“But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.“
― Carl Sagan
Who is USRADIOGUY?
A little about me: I have a passion for learning new, or sometimes old things. I got interested in radio through my collecting hobby of military radios, vehicles, and technology from World War II and the Korean war.
I am a member of the Military Vehicle Preservation Association and served on the Board of Directors for Friends of Reclaiming Our Heritage, an annual tribute to the veterans and current servicemen and women at the Zablocki VA Hospital in Milwaukee Wisconsin. I spent my professional career in law enforcement, first as a LE Park Ranger, then as Chief Ranger, finally finishing out that career of 25 years as a Chief of Police. I reside in a small town with my wife Pamela, our two dogs, and a plethora really cool things.
I receive a lot of emails with a lot of questions- but just to be fair, and clear, I am no expert. I am however willing to share the information and knowledge I have gathered in this hobby, and daily operations. I can also provide some contacts to some folks that I have come to rely on for advice, products, etc.
You can reach me on :
The Ubiquitous FAQ
Q: Is this radio stuff really awesome?
A: It is for me! consider that you can receive thousands of signals on a device about the size of your thumb, compare that to the ‘high tech’ 50 pound radios of the 40’s
Q: Why do you offer to help people out with tech hobbies?
A: Keeps me busy, it’s affordable and I like to ‘pay it forward’ A lot of good folks helped me out and I want to return the favor.
Q: Is this radio stuff legal?
A: That depends on where in the world you live in. Here in the USA it is, but then again I always see black vans with tinted windows parked on the street by my house, and there is always a clicking sound on my home phone whenever I answer.
Q: How did you get your wife to agree to put up all those antennas?
A: Next Question.
Q: Who are you, really?
A: My name is Carl, but you can call me Carl. I also answer to “Your Highness”, “Lord of the Manor”, and “Sir”.
Q: How much does this all cost?
A: Great Question. As with all things, you get what you paid for, I only list on my site those individuals and companies I have had great success with. I tried the knockoffs, terrible waste of money. If you’ve already got a computer, you can get into RTL-SDR for about $30 US.
Q: Is this dangerous? Should I take precautions?
A: As with all things there is some risk. You’re dealing with radio frequencies, of which, millions are passing through your body this very second. With an SDR, you can tune into a few of those. As for precautions…hmmm… tinfoil hat required kind of thing? Probably not, but you should be aware of how antennas, like lightning rods, are often found burnt and melted, and sometimes the house from which they emanate.
And of course, like many good things it can be addictive, I have been on many a group page where someone brags about how many dongles they have or how long their discone is. With power comes responsibility, choose wisely.
Q: Is this considered Ham, or Amateur Radio?
A: No and Yes, by that I mean in the context of what I have listed here on my site, there is NO transmission of radio Frequencies. But yes, you can listen in to Amateur Radio, or decode Pagers, or Police radio, etc. What you do with that information, literally, determines whether or not you are violating some rules,
Q: What is ‘RF Noise’ and why does every page I look at complain about it.
A: Noise is the Thanos to Capt. America, The Borg to Picard, The Klingons to Kirk. Frequency noise can be generated by just about anything, your computer, the LED light in the ceiling above, the power supply for your phone charger, etc. Many a good satellite pass can be ruined when someone switches on the bathroom fan!
(Special Note: Noise can also be generated by screaming loudly when you forget to lock on the satellite or forget to press record, or when Windows updates!)
Q: Ok, I am hooked, can I launch my own satellite?
A: Of course, in fact, amateur satellites are orbiting the earth right now! And to help you out the government has a 67-page form titled “Streamlined Small Satellite and Small Spacecraft Process” Which tells you how to understand the 457 page FCC “Licensing for Satellite Operations Guide” But they did break it into 73 chapters to help you whiz through it. And there’s a handy table that directs you to the 20+ other Foreign, Federal and state regulations that require permits or licensing. (If you need help ask Elon, Jeff, or Richard). Here’s a NASA guide for building your own Cubesat
Q: What’s up with the time speak? Zulu, UTC, CDT, Local time?
A: I use these times because folks come from all over the globe so having one basic time “zone” is necessary, and you probably wouldn’t want me to use Stardates! And don’t even get me started on daylight savings time!
Q: I live in Ohio. Are you sure Ohio practices daylight savings? Does that change UTC?
A: Despite existing in the past fashionably, and having a nut as a mascot, Ohio is America’s most practical state (and my birthplace) and does indeed follow daylight savings. Ohio is where astronauts come from. I live in Wisconsin now, we survive in most disaster movies and have cows, cheese, and DST.
Q: This FAQ doesn’t really answer the important questions about SDR, did you know that?
A: I’m sorry, what? I wasn’t paying attention.
Q: Someone called my girlfriend fat, what do you have to say about that?
A: To answer this, we must go back billions of years. The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood—all were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of star-stuff. Your girlfriend, however, is made up of way more star stuff than everyone else. After she was born, there was practically no star stuff left. Tell your girlfriend to save some star stuff for the rest of us.
Q: I saw some information about you on another site, something about awards? Can you elaborate?
A: Sure, I don’t like to brag, but I once dominated Bulgarian Interpretive Clog Dancing for a couple of days back in the heady days of 1997, and who could forget my third runner-up award for the 2nd-grade spelling bee in Ms. Farley’s class. (I have the certificate matted and framed above my desk!) One of my awards which is very dear to me is my award for Best Office Tag Team! I earned this one for forming a cohesive group at the office, that no matter what project the Director would throw at us, we were able to circumvent and direct blame elsewhere.
Q: Do you think you’re funny?
A: I used to. Until you asked that question!