“Devil makes work for idle hands,” it is said. So I dutifully started to clean out the UrbanSurvival/Peoplenomics office Saturday. And by the time last night rolled around, little looked any different, but at least there was a Big Plan that was coming into view.

You see, a lot of preppers have very little to add (other than the overhead of another mouth to feed) should the crap really hit the fan in ‘Merica. While I don’t expect that to happen in the next five minutes, when you plot the likely trajectory of a $19.5 billion (and climbing) accumulated federal debt, there will have to be some kind of massive reset.

It is also true that prepping will get you a long way down the road toward tomorrow. Must be present to win, as another old saying holds.

We’re lucky since we have enough land, seeds, tools, and junk around here (*like the tiller and such) that we actually could scratch out a horrible make-shift, get-by, if things turn sour. But that is the value-add that we can provide that few others will be able to?

About here I got to thinking about a new kind of information industry. The kind that doesn’t require the internet to operate, it will survive EMP and it will give enough value to the local community that people might be willing to support it.

I’ve decided to focus a bit on this – with maybe more as part of an upcoming Peoplenomics report, but this morning I will share one aspect of it:

Set up and operate a NOAA Weather Satellite receiving center.

You know, as long as the power is on, it doesn’t make a damn bite of different this weather forecasting stuff. But flash a few EMP devices over America and take down both the backbone of the web along with the systems that move diesel and gasoline around. Now? We have a problem.

In such a world, there will be many keys to the recovery but I’m pretty sure that ground-up communications recovery will be one of the important ones.

If EMP happens, what else occurs?

I mean besides the lack of food, inability to get medicines refilled, no more gasoline than what’s in your tank this morning…and so on.

There is also no more weather forecasting.

At least in the normal sense of things.

Who would weather have value to? Farmers and ranchers – and the people who have to be out in it, for sure. But it also is important for just regular people because they will suddenly be back in a world where people actually did have to dress for the weather.

What is NOAA Satellite Weather?

What seems to be available right now are directly received images from three NOAA Environmental Services satellites.

  • NOAA 15 is on 137.620 MHz
  • NOAA 18 is on 137.9125 MHz
  • NOAA 19 is on 137.100 MHz

Nothing is particularly simple, but at least for now it is pretty simple to acquire the basic building blocks to put up a good satellite receiving system at reasonable cost.

The first thing you will need is a wide bandwidth FM receiver which can tune in to these frequencies. There are a number of them out there. (We tend to be hardware agnostic around here.)

The receiver is only one part of the problem, however, because as mentioned recently, there is this quadrafilar antenna problem. Satellite radio signals are circularly polarized and compared with a vertical or horizontal antenna, you’re looking at a 3 dB (or greater) loss of signal if you don’t have the right polarization. You want the right antenna, but these can be built.

Now the next thing you will need is software.

The freeware at www.wxtoimg.com is grand.

Third thing you need is a cheap computer.

I did some serious online shopping this weekend for a low power consumption small form factor PC (SFF is the abbreviation) and I can up with (shockingly) Wal-Mart had some incredible deals.

The trick is to go to the Wal-Mart website and put in the search words “refurb” and “8gb”.

I did precisely this and came up with a refurbed dual core Celeron at 3.0 Ghz with Windows 10 included. Since Wal-Mart is trying to nibble into some of Amazon’s electronics business, they offer free shipping. Not two-day stuff, but if you can wait a week, an 8GB, 2TB HD, with DVRW and lots of USB ports for $162 including tax and shipping is almost ludicrously cheap.

The greatly simplified recipe to get the home and hopefully bullet proof ground satellite receiver is:

Quadrafilar (circularly polarized [left-handed]) antenna.

VHF FM receiver for the 137.00 to 138.00 range with a broad IF section.

Some kind of lower power computer.

And www.wxtoimg.com software.

A print would be nice, but that’s power, paper, toner or ink…maybe, but that’s up to you.

Care and feeding of this rig will take a little doing. The good news is that Wal-Mart also has some screaming deals of tiny (11”) refurb laptops on the cheap. Set the display to shut down quickly and now you’ve got an economical power situation.

I would plan on half a dozen solar panels of the 100 Watt size to run this. You will need a couple of deep cycle batteries, a multiple stage charge controller (MPPT may be overkill, so an old Trace/Xantrex C-40 PWM type would likely work).

Not that you will need any of the gobs of power unless the weather is bad – and that is what winter is all about.

Then there’s the matter of atmospheric absorption. When the weather is bad, satellites tend to lose signal strength. Depending on downlink frequency this can be a PITA to a signal killer. If your receiver isn’t getting full quieting when the satellite is “in view” you might consider something like the Hamtronics LNP-137 which is a preamplifier/preselector.

Hamtronics, by the way, also makes a dedicated weather receiver that is crystal controlled. See their R303-137 receiver here which is the board only. That will set you back $259 and then a tuning tool and power supply and shipping. Check with them on whether there is a good enclosure available…but my sense would be to put the whole thing in an aluminum project box and ground the living snot out of it and leave it disconnected/grounded when not in use.

Now the detailed education.

NOAA has done a great job of documenting “User’s Guide for Building and Operating Environmental Satellite Receiving Station.”

Do I really think you will take the time to read all 107 pages in the PDF? Uh…your call, not mine.


There is always something to learn, eh?

On this project I’m reminded of something I ran into the first time back in my sailing days: Our approximate location here at the ranch is near 31°55?11?N 95°37?52?W.

The problem (not a big one) is that the WXtoIMG program wants a decimal for the LAT.LON. For this, we flip over here and plug ‘em in.

With results, we round to 31.92N by 95.63W and when entered, remember that is West of London/Greenwich so it goes into the program as -95.63.

This all matter because the program will give you predicted pass times BUT you have to put in a reasonably accurate position AND you have to update the Keplers (orbital data which is a click-button).

Once you have the Keplers updated, all you need to do is look for Satellite Pass information on the file menu…record or auto record, decode and you’re there.

Now all you need is a clever bit of banter and your own weather channel, but an insane ability to come up with marketing names for natural weather phenomena.

I want to trademark “Lake Effect Drought”…

Point is there is a recipe to everything – and once you have the tools for any job and the “secret decoder ring” (process) you can do just about anything. (Don’t start on neurosurgery…work up to things like that!)

Do those simple items and you’re ready to record a pass or two.

What the program will do once set up is record the satellite audio data from the radio, using your sound card and then you will make a one-time adjustment (to make sure your sound card and the program are synched – the process is similar to slant-correction in WeatherFax) and then you should be good to go.

There…how’s that for a longish – but sure as hell interesting discussion and skill-builder, huh?

Well, day after a holiday, I figure you need something you can really sink your teeth into…We have another skill building discussion on tap for tomorrow, so be sure to come by.

Write when you get rich,