Ham Radio Outlet:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/0945053916/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_U_dFB.Cb4XPRYNY

https://www.amazon.com/dp/0945053924/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_U_VBB.CbRA91CH3

Read the book, then listen to all the audio CDs carefully then read the book again, then load the software on your PC and take the practice tests.

The CDs actually have a lot more practical information in them than the book and quick work arounds for doing formulas in your head that make it easy to remember stuff for use and for the test. Things like, sure you could do all these huge calculations.... but in the real world the answer can only be between x and y...

The same guy has a similar set of stuff for the General and the Extra class, but my recommendation is don't wrack your brain too hard by trying to read everything all at once.

Do it step by step.

If you like the way that guy does the books, CDs and practice tests, then get the next level stuff from him, if not, there are a lot of other books and study guides in all styles.

Study for the Technician, pass the test, then study for the General and pass the test, then if you want more study for the Extra and pass the test.

It took me about a month to study the Technician to where I missed 1 or 2 questions on the test

Same for the General

The Extra wracked my brain for 2 months studying but in the end passed it with only 2 questions missed.

You'll probably have a love/hate relationship with each level based on your own brain, such as:

Technician: I hated whoever created Decibels with a passion
General: who on earth made things so stupidly complicated
Extra: I was hating these French guy called SubL and his buddy called SubE. While wondering if I should go out in the woods somewhere and start winding my own coils in a little shack and making antennas out of scrap wire.

One day I'll do the GROL + Radar study / test when I get time, have the study guides but haven't started yet.

If you happen to be close to where there is a Ham Radio Outlet store, do yourself a favour and stop in at it, one day when you have lots of time and look around at the books and equipment and talk to the guys there. They have a lot of specialized antenna books that you can flip through even if you don't buy them and just get ideas from the pictures. They also have all the study guides and other books you could want.
If you need to buy new equipment, I've found that it's kind of hard to beat their in store sale prices anywhere online. Most of the gear has manufacturer specials off & on depending on the time of year, or mail in rebates etc. The one here has most of the radios they sell on display hooked up to an antenna switch for you to play around listening (not transmitting) with.
 

uffduh

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Sincerely, thank you for making the effort to write all that out. It wasn’t for nought and i’ll make good use of it.
 

missed

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As for getting your coax out of the stucco house, I'm assuming tile roof? Non conditioned attic? Should be able to sneak the coax out one of the soffit, eve, ridge vents. Hopefully if you have ridge vents you can get it out there. I helped my buddy put his antenna on his metal roofed house in a neighborhood where you can't have antennas, 6" PVC spacers and wire antenna on the roof works great, there is a 2m antenna and a HF antenna up there. They work pretty well especially since the HOA Gestapo hasn't figured it out.
 

uffduh

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Composite shingle roof on 5/8” plywood. There are soffets to pull through. New roof two years ago and spent a fortune fixing the stucco so just anal about water impregnating replaced surfaces. I have some reading to do first.
 

12Bravo

Grumpy old combat engineer veteran
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Another recommendation regarding equipment: look on the web to see if there are any hamfests coming up in your area. You can often find some good used equipment and some local folks who will probably be more than willing to help out with setup and operating questions.
 
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Dougie308

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I run a 4 watt CB and a 40 watt GMRS with repeater channels in my Pinzgauer. Both can be dismounted to use as base units if needed. I also have a few mid level Baofeng ham walkies. Tech license ( the first level for ham and GMRS) isn’t real tough.

Almost every city has a ham club or two. Look them up and they’ll go out of their way to help you out.

If you have a question about getting into, or about Ham radio please ask it here. There are many radio operators on the Hide, some are Ham's, but there are 2-3 communicator's that now work for uncle or have been tasked as such before. All questions are welcome, from regs, gear, procedures, an how to keep your info quasi safe, to "Finger Printing" a transmitter.
 

Gunfighter14e2

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I run a 4 watt CB and a 40 watt GMRS with repeater channels in my Pinzgauer. Both can be dismounted to use as base units if needed.
Yes they can, an hooked to a quality antenna in a Ideal spot, will trump 100 watts an a bad antenna all day long. Seen an done it many times.
The rubber ducky's on most HT's are pure junk but hook the HT to a good array/antenna they come alive. That said, there are times where you want as little as an RF print as you can get, so using the lowest power setting an knowing how to degrade the antenna is a skill one needs to master.
 

TheGerman

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Was looking at a list of repeaters in Utah. I get how they work but when looking at the list, 2 things came up I wasn't sure about.

One was that it lists the repeater Freq as 'output' but has no 'input' freq. I was under the impression the tx/rx freq was a few megahertz different to prevent the repeater being clogged up. For example, one repeater says 'output' is 147.14; is the frequency you'd tx to hit it the same? Somehow I was under the impression it would be like 174.10 or something.

Secondly, the output freq's all either have a negatyive symbol (-) or positive symbol (+) behind the frequencies; what is this?
 

Sean the Nailer

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Just to aid in the replying, as I am by no means a HAMologist, what you are referring to in the first question is called "offset". Which SEEMS to be a .600 difference.

For example, the local repeater here is 147.390 -- 147.987 I'll add that there is a + on the screen but it'll take someone with more brains than mine at the moment to get that to the particulars.

I'm in the middle of learning that "one can key-in/punch-in whatever they want into their little BaoFeng or Yaesu radio's, but unless it is/was actually PROGRAMMED into the radio, it disappears as soon as you turn the radio off.

So you can think you're all hot-shit and golden cause you got somewhere. But when you turn it back on to show your wife/friend/co-hort how good you are and what you've accomplished, you look like an ASS cause you're sitting there doing nothing. And nothings working.

I'd love to say that "I saw that in a movie once..." but alas... that was my yesterday.

Programming cables really ARE important.
 

Gunfighter14e2

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Most repeaters require a tone (CTCSS) to be sent at the correct off set (be it a + or - off set),( the std off set is 600 but there are others used as well ). The tone should be listed in the repeater info. Most all radios are set up to send the tone but you need to select the correct one for the repeater your targeting, an the tone has to be turned on if your not using a memory channel you have already programed. make sure your radio is in FM mode as well.

The repeater info should look something like the following.
Birmingham Alabama K4HAL 146.76 - 88.5
That is saying the location, the call sign, it's TX freq is 146.76 an it needs to see a negative (-) off set, with a tone of 88.5


If you get a US repeater directory it will list every known repeater in the US by state, location, Freq, tone required, off set, an other required info, to include if it has backup power, D-star, ect. If you read the books that come with your radios they will walk you thru the programing. Remember to assign a name to the stored info then you can scroll quickly thru ever how many you have stored. Most radios will hold over 200 an some will hold up to 1K.
 
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ormandj

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Was looking at a list of repeaters in Utah. I get how they work but when looking at the list, 2 things came up I wasn't sure about.

One was that it lists the repeater Freq as 'output' but has no 'input' freq. I was under the impression the tx/rx freq was a few megahertz different to prevent the repeater being clogged up. For example, one repeater says 'output' is 147.14; is the frequency you'd tx to hit it the same? Somehow I was under the impression it would be like 174.10 or something.

Secondly, the output freq's all either have a negatyive symbol (-) or positive symbol (+) behind the frequencies; what is this?
Offsets are generally band-standard. +- 600kHz is standard for 2m depending on where you are in the band. You're not far off in your understanding, you want TX/RX to be on different frequencies so repeaters can function. No need for megahertz, VHF/UHF aren't that wide even with analog.
 

Gunfighter14e2

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Yes, but there should be a function on the radio that allows for you to just select the + or - off set.


add,.... once you enter the freq you should be able to turn the tone on then select the correct tone then the correct off set. Once you do it a few times, it will become as simple as setting a scope for the shot, distance, wind & ammo at hand.
 
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b2lee

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Another old ham here. In the Northern Kentucky area. I've done just about every niche thing you can imagine in ham radio. Wasn't very good at some things....and good in others. I'm proof that you can live in an apartment...in a congested area...with lots of interference from consumer junk in your neighbors apartments....and work every continent on Earth with 5 watts and a wire strung up indoors.

I work a lot...and shoot when I have the time...but I can answer questions for anyone...especially local to me about the joys of ham radio....and yes...I can get real nerdy when it comes to radios and/or guns.
 

Gunfighter14e2

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Good to have another Ham in this thread. To me gunfire an RF were made for each other.

add,... If we can get a bunch of Hams in this thread that should speed up the answer cycle, plus allow differing views/options/opinions on how to reach the end result desired, via the question asked. I have also found a question ask by one person may lead to a different yet related question.
 
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Gunfighter14e2

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For those that prefer to search rather than post questions, here are a few good links.
If anyone else has some good links post them up.
The list out there is long but, these will get you started if you have any interest at all of keeping up with local or world affairs when cells an the internet fails or is turned off for whatever reason.


https://www.eham.net/ Info all kinds + fourms
https://www.qrz.com/ "" ""
https://swap.qth.com/ gear
https://www.hamradio.com/ ""
https://www.gigaparts.com/ ""
https://www.mfjenterprises.com/ ""
 
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GIXXER2000

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Been a HAM for about 40 years now but not very active last 10 years. I have an Extra Class license and my call is K7XS. I did mostly HF chasing DX and have over 300 Counties.
 

Sean the Nailer

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Just putting it out there, but I worked (volunteered) the Manitoba Marathon yesterday, and assisted in their comm net. It was a very interesting experience. I appreciate both learning more of the 'behind the scenes' as well as the coordination that takes place in such events.

It was good and I'd do it again. Really looking forward to learning more. All this was done with 2m hand-helds.
 
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Sean the Nailer

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Uh, those being 'new terms' for me means I cannot answer accurately. So here's the situation, then maybe you can tell me what it was?

The Winnipeg Repeater station was used for the primary information sharing/communication purposes of the marathon. There were other repeater used for other purposes, one being "medical only" as an example.

Every 30 or so minutes a recording was repeated stating "the Winnipeg Repeater station is closed to traffic and being used for the Manitoba Marathon. Please keep any transmissions that are not Marathon related to other frequencies blah blah blah (I forget what-all else was said)"

So in the end, as I understand it there were about 40-50 of us throughout the course. We were directed to use the net "tactically" as in call out our position (ie: Relay 4) as opposed to our personal radio license/call-sign.

At the end of the race there was an announcement stating "this concludes the Manitoba Marathon information Net...." and the repeater was opened up to any and all regular daily traffic.

So, would that call this situation then:
Open
Closed
Directed
Controlled
?

I'm curious, as I'm still figuring out the terminology of what-all is going on. With my memory issues, it kinda negates me from being a labelologist. HA.
 

Gunfighter14e2

Rusty Nail
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A directed net is were your not allowed to call other stations. All info you pass is to the Net Control Station (NCS) only. That said some directed nets will allow a "Contact" call, where your trying to reach a net station directly to pass info or move off to another freq for a short QSO. Much depends upon the net protocol, as most Military, an Ham nets are totally different, but some things are similar but not point for point. Informal nets are around that have different rules, then there are select groups that run directed nets using split's on different freq's as well as bands, to stop unwanted folks from entering. The most interesting to me are splits on digital where the emission mode & skeg moves all the time.
 
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Sean the Nailer

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INteresting. I didn't know all that could happen. In this particular case then, this was a "Directed Net". We have a local net 'check-in' every weekday morning at 9:00 am.
 

Alpine 338

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As for getting your coax out of the stucco house, I'm assuming tile roof? Non conditioned attic? Should be able to sneak the coax out one of the soffit, eve, ridge vents. Hopefully if you have ridge vents you can get it out there. I helped my buddy put his antenna on his metal roofed house in a neighborhood where you can't have antennas, 6" PVC spacers and wire antenna on the roof works great, there is a 2m antenna and a HF antenna up there. They work pretty well especially since the HOA Gestapo hasn't figured it out.

Federal law trumps any HOA ruling on antennas, they cannot prevent you from putting up a TV antenna, satillite dish, or ham radio antenna. They can dictate size and location as long as it doesn't impede performance.

I showed the federal law info to my HOA, and they had to remove that portion of the covenants that prohibited antennas and dishes.
 
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Alpine 338

Lumberjack
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Composite shingle roof on 5/8” plywood. There are soffets to pull through. New roof two years ago and spent a fortune fixing the stucco so just anal about water impregnating replaced surfaces. I have some reading to do first.
uffduh, your concern for running coax, and keeping a watertight roof is valid. For a roof top antenna installation, best to penetrate the roof next to a vent pipe, where you have a rubber seal. Then add silicone (black for UV) for added protection. For an edge of roof installation, best to come out from under the eve, like suggested earlier by way of soffet vent. Remember to put in a drip loop, to prevent water from running the length of the cable back into your attic.

They also make discreet antennas (VHF/UHF) that slip over your roof vents.

I've installed many Yagi, LPDA, and diapole antennas in attics, without any performance issues, but your usually stuck with a fixed directional in the attic, and since the antenna is right above your head, when running high power, it can cause interference to other electronic devices in your home.

As far as cable (coax) management, it's easy to cut a hole in an interior wall, and install a low voltage bracket (Home Depot) that a blank wall plate (4x4) attaches to. The wall plate can be either drilled for coax to run through, or install bulkhead connectors. Run your coax in-between the wall studs upward. You will have to go up in the attic and drill holes down into the top plate of the wall, and run a pull string down to your cut out in the wall, or just drop the coax down from the attic, and fish it out with a coat hanger.
 

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Federal law trumps any HOA ruling on antennas, they cannot prevent you from putting up a TV antenna, satillite dish, or ham radio antenna. They can dictate size and location as long as it doesn't impede performance.

I showed the federal law info to my HOA, and they had to remove that portion of the covenants that prohibited antennas and dishes.
Reaaallllyyyyy. THANKS!!!!! I'm going to that and send it to him.