Band Conditions

12 March 2019

It was all really about the tech.

I started this thing, originally, in 1990.  It has only been for about the past 4-5 years that I worked on the experiment that has been known as "Sparks31."

Sparks31 originally started because I wrote a couple small articles for the SFU, having met one of the editors of The Resistor through a third party, whose ODA I taught how to phone phreak back in 2001 or so during one very cool drill weekend.

"Sparks" is the nickname of a radio operator. "31" was the Army Signal Corps MOS identifier, although the people who fix the radios are actually in the Ordinance Corps. Since "Sparks" is too common a moniker, it became "Sparks31."

In the past 4-5 years I met a lot of cool people. I also met a lot of asshats. I was thrown into a bitchfest between certain bloggers back in 2014-15 who all wanted me to pick a side. My advice at the time to all of them at the time was to ignore the others and concentrate on their own stuff, which they promptly disregarded.  I had the Oathkeepers come to my classes so they could reuse my material without so much as a thank you or giving me credit. I've had people attempt to discuss illegal matters in my class, resulting in me having to say at the beginning of each class, "Don't say anything in this class you wouldn't repeat under oath on a witness stand."

I'm glad I'm almost done with throwing 30 years worth of pearls at swine. All that's left are two more classes, a book, and Signal-3, which will resume under a different name. To those of you who were cool enough to support me and patiently wait for the next release, thank you! If your email has changed over the years please let me know. If you think the new format is going to offend your sensibilities, email me and I'll send you a refund for the remaining subscription. Likewise, if you signed up for a class and now want a refund, let me know and I'll make it happen.

If you want basic comms stuff, go find an elmer at a local ham club. If you live within driving distance of Waterbury, CT you can come to my free basic classes at the local hackerspace and I'll be your elmer. If you want more experimental R&D type learning, come to my class. If you're really smart, but poor, get in touch with me and I'll help you out.

You know, in retrospect, the pirate radio operators I knew who were affiliated with the anarchist scene in NYC in the late 1980s/early 1990s were a hell of a lot cooler, less uptight, and had their act together better than most of the threepers, oathkeepers, and other similar types I've come across as of late. They were at least willing to look outside their paradigm. Hell, my fellow EHS classmates to a person were cooler and had their act together better. I could at least have a beer and intelligent conversation with them.

Anyway, I don't want to end this post on a sour note, so here is some SDR info.

From what I have seen, the top two contenders for wideband SDR transceivers are the HackRFOne and the LimeSDR. So, for those of you considering one those are the two you'll probably want to look at.

There might be others that are just as good. Look around.

Most of my "weak signal" ham buddies have picked the LimeSDR. FWIW, I have a HackRFOne because one of my cooler students swapped it for a class slot. I think either one would be a good choice for you, the reader, because they both have a lot of hobbyist support.

If you have one of these, you should at least have a Tech class ham license so you have some spectrum to legally play in with it.

Finally, please note new blog address.



  1. I might have to get one of those SDRs to experiment with LF or VLF using in-ground electrodes as antennas. Check out
    It's an old/new frontier for experimentation that may lend itself to emergency communications.
    Thanks for all your time and dedication to this field. Be well and prosper. My email should be good for a while -- 73, Tom, KT9OM

  2. Dude, your contributions to the Hobby of Comms/Scanning have been tremendous. Best regards, bro.


  3. Thanks for all the learning over the years. Please keep sharing whatever and whenever, some out there are listening and taking your advice to heart.


  4. Your blog is good info. Even your older than work from the 90s is still worth reading over. You know you're welcome over at our place still, would love to catch you for a beer and discuss phreaking adventures./Merlin

    1. I'm there, but I idle a lot on my phone.

  5. I didn't know you were still doing the signal newsletters. I haven't heard anything in a while. I paid this has been a while back and got a few by mail but never heard anything after that. I thought maybe you had given up on them????? How do I find out if you are still doing them and what I need to do to get them again?

    1. Send me an email - I put it on hiatus when I got laid off the first time in Wyoming. I still have the email list and haven't forgotten. Thank you for waiting so long!

  6. I don't think I've ever said anything, but I've listened to your stuff for a long time and you've always had good dope for us.
    I'm sorry about the ass hat problem, but I see it myself teaching HAM tech classes and it infects a huge amount of the portion of the wider "prepper" community who is will to say anything in public.
    Best of luck to you man and keep on...


    de kb5tsi

  7. Got your Down grid and Grid down books a while back, motivated me to get my license, now an Extra putting up antennas on the farm and learning as fast as I can. Wish I had taken your classes. Forget the jerks. Will look for the reincarnation of Signal 3. Good luck.

  8. As a former SIGINTer, I enjoy your blog a lot. Keep it coming.

  9. Ahhhh...SFU. It has been so long.