Counterfeit Baofeng programming cables

So I got my Baofeng UV-5R in the mail yesterday with some antennas, a speaker mic and a USB programming cable (which I’ll upload photos of later). I think the programming cable I picked up on eBay is probably counterfeit though, as it was *not* plug and play with my Mac. I tried some drivers and some obscure command line mumbo jumbo, but I don’t want to spend 20 hours getting a $10 cable to work. I hear a lot of these cheapo cables work fine on Linux, but I’m not on Linux and I’m not going to start using it just so I can program my radio in CHIRP. I want an easy solution. So, sadly, I ordered another cable marked FTDi from Amazon.ca. FTDi chipset is supposed to be the “authentic” one, plug and play. But I’ll believe it when I see it.

My advice to new Baofeng buyers (at least on Mac): make sure a “real” cable. This is tricky, because even the fake ones are marked Baofeng. But if you don’t see any part number listed on your purchase, there’s a good chance it’s a fake. Consider yourself warned.

 

Test scheduled

Since Industry Canada was not very welcoming about having me out to their place to take the exam, I scheduled my Basic Qualification (BQ) for next week with one of the volunteer accredited examiners here at the local radio club. I still have to pay $20 but that fee goes to the radio club instead, which seems more worthy anyway.

My Baofeng speaker mic, a longer Nagoya antenna and another mag mount antenna for the car arrived today (amazon.ca) but the mailman left a note at the door instead of delivering them for some reason. I didn’t go pick them up from the drop-off point though yet because I don’t have the actual radio on hand, so it seems sort of pointless, to as wi5her suggested, stand there with the antenna in one hand, the mic in the other and call CQ over OpenQNL. But then again, maybe not.

Operating radio controlled models in Canada questions (ham radio)

Wondering about these radio controlled model questions on the Canadian amateur radio basic qualifications test (screenshot from hamstudy.org):

From what I understand, licensed operators can operate radio controlled models above 30 MHz, and I think you don’t need to transmit your call sign even.

Not super sure how this works, but I found this interesting forum conversation about RC aircraft flying vs. drones.

There are different criteria, as I understand it, for operating drones in Canada than for what a licensed ham can do above 30 MHz. That said, I’m not at all clear on the distinctions myself. A user of that forum writes:

“I do not fly Drones, doing so would imply that I am breaking Transport Canada’s rules of operating a remotely piloted model aircraft. I fly radio controlled airplanes, I follow TC’s rules and regulations and those of MAAC’s”

Drones are kind of interesting, I guess, though I’m a little over it — mainly because it’s like another goddamned thing to have to buy. But I’m wondering what the legal definition of “remote control models” is in Canadian regulations…

More specifically, what about radio-controlled virtual models?

eg, models that only exist in a computer which is linked to a radio receiver, and do not physically fly around in space.

It seems like these have less risk of real-world damage, for one. Like Transport Canada rules such as the below would have no bearing:

“Transport Canada’s announcement of interim regulations for drone use will impact model aviation enthusiasts across the country that are flying any model aircraft between 250g and 35kg. The regulations place restrictions on how high model aircraft can be flown, and minimum distances from people and buildings when flying that will severely limit how and where people can enjoy the hobby. The announcement states that not only must recreational users put their contact information on drones, but also that they may not fly higher than 90 metres, within 150 metres of buildings, vehicles or people, or within 9 kilometres of the centre of any aerodrome.”

Further, if RF control of virtual models is allowed, perhaps there is room also for abstracting what those models are exactly. eg, models which are not representations of aircraft, but which are behavioral models or assignable/mapped function sets. eg, triggering macros on my networked computer over RF.

Maybe I’m making this too hard though, and there is already an appropriate band allocated for transmitting short distance control data (over a home or farm-based network)… I’m not sure how to begin looking this up…

Taking your amateur radio exam at an Industry Canada office

I find these questions in the Basic Qualification exam to be really ridiculous:

There are a number of questions about this:

  • That the fee at an Industry Canada office for the exam is $20
  • That if you use an accredited volunteer exam, the fee is “negotiable”
  • And that the certificate itself is free.

First off, I think this is really weird and pointless to include in an official test. Like, if I’m taking the test somewhere, can’t the person giving me the test just tell me how much it costs? Or you know, like just post it on the website. Why try to trick me and make me memorize all this?

Anyway, I’m nearing the time to take my exam, and I’ve already found a qualified examiner. I think it’s slightly weird, personally, that I have to arrange all this myself. Do I have to go to the house of a stranger for this? Why can’t there just be an agreed-on fee for the test? What if I don’t want to negotiate?

So I wrote to Industry Canada (now called ISED, Innovation, Science & Economic Development) to find out about taking the test at an official office. Based on their responses to me, this seems really frowned upon, despite the fact that the test itself TELLS ME it’s an option (a right?). They simply told me the URL to look up examiners near me. When I questioned whether it was even an option to take it at the office anymore, they responded:

“I can pass along your request to the Ottawa office.  Please note, these appointments are scheduled on a case by case basis. In addition, there is a $20 administrative fee, should you wish to move forward with having the exam done at an Innovation, Science and Economic Development office in Ottawa.

An accredited examiner will be more readily available, and not all examiners request a nominal feel to cover their administrative costs.”

If you don’t know Canadian geography, Ottawa is a 5+ hour drive from where I live. I’m assuming they don’t mean that I would have to drive out to Ottawa to take a $20 test which, as far as I can tell, is supposed to be readily available to me. What does this mean that scheduling a test is done on a “case by case basis?” Is it possible my request might be refused by the government?

Perhaps this is just a case of a mid-level functionary who just wants to get me out of their hair. But given the overall difficulty of even the Basic qualification in Canada (versus the simplicity of the Technician class exam in the US), it almost feels like it’s intentional, that they are actively trying to dissuade people from getting involved with this technology. Perhaps there is an unexpressed desire to kill off the hobby and re-allocate the bandwidth to paid industrial applications.

I don’t know, but so far this is sadly par for the course up here. Canada, if it really wants to innovate, ought to set up a novice/technician license option and make it easier for new users to get on the air.

Bogus questions in Canadian Basic Qualification Exam

I’m really frustrated by this type of question in the Canadian amateur radio Basic Qualification exam:

The correct answer, regarding third party traffic is D: that the countries have authorized such communications.

Choice B to me seems more logical, because there must be a place or register where those countries have given their consent or authorization. If it’s not registered with the ITU, where or how do countries give their authorization? To whom? More practically: how does an amateur radio operator look this up, since other questions in the bank deal with this as well?

I’m going it alone with my test study, so am bookmarking this as something to look into in more detail on my own later.

UPDATE:

The above is even more confusing in light of this question:

So what you’re telling me is that countries register with the ITU when they object to ham traffic overall, but when they consent to third party traffic it’s just an “authorization” given out non-specifically, not to the ITU? That doesn’t make a lot of sense. Perhaps I will have to write to the ITU for clarification.

UPDATE 2:

Again, how am I supposed to determine this?

Obsolete Technician’s Guild

Have had this idea for years, a semi-post-apocalyptic (quarter-lyptic?) secret guild of roving repairers, of non-descript people going about inscrutably, making strange, out of date, useless or impossible things come back to life, to work again, or begin anew. An obsolete technician’s guild…

Do you have a drawer full of remote controls and strange wires you don’t know what to do with? Contact your local OTG chapter. It may be you.

Q Codes: QNL

The QN Signals are Morse code operating signals that were introduced for Amateur radio net operation in 1939 on the Michigan QMN Net to lighten the burdens of net control operators.

Source

Same source:

Although these codes are within the Aeronautical Code signals range (QAA–QNZ) and thus conflict with official international Q signals beginning with QN, the ARRL informally queried FCC’s legal branch about the conflict. The opinion then of the FCC was that “no difficulty was forseen as long as we continued to use them only in amateur nets.”

I’ve never used these codes. I’ve never transmitted on the air. I have an American Technician class amateur radio license and am almost done studying for Canadian Basic qualification.

On Wikipedia source, linked above, there is a section: ARRL QN Signals For CW Net Use.

QNL as a CW abbreviation is listed as:

A notice to a named station that the frequency that the station is transmitting on is lower than the Net’s nominal frequency. c.f. QNH.

QNH, meanwhile:

A notice to a named station that the frequency that the station is transmitting on is higher than the Net’s nominal frequency. c.f. QNL.

H seems to be representing High and L, Low.

I’ve been trying to decipher how the Q codes overall work. Here’s a good operational list of Q codes. QN subset not listed there. Only QR, QS and QT.

I’m assuming three letter codes are a function of telegraphy codes and have seen docs online placing the origin and popularity of various forms of telegraphy codes between (approx.) 1880’s – 1920’s.

It seems like there are just so many different overlapping sets of codes, decisions, agreements, organizing bodies, etc. It’s mind-boggling to try and untangle all of it.

I’ve only caught in the wild locally an amateur radio net (once) using a repeater I think about 2 hours drive away. I’m not sure how to find their schedules or frequencies. I am scanning with SDR, learning on my own. It’s like the internet but it’s not. It’s its own thing, for sure.

Excerpt from an ARRL document on QN Signs:

I’d like to learn more about nets. And untangle all these codes and abbreviations. It’s a compelling puzzle I’m engaging in for the sheer puzzle of it all.

Like this, what does it all mean, the Aeronautical Codes:

First defined in ICAO publication “Doc 6100-COM/504/1” in 1948 and in “ICAO Procedures for Air Navigation Services, Abbreviations and Codes (PAN a S-ABC)” [Doc8400-4] (4th edition 1989), the majority of the Q codes have slipped out of common use; for example today reports such as QAU (“I am about to jettison fuel”) and QAZ (“I am flying in a storm”) would be voice or computerized transmissions.

Computerized transmissions.

Q Codes page on Wikipedia.

“Q” has no official meaning, but it is sometimes assigned with a word with mnemonic value, such as “Queen’s” (e.g. QFE = Queen’s Field Elevation), “Query”, “Question”, or “reQuest”.

I like this idea that “Q has no official meaning” but that it’s probably a question, query, inquiry or request of some kind.

QN is probably kind of like “Query Net” then I gues… though I haven’t found any document confirmation that in Q codes, N = Net. (Labeling as Assumption for now)

Quasi-natural language?

QNL is used outside of radio to mean, occasionally, Quasi-natural language. References seem to abound for natural language programming, bots, conversational UI, etc. In some sense, that starts to feel similar to procedural words or prowords in radio:

Procedure words or prowords are words or phrases limited to radio telephone procedure used to facilitate communication by conveying information in a condensed standard verbal format.

I imagine QNL as a kind of clipped procedural language subset (superset?) used for specific kinds of transactional communication. Like the Q codes as a whole themselves, or radio prowords.

Something something, performative speech acts.

Wikipedia, Performativity:

… the capacity of speech and communication not simply to communicate but rather to act or consummate an action, or to construct and perform an identity. A common example is the act of saying “I pronounce you man and wife” by a licensed minister before two people who are prepared to wed (or “I do” by one of those people upon being asked whether they take their partner in marriage). An umpire calling a strike, a judge pronouncing a verdict, or a union boss declaring a strike are all examples of performative speech.

Follow The Spectrum: Origins of the ATC

We remember it like it was yesterday… 

Caught the BARF train downtown—just like any other morning — to the offices of the widely-regarded innovation powerhouse, Early Clues, LLC, (a not-for-non-profit startup) where we all interned together.

The door was unlocked, which was odd. JANICE usually had to buzz us in due to security issues in the neighborhood. But today it swung open with nary a creak, revealing the first of many shocks which came to be multiplied in the coming days: an all but empty office.

A couple of mostly empty boxes with grungy cables and an office chair with broken wheels were unceremoniously piled in the middle of the room, next to an overturned fern. Had we been robbed?

Suddenly, the door opened behind us, and we wheeled about, expecting one of our C-levels, come to set everything to rights. But it was just some guy wearing a Postmates t-shirt and sunglasses, carrying a branded messenger bag.

“Are you guys, uh — ” he looked at his iPhone for confirmation, “the interns?”

Yes.

“Then, this is for you,” he said, pulling a wrapped package out of his messenger bag and handing it to us.

What could it be? 

The guy just shrugged and left. And we were left to unwrap it, with trembling hands. Why — a handheld radio! Tuned to 146.425 MHz. And a copy of the ARRL Ham Radio Technician Class Handbook, with an inscription inside the cover:

“Follow the spectrum.”

 — Yours, Richard S. Rider, CTO,

73.

And in small letters beneath, a mysterious cipher was scrawled:

openQNL repo: password1234
And on that day the Anthuorian Technology Club was born — or should we say reborn?

Richard S. Rider, as we remember him

Much water has passed under the bridge since that fateful day. Much conjecture, gossip and fake news has unfortunately sprang up in the wake of the now infamous vanishing of the former EC staff. As it has already been discussed ad nauseam in the Tri-Cities Gadgette and other tech press, we won’t dwell on it further here. All we can officially say on the matter, is “No comment at this time.”

Nay, we come together again here to put the past behind us, and to start afresh. We who were once lowly interns are leveling up our RF skills and vow to follow the mandate of the illustrious Founders of our Order. We will take up the mantle left to us and continue with the original core product road-map as best we can, wherever it may take us, though we know not the way.

We still believe in the mythic technology underlying OpenQNL, despite our elmer going SK (“Silent Key”, that is: Kicked The Bucket) and everything else that has happened. For Anthuor is with us, and his antlers are antennas.

Helmoquinth, Anthuor!

Signed,

Tim Boucher (KB3SZG)
Jeremy Puma (KO0PER)
Garrett Kelly (WI5HER)
The Anthuorian Technology Club