Tuesday, December 27, 2011

DIY - ARRL and Radio Shack

Back in June of 2011, I pointed out that there is a resurgence in the Do-It-Your-Self (DIY) community.

The economic crisis, Make Magazine, and the development of Maker Faire's/ "Maker Fests", all have apart to do with this.

A while back Radio Shack asked the "DIY community" what they would like to see in Radio Shack stores.

The top ten improvements requested were:
1. Arduino
2. More Kits and Project Suggestions
3. More introduction/instructional books
4. Larger assortment in LEDs
5. Wider variety in resistors
6. TONS more capacitors
7. DIY audio and speaker equipment
8. HAM radio gear
9. More competitive pricing
10. Stronger sales force

Since that time, Radio Shack has added Velleman Kits, and Arduino Kits as well as other things.

The ARRL just launched a new DIY campaign.

As I and the ARRL have noted, DIY is certainly nothing new to ham radio. But there are tons of DIY people out there that do not know about ham radio.

This may shock you, but I applaud this ARRL effort. Their recently released video is worth a look:

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Mesh Potato

An interesting video was just posted on the TAPR YouTube channel. It's a presentation that David, VK5DGR gave at the 30th Annual ARRL and TAPR Digital Communications Conference. This was held back in September in Baltimore, Maryland.

In East Timore, there is no local phone service to speak of. Most people have cell phones, but they can't afford to use them. That costs 25 cents per minute, for people who earn about a buck and a half per day. That situation is duplicated in developing nations around the world.

Australian Amateur Radio Operator David Rowe VK5DGR is part of a group that's trying to change it. They've engineered a local phone system that's cheap to install and free to use. It's based on WiFi mesh networking, and it's being tested in South Africa and East Timore. They call it The Village Telco. And it's working.

David related the story of the Village Telco at the 2011 ARRL/TAPR Digital Communications Conference, at the Saturday Night Banquet. The DCC is an annual, three-day weekend conference covering digital communications in Amateur Radio....


The Village Telco is an initiative to build low-cost community telephone network hardware and software that can be set up in minutes anywhere in the world. No mobile phone towers or land lines are required. The Village Telco uses the latest Open Source telephony software and low cost wireless mesh networking technology to deliver affordable telephony anywhere.

Mesh Potato – A low-cost wireless mesh device you can plug a regular phone into

The Mesh Potato is a combination of a low-cost wireless Access Point (AP) running mesh networking software with an Analog Telephony Adapter (ATA). Mesh Potatoes automatically connect with each other, forming a “cloud” of Mesh Potatoes. Each Mesh Potato relays the phone calls for other Mesh Potatoes, greatly extending the range of the network. Plug an ordinary telephone into one Mesh Potato and you can instantly make a phone call to any other Mesh Potato on the network.

Here's what a US ham has done with this mesh potato for emergency use: