Religion and Ham Radio

We need to get the religion out of ham radio. No, I am not talking about the HF nets that support missionaries or similar activities. (Those people might actually be doing something good for the world.) I am talking about the religious debates concerning new technology…this technology is better than that technology.

Amateur radio is a technical hobby, one based on technology, hobbyist pursuits and mutual interest. One might think that this means issues are looked at objectively and discussions are based on logic, scientific principles and facts. Of course, this is completely wrong. What often shows up in ham radio are religious debates about technology or operating modes.

Here’s a definition of Religion:

a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.

You can tell when you are stuck in a religious debate…the facts quickly fade and statements like “this is the right way to do it” become louder. Underneath this is a fundamental belief trying to come out that the person may not even be aware they have.

A long running example of a religious debate is Linux versus Windows. On the surface, people argue about which one has more defects, which one is more secure and which one ultimately serves their needs better. Underneath the surface is the religious belief: software should be free, Microsoft is evil, etc. Then there are those Mac enthusiasts (you know who you are)….these folks tend to act like a cult as they attempt to convert other people to their group. (Where is the line between enthusiast and cult member?)

The latest one on the ham radio front is the debate over digital technology in the VHF and higher bands: D-STAR versus APCO P25. The debate starts out rational with a discussion of the merits of each but soon the deeply-held beliefs come out: D-STAR is bad because ICOM is pushing it, P25 is good because it is the commercial standard, D-STAR is good because it is an amateur radio standard, D-STAR uses a proprietary vocoder chip so it is bad, etc. (For specific examples, click here, here and here.) Then don’t forget the guys that say “all digital is bad, analog FM is good.”

Again, you can tell when the religion kicks in because the facts start to fade and the beliefs rise to the surface. Usually, these arguments can’t be resolved because you can’t really debate beliefs. What you get instead are flame wars on the various email groups.

What other religious debates are out there? Code versus No-Code, Open Source Software versus Commercial Software, My favorite rig versus Your favorite rig, … what else?

-73, Bob K0NR

P.S. Was Betamax really better than VHS? :-)

HamLinks Toolbar for IE and Firefox

I just came across the NØHR Toolbar for Internet Explorer and Firefox. I just installed the HamLinks toolbar into Internet Explorer. (I had previously given up on Firefox.)

HamLinks: The Ham Radio Toolbar for Firefox and IE

HamLinks is a free ham radio toolbar that extends your (Internet Explorer or Firefox) web browser to give ham radio operators quick access to great ham radio content. It’s completely free, easy to install (and uninstall) and can be configured by the user. No registrations, spyware, spam or other hooks.

The default configuration has a few too many features turned on for my use, so I turned many of them off. (Not a problem, just takes a little configuration.) The features that seem useful to me are:

Powerful search box (QRZ.com, DXwatch, QSL Manager, FindU.com, etc.)
UTC Time
WWV gadget to show propagation bulletins
Propagation Data from WWV

You may decide to keep other features, depending on your ham radio interests. Take a look the toolbar and give it a try.

73, Bob K0NR

ARRL Rocky Mt Division – Elect KØRM

There is an important election coming up….no, not that silly race for the White House…I am talking about something really significant — the race for the ARRL Rocky Mountain Division Director. This person will be our representative to the ARRL Board of Directors. Talk about a tough job! You try representing the interests of the amateur radio population in the Rocky Mountain Division….see how easy that is!

Sometimes we lose sight of the fact that the ARRL is a member organization. Yes, there are those folks at HQ in Newington that seem to have their own agenda but it is the Board of Directors that run the ARRL.

From ARRL.org:

Current Rocky Mountain Vice Director Division Brian Mileshosky, N5ZGT, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, is running for Director against Jeff Ryan, K0RM, of Westminster, Colorado. Current Director Warren G. “Rev” Morton, WS7W, of Casper, Wyoming, is not seeking re-election. Vice Director candidates for the Rocky Mountain Division are Dwayne Allen, WY7FD, of Devil’s Tower, Wyoming, and Chris Howard, W0EP, of Fort Collins, Colorado.

Ballots will be sent to all full members of the League in that Division who are of good standing as of September 10, 2007 (you must be a licensed radio amateur to be a full member). The ballots will be mailed not later than October 1, 2007 and, to be valid, must be received at ARRL HQ by noon Eastern Time on Friday, November 16, 2007.

I am supporting Jeff Ryan K0RM for the Director position. I have had the pleasure of working with Jeff on a variety of ham radio activities over the last decade or so: ARES, Hamcon Colorado, Colorado Council of Amateur Radio Clubs (CCARC), Pikes Peak FM Association and other activities in the Colorado Section. Jeff makes a positive impact in every role he takes on. Jeff has consistently served the amateur radio community, using his strong leadership skills, excellent judgment and hard work.

Jeff is currently the ARRL Colorado Section Manager and does an excellent job of leading the section. The thing that impresses me most about Jeff is his ability to listen to all points of view while still letting people know where he stands on an issue. This is a tough balance that is critical in an elected position such as a Division Director.

To learn more about Jeff K0RM, see his web site at http://www.k0rm.net/

73, Bob K0NR