Saturday, October 01, 2005

Harmar changes dispatch service 

From the Valley News Dispatch

Harmar supervisors agreed Monday to switch the township's emergency dispatch service in coming months from Tarentum Dispatch to Allegheny County's 911 service.

Supervisors expect to stay with Tarentum until Dec. 1. The vote was 3-0, with Supervisors Bob Seibert Jr. and Leo Chini absent.

The township had been with Tarentum Dispatch since January 2004 under a five-year contract. However, a contract clause allows the township to switch services as long as it is paid through the last quarter of Harmar's usage, according to board chairman Jim DiPalma.

Under the Tarentum contract, the township is scheduled to pay nearly $19,400 this year, almost $20,000 in 2006, $20,560 in 2007 and just under $21,200 in 2008.
Supervisor Kimberly Toney said she was "nervous" with the switch, but voted for it. "Tarentum knows the area," Toney said. "Our first concern should be the welfare of the residents."

DiPalma said he's confident in the county service after visiting its dispatch center.
"The fire and police departments have input on this," DiPalma said. "I think they'll do just as well, if not better, than Tarentum base."

Follow this link for the complete story.

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Fall, winter apporaches, the end of the ham fest season and WACOM 

As fall begins thoughts turn to hot chocolate, and for some a slightly stronger liquid with warming qualities, beautiful fall foliage and indoor activities with the advent of a shorter number of daylight hours.

In the Western Pennsylvania area it also means an end to the ham fest season. Almost every hobby has something similar to the “ham fest”. A place where members gather face to face in large numbers and spend the better part of a day or weekend and immerse themselves from head to toe in their hobby. There will typically be seminars conducted by someone who has studied and worked at a particular aspect of the hobby to the extent that he or she has become the “go to” person when someone wants to get started in that area or has a question or problem to be resolved. New comers and old hands tap their pool of knowledge and experience which because of the love of the hobby they are more than willing to share.

Most also include some type of “flea market” where items are bought, sold and traded. Some of those in the arena are professional vendors there mostly to make a dollar. They are the ones that have taken their hobby and turned it into their life's work. In some ways they are the really lucky ones because they are making a living do what they would otherwise be doing for free. I could write a book on that subject but that is a topic for another time.

Most in the flea market though are just there to see if they can exchange some of what they have for some of what someone else has. Items that no longer hold the interest they once did when they were shiny and new or they now have less value than ones that will start you into a new aspect of the hobby.

Even if you are not familiar with the culture of the old west you will only have to spend a short period of time in an amateur radio fest flea market to have an intrinsic understanding of the term “horse trader”. There are those that prowl the flea markets more for the satisfaction of making the “best deal of the day” than for any subsequent gain derived from the deal itself. Some have elevated it to an art form.

So the ham fest season is looked forward to each year and a certain sadness sets in at its conclusion in the fall with winters approach. I have not been very active in the ham fest scene for the past few years so I was pleasantly surprised when I opened my mailbox, the snail mail one, and found a flier from WACOM announcing their upcoming ham fest. I am not going to retype the entire document here especially since they have a web site and I'm sure all of this information is contained there.

I have tried to make the most popular events this summer and have not been to a single one. The closet I got was being at the Skyview Radio Society club house the day before there ham fest to drop off some needed items. I got paged to go into work and thought it would be a simple repair problem that would let me return to the club for additional preparation and then get to attend the actual event the next day. Well as luck would have it neither of those hopes came to pass. Not only did I work the rest of the afternoon and well into the evening but I ended up going in the next morning and working until late in the afternoon. So once again I am presented with the opportunity to make one last ham fest in the year 2005 and I just put the date into my Kontact calendar on the Linux box and will hang the flier up in the shack to remind me. Here are the specifics.


Visit the club web site for additional details.

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Thursday, September 29, 2005

Communications: "The Katrina Effect" 

Thanks to Bob, KB3MOJ, for the heads up on this article from Firehouse Magazine.

Communications: "The Katrina Effect"

Firehouse.Com Contributor
After almost every disaster of any significance, there is a rush to fix the situation and generally the first fix is to throw money at it.
In July 2004, I wrote the following article, Communications: The "Avalanche Effect" many of the things that are being stated today are not new problems. This previous article addresses many different solutions, reliability, redundancy, parallel network solutions, etc.
I have been reading with much interest about the communications problems that have been plaguing the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina.
There are references to radio system failures, this worked - while that did not. Much reference to the failure of the New Orleans radio system with a contrasting reference that the state radio system did not. Hmmm, might I ask - "If the entire state of Louisiana had been flooded, would that system remained operational?"

Follow this link for the complete story.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

In Katrina's Wake, Ham Radio Triumphse 

Here is an interesting article from Electronic Design Magazine's web site.

A few months ago, NBC's Tonight Show staged a race between a pair of ham-radio operators with Morse-code keys and a couple of kids with text-messaging cellphones to see who could communicate faster. The hams won hands down, proving, in the minds of some, that old technology could hold its own against new. In recent days, ham radio was put to the test again by Hurricane Katrina. This time, however, lives were at stake.

In the world of design engineers and electronics in general, change is essential. Designers work diligently to make the fruits of their labors obsolete almost before they see daylight. The turnover in technology is sometimes like a flood, with old being washed away by new over and over. Often, the new beats the heck out of the old. But there are times when old isn't necessarily bad; in fact, sometimes old works when new doesn't. And then we're glad that old is still around, or at least we should be.

Wireless technology, while relatively new to many consumers, is of course not new at all. A few (very) old-timers remember the original "wireless" of radio. The revolution wrought by the pioneers of wireless changed the world then, and the technology behind that revolution has been re-invented and re-applied time and again. Its pre-eminent incarnation today is our near-ubiquitous wireless communications infrastructure, which has freed us from the shackles of landlines and made our mobile lifestyles possible. Technology truly is great stuff.
Until, of course, a monster hurricane comes along to render it nearly useless. Here we see a scenario in which a flood literally swept away the new. As Hurricane Katrina's fury hammered the Gulf states on August 29, the communications infrastructure took a devastating hit. Telephone service, including wireless, became at first intermittent and then unusable in many localities. Where there was phone service, 911 switchboards were often unreachable due to the massive volume of calls. The response of local authorities, now termed "confused" by deposed FEMA chief Michael Brown, wasn't helping much. The Gulf Coast was about to descend into darkness, chaos, and, worst of all for many, silence.

Follow this link for the complete story

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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

New antenna bill introduced 

Lets hope this bill finds its way through the maze this time. Considering the good press that ham radio should get from the recent disasters now may be the time to push for this one.

From the ARRL bulletin service :

ARLB023 Amateur Radio antenna ''CC&R Bill'' reintroduced in Congress

New York Congressman Steve Israel has reintroduced legislation that could make it easier for radio amateurs living in communities with deed covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs) to erect suitable antennas. Arkansas Congressman Mike Ross, WD5DVR, signed aboard as an original cosponsor of the ''Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Consistency Act'' (HR 3876).

ARRL President Jim Haynie, W5JBP, has encouraged League members to write their elected representative and ask that they cosponsor and support the bill, especially given two hurricane emergencies in short order.

''Amateur Radio is certainly a part of this nation's communications infrastructure,'' Haynie said. ''What we're asking for is just a fair shake so we can put up antennas and help our fellow citizens.''
While the League has ramped up its efforts to educate members of Congress about Amateur Radio, Haynie said lawmakers respond best to individual members.

The one-sentence measure is identical to the text of the CC&R bill that has been introduced in the last two sessions of Congress. It would put private land-use regulations, such as homeowners' association rules, on the same legal plane as state or local zoning
regulations under the FCC's PRB-1 limited federal preemption. PRB-1 now applies only to states and municipalities.

HR 3876 has been assigned to the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Information about the bill and a sample letter to use when contacting your representative are available on the ARRL Web site,

In his public announcement September 19, Israel said that ''often unsung'' Amateur Radio volunteers were instrumental in helping residents in the hardest hit areas in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, including saving stranded flood victims in Louisiana and Mississippi.

''State and local governments, as well as disaster relief agencies,
could not possibly afford to replace the services that radio amateurs dependably provide for free,'' said a statement from Israel's office. ''However, the hundreds of thousands of Amateur Radio licensees face burdensome regulations that make it extremely difficult to provide their public services.''

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Sunday, September 25, 2005

Hey Pap! If this doesn't do APCO25 what good is it? 

You just have to start them young these days. Here is my grand daughter Autumn checking out my PRO-92 hand held scanner. She heard the CW id of local repeaters when she was less than two hours old in the hospital and loves anything that has lights and buttons. I suppose that is true of any baby that age but I'm prejudice! I like to think that Autumn will have her ham ticket before she it out of grade school. That is my prerogative as a proud Grand Pap. Grand kids are a blessing from God.

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