Archive for category Things that are Busted

What is a Voicelid?

On the ham radio bands, a voicelid is an operator who is transmitting voice within, or partially within, a portion of the band traditionally reserved for data.

For instance, the USB carrier frequencies 14.230 MHz and 14.233 MHz have traditionally been reserved for slow scan television operations (also known as “SSTV”) for more than 50 years now:


20 Meter ARO Band

20 Meter ARO Band


So with regard to these frequencies, USB voice operation above 14.227 MHz (presuming 3 KHz voice bandwidth, which is generous) and below 14.236 MHz self-identifies the operator as a voicelid, as would (non-traditional, to say the least) LSB carrier point operation below 14.239 MHZ and above 14.230 MHz.

This is true both during non-contest and contest periods. Contests provide no legitimate excuse to intentionally interfere with others — that’s not radiosport. That’s simply rude, as well as outright forbidden.

This does not apply to USB voice transmissions on 14.230 or 14.233 that are actually SSTV related — those are part of normal SSTV operations.

So take a little time to learn about traditional non-voice allocations on all of the bands you operate within, and carefully respect the tiny bits of bandwidth they occupy. This is one of those important bits of operational knowledge that distinguishes the skilled radio operators from the unskilled ones.

#voicelid #sstv

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Hey, IAU: Some Reasonable Definitions

The IAU has, in relatively recent years, been fiddling with the definitions of what objects such as planets are. Quite aside from disrupting everyone’s general understanding for no good reason whatsoever, they did this very poorly.

Here’s a set of criteria for defining a body as a planet:

A Planet…

Planet Pluto

Planet Pluto

  • …is a natural object, such as a rocky ball or a ball of gas, or combination thereof, in hydrostatic equilibrium, which is to say it has enough mass to have pulled itself into a long-term stable oblate spheroid (like Earth) or sphere.
  • …isn’t in a long-term stable orbit around a significantly larger object of a similar nature to itself (in other words, it’s not a moon.)
  • …hasn’t lit up its own fusion reaction

That may not be a perfect set of criteria, but I submit that it is at least close. Also much closer than the IAU’s profound lapse of judgement.


Planet Ceres

Planet Ceres


So yes: Pluto is (still) a planet. It really isn’t planet nine; There’s Ceres, a 950 km diameter planet located in the asteroid belt, between Mars and Jupiter, for instance (at the left) which makes Pluto (at least) planet ten as counted outwards from our star; but Pluto is definitely a planet.

Unlike, for instance, Vesta (below), which is just as clearly an isolated fragment of something larger:

Vesta

Vesta

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Fix OSX’s weird (mis-)mapping of the home and end keys

So, one of the things that drove me nuts about MacOS/OSX for years is Apple’s non-standard mapping of the home and end keyboard keys to start-of-document and end-of-document.

The non-standard key combinations CMD+ and CMD+ are used to perform BOL and EOL instead.

Here’s the problem: That is not how it’s been done on other platforms that long pre-date MacOS/OSX or even the Mac itself. I typically switch between multiple operating systems every day, and consequently, coming back to MacOS/OSX fouled up my typing/editing every time. So I went looking for a solution. I found one in Karabiner.
Read the rest of this entry »

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Some answers on Climate Change

Someone asked some questions on climate change elsewhere, and I took some time to answer them. I’m cross-posting the questions and my responses here for the benefit of any of my visitors who might have similar questions:


Why should I support fighting climate change?

Do you have kids? Are there any kids in your near family, or do friends have kids you care about, or (reaching, but) do you care about kids in general? Because if this isn’t stopped, they’re going to be at least miserable, and possibly much worse.

What action should I take to help reduce climate change?

Change, if it’s coming at all, must come from both the top and the bottom.
Starting with your own actions… drive less, set your home to warmer in the summer and cooler in the winter, keep appliances off that don’t need to be on. Do this even if you’re in an area with hydro or other non-stank power, because power you don’t use can be shared to other areas that may not be hydro or other relatively clean power. Unless you’re 100% power independent, for instance, if you run your own isolated solar installation.

How much money is it going to cost me?

Your own actions will probably save you money, potentially quite a bit, but how much depends on your present circumstances. Next is getting your representatives — senators, congresscritters, the president — to take political action, which can be much more effective, but is comparably much more difficult to achieve. They can fund the science and technology that will be needed to counter the effects, and they can set emissions regulations that can slow the onset of the more serious problems somewhat, thus providing more time for the science and tech folk to create and implement remedial counters.

What will happen if I do nothing?

In the nearer term… food shortages as crops have to be moved to more northern temperate bands into the hands of farmers who are unfamiliar with them, and as ocean acidification increases and blows out the balance of life there, resulting in changes that may in fact turn out to be catastrophic — a lot of the world depends upon the ocean as a food source. If it’s unavailable to them, they’re going to want the other foodstuffs, and that will change the market price and availability — not in a good way. Violence is definitely possible over this issue. Harsher weather, generally speaking warmer and carrying more intense storms. In the longer term, some ocean rise, which will cause people in low-lying coastal areas to relocate, which will (a) reduce the available real estate people can live on, and (b) destroy or very seriously inconvenience all businesses that are presently operating in those locations.

End game… probably this will get solved, IMHO, but it may be well into some of the above problems before it is if our politicians and citizens don’t get after it. If it isn’t solved… might be pretty much apocalyptic within a few hundred years. Worst case… runaway warming… ever look at the climate of Venus?

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I’ve figured out politics

Often, we look at the activities of politicians and we fail to understand what they’re doing, or why they’re doing it, or both. The politicians themselves would generally like you to believe they’re playing 4-dimensional chess.

But that’s definitely not it. After many decades of observation, I’ve learned that what is actually going on is:

The game is checkers.
Angry checkers.
Being played by monkeys.
On a Go board.
With poop.

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Some observations about the news

I think it’s important to keep in mind that $$$-based journalism tends to have built-in mechanisms for all kinds of spin and/or information hiding. This is useful when considering not just what we are reading, but how and why it managed to get in front of our eyes. The following list, while not complete, serves to highlight some of the filtering going on:

  • The advertisers extend yea/nay force directly to the owner / publisher / board with $$$
  • The owner / publisher / board extends yea/nay force downwards to the editors and reporters
  • The editors extend yea/nay force downward to the reporters and the stories
  • The reporters extend yea/nay force to the choice of stories
  • The editors apply tone force to the stories
  • The reporters apply tone force to the stories
  • The reader’s reactions apply force upwards and this will slowly but strongly moderate the tone of the stories as the nature of the audience makes itself clear to the journalistic enterprise.
  • In some enterprises, the political correctness of a story will affect selection and tone
  • In other enterprises, backing agendas will affect selection and tone
  • The nature of the story – for example, “if it bleeds, it leads” can force other stories out, because drama=$$$ and there’s only X amount of time/energy to cover this or that, and advertisers primarily pay for eyes, and journalism, unfortunately, almost always devolves to a $$$-counting undertaking.

Long story short, the news that reaches us may not be the news that is most important to us, the coverage that highlights the details we should really know, or even remotely even-handed. All those pressures and factors are there almost all of the time, in almost all of the news.

On top of this, we may harbor various biases that are based on misinformation, social indoctrination (the long resistance to LGBT is one example of a source of this, as is the so-called “drug war”), and dogma from from various sources.

IMHO, much thinking is called for. My observation is that there isn’t nearly enough thinking being done by many. :/

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OSX Sierra crash recovery

Well, that was unpleasant.

Without any warning, my Mac Pro began failing to redraw web pages. Presuming that Safari had become unstable, I commanded a reboot.

The reboot process got to 1/2 progress bar, then the machine shut down. Repeated several attempts, same results. Not just Safari then.

Time to recover. First I slapped a new HD in there, then used CMD-R (hold while powering up, keep holding until you get a dialog) to initiate recovery using the First Aid application from the original drive. The drive checked out okay as far as file integrity, but apparently (hopefully) the OS had developed some damaged boot settings. So. Time to recover to a new drive. I have a time machine backup on a different drive, but as it looked like the original drive was okay according to the tests the disk utility made on it, I decided to try to recover right from there. So off I went, installing OS X 10.12.6 on the new HD.

The dialog initially told me that 5 minutes were remaining. That stayed up for an hour without any visible changes in the progress bar. So I opened the log window (it’s in the Window menu of the first aid window) and saw that the progress value was at about .02%; 1% is complete (trust me, it’s not 100 as you would expect. .5% is halfway done.) It was changing, but very slowly. So I knew I had quite a wait ahead of me.

Twelve hours later, the install finally put up the OS X setup dialog. The progress bar dutifully moved from 5 minutes to 4, 3, 2, 1 and zero (Over 12 hours!?!?) as the percentage indicated in the install log window climbed towards 1%. I mean, come on. Really? I know Apple’s been lagging behind on software quality, but… really? This was over a 30 Mb DSL connection, btw. I can (maybe) understand the trickle rate of the download (Apple’s so poor they can’t afford a good connection, as all know) but the 5 minute indication… that’s just pitiful, shows a serious lack of QC.

Anyway… the recovery went well enough, if glacially, that the machine can be rebooted now, and it looks like most things are intact (not everything… recent file lists are clear, for instance) so I guess my griping can’t legitimately rise above some discontented mumbling.

It was a very unpleasant experience, though. If you have to reinstall Sierra, be aware that you can expect the dialog to bald-faced lie about the install time, and I suggest you open the log from the Window menu so you can see what actual progress is being made.

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Kenwood and Yaesu, where are you?

ICOM’s R-8500, IC-7300, IC-7610 and IC-9700 are making huge impacts on AROs everywhere. This is no surprise to those of us familiar with SDR technology; older analog radio designs simply cannot offer the kinds of performance advantages a good SDR design can.

However, one thing these radios from ICOM have in common are some poor design choices; spectrum span choices are crippled compared to a center/demodulator tuning scheme; spectrums and waterfall displays that are insufficiently adjustable; noise blankers in the least useful portion of the signal path; insufficient “knobbiness”, so that the user interface of the radio is a great deal more clumsy than it actually needs to be.

The opportunity for Kenwood and Yaesu is clear: there’s an opening here to step in and knock ICOM off the hill they climbed up on.

Imagine a stand-alone SDR transceiver where:

  • You could conveniently place the spectrum/waterfall anywhere
  • You could adjust the amplitude/level of the waterfall and spectrum separately
  • The noise blanker reduced the noise on the display as well as in the audio
  • The display was capable of high resolution output to a monitor
  • Transmit pre-distortion provided very high quality TX
  • Important controls were given their own front panel placement
  • Full mouse/trackball integration was standard
  • Broadband IQ output was available for external use
  • Multiband EQ and compression / limiting for TX audio was provided

These are just some of the obvious places where ICOM’s radios, thus far, have fallen woefully short.

Yaesu? Kenwood? Where art thou?

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