During VHF contests, we operate a “Limited Rover” class station throughout Texas from a VW Westfalia dubbed “Der Funkwagen.” You can track our position using this link. Look for us and call for us on 6m, 2m, and 70cm amateur bands.
As an IT professional, I’ve made it my business and pleasure to use various social networks and communications tools, from the BBS system in the 80s, to IRC and instant messenger in the 90s, to the social networks of the 2000s. After reading this article about ham radio as a social network, I realize that amateur radio has always had its place amongst the best ways to communicate with others around the world, and we’ve been doing it in various ways for over a century. Furthermore, it’s kept up with the times. 21st century amateur radio is cutting edge and tons of fun.
Austin has a vibrant amateur radio community. Listening to the local airwaves on this page, especially during drive time, reveals many channels with several people talking about everything under the sun at any given time. This microcosm of FM chat is repeated in all the major metro areas all over the world, many of which are linked together, and that doesn’t even count the worldwide HF activity.
But the best social network is one you actually have to study for to become qualified to use. Visit the Amateur Radio Relay League’s “Getting Licensed” page to find out how you can study for the exam and find a place to take the exam locally, and then join the best social network.
Here’s the latest version of the KD5EUO station.
Here is the new logo for KD5EUO:
Every year the confederation of loose cannons known as “Los Chupacabraderos” heads into the woods to compete in the ARRL Field Day. Fueled by venison and beer, we like to rough it and operate single transmitter, five watts power (QRP) on battery and solar power only, out in the woods in a secluded campsite in Central Texas. This is known as category “1AB”. In 2013 operating as callsign K5AXW, we were first place in category in the South Texas division, and 7th place in category nationally.
The event was hallmarked with voice, CW, and PSK31 QSOs on HF and six meters, some satellite work, a workshop on how to build a rigid six meter dipole, and a visit from the local constable. A photo & video montage of the event is here, courtesy of KC2QJA’s Flickr page.
This venerable event always occurs the fourth weekend in June and is easily the largest amateur radio contest with tens of thousands of participants. It may also be the most fun you can legally have with a radio.
Several times a year the ARRL sponsors a VHF contest. This January my brother Kourt KB5PRZ and I decided to participate. Kourt recently acquired a Volkwagen Westfalia camper van, and we set about equipping it for VHF rover work in the “limited rover” category. Kourt put a great deal of effort into making the van road-worthy, comfortable, and capable of providing power for the radio station. This was its inaugural trip as a mobile radio contesting station. My son came along to learn how it’s done.
Our strategy: start in Austin and drive to the high points of four maidenhead grid squares (EM10, EL19, EL09, EM00). The more squares we transmit from, the more points we get. We’d use simple omni antennas while en route, then set up directional antennas once we reached our transmitting points, operating in the 6m, 2m, and 70cm bands SSB voice. In Central Texas, we’re fortunate to have the confluence of four grid squares near Wimberley, TX, as well as many hilltops to from which to operate.
We started by working from EM10 at the highest point in Austin. From there, we proceeded to EL19 in San Marcos. Along the way, there was an E-skip opening on 6 meters that enabled us to work Arizona with a 102″ whip. As the sun fell, we proceeded to a roadside park near Fischer, TX in grid square EL09 and set up camp for the night. With all the creature comforts of the Westie, including heat, running water, electricity, solar & battery power, we enjoyed an evening cooking lentil soup and venison sausage, followed by a restful night with the top popped up. Kourt, KB5PRZ, gives a more detailed description of the work put into the van on the Samba forum.
As the sun rose, we were treated to a fine panoramic view of the Devil’s Backbone. Morning is a great time to take advantage of tropospheric ducting on VHF bands. With the weather being warmer than usual, the chances were good. With our directional antennas we were able to reach as far as the Louisiana border on two meters and Florida on six meters. Satisfied with the morning’s results, we packed up camp and moved on to grid square EM00 on a high ridge between Blanco and Henly. It was the highest point of our trip. From there we continued to work stations as far as the DFW area, Toledo Bend, and Rocksprings.
Given our budget and a general desire to do more with less, we were pleased with the performance of the station. More importantly, we had a chance to enjoy a beautiful weekend in the country. It wouldn’t matter much if we had no contacts at all; the Westie was a blast to camp in, and Kourt makes the van very much like a tiny home. We were entertained by the many double-takes as passers-by looked, waved, and wondered what we were doing. We look forward to more contests in the future.
This is a live map of APRS activity, courtesy of aprs.fi:
Listen live to Austin area amateur repeaters and Travis County and Austin police radio. These feeds run 24/7. The amateur radio feed scans through all known operational 6m, 2m, 1.25m, 70cm & 33cm repeaters in Austin, Williamson, Bastrop, and Hays counties in central Texas. The law enforcement feed scans police departments, sheriff and constables for: Austin Police, Travis County, Lakeway, Manor, Pflugerville, Westlake Hills, Rollingwood, Sunset Valley, UT, and Texas DPS.
Here are a few ways to listen to the amateur radio scanner:
– At Broadcastify here. If you use the Scanner Radio mobile app, it’s like having your own pocket scanner.
– With your preferred media player or streaming device, the network stream URL is http://audio1.radioreference.com:80/461054660
– Use the embedded feed on this site below:
The archives for the Austin amateur radio feed can be found here. Recordings are kept for six months.
To listen to the Travis County law enforcement and Austin Police Department scanner feed via Broadcastify, go here. The network stream URL for this feed is http://audio1.radioreference.com:80/907330774 . The same feed is also provided right here:
You can listen to both of these feeds simultaneously on this page.
Here is the “machine” that provides the amateur radio feed:
I keep a library of programming files for various radios I own. Considerable effort has gone into curating these and it makes sense to share them. The links below are permanent and will remain fresh as I continue to update them from time to time.
Yaesu FT-8800R CSV: This is a CSV export that is suitable for import to most radios and programming software. It contains all operational repeaters for Travis and continguous counties in central Texas, plus many repeaters that cover major routes between Austin and the metro areas of San Antonio, Houston, Corpus Christi, Big Bend, Dallas, Ft. Worth, Lubbock, and Midland. It also contains several commercial and government frequencies, important channels in the Austin aircraft band, NOAA, FRS/GMRS, MURS, Austin Rail, and more.
Yaesu FT-8800R RT Systems: This is the same as above, except in the proprietary RT Systems format.
Yaesu FT-897D RT Systems: This is the RT Systems format file that contains all central Texas 2M & 70cm repeaters, plus wide coverage repeaters in major Texas metro areas, plus most operational six meter repeaters, plus some 10 meter repeaters in TX, NC, and NY. This also works with the FT-857D.
Yaesu FT-857D CSV: same as above, in CSV format.
Yaesu FT-7800R Chirp image: This is largely the same content as the FT-8800 RT Systems file, but in the CHIRP format for the FT-7800R.
Yaesu FT-60R RT Systems: This is a subset of the FT-8800R RT Systems file, but for the FT-60R HT.
Yaesu FT-50R RT Systems: This is a subset of the FT-60R RT Systems file, but for the FT-50R HT.
You can expect these to remain fresh as new updates arrive. I’ll post in the comment section of this post when updates occur.
As attested by these onlookers at my backyard station.