Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Forger

Every so often you see a TED video that really hits home.  This one did that for me.  It's the story of a forger told by his daughter.   This isn't just any forger.  This is a forger with a purpose.

I sometimes get asked why I do pirate radio.  Why take the risk.  Why bother.  It's not the same as this story, but it's along the same lines.

It's 14 minutes and worth every moment of your time.  In French (subtitled).

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Pirate Radio USA (Documentary)

Great little documentary on Pirate Radio in the USA.  On Hulu.

The Great Pirates

The Great Pirates

by Flemming Funch, 7 December 1994.In his book "Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth", in the chapter "Origins of Specialization", Buckminster Fuller tells the story about what he calls "The Great Pirates". This is my greatly shortened version of it:

Some hundreds of years ago the technology of ship building advanced so that it became practical to travel the oceans for extended periods of time. Thus whole new territories were opened to exploration and possible domination.

It became clear that it was impractical to assume that the law and order of the land could be applied to the sea. Thus the oceans became a zone of lawlessness and a battleground for whomever chose to enter the arena. It also became clear that those who fared best were those who mastered all the elements of survival at sea and who did their business under the veil of secrecy. It is those who mastered this game that we can call The Great Pirates.

A Great Pirate succeeded because of his comprehensive command of a whole set of different disciplines. He had a high proficiency in dealing with celestial navigation, the sea, the storms, the ship, the men, economics, biology, geography, history, and science. The better the Great Pirate could understand and anticipate the whole scene, the better he would do.

Great Pirates would travel, bargain, plunder, plan, negotiate, battle, and much more. He would use the science of ship building to amass a fleet, he would use his people skills to manage his crew and to negotiate with representatives of far away lands. He would do his activities out of sight of people on land and of his competitors.

A Great Pirate would naturally want to maintain his position, and he had to sleep once in a while. He therefore at first surrounded himself with dull-witted but loyal men of muscle. Only he himself planned and coordinated his operations, and his men simply did what they were told. However, when the Great Pirate expanded his operations it became clear that he needed something more than that.

The Great Pirate invented the brilliant scheme of specialization. It is both the way to expand his empire with skilled assistance and at the same time the insurance that only HE will ever know the full picture of what is going on.

The Great Pirates started to encourage and employ people of great skill in specialized areas. There might be, for example, a greatly skilled and experienced Navigator. And there might be a master Weapon Builder, an accomplished Master Historian, a Politician, a Ship's Captain, a General, and so forth.

Each of those people were cultivated to a high level of skill. But also, it was made clear to each one that they had better stay within their specific field, or they would lose their head.

The Great Pirate himself would be the ONLY person who knew the whole picture. He would know the plan, he would know where ships would go and why, he would know what they would find, who they would meet, he would know what to trade and what to steal, he would know who to trust and who not to. None of his people would ever be allowed near the full picture, and none of them could therefore possibly replace him. And thus his position was safe from any coup by those close to him. He always kept the true full picture in utmost secrecy and kept the skills and knowledge of all his people perpetually compartmentalized.

Through the ingenious scheme of specialization and compartmentalization of knowledge, the Great Pirates were able to expand their business immensely. They were able to expand their influence into different lands through carefully chosen and educated front people. They would chose local strong men in different territories, supply them with what they needed to assume power, educate them to present a proper public facade, but never giving them the knowledge of all the pieces in the game. The local strong man might be maneuvered into a position of King, assumed by his people to be the utmost authority, but in essence simply being another of the specialized agents of the hidden Great Pirates. The Great Pirate would naturally also cultivate agents in the fields of religion, education, science, military, banking, and so forth, and would naturally be able to play them out against each other if any one of them ever got ambitious beyond his assigned role.

The Great Pirate knew the world was round when everybody else were kept in the belief that it was flat. He knew about grand logistical schemes, he knew about international exchange media and trade balancing, and much more. He was the only one who saw the whole picture of the planet and its resources, and was therefore able to play his game totally unnoticed by the vast majority of the population of the planet. All through the magic of specialization ...

It goes without saying that specialization today has become so much part of our society that most people take it for granted. It is perfectly acceptable to base one's whole life and career on a small subsection of a certain very specific subject. It is perfectly acceptable that people are so specialized that most other people have no idea what they are talking about.

I find it a VERY enlightening view that this can be regarded as a scheme for keeping people in ignorance so that they can't do anything about the whole situation, and they can't talk with each other. Everybody's busy with their little chunk of the world, so busy that they don't notice what is really going on.

Time has come to move beyond this, and this time make the knowledge of whole systems and the interactions between different fields available to greater numbers of people.
- Flemming

-The lesson?  EVERYONE should become a Great Pirate at whatever they do. (PirateMonk)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

A new pirate radio station is born.. somewhere in Colorado

Got the Broadcast Warehouse 150w transmitter setup

And hooked up to the Dipole antenna (yea I know.. it's inside... gotta test it first) and man, this thing rocks.  Full 150w and ZERO reflection (i.e. a nice cool feedback loop to the transmitter and a clean signal).

Why the hell didn't I get one of these antenna's sooner?

What I love about this antenna is it's broadband.  NO tuning.  Just hit the buttons on your transmitter to move around the dial and it just works.  This makes setting up a pirate station, literally, a 5 minute job (most of the time is spent getting the antenna tuned just right).  Of course, getting that thing onto a mast or bolted high up a tree is still gonna be work, but we'll paint it brown and green first.  :)

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Proper FM antenna tuning.. the simple brain dead way

Every wonder how to TUNE that antenna for your pirate radio station to 89.5 or 103.9 (or whatever frequency you can find that's open)?  Here's a simple and highly effective formula I've used many times.  Works great.

Using a properly tuned antenna is essential for micropower broadcasting on the FM band. An antenna that is not properly tuned will not pass along your transmitter's power as efficiently as it could - and this leads to a general degradation of signal coverage.

Fortunately, calculating the precise length of your antenna is pretty easy to do if you follow these three steps. Get a calculator to help with the math:

1. To determine the wavelength of your signal in inches, divide 11811 by your transmitter's frequency in megahertz (MHz). 

2. Multiply the answer from #1 by the fraction of wavelength of your antenna's design (most antennas are 1/2 (.5) or 1/4 (.25)  wave; the popular Comet is a 5/8 (.625) wave antenna). 

3. The answer from #2 is the length of your antenna in inches. 

Try to fine-tune your antenna using a properly-calibrated SWR meter for maximum antenna efficiency.  A perfect SWR match is 1:1; in the real world, you should be satisfied with any SWR of 1.5:1 or less.  Radio shack has SWR meters, with instructions.

You can do it without the SWR meter though.  I have, many times, and the formula above works beautifully.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Looking for a frequency to set up your FM pirate station on? Here's a great little tool. Just put in your zip, hit go, then click on the 'find unused frequencies' link.
Find Unused FM Frequencies in Your Area. Do you have a satellite radio or MP3 player that transmits sound to your car radio or home stereo? 
The KBFR (Boulder Free Radio) Van!

Great overall post on how to do a pirate station from the Wired wiki.

The best transmitter for pirate radio.

We ran several of these for years in Boulder. We put them in boxes that sat in back yards, garages and attics. Pretty extreme conditions. 100+ degree in the summer and below freezing in the winter and they just kept on running. There are still 2 being used to this day by area pirates, 12 years and countless online hours later. It's not cheap ($2325) but it's a pro setup. And it's cheaper now than it was 12 years ago (they were $3,000 then).
The TX150 is a top specification FCC certified & RTTE/CE compliant FM broadcast transmitter.

The best antenna for pirate radio. The Comet CFM95 SL 5/8 Wave FM antenna.

I've used dozens of these over the years and because they're cheap, tough and are extemely easy to tune to whatever frequency you find. Under $100. Also, the seller (Progressive Concepts) is one of the best places to buy equipment in the US. Get your 50Ohm cable here to.