Author Archives: Eric Christensen

Content Security Policy and WordPress

For your protection, I’ve been working on securing this website with all the proper security HTTP headers.  Of course, by running WordPress as the backend, I’m making it easy to manage all the data but making it difficult to manage all the pieces and parts of the system’s backend.  The largest problem I’ve found are the many inline javascript and inline CSS scripts that are in WordPress Core.

So far I’ve added the easy headers: Strict-Transport-Security, X-Frame-Options, X-XSS-Protection, X-Content-Type-Options, and Referrer-Policy.  The complicated one, at least for sites using WordPress, is the Content-Security-Policy.  Unfortunately, the Content-Security-Policy is the best protection against XSS attacks.  As I pointed out above, WordPress uses several inline scripts and CSS instructions.  This means that I’d have to use “unsafe-inline” when describing what is allowed for scripts and styles.  Unfortunately, adding that negates much of the protections offered by the policy.

There is a way around doing this while still allowing inline scripts: using a nonce.  Of course this isn’t really possible with code that one doesn’t directly control, like the WordPress Core.  I did, however, find a potential fix that may be forthcoming that I’ll be monitoring.  This enhancement would allow for a plug-in to add a nonce to these scripts, thus allowing a Content-Security-Policy to be defined to allow those specific scripts.  Until then, I’ll have to leave this site somewhat unprotected like many (most?) websites are today.

NASAR SARTECH II Complete!

National Association for Search and Rescue logoOver the past few months a small group of us from Calvert K9 Search Team (CK9) have been working towards our NASAR SARTECH II certification.  The four of us have been meeting several times a month, in addition to studying at home, to learn lots of material and become proficient in clue finding, land navigation, tracking, ropes, and other search and rescue techniques.  Yesterday and today was the culmination of all that hard work with the administration of written and practical examinations.

Ed, Elizabeth, Will, and I took the written exam and knots practical exam last night and then met this morning for all the outdoor practical exams.  It was a little wet with the rain, turning into sleet, and then turning into a little snow.  Once we got moving, though, we warmed right up and didn’t even feel the chill in the air.

Ed and I paired up to do both of the clue courses and then it was onto the navigation course.  As usual I somehow magically drew the long course.  At one point, between the fourth and fifth points, I wasn’t sure that I was hitting the correct spot.  I backtracked several times and ended up slipping on a log and landing on my knee.  My knees, being unhappy with any kind of trauma, large or small, was not happy about this and so I had a slight limp for the legs between the fourth, fifth, and sixth markers.  Up until the fifth marker my bearings had been right on with no deviation over tens of meters through brush and woods but I was off a little bit on that fifth marker which led to some doubt.  Oddly enough, running a back azimuth track from the fifth to the fourth marker yielded a perfect bearing so I took the fifth point to be where I was supposed to go.

After the navigation course, I quickly did my tracking test and then went inside to calculate my distances between points from the navigation course and rest my knee.  Betty provided an ice pack which really helped with the pain.

In the end, four of us started and four of us passed!  It was hard work and the work we put in showed in the end.  It’s really helpful that my team, CK9, has many NASAR SARTECH II evaluators on hand to not only teach the courses but also administer the examinations.  This would have been a lot more difficult had I been forced to travel long distances to complete this work.

Thanks to all the CK9 evaluators that came out and helped teach and administer the examination.  A special thanks to Mike and Betty who opened their home to us on a regular basis for our learning sessions and fed us and to Mike for taking the lead on teaching all of us!

SOTA Activation: Snowy Mountain W3/PD-007

Eric holds up his SOTA flag while kneeling over his radio setup in the woods.

Hey look, a flag!

Stats

  • When: 2017-12-24 from 1543Z to 1625Z
  • Where: Snowy Mountain – W3/PD-007
  • Who: Just me
  • Ascent: 148′ over 0.64mi
  • Equipment: Elecraft KX3, SOTABEAM MIDI antenna
  • APRS Coverage: Excellent
  • T-Mobile Coverage: Good. Had 4G (no LTE) coverage at the summit.

Oh what a difference a day makes! The family and I hiked up to the fire tower at the summit of Snowy Mountain. It was around 10 to 12 degrees colder than yesterday but it wasn’t raining and the sun was actually shining!

The walk up from our parking area wasn’t too bad. The dirt road has been maintained well so it was more of a leisurely walk up. I setup near the fire tower to stay away from the nearby power lines and other RF noise generators at the radio tower site that also inhabits the summit.

I chose the west-facing side and strung my antenna up in among some pine saplings. I was surprised to find a 4G cellular signal (T-Mobile) out here and took advantage of it to check for other summits that were also on the air at the time. I did see N3ICE up on W3/PH-004, of which I thought would have been an easy S2S contact, but could not hear her on 40m. My usual 60m channel was in use so I started on 40m and sent out my first spot.

Contacts

I thought I’d give my fingers a rest and do a little voice work today. The upper portion of forty meters is pretty busy but I managed to find an open spot to call CQ. I quickly put NP2EI, K1LIZ, NE4TN, W9MRH, and KI4TN into my log. I was informed that the Eastern Tennessee SOTA chaser contingent was listening and would be trying to work me. 🙂

I switched over to CW and put AC1Z, KI4TN, K8HU, and WA2USA in the log. My ear seemed to handle the code much better today compared with yesterday. I tried twenty meters but for some reason the antenna wouldn’t tune-up. I moved down to seventeen meters but got no response even though the band seemed to be open.

I checked the spots, again, and saw I had a request for eighty meters or sixty meters. The MIDI antenna isn’t supposed to do 3MHz but I have had it work before; not today. Luckily I had Internet connectivity so I was able to lookup the channels for sixty meters. I finally found one that wasn’t in use, spotted myself, and started calling CQ. I picked up N2ESE, N2GBR, and K3JZD all on CW. Tried voice on the same channel but no joy.

Amanda and Elise are cold. Harlan is missing.

By this my fingers were getting cold and my family, all of whom had already abandoned me for the car, were waiting “patiently” for me at the bottom. It didn’t take me long to break camp and hike the .6 miles down.

The sky was clear enough that I was able to see other mountain summits in the distance. Just a beautiful sight.  I would highly recommend this summit to others as it’s fairly easy to get to and offers some very nice views once you get away from the summit itself.

Lessons Learned

From yesterday, I had the same problem of a wet, cold ground to sit on.  Because I’m still trying to figure out how to pack all my gear I still am carrying my KX3 with much of what it was packed in when it was shipped to me: lots of plastic, foam USPS envelopes.  I ended up sitting on one of these and it worked great!  My butt was warm and dry the entire time!  My friend Zach has suggested a, perhaps, more suitable solution: a Therm-a-Rest Z-Seat Pad.

I still need to figure out why the MIDI antenna will sometimes tune up on a band and other times not.

I also need to figure out an antenna to better support the lower bands (80m and 160m).

Summary

All in all, this is a great summit to activate.  It requires some hiking (I would have preferred a bit more), the views are nice on a clear day, and the RF noise isn’t so bad here.  I hope to come back to this summit and do it again some day!

SOTA Activation Report: Methodist Hill North W3/PD-006

An Elecraft KX3 HF transceiver on the ground with a SOTA flag.

Portable HF setup on Methodist Hill North

Stats

  • When: 2017-12-23 from 1832Z to 1915Z
  • Where: Methodist Hill North – W3/PD-006
  • Who: Just me
  • Ascent: None (see below)
  • Equipment: Elecraft KX3, SOTABEAM MIDI antenna
  • APRS Coverage: Excellent
  • T-Mobile Coverage: Nil

I arrived at the summit a little earlier than I had originally planned only because of the littlest one’s nap time. I also didn’t hike in due to the weather, which was and is a disappointment. Nonetheless, I did wander around the activation zone a bit trying to find that perfect place to setup. Unfortunately, I had to settle for a rotten log in an area that wasn’t as thick, brush-wise, as the rest of the area.

This is the first deployment of my Elecraft KX3 and, coupled with the SOTABEAM MIDI antenna, I have no complaints. Receive noise levels were low and signals were decent. Only problem I could find in the whole mix was me!

SOTABEAM MIDI deployed in the woods.

I mentioned the weather wasn’t great. Temperatures were in the 40Fs with a breeze. There was also rain. My CW likely ranks among the worst on the air and it gets worse when I’m sitting on the wet, cold ground being rained upon. For those that worked me, thank you. For those that worked me towards the end on 40m, as we say down in the South, “bless your heart”. I was going to try some PSK31 to give my fist a break but the USB connection for the keyboard seems to make a lot of RF hash noise. Switching to voice yielded no contacts so I just packed up and headed down the mountain.

Contacts

Thirteen contacts were had over two bands: sixty and forty meters. I started with sixty meters where I put K8HU, N2ESE, W2SE, KB9ILT, N3SW, and N2GBR in the log. I moved down to forty meters and found K3TCU, KI4TN, AC1Z, NE4TN, VE2JFM, AB9CA, and AA1CQ. All contacts were CW.

Lessons Learned

First, I need lightweight gloves that will keep my fingers warm but will still allow operation of a CW key.  Even at moderately cool temperatures, my fingers were getting too cold to not make mistakes when sending CW.  Not sure what to do about my brain getting too cold to not make mistakes when decoding CW.

Second, I need to find something lightweight and flexible to sit on that will insulate my butt and keep me dry while I sit on the ground.  It was not comfortable to absorb the dampness that was the ground while making contacts.

Summary

Thirteen contacts in the log and a new summit to boot.  Overall, I’m happy with the activation and can hardly wait to do it again!

Upcoming SOTA Activation(s) – Methodist Hill North and Snowy Mountain

Updated: 2017-12-20 @ 0315Z – Not doing Long Mountain, adding Snowy Mountain.


SOTA LogoLooking at taking a few days and going hiking up in Pennsylvania this upcoming weekend.  I have at least two summits in my sights: W3/PD-006 and W3/PD-013 W3/PD-007 that I’d like to activate for Summits on the Air (SOTA).

Methodist Hill North – W3/PD-006

The first, Methodist Hill North (W3/PD-006), appears to be a drive-up summit but I’m hoping to take advantage of some quiet and hike in the 4.57 miles from the parking area at Shippensburg Road along the Appalachian Trail.  The terrain doesn’t look too bad: up 700 feet, down 643 feet (gross).

Trail profile along to W3/PD-006

Trail profile along to W3/PD-006

Long Mountain – W3/PD-013

The second, Long Mountain (W3/PD-013), has never been activated before and I’m not sure if that’s because it’s such a low point summit (2 points) or if there are access restrictions.  Either way, I’ll find out as it appears to be an easy drive up to the summit along a roadway that has houses along side it.

Snowy Mountain – W3/PD-007

A little further away from base camp than I would have liked but the Long Mountain summit doesn’t look like it’s going to work out.  The SOTA community in the W3 area suggested that I try Snowy Mountain so I’m putting it on the list.

Other summits?

There is a very slim chance I may try to activate another summit during this trip but I’ll have to see what the family is up to doing first.

The Gear

This will be my first activation using my Elecraft KX3.  My CW is rusty (it down right sucks, really), and SSB isn’t going to be fantastic, so I hope to make up for my lacking in both of these areas by offering up PSK-31 directly from the rig.  I’ve done this a little bit, and have been somewhat successful, but have never tried this in the field so if you hear me please give me a little latitude when trying to make a contact.

I’ll be using my SOTABEAMS Bandspringer Midi antenna which is supposed to be good 10m through 60m.  This antenna has worked really well with my Elecraft K1 (40m-17m) and I can hardly wait to see (hear) what it will do on the KX3.

The Operations Plan

Still working out the exact timing; I’m hoping to be on the summit early afternoon on Saturday, 23 December 2017.  As soon as I get the antenna up in the air I’ll start on 60m and try to work CW, then PSK-31, then voice.  I’ll repeat this pattern on every band, through 10m, I can tune up on until I get tired or run out of time.  I will also be monitoring 146.535MHz FM on my HT along with chirping on APRS (WG3K-7).  I’ve heard I won’t have cellular coverage at the summit so I’m hoping to have APRS coverage so I can self spot when I get started.

That’s the plan as of now.  I’ll update this if there are any changes before heading up (if I can).  73!

For Sale: Down East Microwave 2304-144 Transverter

UPDATE: This item has sold.

Going through some stuff I’ve had in storage and haven’t used in a while and came across this transverter that I won’t be putting on the air because of the 2m IF.  I bought this from a ham years ago who said it worked but hadn’t had it on the air in a while.  I never had the opportunity to put it on the air so I cannot confirm whether or not it works.  Asking $200 + shipping (o.b.o.) or local pick up or trade for something equally cool (I am trying to get a microwave station setup here).

I will warrant it to be working.

Image of a DEM 2304-144 transverter showing serial number 257

DEM 2304-144 transverter

Picture of the rear of DEM 2304-144 transverter showing a common IF and separate TXRF and RXRF connectors.

Rear of DEM 2304-144 transverter

Image of DEM 2304-144 Transverter specs sheet

DEM 2304-144 transverter specs

Spec sheet indicates 1W output, common IF with a drive of 1-10W.

If you’re interested feel free to contact me!

FOUND: CLOVER2 Board cables

CLOVER2 Board cableYears ago I was given a CLOVER2 board. I later gave it away to someone who was interested in trying to add capabilities to his BBS. I now have found the cables for it! I wonder if I can figure out who got the board or if someone else could use the cables.

APRS SATCOM base antennas

Years ago, Bob Bruninga, WB4APR, talked about a “good” antenna for APRS SATCOM applications.  It was a 19-inch vertical antenna that would function on both the 2m and 70cm bands, and had lobes that were up around the 30-degree mark.  Looking for information on that antenna last night I found a page Bob had written expanding on the idea.  This page provides designs for i-gate antennas on 2m and includes the 19-inch antenna as well as a new design, a 3/4-wave 2m antenna.

I’m seriously considering building one or both of these antennas this weekend to test out these antenna designs.