OPSEC Communications

Discussion in 'Communications & Tech' started by Weedygarden, Mar 9, 2019.

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  1. Mar 9, 2019 #1

    Weedygarden

    Weedygarden

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    I found this post on a blog. It is a long post, but it is a worthwhile read. I removed most of the images, but you can see them on the blog.

    http://thoughtsfromfrankandfern.blogspot.com/2019/03/opsec-communications.html

    OPSEC Communications

    Hello Everybody, Frank here.

    It's the weekend and we had a great rain last night. Now the freshly tilled garden would be just the place for making mud angels. For you Yankee types, some of you would still be calling these snow angels, but here in the south we actually call it mud wrestling. See, we have a problem here with communication. Some of you think snow tires and some of us think mud tires.

    This previously driven article is about communications. It's titled OPSEC which means operational security. This article is five years old, but the information is still the same today. We NEED to be able to communicate with our neighbors. No, it's not the kind of communication that you say you can't have with your teenage kids, you know, 'we just can't communicate'. The type of communications mentioned here is the life and death type, where you NEED to be able to talk to the person down the road.

    The first picture down below is of Nunam Iqua, Alaska. Fern and I used to live there, it is located at the mouth of the Yukon River on the Bering Sea. For you curious types, the zip code is 99666. Google maps will take you right there.

    The article is about radios. This is not so much about ham radio, actually, it's not about ham radio at all. It's about the across-the-counter type of radios. But, ham radio is a good idea, it vastly expands your options. If you are of the level that you find reading Frank and Fern enjoyable, then you should have no difficulty with the first two levels of amateur radio testing for licensing. Ham radio can be very, very expensive, or it can be quite inexpensive. It's kind of like flying a remote controlled airplane, now days commonly called drones. I didn't realize some of those drones are as big as a jet, a big jet. But I'm drifting here.

    Something to remember. Anything that is said on a radio can be heard by someone else. I used to teach my teachers, if you don't want someone to read something, then don't write it. Same applies to radio. Anything you say can be heard by that drone flying in the air. Think about it.

    Hope you enjoy the article. Have a great day. And get ready. It's very near.

    We'll talk more later, Frank

    Originally published January 4, 2014

    Once upon a time, there were two people that lived in far bush Alaska that could see dark clouds on the horizon. These two people, knowing what dark clouds meant, started to prepare for a serious storm. As the clouds got closer, and the sky darkened, these two adventurous souls packed up all their gear and relocated to a somewhat safer location. Even though these people escaped this particular storm, the storms followed them to their new location. And the storms have continued to grow bigger and bigger and bigger.

    Okee-dokee everybody, back to reality. My first experience with radio communication in the modern world we live in now, was with two little walkie-talkie radios. Fern and I were leaving Alaska and we were going to drive to southeast Oklahoma. Through a large portion of this trip there is no cell phone service. Since we were traveling in two separate vehicles, each pulling a U-Haul trailer, I bought a couple of the above mentioned handheld walkie talkies from Cabela's. And that's how this radio story started. That was five years ago, and here we are today.

    I knew nothing about rechargeable batteries. I didn't know that you could recharge batteries while you're driving down the road. So we used eight alkaline batteries a day. You see, Fern and I are an odd couple. We actually like each other and enjoy talking to each other, so the radios came in real handy. So, after our little trip, which took eleven days, I discovered the benefits of rechargeable batteries.

    [​IMG]
    110/12VDC charger

    So, when we got here, we put the radios away for a while. I'm not sure exactly when or how or why, but we started using them again around our little farm here. And like many things in life, I had to experience a largelearning curve. Well, we started using the little radios again and learned about rechargeable batteries. I decided I wanted extra radios. I went online, found a couple, and not paying attention, realized they did not use a AA battery. But, instead these new radios used a AAA battery. This was not my plan, but I didn't have the knowledge to know the difference. So, now I need AA and AAA rechargeable batteries. Well, this system worked out okay. I found a place online to buy batteries that I like. And I still use this same place, by the way. So, now I have a hand full of radios, two different types of batteries and the system is working pretty good. But the three AAA batteries will not stay charged near as long as four AA batteries.

    So, I decided to buy more radios. That's when I started using the Midland GXT1000 and 1050. They are the same radio, one is black the other is camo. I got lucky when I bought this little radio, because it did something I didn't know it would do. It comes with a rechargeable battery pack, which looks just like three AA's put together. But it says it will take four AA's, and it will. If you take the cover off and take the battery pack out, you will see that there is an extra slot for a fourth battery. The cool part is, these four AA rechargeable batteries, will also charge in the charging cradle that the radio came with. Here's where I got lucky. Midland makes a bunch of radios that look just like this, that have the same set up with the same battery pack, but the other ones will not recharge the four rechargeable AA batteries while in the cradle. As the learning curve increased here, it was obvious that not all of these radios charge the same way. So, a bonus feature, because later on I bought some other Midland radios that looked identical, but I could not charge the four AA rechargeable batteries in the cradle. So much for that issue.

    I know these little radios are advertised a certain mileage. But that is under perfect conditions. So, remember, these radios are line of sight, and if you need more information about how the radios operate and their properties, go to Frank's Radio Communications page. These are good radios, high quality and they work well, and they did the job we needed around the farm.

    I'm still, at this time, not into ham radio. I tried to get some of my friends and neighbors to get some of these little radios so we could keep in touch. No one was interested in this form of communication, and years later, they're still not interested. That pretty much took care of the home issue. Now I wanted to be able to reach my wife by radio 30 miles away. Bigger issue. We tried CB radios with SSB and due to the properties of the CB radio, it just would not work. I live in hill country with small mountains. So one day, looking at a retail radio site, I noticed a programmable commercial radio. Did a little bit more research and realized that these radios would broadcast on the same frequency as my little walkie talkies. That is when I started to realize about different frequencies. You see, a CB radio is around 27 MHz. My littlewalkie talkies are around 460 MHz. These new little commercial radios are handheld and they would broadcast on the VHF band which includes most local police, fire and ambulance. It was also good on the ham radio frequencies, which at that time, I cared nothing about. All the ones I just mentioned, police, fire and ham, are in the VHF range, that's around 140-155 MHz. But these little radios would also work for GMRS, which is my little walkie talkie, at around 460 MHz, which is UHF. There is also another free public band called MURS, which is around 150 MHz. So, I tried these little handheld commercial radios and they worked great on this frequency. Some of these activities mentioned here, some folks will tell you that you cannot use a commercial radio for, and they are right. But as long as you are not bothering anybody, most people don't care. Also, remember that in an emergency, anyone can use any frequency if no other means is available.

    So, I put a couple of these little commercial radios, remember, these are handhelds, in our cars running legal power, and could talk to my wife most of her way to work. I dug out my old Radio Shack power supply, I put up an outside antenna, and used one of these little radios to talk to my wife all the way to work. The antenna outside of my house is what made the difference.
     
  2. Mar 9, 2019 #2

    Amish Heart

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    I love Frank and Fern. They took a few years time off, but are back on.
     
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  3. Mar 10, 2019 #3

    Weedygarden

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    I replied to this post letting them know I was sharing it here. It would be great if they would join us. I missed them when they took time off. They have great information on their blog.
     
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  4. Mar 10, 2019 #4

    Weedygarden

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    This interested me. I have often thought about having a tower. My parents had a small tower, right next to our house, for our television antenna. Where we lived was many miles from Reliance, SD, where a broadcast tower was, where we received our reception from. Without a television antenna on a small tower, we would have gotten no channels, instead of the one we did.

    I have often thought that a small tower would be an excellent prep and really important for communication possibilities in SHTF.
     
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  5. Mar 10, 2019 #5

    Cascadian

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    We have handheld radios we use regularly. I also have one for 2 of our vehicles but I confess they are still in the box. Although an ammo can may be a good place for them after all.
     
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  6. Mar 10, 2019 #6

    Caribou

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    I took the SSB off my boat to keep it away from the salt air and figured that an ammo can was a great storage option. Some programable FRS radios found another ammo can.

    I feel very comfortable using radios as I have done so since my teens. I don't worry about a license as I will only use my radios in an emergency. I also remember call signs from a number of boats I worked on. There are some out there anal enough to research every call sign but in a SHTF situation I seriously doubt that will be much of a factor. Get your radios and learn to use them. Get a license if you wish but get the knowledge.

    In Alaska almost every village has a marine VHF frequency and most homes have their radio on. Yes, it's illegal to use a marine VHF while on land but even the FCC isn't stupid enough to wander into a native village and start writing tickets. If you are in an area with few boats marine VHF radios might be a more secure way to communicate. Stay off channel 16VHF as that is an emergency channel and is monitored by airplanes, police, etc.
     
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  7. Mar 10, 2019 #7

    JAC

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    So, I acquired a couple garmin rino 120 radios awhile back that were military surplus. I dabbled with them a bit in the mountains but with the topography there they didn't work very well. I may get them back out and use them here on the ranch and see if they will work here. They are kind of neat in that you can set each one up for each person and they will show you the location of each other when requested. They will do a lot more such as set way points and guide you to a team mate if you get separated.
    It was kind of neat to see them use them in the movie "Lone Survivor".
    They run off of 3 AA batteries.
    This is the radio:
    https://www.amazon.com/Garmin-22-Channel-Navigator-Discontinued-Manufacturer/dp/B000065DQ2
     
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  8. Mar 10, 2019 #8

    Weedygarden

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    The rest of the article.

    Okay. That's where we were. So using a handheld radio, with an outside antenna at my house, I can now talk to my wife in her car. Shortly after this stage, I got my ham radio license, and we've made other changes since

    then. But what I'm getting at here is, if you want to have communications, and you do not have a ham radio license, it is available. A small power supply, just about any transmitting and receiving radio, the proper antenna and you can talk to your buddy a good ways down the road, even with your little walkie talkie that does duck calls. That little gizmo thingy that your kid is out playing in the yard with, is probably a GMRS radio. Now, you cannot take a GMRS radio and attach it to an external antenna, you just can't do it. But you can, with a handheld commercial radio, and it's not difficult. Now don't think you're going to take one of these little handhelds and increase the power to 500 watts like some CBer's do. They're just not intended for that use.

    But, that CB radio that you have out in your truck, is good for other purposes. All it is, is just a ham radio around 27 MHz, or in the ham world, called 11 meter, that will transmit line of sight. But it will also, when the atmosphere is right, transmit very long distances by bouncing off of the atmosphere. Read the other posts for more information on that. So, you have a CB radio, you can talk to your buddy down the road. If you have a GMRS radio, you can talk to your buddy down the road. Someday, you're going to want to talk to your buddy down the road, because your cell phone and your telephone may not work. Some people say, "Hog wash! We're always going to have electricity and telephones." Yep, and the Titanic was floating just fine, until it hit that iceberg.

    Okay. Some little tips here. OPSEC. That translates into operational security. Anything you say on a radio can be heard by someone else. Let me say that again.Anything you say on a radio can be heard by somebody else. Any point where you transmit from can be located. Ham radio operators have a game where they try to locate a certain transmitter. The military and other government agencies also have that ability. So don't think you can't be found. If you've read some of my other posts, I emphasize, don't be stupid.

    [​IMG]
    Okay. Don't use people names on the radio, because somebody is listening. Develop real simple little codes about locations and where you are. Teach other family members to do the same thing. Well, you say, "How are they going to know what channel I'm broadcasting on?" Anybody with a scanner that has these programmed will know exactly what frequency you're broadcasting on. You ask, "How will they know where I'm located?" It's called electronic triangulation. So, don't kid yourself, that you're smarter than the government, because some of those folks are very, very good at what they do.

    So, if you've got a bunch of guys you go to church with, and you all have those little GMRS radios, one day at church, set up a time and see if everybody can talk to each other. Just practice and see if you can talk.

    Also try it with CB radios, too. Then if you can communicate, set up a time to do it in an emergency. You say, "Well you talked about the power being off and I don't want to use batteries." Well, then don't. Get you a couple of rechargeable batteries. And you say, "Well, fool. If the power is off, how am I going to recharge them?" Get you a teeny, weeny solar panel and check out this link. It will give you a lot more detail.

    I use my little radios everyday. My wife gets this strange kick out of feeding farm animals. I don't need to understand why, but she does. And we stay in contact. We make sure we have contact before she walks out the door. We make sure the batteries are charged. Give it some long term thought. Plan ahead, test your equipment. If you choose to advance to the ham radio hobby, then you will understand a whole lot more about what you are doing right now, and a different radio world will open up.

    But if you choose not to, you can still communicate. And if you just want to listen, get youa scanner and a shortwave radio, and there are few things that you will not be able to listen to. The scanner is for local and the shortwave is for long distance. Because you might want to know when there is a forest fire coming your direction. It can also tell you from the National Weather Service, when a tornado is coming. And if you listen to the local ham radio weather clubs, using weather spotters, they will also tell you where the tornado is and what direction it's traveling. Then you may hear when they're loading up people into buses a mile or two down the road from you. By the way, don't get on the bus.

    When you see those big black clouds come rolling in, then you need to be able to communicate. It will be too late to find your radio and see if you have any batteries. It will be too late to set up a system of communication. It will be too late. Folks those dark clouds are gathering. Pay attention.

    We'll talk more later. 73, Frank
     
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  9. Mar 10, 2019 #9

    Weedygarden

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    I worked with a woman, a teacher, whose husband was also a teacher. They didn't use cell phones. They used some sort of hand held radio. They were less than 10 miles from each other at work. I thought it was very interesting.
     
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  10. Mar 10, 2019 #10

    SheepDog

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    There are antennas that are very tight in the angle of transmission and reception. The standard di-pole is not really very tight but it is tighter than an omni-directional antenna. A good rhombic antenna will get you down to a few degrees of spread. With higher frequencies you can use other types, like a Yagi or dish, that are super directional. The only drawback to highly directional high gain antennas is that your reception is just as limited as your transmission. If you and your buddy both use a highly directional antenna it is unlikely that you will be monitored or traced. Not impossible but less likely. You can also run audio frequency to a remote transmitter that will give you one more edge against being found. A less powerful signal from or to a high gain antenna will further limit your exposure.
    Lots of tricks out there for folks who know how to work them so look around and learn.
     
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  11. Mar 10, 2019 #11

    JAC

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    Here is a heads up for all of you.
    Have you ever taken apart one of those little solar powered yard lights? Know what is in them? A rechargeable AA battery.
    Ever taken apart one of those big square camping flashlight batteries? Know what is in them? A whole bunch of AA batteries.
     
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  12. Mar 10, 2019 #12

    Weedygarden

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    I have some of those solar lights. This is really good to know. I always thought those lights would be good to have as an alternative source of light in a SHTF situation, charge them in the day, use them for lights when it gets dark. You could have a bunch of heavy vases or something heavy to position them in around the house.

    I have a solar chargeable flashlight. It is sealed pretty tightly. I am not going to take it apart, unless or until it fails.
     
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2019
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  13. Mar 10, 2019 #13

    Weedygarden

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    There are a whole bunch of terms that I do not understand in this, but it will be great to have for reference. I am always looking for information. I wonder if anyone can recommend a good foundational book of video series to watch?
     
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  14. Mar 10, 2019 #14

    Weedygarden

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    Southernprepper1 built some inexpensive towers. They are only 20 foot tall, but I wonder about making them taller.

     
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2019
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  15. Mar 11, 2019 #15

    Caribou

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    A buddy of mine had his solar lights go bad due to old batteries. He took them apart and soldered in new rechargeable AA batteries and they worked better than ever.
     
  16. Mar 11, 2019 #16

    The Lazy L

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    I have mixed emotions about a tower. I live in a woods and like your parents if I wanted any TV reception when the trees were in leaf a tower was the only way. Bought a used tower to solve the TV problem. I also installed a 2-meter and a Tri-bander. I'm smiling from ear to ear until Google Maps showed my tower and tri-bander sticking out above the trees as clear as a wart on a face.

    The antennas for the GMRS base and CB I installed in the attic. No I don't get the range but the capability can't be seen by a nosy individual(s). OPSEC
     
  17. Mar 11, 2019 #17

    BlueZ

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    On this subject:

    Signal is a very secure encrypted Messenger service:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Signal_(software)

    It will thwart all but the most determined and resourced Nation state level hacking attacks.
    (and who among us merits such an attention?)

    Under a possible future Kamla Harris or Eric Holder Presidency this is what I would use exclisivly to communicate with my freedomista friends.

    PS: On this note:
     
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2019
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  18. Mar 11, 2019 #18

    The Lazy L

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    Back in my memory (subject to recall error) an alarm bell went off. Is it illegal for John Q. Public to transmit coded messages?
     
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  19. Mar 11, 2019 #19

    BlueZ

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    Its perfectly legal for u to use encrypted services. hushmail, startmail, proton mail are also email services we ought to use.
     
  20. Mar 11, 2019 #20

    The Lazy L

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    Perhaps I was remembering HAM?
     
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  21. Mar 11, 2019 #21

    Bacpacker

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    You are not suppose to transmit coded messages over ham radio according to the FCC.
     
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  22. Mar 12, 2019 #22

    SheepDog

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    While it is true that amateur radio doesn't allow encoded messages you can send video, such as pictures (of text), in a "burst" format which is pretty much the same thing. Burst packets are normally used for CW (Morse code) and is difficult for the standard operator to collect and depending on the format could be difficult even for the state agencies to capture especially in a point to point transmission. (directional broadcast to a single receiver) I could provide examples but the results would be large enough that this system would not like them.

    SENT
    "1 of my sheep is sick.
    Tuesday I will be getting the medicine needed.
    Six of the hens are still laying."
    END


    Could mean "meeting place 1" on "Tuesday" at "6:00"
    Unless the listener knows that your message is a code and knows where meeting place "1" is it is meaningless - just a report on your current situation.
    Now put that into a different format like JPG or TIF or DXF, compressed with ARC or BAK and it is just garbage unless you can convert it back to the original format.
    There is nothing illegal being done but it is more secure because of the compression, the format and the fact that it is sent in a very fast burst of binary.
     
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  23. Mar 12, 2019 #23

    The Lazy L

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    Well this isn't in code. Fourscore and seven years ago
    Do you agree or disagree? our fathers brought forth,
    Highlight the entire text and what do you see?
     
  24. Mar 12, 2019 #24

    SheepDog

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    With my settings your "hidden" lines show up as white on light green background but I get your point.
    Looking at it in ASCII it would not be hidden but on a screen with a white background it would be completely hidden.
     
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  25. Mar 12, 2019 #25

    The Lazy L

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    My background is white. I didn't realize that there are customized themes on this forum! I got caught by my own incompetency!

    P.S. To NSA. My account got hacked and I have no idea what or who or how post #23 above was able to spoof my account.
     
  26. Mar 12, 2019 #26

    bkt

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    And you could probably hide a message steganographically if the spirit moved you. It's a lot of work to go through, though.

    I'm partial to one-time pads, myself, just for the security. It would be some work injecting the message into the unencrypted message, but it would be possible.
     
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  27. Mar 13, 2019 #27

    SheepDog

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    The hardest part of using encryption is keeping the key safe. Using a book cipher is great if you all have the same printing of the book but worthless if you don't. Alphabet shift is just too easy to break and using numbers to replace letters is just as easy. You need to have shared knowledge of places so you don't put the actual locations in any message. Saying meet me at the waterhole might be OK if there are a lot of places that fit the description but in a small desert town it would be easy to pick out where you are meeting. I have a very good computerized "book" cipher that allows me to type in a text message and it puts out a series of numbers for the page, paragraph, sentence and word. When I put that into the program it reproduces the text message. The key is a text document that I wrote to carry all the words in a particular format. Now, if I was to share the key with folks I had vetted it would be fine until someone gave the key to someone else and it got to someone who was using it to track us. After that it is useless until another key is developed. Keeping that key safe is the only way to keep the encryption safe.
     
  28. Mar 15, 2019 #28

    ssonb

    ssonb

    ssonb

    Awesome Friend Neighbor Contributor

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    20 ft is about the limit for fence post it is too thin and with the right wind load or antenna weight it will bend or kink over. I have been working on an inexpensive antenna tower setup, there is nothing out there (unless you have a friend who owns a lot of old scrap pipe) that you have to buy that is much cheeper than a store bought tower (that is if you want to go above 35 ft.)
     
    Bacpacker, Weedygarden and Patchouli like this.
  29. Mar 15, 2019 #29

    SheepDog

    SheepDog

    SheepDog

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    You can use a wooden pole as long as you have guy wires every `15 feet or so. The guy wires can be used as inverted V antennas as long as they are connected to a feed wire at the post and insulated at the correct length before terminated in the ground anchor. The inverted V is less noisy than a standard dipole and slightly more directional. If you use guy wires at 90 degrees then you can have a high gain omni-directional antenna in addition to a Yagi antenna on top. You can also attach a pole to a tree and stabilize it with guy wires.
    Be aware that if you are in a lightning area that you may want to use capture arrests to protect your radio and antenna.
     
  30. Mar 15, 2019 #30

    hiwall

    hiwall

    hiwall

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    Anyone use the mesh wifi on their smartphones? No cell towers needed. No voice, only text but it is encrypted at both ends. Range maybe 2+ miles or infinite with repeaters. Could be good for end times because no cell towers or anything needed.
    https://gotenna.com/
     

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