Author Topic: Propagation: How do you know/suspect an "event"?  (Read 6069 times)

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KC9TNH

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Propagation: How do you know/suspect an "event"?
« on: July 16, 2012, 05:31:35 PM »
Just to foster some discussion of what to consider when things head for Tijuana; no trick questions, no pre-determined answers.

You are out in the hinterlands with your packable HF rig & gel-cell, or even VHF figuring that you ought to be able to get on top of a peak somewhere and hit a distant repeater just LoS. Cell/other PED/Crackberry: no-go, you lost it in the river, forgot to charge it, it fell out of your pocket on the DZ, whatever, you don't have it. So no TV, sat-phone, internet, newspaper - nada. You've smartly coordinated a pre-determined pickup point & time with a trustworthy ham friend who will be there & with whom you have a nightly sked to allay their fears that you've been treed by a moose.

Along the way you meet a companion who, while enthusiastic and really easy to look at, didn't prepare very well. But you have provisions so you share. Noticing that your provisions really aren't lasting as long as forecast due to "eating for two" you decide to cut the trip a few days short and give your friend a shout.

But nobody answers, in fact the band is really quiet no matter how frenetically you twirl the dial. The weather seems to be rather benign, and all bands aren't really "noisy", the noise floor probably doesn't even get above S4. Your rig's internal SWR shows 1.6:1 and the PWR meter indicates you're putting electrons into it. You can occasionally hear someone tuning up but that's about it; just mostly the sound of bacon frying as they say. What the heck, huh?

What type(s) of experiential stuff would you draw on to determine what's going on from a commo perspective?
(You are NOT limited to things I might have tossed in above.)

What would you do about it, if anything? (Corollary: What are typical practices for you - in terms of commo -  that would already mitigate some of the things in the above scenario which you can share?)
Have at it.
 :)



spacecase0

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Re: Propagation: How do you know/suspect an "event"?
« Reply #1 on: July 16, 2012, 06:17:06 PM »
I had my microphone break a few weeks ago (the one that came with my ft-857), and I was talking and trying to communicate for a week before figuring out that no one could here me and that no microphone means no power out on SSB, so no one knew that I was even trying to talk to them. (I figured it out when relocating the radio to a power supply with an amp meter, and I put it there to use the dummy load to really test it)
I know that I need to learn CW... (or carry an extra microphone)
but I was using PKS31 with good results so I thought the radio was fine, but it was not...

but if the issue seems like no one else was transmitting, then I would start looking for the issue,
I would first thing listen to AM broadcast bands at night to see if anything was on the air,

but when packing a radio I don't have many test tools,
I would likely try from the HF radio to my HT and see if it is working 10 foot away, but that is assuming I brought the HT.
I might try a processor reset if my audio was not getting out

and if I could here my radio on the HT (and the other way around at least on vhf) and there were still no AM radio stations, then I would lean to the idea that maybe an EMP or solar event had happened and start getting ready for that possibility.

BTPost

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Re: Propagation: How do you know/suspect an "event"?
« Reply #2 on: July 16, 2012, 07:13:39 PM »
Propagation as been totally messed up since early on the 14th... due to the X Class Flare... 20 is almost dead... I was able to get relayed in to the Net this mroning, but it was very spotty... 40 last night was dead as well, and 80 had an extremely High Noise level.....   Just Say'en..... YMMV....
Bruce in alaska AL7AQ

KC9TNH

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Re: Propagation: How do you know/suspect an "event"?
« Reply #3 on: July 16, 2012, 08:53:15 PM »
...no microphone means no power out on SSB, so no one knew that I was even trying to talk to them.

I know that I need to learn CW...

...but if the issue seems like no one else was transmitting, then I would start looking for the issue,
I would first thing listen to AM broadcast bands at night to see if anything was on the air,

I would likely try from the HF radio to my HT and see if it is working 10 foot away, but that is assuming I brought the HT. I might try a processor reset if my audio was not getting out

...and if I could here my radio on the HT (and the other way around at least on vhf) and there were still no AM radio stations, then I would lean to the idea that maybe an EMP or solar event had happened and start getting ready for that possibility.
I like the way you are nuggin' this out. Something new to learn & put in the toolkit (I should personally get more familiarity with manipulating the VHF capabilities on my 817 at locations outside my comfort zone), some things that help you isolate the issue, and possibly redundancy (at some level) in your gear. Nice.


AD

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Re: Propagation: How do you know/suspect an "event"?
« Reply #4 on: July 16, 2012, 09:49:30 PM »
Try to hear the beacons, if no one is talking.


From eham. Paul Signorelli W0RW
http://www.eham.net/articles/12827

Here is a good way check the propagation and MUF to DX in less than a minute using the Northern California DX Foundation world wide beacon system.

First, you need to put the following frequencies in sequence (low to high) into your radios memory for CW. 14100, 18110, 21150, 24930, 28200. (You may need to enter a slight offset to hear a good CW tone, like 14199.6, 18109.6, 21149.6, etc.)

If you want to check the propagation and Maximum Usable Frequency to New York, tune in 4U1UN (United Nations HQ in NYC) listen at 0:00 on 14100 kHz, then switch to 18110 at 0:10, switch to 21150 at 0:20, switch to 24930 at 0:30, switch to 28200 at 0:40. You can easily tell which frequency has the best propagation in less than a minute.

If you want to check the propagation to San Francisco listen for W6WX at 0:20 past the cycle start time on 14100, Then switch to the next higher band you have stored in your memory bank every 10 seconds and if the next higher band is open you will hear W6WX .

If you have a good Atomic Clock (WWVB) or accurate clock you can identify the beacons without even knowing the morse code.

Each beacon has a 10 second slot, They send their call sign (CW at 22 WPM) followed by 1 Dash at 100w, then 3 dashes at 10W, then 1W then 0.1W. If you can hear all the dashes, the band is really open.

The 14100 kHz cycle starts at 00 at the beginning of the hour and repeats the cycle every 3 minutes: 00, 03, 06, 09, 12, 15, 18, 21, 24, 27, 30, 33, 36, 39, 42, 45, 48, 51, 54, 57...minutes past the hour.

The sequence of transmissions on 14100 kHz is:
Call   Location
  4U1UN U.N. NYC 0:00
VE8AT No.Canada 0:10
W6WX CA, SF 0:20
KH6WO Hawaii 0:30
ZL6B NewZealand 0:40
VK6RBP Perth AU 0:50
JA2IGY Japan 1:00
RR9O Russia 1:10
VR2B Hong Kong 1:20
4S7B Sri Lanka 1:30
ZS6DN S. Africa 1:40
5Z4B Kenya 1:50
4X6TU Israel 2:00
OH2B Finland 2:10
CS3B Madeira 2:20
LU4AA Argentina 2:30
OA4B Peru 2:40
YV5B Venezuela 2:50

For complete information on the NCDXF Beacons go to the NCDXF web site:

http://www.ncdxf.org/beacons.html

What a great world wide project this is. Please do not transmit on these beacon frequencies.
« Last Edit: July 17, 2012, 09:01:30 AM by AD »
The only dumb question is the one that did not get asked!!

Quietus

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Re: Propagation: How do you know/suspect an "event"?
« Reply #5 on: July 16, 2012, 10:16:55 PM »
I'd be listening to the beacon stations, I have a hard copy of freq locations.  If no beacon, then no band.  Maybe.  Just putting that out.  Perhaps an internet grab has included a beacon grab, since power corrupts.  A hard copy of beacon locations is a good thing to have, sans internet.
 
Another thing to do, would be to go to your hardcopy of shortwave bands, and go through all of them.  It will take some time to come up with the conclusion that there's nothing to be heard.  Again, hardcopies of the SW freqs will make you less dependent on the interwebs.  As spacecase0 has said, there is AM.  It is a few twirls down on your HF rig, from 160m.  Lack of it will say something.  I don't think that there is a Conelrad at 630 and 1230 anymore, and I would not now trust it if it existed.
 
These two steps are a start towards troubleshooting the no-comms problem.
 
Other, non-comm-related answers are 1) before you jump out of an airplane, don't be shy about adopting the trucker look for all time (after all, if you do it once, etc... ...); and 2) when going out for a short walk out of camp, don't forget that pistol... ever.  And have a dog with you who's been trained to climb along with you for company while you wait out the durned bull mooses.
 
Where this might be leading, is toward prior education that includes more than just twirls-thru the bands and making a conclusion.  I look forward to more answers.
 
For people in populated areas, unlike me, there might come a hint during the radio troubleshooting, that it might be a good time to observe vehicle traffic patterns, maybe the trend of commuting has shifted at an unusual time.

KC9TNH

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Re: Propagation: How do you know/suspect an "event"?
« Reply #6 on: July 17, 2012, 07:22:14 AM »
Trackin' the good stuff. 20m & higher beacon usage can be useful.  Quietus I like your thinkin.

Broadcast presence/absence could be an indicator. Another source if you have a little elevation and are in the clear are aviation-related signals. Non-Directional Beacons (NDBs) aren't high-power but broadcast really low in terms of frequency, below 500kHz. They also have 2 or 3-character CW ID's copyable at much less than 22wpm. In big chunks of the country they're pure & simple navigational aids, at many airports they are the airport's locator and/or an initial approach fix. Variable Omni-Ranging signals (VORs) operate up in the lower-half of the VHF air-band; if you're in the clear LoS to one of these you can determine if VHF is happy. These are also likely not to be intentionally shutdown for some reason other than maintenance.

The hero/heroine's bestest friend is about 200mi away. What was the comm plan initially?

Note to self: Knowing current yoyo propagation, band to band, run through AD's beacon list to get a feel for what might be expected, on the average wire antenna, under terrible conditions. Anyone paying attention to 20m lately can understand the old commie dicta "all victims are equal." An Alpha legal-limit amp and a beam 50-feet high don't seem to make the owners of same any happier these days. Perhaps less so for the expenditure. I'm not packin' this kind of hardware on a camping trip but the beacon refresher isn't a bad idea.

AD

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Re: Propagation: How do you know/suspect an "event"?
« Reply #7 on: July 17, 2012, 09:05:38 AM »
Trackin' the good stuff. 20m & higher beacon usage can be useful.  Quietus I like your thinkin.
 
  :'(  ;D
The only dumb question is the one that did not get asked!!

KC9TNH

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Re: Propagation: How do you know/suspect an "event"?
« Reply #8 on: July 17, 2012, 01:54:34 PM »
  :'(  ;D
Is a combo-smiley like a prosign in CW...?
 :)

spacecase0

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Re: Propagation: How do you know/suspect an "event"?
« Reply #9 on: July 17, 2012, 06:40:10 PM »
I don't think that there is a Conelrad at 630 and 1230 anymore, and I would not now trust it if it existed.

CONELRAD (Control of Electromagnetic Radiation) was a method of emergency broadcasting to the public of the United States in the event of enemy attack during the Cold War. It was intended to serve two purposes; to prevent Soviet bombers from homing in on American cities by using radio or TV stations as beacons, and to provide essential civil defense information. U.S. President Harry S. Truman established CONELRAD in 1951. After the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles reduced the likelihood of a bomber attack, CONELRAD was replaced by the Emergency Broadcast System on August 5, 1963, which was later replaced with the Emergency Alert System in 1997
from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CONELRAD

KC9TNH

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Re: Propagation: How do you know/suspect an "event"?
« Reply #10 on: July 17, 2012, 07:24:33 PM »
CONELRAD was replaced by the Emergency Broadcast System on August 5, 1963,
Now you've got me tryin' to remember when they stopped doing "drop!" drills in school. Anyway, as BTPost mentioned before, the mid-bands are really struggling & the 40m net tonight wasn't in the toilet - it was all the way out to the sewer main.  Places like 7115 and 14050 seem to have their share of activity though.  Anywho....

Quote
The hero/heroine's bestest friend is about 200mi away. What was the comm plan initially?
 

Quietus

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Re: Propagation: How do you know/suspect an "event"?
« Reply #11 on: July 17, 2012, 09:38:22 PM »
As far as I can tell, there was no initial comm plan.  Just a place and time to be picked up, with no procedure for modifying that if circumstances (running out of beans and libido) were to change.
 
There has been that reassuring "nightly sked", which has now come to naught.  In absence of radio comms (which you are trying to figure out the WHY of), it might just be best to be close to the appointed place at the previously agreed-upon time.  Close.  Be ahead of schedule, kick back and observe the meeting place.  Everybody's got a non-electronic time killer in their BoB, right?  A deck of cards (solitaire was Eisenhower's decision-making friend), or religious material... a time killer is a good thing to have in order to prevent premature bad actions.
« Last Edit: July 17, 2012, 09:49:16 PM by Quietus »

spacecase0

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Re: Propagation: How do you know/suspect an "event"?
« Reply #12 on: July 17, 2012, 11:55:03 PM »
my non electronic time killer is hard liquor...
I know how to relax in stressful conditions when there is nothing I can do about things

KC9TNH

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Re: Propagation: How do you know/suspect an "event"?
« Reply #13 on: July 18, 2012, 12:22:18 PM »
As far as I can tell, there was no initial comm plan.
Mea culpa. I'll re-phrase to:
What would've been your comm plan in such an endeavor?
(before some aspects seemingly headed south)

In absence of radio comms (which you are trying to figure out the WHY of), it might just be best to be close to the appointed place at the previously agreed-upon time.  Close.  Be ahead of schedule, kick back and observe the meeting place.
Coupled with your advice to observe traffic patterns as well which may indicate something of more import (or the reason for) one's buddy being a no-show, nice assessment. Combines tactical with situational awareness and avoids target fixation on either the guest or the dang radio.

Like I said, no trick questions, no textbook answers.  Mull it, morph it, give it some thought or as some in another community might say, "develop the situation."

 ;)

BTPost

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Re: Propagation: How do you know/suspect an "event"?
« Reply #14 on: July 18, 2012, 02:19:43 PM »
A Radio Sched is just like a FaceMeet with an UnKnown, or a Blind Date.... OpSec says you ALWAYS show up early, and survey the crowd.....
You find a good ObPos, with an Good Exit Plan, and your Back covered.... and do your Due Diligence Recon.....
It is easy to scan the Band, Room, and watch the folks interact.... Then when the other person shows, you are ready to proceed, or just "Hide in plain sight"....
If no obvious Signal, or Person, shows at the appointed time, you can still send out a Call, or Invite, if you choose, or not.... You have control... and that is what OpSec is all about....
Just Say'en.... YMMV....
Bruce in alaska AL7AQ