All posts by Andrew Lawson

Lawson / Walker Wedding

On a beautiful and sunny day, my incredible wife and I said, “I do!” and started a new chapter in our lives! That wonderful day was Sunday, October 15th, 2017! Our wedding took place inside a beautiful log wedding chapel in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, appropriately named “Little Log Wedding Chapel“. The ceremony was just as gorgeous as my wife, with our family and friends in attendance. Laurel and Wes, of the country duo The Young Fables performed at the wedding. Ben and Scott of Knoxville’s house band, K-Town played our reception, and both made our wedding memorable! Both of their musical abilities really set the perfect tone for both the wedding and the reception, Most importantly, everyone had a great time celebrating our marriage with us!

To say that I am an exremely blessed man is an understatement! No words can accurately describe my wife and the love I have for her. She is truly my better half, and she is the answer to prayers sent to The Lord. I waited all my life to find her, and I look forward to memories we will make in this life we have built together, and what our future holds.

Below are pictures of our wedding and reception which captured our celebration! Our photos were taken by Jon Henry, who is a friend and an excellent photographer. He can be found on Facebook at Jon Henry Photos & Graphics .



This past year I dove into the use of DMR – Digital Mobile Radio! There are two reasons I enjoy using DMR, alongside conventional analog communications. Those reasons are the computer and radio science involved in the implementation of DMR systems, and the fellowship with other amateur radio operators!

Recently I was speaking with an operator on DMR and he brought up a great point. Currently there is not a website available to indicate when MD380tools has been updated. So, I have taken a moment and I have compiled a way to tell when ‘tools has been updated, and also an easy to follow guide on installing tools.

But before we go any farther I suppose I need to explain exactly what MD380tools is. ‘tools as it’s often called is used on Tytera, a.k.a. TYT, radios which have the model number MD380, MD390, and MD2017. These radios are approved by the F.C.C. for amateur radio use, but they have more “land mobile or business service” traits about them. Some of these traits inhibit the ability to change frequencies, or talk groups via the keypad. What MD380tools does, is allows amateur radio operators the ability to control the radio via the keypad, much as they would use any other amateur radio.

I have furthered my use in DMR by successfully building a Raspberry Pi 20mW DMR repeater, using an OpenSPOT SharkRF, which works great for use around the house and neighborhood. By using the Raspberry Pi for its internet connection, I have created the ability to remotely log into the Pi and the OpenSPOT anywhere I have an internet or cellular connection. But I will touch more on that topic later.

I am going to mainly focus on the links to find the information and files needed, but I recommend reading the PDF file which details the installation of MD380tools. This PDF can be downloaded in its entirety at this link:

Other links regarding MD380tools are below:

Google Group MD380tools:

Facebook Group MD380tools/KD4Z Toolkit Custom Firmware Support Group:

Step 1: Downloading the image file containing the VM (Virtual Machine). I have found the best success for installing ‘tools by downloading from the mirror site, the software titled tyt_kd4z_3.0.ova. Here is the link to mirror site:

Step 2: Download Virtual Box. You must download Virtual Box to run the software titled tyt_kd4z_3.0.ova, which you downloaded in Step 1. Here is the link to Virtual Box:

Step 3: Installing Virtual Box. DO NOT FORGET TO COMPLETE THIS STEP! Once you download Virtual Box you have to install the Extension Pack, which is located on the Virtual Box Downloads page. The link for the download page is in Step 2. You have to click on the link titled “All supported platforms”. The All supported platforms link is here:

Step 4: Reboot Your Workstation. The PDF you downloaded recommends rebooting the workstation to ensure your USB devices integrate with Virtual Box. It is also recommended to connect the radio and USB after rebooting your computer.

Step 5: Import the Virtual Machine File tyt_kd4z_3.0.ova. In Virtual Box, click File > Import Appliance, then select the file tyt_kd4z_3.0.ova from the folder you saved it to.

Step 6: Start the Virtual Machine. Easy as it sounds, just load the software for MD380tools.

Travis Goodspeed, KD0KKV has done a fantastic job building this software, and Warren Merkel, KD4Z has done a great job forking this project, and allowing other ham radio operators the ability to use our Tytera MD380 radios to connect to others all over the world!

These steps are just the simplified basics, and I STRONGLY RECOMMEND reading the entire PDF Installation Guide before, and during installation, to ensure that no steps are missed. The primary purpose of this post is to point you to the links with relative ease. During my installation, I had difficulty locating the links and I wasted valuable time trying to find where I needed to navigate to online.


Mac Terminal Command Tricks, Games & Movies

Greetings everyone! So this article is going to be a hit for all the Mac users out there who enjoy using Terminal for fun and games! Recently I wondered what types of Terminal uses could be had for a little fun and games. To my suprise I found quite a few answers and decided to share them with you all!

Please if you see something you would like added, send me a message and let me know!


Okay so the cool thing about playing games in Terminal on your Mac is they are already installed, you just have to know how to access them! So below is a list of how to access these games.

First you have to load Terminal. Once you have loaded Terminal, in the command line enter emacs to access GNU Emacs, then press Enter on your keyboard.

Screen Shot 2016-11-23 at 10.54.54 PM.png

Next once you see something like this (see below), hold Esc and press on your keyboard. This will prompt at the bottom of Terminal M-x.

Screen Shot 2016-11-23 at 10.56.09 PM.png

From there you can enter the name of any number of games below, then press Enter on your keyboard.

  • 5×5
  • animate
  • blackbox
  • cookie1
  • decipher
  • dissociate
  • doctor
  • dunnet
  • fortune
  • gamgrid
  • gametree
  • gomoku
  • handwrite
  • hanoi
  • landmark
  • life
  • meese
  • morse
  • mpuz
  • pong
  • snake
  • solitaire
  • spook
  • studly
  • tetris
  • yow
  • zone

To quit the game, press Ctrl and X then Ctrl and Z.


You can also watch Star Wars Episode IV in Terminal! To do so is rather simple. In terminal enter the following command.

curl telnet

After tpying this command, press Enter on your keyboard.

Screen Shot 2016-11-23 at 11.27.33 PM.png

After pressing Enter, the movie will play! It is downloaded via the internet and played in Terminal, altohugh I have no reaosn to believe the data needed for this is extensive. So for all you Star Wars fans, SET BACK AND ENJOY THE SHOW!

Amateur Radios and Their Use Saving Lives

Recently our world was rocked with the news that Annie Schmidt, daughter of Jon Schmidt of The Piano Guy’s, had gone missing while hiking in the back country of Oregon State. Immediately Jaime and myself, along with many others, began praying for her safe return. Days turned into weeks as the search for Annie continued, which lead to my wondering of what may have happened to her. Tragically the news came in weeks later, that Annie had fallen from a cliff and sadly perished. Her body was found at the base of the cliff weeks later by Search and Rescue teams, led by cadaver dogs. We all were praying for her safe return, and were heartbroken to learn of her fate.

A few years ago, Geraldine Largay went missing while hiking the Appalachian  Trail in the great state of Maine in 2013. Searches were performed without success, and she was presumed dead, and the search halted. Unknown to would-be rescuers she survived for nearly one month, and weeks after the search was halted, in the back country of Maine, along the Appalachian Trail. She was left to die alone and afraid, waiting for help that never came. She tried to send multiple text messages to her husband requesting help from police. It would not be until the year 2015 that her remains would be found by a forester, two years too late.

What is the point of this article you may wonder? Well, when I heard of Annie Schmidt’s case where she was missing, and ultimately found deceased, I wondered what if she was like Geraldine Largray. Because I first poised the question when I heard about Geraldine’s case and her disappearance. What if they were so far back in the woods, conventional cellular telephone reception was not available. How would someone call for help?

Amateur Radio is how someone could call for help.

See, Amateur Radio is far more reliable than typical cellular telephones. Amateur radio operators, “Hams” as coined by our ranks, often build repeaters, similar to cell towers, that cover areas in remote mountainous regions where cell phones do not work. The only difference is our radios have far more power than cell phones, and they are far more reliable. If someone is stranded and in need of help, where cell phones fail, a simple 5 watt radio with Amateur Radio Repeaters programmed into the memories, may be the difference between life and death.

See I have a view from both sides of the coin, as a public servant, and as an amateur radio operator who enjoys his time spent in the mountains and back countries of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Cherokee National Forest, and everywhere in between.

While I am in the back country I employ the use of the Yaesu FT1DR, a handheld radio that is equipped with an internal GPS capable of use on APRS (Automatic Packet Reporting System) and transmits my location on 145.390 MHz, which is received by digital repeaters, and the information can be located at by searching the call sign of the amateur radio operator, and the SSID if one is used. For example my call sign and SSID is N2AL-7. If something should happen to me I can transmit messages via text on APRS to other stations, requesting help, and communicating back and forth with other stations. Most importantly can be used to find station locations when they have their GPS enabled.

I can also use my handheld radio to transmit on amateur radio FM repeaters which are programmed into the radio, and request help that way. I use a program called RT Systems for my radio, and I can automatically program all repeaters within a 100 mile radius of where I select, into the memory banks. This way I have all the repeaters available for use, and can signal for help if needed.

This can mean the difference between life everlasting, and death all alone. It would not have saved Annie Schmidt unfortunately, but it may have saved Geraldine Largray. The cost for amateur radio use is not expensive at all. My radio, with the software, and an extra battery, and an MFJ 12.5 inch dual band VHF/UHF antenna cost me close to $300.00 a few years ago. Add some solar panel chargers for the batteries, and you can take the radio with you, charge it on the go, and have the capability to signal for help if needed. You are not constrained to finding a wall power outlet to charge the radio with. You can use the solar panels and let them do it for you, while you hike.

The knowledge required for amateur radio operations, and testing to obtain a license, is not complicated at all. It actually is quite easy. I studied for three days, mostly consisting of watching The Ham Whisperer on YouTube, where he went over all the questions, then the answers, for the test banks. I received my Technician Class license a week later and I was on the air.

The Technician Class license, next the General Class, and finally the Extra Class license, are not difficult to obtain. But for the purpose of VHF & UHF FM communications while portable and hiking, or driving, about the back country or the city, all that is needed is the Technician Class license.

To conclude, Amateur Radio has the ability to save lives, and they save lives far more than someone might think. Where I live in East Tennessee is close to The Dragon, The Cherohala Skyway, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Cherokee Forest, and other places that are prone to cell phone coverage lapses. Often when trouble occurs in these hard to reach places, Amateur Radio operators use their radios to summon help. It happens quite frequently, and as of this article, I know of two cases this week alone in East Tennessee. If we could get more people who spend their time outdoors in remote regions to use Amateur Radio’s, then we could save more lives when disaster happens.

Now as a side note I DO NOT recommend using Amateur Radio as the sole method of signaling for help. A lot of professional companies have developed ways of requesting assistance during an emergency.

One such device is a PLB, also know as a Personal Locator Beacon, which is very similar to an Emergency Position-Indicating Radio-beacon Station (EPIRB) used on marine vessels across the world. These devices are relatively inexpensive, although you cannot put a price on your life and safety. The basic concept is relatively simple -It can be automatically activated when certain conditions are met, or manually activated when emergency assistance is required. The devices are battery-powered and some work via GPS and radio beacon. More information on these devices can be found at the links below.

Please join me in continuing to keep the families of both Annie Schmidt, and Geraldine Largay, in our thoughts and prayers. These are two tragic cases where two families lost loved ones. God bless them, and God bless us all.


Tail of the Dragon

Today is the first opportunity this year to drive what many around the world call The Tail of the Dragon! While off work today I took the chance to take my Honda Civic to Deal’s Gap store inside North Carolina, and turn around. A good friend of mine, Al otherwise known as WA4HSM, has a photography business called Moonshine Photo, and he sits on US Hwy 129 near Calderwood Dam, and snaps photos of cars and motorcycles on the Dragon. I recommend checking out his website at and see what pictures you can find of yourself!

Al told me about the old community of Calderwood, where people who worked at the dam lived. I took a moment to drive through the delapitated community, which is open Monday – Friday until 3 pm, and viewed where the old houses and churches stood. A few buildings are still standing and they are quite remarkable. This also happens to be a nature reserve and the wildlife is bountiful! I had the chance to see deer and turkey, and while no bears were spotted, beware if you are in the mountains as many live in the woods.

On my way back towards civilization I took a moment to stop and marvel at the Little Tennessee River. Currently (as of today, Friday, August 12, 2016) repairs to Calderwood Dam have forced the company that owns the three dams on the river to drop the water level. I rememver when this was initally done the police found a bounty of cars and other items discarded in the river, that some parties probably wish were still underwater. Ha who knows, maybe Jimmy Hoffa is at the bottom of the river.

I took Foothills Parkway back to Maryville and enjoyed the drive through the mountains and nature. I do recommend careful driving as some drivers choose to drive recklessly, but law enforcement stay on the Dragon to keep them in proper check.

Another reason for driving the Dragon was to see how well simplex radio communications were received a distance away in Philadelphia. To our surprise and joy it received quite well! The only place that had difficulty via simplex and repeater was at Deal’s Gap store, located just inside North Carolina. Transmissions were still readable, although with significant static and difficulty. But along the Dragon, radio communications to the W4YJ, 145.250 MHz and KK4DKW, 145.270 MHz repeaters were nearly full quieting the whole trip, and with minimal difficulty. A note to other ham radio operators in the area, these two repeaters can be of assistance while on the Dragon, and all of US Hwy 129 from Tennessee into North Carolina.

Take a look at the pictures below!

Challenge Accepted – Learning Morse Code

After years of being a ham radio operator, and an Extra Class, I have choosen to learn Morse Code. When I was licensed the Morse Code portion of the exam was no longer required, although older hams had to copy Morse Code to obtain their equivalant licenses of Technician, General, and Extra class.

But a few things lead me to make the decision to learn Morse Code. A few of those reasons were for knowledge, use, and wanting to follow the footsteps of other hams.

When repeaters identify, a lot if not the majority of repeaters, use Morse Code to identify, even if they have voice identification enabled. Well not knowing code makes it exteremly difficult (more like impossible) to copy who the repeater licensee actually is. Knowing how to copy, and subsequently receive, Morse Code gives an operator the ability to copy the repeater which they happen to be monitoring.

Another practical use of code is DX’ing. A lot of DX stations will utilize Morse Code for making long distance DX contacts with other amateur radio stations. All too often I have been voice DX’ing and while generally able to break into a pile up, on the CW side there are not a lot of stations to break up in order to QSO with that hard to reach station.

Above all else is not wanting to be “that ham”. While respected as an amateur radio operator, I never had to learn code like other more mature hams had to do. When I began studying for my license I did after the code requirements were aboloshed. Side note: the reasoning for abolishing the Morse Code requirements was to generate more interst into the hobby, as it was experiencing a decline in use and licensees. But to set the example and follow what others before myself did, I am taking the opportunity to learn Morse Code.

I have found a few good websites online that have information to assist with learning Morse Code. One happens to be The Ham Whisperer where he has videos that teaches the Technician, General, and Extra courses, and Morse Code. I strongly reccomend The Ham Whisperer, and other links found on the N2AL website Under Training Materials & Links.

Below is a picture from a Pinterest article I found. I pinned it to my N2AL Amateur Radio Board, and wanted to share it with others taking the endeavor to learn Morse Code.

Best wishes for those studying to learn Morse Code, and thanks for taking the time to read my blog! If I can assist you with this endeavor please send me a messag

Morse Code

N2AL – My New Call Sign

A few weeks ago I received exciting news from the F.C.C.! My application for the amateur radio call sign N2AL was approved, after being pooled between five radio operators, myself included. While trading in N4AWL for N2AL was a difficult choice, choosing a callsign that reflects the amateur extra class, and easier for DX operation, was worth the change. My thoughts were if I received N2AL that was wonderful, and if I did not receive it, then it was for the best.

It has been an interesting change to go from N4AWL, to N2AL. Not as confusing as changing my previous callsign from KK4IFN to N4AWL, but still it takes some adjustment in time.

Before anyone worries that I will be changing the website, do not fear! I plan to keep as my primary website. the site is not available, and even if it were, has been established and I do not wish to change it. So please everyone welcome the new callsign change, and I hope to hear you on the bands!


73 to all and God bless!

Andrew | N2AL

30th Birthday Celebration

My 30th birthday was this past week, and Jaime and I chose to celebrate by visiting Cherokee, NC for the night! We had dinner with my family in Knoxville, then traveled US Hwy 441 through Gatlinburg, into Cherokee! The drive was beautiful and we were grateful to see all the wildlife and scenery along our route -including a few black bears and Newfound Gap.

Once in Cherokee we checked into our hotel, then visited the casino. Side note too, if you have never been to Harrah’s Cherokee Casino they will provide you with free money to play with in the casino on their slot machines; although you can “cash out” and use the money at card tables. Although the penny slots were fun, Blackjack is an amazing game! One of the dealers was kind enough to show me how the game is played and although rigged, the best chances of winning.

Before heading home we stopped by the EBCI (Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians) Justice Center, where the Cherokee Police Department is housed, across the street from their Emergency Operations & 9-1-1 Emergency Communications Center. I was able to do some department patch trading, and added a Cherokee Police Department patch to my growing collection.

Our return trip home allowed us the opportunity to visit Clingman’s Dome and while a pretty steep hike the scenery and breathtaking view was worth it! We ate lunch at Johnny Rocket’s in Gatlinburg, and I must say that experience was grand as well!

Turning thirty years old has exciting and fun! I am thankful for the many loved ones in my life who has made these three decades so amazing, and I look forward to the many more still to come! Below are some pictures of this year’s celebration.

The Piano Guys

To say that I am a blessed man is a serious understatement. I have been blessed to have an amazing woman in my life whom I care for with an insurmountable amount of love. I thank God above for placing her in my life, and I want to share with you what she chose to do for me.

Next month I turn a page in the book of decades I have had the opportunity to walk upon this Earth. April 10th will mark thirty years of age, thirty wonderful and happy years of knowledge, lessons learned, and times of joy. April 21st brings Jaime and I one year of true happiness, one year of wonderful memories made together, one year spent hand-in-hand by one another’s side, one year of building a Christ-centered relationship with one another, one year spent and one year of the most beautiful love for one another building a future together to last a lifetime.

To celebrate these two milestones, Jaime surprised me with a “weekend” trip to an unknown destination, for an unknown event, and last October she only told me to take a few days off in March. Unbeknownst to me she had planned for us to spend two days in Nashville which is one of my favorite cities, and an evening at The Ryman Auditorium attending a once in a lifetime live performance by my favorite musical group, The Piano Guys! When she and I first met she quickly learned about my love for this group, one pianist, one cellist, and two “behind the scenes” guys, when bought together became The Piano Guys -and have still yet to sell a piano. When she found out they were playing The Ryman Auditorium on March 15th, she ordered us front row tickets, complete with a meet and greet after the show!

Meeting The Piano Guys was such an amazing experience, as was viewing their performance from the best seats in the house, with the most incredible woman by my side!

You make the world a brighter place. I love you sweetheart.

Here is a rundown of our trip, complete with pictures.

Monday, March 14th, 2016:
• Dinner at Maggiano’s Little Italy with Jaime’s best friend
• Post dinner escape at The Escape Game Room Nashville


Tuesday, March 15th, 2016:

• Toured The Parthenon in Nashville, a replica of the original Parthenon, in Athens, Greece

• Toured the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

• Lunch downtown at Demos’ Restaurant
• Shopped at the Nashville Predator’s Team Store, located at Bridgestone Arena

• Walked downtown to the John Seigenthaler Bridge, which crosses over the river and overlooks Nissan Stadium, home of the Tennessee Titans

• Attended The Piano Guys live performance at The Ryman Auditorium, and met the group after the show


Wednesday, March 16th, 2016:
•Lunch at the Opryland Hotel gardens

Maine Warden Service – North Woods Law

Yesterday evening after arriving home I checked my mail as I normally do. Enclosed in my mail was an envelope, with bubble wrap on the inside and weather-proofed, with documents protected by cardboard. My call sign, N4AWL, was written on the address label. Believing it contained QSL cards from contacted amateur radio stations I carefully cut open the envelope, and pulled out some documents, with a QSL card attached! Enclosed in this parcel was a QSL card from a station in Maine, but instead of many QSL cards from a QSL manager, it contained signed autographs from the wardens on the Animal Planet series, North Woods Law! To say that I was elated was an understatement!! I was so excited I could not speak, or sleep! It is not everyday a surprise like that lands on the doorstep, let alone the mailbox!

I had a conversation with “Mike” a few weeks prior, who is an extra class amateur radio operator, and during our conversation we discussed our professions, and our enjoyment of the television series, North Woods Law. He performs work for the Maine Warden Service, and the Wardens featured on North Woods Law. After our conversation on 40 meters, lower side band, unbeknownst to me he had the fourteen wardens featured on the tv series sign a poster for me, and included a one of a kind poster he designed, autographed by Warden Chris Simmons!

I am so humbled and thankful this fellow ham chose to think of me, and send me this gift. Words are unable to express my appreciation. I plan to find a Maine Warden Service department patch, and have these items framed. Have a look at the slideshow below, which contains the pictures of the QSL card, and the autographed posters.


73 and I hope to see you on the bands!

Andrew | N4AWL

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