Bits and Pieces

I’ve been out of town quite a bit for work and pleasure, so here’s a catch up post of several bits and pieces.

You may have heard that Sarah Palin’s email got hacked. The background story is here on Wired’s site. The yahoo mail account was apparently accessed using the password reset system. That’s where you have to answer a few personal questions that confirms that you are the owner of the account….or know how to use google. According to Wired, the information required to unlock the account was Palin’s birthdate, ZIP code and where she met her spouse. All of this was acquired by searching the web and making a few educated guesses. How secure is your web-based email account?

Richard Garriott, W5KWQ is following in the footsteps of his father, astronaut Owen Garriot W5LFL by taking a ride in space. The difference is that Richard is buying a ride on a Russian spacecraft, similar to other space tourists. It turns out Richard is a very successful video game designer and can afford the ride. He does plan to make ham radio a key part of the adventure. Check out his web site here.

Meanwhile, China is advancing its manned space program with their first space walk (EVA). Meanwhile, things are moving a bit slower at NASA such that we’ll have to continue to rely on the Russian space program to keep the ISS alive.

The ARRL made the QST magazine archive available online. While this archive is not complete, it has a ton of good articles in it. Great move, ARRL! This is open to ARRL members only. (What, you are not an ARRL member?)

The ARRL is also active on twitter at http://twitter.com/arrl. Now, if I could just figure out the purpose of twitter.

I still have not tried Google’s Chrome browser which makes me one of the few people on the planet that hasn’t done that. I think there are about 10 of us left. (Of course, I don’t own an iPhone either, so go figure.) In general, I am consciously trying to avoid Google as they collect way too much personal information. The NSA should contract their work out to Google.

73, Bob K0NR

Sorry…I’ve Been on 2M FM Again

I was looking out the window the other day and noticed that my wire HF antenna is laying on the ground. Hmmm, probably doesn’t radiate very well that way. But if I put a long, lossy coaxial cable in line, the SWR will still be good at the transmitter. And I can tell my buddies that it works just fine because “I can work everyone that I hear.” (What a dumb thing to say :-) )

This made me realize that most of my ham radio activity lately has been on 2-Meter FM. Actually it has been on 2M and 70cm FM, as I tend to lump these two activities together. These days, my VHF/UHF FM rigs have at least 146 MHz and 440 MHz in them (FT-7800, FT-8900, etc.). I cruise down the road and flip on the rig, talk to the locals, talk to the XYL, etc. It is just too easy and too convenient. It fits the mobile lifestyle, whether it means operating a mobile rig in the car or grabbing an HT to take along on a business trip. (I used to run HF and SSB VHF mobile but found that the rigs were rarely used, so I removed the gear from my vehicle.)

Of course, I need to apologize to the rest of the ham community for this failure to act according to accepted social norms. You know how it is…Real Hams operate HF, weak-signal VHF, microwaves, etc……almost anything that is not 2M FM. Every so often I hear that comment about “well, those techs just hang out on 2M FM,” implying that those guys are permanently stuck in ham radio middle school, unable to graduate to the next level. Or sometimes the FM operators are referred to as having “shacks on the belt” which are dependent on the “box on the hill.” The main message is that 2M FM is just too easy, too plug-n-play, too much like an appliance….too convenient. We certainly can’t have that!

Don’t get me wrong…I enjoy HF, DXing, contesting, digital modes, almost anything to do with amateur radio. That’s the cool thing about the hobby…so many bands, so many modes. One of my favorite activities is operating the major VHF contests. (I’ve even been known to work a few CW contacts.) But on a day-to-day basis 2M FM just seems to fit in better.

Some people call 2M FM the Utility Mode, because it is the mode that gets the job done. Last week, we had a weather net activated to track thunderstorms and a few tornadoes. Did this happen on 40M? I don’t think so. Two meters carried the load. Where do most of the ARES and RACES nets meet? Two meters. How is most public service communications handled? Two meter FM. Even some hard core HF DX enthusiasts are known to flip over to 2M FM to tell their buddies that the DXpedition to a rare country is on the air. It is the Utility Mode.

Over the weekend, I was driving through the mountains and heard an aeronautical mobile working stations simplex on 146.52 MHz…lots of fun. Another time, I heard a station calling about 80 miles away (I was in a high spot) and I had the pleasure of making that contact….again, on 2M FM. A few weeks ago, I operated in the Colorado 14er Event from the summit of Pikes Peak. Since many of the mountaintop stations had hiked up, the most popular mode of the day was (you guessed it) 2M FM.

So sorry, I have been hanging out on 2M FM. I’ll try to get that HF antenna back in the air one of these days.

73, Bob K0NR