Anon Radio

For when you just want to talk…

There are three major license-free radio services available in the US that are of interest to us: CB, FRS, and MURS. Using these, well, you don’t need a license and nobody needs to know who you are. Thus, they may be Anon Radio.

CB Radio

This was the first service. Back in ancient history it did have licenses, call signs, and all that stuff. Now it  effectively just comes out of a blister pack at Sprawlmart. CB uses the frequency range of 26.965 to 27.405 Mhz, divided into 40 channels each spaced 10 KHz apart. Yes, all of them end in .xx5, which is weird as hell but who cares.* The signals are usually amplitude modulated; single sideband (SSB) is also allowable on this band.

Notable channels: In many municipalities, channel 9 is monitored by local law enforcement, REACT team volunteers, truckers, and roadside assistance personnel as an emergency call channel. CB radios may have a switch or button to quickly jump here if needed. The frequency is 27.065 Mhz and it may be interesting to leave it in your scanner.

Channel 19 is often used by truckers.  Channels above 30 are often used for SSB. If you have a basic AM only radio you may hear distorted sounding transmissions up here. Radios capable of SSB transmission and reception will have an LSB / AM / USB switch to set the mode to match other users on the channel. SSB tends to be more efficient in terms of how far away you can still continue to talk as signal levels become marginal.

These signals tend to get out best in open spaces and get blocked pretty badly by buildings. However, when the earth’s ionosphere becomes charged up appropriately, you can get “skip” which will carry your signal hundreds of miles by bouncing it back to earth from a high altitude.

The wavelength of the radio signal down here is around 11 meters long, meaning that the common 1/4 wavelength antenna would be taller than you are. CB is most useful communicating between vehicles and/or base stations where you can easily mount a fairly tall antenna. Handheld CB radios do exist but the antennas are either very inefficient or impractically long!

Channel recommendations: ? (any suggestions?)

FRS Radio

FRS is a somewhat more recent service, it was initially opened up in 1996. It used to be totally polluted in most urban areas before everyone and their cat got cell phones with unlimited minutes and text. It operates around 452 Mhz and the radios and antennas are quite pleasantly small. Hell, some smartphones are now bigger than the FRS radio and antenna. There are 14 channels here.

BULLSHIT ALERT: On most FRS radios there are ‘subchannels’, ‘sub codes’, or whatever the manufacturer chooses to call them. They might like you to believe that the radios on both ends have to be set to the same channel and subchannel to receive a transmission. THIS IS NOT TRUE and no privacy is offered by this feature. What it is, basically, is that the ‘subcode’ is a “CTCSS” or “PL” tone. If you set the code to 00 or OFF on a radio, or hold the monitor button, it is in “carrier squelch” operation and it no longer matters what tone or DCS code the radio on the other end is sending, you will hear anyone on the channel as long as the signal’s strong enough to detect. The only use for these tones/codes is just basically to keep the radio from bugging you unless someone’s transmitting the same tone with their audio. It’s just a selective calling/muting feature. It is, however, useful just to make sure the radio doesn’t bother you with transmissions you aren’t interested in or random noise bursts.

Irritating Bullshit Features: Turn off the “roger beep” (a pointless beep the radio sends after you let go of the push to talk switch) and never press the CALL button or I will use radio direction finding techniques to track you down and pour Elmer’s Glue down your airways. On some radios the roger beep is turned on and off from the menu, on others you hold one of the buttons while turning it on to disable it. The call button just sends an irritating ringing noise for a couple of seconds. Why the HELL is it even there?!

Channel 1 is recommended to be monitored as an emergency use channel, if you’re gonna talk like /b/, stay to 6 / 9. 🙂

Recommended channels here: 6 / 9 for what the hell ever. 4 / 2 for more technical discussion, 3 / 14 pi (22 / 7 on a GMRS radio, *almost* pi). I usually monitor 6 / 9. I guess we could come up with our own band plan for this but honestly who cares? 😀


Now here’s where it gets weird! MURS is a license free service, five channels in the 151 and 154 Mhz VHF range. I have not seen any radios specifically made just for MURS use. Since MURS was “recycled” out of a rarely used business radio service that once did require licenses, the FCC chose to allow any type accepted radio for that band to be used there.

The frequencies are 151.820, 151.880, 151.940, 154.970, and 154.600. Note that if you are near a Walmart store, you will probably find at least one of the channels in use by the store. This is because they are too damn cheap to license proper business class frequencies for their stores. (The frequency and PL may vary by store.)

The least expensive option for a radio here is probably something like the Baofeng UV-3R, Wouxun KG-UVD1P, or similar. Note that these radios are also very useful for ham radio frequencies should you decide to get a license for that.
*  I’m guessing this has something to do with the common 0.455 Mhz receiver IF frequency but the Nobody Gives A Damn alarm just went off.

Web 1.0

I wish I could find the awesome old article on the origins of this, but alas… it has vanished from the Web, last seen around 2003. However, the work itself, I have carefully archived and redeployed. Enjoy… The Monkey Pit!

User interface design FAIL? In MY automobile?

It’s more likely than you think!!


The next time you turn on your car, leave the key in the “RUN” position without turning it all the way to start and look at the lights that will appear on the dashboard. You should notice somewhere a small battery icon.

And there, folks, is the fail, for despite being a glowing battery icon, this light does not indicate a problem with the vehicle’s BATTERY.

I’m not going to put up schematics and stuff because that’s just getting too technical* for this. In short, the battery light indicates a problem with your vehicle’s ALTERNATOR.

The ALTERNATOR light, which inexplicably has a freaking BATTERY painted on it, indicates that the vehicle’s alternator is not charging the battery when it SHOULD BE. It came on when you turned the ignition on without starting the engine because the alternator is not being spun by the engine. Once the engine is running it should go out, because the alternator is being spun and is generating electric current to recharge the battery.

You may see the light occasionally flicker under any situation that keeps the alternator from spinning. Driving through a puddle may wet the belt and cause it to slip, causing the light to flicker. Forcing the engine RPM too low on a vehicle with a manual transmission will also make it flicker. In either case it will go out once the alternator spins back up to operating speed.

If the alternator fails to generate power, due to a broken/failed belt (you may also notice a loss of power steering assist and air conditioning!), the light will come on. The car will stop running once the battery runs out of power.

If the alternator itself fails, it may also turn on the battery light. Note that the battery light signal is generated by the alternator, so a particularly rotten failure of the alternator’s internal electronics may not necessarily turn on the light. My father had the electronic voltage regulation controls inside the alternator on a Volvo 740  fail like this while driving on the Florida’s Turnpike in the middle of nowhere – the first sign of trouble was when the antilock brake controller (dimly) illuminated its fault light due to the low input voltage!

Soooo… why not label the light “ALTERNATOR”? Even the execrably designed NABI 40LFW transit bus has the light labelled as “GEN STOP”. Suggesting that it means the GENerator has STOPped working is infinitely more useful.

* me, resisting the urge to geek out about how this actually works? INSANE

Solar Safety: High Current Fault video

A common mistake I see some people make when designing a solar energy system is that they will parallel the outputs of the solar panels without using a combiner box that has fuses or breakers.

This works fine in the “yeah, the lights come on” sense, but if you should ever have a fault in one of the modules, you may very well experience a fire at the module that will spread to any other flammable materials nearby….. yes, that means your ROOF.

Note that while the solar panel’s encapsulant and backsheet self-extinguish and only exhibit a couple millimeters of flame spread, the sheet of paper I taped to it to simulate the flammable debris that *will* gather around your panels does not! 🙂

Flammable crap you will typically find around and on your panels includes oily soot from smoke/automobile exhaust, dried leaves, paper, bird nests… anything the wind or animals can bring in!

I miss being that radio guy


This is me playing with a tower. I don’t actually climb towers… I just went up a few feet to watch the sun set over the horizon.

The energy around that site is amazing. I’ll say that much, without even getting into how a ghost watches over it for us. 😀

What am I doing here with solar…. and why am I not yet integrating it with my love of radio more?

I guess it’s time to do some more development work.

Vintage 2009, as the real estate market crashed…

I just dug this up off my old LiveJournal page. It’s kinda strange thinking that the residents of one house at the time had pulled down the quality of life so badly in my family’s neighborhood and quite refreshing to realize that the problem more or less solved itself. I was actually glad when the house was just left with the doors open for days and scrappers came in and removed all the plumbing, wiring, and fixtures – thus pretty much ensuring it was uninhabitable until major repairs were done and the heavily modified interior that split it into four apartments was annihilated.

What follows is the post directly copied and pasted. The subject line below is “KITA!” which is… well, it’s well explained in the Densha Otoko TV drama.

キタ━━━━━━(゚∀゚)━━━━━━ !!!!!

My fuckwit neighbors in the quad house across the street appear to be gone.

Back in 1999, this Hispanic family moved out of a house across the street.

The house had new owners temporarily, who did very strange things with it. One day I asked my parents for a ride home from school, and they couldn’t do it because we’d been *triple-parked* into our driveway. I came back via MDTA bus and found the entire neighborhood jammed with cars, a box truck outside that house, and a very loud party going on inside with hundreds of people. This ended when the house’s electrical system caught fire, and everyone just kinda ran. When the smoke cleared, I looked into the house through a door that had been left open, and saw that all the interior walls except for those around one bathroom had been removed. The central HVAC unit was just sorta sitting in one corner on its side on the floor, surrounded by condensate; if the power had still been on, cold air would have been blowing out of it. The DJ had hastily departed and taken his equipment with him, but had left behind *thousands* of flyers for some event taking place at another address in Kendall that sounded residential as well.

A pretty nice couple was going to move in back in 2001. They’d paid a mint to have the house fixed up, new interior and roof… and then they vanished in about April. I think the husband got a job somewhere else. He was working for Piper Aircraft at the time.

Around then, this other family moved into the neighborhood and started buying up many, many properties on ARMs, including that one.

Since like 2002, we’d had to put up with their nonsense day and night. The house had been purchased on an adjustable rate mortgage by this one family who had done the same thing with literally every house that went up for sale in this neighborhood; the rates were very low at the time, and they were making some profit off of renting the houses out.

They were, however, really shady. They’d rent to pretty much anyone who called up and met them with cash in hand for the first month.

Eventually, as ARMs reset, they started ditching the properties one by one, including the house they used to live in, two houses down from mine. They sectioned off one of their houses, across the street from me, into four seperate apartments, and put a shed out back that might have been rented out as a fifth. They lived in one of the apartments, and rented the others out.

The quad magically gathered some of the most unsavory residents imaginable. We had the Harley-tards, a couple of younger guys who owned Harley V-twin powered bikes and apparently had some affliction that kept them from ever shifting out of first gear. They’d circle the block like eight times whenever coming or going, which happened at all hours. With the engines at near redline, it would create a really terrible noise that would shake windows in their frames and could wake the dead. This continued until one of them struck the speed limit sign down the street and died, and the other one moved out of the Quad.

There was one couple who we’d always see there, a douchebag guy and a twatwaffle girl, who would have endless screaming arguments and lovely sessions of domestic abuse in the driveway in the middle of the night. This was on a nightly basis. Such a happy couple.

There was also this tiny lady with blonde hair and a Ford Expedition who would always be coming and going during the day. Like, she’d come home, then leave again within about five minutes. Whenever she left, she backed the SUV out without looking, very rapidly. She nearly creamed my uncle twice, ran me off the road doing it once, and then finally had the rear end of that thing removed when she backed right into someone going by in a Honda Civic. They were uninjured, but their car was a total loss. She eventually got a new black SUV, and after some time of being under law enforcement surveillance, left the Quad.

Finally, in the very end, it was a total mystery… there were entire days of banging, thumping, buzzing car stereo, people getting themselves drunk until they passed out in lawn chairs on the driveway… and then came the weird move-out (best I can tell, that’s what it was).

At some point last year, there was one guy living there who drove a Mustang. He always seemed quite intent on trying to steal my car, but didn’t really know how to steal a car. One night I was coming home around like 2 AM and he was waiting in his driveway in his Failstang. As I passed and went to turn into my driveway, he came up and tried to slam into my car from behind… but I dodged him, ran over a plant in my swale, which recovered within a week, and took off again. I drove around through some of the local streets, turning the corners as fast as I could (which is really fast, with that car), and he kept chasing me… until he wound up kinda parked in the front of an empty house about a mile away. I didn’t stop or really even slow down. I just got the fuck out of there. I didn’t see him for a long time after that, until he appeared briefly, buzzing around the area on a pocket bike.

Last week, there was this frenzied flurry of bizarre activity. Everyone was coming and going 24/7 in all sorts of vehicles, most not street-legal, including pocket bikes, ATCs, and Go-peds. I recall seeing them carrying a television on an ATC at one point. I’m guessing this was them moving out.

Then, suddenly.. there was silence… followed by a dump truck and crew hauling away bits of the shed out back until well into the wee hours of the night.

The house now stands with a door open into one of the apartments. It smells REALLY bad, like moldy avocados, and the smell hangs in the air heavily all around. I even noticed it wafting into my laundry room. I think the Quad’s roof must have failed and soaked the place. I looked up the property info from Miami-Dade County, and it’s currently owned by some German bank. The power’s off, but the meter’s in the socket and my volt-pen shows power present up to the meter — I don’t really know what to make of that. I have the feeling they might have taken the panel with them when they left. (Yeah, I don’t know why they’ll do this, but I do see a lot of the local handymen will buy used panels to resell them and their breakers to homeowners who probably would be a lot better off getting NEW ones…)

And thus… the neighborhood is far cleaner and more peaceful once again.

Apollo Solar TSW4048 and TSW3224 DIP switches


The Apollo Solar TSW series inverter/charger is a newcomer to the renewable energy market which brings a surprise: worldwide power grid compatibility! Here’s what you can do….

Need 50 Hz, or 230/115v instead of 240/120? Remove ALL power sources from the inverter – grid AC and battery DC. Press the standby button and let the inverter try to start up if it hasn’t gone dead already. It should just make it through the countdown and bleep out. Remove the four screws on the top cover and try to lift it off. It’s a pretty tight fit and you may need to pry carefully. I used a plastic knife as not to scratch the paint.

Once the cover comes up, carefully move it up and to the right and push the plastic eject levers on the LCD board’s connector apart. The ribbon cable should come free. Set the cover aside.

The two dip switches are on the top of the control board, the same board where the ASnet and temp sensor cables go in.

Switch 1 – closest to the battery terminals – sets voltage. Down is 240, up is 230. Switch 2 is the frequency, down 60, up 50.

After setting these, blow out any dust that’s accumulated if the inverter was previously used, reconnect the LCD cable, put the cover back, and restore power. If you didn’t get the cable back in, the inverter will play dead till you fix that. No harm done really.

There are a lot of other parameters editable from PC software – I’m not set up with that yet but I’ll post about that once I get all the bits together.

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