Top Five K0NR Blog Posts for 2013

0511-0701-3118-0930Here’s the top 5 blog postings for 2013 on the K0NR Blog, based on number of views.

1. The Updated Incomplete List of Ham Radio iPhone Apps – my short list of preferred iPhone apps for ham radio use

2. Digital Voice at Pacificon – a report on a few of the presentations at the Pacificon ham radio convention in Santa Clara

3. Yet Another HT From China (Baofeng UV-B5) - a look at one of the best low cost HTs from China

4. A Great Bag for the FT-817 – description of a really good bag for the Yaesu portable QRP rig

5. When All Else Fails or SHTF? – a discussion of “preppers” getting interested in amateur radio for emergency use

Also, these articles continue to get a large number of hits, even though they are a bit older:

FM/VHF Operating Guide – a guide to ham radio activity on 2m FM and other bands

Choose Your 2m Frequency Wisely – an explanation of the 2 meter band plan with Colorado emphasis

— 73, Bob K0NR

Comments Turned Back On

It seems that the comment feature on my blog was inadvertently turned off. I don’t know how this happened but it is now corrected. If you wanted to comment on recent postings, please come on back!

Sorry for the inconvenience. Thanks to Hans PD0AC for pointing this out.

73, Bob K0NR

This Spewed Out of the Internet #18

Lots of stuff spewing forth that needs to be reported.

ARISSat-1 was supposed to be launched from the International Space Station this week, but it has been postponed. I have this vision of one of the astronauts rolling down the window on the station and chucking the satellite overboard. It probably doesn’t really work like that. :-)

Astronaut Doug Wheelock KF5BOC will attend the Dayton Hamvention. as the guest of ARRL and AMSAT. Wheelock made a great video that highlighted his amateur radio activity on the ISS.

The ARRL reports that there is a Spectrum Management Bill being developed in the House Energy and Commerce Committee. H.R. 607 would reallocate existing amateur radio spectrum of 420-440 MHz  for other uses. It seems silly for Congress to put a specific frequency range into a bill as they are in no position to understand the impact.

One of our local Scouts, Jake W0JAK, is the star of a YouTube video on how to solder.

I just re-discovered the excellent ham radio videos by Randy K7AGE. These are great tutorials on various topics, so check them out here:  http://www.youtube.com/user/K7AGE

When I wasn’t looking Amateur Radio Newsline disappeared from my podcast feed. Apparently, they had to change servers to solve a technical problem. If you are missing ARN, go resubscribe using iTunes or other podcast software.

73, Bob K0NR

How Many Online Logbooks Do We Need?

I recently commented on the ARRL Log Book of the World when they turned on support for the VUCC Award. This was a long time in coming and is a great addition to the program.

About a week later, I was poking around my qrz.com page and found that there are 32 QSOs sitting there waiting for me to confirm them. What? QSOs on qrz.com? It seems that they have added a “logbook” feature which supports keeping a log of radio contacts and verifying these contacts with other radio amateurs. I participated in the ARRL January VHF Sweepstakes and some of the contest participants uploaded their log to qrz.com, which caused these QSOs to show up in my logbook.

So now there are at least 3 online amateur logbooks available: eQSL, LoTW and qrz.com. So far, I have only paid attention to LoTW, uploading all of my contacts made since 2002. I have ignored eQSL since these contacts do not count towards ARRL awards. Yes, that does mean I am old school and think that DXCC, VUCC and WAS from the ARRL are the real deal and anything else is an imitation. CQ Amateur Radio is accepting eQSL confirmations and has a decent awards program, but I haven’t focused on any of those yet.

You can see what is going to happen…the amateur population will split across these different logbooks and it will be difficult to transfer “credit” between them. You’ll have a mishmash of confirmed QSOs that include the good old paper variety and several different electronic logbooks.

I am not sure what to do about this but I’ll probably just focus on LoTW. What do you think?

73, Bob K0NR

This Spewed Out of the Internet #14

Happy Easter!

A few posts back, I wrote about podcasts worth listening to. I want to draw your attention to two additional ham radio podcasts:

  • Teen Radio Journey by Paul KC9QYB, available on iTunes or at http://www.teenradiojourney.com/ This podcast is intended for teenagers, so I am definitely outside of that target audience. I mention it here because anything that involves youth in amateur radio is a good thing.

I just stumbled onto the radio contesting site radio-sport.net. It has probably been there for decades and I am late to the party. It is worth checking out if you are into contesting.

I went through the entire day without thinking about buying an iPad. To quote Joey from Friends, “its all a moo point.” Even if you do want an iPad, why would you buy the first implementation, given Apple’s track record? There will be a better one coming along soon enough. Take a look at the Fake Steve Jobs blog.

The high-powered think tank at the Fi-Ni Report has published some brilliant work:

  • The investigative team has uncovered yet another scandal in the radio sport world, this time relating to the Poisson d’Avril Contest
  • AM (Ancient Modulation) is getting a strong endorsement from the CQWW Contest, pushing aside that sissy SSB modulation

73, Bob K0NR

This Spewed Out of the Internet #7

0511-0701-3118-0930This is the usual “catch up” posting, when I don’t have a specific topic but try to share some interesting things flying by on the internet.

I came across this article about poor passwords being the biggest computer security problem (as opposed to viruses and worms). OK, maybe so. Using passwords like “password” and “xyzzy” may not be the best approach. (If you recognize “xyzzy”, that says something.) How about we come up with a new approach to computer security that doesn’t require me to have 23 different passwords, all of which need to change every 3 months? And then the security guys get grumpy if we actually write these down.

I had another gosh darn mf  &$%$# meltdown on my notebook computer, but fortunately everything was backed up using Carbonite. Unfortunately, it took 14 days to pull the data back off Carbonite onto my new netbook computer. That download time seems a bit excessive, don’t you think? I don’t know what the problem is with Carbonite but it is not just me..do a little googling binging on “carbonite slow restore” and you’ll find lots of unhappy customers. Or check out the reviews on Amazon.com. I have taken Carbonite off the Bob’s Preferred Vendor List. Don’t use them.

From the Maturing Market Department, MFJ buys Cushcraft amateur antennas. We’ll probably see more of this.

I already mentioned the Colorado 14er Event, which is tomorrow morning (Sunday August 9th). We will have quite a crew on Pikes Peak…including an HF station, most likely on 20 Meters SSB. Look for us around 14.260 MHz with callsign K0YB.

Apparently, RadioShack is in the process of rebranding itself to be simply The Shack, according to Engadget.com.  Interesting development….how much “radio” stuff do they really carry anyway?

73, Bob K0NR

This Spewed Out of the Internet #6

0511-0701-3118-0930Lots of interesting things spewing forth from the internet these days:

Jeff KE9V articulated a compelling vision of web-based (“cloud computing”) ham radio logging. This caused a lively discussion among some readers (read through the comments on Jeff’s blog). I found the idea interesting but I am inherently suspicious of the notion of “cloud computing”.  (“I give you all my information and trust that you’ll do the right thing with it.”) As I read through the comments, I realized that what interested me was the idea of having all these logging programs playing well together and with other applications such as Logbook of the World. Right now, this is mostly a pain. That seems to imply we need well-designed standards that define how the software interoperates, whether it exists on my PC or in the cloud.

Jeff also had a great post about narrow-minded thinking. Reminds me of my previous post about Religion and Ham Radio.

The Fi-Ni Report had a hilarious piece about a ham that puts a small VHF/UHF vertical on top of a 100-foot tower:  Ham Claims New Tower is Not Overcompensating.

On a more serious note, it seems that some folks are concerned that the proliferation of radio communications towers are killing off certain migratory birds. This is the first time I have run across this issue, which surprised me a bit. A little Googling Binging on the web finds quite a few articles about it. It seems that the birds fly into the towers or guy wires, especially at night.

I found this spoof of Apple by The Simpsons on You Tube. Pretty funny….unless you are an Apple Fan Boy.

Scot, K9JY, publically admits to buying an Apple computer. One of my daughters has also turned into a Mac fan. I tell her, “Sure, if you want the silly computer to just work, buy a Mac. If you want to dig in and learn all about configuring networks, troubleshooting software problems, understanding file formats and becoming a real computer user, then get a PC. If not Windows, then Linux.”

In case you haven’t heard, the 40th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing is coming up on July 20th. There is a really cool site (http://www.wechoosethemoon.org/) that is recreating the events in real time (40 years later). Check it out. What a reminder that we can accomplish amazing things if we commit our hearts and minds to it!  Unfortunately, it is also a reminder that it is easy to sit on our butts for 40 years and not accomplish much in space.

73, Bob K0NR

Managing the Social Network

0511-0701-3118-0930I’ve been playing the “social networking” game online for a while now, primarily on linkedin, twitter and facebook. Linkedin has turned out to be quite useful from a work/professional point of view as it has enabled me to connect with people I have worked with in the past and lost contact with. I try to keep it professional and not let much personal and hobby stuff leak onto the site. See my linkedin profile here.

I’ve commented on twitter in a previous post. These little tweets of 140 characters seem to have some usefulness but it has to be carefully managed. Mostly, I follow people that tweet interesting technology or ham radio comments, and I try to do the same in return. I don’t think very many people care to hear about the minutia of my day such as when I leave for work and when I do lunch. You can follow me at www.twitter.com/k0nr , if you’d like.

I had registered on facebook a while ago but pretty much avoided it until recently. I was concerned that my college-aged daughters would accuse me of stalking them. And they did :-)  Lately, though it is clear that facebook has migrated from being a college kid thing to being a mainstream tool. Heck, even my mom is on facebook now.  I use this mostly for family and close friends and try to keep the ham radio stuff from bleeding over there…otherwise I run the risk of all of my family blocking me :-).

I tend to think that facebook has the right formula, since its “status update”  is about the same as a tweet from twitter. But facebook also threads status updates and comments from other users and has a more robust set of privacy options. Also, you can share photos and other applications on facebook. You can do some of this with twitter but it seems like more of a pain to do. Facebook does have some annoying advertisements but they are generally tolerable.

Anyway, that’s how I am handling these super whizzy social networking things. How about you?

73, Bob

Posted in Web

Backing Up the Acer Aspire One

Aspire OneI’ve posted a few items about the Acer Aspire One netbook (with SDD and Linux) which have generated some positive comments. See Sweet Little Acer Aspire One PC, More on Netbooks,  and My Tweaks to the Aspire One Netbook.  One thing I’ve noticed is that the Thunderbird email client has a nasty habit of losing a critical file and tossing out all of the email messages. Because of this, I’ve taken a bit more care to backup the email messages and address book (which you should be doing anyway).

Here’s the simple procedure I use to back up the critical folders on the Aspire One onto a USB thumb drive.

Exit all applications

Insert a USB flash drive into one of the USB ports (File Manager should automatically open. If not, open up File Manager manually.)

Click View and select Show Hidden Files. Some of the files we want to copy are hidden, so this let’s us see them.

Select My Disk (over on the left side of File Manager). Then drag the .thunderbird folder over to the USB drive, which will copy the files onto the USB drive. This may take several minutes depending on how many files you have.

Also drag the .mozilla folder over to the USB drive, copying the Firefox bookmarks and other settings

You can copy any other folders that you want to back up

Click the eject drive icon on the right side of the USB drive indicator (left side of File Manager). This closes down the USB drive and prepares it to be removed.

If you ever experience a loss of email information, simply insert the USB drive and drag the .thunderbird folder back onto the Aspire’s main drive (My Disk).

Remember, you don’t have that much SSD drive space on the Linux Aspire, so be sure to delete unneeded email messages and other files.

73, Bob K0NR

This Spewed Out of the Internet #4

0511-0701-3118-0930Things have gotten quite busy at work, which is why I haven’t posted anything recently. The spare time I have has gone towards getting ready for Hamcon Colorado, as I have signed up to do two presentations and a few other tasks. Here’s some items that are worth mentioning that spewed out of the internet.

I haven’t seen the new Star Trek movie yet but Saturday Night Live did a skit relating to it. Also, the classic Shatner “Get a Life” skit is out on youtube. Both of these can be viewed here.

Speaking of youtube, the Society for Geek Advancement (huh?) has a video that features all of your favorite geek celebrities. Is “Geek Celebrities” an oxymoron?

The FCC posted some recent enforcement letters concerning amateur radio cases. Go Laura Smith! Included in this list is a nastygram to the idiots at Xcel Energy which is having trouble tracking down power line noise problems in Northglenn, Colorado. As the ARRL section Technical Coordinator, I had some involvement in this incident — all I will say is that it’s difficult to tell whether Xcel is incompetent or just irresponsible. Hard to say.

Speaking of the FCC, they have really gotten caught with their pants down in their analysis and handling of Broadband over Powerline (BPL). Thanks to the ARRL for keeping after them and getting the suppressed FCC documents via the Freedom of Information Act. Here’s a good article about it from an non-ham-radio source, ars technica.

K3NG raised the question of whether it is possible to have a useful amateur radio web site without the trolls and misfits. It seems that qrz.com is attempting to rise to the challenge. Good for them.

I stopped by the DTV.gov site that has information concerning the migration to Digital TV in the US. I was surprised to find that they added quite a bit of detail about when TV stations are switching over. Also, they have an interactive map that gives you estimated TV signal strength in dBm at an arbitrary location.  (Yes, real live technical information !)

From the Amateur Radio Fun in the Mountains Department, there is a group planning to create a packet radio link that extends the length of the Appalachian Trail (The AT Golden Packet Annual Event).  Sounds like fun to me.

73, Bob K0NR

This Spewed Out of the Internet #3

0511-0701-3118-0930Here’s some things I found spewing forth from the Internet:

When Charles Simonyi was operating amateur radio station NA1SS from the International Space Station (ISS), I was looking around for the right frequencies to use, including doppler shift. I came across a really good web site on contacting the ISS. Check it out if you are interested in the topic.

According to Amateur Radio Newsline, the Indy cops that got in trouble for using ham radio gear for tactical communication were using modified Yaesu FT-2800 2-Meter Transceivers. With these radios opened up, they can operate outside the ham band on adjacent VHF frequencies. According to ARNewsline:

Some conversations were heard in the VHF police bands, at the bottom of the 2-meter band and on frequencies assigned to the MURS radio service.

MURS stands for Mult-Use Radio Service, an unlicensed radio service defined by the FCC. There are 5 MURS channels available: 151.820, 151.880, 151.940, 154.570 and 154.600 MHz.  These unlicensed channels would be a convenient location to hang out without the potential of interfering with anything important. However, a modifed amateur radio transceiver is not certified for use per Part 95 of the FCC rules.

I have not found any other information on the VHF police frequencies being used. Some departments maintain their licensing for VHF channels after adopting the newer 800 MHz radios. Modified amateur radio equipment is not certified for use on police channels. It sounds like these police officers were also using the low end of the 2-meter ham band. Even if they are licensed, it would be an inappropriate use of the frequencies. And a dumb one….of course someone is going to hear them and figure out what is going on.

You may have heard about Stephen Colbert from the Colbert Report getting his viewers to vote for his name on the new ISS module. It seems that he got the most votes but NASA declined to name the module after him (like that was going to happen). They came up with the alternative of naming a treadmill after him….all in good fun. The video is available on the Comedy Central web site.

On the K3NG Report, there was a funny post about the demise of phone operation on the ham bands, which is caused by the lack of testing for phone operating skill during the licensing process.

On the KB6BU Ham Radio Blog, there is an interesting post about the HP-35 calculator…a classic electronic product and an elegant design. The IEEE named the HP-35 and Hewlett-Packard Company as the recipient of the Milestone in Electrical Engineering and Computing award.

73, Bob K0NR

This Spewed Out Of The Internet #2

0511-0701-3118-0930Been spending time on airplanes again. I think my business card should show my office as Seat 8C (always go for the aisle seat).

Here’s a few things flying at me on the web. K3NG reports that the new FCC Chairman has a reputation for being data driven, you know, like using facts and everything. I can go for that. Here’s the ARRL story on the FCC Chairman (Julius Genachowski).

In case you missed it (I did), Woz has been on Dancing with the Stars.  Woz is a cool guy, but who cares?

Fark.com had an interesting photoshop sequence that started with a guy adjusting some sort of antenna. Lots of creativity by the photoshopping readers. The poor guy is probably trying to figure out how to receive digital television.

From the Things That Really Matter Department, a big friggin’ asteroid just missed hitting the earth. OK, it missed us by 49,000 miles but in cosmic terms that is half a freckle.

I just noticed this article on the ARRL web site about Laura Smith, the FCC Special Counsel for amateur radio enforcement. She says will probably get her amateur radio license someday but thinks she needs to learn Morse Code first (read the story to understand why).

Closer to home, I have been tuning up my packet radio gear which has been sitting on APRS for the past year or so. It seems the local RACES folks want to use Winlink for emergency comms but I am not sure my TNC is up to the task.

–   73, Bob K0NR

Tweaking the Blog a Bit

wordpress logoThis evening, I am messing around with the blog a bit. I recently updated WordPress to version 2.7, which is a significant upgrade. I am still figuring out what’s new.

I decided the old template had just too much blue, so I switched over to “Journalist”…nice and clean. Also, the main text column is set up wider, which fits most computer monitors better. Maybe too boring, we’ll see. It is soooooo easy to change themes in WordPress.

For several months now, I’ve been using WP-SpamFree which does an awesome job of keeping the comments spamfree.

I finally got around to adding a blogroll. It seemed like just another thing to keep up to date, so I resisted doing it. However, I noticed that my web page was getting lots of hits off some of the other blogs that had me on their blogroll, so time to return the favor.

73, Bob K0NR

This Spewed Out Of The Internet #1

I’ve been on airplanes again, so trying to catch up. Here’s some things that have spewed out of the internet onto my computer.

Netbooks are the hot item in the computer world (see my previous posting). There is a recession on, you know, so people want to spend less money. It turns out that Psion has trademarked™ the word NetBook™, even though they don’t actually produce a netbook™.

It turns out that the US Congress, in its infinite wisdom, has decided to delay the DTV Transition….sort of. President Obama signed into law the DTV Delay Act. This law moves the mandatory changover from analog TV to Digital TV (DTV) from Feb 17th to June 12th. Except this is optional, so one third of the television broadcast stations are expected to change on Feb 17th. So if you and Grandma are confused, you are not alone. The FCC published a list of stations that are planning to change over on Feb 17th. See my previous post for more drivel.

PC Mag published their list of The Best Free Software. This is worth checking out.

Russia decided to exit the space tourist business. I have to admit that I have enjoyed having a few space tourists with amateur radio licenses operating from the ISS. On the other hand, when did the International Space Station become a tourist destination?

Laura L. Smith was named as the Riley replacement. It is good to see the position filled. There is some concern because she is not a licensed radio amateur. OK, let’s give her a chance and see what she can do. Of course, I did have to comment on the surplus of lawyers in the FCC.

Here in Colorado, the legislature is working on a bill to deal with Driving While Cellphoning. Concerned that this could impact amateur radio mobile operating, our ARRL Section Manager Jeff Ryan, K0RM, and Public Information Coordinator Robert Wareham, N0ESQ, took action to get the bill modified to accommodate amateur radio operation. Thanks, Jeff and Robert, for taking this on.

73, Bob K0NR

Managing Twitter Overload

Twitter is The Next Big Thing on the web…sometimes referred to as microblogging.  (For some background on Twitter, see my earlier post: Twitter: Yet Another Web Thing.)  Several of the ham radio bloggers have tried Twitter and have gotten frustrated with it. Steve K9ZW says that

Basically the few unique bits of information passed are overwhelmed by endless droning Tweets about microcosms of banality trying to add value to the mundane.

I think NØHR captured the issue succinctly by describing Twitter as having a poor Signal-to-Noise Ratio.

I suppose this is what you get from a free, web-based communication service that asks you “What Are You Doing?” and gives you 140 characters to form the answer.

My view is that we are living in a world where the barriers to communication have been dramatically lowered, meaning that there is more information flying in our direction than ever before. Twitter is just the latest example of this. If you “follow” a hundred or so people all tweeting away with their What Are You Doing? stream of consciousness,  you are going to end up with a Pile-O-Stuff of questionable value. To make this useful, you must be careful about who and how many people you follow or apply some kind of filtering/sorting mechanism to keep it under control. I noticed that WA4D expressed a similar view.

This is really no different from when we subscribe to other forms of electronic distribution, such as email lists (e.g., Yahoo groups) and RSS feeds. The reality is that you can easily get overloaded by all of the content out there….more than any human has time or energy to read. So be selective…it is the only way to survive the Information Diarrhea Age.

73, Bob K0NR

Followup on 30 Dec:

I guess I should have specifically stated: I am finding value in Twitter….usually in the form of a pointer to an interesting web page or an insightful observation by one of the people I am following. Your Mileage May Vary.

Favorite Radio Videos

As we head for the end of 2008, I am resisting the urge to do some kind of year-end retrospective. Instead, I’ll pull out some of the best amateur radio and technology-related videos on the web. OK, some of these were completed in earlier years, but this collection represents my favorite video finds on the internet.

Old Goat Field Day

Steve NØTU has captured a number of videos about his hiking / ham radio adventures with his two goats. This one is from Field Day 2008, operating from one of my favorite mountains: Mount Herman. If you like this one, check out Steve’s blog for other videos.

Digital Television Transition

This is a funny video about the transition to Digital TV (fasten your seat belts for that event, coming up in February 2009). It might be poking fun at the elderly, but it is also poking fun at the mess the FCC has created concerning this transition. Why can’t television be simple?

Mountain Dew Commercial with Ham Radio

This is a short Mountain Dew commercial with a reference to vintage ham radio in it.

“Radio Hams” Film

This Pete Smith movie is an oldie but goodie about ham radio….a trip back in time.

N2JMH PSYCHO ROVER

Operating rover in a VHF contest is a fun activity, one that I have been known to do. It does take a bit of a warped mind to truly excel at this….as shown in this video.

The Ham Band

This is a music video by by OZ1XJ and friends, with a ham radio theme to it. You gotta love the guys singing while hanging from a tower!

The Neighbors Find Out About The Ham Radio

This is what happens when the neighbors suspect you of operating a ham radio set.

Amateur Radio Today

This ARRL video with Walter Cronkite narrating is one of my all time favorites as it does a good job of telling the ham radio public service story. It is special to me since it includes coverage of the Hayman Fire….the biggest wildfire in Colorado history, which happened about 15 miles from my home

Got Spam?

How’s your email inbox doing these days? Spamhaus says that spam (also called Unsolicited Commercial Email or UCE) makes up 90% of the email sent in most parts of the world. Since Spamhaus is in the business of providing anti-spam services, it might have a tendency to overestimate the amount of spam.

I have several email accounts for various purposes. One of these is a “junk” account on yahoo that I use for most online purchases and registering at questionable web sites. Examining that inbox, I see 97 messages in the inbox and 647 messages places in the spam folder by Yahoo’s spam filter. Of the 97 messages in the inbox, about half of those are really spam. Another 31 spam messages were sent to a “disposable email address” that I had used at one time. Adding that up, that is a total of 727 spam messages out of 775, which corresponds to 94% spam. Now this is probably a pessimistic measure as this email account is more likely to attract spam and has relatively low legitimate email usage. Still, it is quite amazing how much junk mail it accumulates.

My “real” email accounts have much less spam in them, but it is more difficult to tell the actual percentage. I don’t know for sure what anti-spam measures my ISP uses. On my end, I use Thunderbird’s junk mail controls which seems to catch the majority of the spam. There are quite a few methods available for reducing spam.

The root cause of this is that the internet email protocols were designed with an inherent trust of all users. All of the header information that indicates who sent the email can be easily spoofed, so there is very little accountability in the system. I doubt that the early email inventors anticipated the flood of viagra messages that would occur decades later. This is a classic example of unintended consequences of a new technology. (See Tom Van Vleck’s The History of Electronic Mail for more information.)

So now we spend our time and energy filtering and deleting this nuisance. Even more disturbing are the phishing scams that are showing up in my inbox. There are some very credible fake emails supposedly from major banks and financial institutions that try to get you to log into a fake web page and share your personal account information. Watch out for these!

Various solutions have been proposed to solve the spam problem. Sometimes I think capital punishment might be the answer, but I am not quite ready to propose that……yet. Stay tuned for further updates :-)

How’s your inbox doing?

73, Bob K0NR

Changing Over to WordPress

WordPressI am in the process of moving my weblog from Blogger over to WordPress to take advantage of the more flexible software tools in that environment. The blog will remain on the k0nr.com domain but under a different directory (www.k0nr.com/wordpress). The old blog files should remain in place, so that existing links are not broken. In theory, this should all be transparent to you, as I will redirect the existing URLs for the main blog ( http://www.k0nr.com/blog ), the RSS feed and the Atom feed.

But this is the worldwide web and there are computers involved, so something is bound to get messed up! Hang in there while I make these changes.

Eventually, I’ll port my web site over so that all of k0nr.com is under WordPress. That is likely to take some time.

73, Bob K0NR

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

Twitter: Yet Another Web Thing

I was just starting to play around with Twitter, mostly to understand what it does. I have been reading about it in the PC magazines and hearing about it via various tech podcasts. About the same time, I noticed that Jeff KE9V mentioned it on his blog.

Twitter is another form of Internet communication commonly referred to as “social networking.” Back before the Internet was invented, our social network consisted of actually talking with people, usually face-to-face or maybe on the telephone. For many amateur radio enthusiasts, we also used wireless radio technology to chat. (Remember when “wireless” meant big iron radios that only qualified experts could use?) Of course, mostly we chat about our radios, so some people question the meaningfulness of that particular social network.

Then the Internet and email came along. Your email address book quickly becomes the definition of your email social network. Email distribution lists popped up for many topics and interests groups (“social networks”). More recently, Yahoo! Groups has attracted hundreds of different ham radio groups to that system. Yahoo! Groups provides file sharing and other features, in addition to the usual email list.

Somewhere along the line, sites such as AOL popularized the Instant Messaging (IM) concept. This was initially just text messaging but more recent versions of IM include voice messaging and file sharing.

Real social networking sites combine a wide range of features such as chat, email, video, file sharing and blogging to allow you to “keep in touch” with people and issues you care about. The most popular social network sites in the US are Facebook and MySpace. These sites let you define who you are connected to and who you want within your inner circle. Like most college-age students, my kids have latched onto Facebook as the way to connect with their friends and share photos and information. (I recently got a Facebook account but my daughters are not sure that this is a good idea….they said something about parents stalking their kids.)

Enter Twitter. Twitter is basically a microblog that lets you spit out the latest thing on your mind….what you are doing, what you are thinking, what you just discovered. It is a random flow of consciousness….or drivel….up to 140 characters at a time. Anyone interested can “follow” you and your comments. It has the flavor of a social network because you define who you want to see comments from (presumably related to people / issues you are interested in). See this video for a quick tutorial on Twitter.

OK, so what does this have to do with ham radio? Every one of these systems, from email to Yahoo! groups to twitter, have ham radio enthusiasts using them. In other words, there are communities, I mean “social networks”, that relate to amateur radio. The problem is that most of them are struggling to reach critical mass. Yahoo! Groups, which is fairly limited and has a number of issues, has gotten over this hurdle. The others are a bit hit and miss.

I am not sure where this leads and how useful this stuff is. For me personally….I am overstimulated. There are too many systems, too many emails, too many logins/profiles to create and maintain.

Now let me get back to twittering.
http://twitter.com/robtwitte

73, Bob K0NR


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