# Friday, 15 June 2007

Check out the latest Hanselminutes to hear Scott and I chatting with Carl about the latest language features in Visual Studio 2008 ("Orcas"), static vs. dynamic languages, and whatever else came up.

There are some very cool features coming up in C# 3.0, which while they are there mainly to enable LINQ, provide a number of opportunities for reducing the amount of extra code we write, and enabling a closer link between code written and developer intent.  Pretty exciting stuff.

Radio | Work
Friday, 15 June 2007 09:34:34 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [1]  | 
# Monday, 18 December 2006

Since time immemorial (or since Marconi, anyhow) those wishing to be licensed as Radio Amateurs in the US have had to pass a Morse code test.  Relatively recently, there has been an entry level license class (Technician) that doesn't require passing the code test, but which (therefore) comes with no privileges on the HF bands (for long-distance communications). 

The code requirement has long been a hotly contested issue among amateurs.  Many have maintained that learning Morse code meant that you were "serious" about amateur radio, and would therefore be a skilled and considerate radio operator.  The problem is, since so few people actually use Morse code on the radio anymore, it has become (in my opinion, and that of many others) an artificial hoop that had to be jumped through before you could get into the high priesthood of amateur radio.  Most of the General or Extra class licensees I've talked to have never ditted or dahed once since passing the test. 

What this means for me personally is that I can finally hope to upgrade to a General class license.  I've studied all the material, and am pretty sure that I could pass the exam, but given the way the rest of my life works, I've been unable (or unwilling) to devote the time it would take to learn Morse code, so I've never taken the test. 

Of course, if I did pass the test, I'd want to get an HF-capable radio, but that's a whole different problem. :-)

CERT | Radio
Monday, 18 December 2006 12:38:55 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Tuesday, 18 October 2005

As I mentioned last week, we had our first city-wide emergency comm drill in Hillsboro this past Saturday.  Overall, it went pretty well, but I definitely came away with some key learnings:

  • Get your Amateur license.  If you want to be able to reasonably expect to contact an Emergency Operations Center, or something similar in your area, ham radio is the way to go.  In case you haven’t heard, you don’t have to learn Morse code any more to get your technician’s license, and the test isn’t hard.  Check out Gordon West’s test prep materials.
  • If you don’t have an Amateur license, and you only have an FRS radio, you’d better get up someplace high.  While talking on your radio from a tree may be inconvenient, it’s about the only way you stand any chance or reaching someone more than a few blocks away.  I was stationed on top of a parking garage, and I only heard people on FRS radios if they were up someplace high, like a roof or a hill.  On the other hand, I had no problem hearing hams from all over town.
  • Check your equipment.  Several people found that their equipment didn’t work the way they thought when they went to use it.  Particularly a problem with fixed installations, where things tend to work loose eventually, get out of whack, etc.

Hopefully this won’t be our last drill, and we’ll learn more then next time.  Again, though, the one big takeaway from this and from everything post-Katrina is that when all else fails, ham radio works.

CERT | Radio
Tuesday, 18 October 2005 12:54:30 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 

TokyoFlash has a new Morse code watch that tells time either audibly or in LEDs using Morse code.  Very cool, and good practice to boot.

[via Gizmodo]

Tuesday, 18 October 2005 09:57:51 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [1]  | 
# Wednesday, 12 October 2005

We’ll be running an emergency communications drill in Hillsboro this Saturday morning, October 15th.  Details are here.  Basically the idea is to see how many people can reach the county EOC (Emergency Operations Center) from their homes via radio.  Any radio will do.  The EOC will be monitoring amateur (147.4) FRS (channel 9) and CB (channel 9).  Some of us hams will also be monitoring the FRS channels in an attemp to relay messages to the EOC from FRS users.  I’m hoping that when people see how far they can actually reach with their FRS radios, they might be encouraged to get their amateur licenses. 

If you have a radio, and you live in Hillsboro, get on the air at 10:00.  We’ll be listening.

CERT | Radio
Wednesday, 12 October 2005 09:51:05 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Wednesday, 25 May 2005
Wired has a short piece on hams and hamfests that’s a good read for those not familiar with the subject.  I love to see the word ├╝bernerd in print. :-)
Wednesday, 25 May 2005 09:55:51 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Tuesday, 10 May 2005

I’m a big fan of “appropriate technology”, so this story about the success of Morse Code over SMS messaging struck me as being pretty darn cool.  I’m just starting to study Morse Code in the hopes of qualifying for my General Class Amateur Radio license this summer, so I can fully appreciate the accomplishment. 

In short, a 93 year old telegraph operator and a teenage girl with a cell phone faced off to see who could send the identical text the fastest, via Morse Code (or CW in ham parlance) and SMS text messaging respectively.  The telegraph operator not only won, but he sent every single character in the text, while the girl used txt abbreviations. 

Does my heart good…

Tuesday, 10 May 2005 12:51:18 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Tuesday, 22 March 2005
I decided that KE7BJG was just too hard to say over the radio, so I decided to do something about it.  The FCC has granted my humble petition ($20.80 later) and I am now KE7PDC.  So take note, those 1–2 of you who took note in the first place. :-)
Tuesday, 22 March 2005 09:31:54 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [1]  | 
# Thursday, 10 March 2005
I’ve had my Amateur Radio license for 8 months or so now, and haven’t spent too much time talking on it.  But…  Just recently I’ve discovered the groovy world of IRLP, or the Internet Radio Linking Protocol.  Me talking to a radio in Portland, which is connected via VoIP links to one or more other radios around the world that other people are talking to.  Pretty cool.  You can talk to people all over the world with just a handheld radio and a Technician license.  I made my first “long” distance contact last night, chatting with W2SBI in Virginia.  It’s a pretty strange juxtaposition of old and new technology, but hey, it works.  You can listen in to one of the IRLP reflectors from the web site.
Thursday, 10 March 2005 15:58:42 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Monday, 16 August 2004

I got my first real chance to use my new radio this weekend (a Yaesu VX-7R(b)) at the Oregon Airshow.  I was volunteering, along with lots of other fine folks, not only as an amateur radio operator but as a CERT volunteer just in case anything untoward should happen. 

Before I got interested in such things, I had no idea that at most big public events like parades, marathons, bike races and airshows, there are fleets of hams providing communications.  The reason for it is that in most places, police, fire and other official agencies use radios that don't inter-operate.  It seems silly, I know, but it's true.  So hams show up for these events (since all our radios are compatible) and relay traffic between people without radios and people with radios who can't talk to each other.  Luckily all the traffic yesterday was pretty mundane, and we didn't have much in the way of emergencies.  A few heat exhaustion victims, but otherwise pretty quite.  Quiet in the sense of no emergencies.  The Airshow itself was far from quiet.  You find out pretty rapidly that headset or no headset, when the Blue Angels fly right over your head, you're not going to hear the radio. 

CERT | Radio
Monday, 16 August 2004 09:12:10 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Tuesday, 03 August 2004

In pursuit of my new nerdy hobby, yesterday I got a new radio.  A Yaesu VX-7R.  I'm amazed by three things so far:

  • How small the thing is (it's tiny, the antenna is about 2.5 times as long as the unit)
  • How amazingly complex the UI is (and how small the buttons are)
  • How fabulous the receive audio sounds.  I was listening to some guys yakking on a repeater last night, and it was amazingly clear.  Much more so than the old Kenwood I've been using.

The UI is amazingly complex, and I have a few issues with it so far.  Given the very limited space they had to work with and the paucity of input controls, they actually did pretty well.  But there are a few instances where you have to press an additional key to edit something, or an additional key to finish editing something, and they aren't always the same, so you "just have to know".  That's frustrating.  Much is accomplished with the tuning dial, which is pretty cool, but again it's not obvious when it works and when it doesn't.  Given all the space and control limitations I'm willing to forgive a lot though, so overall I'm pretty favorably impressed.  Which isn't to say I don't want to get the programming cable so I can just edit all the memories on my PC.  That'd go way quicker. 

Tuesday, 03 August 2004 14:42:34 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
# Monday, 19 July 2004

Just in case I wasn't a big enough geek before, I'm now officially KE7BJG.  That's right.  A licensed amateur radio operator (Technician class). 

I got interested in the idea of amateur radio through the emergency responder training I had last year.  I'd previously had no idea, but it turns out that in times of disaster/emergency, hams are instrumental in providing emergency communications through programs such as ARES and RACES.  That's a pretty important service, and I decided I'd like to be able to help out. 

In the process of studying for the licensing exam, I found out that the whole art and science of radio wave propagation is pretty darned fascinating. 

Ah well, it's not like anyone didn't know I was a nerd before :-).  My wife just shakes her head and sighs.  She says if I ever put up a tower in the backyard for antennas it's all over between us. 

Monday, 19 July 2004 11:33:16 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [1]  |