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Comment: Re:Computers aren't interesting anymore -- finally (Score 1) 358

by John Goerzen (#38141366) Attached to: Ham Radio Licenses Top 700,000, An All-Time High

I remember the days as a child playing with my electronics project kit from RadioShack. It seemed that it could do everything - burglar alarms, sirens, even simple radios. Even let you accidentally wire things up in a short and cause some batteries to burst...

It's been interesting to watch RadioShack. They morphed from the good place to get connectors, resistors, and fun things into a run of the mill phone and TV shop. Or did they?

Wired ran an interesting article called The Lost Tribes of RadioShack talking about a potential revival of the maker hobbies. I blogged about it too (Once, We Were Makers). There is one local franchise RadioShack that has a huge amateur section in the back, complete with cable by the foot, antennas, hams on staff, amazing service, etc.

What I'm trying to say is: You're exactly right. I used to love to tinker. I thought I didn't anymore, outside of programming. I learned last year, when I got my ham radio license, that I was wrong. Amateur radio is just Open Source in hardware.

There is no accomplishment in being in Kansas and talking to someone in Japan via the Internet or telephone. I'm sure I do this without even realizing it frequently. How about doing the same using only a $7 antenna and no third-party infrastructure at all? No satellites, no buried cables, no telephone or cable companies -- just my rig and the one in Japan?

I realize it's not at all unique to be able to do this among the amateur radio crowd, but it still gives me a thrill. I love it.

Comment: Re:Book for a newbie? (Score 1) 358

by John Goerzen (#38141258) Attached to: Ham Radio Licenses Top 700,000, An All-Time High

Yes. Well, in a sense, yes. The handbook is more a reference book. Giant, and frankly, overwhelming to a newbie. You need to know where to start. Even if the License Manual is a subset of the handbook, it will help focus on where to start (with an emphasis on the things needed to get the first license), help explain WHY people care about them (which a reference work won't), and also has some sidebars on what people do with their new licenses.

Having passed the tests and been active with the hobby, I have the handbook close by and never refer to the license manual anymore. BUT - when I first got started - it was with the license manual, and the handbook wouldn't have helped me much there.

Comment: Here's why to get involved with ham radio, and how (Score 2) 358

by John Goerzen (#38139752) Attached to: Ham Radio Licenses Top 700,000, An All-Time High

I've seen a lot of comments here ask "why bother, given the Internet?" That attitude kept me away from ham radio for years, too. I wrote up a bit about what changed my mind:

And here's a page with some information on how to get started:

I also recommend some books and exam practice sites on that page.

Incidentally, another aspect of amateur radio is packet radio - AX.25, which is a networking protocol similar to, but distinct from, the TCP/IP stack. Guess which OS has the best support built into the kernel? I've had a lot of fun with packet, both in its traditional and APRS (positioning beacons) forms.

Comment: Re:Not totally accurate (Score 2) 358

by John Goerzen (#38139684) Attached to: Ham Radio Licenses Top 700,000, An All-Time High

I got my tech and my general in July 2010, and my extra a few months later. I have seen NONE of this.

I've experienced the community as tremendously positive, supportive, and encouraging. Sure, I've had encouragement to learn CW -- which I'm working on -- but only as a "here are some other great things you can do if you take this step." Not a grousing, grumpy sort of thing.

I know there are that sort of people out there. Maybe the locals in Kansas are friendly. Maybe the thousands of QSOs (conversations) I've had on HF have somehow been randomly lucky. One person mentioned the grumps on 80m phone - that band has a reputation for attracting that type of people, so I simply avoid it most of the time. Problem solved.


+ - All of Gopherspace Available for Download

Submitted by
An anonymous reader writes "Cory Doctorow tells us that in 2007, John Goerzen scraped every gopher site he could find (gopher was a menu-driven text-only precursor to the Web; I got my first online gig programming gopher sites). He saved 780,000 documents, totalling 40GB. Today, most of this is offline, so he's making the entire archive available as a .torrent file; the compressed data is only 15GB. Wanna host the entire history of a medium? Here's your chance!

Go get yourself a piece of pre-Internet history here!"

Comment: Re:No surprise (Score 3, Informative) 435

by John Goerzen (#29123433) Attached to: The Decline of the Landline

Where is this cell phone with less downtime?

I can think of ONCE in the last ten years where a landline hasn't been working. And that because the entire town was knocked out due to a severed cable (and cellphones were knocked out too.)

Cell phone outages are a daily occurrence.

And what problems for the maintenance guy? It's two pieces of copper. What is mysteriously failing for you all the time?

Landlines, for me, Just Work.

Comment: Not Just for embedded devices (Score 3, Insightful) 565

by John Goerzen (#27852081) Attached to: Debian Switching From Glibc To Eglibc

I think there is some shallow reading going on here.

eglibc has a number of features that are useful in general. It happens that embedded systems have a strong need for these features, but they are generally useful as well. I've discussed it with one of the Debian glibc maintainers, and he said that eglibc is basically a patchset atop glibc implementing new features and fixing bugs. I think of it similar to the relationship between and OpenOffice. Distributions have to fix these bugs anyway, because upstream won't. So why not adopt a standard patchset to do so collectively?

This has no implications for a change of focus away from the desktop or anything like that.


Roland Piquepaille Dies 288

Posted by kdawson
from the in-memoriam dept.
overheardinpdx writes "I'm sad to report that longtime HPC technology pundit Roland Piquepaille (rpiquepa) died this past Tuesday. Many of you may know of him through his blog, his submissions to Slashdot, and his many years of software visualization work at SGI and Cray Research. I worked with Roland 20 years ago at Cray, where we both wrote tech stories for the company newsletter. With his focus on how new technologies modify our way of life, Roland was really doing Slashdot-type reporting before there was a World Wide Web. Rest in peace, Roland. You will be missed." The notice of Roland's passing was posted on the Cray Research alumni group on Linked-In by Matthias Fouquet-Lapar. There will be a ceremony on Monday Jan. 12, at 10:30 am Paris time, at Père Lachaise.

Gravity is a myth, the Earth sucks.