Saturday, August 06, 2005

Discovery Shuttle comms linked on W3YJ-R 

Hello all,

I currently have W3YJ-R linked to the Florida Echolink conference server
(node # 1842) and monitoring the Discovery Shuttle communications. The link
is a audio muted listen-only connection so communications on W3YJ-R and any
other connected nodes do not interfere with the conference server.

To disconnect the server connection, key your radio up on W3YJ-R and press
## then unkey. If you would like to reconnect to the conference server, key
up and press #1842.

To check to see if the W3YJ-R repeater is currently connected to any
Echolink nodes, key up and press #08. Echolink will then state the W3YJ-R
Echolink connection status.


-David Kleber, KB3FXI
Communications Officer
O'Hara Township EMA

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Friday, August 05, 2005

Live audio feeds 

Thanks to Craig, KB3KBH, for this tip on this web site. The Bravest which contains live audio feeds from the New York City Fire Department. I have also added this to the links here no the blog.

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Podcasting and the down fall of amateur radio 

I know it aggravates some hams when you talk about computers and the Internet as they see it as the down fall of amateur radio. I knew lots of hams in the early 1970's who felt the same way about two meter FM operations. Repeaters were going to be the down fall of amateur radio I heard on a number of occasions.

Now there is a new threat on the horizon. Internet radio in the form of Echo Link and Pod Casting of commercial radio. The fact that I can sit in my office at work and talk with my UHF hand held through a repeater in Monroeville to a ham sitting in his garden just south of Tokyo with the repeaters linked via the Internet is not really a threat. Neither is the fact that either one of us could have talked to the other with only a radio on one end of the connection. I could have been sitting with a headset plugged into my laptop or desktop computer and communicating by way of Echo Link to the repeater on the far end of the conversation without a radio being present.

I'm getting away from my topic though. I was having an enjoyable QSO on one the local repeaters the other evening, radios on both ends thank you very much, with WC3O and WB3BUW when the subject of Linux came up and this in turn lead to talking about broadcast call in talk shows with a technical bent to them. I found that Bill, WB3BUW, and I are both fans of Kim Komando Show which is syndicated on a number of radio stations around the country. Bill said that he thought Kim was going to start “Pod Casting” her show which I thought would be great.

If you haven't heard of Pod Casting you are obviously not a true “geek” because they have been into it from the very beginning. The term was coined after Apple's fantastically successful iPod portable MP3 player. Which was originally designed to allow one to carry your entire CD collection in your pocket or clipped to your belt. It wasn't long though until someone discovered that music is not the only content available in MP3 format. While listening to the Jerry Bowyer show one afternoon his oldest son had either called or was visiting the station and they were having a conversation about the iPod when Chris said that in addition to music that he had several speeches by John Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. on his iPod. This was to the best of my knowledge when Jerry became “pod cast” aware.

Much like blogging Pod Casting has blossomed over the last few years and continues to grow at a phenomenal rate. There are now a number of popular radio shows that exist only in cyberspace. In addition there are more and more radio program that archive their broadcasts on the net which means you can download them and listen to them on your time schedule. Ham radio operators are already familiar with the Amateur Radio Newsline bulletin service which is played on many repeaters across the country. That show also is “podcast” in that you can download each weeks show from their web site in MP3 format. One of the sites that I was telling Bill about has a wealth of information on it if you are in the Information Technology field. Bill asked me to put something on the blog about it thus the reason for this posting.

Check out the ITConversations web site for some good listening. This site has shows that cover a number of topics on computers. In addition they cover events where industry leaders appear and record some of the key speeches. Let me know if you enjoy it as much as I do.

For additional information on Pod Casting check out these web sites. Podcast.net which is a directory of Podcasts that are available. And Podcast News with the latest happenings in the world of Podcasting.

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Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Good news for SuSe users and the Linux community 

Novell producers of the SuSe Linux distribution will announce at the upcoming Linux World Expo in San Francisco that they plan to create an open source project similar to Fedora for the SuSe Professional edition. This is great news for the Linux community since this distribution has been growing in popularity especially on the desk top for some time now. I run SuSe 9.1 Professional in my ham shack and I like it. I chose SuSe because they include a database with their office suite that is similar to Microsoft Access. Other distributions include MySQL or other database engine but no front end software. If you are interested in working with databases this should be of interest.

Follow this link to an eWeek scoop on this story.

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China Emerging as Chip Design Center 

I will leave to your imagination the ramifications of the following story. This is only one reason that we really need to revitalize amateur radio in this country and in so doing get our youth involved with the science and engineering fields again.

From the eWeek web site :

SHANGHAI (Reuters)—Chips designed, or partly designed, in China will account for 14.8 percent of global semiconductor sales this year, making the country the world's third-biggest for chip design, according to an industry report.

Design activity in the United States will lead the market this year, with U.S.-based design houses accounting for 40.2 percent of new semiconductor sales this year, according to the report last week from technology consultant iSuppli.

Japan will come in second, accounting for the design activity behind 15.5 percent of sales this year. After China, Taiwan would be fourth at 10.1 percent.

China is gaining strength as a semiconductor manufacturing base.

For the complete story follow this LINK.

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Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Fedora Core 4 Linux and Aunt Tilly 

Regular readers of this blog will know that I am a huge advocate of the Linux operating system. Linux is still not for everyone but it is at the point now that about ninety eight percent of what you want to do with a computer can be done with Linux. I won’t try to go into all of the advantages and dis-advantages of the Linux operating system here as that is beyond the scope of a single blog entry.

I will tell you that I am writing this on an older refurbished lap top computer that I bought with Windows 98 installed on it. With the available hardware which includes a 400 mHz processor, limited hard drive space and only 256 megabytes of memory this system would run Windows XP but it would not be pleasant. On top of which I was not willing to spend the $100 to $250 dollars asked for either XP Home edition or XP Professional at Amazon to bring the box up to a currently supported operating system.

I had installed SuSe Linux on the system and was quite happy with it. Then a friend asked me if I could get Fedora Linux for him which I said would be no problem. Most Linux distributions are available for download free from a number if sites. Check Linux-ISO if you are interested and want to try one or more editions. Since I downloaded the files and burned a set of disks for him I decided to make a copy for myself.

While I had SuSe installed on this laptop I didn’t really have any user created data on the system or a lot of time invested configuration of the installed applications. So I thought I would just wipe the drive clean and install Fedora just to see what it was like. Not only was I surprised but very pleased!

The last version of Red Hat Linux that I used was 9.0 which I still have along with several books on the Red Hat distribution. Red Hat is a company that is now offering a commercial supported version of their product and for a while had abandoned the personal hobby and small business community that they grew out of. They soon saw the error of that decision and placed all of the source code for the last free version of their software into the “Fedora Project” which is user supported and freely available to anyone that wants to use it.

I may be getting a little ahead of myself here assuming that you know what “Open Source” software is and how it came about. Again this is a topic that goes well beyond a single blog entry so you will have to do a little reading on your own if you are interested. Start with the web site of the Open Source Initiative where you can learn about open source in general. Then go to the Linux Home Page and find out the history of this robust and free operating system.

The object of this is to tell you that I have been exceptionally pleased with Fedora Core 4 and if you have been considering Linux you should give it a try. Like anything it is not perfect especially since Fedora tends to be the “bleeding edge” of Linux technology. I would not try to get this working on an old 386 or 486 system. You want at least a 400 mHz Pentium II with a minimum of 256 megabytes of RAM memory. As with most multi tasking operating systems the more memory you have the better. The main system that I run SuSe on in my ham shack is a 2 gHz AMD Athlon processor and 384 megabytes of main memory. I also have a high end Nvidia video card in that machine with 256 megabytes of memory just on the video board. That system hums right along and I am thinking about putting more memory on the mother board. So keep that in mind when starting to experiment with Linux.

When you install Fedora you get an operating system, an office suite called Open Office similar to Microsoft Office and all of the tools you need to access the Internet including the Firefox web browser and Thunderbird email client.

I get lots of calls from friends and family members who want to buy a computer and want me to set it up for them and show them “how to use it”. A typical request is “Aunt Tilly wants to get a computer so she and send email, look at web sites and shop eBay to add to her beer bottle collection.” or something to that effect. My problem comes when Aunt Tilly calls me a month latter to complain about how slow her “new” computer is. At that point I go for another visit only to find that she has installed every program that any web site offers for “free” and that the computer has more spy ware than the CIA and the NSA combined. I then spend an evening cleaning things up and trying to explain what happened and how to prevent it from happening again. Sometimes it works and other times it falls on deaf ears and I wind up making several such trips to Aunt Tilly’s house.

This is just one reasons that when I get the next one of these calls, and I have one pending right now, that person is going to get a clone box built with solid reliable components and the Linux operating system installed. Yes there will be some software that won’t run on that system because it was designed only for Microsoft Windows but I tell them that there are a number of really nice programs that will only run on a Macintosh. Life is that way sometimes. In Linux there are different classes of users. You have to have “root” privileges on the system to do any real damage that could render the system inoperable. I will create a “user account” and password for Aunt Tilly. Just in case she has neighbors or grand kids that know enough about computers and or Linux to be dangerous I will retain the root password. If that is unacceptable then I will give them the 800 number for Dell, offer a suggestion on what to buy and make sure they know to call Dell for tech support. I am going to try this cultural experiment out and see how it works. I’ll let you know.

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Pittsburgh makes it into Amateur Radio News Line 

I’ sure most of you reading this blog are familiar with Amateur Radio News Line. This is a weekly program that while put together by amateurs is a very professional production. Hams from around the nation and the world report events in and about the hobby to this group of dedicated volunteers and they turn those reports into a twenty minuet bulletin that is played on a number of repeaters each week. A number of those involved are in the broadcast industry and the bulletin is produced in a professional studio environment.

This week Pittsburgh got a mention on News Line. Either someone local reported the story of the impending BPL tests in the Monroeville area or the News Line staff scans news feeds for the key term BPL and reports on any stories that they find. They quoted the article that published in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette last week as part of their coverage.

News Line can be heard twice each week in Pittsburgh first on the 146.730 Homestead repeater Monday nights at 08:00 PM during the Two Rivers Amateur Club net. The transmission is repeated on Thursday evening at 08:00 PM on the 147.120 repeater in North Huntington. If you manage to miss both of those you can go to the News Line web site and download either an MP3 format audio file or a plain text version of this weeks edition.

By the way. Amateur Radio News Line is an all volunteer organization and they cover all of their expenses with contributions with donations made by listeners. This includes phone lines and the cost of Internet service. I’m sure that a number of the people involved put a lot of “out of pocket” money of their own to keep the day to day operations going. If you listen to and enjoy the service you should make a donation if you can. I look at News Line as an “audio magazine” and don’t mind sending them some money each year to help. They are also a legitimate 501C3 entity and so any money you contribute is fully tax deductible. Please consider helping News Line stay “on the air” if you can.

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Sunday, July 31, 2005

Local hams talk to media reporter about BPL 

Two local hams Jerry, K3FKI, and Frank, N3FLR, both talked with a reporter from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette over the weekend and Jerry was kind enough to email me with comments on the meeting. Here is what Jerry had to say.

"Frank, N3FLR, and I met with the reporter and tried to explain,
in simple terms, that there is no such thing as BPL without spurious
emissions. He was referred to numerous web sites, including
ARRL and the company that makes the equipment.
We showed him some of the information from the web site of the
company making the BPL equipment, wherein they acknowledged
certain problems and tried to indicate they were not important. We
told him they were putting up a "smoke screen."

We showed him some video of tests and he saw the marked increase
in noise level, in the tests. To do this, we had to explain S meter
We demonstrated these to him on Frank's HF transceiver. He seemed
to understand.

He will do the research that Frank and I recommended. As it stands now,
we will be meeting with him, again, before the next article is published.

And here is an email that I received from Frank latter in the evening.

"We met with him for 2 hours at my place.
He has only a little understanding on how BPL works, so we spent a lot of time educating him with what we know from what we saw mounted on the poles in Monroeville, and information from Amprion's web site.
We also showed him the videos from the ARRL page from drive through of the BPL areas in different test sites.
Showed him the FCC rules change regarding part 15 devices. He had no idea what a part 15 device was until I pulled out 2 on my key chain, one for my car alarm and a (faub) to get into the fire hall. Happens he had one in his pocket for his car alarm also.
I let him know these devices cause interference somewhere, but for about a half second, BPL is 24/7 nonstop.
Also showed him the exemptions that the FCC put in the part 15 rules change to protect certin things.
Therefore they know there is interference.
I beleve he is on our side and he knows money and politics are driveing BPL.
The ARRL video shows Pres Bush's speech where he promices to give rural america Broadband by lessining government regulations.
I likend it to polluteing the HF Spectrum.
Also showed him that we are not the only people on HF.
Turned on my HF rig so he could hear some conversations going on, only band that was not dead was 40 Mtrs.
Showed him WWV that no one will be able to hear in the BPL areas.
He also sat the list of orginizations that officialy were aginst BPL.
Also told him we are at the bottom of the solar cycle, in 5 years BPL polution may propigate around the world.
You know at the top of the cycle how it is possible to talk to England with 5 watts at times.
We may hear BPL interference here from other states or countries at the top of the cycle.
Anyway he is coming back in the future with a photographer when he gets closer to finishing the article.

We also keep sending him web sites to look at for information.
We will keep with him, he is the only media outlet that contacted me.
Got no response from BPL Global, WTAE, KDKA, WPXI, Tribune Review, Rick Santorium, only the PG responded.

I hope his article really stirs the pot, we have to educate the public on this matter, the PG could be great PR for us.
N3FLR - Frank"

Thanks to Jerry and Frank for their efforts. I will try to keep the blog updated with any additional information that I receive.

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