Yearly Archives: 2013

What is Ham Radio & How Does it Work?

Ham radio (so called because its operators were originally derided as being ‘hammy’ in the 19th century, when the technology first emerged) is a term that applies to any form of amateur radio broadcasting.

There are designated radio frequency spectra available solely for public use. Uses range from recreation to communication and the non-commercial exchange of ideas. ‘Hams’ take advantage of these frequencies in order to transmit any number of things

Strictly speaking, there should not be any money involved in amateur radio (hence the term ‘amateur’). Although the majority of Ham radio practitioners are actually extremely knowledgeable about radio technology (don’t let the ‘ham’ part fool you), they are not considered professionals because they do not profit from their endeavors. Conversely, commercial broadcasting involves (a lot of) money: royalties are paid, producers and performers are paid and the whole thing is ultimately a commercial exercise.

Hams use a large amount of frequency bands from all across the radio spectrum, but the majority of frequencies are to be found just above the AM band.

A lot of hams, however, use VHF FM, operating hand-held transceivers that send on one frequency and receive on another. Local radio clubs set up FM Repeaters (which borrow space from other broadcast devices such as towers and, in doing so, amplify the radio signal’s strength hundreds of times over), so that hams can communicate with each other wirelessly over a distance of hundreds of miles.

As an example of what hams get up to, here’s an excerpt from Gary Brown, of ‘How Stuff Works.com

“Although a ham radio does broadcast in all directions, hams generally do not use their radios in a broadcast kind of way as a disk jockey would at a radio station. In normal AM or FM radio, one disk jockey transmits and thousands of people listen. Hams, on the other hand, conduct two-way conversations, often with another ham or with a group of hams in an informal roundtable. The roundtable of hams may be in the same town, county, state, country or continent or may consist of a mix of countries, depending on the frequency and the time of the day. Hams also participate in networks, often called nets, at predetermined times and frequencies to exchange third-party messages. In the case of disasters, hams exchange health and welfare information with other hams”.

To become a ham, I recommend that you join a club. You’ll need an amateur radio license, of course, but this won’t break the bank, I’m sure.

I hope that helps.

Earth-Like’ Asteroid Devoured by Dead Star

The Hubble Space Telescope has recorded an intriguing event some 150 light-years from Earth.

A large asteroid was pulled into the White Dwarf star (named ‘GD 61’ by astronomers) and utterly destroyed. This is not an unusual event, as even dead stars still exhibit a very high level of gravity. However, scientists are interested because the chemical signatures left in the star’s atmosphere indicate the presence of water and a rocky surface, both considered to be key building blocks for the creation of life on our planet.

Until this event was observed, water and a rocky surface had never been found together on an object outside our solar system.

The asteroid consisted of the elements magnesium, silicon, iron and oxygen, all of which are usually found in rock minerals, but scientists believe that the abundance of oxygen indicated the heavy presence of H20.

The object was at least 90KM across and as much as 26% of that is thought to have been water. Earth is considered to be just 0.02% water.

This discovery is important because it gives scientists a vindicating glimpse of how inhabitable environments may have been formed, receiving key components (such as water) from outside sources such as meteorites.

It is thought that water first arrived on our planet by similar means and that other planets in the GD 61 system would once have received water this way as well. According to BBC News, scientists consider the presence of rocky planets in the GD system to have been “very likely”.

Scientists have observed over 1,000 planets outside our solar system, but none is thought to contain water.

Closer to home, some planets and heavenly bodies are thought to contain water. Mars is considered by many to once have had liquid water, but if this is still the case, it is a greatly reduced amount.

Elsewhere, Jupiter’s moon Europa raises a tantalizing prospect that there are oceans under its icy surface. This has led to some convincing research into the possible presence of ocean currents there. However, Europa is not alone, its fellow moons Callisto and Ganymede have also been suggested as candidates for liquid water.

In addition, Rhea (moon of Saturn), Titania (moon or Uranus), Oberon (also orbiting Uranus), Triton (moon of Neptune), Pluto (dwarf planet), Eris (dwarf planet), Sedna (possible dwarf planet) and Orcus (another possible dwarf planet) are all speculated to have oceans, some of which may be in contact with the rocky core of the respective body, which would hypothetically result in a steady stream of minerals and salts into the water – an important factor in creating life.

Saturn’s moon Enceladus has geysers, which is seen as proof of the presence of water or at least water vapours. It has even been theorized by some that Neptune contains oceans of liquid diamond.

The heavy presence of water on this asteroid is a vital clue for scientists and their understanding, not only of the cosmos, but also of how our home planet came into being.

SOURCES

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-24491845

The Different Icom Radio Connector Types Available

For a long time now, icom radios have been serving most of the consumers’ interests, offering both feature rich and compatible products. These products however need to be complemented with just the right accessories for them to work right. Here is a look at the icom 2 way radio connectors.

The Icom 2 pin right angle connector
The icom right angle connector is both convenient and flexible. It is used by most of the icom radio users, seeing it serve more people compared to the other two icom 2 way radio connectors. The icom right angle connector features a surgical grade acoustic. This ensures that you get incoming signals clearly, further enhancing efficiency. It is also made in a manner that it is easy to conceal, allowing use in environments that require discreetness. In addition to this, it also offers comfort, allowing you to wear it even for extended periods of time without feeling the itch that comes with most other connectors.

For convenience, the icom right angle connector is made in a manner that it is easy and fast to wear. It is suitable for use with the following range of icom radios: IC-F15, IC-F21, IC-F25, IC-F4GT, IC-G3GT, IC-F15s, IC-F3G, IC-F43GT, IC-F11, and the IC-F31 among others.

The icom straight pin connector
The icom straight pin connector is one of the icom 2 Way radio connectors made primarily for use with icom’s range of marine radios. Just like the icom right angle connector, the straight pin connector also offers excellent signal quality as it also comes with features like surgical grade acoustic. It is also made in a manner that it is easy to conceal, allowing for use in places where discreteness is crucial.

It further comes with a noise reducing microphone, a feature that adds to the audio quality. This allows the user to get clearer signals, and hence make better informed decisions. For convenience, it is also quite easy to put on and quite comfortable to the ears too.
If you are wondering whether your icom radio is compatible with the icom straight pin connector, you can easily verify this by checking the location of your radio’s switch. Generally, the icom range of radios compatible with this connector usually has the switch located at the place where the right angle pin connector would be connected to the radio.

The icom multi pin connector
The multi pin icom connector serves a lesser portion of the icom radio connectors as compared to the other icom 2 way radio connectors, being used mostly on the IC-F50 and the IC-F30GS. It comes with a nine pin connector making it flexible for most of the range products it is designed for. It further comes with a locking screw for effective fastening.
It also comes with surgical grade acoustic for good quality signal transmission. This ensures the user gets good quality and clear audio, ensuring efficiency. For use in sensitive areas, it is easy to conceal, and is designed in a manner that putting it on is easy and fast.

Accessories for icom 2 way radio connectors
Adjustments can be made to make these icom radio connectors work even better and with more ease on both parties’ parts. This can be made so by use of the diverse range of icom earpieces. Common accessories include soft ear plugs which make the icom connectors even more comfortable to the ears, allowing use for long periods of time. You may also connect with Bluetooth connectors for better signal transmission as well as to enable connection with other ranges of relevant devices.

Ensure you get good quality connectors
The quality of signal and audio you are bound to get on your icom connectors will depend on the quality of the connectors themselves. As such, it is crucial to ensure that you get good quality products. To ascertain the products quality and legitimacy, check to see that they are ROHS compliant, as this guarantees quality check. Also check to see that they are original icom products.

For enjoyable and assured shopping, it is recommended that you purchase these products from reputable sellers in the market. Market sentiment on icom 2 way radio forums will give you pretty good guidance.

Conclusion
Make the most out of your icom 2 way radio by using the right and good quality icom 2 way radio connectors.

Yahoo! Becomes ‘Yikes!’ as Recycled Accounts Relay Sensitive Information to the Wrong People

Yahoo!’s policy of recycling inactive email accounts has backfired on them, as new account owners are receiving personal emails that aren’t meant for them.

The policy, active since June, means that Yahoo IDs and addresses are reassigned to a new user if left inactive for a year or more. But obviously both Yahoo! and some of its users got more than they bargained for.

The emails have been reported to contain highly sensitive information. As a result, privacy experts have been called in, in order to solve the problem quickly and without further incident.

According to a Yahoo! Spokesperson, “Before recycling inactive accounts we attempted to reach the account owners [in] multiple ways to notify them that they needed to log in to their account or it would be subject to recycling,” The spokesperson went on to say that, “We took many precautions to ensure this was done safely – including deleting any private data from the previous account owner, sending bounce-backs to the senders for at least 30-60 days letting them know the account no longer existed and unsubscribing the accounts from commercial mail.”

Interviewed by BBC News, Tom Jenkins, an IT security professional and recipient of such an account, revealed just how damaging this malfunction could potentially be, “I can gain access to their Pandora account, but I won’t. I can gain access to their Facebook account, but I won’t. I know their name, address and phone number. I know where their child goes to school. I know the last four digits of their social security number. I know they had an eye doctor’s appointment last week and I was just invited to their friend’s wedding.”

As much as Yahoo! has responded swiftly to this scandal, critics who have slated the initiative from the beginning are now finding themselves vindicated. Mike Rispoli of Privacy International said, “These problems were flagged by security and privacy experts a few months ago when Yahoo announced their intention to recycle old emails, and cautioned that Yahoo’s plan created significant security and privacy risks. Yahoo downplayed these risks, and ignored critics, but now we see these concerns were legitimate,”

Mr. Rispoli went on to say that, “This email recycling scheme, an effort to re-engage old users and attract new ones, is resulting in some of our most intimate data being accessed by someone we don’t know and without our knowledge (…) We’re talking about account passwords, contacts for friends and families, medical records – this issue needs to be addressed immediately by Yahoo if they care about the privacy of their users and want them to trust the company with sensitive information.”

Our experts say that the best way to avoid this fate is actually to cancel any email account that is not currently in at least semi-regular use, having first deleted all content from the account.

SOURCE:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-24283179

Tech We’d Like To See: The Dermal Regenerator

What it is:

A prop often mentioned and seen in ‘Star Trek’ from ‘The Next Generation’ onwards, the dermal regenerator is a wonderful little slice of 24th century medicine.

Usually depicted as a small, handheld device that emits a miniature laser beam, the Regenerator is used to heal minor flesh wounds, fix scars and repair trauma that would otherwise require stitches.

As far as I know, the theoretical underpinnings of this amazing device are never discussed, so I have no idea how it is supposed to work (unlike warp drive, which is powered by a matter/anti matter reaction, just in case you wondered).

Why we want it:

Can you imagine never needing to have stitches or never having to painfully heal up after a nasty run in with a kitchen knife? Moreover, can you imagine a world where serious injuries, 3rd degree burns or facial scars could be treated permanently, in a matter of seconds?

Many painful minor injuries would be rendered completely harmless and hospitals would get through most of their A&E in-patients in a matter of minutes.

When can we expect it?

Dermal regeneration technology is actually not as far away as we might think.

A few years ago, scientists pioneered what they called a ‘skin cell gun’ as a method for treating burn victims. This little doohickey literally sprays stem cells taken from the victim onto the inflamed skin.

While a skin graft can be prone to infection, take ages to heal and involve a long and agonizing recovery process, the skin cell gun can replicate a successful skin graft in a matter of days, completely removing the need for surgery.

The skin cell gun can be used to treat second-degree burns, as it relies on the body’s natural healing abilities and works with existing skin cells. It is, however, not quite at the level of Star Trek’s favourite medical tool.

The gun cannot be used to treat third-degree burns, for example, because they strip away both the epidermis and dermis skin levels, leaving the cells nothing to work with. In addition, the gun can only be used on fresh burns.

There are other drawbacks too, leading to the skin cell gun’s status as ‘not yet approved’ by the FDA. Principally, the device is still relatively untested and no one knows what sort of long-term future the repaired skin may have.

On the upside, Jörg C. Gerlach, inventor of this amazing device, has also been able to demonstrate that the newly grown skin cells actually go on to become fully functional in every way, forming epidermis, dermis and even new blood vessels. The new skin also better matches the original pigmentation of the victim.

It is hoped by many in the scientific community that a similar method as that used by the skin cell gun may also one day be used to grow replacement organs for those in need of a transplant.

Star Trek’s dermal regenerator may yet be a convenient fiction, but the prototype for it exists in the here and now, with extremely promising results. Will a technology that closely resembles the ones used by Beverly Crusher and her colleagues in the 24th Century be available in the real world one day? It certainly looks likely, I’m happy to say.

Cool Factor: 4/5

Nothing says progress like laser beams that re-grow injured skin in a matter of seconds. Imagine the amount of people who’s suffering would simply cease. Here’s hoping that we eventually see this device in action (or not, as the case may be, given that I’d probably have to endure a painful injury in order to do so).

In NASCAR, How Do The Drivers Communicate With The Pit Crew?

NASCAR drivers use a unique radio system that is built in to their crash helmets. These are occasionally customized to suit the individual wearer. In addition to this, there is a push-to-talk button (exactly like the one found on a walkie-talkie), which is situated in the steering wheel. A wiring harness connects the various components together and a separate battery operates the whole thing. The signal is broadcast via a whip antenna that is attached to the roof of the car. In this fashion, NASCAR drivers are able to communicate with pit crews.

In addition to this, most cars are outfitted with a spare Motorola two-way radio that is within easy reach of the driver.

A firm out of Atlanta, Georgia named ‘Racing Radios’ provides the vast majority of the radios used in NASCAR races. Racing Radios have provided equipment to NASCAR races for 30 years or so; they are a trusted firm, creating all the standard NASCAR radio technology and also providing custom radios/peripherals for individual drivers.

According to Racing Radios spokesperson Tony Cornacchia, the majority of NASCAR drivers prefer to buy their own specialized equipment from the firm.

Because so many teams are racing and so many people are working on the race overall, it is not uncommon for NASCAR events to feature 100 FCC licensed radio broadcasts at any given time.

Racing Radios is the company that programs the individual frequencies, not only for drivers and pit crews, but also for staff, officials and security personnel. RR do such a good job, that neither drivers nor pit crews suffer regularly from interference or dead spots. Now that’s something.

According to Terry Boyce of ‘HowStuffWorks’, Many teams outfit their entire pit and support crews with custom-engineered, hand-built headphones and two-way radios ordered through Racing Radios. Multi-car teams may choose to connect even more people through their radio communications network. Active Noise Reduction (ANR) technology helps to cancel out distracting background noise. Exceptional communication is one of the reasons a 21st century NASCAR pit crew can change four tires and refuel a race car in around 13 seconds — and do it 10 or more times in a single race”.

Why do secret service guys wear those earpieces with the coiled wires instead of something less conspicuous?

That’s actually a pretty good question. Good quality wireless earpieces are available, affordable and would be far more inconspicuous than the classic ‘wired’ models. So why don’t the secret service make their presence a little more, well, secret?

The main reason is largely psychological in nature (though there will be a technical component later on). You see, if a potential troublemaker looks into a crowd and sees nobody there that he/she identifies with as a threat, then said troublemaker will be far more likely to start making trouble. However, if they notice secret service guys using their trademark earpieces, then they might think twice about it and a lot of unpleasantness can actually be avoided.

To you or I (assuming that you aren’t a troublemaker, Joe), the secret service guys are just that, they usually appear to protect someone or something, so we ought to have no reason to fear them. Ergo, they stand out just enough to deter the would-be troublemakers, but not so much that they frighten the rest of us or distract from whatever proceedings we happen to be, um, proceeding with.

If you’re sitting there saying, “hang on, what happens if they want to sneak up on someone?” then my answer is still the same, expect that I would imagine that the secret service would put two or three agents within visual distance of a suspect and then ‘herd’ the troublemaker towards other agents in the vicinity. I have no evidence (or experience, I’m grateful to say), to back that up, but it seems reasonable to me to do it that way.

Now, onto the technical part: wireless communication, whilst it has improved greatly in the last few years, is still not as reliable as the more old fashioned forms of ‘wired’ communication. Wireless communication can be subject to signal interference, as well as suffering from a more limited bandwidth.Finally, wireless communications gobble up battery power far more than their wired counterparts, so for tasks that may last for several long hours at a time, long battery life is a must.

When the wireless technology improves, I suspect that the secret service will make the leap, but I also suspect that they’ll keep the coil, for the reasons stated above.

Also, as an added extra – if you’re wondering why they touch their ears when they receive a message (much to my fellow Brit James Bond’s chagrin), well, that’s because pushing the earpiece into your ear drowns out background noise and also makes the message louder. They simply do it for sound clarity when receiving important information.

I Want to Buy a Long-Range Walkie Talkie, What Should I Look out For?

Long range walkie talkies (which we’ll abbreviate here to LRWT, for short) come in many different shapes and sizes. They also typically boast a wide variety of extra features, such as LCD screens, weather warnings and emergency buttons. It is up to you to decide which of these extra features are worth spending out on.

Shopping for an LRWT is essentially the same deal as shopping for any other kind of walkie-talkie or two-way radio. Of course, you should ignore any claims that the radio can communicate across distances of 30, or even 25, miles, such claims are always to be considered fallacious (as we’ve discussed elsewhere this month). In addition, it is worth investing in a radio that has a ‘privacy’ function if you are planning to use it at a crowded event, or indeed in any place that is likely to play host to a lot of signal traffic.

I Want to Buy a Long-Range Walkie Talkie, What Should I Look out For

I Want to Buy a Long-Range Walkie Talkie, What Should I Look out For

Remember also that VHF and UHF radios are completely incompatible. DO NOT attempt to buy a VHF radio to go with a UHF radio (or vice versa), just trust us on this.

It also pays to be aware of licensing requirements. Many radios will need to be used with a license, which you can attain relatively easily (and often surprisingly cheaply). It does, however, absolutely need to be done. Of course, an LRWT that is listed as PMR446 (or has a power output of less than 0.5 watts) requires no license.

Other questions you could ask yourself are:

What type of batteries does your prospective LRWT use? Are they AA, AAA or rechargeable (we recommend the latter)?

Is the radio water/shock proof? Does it need to be?

Another consideration is ease of use. In order to be truly effective, a walkie-talkie needs to be easy to use. There is a school of thought which suggests that, the more buttons there are to press and functions there are to master, the less effective the user will be in a crisis. If you can get extra functions that do not otherwise impede the simplicity of layout and use, then you’re probably onto a winner, but otherwise, we reckon simplicity is key.

The most important thing to keep in mind, however, is what you want the radio for. Do not, under any circumstances, lose sight of the task at hand. If you are looking for a professional piece of equipment, many of these decisions must be made with your staff in mind. However, if you’re just looking to have a bit of a laugh, then you needn’t be as picky as we’ve suggested.

Why Did Blu Ray Beat HD DVD?

I’m embarrassed to admit this, but my first though upon seeing this question was ‘what is an HD DVD?’ This indicates at least two things:

1)      That HD DVD was never all that successful.

2)      That I’m a bit of an idiot.

Well, for the uninitiated (such as myself) a quick search to Wikipedia, reveals that

“HD DVD (short for High-Definition/Density DVD) is a discontinued high-density optical disc format for storing data and high-definition video. Supported principally by Toshiba, HD DVD was envisioned to be the successor to the standard DVD format. In February 2008, after a protracted format war with rival Blu-ray Disc, Toshiba abandoned the format, announcing it no longer developed or manufactured HD DVD players or drives”.

In an amusing blog posted by Thomas Ricker at Engadget.com (the principal image of which is Monty Python’s totally dismembered Black Knight with the words ‘HD DVD’ superimposed on his helmet), Toshiba’s backing out of manufacturing HD DVD was very much the death knell for the ailing format. He says,

“HD DVD was developed to offer consumers access at an affordable price to high-quality, high definition content and prepare them for the digital convergence of tomorrow where the fusion of consumer electronics and IT will continue to progress”.

Elsewhere, whilst there are some other blog posts of the time that seem to maintain a tone similar to ‘the South shall rise again’ (no, it won’t. No matter how many times you say it), the majority can see the writing on the wall by February 2008.

But why did Blu Ray beat HD DVD? And why did it apparently happen so suddenly?

Well, it seems that Sony and Toshiba both wanted to develop an HD disc format as a natural successor to DVD, however, they just couldn’t agree on the specifics. For whatever reason, no matter how hard executives argued on both sides, no compromise could be made as to which approach was best. According to T3.com’s Chris Smith,

“Talks took place in April in an attempt to unify the formats, but ended in a stalemate and studios began to pick sides. Paramount, Universal, Warner Brothers, New Line, HBO and Microsoft Xbox initially backed HD-DVD, while Disney, Lionsgate, Mitsubishi, Dell and the PlayStation 3 had Blu-ray’s back. Both companies enjoyed minor victories, but it would all come down to the grandest arena tech has to offer: the Consumer Electronics Show 2008. Both sides were primed and ready for CES to turn the tide. Then Warners defected to Blu-ray. HD-DVD’s celebration Champagne corks came out not with a victorious pop but with an embarrassed fart”.

 Smith goes on to report that the trade show was an unequivocal disaster. The decline of HD DVD seems to be traced directly back to that moment, with Warner Bros striking the killing blow for the fledgling format. It is amazing just how quickly a technology can go from a neck and neck race for the top spot to an ignominious death in just a few short hours. From the standpoint of the consumer, it was easier (not to mention cheaper) to have a clear option to buy, which ultimately meant that there could only ever be one winner.

I’ll let Chris Smith deliver the postscript, following the CES failure,

“HD-DVD tried to counter with almost daily price cuts, but its remaining partners deserted it. Just five weeks after CES, Toshiba shut down the HD-DVD production line and the hi-def death match was over. After a brief, face-saving assertion that DVD upscaling was now the way to go, Toshiba eventually caved in and released its first Blu-ray player last year. For Sony, 20 years after being forced to embrace the VHS format that killed Betamax, it must have been an exceedingly sweet moment”.

Sweet indeed.

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