Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Amateur Extra - One Year Later

I wasn’t really in a rush to pass the amateur extra exam. I was hoping to get my code speed up to a respectable 20 wpm before taking the written test. But then the FCC decided that Morse code proficiency was no longer required to be qualified to hold an amateur radio license. No, I wasn’t one of those folks that was waiting for the code test to go away to take the written exam, I had already passed the only required code test at the time, the 5 wpm element one test. I wanted to pass the extra exam before they dropped the requirement. Why, just to have some motivation. So, I passed my extra exam on February 17, 2007 and the code test requirement for general and amateur extra class amateur radio licenses was officially dropped on February 23, 2007.

Some of the things I wanted to do in the past year were to get my code speed up to 20 wpm and build a transceiver. I’ve accomplished neither, unless you count the pixie II transceiver that I built as a soldering warm up before starting the Elecraft K1. My code speed went downhill but I am working on a plan to improve it, but I’ll need to finish the K1 first. I was doing a good job listening to code practice for a while, but a change in jobs has knocked me off track. I can still copy fairly well at 10 wpm under ideal conditions, but that is the same speed I was copying when I first started learning code.

So my ham radio goals for 2008 are to improve my code speed, finish my NE3R QSL card, and finish the Elecraft K1 transceiver. I also want to improve the local APRS network and help our county ARES members get more proficient with handling NTS traffic.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Amy's Creativity

Amy is probably the most creative person I know. Her latest creations are the Valintines Day cards that Alex will give to his classmates at school. These cards are hand made from scratch, and they are simply wonderful!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Vista Desktop

My good experience with Vista continues, although I did have to install two unsigned drivers recently, one for my office's printer/copier and one to mount .ISO files as drive letters.

I took a screen shot for show and tell. I've started using some things on the side bar. My favorite is the slideshow - I have pictures of my family queued up and they change every 1 minute.

Click to Enlarge

The user interface has more of a Mac feel to it, but I do like it better than the default interface on XP. I tried to get used to the XP start menu, but I ended up going back to the classic Windows 2000 menu every time. Vista is different though and it has a better feel to it, I think I'll stick with it.

My Vote for Ron Paul

Yesterday was the primary election day in Maryland and it was anything but an ordinary primary. Since my first primary election in 1996 Maryland has never been important, by the time we voted, the nominee had already been chosen. This year was different; nobody had enough delegates to be a sure thing. Since I’m a registered republican, my choices were Mike Huckabee, John McCain, and Ron Paul. Before Super Tuesday I was thinking that I might have to support McCain even though I really wanted Paul because I thought McCain would be better than any of the democrat candidates and have a better chance to beat them in the general election. Once I knew McCain was well ahead, I figured I could vote the way I wanted, instead of the way most likely to be successful.

Election night was interesting. The weather was not good with freezing rain and an ice storm warning in the area, Amy and Alex were both sick, and Zoe was wearing one of Alex’s shirts and a pair of his boxer shorts over her clothes. But the desire to vote overcame these things and we all loaded up in the van and went to the polling place. With 3 kids and nobody really feeling well, Amy and I decided to vote in shits shifts, and I went first. For President, I voted for Ron Paul, but for the RNC delegates, I voted for those associated with John McCain, just in case something weird happened. For the Maryland sixth district congressional race, I voted for Roscoe Bartlett. For board of education I voted for Joe & Tony Chmelik, the only candidates to actually communicate with me, even if it was only handing out a flier after mass one Sunday, and I also voted for Ron Bird, because he was first on the list. Most of the candidates for board of education didn’t even get signs out this year. When I returned, Amy gave me some news, Alex had to throw up. I said he was sick! Then it was Amy’s turn to vote and my turn to entertain the children. Fortunately, Alex was feeling much better. Zoe was getting cranky, in our rush to get to the polling place before the weather worsened, we didn’t pack a bottle for her and she really wanted one. It took me about a half hour to get through the line and vote, but Amy returned in about 15 minutes. That was it, we went to the store, then went home to watch Obama and McCain go on to win the night. Ok, really we watched American Idol, but they put the results at the bottom of the screen on Fox 5

Monday, February 11, 2008

Windows Vista Week One

I’ve heard a lot of horror stories about Windows Vista, so you could imagine that when I started in a new position and received a shiny new laptop loaded with Windows Vista Business, the first time I’ve run Vista on something that mattered, I was worried. From the stories I’ve heard, Vista crashes all the time, and any program you run will crash. I’m happy to say that I have yet to experience a single problem with Vista or any applications I’ve run on it. The computer was configured by the IT department and included only the operating system and Microsoft Office 2007, I’ve added Windows Messenger, Adobe Acrobat reader, Flash Player, Silverlight, Powershell, and several active X controls for web sites, and I still haven’t had a problem.

I suspect that those who bought new computers with a bunch of software already loaded are having the most problems. Computer manufactures get paid for including a lot of trial versions and demo software, so the more the better. The financial incentive is great, so I’d expect the demand is to get as much software on as possible without thorough thought of the problems it may cause. Others who might have problems are those who have upgraded existing installations of Windows XP. Computers are like cars, they need maintained, and most, including my own rarely get the computer version of an oil change. Upgrading any operating system is asking for trouble. In either case, it is always best to format the hard drive and install Vista from scratch.

As for Vista in a big company or government agency, the problem will most likely be incompatible applications that have been installed on thousands of computers. Vista changes a lot of things, and some programs simply won’t work right, especially ones that were not well coded for Windows to begin with. Before a Vista deployment is attempted, application compatibility must be verified and Microsoft makes that pretty easy these days, and offers several solutions for getting around application compatibility issues.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

That Zoe Sure Can Eat

My daughter sure can eat. This morning I made bacon and scrambled eggs. I gave Zoe a portion equal to the two year old Aidan and the almost six year old Alex. The two boys ate their bacon but almost none of their eggs. Twelve year old Andrew got a portion roughly twice the size of his younger siblings. Zoe finished everything on her tray and wanted more, not once but twice. Her 3 helpings of scrambled eggs ended up being more then her older brothers ate combined, none of them even finished their eggs, I guess I should be happy that at least they ate their bacon. I don't make breakfast very often, but it is nice to know at least one of the kids enjoyed it!

Friday, February 08, 2008

Legal Amateur Radio Operation?

I’ve come across something in the Amateur Radio rules that I think I understand, but someone else is interpreting them very differently.

My question centers on the Amateur Radio station KJ4BSL, which is issued to 278 ACR RTS HHT, to the attention of Dooley H Buckner SFC. This license includes no operator privileges and the station privileges of MILITARY REC.

KJ4BSL ATTN: Dooley H Buckner SFC 278 ACR RTS HHT
Mr. Buckner believes that the FCC rules §97.5 b 3 and §97.5 c allow him to transmit on Amateur Radio frequencies. I’ll include the relevant part 97 text.
§97.5 Station license grant required.
(a) The station apparatus must be under the physical control of a person named in an amateur station license grant on the ULS consolidated license database or a person authorized for alien reciprocal operation by §97.107 of this part, before the station may transmit on any amateur service frequency from any place that is:
(1)Within 50 km of the Earth's surface and at a place where the amateur service is regulated by the FCC;

(b) The types of station license grants are:
(3) A military recreation station license grant. A military recreation station license grant may be held only by the person who is the license custodian designated by the official in charge of the United States military recreational premises where the station is situated. The person must not be a representative of a foreign government. The person need not hold an amateur operator license grant.

(c) The person named in the station license grant or who is authorized for alien reciprocal operation by §97.107 of this Part may use, in accordance with the applicable rules of this Part, the transmitting apparatus under the physical control of the person at places where the amateur service is regulated by the FCC.

When I first read §97.5 c above I thought that he was correct, but after thinking about it some more my thoughts went to the phrase “in accordance with the applicable rules of this Part” assuming that Part refers to the FCC rules related to Amateur Radio, Part 97.

The very next section is §97.7, which states that each amateur station must have a control operator.

§97.7 Control operator required
When transmitting, each amateur station must have a control operator. The control operator must be a person:

(a) For whom an amateur operator/primary station license grant appears on the ULS consolidated licensee database

So to operate the Amateur Radio station KJ4BSL in accordance with the applicable rules of Part 97, it must have a control operator with an operator/primary station license grant, which is basically a typical amateur radio license that would be issued to an individual. Since Mr. Buckner does not have an Amateur Radio license of his own, I suspect that he is operating the Amateur Radio station KJ4BSL illegally.

I could be completely wrong with my interpretation of the rules, but I think I’m right on this one. I am looking at it a couple of ways, and I can see where I think he has misinterpreted the rules. I think the easiest way to figure this out would be to ask, what are the operator privileges granted to the Amateur Radio station KJ4BSL. The answer is that operator privileges are not granted to stations, they are granted to operators, and no such privileges have been granted to Mr. Buckner yet.

Since it is against the rules to contact stations operating illegally, I think I’ll avoid KJ4BSL until I find that Mr. Buckner gets an Amateur Radio license or someone explains that my interpretation of the rules are incorrect.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

I don't have it!

My partially built Elecraft K1 is temporarily no longer in my posesion. Where did it go you ask? I have given it to another ham to look over because I was having trouble with receiving weak signals. For example, with my club's Alinco DX-77 I was tuning around the 40 meter band and heard several CW stations that I could not hear on the K1. I could hear some of the strongest stations with the K1, but they had to be at least S9 signals on the Alinco for me to barely hear them on the Elecraft. I really coudn't figure out what the problem was. So I went looking for help, but I was sure to ask that he let me know what was wrong and how he fixed it so I can try to avoid the same mistake down the road. xallsse