12/30/09 - Travelling with Amateur Radio

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kg7hq Wed, 12/30/2009 - 07:36

Happy Holidays!

Travelling can provide some additional challenges especially with the increase of airport securities. So instead of carrying my HT with me, I had decided to pack it away while in transit. Now stripped of my RF umbilical cord I'm resorting to alternative means to get that ham radio fix.

First thing is first! I booted up Xastir and relocated myself at SeaTac airport on the map. Then checked into a local seattle repeater (WA7HJR/R on 444.65) using Echolink under Wine. And finally, I went to an online SDR receiver site to listen in on HF.
This is actually pretty cool as I started to attract attention as I held a quick QSO using Echolink. Who said you can't take the hobby with you?

Now granted, this isn't "pure" amateur radio. After all, I'm not directly using RF for my listening and communicating. But with that said, it was much more fun than staring at the News Networks repeating each story dozens of times.

After a couple hour flight, I arrived at a hotel in Brisbane, CA. It's time to break out the VX-8 handi-talkie. Setting it up for 144.39 @ 1200bd, I did a test run with it from here to San Francisco and back. Running at 5 Watts without an out door antenna does create some challenges but over all I was happy that was being tracked.

I have attached a desktop captures of my laptop operating from the hotel. I'm using Ubuntu Linux V9.10x64 as the operating system. The programs diplayed and running are Firefox for the WebSDR (Software Defined Radios with web access), Pidgin (instant messenger client), Xastir (APRS Client through the Internet), and EchoLink (Windows program ran under Wine). I feel the need throw out a mischievous jab.. All the above software's including the OS is free! And all less the Echolink client are open sourced and our continuously updated with new features and capabilities.

As I travelled up and down the California coast, I found that APRS coverage was fairly good. It was interesting to see that 5 Watts and and HT antenna was able to hand shake with the digipeaters in the area. This along with a couple of QSO's on 70cm and 2Mtrs provided the RF fix needed. A word of caution about operating in the unfamiliar area. Please be careful operating if your not used to the roads and driving habits of the locals. I found it challenging to drive in the metro areas as there isn't a lot of patients for slow or lost drivers .

I have one notable in this trip that I thought was really cool. I ran into a couple of young women at a overlook along the "17 Mile drive" near Carmel, CA. They had a 3 element VHF Yagi and a beacon receiver tracking tagged sea otters as they moved around there habitat. They were using simple direction finding techniques to locate the tags. I have to admit that it sparked fond memories of days past where I participated in "bunny and/or fox hunts of hidden transmitters!

We know that in today's world, there will be challenges to over come when travelling with amateur radio. My suggestion is to contact the airline that your flying with to see what can be currectly carried aboard or has to be packed in cargo. This doesn't mean we can't take our hobby with. It does mean that we can be good ambassadors to our hobby and take a proactive step forward in being informed.

Safe journey on your travels.....

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