Friday, September 09, 2005

Big two event weekend in Pittsburgh 

It is another big ham radio weekend in Pittsburgh. Lot of good stuff going on.

Event number 1.

Saturday there is a "Road Trip" scheduled with the gang from the Skyview Radio Society and friends to Amateur Electronic Supply in Cleveland. Everyone plans to meet at Kings Family Restaurant in Harmarville, near exit 48 of the Pennsylvania Turn Pike, around 07:00 for breakfast. After a hearty meal and some good conversation the plan is to head west working two meters and some high frequency bands along the way.

The group plans to descend on them like a heard of turtles! We will spend time drooling over all the neat toys, turning the knobs and dials and watching the digital displays dance. Some of the lucky ones may even bring a few of those toys home with them.

Everyone is welcome to come along. So if you are a scanner listener or SWL out there that has an interest in short wave or amateur radio just show up and introduce yourself. The more the merrier. After the plunder of AES the group will probably find a place for lunch before heading east for the return trip home. These trips are always fun and if you can make it I'm surer you won't be disappointed.

Event number 2.

The next day, Sunday, The 28th Annual Butler Hamfest and Computer Show. This is the other big amateur radio event in Pittsburgh along with the Breeze Shooter's Hamfest held at the same location in the spring of the year. Lots of flea market tailgating space and indoor vendors. A great line up of prizes and being a ham radio event there will be good stuff to eat! Follow the above link for additional details and directions to the show.

So lots to do and plenty of good times here at the end of the summer. Hope to see you there.

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Something for you rail fans out there 

I also maintain a blog for rail fans. Here is a link to the latest posting which will lead you to some nice video of trains passing through Horseshoe Curve courtesy of KB3HPC.

Rail Fan Article

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Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Ham radio operators head south to aid post-Katrina communications 

The following article was publishes in COMPUTERWORLD Magazine

News Story by Todd R. Weiss

Volunteer ham radio operators are coming to the aid of relief agencies and emergency officials to help with badly needed communications in areas of Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi ravaged early last week by Hurricane Katrina. With power still out in much of the region and telephone service restored in limited areas (see "Cell operators restore some network service in New Orleans") of New Orleans, the Mississippi cities of Biloxi and Gulfport, and other hard-hit areas, ham radio operators have been asked by the American Red Cross and other agencies to supplement communications at more than 200 storm shelters in Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida panhandle.

Some 700 ham radio volunteers from around the nation are already at work helping in the efforts, with more on the way, said Allen Pitts, a spokesman for the 157,000-member American Radio Relay League Inc. (ARRL), a nationwide amateur radio organization based in Newington, Conn. "This is going to be a marathon, not a sprint," Pitts said. "We have people there; we have more people coming." On Sunday, the American Red Cross asked for about 500 more radio operators to assist at shelters and food kitchens set up to aid evacuees, he said. The volunteers are driving to needed areas and meeting with officials at staging areas in Montgomery, Ala., and in Oklahoma and Texas, where they are being dispatched to disaster shelters, Pitts said. Theham radio operators travel to the disaster areas using their own vehicles and pay their own way, he said.

Many of the volunteers sprung into action even before the storm struck the Gulf Coast, broadcasting as part of a "Hurricane Watch-Net" three days before deadly Hurricane Katrina slammed into the coast on Aug. 29, Pitts said. Ham radio equipment can be used in disaster areas even when power is out and phone lines, relays and other communications systems are down because the radios run on their own battery or generator power, Pitts said. "Each one is a complete transmission and reception center unto itself," he said. "It works when other stuff is broken. You give an amateur radio operator a battery, a radio and a piece of a coat hanger and they'll find a way to make it work."

The volunteers carry their own fuel for their generators and bring all the equipment they need. Used ham radio systems can be bought for as little as $100, while newer, state-of-the-art hardware can run as high as $5,000, he said. Ham radio operators can also use their equipment with laptop-based computer software to help re-establish e-mail access over the Internet to further assist with communications, Pitts said.

Other disaster assistance agencies, including the Salvation Army, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Department of Homeland Security, have also sought help from ham radio operators, Pitts said. Late last week, the Washington-based Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency for volunteer service, announced a supplemental $100,000 grant to help ARRL volunteers with their expenses as they travel to and stay in the areas where hurricane victims are receiving

"With the breakdown of regular communication channels caused by the storm, the services provided by volunteer ham radio operators [are] vitally important, both to organizations and to individuals seeking to connect with loved ones," agency CEO David Eisner said in a statement. "We're pleased to be able to provide this extra assistance at this critical time." The money will be used as part of the ARRL's "Ham Aid" program, established with a
grant from the Corporation in 2002 to increase emergency certification training for ham radio operators.

Mary Hobart, chief development officer at the ARRL, said in a statement that this marks the first time in the ARRL's 90-year history that it will be able to reimburse some of the expenses incurred by members responding to disasters. Volunteer radio operators will be at various sites for the duration of this disaster response, which could run into several weeks or months, according to the group. Several ARRL members have already played key roles in the rescue efforts by connecting storm victims with emergency responders. In one such incident, a radio operator helped organize the rescue of 15 people stranded by floodwaters on the roof of a house in New Orleans, according to an ARRL statement.

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Should you wish to express your thoughts to Motorola....... 

For those of you who read the Wall Street Journal article that I posted here on the blog and would like to make comments to Motorola about their employees evaluation of amateur radio here is a contact name and email address. Remember, if you do respond be polite but make your thoughts known.

From the Motorola web site:

Media Contacts:
Jennifer Weyrauch
Motorola, Inc.

Thanks to Bill, WB3BUW, for this information.

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When ones words are no better than silence, one should remain silent. 

Looks to me like Motorola may have taken someone from the accounting department and promoted him into a management position on the technical side of operations. I can't think of any other reason that some one would make remarks like those in this Wall Street Journal article and violate one of the primary rules of public speaking. That being that you are far better off to keep silent and let everyone think you don't know anything about a particular subject than to open your mouth and confirm the fact for certain. If you haven't yet done so go back and read the posting previous to this one about the article on amateur radio in the Wall Street Journal.

I base that judgment on the following statement from Mr. Jim Screeden who according to the article is the head of all of Motorola's field repair teams for their emergency response business. He said and I quote.

“Something is better than nothing, that's right, But ham radios are pretty close to nothing.”

Why do I have the feeling that Mr. Screeden has never been on the ground, in the field, in the aftermath of a major disaster like Katrina in the gulf or Hurricane Andrew in Florida? I for one plan to let some of the hams that I know have had their boots on the ground in those situations both as amateur radio operators and as representatives of Motorola who supply much of the land mobile communications gear used by public safety departments about these remarks.

I am great full for the Wall Street Journal article as the reporter obviously thought enough of the benefits of ham radio to write a story about it. When the dust settles and the evaluation begins of what was done wrong and right I hope we find out that Mr. Screeden made his statement to the reporter after he had been without sleep for seventy two hours and was running on caffeine. Ham radio operators put their time, talent, their own money and sometimes their personal safety on the line to provide communications in these situations. I think they deserve better in the way of acknowledgment.

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Wall Street Journal Article on Amateur Radio 

One of the things that I had hoped would come out of this terrible disaster that has befallen the people of New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast was that my hobby, Amateur Radio, would get some recognition for the good work they do providing emergency communications in these situations.

So far I have found only two. In a previous post I have a link about an on the air interview that was done with an amateur radio operator on National Public Radio's All Things Considered show. Today there was an article by Christopher Rhoads in the Wall Street Journal. While well written and showing amateur radio in a good light I was surprised to find that there are detractors of our hobby and for that I am somewhat disappointed. I have written specifically about those remarks and will let you be the judge of their validity. I do want to thank Mr. Rhoads and the Wall Street Journal for their attention to what I consider to be not only a hobby but also an asset to our society.

As Telecom Reels
From Storm Damage,
Ham Radios Hum
September 6, 2005; Page A19
MONROE, La. -- In a shelter here, 300 miles north of New Orleans, Theo McDaniel took his plight to a young man fiddling with a clunky, outdated-looking radio.
Mr. McDaniel, a 25-year-old barber, had evacuated New Orleans with his wife and two small children more than a week ago and since then had had no contact with his brother or his aunt. The last he heard, his 42-year-old aunt was clinging to her roof.
"We've got to get a message down there to help them," he said. The man at the radio sent the information to the emergency-operations center across town, which relayed it to rescue units in New Orleans. Later in the weekend, Mr. McDaniel learned that food and water were on the way to his trapped brother and his brother's young family. He had heard nothing about his aunt.

For the complete story please follow this link.

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Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Aerial views of the devastation 

Here is a link to one of the local television stations in New Orleans that has s slide show of shots from the air over the city. It will give you an idea of the depth of the damage that has been inflicted. Please keep these people in your prayers.

New Orleans Slide Presentation

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Monday, September 05, 2005

Ham with telescopes 

I have mentioned on several occasions that hams seem to gravitate to similar hobbies other than radio. It is not unusual to run into other amateur radio operators who are “into” computers, photography, model railroading just to mention a few. Another reoccurring topic of interest is astronomy. Lots of ham out there I have found own telescopes.

That said here is a web site that will be of interest for several reasons. The South West Astronomy Observers Group. It has lots of good astronomy information on it and best of all, at least from my perspective, the members of the group who are hams hold an on the air net related to astronomy and they Pod Cast it. I'm listening to a recent net as I type this and there is a LOT of good content. So after you view the webs site make sure you download the audio sessions of past nets and listen in. Great resource for hams that are star gazers.

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Radio related information resource on Katrina 

Here is a really comprehensive listing of information on Katrina related radio systems. Their current status, links to live audio feeds and other valuable information sources all in one place. Check it out.

Radio Reference Katrina Resource Page

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Sunday, September 04, 2005

Old radios come to life again 

Well I have found yet another fellow ham who is interested in radios that glow in the dark. While listening to one of the local repeaters this evening I overheard mention of a web site so I jumped in and asked for the url. Paul, KB3LZP, enjoys restoring old radios and from the looks of his web site he has quite a collection. Looking at some of the pictures there brought back lots of memories as over the years I have had some of the sets on display in my possession. Check out Paul's restoration page to see what it is all about.

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