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Tracy
Manteca
Stockton
Lodi
Outside the county
ARRL Volunteer Examiner 

SJC EMCOMM Freqs
SJC1 - 147.210 + 114.8 Stockton (Stockton Pri)
SJC2 - 146.655 - 100.0 Tracy (County Pri)
SJC3 - 145.210 - 100.0 Tracy (County B/up)
SJC4 - 147.090 + 114.8 Lodi (North Pri)
SJC5 - 146.985 - 100.0 Manteca
SJC6 - 147.165 + 107.2 SDARC
SJC7 - 147.015 + 114.8 Copperopolis
SJC8 - 147.105 + 94.8 Stockton
SJC9 - 146.895 - 114.8 Mt. Oso - Disabled
SJC10 - 444.400 + 114.8 Copperopolis
SJC11 - 444.325 + 94.8 Stockton (Stockton Pri)
SJC12 - 443.825 + 107.2 Mt. Oso
SJC13 - 444.575 + 107.2 Stockton
SJC14 - 444.850 + 114.8 127.3 Tracy 
SJC15 - 444.500 + 114.8 Stockton
LLNL - 146.775 - 100.0 Livermore


TAC1 - 146.550

TAC3 - 146.535
TAC4 - 146.430
TAC6 - 156.565
TAC7 - 146.595
TAC8 - 146.445
All simplex
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N5FDL/CEVOL Repeaters

Stockton: 147.210 + N5FDL and 444.500 + K6TRK Both PL 114.8 (linked)

Copperopolis/Gopher Ridge: 147.015 + and 444.400 +  (not linked) N6GKJ 

Mt. Oso: 146.895 - N5FDL and 443.825 + PL 107.2 (not linked)

Tracy: 444.850 + KB6EMK PL 127.3

Affiliated Repeaters

Bear Mtn.: 146.090 + and 444.250 + WB6ASU Both PL 114.8 (linked)

Mt. Delux: 145.210 - PL 100.0 WA6SEK (10mi S of Tracy)

All repeaters are open to all users.

Tuesday
May302017

QuickSilver Radio's Hammo-Can XL Ready-Made Go-Box

Two admissions right up front: 1) I have never used one of these Quicksilver Radio ammo-box emergency stations. 2) When/if I get one, it sure as heck won’t say Hammo-Can XL in big faux-military letters on mine.

Callsign? Sure. Communications? Good. But I am still tormeted to be labeled by the FCC as an “Amateur Extra” — which sounds like “especially dufus” to me. I don’t need more embarassment.

I like the radio best mounted in this “top” orientation.I am writing this “review” because I plan to rebuild my existing portable station and would also consider purchasing something much like this box. There is a lot to like about this portable station, a few things to quibble with, and maybe something I really don’t like.

All-in-all, if you can accept this box for what it is, it should be very useful. (The images expand if clicked upon. The battery in inside the gray box).

Product Specs

Here is how QSR describes this $349.73 can of tricks. I’ve added my comments in italics.

Ready to Go!

Our new Hammo-Can XL™ is a complete VHF-UHF Station in a box.

For starters, this is a good idea. We need a good portable emergency station that is easy-to-purchase and works.

Yes, the radio is included! It’s a full featured dual-band radio by Jetstream. The JT270MH covers the 2 Meter and 70 Centimeter Ham bands, plus a lot more — including all of the NOAA weather channels. It is computer programmable, cable and software are included (also supported by Chirp software) with 25 Watts output power.

The radio itself costs about $120 if purchased alone. Call me a bigot, but I’d be way happier with a Yaesu. Or would I? I’d probably run the Yaesu at its 50w default, eating the battery. This radio needs to be able to transmit outside the ham bands during emergencies — like search and rescue missions. I am presuming that is possible with the Jetstream.

I’d program this radio with channels set for both 5w and 25w side-by-side so I can easily use the lowest acceptable tx power and save battery power.

Yes, the battery is included. It’s a 12 Amp-Hour rechargeable gel cell that will run the radio for many hours. Recharge it through the convenient Anderson Powerpole connectors. Wall charger, lighter plug cable, and other charging options available.

All the power in and out goes through the two powerpoles. Or the cigarette lighter jack. For me, two PowerPoles, one used for charging, seems four too few. I’d like to be able to fully power this station from an external supply. Is that easily possible? Can the battery be disconnected as desired? Charged separately? And all these cables come off the front of the box.

I mention this because I rarely run totally off batteries, although I am sure many others rarely run off AC in the field.

Is a 12 Amp-Hour battery enough? At 5w, probably for the day, even at a reasonably busy net control. I’d bring a DC supply I can connect to mains power or a generator. Or a much larger battery. That would make me feel much more secure.

Versions of this box and power-only boxes are available from the vendor.

Yes, a dual-current USB socket is included. Charge smartphones and tablets, run LED lighting, etc. Plus a heavy duty lighter socket for convenient power. Bright, easy to read voltmeter also included to keep track of your battery.

This is the heart of what I like about this box and what I want to add to my existing box: I need USB charging, cigarette lighter power is very helpful, I like the voltmeter. But I’d also like to know how many amps I am pulling, especially when running off an outboard DC supply or large battery.

Yes, two genuine Anderson Powerpoles are included. Charge the battery with any appropriate power source and run external devices.

I’ll talk about this more in relation to my own box and plans.

Yes, the antenna is included. Dual band whip with a BNC connector so you can easily swap in your choice of external antennas for higher performance and range.

If we accept — as I do — that having this box sealable and with no protrusions, this antenna mounting is a real plus for “right now” portable operation with essentially no setup. I, of course, would rarely want the antenna so close to my face. If I had one of these, I’d add 25 or 50 feet of coax with a BNC on one end (for the box) and whatever my antenna requires on the other.

All in a tough and water resistant metal Ammo-Can. Approximate dimensions 11-3/4”L x 5-1/4”H x 7-1/8”H; 15 lbs. 10 oz. Detachable lid with gasket.

What does “water resistant” mean? I don’t expect submersible, but can this box, when sealed up, sit out in the rain? Sit in a puddle? I know this isn’t a Pelican case, but what can it protect against?

Odd place for the radio, I think.

My Own Box

My personal box, wooden as it is, benefits from having a back that slides up and off. The exposes access to antenna jacks, data cabling for packet/APRS and radio programming, and extra Powerpole connectors. All of which, along with the DC power supply, can be accessed from the back without getting in the operator’s way.

My box has multiple radios — a Kenwood dual-band APRS mobile radio, a Motorola mobile VHF public safety radio, and a Uniden scanner. I typically run all three, with the scanner connected to a small antenna that sits near the box. The two other radios feed coax to separate antennas.

The Quicksilver box appears to have room for a second small dual-band radio. The scanner could become a handheld or perhaps a public safety, used to monitor and communicate with served agencies.

So far, the Quicksilver box could still be easily modified to meet my needs. Adding USB, voltmeter, etc., to my box could be a pain.

My box has two external speakers. Quicksilver would probably benefit from one speaker per radio.

What neither box has, and I want very badly, is a headphone jack and, ideally a separate speaker switch. I want to always be able to use the headphone but want to control the speaker separately so others can hear or not hear, as I desire.

How to do this for three radios at once? That is an issue, but I really only need an earphone/headphone on the radio I am using to communicate at the time. Give be multiple jacks and switches? 

Pricing

Is $349.73 a fair price for this box? Some hams — the more construction-oriented — will add up the total prices of the parts, toss in junk from the shack, and count their time at zero. They will say the box is too expensive.

Normal people will appreciate a professional appearance, the ability to ask the vendor to do customization, and when the UPS guy appears will consider this to be money well-spent. I am in this camp.

Bottom Line

I have about 3/4 convinced myself that my next medium-sized lottery win can be used to purchase one of these. Updating my existing box to add better power management, replace the Motorola radio with something smaller, add earphone jack(s) and speaker controls, etc. is a $200 project, tops.

Adding a really large external battery might be $200 as well. But either radio box could use it.

I have ordered from Quicksilver Radio in the past and like the company as a vendors and would not hesitate to order from them

Tuesday
May232017

Hey Preppers: Ham Radio requires a license (whether your magazine says so or not)

While I am not an outdoorsman, I enjoy thumbing through Backpacker and Outside magazines, mostly for the product reviews. Likewise, I look at an occasional “prepper” magazine, aimed at those who someday expect to be fighting off US Marshals and Navy Seals about to do, well, what?

Most preppers are more normal folks and, if we are honest, emergency-oriented hams share many of the same interests. In fact, we have had a number of preppers and suspect preppers in our HamCram licensing events. 

That interest explains how I ended up paying $10 for a copy of American Survival Guide’s Gear Guide. I found it quite interesting and as a result there are several items I now cannot live without.

But I have a real problem with their communications product section. It is written by a “Jim Jeffries” whom I pray is not one of the three “James Jeffries” listed with amateur call signs on QRZ.com.

My concern is the magazine shows several pieces of amateur gear — Yaesu and Icom — as well as some GMRS radios, but never mentions the requirement for operators to be licensed. Or if it did, I totally missed it.

I understand that in a prepper nirvana scenario nobody will be paying much attention to legalities, but until then, operating on amateuir frequencies sans license is a good way to meet the local ham community under unfortunate circumstances.

Likewise, GMRS, a service whose rules are now in discussion following a major rewrite, also requires a license. No test, but it costs $80 and is good for you and all your relatives.

Truth is, if it’s obvious to me that you are a serious prepper (not merely LDS), I am probably not too thrilled about your choice of amateiur radio as an adjunct. But, if I don’t have to know what you are doing in your home security basement — and you have room for me, the YL, and some animals during an emergency, all I can say is, “Welcome to Ham Radio!” 

Saturday
May062017

Meet my Jackery (Now stop laughing)

An external battery for powering/charging various iDevices and their ilk has become a necessity for emergency folks. It is not at all fun to run out of power when you need to do something, and in my experience, newer iPods don’t like be far from a power supply/charger.
One of the challenges is that external battery power requires a cable (typically USB) to connect the device to the battery. How many times have I had one but not the other?
So I was really happy to find the whimsically-named (?) Jackery Bolt external battery that includes both Apple Lightning and mini-USB charging cables built-in. I immediately purchased one (March 13) and consider it an excellent addition to my go-purse (an old Eagle Creek guide bag). Mine Bolt has a 6000 mAh battery and a 10050 mAh version is available. 
I paid $26. The higher-output model is $10 more.
Here is some information from the Amazon product page, linked below. (If you purchase from the link we may get a few pennies from your purchase). 
  • The global leading power solutions supplier with 15 years manufacturer experiences.
  • Hassle-Free Design: With 2 built-in charging cables and one open USB port, Jackery Bolt 6000 mAh allows you to charge 3 devices at the same time. No need to carry charging cables for your phones anymore, yay!
  • High Capacity: Powerful 6000mAh capacity can fully charges an iPhone 7 up to 2 times, a Galaxy S7 almost 1.5 times and other smartphones multiple times. Fast charge your devices with the maximum output at up to 2.4A, its rocket fast!
  • Bar-sized: With its elegant design and compact size, the Jackery Bolt is easy to carry in the pocket wherever you go. Jackery Bolt also includes a built-in flashlight for convenience in the dark and for emergency situations.
  • What you get: 1×Jackery Bolt 6000 mAh portable charger, 1× Micro USB charging Cable, 1×User Guide & Warranty,1×Thank You Card. 18-month product warranty and 7×24 hrs friendly customer service.

I like mine and recommend it to you. There are many competing devices available, but havimg permanently-attached charging cables is what sold me. A good purchase.

Saturday
Dec032016

Choosing a PL tone for your repeater

I was recently asked how a new repeater operator should choose a PL tone for a new machine. My comments are specific to Northern California, your local situation may vary.

  1. No assigned tones — We do not assign PL tones here in Northern California. Some places, however, may coordinate both frequency and tone.
  2. Pick a tone that isn’t being used. A good way to test for conflicts is to connect a radio to the repeater antenna and transmit on the frequency you are seeking, changing the PL tone every time you transmit. This ought to find repeaters on your frequency as well as the tones used to access them.
  3. Do the same for the repeater pairs one above and one below your desired pair. Why risk interference when it can be avoided?
  4. Check with your coordinator to make sure you haven’t missed repeaters. In Northern California, you can do this online at the www.narcc.org website. I don’t trust the RF Finder database and app for any purpose. Just too inaccurate.
  5. Yes, you should transmit a tone and your users should use it — Sometimes VHF and even UHF signals propagate over long distances. When this happens, users will unexpectedly hear another repeater on “your” frequency. Transmitting a PL tone (the same as the tone used to access your repeater) goes a long way to solving this on-channel interference issue.

There is probably more to this than I have talked about. So leave questions or comments and I will answer them and then change this post to reflect the new information.

Tuesday
Nov152016

Recommended Radio: Baofeng UV-82C (for commercial)

New hams often ask which radio to purchase. By which they usually mean which inexpensive, Chinese-made “commie-talkie” should the purchase. There are dozens available under almost as many brand names. I encourage everyone to only purchase radios that their friends have been using for a while, as the “newest models” sometimes really aren’t and may be throwbacks with a new and deceptive model number. Online resellers are not always good at clearing out old inventory.

Which radio do I recommend?

To make life simple, there is only one model that I recommend. And the reason is simple: The Baofeng UV-82C is type-accepted by the FCC on commercial (non-ham) frequencies. ONLY the “C” model — for commercial — has Part 90 acceptance making them legal on commercial frequencies.

This means the radio will narrowband audio and operate on narrow channels. That makes it legal to use, with proper authorization, on local public safety channels. Provided they are not P25 or some other digital mode.

They are legal to use on business band frequencies, as well as the unlicensed MURS channels. I am actually uncertain about MURS type-acceptance but will investigate. I don’t think they are legal on GMRS or FRS, but I don’t think that stops many from operating illegally.

In fact, read this thread and you may wonder if any of the Chinese radios are really Part 90 legal.

Many of these radios are being purchased and used by public safety volunteers (including myself) for their do-gooder activities. I try to operate legally.

Note that if you order from the links below, that we get a tiny portion of your purchase price as a commission, used to operate this site and the repeaters.