Saturday, May 08, 2004

A book worth a look 

Here is a book worth your time.

I get on my soapbox every so often and pontificate about Linux and open source software. I did not start out in life as a hater of Microsoft. As a matter of fact I go far enough back in desk top computer history that I remember when Microsoft was the proverbial David to the Goliath IBM. Bill Gates wanted to keep the personal computer “personal” while the evil IBM wanted everyone tied to a dumb terminal attached to a mammoth mainframe computer. This may be a great over simplification of the topic but you get the flavor of the mindset of the time. My how the times have changed.

Now it is Microsoft that wants to control the world not to mention every aspect of your computer and any networks that it might connect to. The current champion of those that want their systems and keyboards to be free is the Linux operating system that is part of a movement the computer world knows as “Open Source”. For a more detailed description of what open source is all about click on this link and visit their site. http://www.opensource.org To learn more about Linux visit this site. http://www.linux.org Even better yet find a copy of the following book and read it.

In the fast paced world of computers and electronics books are sometimes not as useful as they are in other areas of life. Many times the information in a book is all but obsolete by the time it makes its way onto the shelves of bookstores. This is why you need to read magazines and other sources to stay current with particular area of interest.

There are exceptions of course. Textbooks are good examples since the laws of physics haven’t changed lately books on electrical theory hold up rather well. Likewise there are some books on software that hold up well over the course of time. I would like to recommend one such book.

If you are interested in learning about the Linux operating system take a look at “Linux Clearly Explained” by Bryan Pfaffenberger. This book deals primarily with Red Hat Linux and to make my point about “fast changing” the version that this book covers doesn’t exist any longer, at least not as a supported product from the vendor. Red Hat has elected to concentrate on the enterprise business market and has withdrawn from the home, hobby and individual market place. That is another story that I will get into in more detail at another time.

Despite the fact that this book was written Red Hat Linux was at version number 6.0 and it was at version 9.5 when support was withdrawn almost all of the information between its covers is valuable to a new person getting involved with Linux. I particularly like the fact that the author takes the time to explain not only the history behind Unix and Linux but also the philosophy of why things are done the way they are in the design of the software. Here is a little information about the book and the author.

Bryan Pfafenberger, Ph.D., is a professor in the University of Virginia’s pioneering Division of Technology, Culture, and Communications, where he focuses on explaining complex, cutting-edge technologies to the public. A UNIX user since 1989, he is the author of more than 100 works on computing.

Linux Clearly Explained
Bryan Pfaffenberger
Published by Morgan Kaufmann ( http://www.mkp.com )
ISBN: 0-12-553169-9

Hey gang. I would like a show of hands 

I would like a show of hands.

I haven’t quite decided if I am a non-conformist, a stubborn idealist or just plain lazy but I refuse to switch from Netscape as my web browser and mail client of choice when using the Windows operating system. When I am using Linux I have a much wider range of program to choose from but that is another story.

Netscape allows you within its address book to create a single entry with multiple recipients. This is handy if you want to send the same email to a group of people and I’m sure you are all familiar with the concept so I wonÂ’t go into the details here. In my address book I have an entry called “Pitscan” that aliases to forty plus addresses. I didn’t realize until I counted that the number was that high.

Each week when I conduct the scanner net I give my email address and tell those checking in as well as those just listening that this is a way to contact me with questions or comments for the net. Also if you like I add your address to the above mentioned distribution list so that you will receive any information I send to the group. Due to limitations on time and a small dose of procrastination I have been lax at sending information to the list on a routine basis.

On several occasions I have mentioned that I have a web site http://www.qsl.net/wa3fkg on QSL.NET and have talked about putting information from the net on the web page but somehow never seem to find time to do it. Recently I read an article on the ARRL web site about “bloggin” or creating a “web log” where you could publish information in an easily readable form. This is one of those areas that I was interested in but hadn’t taken the time to explore since the concept had sprouted wings and taken off on the Internet. You are looking at the results of my exploration of the topic now and that brings me to my question.

Yesterday I posted a message here about “the perfect scanner” and asked for comments. Then I had a conversation that prompted me to send the following message out to the email list.

“I was accosted this evening by someone who wanted to know if I was going to stop sending email to the scanner net mailing list and would this individual have to go to my "boom box" to read the information that I wanted to share with the group. After a little translation I discovered that what was being referred to was the web log or "blog" that I have started. ( http://wa3fkg.blogspot.com ) Now I'm not completely sure but I think this person is still using DOS version 5.0 and a text based mail reader, which may explain the desire to receive the information by way of an email as opposed to browsing the web.

Having said that I would like a show of hands from the group. Here is a copy of what I posted on the 'blog' today. Would you rather I send this type of thing in email or do you like the blog format? Or would you like both? I will try to accommodate the majority of scanner net members / listeners just let me know. Thanks. ----Ken”

So here I am asking the same question on the web log. Which method of getting the information do you prefer? Posted here on the web log, sent to you in the form of an email or both? If this is a duplication of effort I won’t bother with it. I am looking at the possibility of putting this information on the web site at QSL by redesigning my page there. That of course brings me back to the time limitations. I really need to retire so that I can play at my hobbies full time! So do me a favor and drop me a note and let me know if you are reading the blog and give me your thoughts on it. You can just click initiate link to initate an email to me if you like. SEND COMMENTS I would appreciate it.

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Friday, May 07, 2004

The Perfect Scanner 

The Perfect Scanner

If you are over the age of ten I probably don’t need to tell you that there is no such thing as the “perfect” anything. Well other than my lovely wife Linda. (CYA) So it is with electronics, radios and scanners. Scanners being what we talk about the most, lets hash it over yet again.

Going back to the days when the “net” was a network of PC based bulletin board systems, anyone remember FIDO, this has been a topic of discussion among scanner hobbyist. It was nice to sit around and daydream about what could be done with scanners if only the manufacturers would incorporate the features that we really wanted.

Two things have happened to make that dream come closer to reality. First and foremost were the advances in solid-state technology. The advent of the microprocessor and the ever decreasing size and cost of components have brought about products in the consumer electronics market place some of which we didn’t even bother to dream about.

The other one is the Internet. It has created a common communications platform for consumers and the makers of the goods and services that we purchase. Almost as important is that it allows end users to communicate with each other and create a pool of information that is available to everyone.

Not just the sales and marketing people either. You can be sure that when this type of discussion gets going that somewhere some of the engineering and design people for GRE, AOR, Icom and Uniden are reading some or all of it. Can you imagine when the Bearcat IV was released to the market having any direct input with the manufacturer on the next model to be brought out?

So life is good, all is perfect and we now have everything we ever wanted, right? You and I both know that being human we will never be satisfied! I would like to make this a topic for the Pittsburgh Area Scanner Net some evening and see how my ideas compare to those of the rest of the scanner community. Having said that lets “blue sky” a little and see what develops. Put on your thinking cap Tom Terrific and see if you can add to my wish list. If you can drop me a note in email and tell me what you want.

Here in no particular order is a list of items that I would like to have on the next scanner that I purchase. By the way, I would like to have these same features in both desktop and hand held units.

First the receiver has to be “hot”. By that I mean if it squirts RF out an antenna within twenty-five miles of where I am I want to hear it. Of course if I hear “it” all at once that is no good either so it also has to be selective. This is a REALLY tough balance to achieve. The wider the radios front end the harder it becomes to separate signals from one another. It can be done to a certain extent but it generally costs a few bucks to do. As with the old ham radio adage, “If you can’t hear them you can’t work them” scanner listeners find themselves in the same position.

I want rugged physical construction. Particularly in a portable hand held unit or one designed for mobile use. I can tolerate plastic box cases for something that is going to sit on a shelf in my radio room but I prefer metal.

I consider the following MUST have options on either type of scanner. Alpha numeric display that is large and back lighted, tone squelch with both CTCSS and DCS decoders, keyboard with good tactile feedback that is back lighted, strong clean audio, one piece removable battery pack and connection for a computer interface.

Automatic level control on the audio would be nice. Output would adjust for dispatchers that sit three feet from the microphone as well as those that swallow it. Not to mention all of the radios out there that are misadjusted for either microphone gain or deviation level.

Fast scan rate both in memory and band scanning.

Scan delay and resume mode adjustable per channel.

Lots of memory channels. At least a 1000 channels possibly more with a far greater number of memory banks. I thought after they introduced the FUNCTION key on scanners that they would let the number of memory banks rise above 10. Such has not been the case. If your scanner has 100 channels there are 10 banks with 10 channels in each bank. If you scanner has 500 channels you get 10 banks with 50 channels in each. I would like memory channels in banks of 10 channels each no matter what the total channel count is.

Even better would be to have “soft partitioning” of the memory banks. This would be my preferred option. By this I mean there would be a pool of memory channels with a large capacity. Lets say 1000 channels of main memory. Then you would have anywhere from 20 to 50 memory banks to which you could dynamically allocate any of the channels from main memory. Bank 1 could have 2 channels, bank 2 could have 500 channels, and bank 3 could have 10 channels and so on. Then you could turn banks on or off as needed.

Well I could go on and on if I thought about it. There are only so many hours in the day though and like I said this could make a good topic for discussion on the net. So I will stop my wish list here and see what I hear from others. If you are reading this and are interested take the time to let me know what would be on your wish list. I may add more to mine at a latter date.

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Thursday, May 06, 2004

The PA 800 mHz plot thickens 

This letter was posted in the PA800MHZ mailing list today. I found it interesting. I will be very curious to see how this information compares to the results of any investigation that the state legislator might conduct.

DATE: MAY 6, 2004
SUBJECT: Statewide Public Safety Radio System
TO: All Members of the PA House of Representatives
All Members of the PA Senate
All County Commissioners

FROM: Arthur C. Stephens
Deputy Secretary for Information Technology
Keith Martin
Director, Homeland Security
Dave Sanko
Director, Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency

We are writing to you regarding Pennsylvania’s Statewide Public Safety Radio System. The system is designed to allow all state agencies to use the same system, thus allowing improved interoperability across state agencies and the reduction of separate radio systems across the Commonwealth agencies.
The purpose of this letter is to provide you with accurate information regarding the status and progress of the system in light of recent inaccurate reports and rumors. Some reports have confused general statements regarding investment in the system by the State, or total investments leveraged during construction of the system, with expenses incurred by the project. This is not accurate. The Commonwealth has two key projects underway, State Police’s Integrated Information Management System (IIMS) and the Statewide Radio Project, which together total over $400 million and represent Pennsylvania’s total state government investment in public safety wireless infrastructure, but the two projects are funded and managed independently. In addition, the value of the total investment in wireless system infrastructure in Pennsylvania has been represented as, and is, well over $400 million. This figure represents the cumulative value of many diverse infrastructure investments, including not only the Commonwealth’s capital expenses, but also including: previously planned and identified operating expenses; the value of county, local government, and Commission wireless infrastructures; and, the value of non-governmental infrastructure owned by such partners as First Energy that is used in the construction and operation of the system. In summary, the original capital appropriations for the Statewide Radio Project were $222.03 million. The project is anticipated to be completed for approximately $240 million. Details of those expenditures are described later in this letter.

The Project began during the Ridge Administration with funding by Legislative Act 148 (1996) at $179.03 million. Following this authorization, the engineering firm RCC Consultants, Inc. was awarded a contract by competitive bid to support the Commonwealth’s system bid, design, and construction efforts.
Following release of competitive procurements, Legislative Act 35 (1999) allocated an additional $43 million for site construction, for a total of $222.03 million. Both capital authorizations were requested and approved prior to the execution of any contracts. Contracts were awarded to the following vendors in the fall of 1999:
• Rohn Industries, Inc.: Site construction (towers, shelters, generators, etc.)
• Alcatel USA, Inc.: Microwave equipment
• M/A-COM, Inc.: Trunked radio (800 MHz) equipment
Deployment of electronics began in December, 1999 with a multi-site, multi-county, pilot-trunked radio system deployed by March, 2000. Operational use of the system for voice communications began in June, 2001 at Presque Isle State Park.

Current Operational Status
Operationally, the system has provided voice and data communications since March, 2000. As tower sites were constructed and brought on-line, coverage improved to the point where state agency transition to the new system began in 2002. Over 4000 radio system users are active, with the majority using voice only, but also including approximately 1000 State Police mobile data users. Agencies and organizations with voice traffic on the system include PEMA, PennDOT, Attorney General, Probation & Parole, the PA National Guard, Huntingdon County Sheriff, and the North Central Area Transportation Authority.
All public safety features and functions of the system are working and in service. Final software and function testing took place in the fall of 2003, including such key features as the vehicle repeater and advanced voice and data encryption. Voice quality testing showed the system’s clarity and intelligibility to be superior to other public safety digital systems, and even superior to some commercial services such as Nextel’s. The system also provides a suite of tools that can provide advanced communications interoperability between the statewide system and legacy system users; these interoperability tools also have been tested, and plans are in the process for deployment in the Commonwealth.

Current Financial Status
Financially, the project remains within its capital budget and is projected to continue to remain within budget. The legislative approvals actually fund two separate funds, which cannot be mixed. Of the $222 million capital authorization, approximately $128 million is allocated to electronics and $93 million for site construction. In addition to the $222 million, over the life of the project to date, $21.8 million in operating funds has been allocated to the project for specific additional expenses, as noted below.
Of the $128 million allocated for electronics, $30.7 million was committed to Alcatel for the microwave and fiber optic system; to date, $27.5 million has been paid, and total payment for completion of the project remain projected below the $30.7 million allocation. $95 million was committed to M/A-COM for trunked radio electronics; to date, $67.5 million has been paid, and total projected payment for completion of the project remains at $95 million. The remainder of the capital authorization supported an infrastructure partnership with the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission for a shared microwave network along the entire length of the Turnpike. In addition to the capital authorization, $2 million in operating funds were committed following 9/11/2001 to purchase a mobile Regional Operating Center for disaster restoral, $1.4 million in operating funds were committed to support the Pennsylvania State Police’s development of a custom dispatch console interface to the radio system for their new Consolidated Dispatch Centers, and $1.27 million in operating funds were allocated for enhanced interoperability between counties and the state system. This brings the total electronics expenditures to approximately $132.7 million.
$94 million was originally allocated for the construction of tower sites and for engineering support. Of this, approximately $60 million was originally allocated to Rohn’s contract, $17 million to RCC, $13 million for microcell site deployment, with the remaining $4 million allocated to various smaller site development projects. Over time, site acquisition has been impeded by a number of issues including land ownership issues and local opposition to tower construction. This has resulted in changes in site locations and delays in site and system construction. A total of $17.1 million in operating funds have been allocated over time to site construction, predominately to pay for engineering costs associated with system design changes and the design and implementation of replacement sites.

Current Challenges
The project faces three main challenges at this time: coverage concerns, interoperability issues and agency transition. The coverage concerns are caused primarily by an inability to continue to construct radio towers due to the bankruptcy of Rohn Industries. Rohn Industries, Inc., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the late summer of 2003. In reality, most construction of tower sites stopped in the early summer. Under bankruptcy law, the Commonwealth has been prohibited from constructing the remaining tower sites using another vendor, and Rohn has been unable to proceed with construction of those sites. A total of 18 tower sites are affected -- six of which are substantially complete and twelve of which have not yet started construction. The Commonwealth is working diligently with Rohn and the Bankruptcy Court to reach a resolution of this issue, allowing site construction to resume.

Coverage Concerns
Primarily as a result of the Rohn bankruptcy and unplanned changes in tower site locations, coverage for the system remains less than the final design requirement. There is currently significant coverage in all but six counties in the state. The system requirement of 95% coverage by land area, by county, is unchanged from the original requirement. Testing to date, completed with the participation of state agency system users, has shown that the actual coverage provided by the system exceeds design predictions. Despite the tower construction impediment, 19 counties will exceed the required 95% coverage level by the end of June 2004. The speed at which the remaining areas receive coverage improvements will depend significantly on the resolution of the Rohn bankruptcy proceedings.

Agency Transitions
The original project plan called for each state agency to plan and execute its own transition from its legacy radio system to the new system. As actual transitions began, it became apparent that a much higher degree of support was warranted. Planning for radio transition has, in most cases, required detailed review of agencies’ operational plans and also has entailed working with agencies who are addressing significant operating changes due to restructuring or other unrelated drivers. Additionally, many unique needs of each agency need to be addressed – we must ensure the safety of all radio users.
Interoperability Challenges
The requirement for communications between state agencies, and county and local governments, has been a key need since the inception of the project. Deployment of the technology and hardware must be accompanied by input from county and local emergency service providers, and by comprehensive operational planning on a regional basis. These phases of interoperability deployment are now underway.
In closing, we note that the system remains a critical component of Pennsylvania’s Homeland Security strategy. The Commonwealth places a high priority on completion of the remaining towers, on transition of user agencies, and on deployment of the statewide interoperability solutions. We hope for a prompt resolution of the Rohn issue, with the result being coverage statewide improving to exceed 90% by the end of this calendar year. We welcome any questions regarding the system, county and local government integration or participation, or communications interoperability. For more information, please contact Deputy Secretary Art Stephens, Governor’s Office of Administration, at (717) 787-5440.

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Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Links and things 

Here is a link that should be of interest to scanner listeners.

This from Frank, N3FLR, and lead me to a really nice web site. Thanks Frank! While this is an amateur radio setup in the pictures you can see how this could be adapted to a portable scanner station just as well.


Nextel Switching Tactics

For those of you who have been following the Nextel debacle I think you will find this interesting. There have been a growing number of complaints of Nextel’s cell service repeaters causing interference to public safety radio systems. In some cases police and fire personal have found their radios unusable when within range of the Nextel cell towers.

Rather than fix the problems Nextel has been trying to “buy” the 800 mHz band for themselves. They have made offers to pay the equipment costs to move public safety agencies into the 700 mHz band provided they get exclusive use of the current band. Not only would the give them a very unfair advantage against their competitors like Motorola. In addition the numbers that I have seen published seemed very low to me for the cost of the migration. If the FCC inks the deal and then it turns out that the cost of moving the public safety radios is much higher than expected, guess who will pick up the tab? You got it, us the taxpayers.

Today a friend sent me a link to this article, which looks like Nextel is trying to cover all the bases. Like I said, I think you will find it interesting.


You have also heard me mention the state wide 800 mHz trunked system in the works here in Pennsylvania. Here is a posting from the SCAN-L mailing list that caught my attention. If you pay taxes it should catch yours also.


Those who have info for Monroe County lawmaker Kelly Lewis
can e mail him at :Klewis@pahousegop.com

As of this writing the Governor says he wants to get to the
bottom of this.

Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Contact: Todd Abele

House Republican Communications
(717) 787-3993


April 22, 2004

Lewis, Browne Request Audit and Review
Of Statewide Radio System Project

Original Price Tag of $179 million now exceeds $400 million

HARRISBURG - Two members of the House Finance Committee and
House Judiciary Committee requested an audit and review of
the beleaguered statewide radio system project, which remains
three years behind schedule.

Rep Browne stated, "In 1996 the Commonwealth budgeted $179
million to fund the statewide radio system project. In the
spring of 1999, the contracts for the statewide radio system
were awarded and scheduled to be installed, tested, and
operational by April 2001. Cost overruns and delays continue
to plague the project and we believe a thorough audit and
review is reasonable and warranted.

Rep Lewis added, "Today, we ask the Administration, the
Auditor General and the Attorney General to audit and review
the statewide radio system project for good reason. Recent
testimony at the House Appropriations committee indicated the
total project costs now exceed $400 million. To date, the
project is over $220 million over-budget and three years
behind schedule. I 'm very concerned that a project of this
size and importance has languished for so long and for so
many taxpayer dollars."

Four vendors were awarded components of the overall statewide
radio project. M/A Com received the largest portion of the
contract, which includes installation of the radio system
using their OpenSky technology.

Lewis, and Browne, who are both lawyers and accountants,
indicate the complexity of the interdepartmental accounting,
the implementation delays in the radio system implementation
and the rapid changes of available technology warrant a
thorough audit and review of this situation.

Rep Lewis continued, "I've heard and read from several public
safety leaders that the proposed statewide radio system won't
work as planned and will continue to experience
cost-overruns, delays and coverage shortfalls. Several
experts question the use of 800 MHz technology and its
growing interference difficulties. While I have a proven
record of supporting and encouraging high technology
investments by local, county and state governments, I'm very
concerned that we aren't headed in the right direction with
the statewide radio system project."

Rep Browne concluded, "Obviously, Pennsylvania public safety
requires a modern telecommunications system for law
enforcement and related agencies to communicate and I believe
that was one of the main reasons to commence the statewide
radio system project. However, I share concerns about the
costs, delays and technology shortfalls. We can't afford to
squander an opportunity to get to the bottom of this
situation as soon as possible."

In September 2003, Rohn Industries, Inc., the company
responsible for constructing the 800 Mhz radio tower sites
filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy
protection. Recently, several industry reports are questioning the
effectiveness and interference blackouts of public safety
agency radio systems using 800 Mhz frequency radio systems.

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Tuesday, May 04, 2004

To be or not to be? I know someone has said that before........... 

One day while reading one of the many mailing lists that I subscribe to I became envious. This particular list dealt with scanning and on of the posting was announcing the monthly meeting of CARMA, which is an acronym for Chicago Area Monitoring Association. The posting announced the meeting place, a restaurant, and time. Mentioned what the main topic of discussion would be at this months meeting and who would be bringing equipment to demo.

At the bottom of the posting in the signature file I noticed a line that gave a frequency and time for members of the club that were hams to meet on the air for a net. I thought “Gee that would be neat for a bunch of scanner users to get together on the air.” Like a said I was envious. I lived in a Chicago suburb for a while in a past life and while I was licensed at the time I had no interest in VHF/UHF or scanning then. Only HF operations were on my mind at the time. What an opportunity I missed! Well, I’m sure it won’t be the last one. So I went to the WPA scanner mailing list and posted a message asking if any hams that frequent the list would like to get together on the air. Thus was born the scanner net on Sunday evenings.

Then we started meeting at ham fests to shoot the breeze and look at scanners and experiment with software. Next came some week night sessions at Kings. Not a lot of people showed up at first and we don’t meet that often but the number keeps growing. Everyone seems to have a good time when we do get together.

So my question is where are we headed with this? Will the Pittsburgh Area Scanner Net become the Pittsburgh Area Scanner Club? Do any of you reading this think there is enough interest to create something formal? If the answers too either of those questions is “yes” then I have some further ideas. At this point though I just want to float the idea and see if there is any consensus in the group. Drop me a note and let me know what you think.

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Monday, May 03, 2004

Notes from the Pittsburgh Area Scanner Net - May 2nd 2004 

Pittsburgh Area Scanner Net – Sunday May, 2nd 2004

Thanks to all for another enjoyable roundtable discussion this week on the scanner net. We had a total of 21 stations check in counting the NCS. Here is a quick synopsis of our session last night.

Chris, NM3M, says that he is hearing activity on 461.000 both data and voice. The voice traffic sounds like a retail store operation with talk of departments like toys and hardware. Chris says the operation seems to go on 24/7, which would immediately lead one to think of Walmart. However, many stores are now working around the clock even though they may not be open for business. I know some of the Giant Eagle stores in my area have crews working restocking operations during off hours. Give a listen in on this frequency and let us know if you hear any activity.

Rich, K3RWN, reports finding 468.5125 active at the Mellon Arena. I didn’t jot down the call but someone else said that 463.3125 was used by security and 463.7875 by workers attending the gates. So if you are going to any events at the arena take your portable along and see what you hear. Rich is also at the forefront of digital monitoring in Pittsburgh. He is the first person I know that got the new Radio Shack PRO-96, which not only decodes APCO 25 digital modulation but also handles the ninety-six baud data stream of the newer systems. Rich has observed that Columbia Gas, who uses an APCO 25 trunked system, is sending data over some of their channels and that the PRO-96 identifies it even though it is not related to the APCO voice communications.

Rich and I are working on an Access database with scanner information for western Pennsylvania and he says that he is making progress with refining it. Rich has done the lion’s share of the work on this so far and sent me a copy on CD, which I have been working with. We hope to make this into a resource that the entire group can share. If you have Access experience and would like to help out drop me a note in email or contact me on the air. Thanks to Rich for his time and efforts.

Speaking of good work, Frank Stroncek one of our scanner listeners has put together a detailed frequency list with lots of good additional information on it. Things like conformation that the frequency listed is in use and unit numbering for those active on the channels. Frank is usually at our round table meetings at Kings and has generously made copies of his work available to those in attendance. Frank says that he has heard that Killbuck Police will be taking over patrolling activities for Ben Avon and Ben Avon Heights and Glenfield. They are currently listed as being on 155.010 and he would like to confirm this rumor is true and find unit numbers for them if so. He has also heard that Eleppo Township is taking over for Osborne. Osborne is currently on 155.490 and he is wondering if they will move 155.010 with Killbuck. Also Ohio Township is taking over for Emsworth and Sewickley Hills. Frank would like the same information for them in particular he is looking for car unit numbers. If you live in those areas and can help with listings please let me know.

From the feedback that I got on the net the drill in Westmoreland County on weapons of mass destruction went well. One of the amateur radio operators who participated reports that the new 800 mHz trunked system was used for part of the drill. Officials passed out some portable radios to test the parts of the system that are currently working. This system is not only trunked but also APCO 25 digital. The first major public safety system in this area to go with this format. If and when they make it fully operational there will be lots of folks making a trip to Radio Shack for a new PRO-96 if they want to listen in.

If you would like to see some pictures of the drill in progress some are posted on the Skyview Radio Society’s web page. Thanks to “Radio Free Bob” aka WC3O for the tip that they were there and thanks to Dennis, KB3HPC, for all his work maintaining the site for us. You can click on the link here to go to Skyview’s page.

Speaking of rumors, it is also reported that Allegheny County is pushing the surrounding suburbs VERY hard to combine in with the county dispatch centers for radio communications. Currently many municipalities still do their own dispatching with ring down lines to the PASP where the 911 phone calls are answered. If this change takes place the consolidation would be a new direction for local governments in this area. One to watch in the future.

That is all for this week. Hope to hear all of you on the net again next week.

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Sunday, May 02, 2004

Books, leaves on the tree of learning 

One of my other hobbies in addition to ham radio is reading. I am not a terribly fast reader so sometimes it is a struggle but I do enjoy it. In fiction I prefer the “techno thrillers” like those written by Tom Clancy and Michael Crichton. In non-fiction I prefer biographies and books related to history. I have become a big fan of Pittsburgh native David McCullough. I also am always on the look out for books related to radio and computers and have run across a few real gems over time.

Once such book is “The Victorian INETERNET” by Tom Standage. The sub title of the book is “The Remarkable Story of The Telegraph And The Nineteenth Century’s On-Line Pioneers”. Even if you are not interested in ham radio and the history of the telegraph, which also encompasses the history of the Morse Code, this is a truly fascinating book. We never really take the time in our modern world of instantaneous communications to think about the days when it took newspapers months to get current information about what was going on in Europe. Think about it, something major happens in England and the New York Times doesn’t even know it occurred let alone have accurate reports of the event for months! The telegraph changed all that. Stop and think about how that affected our culture and decisions made by business and governments.

In addition to the major impact of the telegraph network the book also covers some of the people involved, like Thomas Edison, and tells some interesting stories about them. This book will be a quick read for the average reader being only a little over 200 pages. I think you will find it as fascinating as I did.

The Victorian INTERNET
By: Tom Standage
Publisher: Walker and Company
ISBN: 0-8027-1342-4

You can find this book on line at AMAZON.COM and Barns & Nobel among other places.

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