Field Day Fun in Idaho

My kids are studying to become Amateur Radio Operators or Hams. This weekend we attended the local Ham club’s Field Day setup to let them talk on actual HF radios. Many thanks to the Voice of Idaho and the HPBARC radio clubs for helping the kids Get On The Air (GOTA) on 40 meters. Both of my kids and one of their friends all got to make contacts. It helped spark their interest and renew their resolve to take the Technician test later this summer. They were 10A in ID using W7VOI call sign.




Null Pointer at TWiT Studios

My alter-ego, Johnny Batch’s book, Null Pointer was gifted to the Chief TWiT – Leo Laporte this weekend by my good friend Nate McIntyre. Not sure how much cooler my birthday month could have gotten. I mean, a mention in Linux Journal and having Leo get a copy of my programmer Mystery novel is just about unbeatable. Thanks Nate for passing the book on, I hope he enjoys it and passes it on to fellow geeks. You can get Null Pointer on Kindle for just a buck, or get the paperback for under ten dollars.

Analog Man – Joe Walsh

Joe Walsh’s new album is his first in something like twenty years. What a come back! Analog Man is chock full of straight ahead rock songs with real guitar riffs and Joe’s famous attitude.

For those of you under the age of say, forty, Joe Walsh used to be in a band your parents listened to called The Eagles. The Joe Walsh song you’ve probably heard but never knew who played it, was “Life’s Been Good”. Joe does a great answer to that rock classic in “Lucky That Way” on this new album. Worth the price of admission, right there.

As I get closer to a half century old, I’m starting to really relate to songs like “Analog Man” and “Family” on this new album. But least you think this is a lame album by some old, tired rocker; know that this man can still cut a tune.

Also, Joe’s a well known Amateur Radio (Ham Radio) enthusiast with the call sign of WB6ACU. You can check out Joe on the Ham Nation podcast where he composed the theme song for the show.

Firefox Callsign Lookup Search Engine

If you drop by my web site, and click on the Amateur Radio page, you will find an option to install a Search plugin into your Firefox browser Search Engine box.  The handy little plugin lets you search the QRZ database for who owns an Amateur Radio callsign.  If you are a Ham, this is terribly useful in the your Radio shack.  If you are not a Ham, please disregard.

I also have a Mac Widget that does the same thing.  Sometime soon I will make that available to users of Mac OS X.  I may some day even make a Vista (what do they call Widgets again?) widget.  But since I would not touch Vista with a  ten foot pole, maybe not for a long time.  Feel free to take the Widget code and make it work on Vista. Here’s the code, any HTML dweeb can do it.

Something I may actually do is make a Linux version for use with gDesklets.

“Radio” Shack

Where are the Radio Shack Radios?

Ham radio operators have joked about this irony for decades.  You used to be able to buy Amateur Radio gear at the Radio Shack store – hence it’s use of the Ham radio term “radio shack” in the title.  But these days you can not buy Ham gear at the national retail chain.  They sell a few CB radios and a couple of scanners, but that’s it.  You are more likely to get harassed by a salesman who wants to sell you a phone than direct you to the hidden drawers where the resisters are now stored.  Back in the day, Radio Shack was the electronics hobby headquarters where you could always find bubble packs of electronic components and the boxes to house your project.

I think it’s a reflection of the dumbing down of America.  Nobody wants to play around with technical hobbies anymore.  They would rather chat on their cell phones and play video games on their PCs and High Definition TVs.  Sad.

No Code General, Finally

The FCC has finally dropped the Morse Code requirement for obtaining a General and a Extra Class Amateur Radio License.  The Report and Order has yet to be issued making it official, but the FCC has given us an early Christmas present in making the annoncement on Friday, December 15, 2006.

Time to start studying for my General.  I passed it a year ago but dropped my study of Morse Code when they announced that they would be dropping the code soon.  So now I have to pass the General test again.  No sweat.

It is my humble opinion that the Morse Code requirement was nothing more than a hazing ritual and was never a proper license in that you were never required to use it after your test.  No test was given to prove you could even send Morse Code.  Even if you passed a 5 wpm exam on listening to the code, you were chided by older hams who had to pass a 15 wpm test back in the day.

Not that I am against learning the code, I was having fun with it up until I stopped learning it.  My point is simply that it was not a proper test or certification.  Now, when I have the time and inclination, I can go back to learning the code and enjoy it, instead of struggling with it just to earn the right to talk on HF.

Three cheers for common sense by a government agency.

QSL Cards

Recently my mother had the chore of cleaning out my father’s side of the family’s old house in preparation for selling it. She went through all of my grandmother’s old papers and came across some of my father’s old QSL cards. I already had a stack of them that I found in his garage after he passed away along with his log books.

QSL cards are colorful post cards that hams used to send to each other confirming their contacts with other hams all over the US and the world. In this most recent stack, were cards from Russia, Germany and Australia. Very interesting to read the comments even though most were very brief. My dad was never a contester but he did quite a bit of operating back in the 50’s and 60’s.

I also came across a drawing he did of a tiger silhouette with his call sign inside it. W0PHT was known as Pretty Hungry Tiger. I took a digital picture of it and now use it on this site as my icon. You can see the whole thing here.


Geek Garage Net

It’s getting cooler out in the shack, time to start up the GG net again.  If you can get the word out, add a comment that you are interested and what night would work for everyone.  We were meeting Saturday nights at 2100 local, but that may get switched back to Wednesday nights as it seemed to work better for everyone last year.  We’ll still be on the HP repeater.