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PAUL L. MCCORD JR. | K5GLH – OKLAHOMA CITY

paulmccord.net - PAUL L. MCCORD JR. | K5GLH – OKLAHOMA CITY

One Last Post for August

Tonight I spent some time listening to the AM radio and seeing what stations I could receive. It has been many years since I have done that and it was pretty cool.  The good thing about doing it in recent years is that most stations have web sites where you can hear the audio so you can verify what station you are hearing without having to wait until the top or bottom of the hour for the station identification. That gets a little old after a while if they only ID at the top and bottom of the hour.  Since I have all of my ham radio gear taken down, this gives me an opportunity to do some DX work using nothing more than an AM radio. It is still fun to this day.

I still heard the regulars like WLS, WWL, WOAI, KRLD, KFAB, WHO, WSM, KMOX but I heard a rare station called KATZ from St. Louis, Missouri and they are only broadcasting 3,500 watts. That is very unusual and made it worth it.  I also picked up KKOW from Pittsburgh, Kansas.

More TVFool.com

Home FM

 

A few days ago I posted about TVFool.com and their ability to put together a chart where it shows all of the TV stations and their proximity and distance from you based on your address.  I just discovered that it also does this for FM radio.  I just created this image on their site that shows the FM radio stations in the Oklahoma City area.  I live on the far East side of the city so I expected most of the stations to be in one general direction so I was surprised to see by this graphic that I have stations in all directions from me.

It shows the close ones in green while they turn pink, orange and so on as the stations get farther from me.  I love that you can do this and also love that it allows you to save the image for future reference.  You just input your address and how tall your receiving antenna is and it makes calculated measurements on the distance, signal strength and direction from my particular location.  This is very cool and I would recommend people giving it a try.

With satellite and cable bills getting out of control, antenna TV is looking better all the time.  With digital TV now in existence, most stations have sub-channels with more programming. Even here in Oklahoma City, we have more than 40 channels right off the antenna. There are just as many FM stations coming in from all around us. Now that the FCC has allowed all these low powered FM (LPFM) stations, the entire FM band is filled with stations. I have to really search to find an empty place on the FM dial where I live.   Oklahoma City metro area only has 1.3 million people so I am surprised to have this many stations.  When I was a kid, there were about 15 FM and about 8 AM stations and only 4 TV stations. You should go to this web site, enter your address and then save the image for your records.

I would imagine that every few months, you would need to create another one simply because these low power stations as well as the sub-channels on TV change so frequently. Every time I think I know all the stations, I come back after a couple of months and many have changed.  As a ham radio operator and someone that loves radio on virtually every form, I really think this is cool and worth taking advantage.

Tropospheric Ducting

Tropospheric ducting 8/9/20104

 

Wow!  Last night would have been a great time to have my ham radio gear and my old tower. How I miss my tower.  When we moved out of Del City, I had to sell my 70 foot tower.  This image shows the signals picked up on the VHF portion of the band last night.  As you can see, there are stations hundreds of miles away from Oklahoma City that were coming in. This is made possible by a temperature inversion where the air is warmer a few thousand feet above the ground than it is on the ground.  Yesterday was a perfect time for this because we had the hot and humid day followed by a warm night.  When these conditions arise,  you can receive FM radio stations from hundreds of miles away.  I use to love to tune across the dial and pick up these stations when I was  young.  My dad had an awesome huge antenna back then that could receive them making it even better. Now I don’t have my equipment but I can still pick them up in the car radio.

Thanks to a Broadcast Engineer friend of mine for sending this URL…

http://aprs.mountainlake.k12.mn.us/

This site was put together to map real time APRS signals received and where they were received.  I will go into what APRS is on another post.  I am expecting company in the next hour so I have to cut this post short.  It is a ham radio tool that is involves computer packet transmissions.  We’ve had a lot of these “tropo” ducting instances lately so if you are in the Oklahoma area around sunset or a bit after, turn on your FM radio and listen across each frequency. If you hear stations you’ve not heard before, keep listening because FCC rules require that they give their station ID at the top and bottom of every hour. You can find out where these stations are coming from.  You will love it.

My New Scanner

Uniden BCD536HP Scanner

About a month ago, I bought a new police scanner, a nice and expensive one.  I bought the Uniden BCD536HP scanner.  I often like to listen to the Del City police and had noticed in recent days that my old scanner, a Radio Shack Pro-2051 was quiet most of the time.

PRO-2051 Victim of Rebanding

What I hadn’t known was that the FCC had rebanded the 800 MHz spectrum, forcing people, businesses and public services to change frequencies to meet the new 800 MHz frequency spectrum.  What it did was make my old scanner obsolete where I could not hear many of the trunking systems.  Many newer model scanners had the ability to be reprogrammed to match the rebanding but not this model. It was essentially obsolete with respect to anything in the 800 MHz band.  That meant that I was out of luck because virtually every trunking system in the Oklahoma City area uses the 800 MHz band.

While this new scanner was expensive, I justified it with the idea that I will get more than 10 years of service from it.  My last scanner was over 10 years old already.  After having a scanner for so many years, it is hard to go without one.  I can sit here and listen to police, fire and emergency systems from as far as 50 miles away. Many local businesses and public service organizations are also on there.  It is a really cool hobby to have.

This scanner has some amazing features being pre-programmed with thousands of frequencies from the RadioReference.com database. It updates the frequency database weekly and also allows you to create your favorites lists.  It has wifi capability to allow you to control and stream your scanner remotely via a wireless phone.  Of course these features are not yet available as of the posting of this blog post.  I definitely love this scanner and think it is worth the expensive price tag if you are a scanner enthusiast.  It has more than  enough features to make it a good purchase.

Simplex IRLP Node 7734

IRLP Node 7734

Today I replaced the node computer for my Simplex IRLP node 7734.  Above you can see it fully assembled. Forgive the vintage 1932 model monitor. It really doesn’t need a monitor since I administer the node remotely.  On top you can see the DC power supply and the link radio.  It is currently hooked up simplex but can be set up on repeater at a later time. This would involve hooking the control and audio directly to the repeater controller.

IRLP Node 7734

In this picture you can see that it is not very complex. Just an old computer that use to run Windows XP and now runs Debian 7.1 (Wheezy). as shown below…

IRLP Node 7734
I just downloaded this Debian iso today so it is the most current as of this time.  Right now the node is in a basic setup with no custom scripts of any kind. I will add some over time but today I just wanted to get it up to speed.

IRLP Node 7734

 

This picture shows the back of the computer with nothing attached.  I mainly took these pictures so that later I could reference them remotely when the computer is out of my hands and I have to tell someone over the phone or over the radio what is connected to what :).

IRLP Node 7734

 

In this picture you can see the cables connected.  This way the person physically at the site can have a visual reference of where things should be connected.  By having this available online, the pictures can be seen from the phone at remote locations.  Right now you have to be pretty close to the node as in a couple miles to be able to use it.  It is currently located behind the Thunder Travel Plaza (Pilot) truck stop at I-40 and Choctaw Road.  It is on simplex 445.95 MHz with a PL tone of 162.2.  I installed it mainly so that I could reach our repeaters in Del City with an H.T. from inside my house. Since I moved so far to the East, it is difficult to reach with an H.T.  You can use it if you are close enough to reach it.  All of the functions that are on the other two repeaters/nodes will be added to this one as well.  This node uses my own call sign, K5GLH, instead of the club call W5DEL because it is a remote node several miles away.

I plan on installing a Twitter script that will tweet status updates and if it works well, I will install it on the other two nodes as well.

Oklahoma City FM Radio

Every time I turn on the radio here in Oklahoma City I am confused because there is another station on the air.  Being an amateur (HAM) radio operator, I tend to think that we are having a tropospheric episode bringing in distant station but my ears are not fooling me.  It appears that our local stations are experimenting with creating HD1, HD2 and HD3 stations that are rebroadcasting their stations on low power stations around the metro area.  One of the highest profile stations to do this recently was KRXO 107.7.  They have taken their high power classic rock station and turned it into a new sports station called The Franchise.  They have taken their classic rock station and moved it over to 107.7 HD2 and simulcasting it over on the analog 104.5 on a much lower signal.

It looks like they now have an HD3 station called Generation Now 96.5 playing hit music.  This is another low power station that does cover the metro pretty good considering its lower power.  They play the same type of music as KRAV-FM in Tulsa so it was only natural that I would think we had Tulsa booming in this morning.  Also I’ve noticed a couple new stations on 92.1 and 92.9.  The 92.1 seems to be simulcasting KRMP Heart and Soul on AM 1140.  The 92.9 station is simulcasting KEBC, the comedy station on 1560 AM.  In each of these cases, the stations are owned by the same company, Tyler Media.

I like the new additions and hope they last.  I am really liking the new 96.5 station.  I live out in the far eastern part of the metro and still able to receive all of these stations in the cars and in the house.  Since I live so far on the East side, I get many of the Tulsa stations as well so the FM band is completely filled.  I sure wish car manufacturers would start installing HD radios stock so that people will get use to the extra stations.  I also wish that portable and home stereos would come with them stock.  I’ve run across people that have no clue what HD radio is.   I will scroll across the band and document what is available as I have time.

The FM radio band is a constant, ever changing place so putting up a list of all stations becomes obsolete nearly as soon as you do it.  Also you have to deal with low power stations all around the metro giving you a false impression.  You may be hearing a powerful station on one side of town and be weak on the other side.  Once you get to the other side of town you hear a whole list of other stations that are weak on my side.  It is a good thing that I find this sort of thing interesting or I would get frustrated making these lists :).

Strange Start To The Morning

What a morning. We got up early so that we could get some things done.  We had to go clean an office and then my wife had to go to work. My son had four people spend the night and they all parked their cars in front of our garage where we could not get either of our cars out. They had not been to bed yet so we asked them to move the cars.  One of them ran off the side of the driveway into the ditch blocking the driveway. There is a concrete ditch that runs across the front lawns of all of the houses on our street.  It took a hour to get that car out of the ditch.  Now I am sore and all scratched up.  Oh well… it has been a while since I have been that young where I didn’t have a care in the world.

The thought of staying up all night just makes me cringe because I get up at 4:00 AM.  We did stay up late last night to watch the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the San Antonio Spurs.  That was an exciting night for sure.  I wanted to get up this morning and take down my ham radio push up pole antenna on the back of the house, and replace some coax with some higher grade and then run it through the attic into the “shack” (office).  I am not sure I have the energy after that crazy morning.  I can tell that it is going to be a hot and humid day and I am not sure I want to get up in the attic now that we have wasted a couple of hours.  It may be a project for next weekend.

New IRLP Node 7734

IRLP node 7734

Since I do not have my ham radio gear, and do not live in Del City anymore, I had to improvise to be able to talk on the Del City ARC repeaters.  As most of you know, we sold our Del City home in July 2010.  All of my ham radio gear went into storage until we get a new house.  The only thing that I kept out of storage was my dual band, 2 meter, 70 centimeter hand held radio.  We temporarily moved into an apartment in Midwest City while we wait to get our new home.  I can reach the repeaters from this apartment but not very good from inside with the low power that the hand held will produce.

Since both repeaters have IRLP/Echolink capability, I put together another, Internet Radio Linking Project (IRLP) node so that I can connect into either of the repeaters.  This is the third one that I have put together and this one is for personal use.  It signed on the air May 18, 2011 from Midwest City, Oklahoma.  Sure it can be used for a mile or so but will not have much range for others to use.  Anyone can use it but it will not be of much use for very far.  This new node is a simplex node on 445.95 MHz.  It has a PL tone of 162.2  It has an IRLP node number of 7734 and an Echolink node number of 23943.  The node does not carry the Del City Amateur Radio Club call sign of W5DEL but rather K5GLH for IRLP and K5GLH-L for Echolink.

IRLP node 7734

This node will help resolve my inability to have reliable communications through our own repeaters.  I have tested it and it performs very well.  I may play around with it and add Allstar Link capability to it and if it works out, I may add it to the other repeaters as well.  As you can see from the picture, it is running on a magnetic mount dual band antenna stuck on top of a metal filing cabinet.  We will be living in these apartments near Regional Park until around August 2011.  If you are near that area, you can likely reach it without much power.  Again, since it is simplex, there will be no courtesy tones or anything like that.  If you hear a once sided conversation, then you are probably hearing the node speaking to me on my weak handie talkie.  I am excited to get this one on the air and so I can get back into ham radio, at least a little bit.

ARRL Listen Up!

There is a battle that goes quietly with no fanfare and is being ignored among leaders in our country.  This battle is the existence of Home Owners Associations (HOA) and covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&R). The American Radio Relay League (ARRL) needs to listen up because this affects all ham radio operators.  If you are a ham radio operator, there are no other words in the English language that bring more fear.  These institutions are rapidly taking away the freedoms of ordinary Americans faster than Congress.  Those that live in older neighborhoods may not even know about these organizations and rules that are robbing Americans of the right to do as they wish with their own property.

These CC&R’s are rules that a property owner submits to the local county clerk that apply to that property that must be adhered to by any person that may purchase the land in the future.  The CC&R’s usually authorize and even mandated the formation of a Home Owners Association.  An HOA is an organization where the citizens of the neighborhood run for offices and form a board.  This HOA contains many committees such as an architectural control committee that oversee any improvements you may wish to do with your (cough cough) property.  They have veto power and have the authority to object to you improving your own (cough cough) property.  These CC&R’s were originally intended to protect the investment of developers until they can sell all the properties in a neighborhood.  As long as the developer owns one property in the neighborhood, they contain unilateral power to create, change and enforce any rules they see fit.  They even have the power to change the rules after you move in. Once the developer sells all the properties in the neighborhood they usually turn the HOA over to the citizens.

These rules were originally benign and were just intended to keep the property in good condition.  The intentions were positive and were not to be feared but welcomed.  Unfortunately the scary secret is that these rules NEVER expire!  You heard me right…If you buy a piece of property, that has these CC&R’s attached to them, they are in force for thousands of years.  The home that you just spend hundreds of thousands of dollars really does not belong to you after all.  Not only does the city, county, state, and federal laws apply to your (cough cough) property but so do these CC&R’s.  These CC&R’s are even more enforceable than the local laws because if you are ever involved in legal action, the judge will say that you agreed to these rules when you bought the property.

There are no limits to what these rules can entail.  If your neighbors suddenly have an ‘axe to grind’ so to speak, they can band together and change the rules on whatever you are doing making it illegal.  If enough of them agree to accepting a rule, then you are bound to them.  Your only saving grace is if your local laws allow you to fall under a ‘grandfather clause’.  These HOA’s have authority to impose liens  against your property that you are responsible for.  These liens can be foreclosed upon resulting you you losing your (cough cough) home.  If you do not comply with these rules, you can have fines placed upon your (cough cough) property that you must pay or lose the home.  These rules usually tell you what can be done to your (cough cough) property such as the color of the paint, types of fences, antennas, grass, landscaping.  They even tell you that you are not allowed to park a boat, or any other vehicle in the driveway.

The intention is supposed to help maintain the property values of all the properties in the neighborhood.  Unfortunately this property value is not a Constitutional right.  Personal freedoms are.  When a person purchases these properties, they are giving up their freedoms that are NEVER returned.  In some cases this is done voluntarily and in some cases it is done without their knowledge.  For example…  My wife and I recently picked out a neighborhood in Southwest Oklahoma City where the developer would build our new home.  During all the paper shuffling we were given a piece of paper that was titled “The Top 10”.  This listed ten items that were the biggest violations by home owners in that neighborhood.  It asked us to sign and agree that we would not do these ten offenses.  These offenses ranged from parking a car in the street to not keeping up the lawn.  The one thing that was missing from all these papers were the full list of CC&R’s.  I eventually found and printed them from a web site.  It took 40 pages to print and I was shocked to find what I was agreeing to.  I read these 40 pages about ten times and with each re-read I would find another rule that was unacceptable to me.  Chief among them was a statement that gives the developer unilateral authority to change the rules at any time for any reason.  In other words, if the rules were acceptable to the buyer when they moved in, they could be changed afterward.

The point in this last paragraph is that I was never shown the 40 pages and if I had not been so suspicious by nature, I would have never known of their existence until after I moved in.  I wrote a three page letter to the developer requesting to back out of the purchase and thankfully they were generous enough to return our earnest money.  They could have refused to return it because I was not disapproved for the purchase.  Even if they had not returned the earnest money, I would have gladly forfeited it simply because my freedom is more important than the couple thousand dollars in earnest money.

Where I have a serious problem with the existence of these CC&R’s and Home Owners Associations is that virtually EVERY new neighborhood being built today has them.  If you buy a new home in any city in America you are going to have them whether you realize it or not.  Advocates of HOA’s will argue that a person makes that choice to move into one of these covenant restricted neighborhoods and so they can choose to move somewhere else if they are not acceptable.  As I said before, these covenants are binding FOREVER!  Eventually these new homes are not new anymore but the CC&R’s are still there.  Currently the only choice you have to avoid them is to move to the country or buy an older home.  Eventually there will be no more homes available that do not have HOA’s.  There is only so much country available within driving distance to work.  My point in all this is that we are losing that choice that HOA advocates say that we have.  Ham radio operators are enemies to HOA’s.  Most HOA’s will not allow antennas of any kind to be installed where they can be seen from the street.  In some cases, they go so far as to forbid antenna installations even if they cannot be seen.

The developers have lobbyists in Congress that go to bat for them and allow these rules to persist.  They argue that if they do not have the rules in place that a developer may not be able to sell their properties if someone in the neighborhood paints their house purple.  My answer to that is “TOO BAD”.  There is no Constitutional right to have property values. There is no Constitutional right to impose unreasonable restrictions on your neighbors just so you can keep a certain level of property values.  I have heard people argue that if you do not like the rules then move.  I say that in addition to the personal freedoms trumping property values, they need to move if they do not like my car up on blocks in the driveway.  Somehow in all this debating, people seem to get mixed up and accept the premise that property values are a right.  That premise is wrong on all levels.  Property values are not a right and are a normal risk that anyone takes when they purchase property.  Personal freedom is a right that must be protected.

These CC&R’s and HOA’s are bad in their very existence simply because of what they stand for.  They will argue that they are there to protect a person’s investment but by doing this, they are removing the rights of their neighbors.  I would submit to you that freedom and rights to be free are FAR MORE IMPORTANT than some fictitious property values.  What these HOA advocates will not admit is that they make these restrictions so that they can keep out those that they see as being unworthy.  This usually is defined by a person’s socioeconomic status.  They do not want someone that may be working on their car in the driveway.  It does not matter that the person cannot afford a better car or to hire someone to fix the car.  They are passing judgment on those people and saying “I don’t want them in my neighborhood.”

The ARRL claims to be the largest lobby in Congress to advocate for the rights of amateur radio operators.  The problem is that every time the ARRL comes knocking on the door for donations, they always tout what they are doing to protect us from such as broadband over power lines (BPL) while ignoring the biggest threat of all.  HOA’s are the biggest threat to ham radio that exists today.  It is not the FCC’s testing rules, or the cost of radio gear.  It is the rights and freedoms of law abiding citizens being taken and preventing them from being able to operate their radios because an over zealous HOA has their thumb upon them.  If the ARRL wants to save ham radio, they need to make this argument to Congress and make CC&R’s illegal.  We know this will never happen but it is the only way ham radio will stand a chance at long term survival.

For those of us that are lucky enough to find a piece of property that does not contain these power grabbing rules, then savor them.  Our children will not be so fortunate because there are only so many farms available.  We managed to find an older neighborhood that was destroyed by a tornado.  All the homes are brand new but the neighborhood rules were in place since the 1970’s.  This is how we managed to get around the rules.  Unfortunately, this is not available to everyone and as time goes by there will be fewer and fewer homes available without these oppressive rules.  I say to the ARRL, that if you want a worthy fight, then go fight this one and you will have amateur radio operators joining you in droves.  They will gladly pay the dues for membership.  I know I would.

Shortwave Radio

My Shortwave Ragio

We have been living in limbo for the last year and a half while we worked on our house and then sold it.  We will not be moving into a new house until the end of 2011.  For this reason all of my ham radio equipment is still in storage.  As a ham radio for 28 years, I have been missing be able to get on the air.  I bought the Grundig Satellit 750 shortwave radio for just this sort of thing.   I cannot talk on the air but I can listen to stations from all over the world with this radio.  It is a very nice radio that has AM or medium wave, FM broadcast, Airplane band, and shortwave, 1.7 MHz to 30 MHz..

I have been very pleased with the performance of this radio.  It has single side band (SSB) capability, narrow and wide band features to prevent interference from interference on adjacent frequencies.  One of the interesting and useful features is the ability to turn the AM ferrite antenna on the top to achieve the best signal.  This saves the user from having to turn the radio to get the best signal the way a person would have to on a normal AM radio.  The sensitivity on this radio is better than average.  While we are living in an apartment we do not expect too much as far as performance because there is no room for antennas and the building is surrounded by metal.  This has not been as much an issue as we thought because this radio has such a great sensitivity.  The radio allows the user to scan with small and large steps for fine tuning.  As most people know, a shortwave radio can be slow to tune on a fine tuning mode.  This radio has fine tuning and it also has a fast scan where it scans five KHz steps.

I know this is a very nice radio that is worth every bit of the money that it costs.  You can still find it on Amazon.com for $249.99 for free shipping.  If you are in to shortwave listening, I would certainly recommend this radio.  If you live in an apartment complex or a place where you are not allowed antennas, this radio will fulfill your needs.

 

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