paulmccord.net

PAUL L. MCCORD JR. | K5GLH – OKLAHOMA CITY

paulmccord.net - PAUL L. MCCORD JR. | K5GLH – OKLAHOMA CITY

Google+ Hangout

Ham Radio Google+ Hangout

Last night I joined in my first multi-person Google+ Hangout and it was a blast.  I was invited in by another Amateur Radio operator, Jim, KA6QZU.  The Hangout was called “Ham Radio Nightly Hangout” and eventually others joined the group.  He told me their group has these meetings online every night at 9:00 PM, central time.  Usually I am not up that late because we go to work very early.  I have to say that I really enjoyed the conversation and was amazed at how clear the video and audio was.  If the masses ever discover these Hangouts, they will be hooked.  There was a connection to theTWiT Podcast when Tom, KB4HQA joined in the conversation.  Since this Hangout is a regular occurring, I hope they put up a web site so people can find them.  Maybe even a Google+ page.  I have found a way to keep up with them assuming they keep the same name for the Hangout. I just went on Google+ and searched for the term “Ham Radio Nightly Hangout” and then saved my search results.  That way if anyone posts about it, I will see it.

Anyway, I have always loved ham radio and the Internet.  This is just one more example of how cool they are together. In fact, it seems that ham radio operators and photographers are the most active of any groups I have seen on Google+.  I really would like to become more active in ham radio.  I have really been frustrated since I moved in to our new house that my interface cable between my radio and computer no longer works because my computer has Windows 7, 64 bit version.  I’ve steadfastly refused to buy another cable because I feel I am being forced to buy more equipment for someone else’s gain.  My cable was only a year old when I got Windows 7 64 bit and I refuse to upgrade my equipment every time a new version of the operating system comes out.  The major issue is that radio manufacturers continue to use obsolete RS-232 connections so I had to use an adapter cable that no longer has a driver for the 64 bit version.

In my ham radio world, computers are just as much a part of the hobby as the radio itself.  I occasionally, more often than not, run across those that say “that is not real ham radio!”  My answer to them is “oh well”.  Everything has computers these days and to say that it is not ham radio is foolishness.  Is your TV not a TV because it now has a computer tuner in it?  Is your coffee maker not a coffee maker now that it has a computer timer in it?  Of course it is.  One may argue that in ham radio it is different.  There are many modes such as IRLP, Echolink, Allstar Link, etc that use the Internet to transmit communications.  I don’t think it is different at all as long as there is some aspect of radio being communicated with.  For example… The telephone now uses Satellites, land based transmissions, Internet, etc to get the voice from one place to another.  The end result is that someone, on one end of the conversation is holding a telephone in their hand.  Modern day television is the same.  Computers are just one more tool in the process and a very cool tool at that. :)

I think that computers are very much a part of ham radio and just prove that it is not an antiquated mode of communications.  The ionosphere is still our friend and the computer, Internet work together with it to transmit, process the information so that the signal is better used.  These Google Hangouts are just another way that amateur radio operators can communicate and share their equipment visually.  I’ve had a computer and a ham radio for 29 years and the computer has not hindered my ham radio usage but rather enhanced it.  It is an exciting day to be around if you are a gadget person like myself.

New IRLP Node 7734

IRLP node 7734

Since I do not have my ham radio gear, and do not live in Del City anymore, I had to improvise to be able to talk on the Del City ARC repeaters.  As most of you know, we sold our Del City home in July 2010.  All of my ham radio gear went into storage until we get a new house.  The only thing that I kept out of storage was my dual band, 2 meter, 70 centimeter hand held radio.  We temporarily moved into an apartment in Midwest City while we wait to get our new home.  I can reach the repeaters from this apartment but not very good from inside with the low power that the hand held will produce.

Since both repeaters have IRLP/Echolink capability, I put together another, Internet Radio Linking Project (IRLP) node so that I can connect into either of the repeaters.  This is the third one that I have put together and this one is for personal use.  It signed on the air May 18, 2011 from Midwest City, Oklahoma.  Sure it can be used for a mile or so but will not have much range for others to use.  Anyone can use it but it will not be of much use for very far.  This new node is a simplex node on 445.95 MHz.  It has a PL tone of 162.2  It has an IRLP node number of 7734 and an Echolink node number of 23943.  The node does not carry the Del City Amateur Radio Club call sign of W5DEL but rather K5GLH for IRLP and K5GLH-L for Echolink.

IRLP node 7734

This node will help resolve my inability to have reliable communications through our own repeaters.  I have tested it and it performs very well.  I may play around with it and add Allstar Link capability to it and if it works out, I may add it to the other repeaters as well.  As you can see from the picture, it is running on a magnetic mount dual band antenna stuck on top of a metal filing cabinet.  We will be living in these apartments near Regional Park until around August 2011.  If you are near that area, you can likely reach it without much power.  Again, since it is simplex, there will be no courtesy tones or anything like that.  If you hear a once sided conversation, then you are probably hearing the node speaking to me on my weak handie talkie.  I am excited to get this one on the air and so I can get back into ham radio, at least a little bit.

Internet Explorer 9 beta

IE_9beta

I just installed the new Internet Explorer 9.0 beta and this is what I saw from the moment I launched it.  I could not close it through normal means.  I had to Ctrl+Alt+Del and end task on it several times to close it down.  I was getting really irritated that I could not close it down.  This is as far as I could get it to go after launching it several times.  I do understand by the very definition of being beta means that it is not ready for full release and likely to have bugs.  I have heard stories on the Internet that it is supposed to be light weight like Chrome instead of the very slow bogged down monster that is Internet Explorer 8.  My first impression is not very good though I understand it is a beta.  I downloaded the 64 bit version since I am using Windows 7 64 bit.  You know, people have told me in the past that I should not use the version 8, 64 bit version because there are not enough functions available to it.

My point to that is why have a 64 bit operating system if you cannot run 64 bit applications?  Those that know me also know that I am not a big fan of Apple and find myself defending Microsoft on a regular basis.  I have to admit though that Internet Explorer has been a sorry program for the last few versions.  Almost any browser runs better than it does.  I went to Firefox for a while and now I pretty much use Chrome exclusively.  I really want Internet Explorer to have a come back but they are not doing anything to give me hope.  It is interesting to not that I say they need a comeback when they are still nearly 90% of the market share.  What I meant to say, I wish their quality would come up a few notches.  I genuinely hate Internet Explorer these days and only use it as a last resort.  My work forces us to use it and I can hardly stand it.

Let’s just hope the next release works better than this.  I would like to have another option to use that is not slow and takes for ever just to load a web site like Internet Explorer 8 does.

Del City ARC Web Site

For those that follow my posts both on my web site and on the Del City Amateur Radios Club’s web site, I need to let you know that www.delcityarc.org domain is about to expire in July.  This domain is going to be moved to another provider over the coming weeks so it may be unavailable from time to time.  Since it may be offline briefly, I am posting this on my own web site and on the club site just so you will be able to find the status.  The new site will be unable to host the blog onsite.  The blog itself with be hosted on the wordpress.com site.  Since the blog is already being viewed within a frame, it will be virtually undetectable from the average user.  The actual club blog will be located at http://dcarc.wordpress.com/ instead of on the actual domain.  The main page http://www.delcityarc.org will be hosted on another site while to the average user, there will not be a change.  The new offsite blog will be pointed to from the main page into an internal frame.

You may be asking yourself why we are doing this.  The reason is the hosting cost.  Currently I host both domains through my provider at an expensive rate.  I pay extra because I like having the ability to run scripts, have xml databases, allow more traffic among other things.  Both of these domains are about to expire within a month of each other and I am unwilling to pay the extra costs for both pages.  I can move the Del City ARC page to a more budget plan with less functions and save some money.  Since my personal blog gets more traffic and I use it more, I am more willing to pay the extra rate for it.  As I said before, it will be virtually undetectable to the average user but it will save us more than 50% of the cost. If you have any questions, please post them via email to our members@delcityarc.org address.

Thanks,

Paul

Friendfeed was Unfairly Attacked

I can still remember the day vividly when Facebook purchased Friendfeed. There were those l will not name that immediately proclaimed that Friendfeed was dead.  It was a mantra that was so loud that even the most apathetic person around could hear.  It was almost as if the tactic of the media was used to destroy them.  Anyone that has ever watched the main stream media knows their methods.  They say something over and over again to a point that ignorant people begin to take it a face value.  People do not take the time to learn the truth but rather just take their word for it so in essence it is perceived to be the truth.  This is what happened to Friendfeed.  The same day that Facebook purchased them, there were those with many followers that began to proclaim that Friendfeed was dead.  These are those that do not have real jobs but rather spend all day on the social networking sites following everyone they can.

They follow thousands of people with the hopes the eventually they will follow back.  Once they get 100,000+ people following them, they proclaim themselves “A-Listers”.  Other than this, there is nothing special about them.  Well they eventually try to exercise this power by proclaiming revelations about companies like Friendfeed.  So far Friendfeed has only been affected because those that have 100,000+ followers make these outrageous statements over and over again.  You see… Most of these 100,000+ followers are people that have to work for a living and only get online from time to time.  They do not have time to be involved in every story that comes out.  They find themselves at the mercy of headlines.  Does this seem like a familiar theme?  This is the way the media works.  They will make an outrageous claim over and over again to a point that people just accept it as fact and not question it.

Friendfeed is an amazing tool but unfortunately it has lost many users resulting in it losing its popularity.  Soon afterward Google came out with Google Buzz which is almost identical to Friendfeed in function.  The same people that use to say that Friendfeed is dead are not telling the world about how great Google Buzz is.  I will not argue that Google Buzz is a great tool for aggregating stories and allowing personal interaction on them.  As I said, Google Buzz is almost identical to Friendfeed.  One thing that is troubling about these aggregators that I never thought about is their inherent power to give more power to those with 100,000+ followers allowing them more air time.  I have noticed that many times in these aggregators I get the same stories many many times from different people.  What ends up happening is that one person will say something and then a percentage of their 100,000+ followers will repost the story.

This seems a lot like some of the multilevel marketing schemes you see around.  I am sure you have heard of them.  They boast about leveraging the work of others to grow your income capability exponentially.  The same theory is at work here.  One person says something and then hundreds of others will say the same thing.  A percentage of each of the 100,000+ followers will also repost to a point where you reach critical mass.  An individual may hear the same story a dozen times in a single day from a dozen different people.  The notion that it must be true because we heard it from so many different sources comes into play.  The truth is that you really heard it from one source and it was distributed through syndication.  It may appear that it is coming from many sources but it is really coming from a singular source.  I use to wonder why a person would want to follow 100,000+ people but it makes perfect sense now.  The sheer audience makes your voice multiply exponentially.  You can say ANYTHING whether true or not and if a percentage of your followers repost your comment, then a percentage of their followers will also repost it.  Can you see how powerful this can be?  This self promoted, self appointed power could be used for good or bad.  It is my belief that this is how Apple gets all of its attention despite only having 10% or less market share.  It is pretty ingenious if you ask me.  Be careful what you hear and believe because many times you are hearing a regurgitated story and not necessarily multiple sources.  Many people gauge credibility based on hearing it from multiple sources.  They are unaware of how syndication works and do not realize that those multiple sources are really just one person.

Blog Down for Corrupt File

It was brought to my attention this evening that my blog was down.  Actually I knew it for a couple days because my browser defaults to this page.  Since we have had other priorities with working on the house, the web site took a back seat.  It was an easy fix and only had a corrupt file.  Since it was backed up the fix only took a few minutes.  I apologize for not being around much but things are coming along on the house.  We are hopeful to get the house up for sale in the next month or so.  Maybe then I will have more time to devote to the blog.

It is funny and frustrating that we went the extra mile to treat the lawn for weeds and since the vast majority of the lawn was weeds, we are now left with bare dirt.  This will go down as one of the major backfires of all time.  An attempt to make the lawn look better turned out to be a barren desert.  We are slowly getting it back in shape.  With work taking up a greater amount of time that it normally does my house work has slowed.

While I am talking about work I must mention a complete 180 degree policy shift with regards to social networking.  At work the computer network has many security rules for obvious reasons.  Among them were the blocking of all social networking sites such asTwitterFacebookMyspaceYoutubeFlickr, and a host of web based mail sites.  This week higher lever orders came down reversing this policy.  In fact this policy said in essence that social networking sites are crucial to mission communications.

I have to admit that I was completely shocked, pleased, perplexed, and worried at this policy reversal.  Shocked because I thought I would never happen, pleased because I use them myself, perplexed because the policy seems to go against everything we have heard over the years.  Finally worried because I know there will be abusers.  Most companies handle abusers with a heavy hand by removing this privilege from everyone.  I am convinced that it will not last even though I want it to.  I have often wondered why authority figures take this approach instead of dealing with abusers directly.  The best guess that I can come up with is that policing great numbers of people at the same time is time consuming and expensive.  By making these blanket policies, it is easier to be lazy and save money at the same time.  For the time being I will enjoy being able to check myGmail from work for the first time ever.

I have decided to take a different approach to my behavior on these sites.  For one, I have removed myself from anyone that I work with on all social networking sites.  I not only removed them but I blocked them on Facebook.  This is because I often post on Twitter which updates my Facebook status.  Facebook shows comments of friends and their friends.  I do not want my comments to be held against me at work.  I have removed any reference to my employer from these sites so that I am not representing them on the Internet.  You may ask why I do this.   Well I have a weakness that I am sometimes ashamed of.  I sometimes hear a story on the news that really gets under my skin.  Many times I post my opinion online about that story and it sometimes comes across harshly.  I usually regret posting it after I do it but by then it is too late.  I know I work with a diverse group that range from liberal to conservative and many races.  It is easy to get caught up in the story of the day forgetting there are coworkers that disagree.

For this reason I think it is not wise to follow anyone from your place of employment. You may be friends with one or two individuals and forget that they are friends with other people from work.  Maybe even your boss.  You can easily see the potential for problems.  I have decided that it is not worth the risk.  I know a few people on the Internet that post using a pen name.  They do this not to hide their identity but rather to separate their public life from their employers.  There was a time that I thought they were just being paranoid.  This was until I ran a Google search on my own name and was amazed at how many search results came back, some with pictures of me and my family.  Maybe it is not being paranoid but being wise.  This web site is going to expire soon and I thought about changing the domain to something other than my name.  Is this crazy?  I don’t think so.  If I do, I will leave this one up for a month or so with a link to the new address so those that actually do care enough to stop by from time to time will be able to find it.

I do think it is important to have a brand that is yours but having a distinction from your personal life from your work is also important.  People often ask me why I have my own domain since social networking sites are so prevalent today.  This domain is my brand.  It is my address when Facebook disappears…when Twitter disappears.  I think that it is good to have an online address along with the social networking sites.  Your address can point to the other sites.  Over the years there have been many social sites that have come and gone but the domain makes it easy for your friends and family to find you.  Where most people would not post their home address, they can have their online identity.  Anyway…  I just wanted to explain why I have removed you and blocked you if you were blocked from my Facebook.  There is no offense intended whatsoever.  I know this one was long winded but I have been offline for a while.  Thanks for stopping by.

The Cloud

There is a phrase that is being used more and more these days with reference to remote data storage over the Internet called “Cloud Computing” or “The Cloud” for short.  This phrase is often referring to images we have all seen when someone draws a computer network.  They often draw this cloud in the corner where a person’s network connects.  This cloud is the Internet.  Why do they call it a cloud?  This can be answered by the unknown quantity that the Internet represents.  The Internet has matured to a point that people are looking for more innovative ways to use it.  This just happens to coincide with the dramatic drop in the cost of data storage whether by hard drives or flash drives.

Today a person can buy a hard drive the size that no one could have imagined five years ago for less than $100.00 in some cases.  I have seen two terabyte drives at Wal-Mart.  For those that are unfamiliar with a terabyte, I will have to give you a bit of computer background so you can get some perspective.  Most of us have heard the term “bit” or “bits”.  This is a term referring to a binary digitBinary is nothing more than a different numbering system that is based on two instead of ten.  Most of us know that our decimal numbering system goes up to nine before carrying over to another digit making “10”.  Well binary is the same way except it goes up to one before carrying over another digit.  For example you would count. 1, 10, 11, 100, 101, 110, 111 and so on.  As you can see, it is based on two.  Well a binary digit or bit is the means of measuring data.  For each letter of the alphabet, or number to be expressed, it takes approximately eight binary digits of data, or a byte.  One byte is eight binary digits and is the data required to store one letter of the alphabet, or ASCII character.

As you probably remember the metric system from high school  a kilo is 1000 units of anything.  A mega is 1,000,000 or one million.  A Giga is 1,000,000,000 or one billion units.  A tera is 1,000,000,000,000 or one trillion units of something.  Since data storage is expressed in bytes, this storage of one terabyte is really approximately 1,000,000,000,000 bytes.  This is an enormous number that is difficult visualize.

Now that data storage prices have dropped so much, there are companies offering data storage remotely over the Internet.  In some cases they have services that back up your own data over the Internet in small increments while your Internet is idle.  As we have seen with services like Google Docs, and Windows Live Sky Drive, these services are becoming mainstream.  There are benefits to this because a person may have critical photos, music, or videos on their computer that would be a tragedy if lost.  By storing things remotely, it helps keep them from being lost if a person’s house catches fire or hit by a tornado.  I have been doing this for quite some time with my photos.  I have more than 20,000 photos on my computer and currently over 7,000 of them are stored on Flickr.com.

They refer to this activity as cloud computing and has become a standard term.  The problem is that I am not an ordinary person and have a difficult time seeing the Internet when people say “The Cloud”.  I have two teenage sons that often do things like pass gas as they walk through the house and then tell you that you just walked through their cloud as you walk through the room.  Since this has happened many times, I tend to think unpleasant things when people refer to the cloud.  This is not a good thing because I am around computer enthusiasts on a regular basis. find myself reaching for the Febreeze every time they start talking about cloud computing.  Am I too far gone?  I still hold out hope that one day I will get passed the trauma.  I would like to suggest changing the name so that I can engage in computer speak without thinking of toilets.  How about calling it “The Internet”?

I know that most people from more refined backgrounds are thinking to themselves about a thunderstorm, or even a Spring day when someone refers to clouds.  I guess I could use some more refinement but I am what I am.  It was destined to happen when I was an aircraft maintenance person in the Air Force for many years.  If you have ever been one you probably know what I am talking about.  Being in the military requires you to have some thick skin and have a sense of humor to deal with the long hours of working on the flight line in less than ideal conditions.  I guess I am doomed to being an unrefined Neanderthal incapable of rational thought.  I need to accept who I am.  Can I keep my computer though?

Cable Move

Cable transfer

Back in December 2007 we had an ice storm that we will never forget.  We lost electricity for a week and had a lot of damage to homes, trees, and power lines.  During this ice storm the local power company discovered the pole in our backyard was old and fragile.  A month later, they came out and installed a new pole as you can see on the right.  They transferred all lines over to the new pole except for the cable television line.  With all the cable Internet problems that I have been having lately, Cox Communications have been to our home on several occasions in an attempt to troubleshoot my Internet problems.

During these visits I guess they discovered that their line was still on the old pole.  Well today a guy came out to transfer the cable line over to the new pole.  You can see the new pole on the right now has a stand off brace on the left side of it.  Also you can see where he connected some sort of a ratcheting device on the pole so that tension can be applied to the line to pull it over to the new pole.  After being on the pole for nearly an hour, he came to my front door and told me that he will be back tomorrow with some help.  He said the cable line has so much tension on the line that he cannot pull it over to the new pole without some help.  You can see this pole is on a corner with tension pulling the other way.  Also when the power company installed this new pole, they put it up behind the original pole.  With the pole further back, the wires are too short.  I sure hope he is able to pull it back tomorrow because I have been wanting to get rid of this second pole in our yard for a long time.

It is possible that our move to the new pole is a result of Cox_Will from Twitter.  When he called me on the phone a couple weeks ago, I recall him mentioning that he would put a work order in to have the cable moved over to the new pole.  It has been very unattractive for a long time to have two power poles in one backyard.  It is hard enough to mow the back yard with only one pole back there.  Also since the pole is on a corner, it has a guy wire anchoring the pole to counter the tension of the wires going in the other direction.  I can hardly wait to get the cable moved over to the new pole.  I will be calling OG&E the next day to have the power pole removed from the yard.  Thanks again, Cox!

Back On My Router

Internet Woes

I wanted to give an update on my Internet problems.  You may remember that I posted on February 6, 2010 about how Cox came out to my house and worked to get my persistent Internet drop outs fixed.  In the end, it was determined that my brand new expensive router was failing me.  They brought me out a cheaper Linksys router and my Internet worked flawlessly for over a week.  Yesterday we went back to the store and exchanged the router for a new one pictured above.  Our Internet has been working on the new router for about 24 hours with no problems.  My other router also worked great for two days before failing.  Cox was willing to sell me the Linksys router and that is fine but I paid good money for the D-Link router.  I am not opposed to Cox’s router so much as I am opposed to buying a new router and not using it.

I am hopeful that my router will continue to work long term and then I can let Cox have their router back.  They worked with me diligently to find the problem.  I do want to thank them for the assistance they gave me.   That being said, I do think that when we are paying $50.00 a month for Internet, I do think it should be expected to have dependable service.  Let’s hope that it continues to work.

Update Two Twelve Twenty Ten

What an amazing week.  A week ago it was a sad day when I had my tower taken down and sold.  The WIN System antenna was placed on my dad’s (W5QO) tower about 1/2 mile North of here.  The 443.3 repeater is back on the air at this new location with the antenna mounted on the Southwest side of the tower.  We were concerned how we were going to install the IRLP node on the repeater because there is already another node (3867).  Since both repeaters are now at the same location, they are using the same Internet service.  If you know anything about IRLP, Echolink, or any other streaming service, you know that audio and control commands happen on certain ports.  The ports are the same on all nodes of like systems.  Most people forward those ports to the node using a router.  The problem is that you cannot forward the same ports to more than one computer simultaneously.  This causes a unique problem because simply having a router will not be enough to have more than one node on one router.

We were left with either changing locations of the IRLP node and transmitting the signal to the repeater or getting another Internet account at the same address.  Transmitting the audio to the repeater from a remote location is not the desired method for various reasons.  For one thing the audio is not as clear by doing it this way.  We prefer to have the IRLP node connected directly to the repeater.  Secondly, having the node at a remote location makes moderating it more difficult.  By having it connected directly to the repeater we solve these issues and others.  We did some research and found it would not be that expensive to purchase another Internet Protocol (IP) address for the same Internet service.  This eliminates the problem of forwarding ports to more than one computer.  Now the 443.3 repeater’s node (8440) has its own IP address so that it does not require any ports to be forwarded.  For the purposes of security, we have to block all ports except the ones that are needed.

As of last night, 11 Feb 10, both repeaters are back online with both nodes fully operational.  We remain an affiliate of the WIN System so once the audio levels are set on the 443.3 repeater, the WIN System will return 24 hours a day.  The antenna is currently not as high as it was before it was moved but we are evaluating our options to remedy this limitation.  Either my dad, W5QO, Larry, KD5MAF, or myself will keep you up to date on the operation of the systems.

Thank you,

Paul, K5GLH

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