Amateur Ham Radio Volunteer Examiner

I am a VE, certified to administer the Amateur Radio Basic or Advanced exam including Morse Code

Serving Toronto, York Region and Ontario (and the world)

I am at to arrange a sitting

I strongly suggest the YLAB cram course as its been designed to help you pass with appropriate content as well as a reference book with online examples written by educators that are hams

We have numerous students that got licensed in 30 days with a bit of discipline and effort to study the content and then write the exam.

There are also sample exams available from the ISED website Study Guides Sample exams from question bank

Get your ham license, throw a wire up and go make contacts around the world!

Official GMRS Channels For Travelers and Off Road

Official GMRS Channels For Travelers and Off Road

There is adoption of certain GMRS channels for off-road vehicle use – channel 16 (462.575) and for highway travel channels 19 (462.650) and 20 (462.675MHz) with a PL tone of 141.3Hz. The best channel to use for off road travel, etc., is always the one where you can use the lowest amount of power and still keep in touch – so as not to hog a channel across a wide area. Channels 1-14 are best to use for short distances, whereas 15-22 (where more power is allowed) are best for long distance communication.

The “Official Jeep GMRS channel” is 16 (462.575 MHZ),.

When GMRS radios came along and became adopted by the off-road community, channel 16 (which just so happens to be a high-power, 50 watt channel) used to be a CB radio channel. 4×4=16.

Parking Lot on The Air

We chose a parking lot for our weekly POTA activation strategy (sometimes twice a week). Why?

Because one can activate parks from the parking lot and that changes the way one deploys antennas as no trees will be nearby so tripod based systems are needed.

6m Arrow Ground Plane, PackTenna 40/20m linked dipole, Milband Antenna
A new tripod system that I used studio grip bags to keep it from falling over. Buddipole 18 ft mast

Ft-100D, BHI DSP speaker with Bioenno battery box
POTA Antenna, Radio and a Battery and of course a logger – Thats it!

POTA allows hams to enjoy pileups when activating a Park

CQ Parks this is VE3IPS QRZ!

Ham Radio its a Lifestyle

I woke up and made coffee and went down to the shack to see what the bands were like.

Worked Tom VY2SW with a ATNO park activation VE-0054 Manicouagan-Uapishka Biosphere Reserve This park is in Northern Quebec and its absolutely beautiful. Tom was on 20m cw. Tom chose a good time this morning as the bands start petering out as the sun rises.

I then worked 4 parks in the USA on 40m and 20m. Bands were QSB as usual.

Then I ordered some more Anderson Power poles on-line.

I just finished soldering up some interconnects for a BHI DSP speaker I got at the Hamfest Saturday.

Off to the dog park with my HT listening to my local Fusion repeater



BuddiHex Beam in the Field

So I finally got my BuddiHex deployed in the field after some backyard deployments. I can get it up by myself within 30 minutes.

The Great Buddipole Reset stated in the World Radio Forum to “Buy it and you will be Happy!”

Basically, you plug in the arms into the Hub, connect the tension ropes, add the wire elements and then place it on top of the Mastwerks mast.

First off, the bundle has been well thought out. A SporTube rugged case allows the antenna on one side and the Mast on the other and slide the cover on its wheels will allow fast movement to your destination. I think the case is ideal for travel but for local deployments the very nice duffle bags work very well keeping everything neat.

MastWerks Mast

Very well built, easy to deploy, rugged and has three unique features.

  1. Telescopic.
  2. Oval shaped so it wont twist
  3. Gears allow rotation with a hand crank

This allows the antenna to be rotated which is my primary use case.

At a recent POTA activity, I set up the Buddipole 6m 2 element yagi on the Mastwerks to do some local park to park on 6m. During the FM contact on 52.525 a W4 broke in to say hello. OMG Magic band is open. I started working grids in a southwest pipeline. A KP4 called me and I swing the beam towards him and added 1 S unit to his signal and we made the contact. Ok this works great for me. I activated the park on 6m.

The Mastwerks is Buddipole friendly with a 1/2″ thread on top to connect to the Versatee. I did make an adapter to allow an Arrow yagi to be attached. See below

Buddipole is a system dipole, vertical, sloper, yagi and even a Jpole

The following week I activated the park again but now I could do multiband with the BuddiHex and cover 6m. I found 20m open with a lot of signals from W4 land. A CU3 called me from Azores and I swung the hex around and made his 57 signal a solid 59. He also told me I was a lot stronger. I was running 50w with the FT-891. Again, the hex made a big difference and it also cut down on noise and knocked the US hams on the back of the beam.

I needed a 21 ft rotatable mast that is guyed at two heights for a solid set up. Yes, its not cheap but quality never is cheap and its so well thought out by Chris that you will continue to be happy.


This 2 element beam covers 20 to 6m and can be deployed by a single person in less than 45 minutes. It offers suitable gain and great front/back ratio.

Tension wires keep the shape proper without flopping around
Everything is colour coded for easy set up

It enjoyed a stiff breeze and I had no concerns about it. The tension ropes keep everything cmforming to an inverted umbrella. Its so weird looking o the non-Hams I doubt anyone will come up and ask “Excuse me, but what are you doing?”. My answer is now “Talking to Aliens”.

PackTenna 40/20m Linked Dipole

I solved the 40m problem by hanging 40m/20m linked dipole off the top guy ring as an inverted vee. With a BNC antenna switch I can cover 40 and up and have proven it works so well in making contacts.

The hex to me is a portable antenna and probably not recommended for permanent use. This is only because if you look at them they have aluminum hubs, the wires are fixed, and a lot heavier.

Chris at Buddipole designed a portable Hexbeam and his thousands of hours wit the prototype and CAD drawings have proved out to be a winner for portable operators.

Check Check CQ CQ CQ 20m VE3IPS Parks on the Air QRZ

We had the Icom 705 as a must have and now we can add the BuddiHex as a must have for QRPers and just add a Yaesu FT-891 for POTA.

Before you DM me about 40m. These Hex designs are way to big for 40m. It would be awesome to have 40m on the BuddiHex but the size would be too big. At 9 lbs I can lift it off the ground, attach to the mast, push it up, tighten the guy wires and be on the air – all by myself.

Plumbing section is your friend

Also right out of the box the SWR was perfect.

No fiddling with wire cutters for 3 hours. Flat right out of the carry bag.

I still have my original Buddipole and the new version which have served me well over the years. No stripped threads, no missing screws, no miss drilled holes and faulty soldering or whips falling apart.

At $1500 USD its an investment into the Buddipole system and in enjoying the hobby out in the field with a proper rotatable beam. I know hams who have the Mastwerks and are using it with non-Buddipole antennas (think Arrow Yagis) which is fantastic so you will be able to use this regardless of what you are trying to do.

If you are going to use this for SOTA then I am sure you will have a Sherpa but why not just use a Buddistick and make it easier and faster to activate that mountain top.

POTA fans will drive up on a morning, set up, activate, tear down and be home in time on a Saturday to cut the grass.

Best 73s

John IPS

Goal Zero Yeti 150 Portable Power Station

Goal Zero Yeti 150 Portable Power Station

I have had this Power Station for several years and have been happy with its performance. Its primary use case is to provide power and charge capability in the field and also allow a laptop to be charged or an antenna rotator be used with the AC outlet.

CPAP users also use this power box when camping.

The AC outlet is a Pure Sine Wave so its perfect for power electronic devices.

It is heavy at 12 lb so its ideal for Car camping, Ham Radio Field ops or Overland use.

It is very rugged.

It uses the Goal Zero proprietary connectors making its use a bit of a headache for credit card users. I resolved that with an Anderson Pole mod and made up some custom cables.

It uses a 12V 14AH SLA battery rated at 168wH which supplies about 10 amperes out of the 12v outlet.

The 12v outlet is useful for running various devices but not really suitable for ham radio transceiver. Those radios prefer a 13.8 voltage and LifePO4 rated at 13.4 volts is a better choice. Most rigs prefer a 15 to 25Ah battery so this will not work for you.

The Power meter shows a bar chart percentage of 0 to 100 % broken out in 20% segments.

The Boulder 50 Solar Panel will charge the battery in 8 hours and a wall wart will do it in 6 hours.

The solar panel input which is useful for me only supports a max of 60 watts so a 50 watt panel is ideal.

Goal Zero has new 200x model that has a lion battery and its rated at 180wH that sells for $400 CAD and is a worthy replacement.

I have several Goal Zero solar panels, battery and accessories and have been pleased with their performance and warranty support. I have had no warranty issues but customer support has always been very responsive unlike products from overseas.

How to Use RF Gain, Noise Blanker, and Other Transceiver Features to Improve Copy by Mark Haverstock, K8MSH

How to Use RF Gain, Noise Blanker, and Other Transceiver Features to Improve CopyMark Haverstock, K8MSH

Even credit card operators need to understand how the controls work to help them improve reception of ham signals.

There will always be some kind of ambient noise on the HF bands. It may be either man-made (QRM) such as pulse noises from vehicle ignitions or natural (QRN) like lightning. You probably have heard the old ham saying, “You can’t work ‘em if you can’t hear ‘em.” When we can’t hear signals well, it’s easy to miss a lot of potential contacts–or even some rare DX. So how can you improve your odds? Just about all brands of HF radios have features that will help reduce noise and improve your ability to hear signals. I’ll be referring to controls you’ll find on the Icom IC-7300 HF Plus 50 MHz Transceiver, a very popular rig. You’ll find the same or similar controls on most transceivers. The best way to learn how to use these features is to get on the air and experiment with them. Once you’ve discovered which ones best suit your needs, make them part of your regular operating routine.

RF Gain>Helps separate signal from noise

You’d think cranking the RF Gain fully clockwise would help improve your reception. I used to think so. But as it increases signal strength, it also increases the noise level. A better strategy is to “ride” the RF Gain. Proper control of the RF Gain is one of the most powerful tools a ham has for digging weak signals out of the noise. As counterintuitive as it seems, by turning down the RF Gain and increasing the AF Gain, you can sometimes pull out a signal that was previously in the noise. The human ear is a great discriminator. If the receive signal level is reduced enough that the background noise is lessened, then the audio level can be increased to a point where you can hear the signal better.The purpose of the RF Gain control is to allow the operator to limit the range of the AGC (Automatic Gain Control) to some degree. With the IC-7300 tuned to a signal, turn the RF Gain to the 11 o’clock position, turn the AF up to a comfortable volume, then turn the RF Gain down until the background noise nearly disappears. Adjust the AF control as needed to the optimum audio level. 

Noise Blanker (NB)>Reduces/removes pulse noise

The Noise Blanker eliminates pulse-type interference like the noise from car ignitions and other man-made sources. They have no effect on reducing naturally occurring, ever-present atmospheric noise. How does it work? A Noise Blanker samples an off-the-air signal at a very wide bandwidth. If a noise pulse is found, it briefly turns off the audio to the receiver for the duration of the pulse and passes the remainder of the signal. The Noise Blanker becomes considerably more effective at larger bandwidths as long as there are no strong signals present in the passband.

The NB produces some distortion on sideband signals, but it improves overall copy. On the IC-7300, pushing the NB button for one second opens the Noise Blanker menu on the right side of the display. There are three setting options: Level (level where the Noise Blanker activates, 0-100), Depth (noise attenuation level, 1-10), and Width (blanking duration time, 1-100). It’s recommended to set the minimum width needed to get rid of pulse noise.

Noise Reduction (NR)>Reduces noise/makes signals more readable

The Noise Reduction function reduces random noise components and enhances signals that are buried in noise. By removing the noise, the improved audio makes it much easier to understand distant and weak contacts.DSP technology has made it possible to reduce static and white noise, helping to bring signals out of the noise. It uses digital signal processing to analyze the signal and sort noise from signal, reducing what it determines to be noise. In the process, some distortion is created. The higher you set the NR level/algorithm, the more hollow and distorted the audio on sideband. But the technology continues to improve as new radios come on the market, making voices sound more natural. On the IC-7300, pushing the NR button for one second opens the noise reduction menu where you can change the NR level settings (0-15).

Twin PBT>Rejects interference from nearby signals

In general, the Twin PBT (Passband Tuning) electronically narrows the IF (Intermediate Frequency) passband width by shifting the IF frequency slightly outside of the IF filter passband to reject interference. The IC-7300 uses DSP for the PBT function. You can narrow the IF passband width by rotating both inner (PBT1) and outer (PBT2) Twin PBT controls the opposite direction from each other. A pop-up window graphically lets you watch the filter response changing width and moving signals around within the passband. There are three default filter options available through the touch screen, as well as continuously variable bandwidth settings in the filter menu, accessed by holding the FIL button at the top center of the screen. CW bandwidth is adjustable using the tuning knob, and sharp or soft skirts can be selected for all modes.

Notch Filter>Removes interference from inside passband

A Notch Filter is relatively narrow and removes a specific “chunk” of signal such as annoying heterodyne tones, tuner-uppers, etc. The filter is tuned to match the specific audio frequency of the interference. The IC-7300 has both Auto Notch and Manual Notch functions. Auto Notch is used in the SSB, AM, and FM modes; Manual Notch in the SSB, CW, RTTY, and AM modes. Pressing NOTCHlets you choose AN (Auto Notch), MN (Manual Notch), or off. AN automatically attenuates unwanted signal. The Manual Notch attenuates by adjusting a frequency. Pushing WIDTH sets the Manual Notch filter width to WIDE, MID, or NAR. Slowly adjust POSITION to manually attenuate the frequency. Notice the blank space in the below photo of the audio scope between 2-3KHz which was removed.

Preamp/AttenuatorAmplifies or reduces signal level

Preamps amplify signals in the receiver front end to improve sensitivity. A preamp is generally used when attempting to boost weak signals. If you use the preamp while receiving strong signals, the signal may be distorted. In this situation, turn off the preamp or activate the attenuator. The IC-7300 has two preamps and an attenuator. To activate the preamp, push the P.AMP button; each push goes from P.AMP1 (most effective for HF bands) to P.AMP2 (most effective for 50MHz) to off. P.AMP1 does a reasonable job of improving copy without degrading signal to noise ratio. The attenuator (ATT) prevents a received signal from becoming distorted when a very strong signal is near the frequency, or when a very strong electric field is near you (such as an AM broadcast station). Hold down the P.AMP/ATT button for one second to turn on the attenuator, and hold it down again to turn off the attenuator. 

Go to the Source

These radio features can be very effective at reducing noise, but don’t overlook the obvious. Be sure everything is properly grounded and ferrites/chokes are used where applicable.Also, take steps to reduce or eliminate the amount of noise generated in your environment whenever possible. Eliminating local noise sources and using your rig’s noise reduction features will increase your ability to copy signals significantly.

HF for Special Operations Forces


In line with emerging demand signals from the Great Power Competition (GPC), special operations forces (SOF) small unit teams must operate in sub-threshold warfare environments in the face of mature electronic warfare threats from near peer and high capability adversaries. Examples include ongoing operations in eastern Europe, where coalitions of NATO SOF units are tasked with the military assistance of indigenous special mission units in Ukraine. As industry sources confirmed to Armada International, small unit teams are procuring High Frequency (HF) software defined radios (SDRs) in order to bypass electromagnetic interference from Russian military electronic warfare (EW) units stationed along the border. Consequently, SOF units around the world are unleashing requirements to purchase next-generation HF SDRs with examples include potential programmes in France, Germany and the United States (US) to name just a few.
2-Sniper-2048x1536Spanish Sharpshooter teams trained in a forest environment, improving their shooting stances and surveillance capabilities, as part of NATO exercise Noble Jump 2017. They also practised transferring data and images using HF radios, some of these being sent back directly to Spain’s Special Forces command.Speaking to Armada International at the SOF Industry Conference on 12 May 2020, Program Executive Officer for Command, Control, Communications and Computers (C4), Deb Woods spoke of the updated plans to equip the US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) with a next-generation HF solution.“Partnerships are ongoing with the services including the US Navy regarding a government owned wideband [HF) waveform. As well as capabilities we have today, we want to take advantage of smaller SDRs to provide a government-owned kit to support SOF whether they are operating in some kind of unconventional warfare or working with partner national forces who also want a wideband capability,” she told Armada.As of 18 September 2020, the USSOCOM has yet to publicly release a requirement regarding the procurement of a next-generation HF SDR.A former French SOF operator now working in the industry, also confirmed to Armada this so-called “resurgence of HF in special operations” over the past few years.Referring back to special operations in the 1990s, which included a focus on People Indicted for War Crimes (PIFWIC) in the former Yugoslavia, the source described how legacy HF radio sets had lacked the required data throughput to support surveillance and reconnaissance missions tasked with the positive identification of war criminals.“The special forces task was simple: Priority Intelligence Requirement (PIR1) was to collect, to find, and to arrest PIFWICs and defer them to ‘The Hague’ international court. To arrest those persons, a track began, and before proceeding to the intervention to arrest them, we had to make sure that it was the correct person, and that the intervention teams had all the details concerning the environment.“The intelligence collected was open source, but human intelligence (HUMINT) was delivered by some commandos hidden during many weeks in difficult conditions close to the alleged criminals house.“At this time, the technology of the radios used permitted teams to send small text messages, but the speed of the data wasn’t good enough to send pictures of the person, which was mandatory before any operations. I remember once, it took me four hours to send a 10kb photo with the resolution of a stamp,” the source continued.“At the same time, satellite communication systems emerged as a technological ‘revolution’, especially INMARSAT with Mini M satellite terminals. Small, light, with a pretty good data speed (2,400bps), SATCOM started to compete with, and finally replace, HF systems in the field. This was the case few years later in Afghanistan where SATCOM systems were used by SOF to conduct combined operations and definitively buried HF radios, he added.
3-Manpack 1-2048x1112A US Marine with Marine Rotational Force-Europe 19.2, uses a Norwegian Army AN/PRC-150 radio alongside a Norwegian soldier during high frequency communications training in Norway, during 2019. MRF-E focuses on regional engagements throughout Europe by conducting various exercises, mountain-warfare training, and military-to-military engagements, NATO SOF units rely upon HF SDR technology to not only ensure connectivity in contested environments but also cost-effective interoperability with partner nation forces.Since then, HF has witnessed a series of enhancements which have significantly changed the opinion of SOF operators considering utility of the SDR type.These include decreased SDR weights to less than 5kg; increased radio autonomy providing operators with up to 72 hours use on a single battery; the full spectrum of types of calls including voice, text, GPS request and sending; increased data speeds with robust waveforms using 3G ALE technology; and finally, easy to use software for programming and data.“And probably the most important point – no need to be trained over several months to use those ‘smart radios’ due to ease of use interfaces like a smartphone. If the signaller of the commando team is killed in action or wounded, any of his team partners would be able to use the radio,” the source stated.Additional benefits include the cost-free nature of HF, which bounces signals off the Ionosphere rather than relying upon expensive leasing or ownership of geo-stationary satellites.“Special forces members are not dependent upon any third nation or any satellite operator. So while SATCOM will not disappear from a SOF small unit team, HF is now in a position to supplant it,” the source concluded.Solutions currently available to SOF include Codan Communications’ 6110-MP which is part of the company’s Sentry-H family of products, designed to meet the demands of the “modern battlefield whilst offering full backwards compatibility with legacy products”, according to Codan literature.“The 6110-MP is one of the smallest, lightest form factor manpack HF radios available, without compromise on capabilities. It delivers a rugged SDR solution for military organisations that demand uncompromised, secure voice and data communications, while on the move,” a company statement explained.The manpack, which provides a power output of 30W, has a maximum battery life of up to 79 hours dependent upon operational utility. Comprising less than 4.7kg in weight, the SDR is ruggedised up to MIL-STD-810G standards.The solution also includes an embedded GPS in addition to IP connectivity over Ethernet/WiFi and USB. Encryption is provided by AES-256 and CES-128 communications security.According to Felix Wickenhäuser, technology consultant at military radio communications specialist JK Defence & Security Products, HF SDRs provide reliable and long range communications for SOF teams operating at reach and in complex operating environments such as the Arctic or mountainous areas where it can be hard to acquire a satellite signal due to physical barriers.“Things even worsen once a near-peer adversary has qualified EW-assets. Especially then, waveforms featuring so called LPI / LPD (low-probability of interception/detection) methods are a critical advantage,” Wickenhäuser explained.“Satellite communications are also vulnerable to space kill-vehicles or counter-satellite missiles. Furthermore the operation of HF radios does not require costly infrastructure,” he said.“The market is heading for higher data rates along with even smaller form factors, such as HF-handheld radios. This allows the implementation of entirely new concepts of operation, as the communication at the tactical edge is no longer limited to shorter-range V/UHF radios.“From a technical point of view, we will see direct-sampling architectures as the foundation of even more advanced waveforms / transmission methods. Even though higher data rates are mostly played as the key advantage of modern HF radios, this is only half the truth. “Wideband HF also allows for even more advanced error correction algorithms thus allowing more robust links even under very challenging channel conditions. It is important to also consider this side of things. Usually you see a trade-off between data rate (payload) and robustness,” he continued.JK Defence and Security Products is partnered in Germany with L3Harris Technologies which has designed the AN/PRC-160 as a next-generation HF SDR that is already in service with multiple undisclosed SOF units in Europe.As Wickenhäuser explained: “The PRC-160 is at the forefront of the HF radio revolution. Its intuitive operation along with even higher data rates make it a future-proof package. Designed as a system, matching body-worn antennas provide best possible transmission. Furthermore the PRC-160 is compatible with already fielded accessories like handsets, batteries, base-stations and remote-controls. Known MMI concepts also apply to this radio.“Its NSA-certified Type-1 cryptology also allows secure interoperability with NATO partners. Being a multiband transceiver the radio can also communicate in the widely used VHF-band. This multiband system is also the world’s first and only HF manpack meeting new NSA crypto-modernisation standards,” he concluded.According to L3Harris literature, the AN/PRC-160 provides data rates up to 10X higher than legacy HF radios, as well as enhancing interoperability between US and coalition force elements across a battlespace.Operating between 1.5-60MHz, the AN/PRC-160 provides a power output of 20W in HF mode, providing data rates up to 120kbps supported by optimal channel selection which responds to real-time conditions.
4-SOF-HF-2048x1365L3Harris Technologies’ AN/PRC-160 is in use with multiple SOF units around the world thanks to its increased throughput and reduced form factor.The SDR includes embedded SAASM or commercial GPS receiver to ensure accurate Position Location Information for enhanced Situational Awareness.Finally, Barrett Communications offers up its latest HF solution- the PRC-4090- with chief executive officer, Andrew Burt describing how HF solutions provide a cheaper and easier to use solution for SOF and their partner nation forces around the world.“HF networks do not require the infrastructure of SATCOM which means countries including the US are reinvesting in HF as the backbone of key infrastructure. This is why HF lends itself ideally to military operations as well as homeland security, emergency services and critical national infrastructure as a last resort communications capability.“HF can be readily deployable, providing end users with an immediacy in communications they are unable to achieve with other communications mediums in that first instance,” Burt continued while hailing its utility to support special operations at the tactical edge.The PRC-4090 was unveiled to the market at DSEi in September 2019, following its development on the back of the 4000-series of SDRs by Barrett Communications. Capable of providing SOF small unit teams with secure email, data transfer and telephone connectivity over the HF networks, in addition to 4G LTE and MANET networks, the transceiver can be controlled by smartphone, tablet or laptop using Barrett’s 4000 Series HF Remote Control App.Operating between 1.6MHz-30MHz in Tx; and 250-KHz-30MHz in Rx frequency ranges, the PRC-4090 retains the capacity to manage up to 1,000 channels. The PRC-4090 platform is capable of transmitting in power outputs of 10, 30 and 150 Watts with optional transportable high power amplifier options up to 1kW.The PRC-4090 also comes with options for Advanced Frequency Hopping technology, providing operators with between 5 and 25 hops per second as well as an 8-digit hopping encryption key- a capability which Burt declares as providing “excellent protection against EW attacks”.The SDR can be attached to personal load carrying equipment for dismounted special operations. Furthermore, the radio can also be attached onto a tactical docking station for integration on board special operations vehicles.Full Rate production of the PRC-4090 was started in the third quarter of 2020, Burt confirmed.
Critical to any special operation, irrespective of where such a mission takes place, is a communications plan which includes primary, alternate, contingent and emergency (PACE) capabilities. In the SOF community, HF is unlikely to ever wholly replace SATCOM or MANET. However, it will increasingly be relied upon to satisfy one of the PACE requirements on the battlefield, dependent upon mission parameters.

Published in the October/November 2020 issue – Seeking to maintain secure and reliable connectivity, particularly in contested environments, special forces are turning to High Frequency software defined radios as an alternative to traditional reliance on satellite communications (SATCOM).