Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Handiham World for 25 February 2009

Welcome to Handiham World!

Are you on Twitter? WA0TDA is.

Pat and the alligatorTwitter is a social networking site of sorts, with people sending short messages called "tweets" to anyone who cares to "follow" a particular user. This is sometimes called "micro-blogging".

The content can be pretty interesting - or it can be rather silly or boring, too. It is the sort of thing you have to actually try before you really understand what it's all about. The process is pretty simple: You go to the Twitter website and create an account, which is free. Pay attention to the Twitter terms of service and privacy statements, since this is the sort of thing that can get users confused. A little reading can pay off, though I know most of us would rather jump out the window than read the instructions for anything!

The way it works is that you are supposed to just send a short message of 140 characters or fewer by filling in a simple form field on your Twitter site, where it is then resent to all your "followers". You can follow as many or as few other Twitter users as you want.

I follow TWIAR, This Week In Amateur Radio, among a few others. You can find a short overview of what Twitter is about on, where else? - Wikipedia! In fact, I think this Wikipedia article does a better job of explaining Twitter than Twitter does. Go figure.

You will find my Twitter site by searching Twitter for wa0tda.

There are other ham radio operators on Twitter, as well as services like TWIAR. Be careful, it can get addicting! On the other hand, the "tweets" can get pretty numerous and you can get overwhelmed by their banality, as K9ZW observes on his blog.

Basically, what K9ZW suggests is that the signal to noise ratio is unfavorable on Twitter. What he means is that you can get overwhelmed with useless garbage as people post things like, "I'm just waking up and the sun is out", which is pretty much not of any real interest. On the other hand, the TWIAR posts do keep you up to date on ham radio topics. It is a good point, though - the posts you want to read can get drowned out by the trivial ones, which is what an unfavorable signal to noise ratio means!

Happy tweeting, if you decide to try Twitter.

Next week: I weigh in on a new EMF flap over a cancer cluster on a California university campus. Does EMF cause cancer?


Patrick Tice, WA0TDA
Handiham Manager

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Handiham World for 18 February 2009

Welcome to Handiham World!

Echolink screenshotI have heard from net manager Howard, KE7KNN, and the move of the Handiham Monday night EchoLink net is official -- we will be making the change beginning the first week in March.

Frankly, I'm a bit relieved. Monday nights were just not good for me, because my own local radio club has a 2 m net at the same time. I had tried flipping back and forth between the two nets, checking into one and then checking into the other. This never seemed like a good way to operate. I always felt that I was never really giving either net my full attention.

But that's just me.

Monday night is apparently a fairly busy night for others as well. Since Monday is the start of the traditional work and school week, it may very well be that family matters simply have to take priority over amateur radio. We think we will have better luck with Wednesday night net activities. By Wednesday, most people have gotten their week pretty well planned out. It may be easier to take a few minutes out of a Wednesday evening, so we hope to hear more of you checking in. Since the 7:00 PM start time might have caused a conflict with the CNIB net, which starts at 6:30 PM USA Central Time and sometimes lasts longer than 30 minutes, we are also moving our start time by a half hour to 7:30 PM Minnesota time. That means the Universal Time start would be Thursday mornings at 01:30 GMT.

The other details about the net remain the same:

  • The Handiham EchoLink net is still the same friendly gathering open to everyone.
  • It is still a great place to learn about getting on the air and how to participate in nets.
  • There is a net control station to keep things organized, but unlike many other nets, we invite new net controls to step up to the plate and take over!
  • There is a Net Manager, Howard, KE7KNN, who will be glad to hear that you want to participate, either as a station checking in, or as a net control station.
  • The net is still on the same repeaters and nodes as the ones we use for the daily EchoLink net.
    • In the Twin Cities you can use the N0BVE repeater system, 145.450 MHz, negative offset, no tone.
    • You can connect via nodes 89680 or 267582 on EchoLink.
    • IRLP node 9008 (Vancouver BC reflector)
    • Yaesu WIRES system number 1427
    • And there are other ways as well, so feel free to connect as you see fit. The one exception is that we ask you not to connect to N0BVE via IRLP, since that dumps off all the EchoLink users.

The first Wednesday of each month the net has a theme of "learning", so don't miss the opportunity to be a better net participant or control station. If you are shy, just listen in. We'd love to hear you check in though!

Patrick Tice

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Handiham World for 11 February 2009

Welcome to Handiham World!

cartoon guy looking in crystal ballIf you're like me, you probably use the web to check news. Printed newspapers and news magazines are "yesterday's news" for sure, and it isn't surprising so many of them are losing market share. So we are reading what is now called "digital ink". And just as with real ink newspapers, digital ink can give amateur radio some real media hits - or misses, as was the case with one story that popped up on my Google News page this morning.

The story was on the Alva, OK Review-Courier website, and was a rehash of an older post on an AOL-linked service called "Walletpop". I'll give you links to both in a moment, but the point I'd like to make about this sort of bad press, which contains factual errors and even stupid spelling mistakes like "Morris Code", is that once they are posted, they live forever on the Internet as they get passed around every time someone re-discovers them. In this case, the so-called "story" is about Ham Radio being one of 25 things about to become extinct in America. When it appeared first in mid-2008, it wasn't real news then, either - just speculation based on someone digging their old crystal ball out and trying to predict the future. Among the unfortunate comments in the article was one about 50,000 ham licenses being lost "in the past five years alone".

I can only speculate how much email Tom Barlow, N8NLO, the original author of the ham radio part of the Walletpop article, has gotten about this story. Feel free to read the many postings on the website, too.

Read more on the site or listen to the podcast.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Handiham World for 4 February 2009

Welcome to Handiham World!

Oh, darn - state legislators across the country are at it again, going after distracted drivers and catching up ham radio operators in the bargain. This was the point when, on January 30, at the instruction of the Board of Directors at its January 2009 meeting, the ARRL Executive Committee adopted a policy statement on mobile Amateur Radio operations. The statement addresses the growing number of proposed state and local laws and ordinances regulating the use of cellular telephone and text messaging, inadvertently affecting Amateur Radio mobile communications. In its statement, the Executive Committee urges state and municipal legislators to limit the scope of their proposals, limiting them to devices such as full duplex wireless telephones and related hand-held or portable equipment. Alternately, it suggests that licensed Amateur Radio operation be listed specifically as an exclusion to the proposed regulations.

I can tell you for sure that any law that doesn't exempt ham radio will certainly be a problem for many operators like me, who safely enjoy mobile amateur radio operating nearly every day. Most of us have fun staying in touch with friends during an otherwise boring commute, generally on a VHF or UHF repeater system. There is a huge difference between trying to carry on a duplex telephone conversation and carrying on a QSO via two meters. Believe, me... I know. I've done both, and find the cell phone to be much more demanding than the radio. In a typical radio contact, everyone understands that the conversation may go silent when the driving conditions change or momentarily get difficult. There is never a problem tending to driving first. This is not the case with a cell phone conversation, which is often difficult to interrupt. And people who text message while driving, well, they're just plain negligent. Texting requires more "processor cycles" from the brain, and will certainly result in the driver failing to notice what is going on around their vehicle.

Amateur radio remains a valuable way to stay in touch while driving, and is solidly established as a proven way to report in during emergencies and SKYWARN nets. It should not be caught up in these "distracted driver" bills. You can read more about the initiative on the ARRL website, as once again the League goes to bat for amateur radio.

By the way, did you know that a blind lifetime membership in ARRL is only $200?

For Handiham World, I'm...

Patrick Tice