Monday, July 5, 2010

Keeping relevant & moving forward - case in point

The following is a partial excerpt from a presentation by Glenn Currie, KD5MFW at Ham-Com 2010 held June 11-12 in Texas. (You can read the full presentation and others at:

Those deploying communications technology in developing countries are deploying systems in areas where there is little or no infrastructure... much the same as after a natural disaster.

They are using wireless mesh systems for much of their infrastructure. When you have no infrastructure due to disaster, natural or otherwise, Wireless mesh networks are being deployed.

An organization called Inveneo works to bring communications infrastructure to under developed countries.

They use Wi-Fi (802.11) wireless broadband equipment for much of their work. They set up Wi-Fi communications links and add their own resources including small web servers and end user net top computers so people can send email and check websites for emergency information.

Inveneo deploys to Haiti after the recent earthquake. The got in fast with gear and two man teams.

Inveneo installed a Wide Area Network using Wi-Fi type equipment. Inveneo quickly deployed an emergency network that served many agencies

Amateur radio passed some traffic in the aftermath of the recent Haiti earthquake. I have read the reports on the Internet and in the printed amateur radio magazines. Hats off to all the hams that pitched in and helped strangers in a bad situation.

But what systems past what percentage of the emergency traffic during the emergency? What really worked and carried the bulk of the emergency traffic?

It is known that the network deployed by Inveneo passed Thousands of Messages for multiple agencies, and their networks continue to pass traffic.

Amateur radio needs to have a broadband offering in their tool box.

All emergency communications organizations are making wide use of broadband RF communications techniques – except amateur radio.

I am confident, that if amateur radio manages to remain relevant, in the area of Emergency communications, future amateur radio license exams will include questions On how to configure wireless routers. This technology is that pervasive in the world. Hams can step up to the plate get into broadband, or they can leave it to groups like Inveneo and to provide emergency communications, in the ham bands.

I recently tried to point out that WinLink is showing its age and is far from ideal.

I was trying to suggest that we focus our efforts on the future, and made reference to a geostationary satellite as one avenue.

I received a bothersome/bullheaded comment from Stan Piekarczyk, Outagamie Co ARES EC "Should we wait another 10 years for this to get launched?"

To answer the question, NO!

The first step is admitting that something isn't cutting it, or is less than desirable. Step two is making it happen by stop being an amateur radio user, and becoming an innovator.

Ham radio technologies can Only advance if We make the happen. Glenn, KD5MFW points out some wake up calls for hams in his presentation. It's time to think ahead.

KC4BQK also blogged on this:

Friday, July 2, 2010

Growth Gauges?

Generating statistics on the internet of various modes of ham radio seems to be a trend, although I am not sure why.

At the top level, keeping statistics on amateur radio licensing trends has been something I've noticed for the last 10 or so years. A few times a year there seems to be a post on on this.

While somewhat interesting, I really don't think it is an accurate gauge of anything. There are thousands of amateurs holding licensees, but are not active on the radio or in research and development endeavors.

There is a list of live Winlink packet stations. As well as the live statistics of D-Star repeaters and active users.

I never understood why one must register to use their D-Star radio over the gateway network. If remote people on D-Star can't hear you it's because you aren't registered. Now I understand why this inconvenience exists. For the sake of being able to generate and advertise the total number of people using this mode.

There are also statics for IRLP, as well as hams experimenting with APCO-25.

Like I said, I'm not sure what all this statistical data goes to prove. Is it supposed to impress you that there are 900 active IRLP connections and 17 billion registered D-Star users?

And what about some of the modes that don't have anyone taking statistics? How many people are really active with ATV (amateur television)? Or, hellschreiber?

Are these numbers meant to try and sway you into trying a new mode? Or make you feel like you missing something?

Once upon a time, years ago... hams used to experiment and try new modes and things because they were interested in that sort of thing. Now apparently hams need to be peer pressured? And what about those that are content on whatever mode most interests them?

If you are interested in electronics and radio theory, I encourage you to get into the hobby regardless of the statistics. This isn't a high school polarity contest folks. Please don't consider exploring a new facet of the hobby only because that is what is advertised as popular, and not because you have a bonafide technological interest.

Developing a deep technological interest based on a curiosity of "how it works" helps the hobby. Anything else only helps inflate numbers for a fad.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Two new books

There is a brand new Microwave book from the Radio Society of Great Britain.

It is all up-to-date stuff, not a re-hashing of old QST articles like many of the ARRL microwave books. It covers interesting test equipment, and the latest software. Most importantly, the projects are modern too, using easy-to-find transistors.

The second recommended book is from the American Radio Relay League on PIC microcontrollers.

This book was written to be understood in a chronological fashion. The book seems to fill in stuff all the other PIC books seem to miss.