Spaceweather.Com Wants You!

Brad, KG6IOE, spotted this recently on SpaceWeather.Com and posted it to the Glow Bugs mailing list:

*CALLING ALL HAMS:* No hobby is more sensitive to solar activity and space weather than ham radio. So here is a call to ham radio operators: Is spaceweather.com meeting your needs? We welcome your suggestions to improve our website. Submit ham-friendly ideas here: webmaster@spaceweather.com.

New Spectrum Allocation Chart

No ham shack should be without a spectrum allocation chart. Now, Tektronix, the oscilloscope maker, is now offering a new one. Here’s what their website has to say:

New Worldwide Spectrum Allocations Poster Request Form

Thanks your interest in our NEW poster. It provides a color-coded view of the worldwide spectrum allocations for all ITU (International Telecommunications Union) regions. It’s the only graphical poster that shows the international spectrum allocations in an easy-to-find format.

There’s a form to fill out, so that they can get your address, and the poster will be winging its way to you.

Learn Digital Logic on the Web

One topic that a lot of people have some trouble with when taking the Extra Class exam is digital logic. I think one of the reasons for this is that while it is electronics, the logic element is different from the other types of technology we deal with in ham radio.

To help students learn the concepts of digital logic, the Department of Informatics at the University of Hamburg has developed the Hamburg Design System, or HADES for short. HADES is an object-oriented, all-Java, Beans- and Web-based, visual design and simulation environment.

With this system, you can play with digital logic without actually building any circuits or connecting up any test equipment. There are canned demonstrations, such as this digital clock, or you can build your own circuits with HADES’ graphical editor, library of component models, and the discrete-event-based simulation engines.

Random Links

Here are some more stuff from the Internet. I was going to do separate posts on these items, but decided I’m probably not going to get around to doing that, so here they are……….Dan

  • More wired Chinese tuning into amateur radio: Chinese amateurs now number 90,000 and growing. Thanks to KA3DRR.
  • KB2GSD, SK. TWIAR story on Walter Cronkite, KB2GSD, available as MP3 download.
  • Daycounter Engineering Services Engineering Calculators. Ralph, AA8RK sent me the link to this page of engineering calculators, but he gives the credit to Shannon Herron for finding it.
  • Russian Radio. These are apparently electronic versions of the Russian Radio magazine, but I don’t have the Deja Vu viewer needed to open them, nor do I read Russian. :)
  • Old–really old–computers. Fritz, N4JVP, posted a link to the British Computer Conservation Society to the Glowbugs mailing list. The CCS is restoring several 1950s computers that were built using relays and vacuum tubes.

Is Your Website Safe for Kids?

On the ARRL PR mailing list, Woody, K3VSA, writes:

One thing almost all ham radio groups have prided themselves on is that we’re open to all ages, a fact I always stress in my PIO work. In fact, kids have always been a major source of recruitment of new hams. That being the case, we may be cutting ourselves off if our web sites are not specifically rated as being appropriate for all age groups.

I’m not a professional web developer, so forgive me if the information I’m giving here is already old news to everybody but me, but I just found out about this and think it’s important enough to pass along. It’s my understanding that some search engines can be configured to prevent displaying web sites that have not been certified as not containing “objectionable content.”

Such certification is free and easily done. The tool I used to certify the web pages I maintain is called “SafeSurf ” (http://www.safesurf.com/). You answer some questions about your site, and it generates code which you insert into the header section of your page(s). This code lets some search engines know the appropriateness of your site. You can also download an image of their logo to add to your page body. The site gives you urls to several web site listing services that your being registered with might increase your chances of being found.

As a parent myself, I would certainly feel better knowing my daughter is looking at a site that’s been certified as containing no “adult oriented” material. Just FYI, I am not associated with SafeSurf in any capacity other than as a user, and I receive no remuneration from them of any kind.

When I asked if I could post this to my blog, Woody replied:

By all means! If you want to include an example of what it looks like on a website, go to Triangle ATV Association website, which is one of the websites I maintain. At the bottom is the SafeSurf logo (including hot link), and you can look at the source code for the page and see the META statement in the header that the search engines can see.

More Stuff I Gleaned from Twitter

Here are thee more items I discovered via Twitter:

  • Ham Mag #6. The June 2009 issue of this free electronic magazine is now available for download (it’s a PDF file). This issue includes articles on a QRP transceiver for 20m, a 10m rubber duck antenna for the FT-817, and Chuck Blaney, a WWII radio operator.
  • Why Join a Ham Club? This article from the ARRL website makes the case for joining a ham club. It could be a little more detailed, but hopefully it will get more newcomers to join clubs.
  • Tesla Coil @NLL 3/3. This video shows Greg Leyh’s 40kW 11-foot secondary Tesla Coil operating at NLL in San Francisco for DorkbotSF Jun 4 2009. Very impressive.

My Twitter id is kb6nu. If you follow me, you’ll get tweets notifying you of new blog posts, plus various musings on band conditions and the contacts I make.

What I Learned Twittering Yesterday

If you’re an Internet geek, like me, you know that Twittter is all the rage lately. It’s sort of a combination of broadcast e-mail and BBS with an immediate RSS feed.

On Twitter, you follow people and have followers. When people you follow enter a post, which is limited to 140 characters, you immediately get that post. When you enter a post—sometimes called a “tweet”—your followers get the post. Sounds crazy, but it’s kind of cool and fun, too.

The trick is following people you have something interesting to say. The flip side, of course, is to contribute interesting stuff yourself. As kb6nu, I have 175 follwers and am following 101 people.

At an rate, yesterday, I got two tweets that I found interesting:

  • HamCon podcast. Jerry Taylor, KD0BIK, podcasts about his experiences at HamCon in CO.
  • Field Day Tips. Field Day is not supposed to be solely a contest—and it’s not, really—but it does have a big contest component and many hams who aren’t contesters participate. Here are some tips for those people.

    Tip #10, “Go for as many bonus points as you possibly can,” for example, is great advice. If you think about it, a 100-point bonus, such as copying the W1AW bulletin, counts for as much as 100 phone contacts.

These are two examples of links to websites, but Twitter can also bring you information on band conditions and ham radio events. If you’re already a Twitter user, you can follow me by going to www.twitter.com/kb6nu.

Make Magazine Makes it to Dayton

One of Make: magazine’s guest bloggers, is, as it turns out, a ham radio operator. Not only that, she’s female and 22–not your typical ham.

Read her Make: report on Dayton here.

Read her personal blog posting on Dayton here.

What Do You Think About the ARRL’s Website?

Yesterday, I got an interesting call from the marketing company that’s working on a redesign of the ARRL website. I had an interesting chat with a young woman there who asked a bunch of questions about how I use the site, but I’m guessing that this wasn’t a typical user interview. For one thing, I’d bet that I was the only one she interviewed that develops and maintains websites for a living. I may also be the only one who’s run for an ARRL board position.

I asked her quite a few questions myself, trying to get an idea of the direction that the redesign was going to take. My guess is that very few of the other people she interviewed asked those same questions.

Now, I don’t know how you feel about it, but I think the ARRL website is OK. The design could use a little updating, but that’s pretty much always the case. I’m of the opinion that the graphic design of a website should be redone every two or three years.

The navigation could perhaps be simplified a little, but there’s so much information there that simplifying it will be difficult. I have used the site so much that I rarely have difficulty finding what I want. When I do, I use the search engine, which does a pretty good job of finding what I’m looking for.

The biggest problem that I see with the ARRL website is that much of the information is out of date. The two sections that I’m most familiar with are the clubs section (I used to be the Affiliated Club Coordinator for the MI Section) and the volunteer instructor sections. The content of both of those sections is showing its age.

This is really the crux of the problem. A fancy, new design is not going to solve the content problem. I’ve designed websites for clients that languished because they didn’t work at keeping the content up-to-date and useful. I fear that the new ARRL site, once launched, will meet the same fate. It will have a great new design, but the same old content.

When confronted with this, ARRL staffers usually fall back on the old saw, “We just don’t have enough resources.” I don’t doubt this, but when I volunteered my services to work on the instructor section, I was basically ignored. I said this in my election campaign, and I’ll reiterate it here. The ARRL must find a way to get the members more involved. My feeling is that there are lots of talented people out there who would be more than willing to work on ARRL projects, but the headquarters staff are just unwilling to get them involved. I’ve never been able to figure out why exactly, but my theory is that Newington has a severe case of the “not invented here” syndrome.

We also discussed how the ARRL might include some social networking features into its new website. This really is something that the ARRL should jump on, imho. The ARRL website should have a feature I’ll call “hambook,” something akin to facebook. Actually, there’s probably not even any need to develop this, but rather somehow use the facebook API to let facebook do most of the work. There are also other websites out there with social networking tools, such as ning.com, that the ARRL could use to promote social networking amongst hams.

The ARRL might even want to get crazy and do something along the lines of Twitter. After all, aren’t the DX spotting websites just an earlier, very specialized form of “tweeting”?Somehow, we should be able to expand on that concept and do some interesting things with the packet network and/or D-Star. This is obviously still a partly-baked idea.

At any rate, I’d love to hear from you on what you think about the current ARRL website and what kind of features the new website should have. I’m going to email the company working on the new website and maybe they’ll even monitor this post to hear what you have to say.