HAM Radio Starter Kit - Information for Beginners

EHJ

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I base my CHIRP file off of this and add local repeaters that I frequent:
Excellent link.
Thank you!
 
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"I've understood it's not legal to use the UV-5R for GMRS or FRS as it's not type approved for those frequencies. Of course, if it were an emergency, I'd not hesitate to do it."

My impression was that it is illegal, not because of the frequencies used but because of the transmission power. If I remember right, it's that the 5W power of the Baofeng UV-5R is significantly higher than the 0.5 and 2 Watts specified in the table included in RaceFan's answer and that there is where the issue lies.

I am a total noob, so don't know very much at all, could be wrong.
 

The Heretic

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FRS cannot have a removable antenna either, and most of the Baofeng HTs do have a removable antenna, so they are not type approved for FRS.

The FCC is not going to track you down and throw you in prison, or even fine you, if you keep within the spirit of the FRS and GMRS parameters. I.E., keep the power down to 2 watts or less, don't hook it up to a base or mobile antenna with gain (the short antenna that comes with most HTs is fine, but most are technically not approved) and stay on the frequencies that you are allowed. If you do that then you are going to be ok since no one will know the difference.

If you stray off into freqs that you don't have a license for, transmit at higher power levels (including using an antenna with gain), then someone may complain and/or report you to the FCC.
 
"I've understood it's not legal to use the UV-5R for GMRS or FRS as it's not type approved for those frequencies. Of course, if it were an emergency, I'd not hesitate to do it."

My impression was that it is illegal, not because of the frequencies used but because of the transmission power. If I remember right, it's that the 5W power of the Baofeng UV-5R is significantly higher than the 0.5 and 2 Watts specified in the table included in RaceFan's answer and that there is where the issue lies.

I am a total noob, so don't know very much at all, could be wrong.
You can broadcast with up to 50 watts on GMRS. Although the Baofeng's can transmit on GMRS, FRS, MURS, Marine VHF, they are not FCC certified to do so. They are only FCC certified for transmitting on 2M/70CM.
If you want higher power GMRS units, Midland and Baofeng (and others) make dedicated GMRS units which are FCC compliant.
 

RaceFan

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Not sure if others have had issues "programming" their Baofeng UV-5R via CHIRP. I encountered the regular COM4 (error2) problem with Windows 10 and was not able to change back to the 3.2.0.0 prolific driver. Computers are not my thing so after spending a few hours messing with the fix, and even buying ANOTHER cable suspecting the first one had gone bad, I gave up and purchased a new cable with the updated chipset.

This is the cable with the updated chipset that worked for me: https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B07MQ7TB31/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

But that leaves me with TWO sets of the "older" cable. https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B00CP0I474/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o04_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Paying it forward as it's not worth my time sending back to Amazon, and someone here may find it useful. Whomever PMs asking for a set, I will send to them FREE. I will update this post when the cables are no longer available.

Thanks to all on this thread for the advice/information gained.
 
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Not sure if others have had issues "programming" their Baofeng UV-5R via CHIRP. I encountered the regular COM4 (error2) problem with Windows 10 and was not able to change back to the 3.2.0.0 prolific driver. Computers are not my thing so after spending a few hours messing with the fix, and even buying ANOTHER cable suspecting the first one had gone bad, I gave up and purchased a new cable with the updated chipset.

This is the cable with the updated chipset that worked for me: https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B07MQ7TB31/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

But that leaves me with TWO sets of the "older" cable. https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B00CP0I474/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o04_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Paying it forward as it's not worth my time sending back to Amazon, and someone here may find it useful. Whomever PMs asking for a set, I will send to them FREE. I will update this post when the cables are no longer available.

Thanks to all on this thread for the advice/information gained.
Thanks for posting those links! Radiooddity is a solid source. CHIRP can be a pain in the butt when it comes to the cables and the COMM ports. A lot of the Baofeng branded cables out there are actually just fakes. I went through several cables before I was up and running with CHIRP, so I definitely feel your pain. Baofengtech.com is also a trusted source for the programming cable.
 

RaceFan

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Thanks for posting those links! Radiooddity is a solid source. CHIRP can be a pain in the butt when it comes to the cables and the COMM ports. A lot of the Baofeng branded cables out there are actually just fakes. I went through several cables before I was up and running with CHIRP, so I definitely feel your pain. Baofengtech.com is also a trusted source for the programming cable.
The first cable set without the "new" chipset worked once, then quit. That's when my fun began.

A week into trying to fix with an hour here and there to see if I can downgrade back to the older Prolific driver... eventually saw "new chipset" cable "guaranteed to work" for $20. Sold.

New cable works like a charm.

For anyone not computer savvy, I suggest the new cable.

PS... by your handle, I'm assuming you're a cigar aficionado. I've been really enjoying the AJ Fernandez New World Gobernadors.
 

EHJ

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Thanks for posting those links! Radiooddity is a solid source. CHIRP can be a pain in the butt when it comes to the cables and the COMM ports. A lot of the Baofeng branded cables out there are actually just fakes. I went through several cables before I was up and running with CHIRP, so I definitely feel your pain. Baofengtech.com is also a trusted source for the programming cable.
I went through 2 before I got a good one on the 3rd time... :s0002:
 
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***UPDATED*** 5/6/2014 (See NW Ham Club Links at the end)
***UPDATED*** 5/7/2014 (Added Washington HAM Clubs)
***UPDATED*** 10/24/2014 (Added Software Defined Radio info)
***UPDATED*** 11/14/2014 (Added SHTF Frequency Listing)

Ok, I've compiled some of the information that I have researched over the last year for communications and I'll share what I've found. (Mostly links, maybe some suggestions.)

A huge challenge in learning this stuff is "What do I search for???"
Please check the end of this document for KEY Phrases you might want to look at.

DISCLAIMER: If you TRANSMIT on frequencies reserved for HAM radio without a license you will be considered a "Pirate" (Whether we agree with this or not). This is against FCC regulations and they can find you, fine you and take all your electronic gizmos.

That aside, it's good to have for good times and critical to have them for bad times.

When speaking on HAM frequencies you are required to give your call sign at the beginning of your transmission and every 10 minutes during a conversation and at the end when you sign off (Thanks Catcow for the reminder!).

There are two forms of communication you will be most concerned with:
Simplex - Radio to Radio communication. This is the closest you will come to a "Private" conversation as it doesn't travel through any other system, it just goes from one radio to another. You can setup codes on your radio to prevent you from hearing other people, but you cannot setup codes to prevent others from hearing you, so be aware of this.

Repeater - Radio to "Middleman" that boosts the signal and relays to other Radios. This form of communication not only extends the range you can communicate over, it can also potentially bridge your communication across continents and cross it over the internet (With IRLP). To get a sense for where your communication and chatter can be going, look up a particular repeater on the internet or in a repeater directory (They sell those) book.

Some repeaters require an access code to transmit on them. This code is in the form of an inaudible tone sent before your transmission. (If you see "Tone 123.000" on a repeater, that means you setup this tone when you enter that channel into your radio and it automatically sends that first. It's called "Opening the repeater")

Some repeaters are just "Open" and require no tone to access.

Repeaters also have an "Offset". Which basically means it sends signals out on the frequency listed, but receives your signal on a slightly lower or higher frequency. It would only take a few minutes to learn how to setup a repeater offset and PL tone.

Check this guide to learn how to access and use repeaters.
How to Use Amateur (Ham Radio) Repeaters

Some specific frequencies have been setup (Reserved) for repeater use. Usually by clubs or organizations.


HAM radio bands have slang names like "2 Meter, 70 Centimeter, 6 Meter, 10 Meter etc."
Divide 300 by the average frequency and you get the "slang name" for a particular band.

For instance:
"2 Meter" is actually 150 Mhz. So 300 / 150 = 2.
"70 Centimeter" is 450Mhz. So 300 / 430 = 0.7-ish

"2 Meter" (Most common) = 144.000-148.000MHZ - This is VHF or Very High Frequency - Good for outdoors and unobstructed communications over modest ranges.

In my experience in the city with a 5 watt handheld you can communicate over 20 miles with this, with a 25-45watt mobile vehicle radio over 50 miles. In the country/hills 5-10 miles handheld, 10-20 in vehicle. Through mountains 3-5 miles handheld, in vehicle 7-15 miles. With a home base station VHF radio running 50 watts over a good antenna you can reach out over 100 miles if you aren't going over too many mountains (And a handheld/mobile can receive your messages at that range, but may not be able to respond back at that range.) - With the novice (Technician) class HAM license you can operate over the entire 2 Meter spectrum.

"70 Centimeter" = 420.000-450.000MHZ - This is UHF or Ultra High Frequency - Good for indoor communications, through some concrete as the shorter wavelength isn't as disrupted when it contacts solid objects.

The range outdoors in my experience is about half that of VHF (I only use UHF from my home base station radio, but I have hit repeaters 37 miles away with a 50 watt home UHF radio. - With the novice (Technician) class HAM license you can operate over the entire 70 Centimeter spectrum.


HAM Radio Resources
http://radiofreeq.wordpress.com/2013/06/29/shtf-survivalist-radio-frequency-list/
SHFT Radio Frequencies. Good information for emergency communications, and might be something other preppers are tuning in to.

American Radio Relay League | ARRL - The national association for AMATEUR RADIO - American Radio Relay League (This is the NRA of Radio)

eHam.net Home - Amateur Radio (Ham Radio) Community Site - Ham Radio on the Net (This is the Northwest Firearms of Radio, Forums, Classifieds, Reviews.)

eHam.net Ham Radio Practice Exams - Study guide for the HAM license exam.

Washington Amateur and GMRS radio repeaters - Washington Repeater Directory

Oregon Amateur and GMRS radio repeaters - Oregon Repeater Directory

US Band Plan by ICOM by dxzone.com - ICOM US Amateur Frequency Band Plan

Clark County Emergency Services Frequencies (You can change the county/state here too)

U.S. VHF Channels - US Coast Guard Frequencies

International Distress Frequencies

J Pole - Antennas: J-Pole - Make your own J-Pole antenna for REALLY cheap! (For under $20 these are great!)

HAM REPEATER STARTING ACCESS
I recommend programming in these frequencies to start with if you are near SW Washington or NW Oregon. It's at least somewhere to start listening.

AB7F Repeater System

Excerpt from AB7F Repeater Page:





Here's my recommendation for your first radio. It cheap and works as well as my Yaesu VX-170. (Just not quite as rugged)

BaoFeng UV-5R UHF/VHF (HAM) Radio - Up to $38.05 now from $29 over the holidays.

BaoFeng BF-S112 Two Way Radio Speaker (Handheld mic) - $7.19

Car charger cable - $4.84

ExpertPower 14.5" Dual Band Two-way Radio Antenna SMA-Female - $12.55

Baofeng Programming Cable for BAOFENG UV-5R/5RA/5R Plus/5RE, UV3R Plus, BF-888S - $10.75

This is the cable NOT TO BUY
Amazon.com: USB Programming Cable for Baofeng UV-5R UV-3R+ Two way Radio With Driver CD: Car Electronics
(Labeled as "USB Programming Cable for Baofeng UV-5R UV-3R+ Two way Radio With Driver CD")

Chirp - Free Open Source Radio Programming Software

Baofeng UV-5R Programming With a Computer (3 part video walkthrough on using CHIRP to program this radio)


So after ordering 2x (2 is 1, 1 is None) of each of the items listed above I have:

2 BaoFeng 2-way radios (With ear buds for silent operation)
2 14.5" antenna upgrades
2 Handheld Mics (Good for clipping to your collar like the EMT's!)
1 Car charger (This requires you to use your regular charging station and this cable)
1 Proper USB programming cable

Prices (Shipped)
1 Cable + 1 Car charger + 2 Mics (one order) = $37.43
2 Antenna upgrades = $23.09
2 Radios = $70.38

Total cost: $131.90
Total cost for ONE radio + Upgrades: $70.35


Advanced Learning - KEY Phrases
RDF - Radio Direction Finder - How to locate a radio transmission. (Or how they will find you)

DTMF or Dual-tone multi-frequency signaling - How to send Text Messages without internet or cellular!

Packet Radio - How to connect one computer to another to send text, images, voice and video without the internet.

IRLP - Internet Radio Linking Project (Only valuable while systems are online, but works for global communication.)

Echolink - Software that allows you to connect your radio or server to the Internet (If you are a licensed HAM you can also go to this web site and talk to other HAM operators using only your computer)

CW or Carrier Wave (Morse Code)

One last note from the author:
People preparing for emergencies sometimes tend to border on paranoid, or be mostly concerned with their immediate safety and for their immediate family.

I fell into this category until I started getting more involved in Radio and it got me to thinking about REAL world scenarios where say for instance the economy collapsed. Can you defend what you've stockpiled? Is it worth it for you to survive if EVERYONE around you perishes?

For me, the answer is no. I'd rather get more involved in local community communication and preparation.

I'd rather reach out and have a community survive disaster instead of just myself. I'd love to meet the Fema trucks and say "We got this, thanks though..."

To that end, if you get your license, consider joining something like ARES - The Amateur Radio Emergency Services and get involved in neighborhood planning. (It doesn't have to be "Doomsday prepper" level planning, but emergency planning in the event of Fire, Earthquake, Extended freezing weather, Tornado etc. Look into the Community Emergency Response Teams. (While CERT is a FEMA group, it's focus is on local folks helping local folks, and still provides a leg up on preparing for disaster.)

From Catcow: 5/6/2014 - Oregon HAM Clubs
If you are interested in ham radio, be sure to check out the local clubs and come out to the monthly meetings.

East Multnomah County - Hoodview Amateur Radio Club http://www.wb7qiw.org/, meets at Mt Hood Community College on the 3rd Thursday of each month at 7:30pm.

Portland - Portland Amateur Radio Club http://www.w7lt.org/, meets in the basement auditorium of the Liberty Center building at NE 7th and Holliday on the 4th Friday of the month at 7:30pm.

West side - Oregon Tualatin Valley Amateur Radio Club http://www.otvarc.org, looks to meet at a church on NW Cornell Rd on the 3rd Thursday of the month at 7pm.

And then there is the Amateur Radio Emergency Services groups. Multnomah County ARES http://www.multnomahares.org/ meets on the 4th Thursday of the month at 7pm at Portland Fire Training Center and Fire Station 2 on NE 122nd just north of Sandy. I'm afraid I don't have the info for the other ARES groups in the area handy right now.

Coming up at the end of next month is the ARRL Field Day http://www.arrl.org/field-day, a rather busy event that is part contest, part emergency exercise, where you spend 24 hours in the field running off of batteries. PARC participates from a site on top of Kelly Butte on the roof of the old city nuclear bunker. Just about every club will set up somewhere, and lots of individuals doing it from home, or from a park, or even some lightweight gear and go camping or hiking for the weekend and do it from the forest.

From Bazooka Joe: 5/7/2014 - Washington HAM Clubs
Seattle area - Mike and Key Amateur Radio Club http://www.mikeandkey.org/ , meets the third Saturday of the month. 720 South Tobin Street, (MapQuest Map) Renton WA. This location is situated at the southeast corner of the Renton airport, one block North of the Renton Parking Garage. The building is open for socializing, coffee, and doughnuts at 9:30 AM and the meeting starts at 10:00 AM.

Tri-cities -- Tri-Cities Amateur Radio club http://www.w7az.org/ , meets the first Monday of the month at 7pm. Tri-Cities Red Cross Building, 7202 W Deschutes Ave, Kennewick, WA.

Yakima -- Yakima Amateur Radio Club http://yakimaamateurradioclub.com/ , meets on the Second Tuesday of every month at the Yakima Chapter of the American Red Cross at 7:30 p.m. local time. 302 South Second Street, Yakima, WA.

Spokane area -- Spokane DX Association http://www.sdxa.org/ Regular monthly meetings are usually alternated between Spokane County Libraries and, unless otherwise posted, are always at 7:00PM the first Thursday of every month. Check the website for location of next meeting.

ARES:
WA State ARES http://www.wastateares.org/
ARES of King County http://www.aresofkingcounty.org/
Spokane ARES http://www.spokares.org/
Yakima ARES/RACES http://ares.ykm.com/

Software Defined Radio (SDR)
Software Defined Radio is basically running the radio hardware (Transmitter, Receiver, Antenna) connected to your computer, and the "Brains" of the radio, instead of being firmware in a radio, it is a software program on your computer.

PROS: You download new software, and you have a new radio. You get the benefits of on-screen displays, wide frequency scanning, recording, analyzing and more that aren't available on all but the most expensive radios.

CONS: It's Computers... they're horrible pieces of technology, so you better know how to run one, and troubleshoot one, and have a regular old radio as a backup.

Below, I've linked a SDR (Scanner, receive only) setup I'm playing with.

RTL-SDR, FM+DAB, DVB-T USB Stick Set with RTL2832U & R820T. Great SDR for SDR#, HDSDR - $8.10
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00C37AZXK/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o02_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

MCX (Tiny antenna) to PL259 (Real antenna) adapter - $7
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00C20FV78/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o01_s01?ie=UTF8&psc=1

SDR# (Software Defined Radio Software) - $Free
http://www.sdrsharp.com/

So for $15.10 I have a scanner that will allow me to monitor all frequencies (At least theoretically) within a fairly decent range.

2 of the RTL-SDR's are rumored to be able to even scan trunking systems (1 picks up the control channel, then passes the information to the chat channel on the other system)

I'm just getting started with SDR, so please feel free to expand on this anyone with experience!

Here is a video that gave me the idea to setup SDR (This video isn't for SDR, it was to show a radio that transmits on expanded frequencies, but it really shows the capability of the SDR setup!)
Amazing!
 

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