Dashboard Mounting Options

As I am certain you are well aware, modern vehicles are mostly not built with amateur radio in mind. Finding the right spot for a remote head for your mobile radio can be quite a challenge. One of my go-tos in the past has been Lido Radio Products. They have a wide variety of mounting options. One that I have used in other vehicles is their articulating arm that attaches to the car seat bolt. It is a sturdy mount, but because it is at the end of a longish arm, it is a bit jiggly. But overall a very suitable mount. Lido supports our hobby and it was fun meeting them at the recent Pacificon.

Having recently changed vehicles after 11 years, I started the search anew for mounting options for a cell phone and a remote radio head. Some of these new options for cell phones use a custom molded piece that takes advantage of small seams or gaps in the vehicles dashboard trim to provide firm purchase. From this base piece you can then select from a wide range of cell phone mounts for your your particular devices, be it cell phone, GPS, table, or amateur radio.

For my Honda Passport I chose 2 different mounts. The first, for my cell phone, is from ProClip. Because most cars do not support wireless Apple Carplay, you have to use the lightning connector to have CarPlay work properly. ProClip has a great option for this. (Yes I have tried the wireless Car Play options and have not found one that works reliably yet.) But this mount is very solid and getting the phone in and out of the mount and on the lightning connector is quite easy. Chose your mount carefully as it can be very close to where you activate the wipers. But so far mine, while quite close, has not interfered.

For mounting my FTM-500, I chose a mount from A-Tach Mounts. This mount allowed for mounting the radio directly where the little cubby is below the HVAC controls. This has made for a very solid mount that does not shift, or wiggle, and mounts the radio at a good height for good visibility and easy access to the radio controls.

There are a lot of options out there like Ram Mounts, or those mounts that take one of your cup holders, and any of a bazillion option on Amazon (Which I do not put much faith in.) And you still always have the option of driving some screws if you need to. Only you can make that choice. I did not want to put holes in my dashboard and I found a solid solution that supports that choice. For the microphone I double side tape a steel washer to the dash somewhere and replace the button on the back of the mic with a circular neodymium magnet. Works amazingly well.

Take your time, look around, and think outside the box. The solutions I found are technically for cell phones and are marketed as such with amateur radio mentioned nowhere in their advertising. Ram typically caters to commercial installs, as do others. That does not mean that their product is not a good fit in your scenario.

Cheap & Super-Portable Magnetic Loop antenna for 20-40 meters

Most of you know how much I enjoy playing with mag loops. I think I have something like 5 of them from different manufacturers, as well as my first one that I built myself. I showed a few photos of my homebrew baby on Ham Fun night a few months ago. My first contacts on 10 watts were to Maryland and then Hawaii a few minutes later on 17 meters from Morgan Hill. The really fun part about mag loops is that they don’t have to be hoisted high in the air. The two contacts I made that first day had the loop base about 2 feet above the grass in my front yard!

Just for fun, here’s a short clip of my Chameleon P-Loop in action. The station you’re hearing was 59 on 20 meters from Utah to Mississippi on my Yaesu FT-818 running 2.5 watts:

Anyway, I know that some of you would like to try building a mag loop, but that it might be a little fiddly or require some tools you might not have. I just happened across this video from K6ARK, a SOTA guy that’s really into super-light, backpack-able radios and antennas, and he shows one that only weighs 8.5 ounces and can be put together easily without bending copper or aluminum tubing into a loop:


I thought this interesting (QRP power only) build might inspire you to try making one of your own. This one is not super-hard to make, doesn’t require any specialized tools, and packs away into a very small space. You might have to come up with some minor accommodations if you don’t have simple metal-working hand tools.

For example, the nice bracket that he made for the BNC connector could be replaced by simply cutting and stripping a piece of RG-174 or RG-58 coax and using a hose clamp to connect the coax braid to the ground point. Then solder or twist a simple 8 to 16 inch length of any kind of wire to the center conductor of the coax to make the “gamma” match. You can use either an alligator clip as shown, or even just another hose clamp to attach it to the main loop body. Just move the connection points around for the best SWR.

The little plastic switch box with the tuning capacitor is maybe a bit more of a challenge, but you can even substitute it with a 18-30 inch length of coax (for 20 meters), if you’re OK starting with just a single frequency/band. The capacitance between the shield and center conductor of the coax replaces the capacitors in the box. Just attach the shield to one side of the loop at the top, and the center conductor to the other side, leaving an insulator between the two ends of the loop. Something like a piece of scrap plastic, pvc, or even just a chunk cut from a soda pop bottle would work.

Leave the far end of the coax open, and measure your resonant frequency with a NanoVNA or some other wideband SWR meter. Snip the length of coax shorter a half-inch at a time until it resonates on the frequency you want. There–done!

I’m embedding a video by VK3YE showing this “coax-as-a-capacitor” method on his mag loop. You don’t necessarily have to make a big copper loop like this, or copy his tunable capacitor made of scrap pc board and a rubber band. You can just simply cut the open end of the coax a bit at a time as I mentioned.

The interesting thing about this antenna is that you can run a full 100 watts through it. Note just how low to the ground it is. That wasn’t just for the camera. I know some hams might think it’s impossible to get out with something this small and stealthy, but it really works!

As I’ve mentioned before, the only real downside is that mag loops are very narrow-banded, giving you only about 20-30 kHz of the band without retuning. Maybe the scrap pc board and rubber band kludge isn’t such a bad idea in that case. But…let’s say you’re really into FT8, or just want to join a daily net. This might just be your ticket! Stick it up in your attic and away you go…

Radioddity GD-88 Review

The “new” Radioddity GD-88 is a rebranded Kydera 880 DMR radio offering 7 watts of transmit power on digital or analog modes, on both UHF and VHF bands.

Sporting a 3,000mah battery (more on that in a minute), cross-band repeat modes, same frequency repeat, analog and digital APRS/GPS, IP54 water proofing, storage for 300,000 DMR contacts, and 4,000 channels (250 per zone), it sure sounds like a really great radio. Let’s dig into the details…

Starting with some of the basics, like IP54. In the IP scale the 2 numbers are on a scale out of a possible maximum of 6. So IP54, the 1st number being a 5, means the radio is relatively impervious to dust. Good! The second number, a 4 out of 6, means the radio will withstand splashing water from any direction, such as rain, or other similar scenario. It will not withstand direct jets or streams of water, or submersion. Still pretty good though. I would not hesitate to take this radio into the outdoors.

All the other features work as stated. If you wish to use the APRS/GPS it works a treat. It takes some time to learn the menus to configure all of these things, and I am not going to reinvent the wheel to show you how. There are a plethora of Youtube videos available that will walk you through the process. Other reviewers also confirm that transmit power is realistically near to stated power, which is great.

There is much to like about the radio part of this radio. It has a great hand feel when using it. The screen has all kinds of information, like zone and channel number, allows 11 characters for channel names (very nice). There are individual volume settings for each of the dual receivers. You can actually receive on both receivers simultaneously. The antenna is not the common Baofeng inverse SMA. This radio uses the female SMA connector on radio body. The included stock antenna, in my initial testing, actually works quite well on both bands.

There are multiple programmable buttons for you to set to your operating style or needs. The backlight is bright, although the information is smallish, but the color display makes it easier to pick out the information you need to see. The channel and volume knobs have a short profile on the top of the radio which I like. It seems, so far, to make for less opportunity for the knobs to be accidentally turned while in use. The channel knob can be locked out in software. The volume knob has a strange “lag” in the encoder when changing the volume. You turn the knob and then wait some number of milliseconds for the radio to respond causing you to almost always overshoot or undershoot your desired setting.

There is a lot to like here, and then there is the stuff to not like as much…

Beware the “affiliate links”.

Many reports on this new radio offer fairly glowing reports, point out all the neat things this radio can do, and let’s be fair, there are features aplenty. However, under the hood are some glaring issues that are a whisker away from making the radio unusable. For a $220 (US) radio in 2022, some of these transgressions are major head scratchers.

The programming software, or CPS, is the heart of any DMR radio. Without a code plug there is no radio. So far my experience with the out-of-the-box CPS is that there is quite nearly no radio. Starting with the Windows 98 era serial driver nonsense you will have to deal with. Remember the hoops you had to go through to program a $30 Baofeng? Well, they are back on this over $200 dollar, brand-new radio. The nightmares of getting a PL2303 clone chipset serial driver to work in Windows 10 or 11 are back. And you may have to do this multiple times if you accidentally plug the radio into another USB port on your computer.

The CPS software itself is nearly unusable. In making changes to a zone, I have found it can corrupt an adjacent zone. There are essentially no editing feature whatsoever. You cannot insert a channel, move a channel, copy a channel, etc. So if you create a zone with channels, and you want a subset of chosen channels in another zone, you cannot copy and past them. If you need to insert a new channel in an already created zone, you can only add at the end of the zone, and you cannot sort. You can also not even tab between fields to speed up data entry. You have to mouse click on every single field you need to touch. If you change or edit an existing zone it may corrupt an adjacent zone, thus destroying the zone forcing the data entry all over again. There is no “save as” capability to create versions. You have to remember to manually create a new file name otherwise it is fairly easy to overwrite the previous version. There is a workaround to some of this, in that you can create CSV files for your channels in excel, manage all your zones in csv files, and them import them into the CPS. This is really the only “safe” way to manage zones without messing everything up, or is really the only way to recover if zone corruption occurs.

All that said, forget that dumpster fire, and instead…

Try a 3rd party CPS for these radios from MM7DBT called CPEditor that is becoming more and more frequently mentioned on the GD-88 posts and forums. As always, if someone from user community solves a big problem like this, please remember to support their work with a few bucks to their donation link. You still have the issues with the serial drivers, but CPEditor makes the radio usable.

And finally, let’s talk about battery life. Unfortunately there is not much positive to say here. It’s poor. very poor. The included, alleged 3,000mah battery will not even make it 8 hours with the display on. My Anytone 878, with the display on the entire time, will go about a day and a 1/2 on a 2 year old 3,100mah battery. The GD-88 will just make it to 7 hours with the display on in 3 separate tests now. This is with APRS/GPS off, and literally just sitting on my desk – not even with transmitting. The 878 will take an entire day of comms at a scout camp with regular transmissions through the day. Either the power management of the GD-88 is that poor, or the battery specifications are disingenuous.

Icom’s Novel Idea For Ham Bands Above 2.3 GHz

Icom has announced that they are thinking about creating a new transceiver system for the 2.4 and 5.6 GHz ham bands.
What? You didn’t know we have bands in frequencies so high? Well, we do, but they’re obviously not very popular, with no current commercial radios that cover those microwave bands.
So far, they’ve published 4 very short pdf files that show what their concept is, and have just recently shown a mock-up at the 2022 Dayton HamFest in May. They are also planning to attend other major hamfests to try and gauge the level of interest.
According to their latest paper, they were very pleased with the response from hams at Dayton.

Icom has tackled one of the major problems when using these microwave frequencies. You and your transceiver want to be in your nice, warm shack, but you want your antenna to be high and outside. Running coax out to the antenna is a big problem. At these extremely high frequencies, coax loss is a real killer, even using very large and expensive hardline.

The basic concept is to use an IC-705 QRP transceiver as the controller (note the 5780 MHz frequency on the display above) for a remotely-connected, weatherproof up/down converter box that would sit outside on a pole or tower, using a very short connection to its antennas. The IC-705 has an Ethernet connection that runs up to the converter box on the tower. Power for the converter is supplied by PoE (Power over Ethernet) coming from the IC-705.

Now, I don’t know if the present IC-705 can produce that PoE voltage, or if you’ll need to buy a new one. Icom just says the concept is “based on” the IC-705 design. I guess we’ll see how it goes as they release more info. Keep in mind that this is still just an idea that they are shopping around, much like how auto companies show off their concept cars at the auto shows. If the public (us) show enough interest to justify the cost of designing it, maybe we’ll see one in a year or three.

Here is a simple block diagram showing what they’re thinking. The IC-705 is on your desk in your shack. An Ethernet cable plugs into it, and goes outside and up the tower to the transverter unit. This minimizes coax loss, which is super-important at such high frequencies:

Below is the outdoor unit that would mount on the tower. The GPS antenna connects to an internal high-precision frequency reference that will keep the microwave radio locked closely onto the frequency. This addresses another issue where normal transverters would not have tight enough frequency control to allow for an SSB or other signal to stay within the IF bandwidth of the radio in your shack.

Quick Links to Things We Covered on Tonight’s Net

Here are a few web URL’s to items we discussed on the 3/30/22 net:

Online tone generator–send DTMF over a radio or other device that doesn’t have a TouchTone pad:


Source for SDR receivers and adapters for all sorts of uses:

Fully assembled little adapter boards for under $25 that you can add to your radio if it doesn’t have a built-in panadapter (waterfall) display). You would then connect this amplified IF output to an SDR dongle, add some free software on to your computer, and have a great display of what’s on the bands:


Jack W6KRK and I bought these folding panels awhile back. Well-made and fold into something close to the size and weight of a laptop computer in a soft bag:


George N6GWH bought these portable folding solar panels and likes them. They are about $50 less than the ones I bought, and have another 20W of power as well:


Jehu Garcia’s YouTube page. He’s been one of my favorite instructors, as well as a source of parts, for building your own lithium batteries and battery packs. Be sure to also check out his VW Microbus that he converted to a full electric vehicle:

Jehu Garcia on YouTube

Will Prowse has a great YouTube channel that has very informative info on batteries and solar systems:

Will Prowse on YouTube

WebSDR: Listen to Repeaters in Salt Lake City, and Make Other Fun Radio Links

The Northern Utah WebSDR receiver system has a unique feature that allows you to listen in on local repeater activity in the Wasatch Front area of Utah. Like the other WebSDR receivers, it allows you to listen to activity on the 1.8 to 30 MHz HF bands, but they’ve added another remote receiver for local VHF/UHF activity. This receiver is located southeast of downtown Salt Lake City, on the face of the mountains, about 600 feet above the valley floor. For those of you familiar with the area, it is near the entrance to Parley’s Canyon, where I-80 and I-215 meet. To get from the SLC Airport to Park City, you go right past this area.

Someone has taken the time to mark all of the repeaters that can be heard on the tuning ruler, so all you have to do is click on one of the little brown flags to move from one repeater to another.

NOTE: Before you go any further, if you use the Chrome browser, or any based on Chrome, make sure you remember to click the colored box above and to the right of the tuning dial that says CHROME AUDIO START or you won’t hear anything on any of the WebSDR receivers. Also, please know that if you click these links from an Android or iOS device, you may get re-directed to a different receiver page that might not have the same capabilities. Nothing wrong with your stuff, just a limitation of the design of these awesome receivers. In fact, I sometimes listen to 75 or 40 meter nets with my iPhone, so it works, just a bit differently.

Here are a few web links you can copy/paste (or just bookmark this page) that you can save into your web browser:

This is the 146.62 repeater, the busiest in SLC, and links to one in Park City

Here is the 146.76 repeater, also quite busy, and is my “home” repeater, covering Salt Lake, Davis and Utah (where I am) counties area.

147.12 repeater near our TV towers on Farnsworth Peak (named after Philo Farnsworth, the actual inventor of television), southwest of SLC. This repeater is part of a wide area network of RF-linked repeaters up and down Utah. It is called the Intermountain Intertie system, rivaling the famous Cactus Net for sheer coverage. It also covers southern Idaho (Boise, Idaho Falls), parts of Wyoming, Montana, Yellowstone Park, Flagstaff and Phoenix, AZ, and Las Vegas. Lots of activity here as well. Unlike Cactus, all may use it without fees or membership. Read more about it here

By the way, many of the WebSDR receivers allow you to make your own weblink that you can save or bookmark. It allows you to instantly go to a particular WebSDR receiver, frequency and mode. You can see how I did this by examining the URL’s in the links above. Or, for example, if you like listening to the NoonTime Net on 40 meters from about 10 AM to 2 PM every day, your link would look like this one below. Go ahead and click on these examples if you’d like. I made sure they work:


Note the data after the question mark. Just replace the frequency in kHz with whatever you want, and then add the mode, such as cw, usb, lsb, fm, or am. That’s all there is to it. If you want to listen using a different WebSDR receiver, just use its URL, and add the same frequency and mode data at the end. Here are two more examples of the NoonTime net again, but listening first from the KFS receiver near Pacifica, and right below it is the same net, listening from Phoenix.


Easy, right? Here’s another hint if you’d like to monitor several frequencies or repeaters at once. All you need to do is start one receiver session by clicking one of the above, then open a new browser instance or tab, then either click another link or paste one in, then go. Note that sometimes opening just a tab doesn’t give you audio from both receiver instances at the same time, depending on your browser. It worked OK for my Chrome browser, but your mileage may vary, etc.

OK, here is one last bonus link. If you would like to practice listening to CW, here is a link to 7047.5 kHz. It is the ARRL’s station W1AW. Every day it sends plain text from a recent issue of QST magazine at varying speeds. Very good practice, but don’t freak out if you happen to arrive while it’s sending at 35+ WPM! Yeah, I can’t copy most of that either. If you look at the web link, note that I inserted the frequency as 7046.75 kHz to get to 7047.5. I don’t know why, but on CW, it’s 750 Hz higher. Maybe a quirk. I dunno. I’ll come back and edit this if I figure out why.

There you go–you’ve got lots of cool receiver power all over the planet for the price of…nothing. Can’t beat that!

What Are Those Weird Tones?

Contestia Signal

If you tune around the HF bands, you’ve very likely heard strange-sounding tones, squawks or beeps, and wondered what they are. Here is a link to a very well-done Wiki that gives you audio samples you can listen to, and a brief explanation of all sorts of different modulation types found on the Amateur bands to help you identify what you’re hearing:


Take 5 Minutes to Comment on USFS Fees That Will Ruin Your Repeater Fun!

mountain covered with fog under cloudy sky

The Federal government is at it again–this time they are proposing that all repeaters and radios on US Forest Service sites–and there are lots of them–pay an exorbitant (to us hams) $1400 yearly fee to be able to stay where they are. Many repeaters we use in the Bay Area are on USFS sites. The Feds say that there are thousands all over the US.

Here is a link to the ARRL website with their summary of the impact of the proposal:


Annoyingly, the ARRL doesn’t have this very important item shown prominently on their front page, nor do they provide you with a direct link to where you should post your comments. I’ve added a shortcut to where you want to go. The comment window will close on Feb. 22, 2022, so do it now! Just click on “Comment” to leave your own thoughts:


I posted my own a few hours ago. It was quick and easy to do. You can do it anonymously if you’d like.

I suggest a few things to have the best effect:

1. Please avoid histrionics, name calling, or off-topic rants. Keep to the issue at hand, which is the proposed fee problem for hams, who can be an important emergency resource to government.

2. Double- and triple-check your spelling and grammar. You’ll make a better impression if you sound reasonable and thoughtful.

3. NO CAPS LOCK! Don’t shout with your keyboard.

4. Keep it short. A few lines are more effective than 10 paragraphs that no decision maker will take the time to read.

Even if you don’t use any repeaters, please do take the time to comment! If you are a repeater user, think of what life would be like without it, or worse yet, how it would be to get a monthly or yearly bill to continue using it.

If you leave an email address, you’ll get an acknowledgement that your comments were received, along with a copy of what you wrote. Here’s mine:


Your comment was submitted successfully!
Comment Tracking Number: xxx-xxxxx-xxxx

Your comment has been sent for review. This process is dependent on agency public submission policies/procedures and processing times. Once the agency has posted your comment, you may view it on Regulations.gov using your Comment Tracking Number.

Document Type: Proposed Rule
Title: Land Uses: Special Uses; Annual Programmatic Administrative Fee for Communications Use Authorizations
Document ID: FS-2022-0001-0001

I am strongly opposed to this proposal to charge an administrative fee, if it includes Amateur Radio (FCC Part 97) repeaters and radios. Amateurs have a long and rich history of working directly with the Federal government, as well as local government agencies, in times of disaster or other emergencies. One of the primary tools Amateurs use to enable emergency communications is mountaintop repeater systems. The proposal to charge such a relatively high fee for Amateur Radio repeaters will effectively drive them off most of the USFS sites. This is due to the fact that they are maintained by individuals or small club groups, not corporate entities that can include the proposed fees in their budgets as a cost of doing business. Please consider amending this proposal to exclude repeaters and radios licensed under FCC Part 97 from being required to pay the proposed site fees.

Apollo 11: How NASA Got All That RF From The Moon Back To Earth

space research science astronaut

This is a very good article that we hams might enjoy reading! It’s about the first moon landing in 1969, and how video, voice, and astronauts’ heartbeats were all sent back to Earth using frequencies and modes we are familiar with today. It was all analog stuff back then, and communications were sent “in the clear” without encryption. Of course, that meant some hams got to listen in!

Read all about it here:


Note that the “S” band microwave frequencies mentioned in the article are just a hair outside of our present 13 centimeter ham band that covers 2300 to 2450 MHz. A chunk of our 13 cm band (2310-2390 MHz) got taken away a few years back, and is now used by, among others, Sirius/XM satellite radio. If you’re one of their subscribers, it might be fun to know that the music coming out of the speakers in your car is from a satellite transmitting inside of an Amateur Radio band. Think about that while you’re driving around, listening to the Beatles Channel (Ch.18)! Oh, and of course, we also share almost half of the 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi and Bluetooth band with the world. Ask me sometime how we got there…