Latest news

Loading...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Chad Brock

Okay, I'm a little slow sometimes, but apparently some site trying to play themselves off as being "funny" posted something that got picked up on my Google news alerts about a country singer/ex-pro wrestler named "Chad Brock".

I don't listen to country music but read this trying to figure out 1) was it real, and 2) where is the humor?

I found out the question to #1 when it was posted under "fake news" but still have yet to answer #2...

Chad Brock Announces Ham Radio Station Tour

Sunday, October 10, 2010

TWIAR's web site redesigned

Some of you know I'm the "web designer" for the program This Week in Amateur Radio, or TWIAR. I'm admittedly behind the times when it comes to web design, and I'm thinking of going to school to learn more.

Over the summer, TWIAR took a bit of a hiatus as George Bowen, W2XBS (Executive Producer) was working odd hours at his employer, and he was committing himself to being better fit. When I visited him in August, he was definitely working out!

Being the worldwide media conglomerate that TWIAR is, we nickel & dime our way through bringing the service to the ham community. We aren't backed with big bucks like other services, but we've definitely been more innovative. We were the first ham radio service to bring our program via podcast. What a moment that was...

George called me up once day and said "we need to do a podcast". I responded "Great!! What the hell's a podcast?" Over the next 2-3 weeks I got a crash course in this new thing called "podcasting", and saw the potential.

At the time, the iPod craze was in full swing and podcasting was a way to provide news, opinions, etc, via RSS/XML feeds. Former MTV "VJ" Adam Curry is credited with coming up with the concept of podcasting.

TWIAR was just the repeater service version back then was averaging a few dozen downloads a week. I was paying for hosting on a shared hosting service for a few bucks a month and we had a 10 Gigabyte limit on our bandwidth per month. In other words, I couldn't go over 10 GB of data transfer pre month. This was no problem, as we were averaging about 4-5 Gigs of bandwidth.

After I set up RSS feeds for the podcast I posted an email, and sent links to a few podcasting sites that were out there.

And then...here came the masses...

I checked the stats one day on a whim and they skyrocketed after the first 3 weeks. We went from 3-4 GB average to right at the limit for the month!

And then, the next week, the site was pulled. We exceeded bandwidth.

I scrambled and got more temporarily allocated (and paid a hefty sum for it) and we went to a new plan that allowed 40GB of bandwidth. So we were pretty good...for about 3 weeks.

The next month, I closely monitored the stats of the site, and they just kept climbing. And even though I got an additional 30GB of bandwidth, they were quickly eaten up by the podcasting.

I begged George to find any way possible to limit the file sizes of TWIAR. They were 20-30 Mb files and that times 100 was just eating away at our bandwidth allocation.

His response: "I'm starting another ham podcast called TWIAR International!"

I scrambled and we were blessed to find an outlet to provide storage for our audio files. Radio NewYork International was a group that offered to host the files for us. We had a few bumps in the road with them, but we didn't realize just how big we became. Their web guy contacted George to let him know we were now averaging 100 gigabytes a WEEK of bandwidth! And this was 3 months into the podcasting phenomenon.

Then one day the web site just died. The folks at RNYi just shut the doors and threw away the key, apparently. The web site is gone but a blogger account exists for "Johnny Lightning", who I assume is keeping their dream alive.

We once again scrambled and Fred Moses stepped in to offer bandwidth, and we've been there to this day.

Other services quickly found out about the miracles of podcasting (either from our model or other means, I'm sure) and soon the internet was flooded with ham radio podcasts of all sorts, from the big names such as Amateur Radio Newsline to everyday hams just wanting to vent their frustrations, show off their new toys, or talk about whatever was on their mind. Even the ARRL finally got on board with their version.

I've redesigned the site several times over the years (one example is to the right), trying to at least LOOK like I know what I'm doing. We've expanded our reach to twitter, facebook, and continue to look for ways to send the service out to as many as possible, so that hams around the world know about TWIAR.

It's had its ups and downs, but despite the trials and tribulations, we've survived, sometimes barely.

Someday I might actually be able to do more than just the KISS method of web design. But then again, sometimes, that's what works the best. The last incarnation was okay, but not the best, and I never got to utilize what I wanted with it.

I finally found a template (after a search of several months) that I think will work best, and built TWIAR's site around the template being used (called "quatrain" or "quantrain", not sure which as it's spelled both ways). A small screengrab is at the top, but visit the site to get the full experience!

Hopefully it will be well received. We shall see.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Speaking of 220 MHz...

Continuing on from my previous post, while I'm on the subject of 220 MHz (1.25 meters), I welcome more 220 radios into ham radio. It seems like the 220 MHz market is thin, but there's an obvious reason. Very few countries have privileges on the 1.25 meter band; the US, Canada, and Mexico primarily here in Region 2, and no other countries in regions 1 or 3, except Somalia in Region 1. Because of this limitation, the big companies (Yaesu/Vertex, ICOM, Alinco, and Kenwood) don't deal much in the way of 220 simply because they cannot readily modify the equipment for other countries in order to sell the same model radios.

It's basic economics, really. Take a Kenwood TS-2000 HF/All-mode transceiver. This radio can be modified slightly (mainly in the power plug) in order for it to be sold in other countries like Japan, the UK, and Australia. Most of these countries have the same privileges for most of the bands that radio can transmit. Since they can sell these radios to several countries, they can manufacture more of them. Because they can manufacture more, they can buy parts in greater bulk, lowering the price of producing, thus lowering the price they can sell for a profit.

Radios with 220 capability will not be manufactured in larger quantities, so the parts cost more to order in less bulk, and increase the costs to manufacture. The higher the cost to produce, the higher the price in order to turn a profit.

It's a double-edged sword of sorts. There is a demand for more 220 radios, but the prices are higher than desired for many on a budget like myself. The prices are high because the manufacturing costs are higher for 220 than for 2m/440 dual-band radios. Unfortunately the threshold for the demand does not exceed the incentive to lower the prices to more competitive levels and invite more hams onto the band.

Yet, the band's inactivity results in a constant threat to that band being sold off to other services. It partially happened around 1988 when a portion of the band from 220-222 MHz was sold to UPS (though never used).

That's why I welcome the Wouxun radios. They offer use of the 220 MHz band at a great price and they hopefully will re-ignite interest in the band. 2 meters is already overcrowded in many parts of the country, and the 70cm band (440 MHz) is used, but has more limitations, namely in distance.

I'm hoping Wouxun will make a 220 MHz mono-band radio (HT and mobile). The prices they offer should be completely affordable and it might spark other companies to not only manufacture more 220 equipment, but also at an affordable price, same as 2 meters.

220 is a great band, with good propagation, signal quality, and the ability to continue use inside a building. Hopefully Wouxun will get the market for 1.25 meters in a renaissance of sorts, and we'll be able to drop the argument that no one is on that band.

Update to Irene Levy

Last May Irene Levy, KJ6CEY was arrested for causing deliberate interference on local police and fire frequencies in Hemet, CA.

In a followup, she pleaded guilty to 7 different charges, including making bomb threats and causing interference to public service bands.

She was given 3 years probation plus her jail time served. She was also ordered to undergo psychiatric counseling.

She was arrested after a weekend of transmitting on police and fire frequencies, attempting to disguise her voice as a male during the transmissions, and making a variety of noises and threats and references to officers of the department who had died. She continued to transmit right up until a few moments before officers knocked on her door, having triangulated her position with the help of investigators from 3 different police and fire departments using direction finding equipment.

It's unknown how (or if) this will affect her ham radio license. As of now, it is still listed as "active" in the FCC ULS database.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Wouxun to make a dual-band mobile?

It looks like the folks over at Wouxun are trying to get a dual-band mobile type-accepted by the FCC.

The 2m/440 KG-UV920R is not in production (yet) but a photo appears on the Wouxun homepage labeled "Coming Soon" and a note on the side of the image says that the company's head of US distribution (Ed Griffin) is in China until the end of the month (maybe to finalize the deal with this radio?).

A promotional flyer of the new rig with some preliminary specs can be found here.

Along with 2m/440, it looks like they may try to build a 2m/220 mobile radio as well!

I don't (yet) own one of these radios, but I'm saving my pennies to get one. Two radios, in fact. Maybe three. One for me, my wife, and daughter, the 2m/220 HTs.

I've been very interested in these radios since they debuted a few years ago. The low price is obviously very attractive, but my initial skepticism was that it was priced too low (as in, "you-get-what-you-pay-for") but the overall reviews have been for the most part positive regarding these radios, and the price is very hard to pass up, considering that the cost of a dual-band radio is the same (if not lower) than most single-band radios (especially 220MHz radios).

Keep your eyes on this company, folks. They may change the market on ham radios in a very good way.