Sterling’s Back

Hey internet, I’m back doing stuff.

I moved up a few floors into a new apartment with a big second bedroom, and it’s awesome. But really echoey. I could plaster the walls with sound absorbing foam, but I decided I should get an dynamic mic instead. The ATR2100 does XLR and USB (bonus) and also came with a boom arm and pop filter. So I compare it in my echoey office with the MXL990 condenser mic and my GoPro…which apparently has a broken and noisy mic. Probably float trip related.

Enjoy! And CONGRATS MARTY!!!

$2 Million prize for an Off-The-Grid Disaster Recovery Network: Is Ham Radio Gonna Play?

From https://wirelesschallenge.mozilla.org/:

How can we leverage wireless technology to keep people connected to each other and to vital information sources in the aftermath of a disaster where Internet access is unavailable or compromised?

The Off-the-Grid Internet Challenge seeks solutions that can provide connectivity in one of the most challenging situations: the immediate aftermath of a major disaster. When disasters like earthquakes, tsunamis and hurricanes strike, communications networks are often among the first pieces of critical infrastructure to overload or fail, leaving individuals disconnected from one another and from essential services and communications. With a total of $1M in prize money, the Off-the-Grid Internet Challenge seeks solutions that help individuals wirelessly access each other and information services like maps and messaging following a disaster.

WAKE UP HAM RADIO!
THIS IS YOUR TIME TO SHINE!

Now that you’re sick and tired of ham radio after spending all night on a radio during last weekend’s Field Day, here’s another thing to keep you up at night.

It’s not very often that the people of the internet make a direct call to the nature of our hobby to do something novel to promote and advance how we communicate in disasters.

3 days ago, I found this in /r/darknetplan, a subreddit made for planners and developers of the decentralized internet of the future, where internet is shared through individual nodes (mesh net) and centralized services (like Gmail, or Facebook) became decentralized, where data is stored and shared via peer-to-peer connections rather than through a serverfarm.

It was then sent out via the APRS-SIG email list. This is when I realized ham radio has a pretty significant advantage: we’re already there.

http://www.aredn.org/

Well, that was easy. We’ll take our $2 million now. 🙂

Just kidding; it’s not that easy. Applications are open for the $2 Million WINS Challenges until October, 15 2017. Even though AREDN seemingly has this in the bag, it’s up to you to actually bring it to light.

If there’s no amateur radio presence in this challenge, I think I’m going to quit the hobby. For real. I would do it, but I have a day job and a wedding to plan. Don’t kill the messenger!

With that said, while this competition is proceeding, I strongly suggest (or hope) the media barons of amateur radio (ARRL, AR Newsline, podcast media, etc) to talk about, support, sponsor, if not join forces with Mozilla and their WINS challenge. ARRL is in a very prime spot to get some facetime with one of the next generations of hams – those developing decentralized, off-grid wired and wireless networks.

Also, hi again; it’s been a while. I moved apartments, traveled a bit, and had a lot of ham radio downtime. I’m back though. I’ll probably start back up with the Phasing Line Podcast, if Marty still remembers who I am 😛

The Revenge of Radio: Why Radio Still Matters

When throwing trash away one week, I noticed a cast-away turntable and stereo in the trash room, heaped atop broken office chairs, unwanted furniture, and someone’s torn bathroom door. I had an innate urge to make this trash my treasure, with zero consideration of whether or not it’s broken, or if it was accidentally thrown away (lol) or for the very fact that I own zero vinyl records. Why the heck would I need a turntable?!

Why did I take this?

So it’s been sitting on that table for about 2 months now, and I haven’t done a thing with it. Until today, when I took a photo of it.

I wouldn’t have taken this photo and written this blog post if it wasn’t for listening to the Art of Manliness podcast titled “#289: The Revenge of Analog.” It was an interview with David Sax, author of the book The Revenge of Analog.

David writes about how people in the age where it’s weird if you don’t own a smartphone, really fast data and wifi is cheap and available, and everyone thinks that books, writing notes, listening to music on physical media, and face-to-face contact will disappear.

It hasn’t. In fact vinyl records is becoming a billion dollar industry. Moleskine and Field Notes notebooks and fountain pen companies are realizing a huge boom after the idea of bullet journaling took off. People scoff at hipsters writing on typewriters, but actually it’s really catching on. Everyone’s scratching their heads, wondering why Surface tablets, kindles, Spotify, Evernote and Siri hasn’t completely taken over the archaic, menial tasks of writing, reading, and listening to music.

It’s actually surprising why they haven’t – the digital life is complicated. To take a note with Microsoft Onenote, you have to

  1. Have Onenote installed (that takes money)
  2. Open Onenote
  3. Learn how OneNote saves notes, where they’re stored, what tabs and pages are, where the drawing tools are….etc
  4. Take a note.

To take a note on paper, you have to…

  1. Get paper
  2. Get pen
  3. Write note

It’s simpler. Plus, writing improves your memory retention on whatever you write about. With books and music it’s a little different though. Media could not be easier to consume nowadays. Ask Alexa to play Come on Eileen, and she will. Read any book on your screen, anywhere. No fumbling with a CD and it skipping, no scratching of records, and most of all, no junk cluttering every bit of your living space.

Actually those inconveniences and annoyances are making a comeback. People naturally steer towards real books, records, and notes – they’re a real object. You can give a book to someone as a gift, and that reminds the giftee about the gifter…an Amazon giftcard doesn’t have the same affect. It’s also a physical “billboard” of the personality of it’s owner; a bookshelf full of electrical engineering texts, along with a bunch of books on Van Gogh, or a box of records containing everything from Elvis to The Chipmunks Christmas Special….these things tell you about a person that have been leaving peoples’ homes. Plus, it’s really awkward to ask someone on the bus “what are you reading?” when they’re on their phone; if they’re reading a physical book, it’s much easier to start a conversation and share a common interest without having to probe.

So it’s not because of nostalgia and hipsterdom…it’s because of necessity. I now realize why I got the turntable from the trash room. Because vinyl brings the fun back in music that Spotify took away.

What’s this got to do with ham radio?

It’s got everything to do with ham radio. Nearly every person has a cell phone; and that cell phone came from a long history of advancements in radio technology.

What I really heard when listening to the podcast was that the same group of people buying vinyl might be interested in de-technologizing their cell phone too.

For example, right now there are eleven chat apps on my iPhone. iMessage, Facebook Messenger, Groupme, Telegram, IRCCloud, Zello, Skype, Whatsapp, Slack, Hangouts, and Snapchat. Yesterday I deleted Signal and Allo since I never used them, but overall I’m really annoyed at keeping up with all of these, but I have to to maintain contact with everyone close to me.

This lead me to a random thought – I have 2 good friends who have their ham radio license in my building…what if we all just had ham radio’s on in each of our apartments? Sure, it’s more annoying to deal with a radio – frequencies, antennas, battery, power, CTCSS, interference, etc. – but it’s the most fundamental and efficient method of talking to each other at a distance.

Does this mean CB radio will start to creep back in lieu of Google Maps and Waze? Will ham radio experience a boon of licensee’s who are in the hobby just to practice practical communications? Will FRS/GMRS/MURS also become more popular?  I really think so, and it’s something our leadership (ARRL) needs to look at and address in the next few years.

I for one think vinyl is pretty awesome. Radio too.