Comms for Hacking & Profit

I saw this at Sipsey a while back.

It links out to the original CalGuns post here.

So… Being a HAM and having some familiarity & interest with this specific tech, I ventured forth to the local HRO to see if they had some in stock. They did indeed – see this link for the exact model. Considering the nearest big name HT is at least twice the price with half the flexibility, I bought two and the programming cable. Total spend, $280 something. The programming software is freely available here. More importantly, the unlock software that enables transmit on all bands that the little radio covers is here (free-as-in-beer registration).

Here are your basic steps:

  1. Go get the radios and any accessories that you think you need – including an antenna upgrade. I replaced the duck with some kind of dual band Diamond – don’t remember the model number offhand. YMMV with this one.
  2. Assemble the battery and accessories.
  3. Plug in your programming cable via USB – for those of you on Linux or OS X, this requires Windows, though a virtual machine on either VMWare or Xen works perfectly.
  4. Run the unlock software – this app is a bit clunky, keep trying, it will eventually find the correct and available COM port.
  5. Fire up KG-UV Commander and start entering freqs – you can find anything & everything here at Radio Reference.

Remember though, a couple of caveats…

Transmitting on HAM bands without a lic is a violation of federal law. The same thing goes with interfering with public safety and various other freqs.

Transmitting on GMRS, FRS, & MURS however does not require any license – or requires some obscure lic that no one bothers to obtain. Again, YMMV and YOU are responsible for calling down the proverbial thunder of dotgov should you get caught doing something they deem is verboten.

Below are my findings so far:

  • Range is good considering the 5W power limit. Reception is twice as good as my $300+ Yaesu handheld that operates only in the HAM sphere. Hilltop to hilltop via MURS using PL tones could be as far as 20 miles – this was line of sight BTW. YMMV big time with this one. In town or in car operations were typical of 5W transmission power. Communications while moving around in dense canopy proved to be the level you would expect with 5W – good, but line of sight helps.
  • The programming software is really good and allows for a lot of flexibility. You can transmit on one freq with a particular PL tone and receive on another with a different PL tone. While this IS NOT encryption, it is security through obscurity. Almost like a poor man’s trunking system. This particular setup seems to decrease the range a bit. I have no metric to support this, the evidence at this point is merely anecdotal. To be honest, I do not know enough about PL Tones to understand what/when/why/how.
  • With one single radio, I have all the local constabularies, aviation, feds, public works, utilities, amateur repeaters, and commercial ops in a single package that fits in my daypack. I also have an almost unlimited amount of freqs that I can transmit and receive on for any kind of “operation” that I might choose to conduct. “Switch the net to the alternate channel.” Yep…

Sometime in the future, there will be a mobile version that does cross-band repeat. Imagine the possibilities with this one. You could have a mobile repeater that could centrally coordinate a group of handhelds. Imagine the level of disruption and flexibility that this would afford a small group of people with a singular goal.

Like Mike said, “Is this the inexpensive militia tactical command net radio we’ve been looking for?”

Maybe. For not a lot of cash, this is one seriously flexible and powerful tool.

If you have any questions, feel free to post comments or email me: deaconmatson -at- gmail -dot- com. My PGP public key is here.