Archive for January, 2012
Geekiest of the geeks — amateur radio operators! (AKA “Hams”)
Inquiries or QSL “cards” » QSL@aa6ax.us or PO Box 27591, San Francisco CA 94127-0591
I’ve had an amateur radio license since 1958 when I was in sixth grade—back in Illinois. A bunch of old WWII veterans got me involved as a favor to my father (who was one of the “country doctors” for the area). I started studying the electronics theory and the Morse code when I was 10. Their club meetings were held in a smoky room over one of the downtown stores, and I routinely got sick due to the smoky air. Code practice was on the radio once a week, and I could borrow a perforated paper tape “code practice” machine to fine-tune by skills. It wasn’t easy to get the license!
As a geeky little introverted kid, amateur radio was not really my thing, though morse code (CW) was kind of neat and a fun challenge. It also meant I didn’t have to think of much to say. I never was much for small talk.
The image of ham radio operators is that they are the geekiest of the radio geeks – carrying around little hand-held radios, long whip antennas on cars, and the obligatory plastic pocket protector that all nerds use. Kinda true, but honestly you’ll find most of them are just the friendliest people in the world! And a lot of this friendly activity takes place “off the air” at various meetings. And getting involved in civilian emergency preparedness is really a kick. The NERT program, sponsored by the San Francisco Fire Department, has a whole group of amateur radio operators who participate in weekly drills and activities. And the Department of Emergency Management of the city also has a program that involves amateur operators as a secondary channel for the Fire Department in case of emergency (ACS).
What I found after getting more active again here in San Francisco is that it’s an interesting way to meet a real cross-section of folks from many ways of life, professions, interests, and actually it’s kind of neat to see whether a little 5 watt radio can really allow me to be in a mountain peak in the High Sierras (in the summer) and talk to a friend back in the San Francisco Bay Area.
One of my friends here in the East Bay is a true aficionado, and a great “found-items” artists as well. KY6R
For almost two months I’ve been quite aware of how the US Congress wants to impose their will on the Internet as a whole. Aw, comeon—everyone wants to impose their ideas on the Internet! Of course, China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria and Burma (among others) do impose their will(s) on the Internet by filtering and other actions.
If the US were to institute laws that allow the Attorney General and/or companies to force ISPs to block (or modify the DNS for) domains they assert are in violation of copyright, it would be the beginning of a slippery slope which could well lead to blocking (censorship in effect) for other reasons. There is just not enough due process in these proposed laws. Once the mechanics are in place, it would be easy to justify using them for other purposes.
I was most impressed at the action taken by Wikipedia on January 18th (2012) to make their service unavailable (except via mobile and for certain pages). And Google did a great job by blacking out their logo, leaving their search intact, and providing links to further information, including pages to reach Congresspeople! Craigslist.org also put up a splash page, which I think sent many people in the right direction. Craig Newmark, founder (and customer support) of Craig’s List is very much involved in citizen democracy (“democracy 2.0” if you will). I put up notices on my own sites, and on my friend Amy Jussel’s ShapingYouth.org on the 18th, directing peoples’ attention to the SOPAstrike page. I was also impressed that
The key is to not require that ISPs or search engines be the enforcers of government policies, and to not wreck the DNS (and DNSSEC) system by spoofing (even legally) domain names.
I believe Wikipedia and Google turned the tide, and am hopeful that these misbegotten bills will now be abandoned or completely rewritten to make more sense!
The SOPA and PIPA bills being considered in the US Congress allow blocking of domain names by someone who simply makes a complaint. Technically they apply only to non-US-hosted web sites that are pirating digital content, but once the “machinery” is in place, they could be used to block any domain whatsoever, and without due (legal) process. And also, technically, the only person who can complain and get a domain blocked is a digital (music, text, art) rights owner, but in practice this will be almost impossible to enforce.
There is no due process and no way someone who is wrongfully blocked can get themselves quickly unblocked.
And were this legislation to pass in the US, it would signal strong support for other countries similarly blocking internationally-hosted content based on their own national laws. (Many do it already, but let’s not set an example.)
Join me in opposing these bills. Notify your US Senators and Representatives.
This site will be participating in the Strike on January 18th, 2012.