Frequently Asked Questions

What areas do your radios cover?

Our 440.175 MHz UHF repeater covers most of the Black Rock desert, from Gerlach to well past Double Hot hot springs. You should be able to hit the repeater with a five-watt HT with no problem just about anywhere in the Black Rock. Coverage degrades quickly south of Gerlach on Highway 447, ending just north of Empire.

Our 144.39 MHz APRS digipeaters GERLCH and RAZOR cover most of the Black Rock desert, from about 10 miles south of Gerlach to somewhere north of Double Hot.

Our 146.7 simplex VHF IRLP node has less range than the UHF system. It is usable in and around Gerlach with an HT, and out to roughly the 12-mile playa entrance with a higher-powered mobile rig and vehicle mounted antenna.

Are your systems open or closed? Does it cost anything to use them?

Our systems are free and open! All amateur radio operators are welcome -- encouraged! -- to use them.

That said, setting these radios up has been a significant expense. If you find our radios useful, we encourage you to donate to our organization or become a member.

I want to get my ham license and I hear you guys run a ham cram and exam session out on the playa. When is that and how do I sign up for it?

In 2010 and 2011, in association with the Friends of Black Rock, we offered a ham cram and exam out in the Black Rock Desert over the July Fourth weekend. We think we're going to take a break this year and enjoy Fourth of July ourselves, so no class is scheduled for 2012. But all is not lost: there are plenty of free resources available to help you learn the material. Then, once you're ready, consulting the ARRL's web site to find a ham radio test location near you.

Can you tell me more about the technical details of your setup?

Our UHF repeater is a pair of low-power (5 watt) radios and an NHRC-7 repeater controller powered from a solar array on a mountain-top on the east side of the playa. It is connected to a BeagleBoard embedded computer running Linux and running Asterisk app_rpt. A 5 GHz wifi link connects the mountaintop to our base camp in Gerlach.

Our simplex VHF IRLP node 3075 in Gerlach is a Motorola GM300. Output power is approximately 40 watts with a Comet CX-333 antenna atop a 20' mast mounted on a 32' tower.

Our mountaintop APRS digipeater (RAZOR) is an Argent Data Systems T2-301 integrated radio and TNC. Output power is about 5 watts. Our APRS digipeater in Gerlach (GERLCH) is an Alinco DR-135 (generously donated by Argent Data Systems) with a Coastal Chipworks TNC-X KISS-mode TNC. Output power is 50 watts. The Gerlach APRS antenna is a Diamond X50A providing 4.5 dBi gain at about 30' above ground. GERLCH's digipeating and packet gatewaying to the Internet are provided by the aprs4r software.

Our Internet connection is via Friends of Black Rock and the Gerlach town wifi network that is provided courtesy of the Burning Man organization.

I'm not familiar with IRLP. What is it?

Please see our super-quick IRLP tutorial and the official IRLP web site.

Where exactly is your equipment located?

Some of our equipment is in Gerlach, Nevada at the southernmost tip of the Black Rock Desert. Other equipment is on a mountaintop on the east side of the playa.

I couldn't get the VHF IRLP node to work and I'm sure I'm in range!

Check to make sure that you are transmitting PL 100.0. Then check to make sure that your radio is in simplex mode, that is, that you are not transmitting with an frequency offset. The frequency of our VHF IRLP node, 146.7 MHz, is in the repeater portion of the ARRL band plan. Most modern radios automatically switch to a negative frequency offset as soon as they see the 146.7 MHz frequency. You may need to manually override this. (And yes, our simplex use of 146.7 MHz is blessed by CARCON, the organization that coordinates repeaters in Nevada.)