Category Archives: Communications

Radioactive Pottery from the Future Past

This Mound-day takes us beyond some stars, to another world with a volcano and savage primitives. And some bad travelers from Earth. But first, some literary and scientific history.

Classic Jules Verne stories, From the Earth to the Moon & Around the Moon (Wordsworth Classics)

Quotes by Tsiolkovsky

“The Earth is the cradle of mankind, but mankind cannot stay in the cradle forever.”

“I do not remember how it got into my head to make the first calculations related to rocket. It seems to me the first seeds were planted by famous fantaseour, J. Verne.”

“First, inevitably, the idea, the fantasy, the fairy tale. Then, scientific calculation. Ultimately, fulfillment crowns the dream.”

From Space.com, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky: Russian Father of Rocketry.
Konstantin Tsiolkosky O'Neil Cylinder

I was listening to a 1950 episode of a science fiction radio show, Dimension X, on Sirius XM during my commute, and thought a plot point using uranium based color on pottery to defuse an atom bomb standoff was ridiculous. Much as I enjoy Spider-Man, it sounded crazy, like getting superpowers from a radioactive spider bite.

Since my listening to the show was interrupted by refueling, I searched for the episode online when I got home, found it on YouTube as audio over a still frame in a video format… The video was taken down, but the audio for Episode 17 is on the following list and can be played from there, https://archive.org/details/OTRR_Dimension_X_Singles. I also found something surprising during that search.

Radioactive material was indeed used to make bright colored pottery! How Radioactive Is Fiesta Ware? Would You Eat Off It?

Also, now we’re getting closer to warp drive. The theoretical basis has changed from being completely impractical due to excessive power requirements to something plausible. The first modest experiments are being done now. At an estimated 10 times the speed of light, some stars could eventually be only a few weeks away. Can we finally break the speed of light? Nasa breakthrough suggests Star Trek’s ‘warp drives’ may not only be possible – but practical.

One aspect of classic radio is how non-politically-correct it gets sometimes. In this case, alien natives are referred to as “gooks” by a stern boss from Earth. I bet you’re wondering if that insensitive fellow gets his comeuppance.

Episode 17 – The Potters Of Firsk.

First broadcast 28 July, 1950.

Stars Karl Weber, Wendell Holmes and Raymond Edward Johnson.

Dimension X was an NBC radio program broadcast from April 8, 1950 to September 29, 1951. The first 13 episodes were broadcast live, and the remainder were pre-recorded.

Dimension X was not the first adult science fiction series on radio, but the acquisition of previously published stories immediately gave it a strong standing with the science fiction community, as did the choice of well established, respected writers in the field such as Isaac Asimov, Robert Bloch, Ray Bradbury, Fredric Brown, Robert A. Heinlein, Murray Leinster, H. Beam Piper, Frank M. Robinson, Clifford D. Simak, William Tenn, Jack Vance, Kurt Vonnegut, Jack Williamson and Donald A. Wollheim.

Ernest Kinoy and George Lefferts adapted most of the stories and also provided original scripts.

In this episode, ‘The Potters of Firsk’, written by Jack Vance and adapted by Ernest Kinoy, a liaison officer from Earth is caught between a steely planetary administrator and a fanatical alien cult who kidnap and murder people to use as raw materials for their sacred pottery.

Visit http://www.scifimike.com – the sci-fi blog covering audio, literature, TV & film.

The video was taken down, but the audio for Episode 17 is on the following list and can be played from there, https://archive.org/details/OTRR_Dimension_X_Singles.

Using Satellites When HF (Shortwave) Is Down

This Sat-ellite-urday product ships from and is sold by Amazon.com. From the description ((with notes)).

Baofeng at eBay

High / Low Power Settings (4W/1W) Programmable Amateur Radio

Frequency Range: 65-108 MHz (Only commercial FM radio reception) VHF: 136-174 MHz(Rx/Tx). UHF: 400-520 MHz(Rx/Tx)
((You can listen to FM while waiting for communications))

Customize Channel Names, the Boot Display and More by Using the PC03 FTDI Programming Cable

1500mAh Battery; Broadband (Wide) 25khz / Narrowband (Narrow) 12.5khz Selectable

AUTO Keypad Lock, Dual Band, Dual Display and Dual Standby

The radio works great on direct simplex, on local repeater systems, some of which may have Echolink and similar internet voice connections, and you can work satellites. All this on such a cheap device without a phone bill. Welcome to amateur (ham) radio.

Baofeng radio vhf/uhf transceiver
BaoFeng UV-5R Dual Band Two Way Radio (Black)

Last Sat-ellite-urday, we covered using HF (shortwave) when satellites were unavailable, and presumably phones and internet, too. This week, let’s say phones and internet are off, maybe simply because the power is down, but the “atmospherics” on the shortwave bands are also not favorable. This was a problem before satellites, mentioned in movies about Pearl Harbor, for example.

Even in an EMP scenario, if you wrapped protected gear in cardboard and aluminum foil (seriously!), satellites might have been safe on the other side of the globe and are just now passing overhead for you to use.

Description of the video, First contact via amateur radio satellite, also embedded below, from Christian Jacobs‘ YouTube channel:

“In this video I make my first amateur radio satellite contact via SO-50 (145.850 MHz uplink, 436.795 MHz downlink +/- Doppler shift, http://www.amsat.org/?page_id=1015).”

“The new Yagi antenna was made from aluminium rods (6 mm in diameter). Measurements were calculated using John Drew (VK5DJ)’s Yagi Calculator program (http://www.vk5dj.com/yagi.html), which runs fine under Wine in Linux. The radio is a Baofeng UV-5R, connected to the antenna by some RG-58 50 Ohm coax and a PL-259 plug.”

“The Gpredict program (http://gpredict.oz9aec.net/) was used to predict the satellite pass time.”
Interesting note: This is one of the few YouTube videos to select the Creative Commons Attribution license (reuse allowed).

Drama In Social Media Video Land (Demonetization)

The Two’s-day (relationships, as opposed to travel To’s-day) Amazon product is a pre-order of the Kindle edition of Lilly Singh’s new book, How To Be A Bawse.

Her YouTube channel is approaching 10 million subscribers, so she might be able to learn you somethin’.

Before we get back to Lilly Singh’s advice for starting a YouTube channel, let’s look at the latest kerfuffle between YouTube and some creators, for example on Computing Forever’s channel, YouTube Demonetization: Why I Disagree with Armoured Skeptic (explicit language), in which the pretext of “advertiser friendliness” is claimed to cover up an agenda of outrageous bias, censorship and arbitrary disabling of monetized ads on disfavored channels. One remedy suggested is using Patreon is get fan subscribers to monetize videos.

I know some very high traffic YouTube gun channels, such as hickok45, have established a new presence on a gun friendly video platform, Full30.com.

Many YouTube creators have advice videos. For example, another creator, Alisha Marie, How to Start a Successful Youtube Channel!! recommends cameras, editing software, and content tips.

Because of her great success, Lilly “The Bawse” was asked by film star Dwayne Johnson for advice on starting a YouTube channel, How To Be a YouTube Star (ft. The Rock). The actor provides a different type of drama from the recent YouTube controversy.

HF Radio When The Satellites Are Unavailable

This Sat-urday, my selected Amazon product is one of several books about Arduino and ham radio. ARRL has some good recent entries into this subject, too.

This one includes automatic Morse code decoding that I’ve used in an earlier form, mutated, and built with an added keyboard to send signals as well.

The author of the program published in the book, Budd Churchward, has an elegant, easy to assemble kit available with all the parts, or you could order bare printed circuit boards from OSH Park, Smoke Testing the Morseduino 2.

I’m also looking at a Hackaday article by Al Williams published today, Wilderness Radio Build, which features a built from scratch 20 meter transceiver, with video of its operation accompanied by a cat seeking attention.

Newer designs are using Software Defined Radio to control sending and receiving, sometimes standalone from a computer, such as this homebrew QRP (Reduced Power – usually 5 watts or less) transceiver QSO AE2B – PD5DJ/QRP with MCHF SDR Transceiver (embedded below). Shortwave (a.k.a. “HF” high frequency) can get your signal out of the local area when satellites are inaccessible for any reason.

Get Found if you Get Lost

I’ve previously posted about the virtues of using the aviation guard band rescue frequency of 121.5 MHz VHF, Non-Ham Radio Options for Being Rescued.

While I mentioned 406 MHz in passing, it turns out there have been important developments in recent years. The 121.5 channel is no longer monitored by satellite because of false alarms caused by inadvertent activations and interfering signals from a number of consumer appliances. So if you’re stranded somewhere without overhead air traffic and can’t move far, you can look forward to facing your final destiny.

The 406 MHz personal locator beacons are monitored these days, as described in this top viewed video (embedded below) while searching YouTube for the term “PLB.”

Signal mirrors during the day are great (the right ones are, if used properly), but they don’t work very well at night. Maybe during the full moon? Probably not. It seems that there are legal laser rescue flares that create a vertical line instead of a blinding dot for search and rescue pilots to see at night or even during the day.

All this information is demonstrated with excellent advice that reminds me of the first rule of gunfighting, “Have a gun.” In a safe or drawer somewhere isn’t going to help much if you’re suddenly confronted by an attacker. Similarly, in the context of a plane forced landing, the laser flare, mirror, and PLB won’t do you much good in an inaccessible or destroyed cargo hold. These are items to have on your person.

Non-Ham Radio Options for Being Rescued

Although I’ve been an amateur “ham” radio operator since the late seventies, people interested in getting rescued in a disaster or from being lost in the woods are not always interested in taking a test to get a ham license.

An option I hadn’t considered on this topic is the use of the aviation emergency “guard” frequency of 121.5 MHz. My otherwise unrestricted dual band VHF/UHF transceiver will work out of the ham band, but alas not on 121.5 nor the UHF 406 MHz frequency. So don’t think your $40 Baofeng will save you with this method (it’s still a fine ham radio).

The handheld aviation band radio pictured has the most important feature stressed by Steven Harris in an episode about radio preparedness on The Survival Podcast, http://www.thesurvivalpodcast.com/1322-harris-on-radio-preps.

From a description of the radio model found online:
“One-Touch Emergency Frequency Access. Just press the [121.5] key for instant operation on the VHF airband emergency frequency.”

Most aircraft monitor that frequency, and Mr. Harris will tell you how to make it more likely you’ll get a useful response to your distress call. He also provides a phone number you should write on the radio (taped or silver marker) to give a pilot to call for a very serious emergency help desk that won’t let you down.

Congress Tells FCC to Remove EmComm Impediments

I received an ARRL legislative alert email with some good news for ham radio operators like me and perhaps not so great news for property owners who want antenna restrictions.

Congress has directed the FCC to conduct a study of the uses and capabilities of Amateur Radio Service communications in emergencies and disaster relief. The FCC was directed to identify

“impediments to enhanced Amateur Radio Service communications, such as the effects of unreasonable or unnecessary private land use restrictions on residential antenna installations.” Finally, the study is to make “recommendations regarding the removal of such impediments.”

Driver Cell Phone Ban Exemption for Ham Radio

I received the following in email from Nye County, Nevada Hams:

Here is link to the amendment that added the ham radio exclusion:

SB 140 in PDF.

Read it carefully.

The law is primarily concerned with hand held wireless devices, further the law avoids discussing communication/electronic equipment mounted to the vehicle.

A ham radio mounted in a car with a microphone is not a hand held wireless device.

A handi-talkie is a hand held wireless device.

The follow are the exemptions passed in senate bill 140

2. The provisions of this section do not apply to:

(a) A paid or volunteer firefighter, emergency medical technician, ambulance attendant or other person trained to provide emergency medical services who is acting within the course and scope of his or her employment.

(b) A law enforcement officer or any person designated by a sheriff or chief of police or the Director of the Department of Public Safety who is acting within the course and scope of his or her employment.

(c) A person who is reporting a medical emergency, a safety hazard or criminal activity or who is requesting assistance relating to a medical emergency, a safety hazard or criminal activity.

(d) A person who is responding to a situation requiring immediate action to protect the health, welfare or safety of the driver or another person and stopping the vehicle would be inadvisable, impractical or dangerous.

(e) A person who is licensed by the Federal Communications Commission as an amateur radio operator and who is providing a communication service in connection with an actual or impending disaster or emergency, participating in a drill, test, or other exercise in preparation for a disaster or emergency or otherwise communicating public information.

Please note paragraph 2e the amateur exemption, the final statement of “or otherwise

communicating public information” exempts all amateur communication as amateur radio by design is only communicates public information.

It also makes handi talkies legal. Get a Ticket and argue the point with a judge.

Also note exemption does not include CB Radios, but again a mounted radio is not a hand held wireless device. Get a Ticket and argue the point with a judge.

Salman Khan Reinventing Education

There’s an updated TED Talk at YouTube (from March, 2011–recently rated #2 in a “Countdown of the Best TED Talks” at The Huffington Post), “Salman Khan: Let’s Use Video To Reinvent Education.”

Salman Khan describes how a dashboard program for Los Altos schools replaced “one size fits all” classroom lectures with videos that were watched at each student’s own pace.

This provides the teachers unprecedented data on which students were having difficulty with particular subject areas, and being free of the tasks of lecturing and grading homework thanks to automation, teachers could focus all their time on quality interaction in the classroom.

Khan still does the instruction video creation, but has a top staff of software people developing the application to keep kids focused and motivated, using points and badges like in video games.

A highlight of the presentation is Bill Gates interviewing Salman at the end with questions about how ready the concept is for adoption in all classrooms. Khan replied that there are already a million viewers a month worldwide and the system could handle many more users.

Mon., Aug. 29: “Kill Switch” @ O.C. KHCTF

J. Kent HastingsKarl Hess Community
Technology Forum

On a Fifth Monday in a Month

August 29, 2011

Schedule:
Pre-meeting: 6:00 p.m.
Dinner 7:00 p.m.
Announcements: 7:45 p.m. Howard Hinman, Master of Ceremonies
Presentation: 8:00 p.m. J. Kent Hastings:
“Surviving the Phone and Internet Kill Switch”

Questions: 8:45 p.m. Q&A via written cards for at least the first round of questions.
Close by 9:30 p.m.

Location: Asian Buffet (Oriental buffet)
23552 El Toro Rd., Lake Forest, CA 92630
At Raymond, behind a bank, near the public (gov’t) library branch.


View Larger Map
Tel: (949) 206-9988 – Fax: (949) 206-9098

Howard Hinman of Orange County, will serve as the Master of Ceremonies for the event and will offer a Toast to the evening’s festivities.

J. Kent Hastings is a writer, video editor, audio and film producer, computer programmer, agorist and ham radio hobbyist.

Hastings wrote columns about RSA encryption, spread-spectrum radio, and secure privacy-protected off-grid banking transactions in his regular “Techtics” column for SEK3’s Tactics of the Movement of the Libertarian Left during the 1980s.

Kent also wrote an article for the first issue of Agorist Quarterly, published in 1995, titled “The Information Underground Railroad,” after attending the RSA Data Security conference in 1994.

Kent has returned to an early interest in tinkering with homebrew electronic gear, partly because he finds it fun, and also thanks to recent threats that have resurfaced from government authorities worldwide to cut off private communications on the Internet and cell phones “for our safety.”

He will have equipment on hand to demonstrate various ways around the Internet and cellphone outages that have been imposed during protests (just when you might need rescue from violence the most).

If the power grid goes down, many would lose phone and Internet service because of their reliance on cable company devices. A portable battery with AC inverter will also be demonstrated at the meeting. Solar recharging in the field and other preparedness resources and activities in case of evacuation will be discussed.

Social networks such as Twitter and Facebook are being more closely scrutinized by police with each passing year. Users have been jailed for organizing relatively harmless “flash mobs,” including celebrities simply inviting fans to the local mall.

Hastings will share his thoughts on how watchdog groups like Cop Block could avoid trouble by using stealthier recording devices and immediate streaming to remote undisclosed storage media, even if Internet access is being blocked.

For the first round of questions, audience members are asked to submit their questions in writing to the Master of Ceremonies, so that they may be presented to the speaker most effectively.

Cost is dinner (approximately 15.00 FRNS) plus a 5.00 room charge per attendee. (Cash only for the room charge please.) MasterCard and Visa accepted by the restaurant. Beer and wine available at an additional charge.

Good food. Some vegetarian dishes available.

For this meeting, leave a reservation message with the subject “OC KHCTF” on the web at http://permakent.com/contact/ or email: permakent@gmail.com

If you have additional questions contact Kent Hastings toll free at 1.877.867-8209 or leave a voice mail message.

Future dinner talks at the Karl Hess Community Technology Forum are still to be determined. We will keep you posted.

Resilient Community Foundation is a nonprofit organization. Its mission is to support a resilient community, including respect for personal rights and responsibilities.

For information about this event (other than reservations) and/or future events, please contact Howard Hinman, Director of Communications, Chief Financial Officer and Senior Legal Researcher, at (714) 244-2291. His email is: Howardhinman1234@yahoo.com.

Facebook’s Open Source Data Center Design

According to this post at Ars Technica, “Why Facebook open-sourced its datacenters,” Facebook has gone completely open source in its server hardware choices in order to compete with Google.

A couple of quotes from Jon Stokes’ article:

“Despite Google’s professed love for all things open, details of its massive datacenters have always been a closely guarded secret.”

and

“Facebook’s new OpenCompute.org project, in contrast, takes the exact opposite approach.”

There are energy and development cost savings from using this “Bazaar” community supported method when compared to the closed “Cathedral” approach.

If you’re building a data center and want to avoid legal hassles and unnecessary operating expenses, it’s worth checking out Facebook’s new OpenCompute system.

Arduino Chip does Morse Code at 300 wpm

  Karl Hess, Sr. 1975 edition

Karl Hess, Jr. is the speaker scheduled for Monday, Feb. 21, 2011 at the 200th meeting of the Karl Hess Club (named for his father, the late Karl Hess) at Dinah’s in Culver City. (UPDATE: Due to airline trouble, rescheduled to September 19, 2011.)

Karl Hess, Jr. encouraged me to buy shortwave ham gear when he spoke to our libertarian supper club at the 100th meeting a few years ago, citing its usefulness during an emergency when a colleague was injured in Africa, where he was working in the field.

Since then I’ve put together some kits in custom enclosures with more powerful ones on the way. Alternative communication methods to the phone and Internet grid are always in the news, most recently in Egypt.

See the complete meeting announcement at the club site for more information about Karl Hess, Jr.’s topic, “Wither Conservation in the 21st Century: More Government or More Liberty?.” Excerpt from site:

“The world changed in 1970. Although the first Earth Day called for more aggressive State involvement, over the past forty years conservation has evolved into a movement increasingly characterized by volunteerism, cooperation, network governance, and entrepreneurship.”

Karl Hess, Sr. mentioned ham radio in passing in his book, Community Technology, and even in his 1975 book, Dear America which followed his 1969 “Death of Politics” article in Playboy.

Karl Hess, Sr. was a speechwriter for Barry Goldwater, then later became an anarchist hippie proponent of alternative energy, off-grid food production and local industry who made a living as a welder for cash, famous for not paying taxes. Goldwater was a ham radio operator who promised to put an antenna farm on the White House if he got elected (he wasn’t). Hess’ autobiography was edited by his son and is titled, Mostly on the Edge: An Autobiography.

Okay, see you at the KHC if you’re in Southern California.

Now, this video from 2008 shows two Arduino boards sending and receiving Morse code to each other acoustically at the same time (full duplex) at 300 words per minute. You could get a 140 character tweetish message out in a few seconds at that rate. Even at just 30 wpm over the shortwave radio the same message would take less than a minute.

Beats walking if the phones or Internet are down.

Egypt ham radio beats Internet outage

The oldest radio signaling method was used to send messages between people in Egypt according to this article at the Huffington Post. The link was in a Democratic Underground post that J. Neil Schulman forwarded to me in email.

Quoting HuffPo:
“These messages weren’t coming from mobile phones or computers, but from an amateur radio sending out Morse Code somewhere amidst the chaos in Egypt.”

Hundreds of miles range with a few watts using a wire thrown over a tree branch for an antenna can beat the government kill switch.

Meanwhile, on the political right side of survivalist prepping, Alex Jones InfoWars published a credible list of alternative communication methods from Liberty News Online, “How to Communicate if the Government Shut Down the Internet” (also forwarded to me by J. Neil Schulman).

Just one point of clarification. During a political upheaval, checking the call sign of amateur radio operators won’t be the State’s top priority and effectively jamming all signals might not be possible, especially if one were to use spread spectrum techniques.

Let’s say for example you were to transmit thermal noise in one band and the noise mixed with the message in another (transmitted reference). It would appear to be noise as well.

Perhaps if you have some programming skills you could use the digital “direct sequence” method to mix several pseudo random “chip bits” with each bit of your message while you quickly hop the center frequency of your signal using a fast digital synthesis chip and a secure software spreading code.

And just to be safe you might use a stealthy hidden antenna that looks like a clothes line, basketball hoop, bird feeder, flag pole or other disguise so your neighbors don’t rat you out. Out of sight, out of mind. Morse code and texting can be done silently with earphones. QSL?

Victory over censorship!

Bumble Bee Transceiver Experiment

Bumble Bee transceiverI’ve been getting back into the ham radio hobby because of my belief that off-grid communications capability will be needed in the rough times ahead.

The good news for the ham recruit is that all that’s required these days is to learn enough basic electronics to pass a test and some radio operation rules. Morse code is no longer a requirement for any level of the Amateur Radio Service “ham” license.

If you still have some cash, new equipment has some great features and is easy to get on the air. Used equipment can be purchased cheap on eBay or Craig’s List, but there may be some challenges getting it to work. Or you can go crazy and assemble your own lightsaber, I mean, radio gear. I’ve got even more ambitious kit building planned.

What you won’t be doing with new, used or homebrew equipment is paying a monthly bill to some telco or cable company for the privilege of using the public airwaves. A comforting thought if you’re concerned about the devaluation of currency, further job losses, business bankruptcies or other economic disasters.

I hooked up a QRP Mini-Watt board to connectors drilled into the back of a Bumble Bee tuna can last night. It’s a transceiver, thus it can send and receive Morse code signals as designed. The 40-meter band it’s on reaches up to 500 miles during the day and extends worldwide at night. It runs off a 9-volt battery. Here’s an mp3 of one minute of audio received on the 7.030 MHz frequency the tuna can is tuned into.

MP3

The audio is actually coming from the tuna can circuit via the ear bud output, not another receiver! (The catch is that instead of the rubber duck antenna shown as a dummy load to test things indoors, the antenna for the audio recording, and for communications use generally, is more than 25 feet of random wire outside, connected to a grounded MFJ-904H travel tuner. The tuna is tuned, man!)

Wait a minute. Didn’t I just say that Morse isn’t used anymore? Nope. Morse is more popular than ever, it’s just that the FCC doesn’t test licensees as a requirement now. It’s still one of the allowed digital modes in the amateur radio spectrum.

Don’t worry, there’s plenty of handheld, mobile and base station FM voice gear on VHF and UHF, as well as SSB voice on shortwave, computer modes that don’t need the Internet and even television.

We’re likely to see extended water and power outages in the near future for a number of political and economic reasons, a few of which are described in my personal blog post, “Power and Water,” with links about each point linking to major news source headlines.

Not covered in that post is the continuing drought threatening water supplies and hydroelectric power generation, or short term disruptions due to earthquakes, floods and other natural disasters. With more subscribers relying on Internet based phone service and cell phones, most people will be out of touch if the power goes out for an extended period.

You can try to use CB (11-meters), FRS (UHF) walkie talkies or those 49 MHz models for kids if you just won’t get a ham license. Or you can be prepared as a fully trained Jedi, er I mean, licensed ham operator and actually find competent help within range when you need it.

Amber Alert GPS Upgrade Nov. 1

Amber Alert GPS 2G
Abductions of children are increasing thanks to more idle hands not otherwise being employed. To address that risk, and for many other reasons such as simply being lost or having an outing schedule change, kids have a new safe way to talk with parents without the user interface complexity of a cell phone.

The Amber Alert organization is taking pre-orders for their November 1 release of its new line of “panic button” devices, called “Amber Alert GPS Armor.”

Armor is the next version of their popular alert device that looks like a toy gizmo, but actually uses sophisticated GPS and cell networks to call for help with the location already known and to provide safety information. (And you don’t have to surgically implant RFID chips in your wee rascals’ skulls.)

Here’s an excerpt from the information I just received from them via email. You can subscribe to updates at their site, http://www.amberalertgps.com/

“It will be a bit bigger in size than our famous 2G device, but
it will pack one heck of a punch. Here is a list of things that
are going to be different this time around (I’ll give a brief
description of each feature here, but I’ll go into them in more
detail in another email)…”

“1. Bigger battery = longer battery life! (this is a big one that we really struggled with in the 2G). We even will have an extended battery option.”

“2. Predator Alert – be alerted when your child goes near the home of a registered sex offender (VERY powerful!).”

“3. “Raised” SOS button – now your child can feel for the raised button on the device in their pocket or backpack without having to take the device out, when they are in danger.”

“4. 2-Way Voice – actually talk with your child, not just listen in.”

“5. E-mails, not texts, this time around…save battery life (more about that in another email).”

“6. Live, up-to-the-minute tracking on your web-enable SMART phone or computer (oh yeah, this new device is set up to work off your computer or your web-enabled SMART phone…which means you will need the internet on your phone to use the device with your phone).”

“7. Locate your child via our new phone APP or your computer.”

For video about the original product, see this local San Francisco TV news report. It’s also been featured on Oprah, Good Morning America and other major network shows.

Power for Emergency Communications

ABC News just ran a story, “Clean Energy: Why Is China Ahead of the U.S.?” It describes how NatSolar’s new solar panel technology was rebuffed in the U.S., but CEO Chuck Provini was flown in and welcomed by China and given a deal to create green jobs over there.

It seems energy production from any source has to overcome enormous legal barriers in this country. Here’s just one hurdle mentioned in the long article.

“. . .he [Provini] also worked with a major Washington, D.C., law firm and was told that a $750,000 application fee was necessary just to apply for a specific federal program.”

With big oil, coal, nuclear, solar and windpower facing legal hassles, we may have a low powered future in which we depend on whatever solar panels and turbines we can install in our private backyards for reliable energy.

The April, 2010 issue of ARRL’s QST magazine featured the vital role ham radio played during Haiti’s earthquake. An online article, “Amateur Radio Operators Provide Communications Support in Haiti” describes the ham support of doctors in Project Medishare.

Seismic scientists agree that California is in for a big quake perhaps sooner than later. The Haiti experience is instructive to anyone preparing for interruptions of utilities such as water, power and telephone service.

If landline phone service is knocked out, cell phone systems will likely be overloaded or knocked out because of landline network connections.

Ham radio doesn’t require learning Morse Code anymore. Passing a test on basic electronics, radio theory, and operating rules and regulations may be a small price to pay for uninterrupted communications (and no phone bill).

Cellphones Inside Bee Colonies Are Bad

  Bee CCD background
From Slashdot, “Study Claims Cellphones Implicated In Bee Loss.” If you need a laugh, check out the reader comments on the story, such as “The queen should stop texting and get back to work.”

But seriously, this is an important issue for off-grid living since homesteaders are likely to depend on radio links of some kind and are also more likely than other people to have beehives pollinate their edible forest gardens.

Being a ham operator, I would add other variables besides transmitter power to a bigger study. Frequency (cell phones operate in or near microwave bands) and modes such as analog AM, FM, or SSB, also if there’s digitized content, check if the type (voice, music, or text) makes any difference.

The legal response to this new published study will not be swift because it’s not very authoritative. Only two hives were tested. Quoting an excerpt:

“. . .one fitted with two mobile telephones which were powered on for two 15-minute sessions per day for three months. The other had dummy models installed. After three months the researchers recorded a dramatic decline in the size of the hive fitted with the mobile phone, a significant reduction in the number of eggs laid by the queen bee. The bees also stopped producing honey.”

One of the readers noted in a comment that because of the inverse square law, the field strength of the transmitter inside a hive is many orders of magnitude greater than would be experienced from usage in real life.

Other theories for honeybee colony collapse disorder involve pesticide and herbicide chemicals, genetically modified plants, and transporting of hives from around the world to pollinate big cash crops like almonds.

Michael Pollan referred to this pool of unrelated hives mingling on distant farms as the annual “honeybee brothel” spreading diseases.