Saturday, May 29, 2004

Meeting of the South Western Pennsylvania Packet Group May 29th 2004 

South Western Pennsylvania Packet Group Meeting

I attended my first meeting of the South Western Pennsylvania Packet Group this morning at the Blue Flame restaurant on Rt. 51 in Large PA. I did not take a “head count” but I would say they had a pretty good turn out today. First let me say what a great group of people the SWPPG are. It was founded by Geno Boyd, WA3IOU, and his wife Marlene, N3LGY, and is run under what I consider the best circumstances for this type of group. Geno is a benevolent dictator. No other way to put it. He decides what goes on and what doesn’t and his word is final. With the right person in charge this has a tendency to produce the most friendly and productive group in a hobby atmosphere. When I join a group like this one I want to go to the meetings and enjoy myself, not worry about who is going to win the political “pissing contest” this time around. But enough about that, and let me say that the people at the Blue Flame Restaurant are great also. Very good service, very good food and reasonable prices if I do say so myself.

While everyone stuffed their face with breakfast we got to know each other and chat a little about why each of us had come to the meeting. Then Geno gave us an overview of the group’s packet network complete with handouts. He introduced us to the various core members of the organization and told us what aspect of the network they specialize in.

Then Ron, K3MI, gave a short talk about packet in general and went over some common terminology. He explained the difference between files and mail and covered some of the basic commands that are used once you connect to a bulletin board system. Ron branched out into “digipeating” and exploring other nodes in the system. Finally he had some handouts for the group and had a question and answer session.

After that Geno set up a packet station in the corner of the room for a demonstration. Now, I’m not talking about an HT hooked to a pocket sized TNC. This was a commercial Motorola radio with TNC attached on top, 25 AMP switching power supply, J-pole antenna and laptop computer. This station was up and running in less than five minutes. He connected to the DX cluster and we watched a flurry of activity that indicated a contest was in progress.

I haven’t played with packet radio for a number of years now but this has rekindled my interest and I hope to be on the air digitally soon. I had a great time at the meeting, ate WAY too much and met a bunch of nice folks. I will let all of the scanner net members know when the next meeting is scheduled. You are invited, you don’t have to be a member of the group to attend, and I encourage you to come out and see what it is all about. Put some of the “fun” back into ham radio and computers.
Almost forgot, they have a web site where you can get more information and even get a form to join if you so desire. Check their page out and see what you think. http://www.swppg.zelie.com/index2.html

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Thursday, May 27, 2004

Never know what you will hear on your scanner 

One of the nice features of the Uniden BC-780XLT is that is has "service search" built in which allows you to scan through a block of frequencies assigned in to a particular service with just one or two button pushes. In the case of the 780 you just hold down the "SEARCH" key for a second or two and a menu pops up on the display with about ten different choices. You can pick from marine, ham radio, FURS, CB, Railroad and several others.

While I keep two or three of the railroad channels in my primary bank on the scanner every once in a while I will bring up the service search and let it run for a little while to see what I hear. Last night was one of those times.

While scanning up through the railroad frequencies I came across a conversation on channel 91, which is 161.475, according to a web page on North American Railroad Frequencies. http://zippy.cso.uiuc.edu/~roma/rr-freqs/

There were two guys talking about their wives and women in general. Let me just say that I heard language that I never expected to hear out of my scanner even though I occasionally scan the CB channels. Potty mouth would be too kind of a term to use about these two guys. One was in an office I think, acoustically hard room, and the other was mobile not sure if on a train or service vehicle. In ether case I just know for sure that they thought the had the longest roll of kite string between their Dixie cups otherwise they would not have been having the discussion they did knowing that someone else might be listening in.

So the lesson here is that you might want to pick a block of frequencies every once in a while and sit and scan through them to see what you find. Like I said, you never know.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Let the buyer beware 

I spoke with one of the scanner net listeners last night and he tells me that I might have some of the frequency listing from Sunday nights net incorrect. He said that the frequencies I listed for marine and rail road channels did not match with his listings which came from Police Call directory. The last two days at work have been somewhat hectic as I am still playing catch up from the last round of lighting storms that we incurred. So I haven't had time to verify what I put out to the mailing list. I hope to have time tomorrow, perhaps at lunch time, to check it out and I will send out a correction when I know for sure. In the mean time "Caveat Emptor!".


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Monday, May 24, 2004

Notes from the Pittsburgh Ares Scanner Net May 23rd 2004 

Notes from the Pittsburgh Area Scanner Net of May 23, 2004

We had a total of 27 check into to the net this evening counting the net control station. There was a discussion the goings on at the meeting of the oblong table this past week for those that were not able to attend. Key among those items being that we are going to form The Pittsburgh Area Scanner Club. This being the start of the summer season it was felt that the best thing we could do was spend the next few months thinking about how the club will be structured and what direction it will take for its members. If this is something that would interest you please let me know and please take the time to offer some input to the questions above. You can email your comments to wa3fkg@arrl.net.
Also we are looking for a location to hold a group picnic latter this summer. If you have any ideas in that area feel free to chime in.

There was a brief discussion of packet radio and an announcement that the South Western Pennsylvania Packet Group will be having a meeting this weekend. I plan to attend and you are all invited. I think packet radio holds a lot of interest for amateurs and scanner listeners alike. You do not need to be able to transmit in order to monitor packet radio transmissions. So you scanner enthusiasts can “eavesdrop” on the digital world with just your scanner and a computer with a sound card. Of course it is much more fun if you can take part in the activities but that is up to you. The meeting will be held Saturday morning at 10:00 AM at the Blue Flame Restaurant on Rt. 51. If you would like directions you can go to http://www.whitepages.com and put “Blue Flame Restaurant” in the business name side of the search engine and then select driving directions from the results. Here is the Blue Flame’s address and the directions to get there from Oakmont.

Blue Flame Restaurant
360 Route 51,
Clairton, PA 15025
Map Driving Directions (412) 384-7861

Route Steps
1: Start out going North on 5TH ST towards HULTON RD/YELLOW.Go 0.01 miles

2: Turn LEFT onto HULTON RD/YELLOW.Go 0.23 miles



5: Turn RIGHT onto FREEPORT RD/YELLOW.Go 1.39 miles

6: Take the PA-28 S ramp towards PITTSBURGH.Go 0.17 miles

7: Merge onto ALLEGHENY VALLEY EXWY.Go 10.32 miles

8: ALLEGHENY VALLEY EXWY becomes PA-28.Go 1.5 miles

9: Take the I-579 S exit towards LIBERTY BRIDGE.Go 0.3 miles

10: Merge onto I-579 S.Go 1.09 miles

11: Take the exit on the left.Go 0.04 miles

12: Merge onto CROSSTOWN BLVD.Go 0.16 miles

13: Stay straight to go onto LIBERTY BRIDGE.Go 0.39 miles

14: LIBERTY BRIDGE becomes LIBERTY TUNNELS.Go 1.15 miles

15: Turn SLIGHT RIGHT onto W LIBERTY AVE.Go 0.06 miles

16: W LIBERTY AVE becomes W LIBERTY AVE/US-19 TRUCK.Go 0.01 miles

17: Take the PA-51 S ramp towards UNIONTOWN.Go 0.14 miles

18: Merge onto PA-51/SAW MILL RUN BLVD.Go 2.27 miles

19: PA-51/SAW MILL RUN BLVD becomes PA-51/SAW MILL RUN BLVD/BLUE.Go 0.18 miles

20: Stay straight to go onto PA-51.Go 6.98 miles

If you would like to see the amount of time and money that the group has invested their packet network take a look at their web page. http://www.swppg.zelie.com/index2.html

I think the meeting is going to be interesting and I hope to see some you there.

With the advent of summer this also means that there will be additional traffic of both the physical and radio variety on the Area Rivers. With that in mind here are some frequencies that you might want to be listening to if this is an avenue of interest to you.

Channel Frequency Traffic type

16 156.800 Calling channel / National & International Distress Channel
07 156.350 Towboat orders and operations
12 156.600 Port operations / similar to channel 7
13 156.650 Intership Navigation & Safety communications with lock and dams
21 157.050 U.S. Government only
22 157.100 Coast Guard Liaison / Safety Information Broadcasts
68 156.425 Non-commercial Working-channel (craft to craft communications)
69 156.475 Same as channel 68
71 156.575 Non-commercial pleasure craft
72 156.625 Non-commercial

So if you would like to listen in on the three rivers here is a good start for you.

We also mentioned monitoring the rail road frequencies and one of our members volunteered the following list if this is an area of interest for you.

Norfolk & Southern

160.800 Channel 46
161.070 Channel 64


160.230 Channel 08
160.320 Channel 14

Allegheny Valley Radio Road

160.995 Channel 59

Last but by no means least we discussed the subject of the 50th Annual Breezshooters Hamfest, which will be held on Sunday June 6th 2004 at the Butler County Farm Show Grounds. The list of prizes for this year Hamfest is VERY impressive! This is the tri-states largest Hamfest and you don’t want to miss it.

Here is there web page for additional information http://www.breezeshooters.net/hamfest/hamfest.htm

The Pittsburgh Area Scanner Net will have an table in one of the pavilions again this year so make sure you stop by introduce yourself and say hello. Listen in on subsequent weeks nets for additional information on things we may have going at our table. I hope to meet many of you on the list there.

That is it for this week. As always feel free to drop me a note if you have questions or comments on the net. I am always interested in topics for discussion each week so feel free to chime in either via email or on the air. Thanks.

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