October 27

posted Oct 27, 2015, 10:20 AM by Tommy Williams

In the vacuum that preceding this blog post many things occurred. Let me try and hit some of the high spots (in addition to re-introducing myself) and give you some idea what I will be doing with this space going forward.

So, I grew up around Amateur Radio. I grew up around computers and computer hardware. I grew up with a father that was able to repair just about everything. My father was a “Maker” decades before the term existed in pop culture. The highlight of my father’s “Makerdom” in my naive child eyes came just after a time that I asked him to help me make a “rope” that I could push across the stage for a skit. He delivered. As an adult I understand how and what he did, and as far as complexity, it is one of the more mundane things he ever did to help me out. I’ve taken up that torch and love tinkering and making. I enjoy playing with computers and programming.

This really is the base upon which Amateur Radio is built. Making. While you generally do not build your radio today like my father did during his childhood, there are still many other peripheral tools that are more easily built than bought.

The last couple of years I have only had the equipment and space to operate on the VHF and UHF bands. I realized early during that time, the folks operating in the local VHF and UHF bands were really not people that I shared much in common with. Because of their lack of interest in my hobbies (outside of Amateur Radio), it has been pretty easy to let my license atrophy.

I recently moved into a new house that has a HOA and restrictive covenants. I hope that when spring rolls around I will be able to hang something that will allow me the ability to get back on the HF bands and just do some distance talking. Until then, I will use this blog to just talk about my hobbies and things that I am doing, want to be doing, and have accomplished as part of my hobby.

Cheers to you. Thanks for visiting and I hope to keep you all rolling in posts.

20120923

posted Sep 23, 2012, 1:04 PM by Tommy Williams

How does Amateur Radio help in Emergencies, Disasters, and Public Service?

    Amateur Radio operators set up and operate organized communications for government and emergency officials as well as non-commercial communication for private citizens affected by emergencies or disasters. Sometimes during disasters radio frequencies are not coordinated among relief officials and Amateur Radio Operators are able to step in and volunteer to coordinate communications when official infrastructure is damaged or unavailable. Amateur Radio is recognized by several national organizations, and in some cases have formal agreements with Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) or similar Amateur Radio Organizations. Several of these are:

  • Department of Homeland Security
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency
  • National Communications System
  • Salvation Army
  • National Weather Service
  • Association of Public Safety Communications Officials

    Amateurs are able to provide communication into and out of disaster areas for non-commercial purposes (This is what the "Amateur" part of Amateur Radio means, but more on that sometime later). Government officials will rely upon available Amateurs to establish communications in to, out of, and within an area. This could range from passing emergency communication needs (fire and medical teams), requests for law enforcement or even disaster relief teams. When cell phones or land lines are not operational, it is impossible to get through to loved ones or friends in these areas, but the use of Amateur Radio allows for short messages to be delivered. Though this depends on the communication needs of officials, any localized infrastructure outages or physical road blockages. To that end the messages could take quite some time to reach its intended destination.

    Often community events rely on Amateur Radio Operators to handle communications of various types and importance during the event. Bike-a-thons, Charity walks, Parades and so on. Those responsible for organizing the event are able to identify the need for communications beyond cellular phones, Family Radios, and contact local Amateur Radio clubs asking for assistance with event communication.

20120828

posted Aug 28, 2012, 5:38 PM by Tommy Williams

Why Amateur Radio?

People are drawn to the hobby for many reasons. Some enjoy communicating with others across the country, or around the globe, or even talk to astronauts on space missions. Those who are competitive enjoy contesting, where they contact and exchange vital information with as many other Radio Amateur stations as possible set period of time. Still others become Amateur Radio Operators so they can communicate at extremely long distances, with friends and family that they would otherwise not regularly talk to.  Some are drawn to the hobby to build and experiment with electronics and may never talk to another Amateur on the radio.  Those who are truly ambitious develop Amateur Radio Satellite Repeater systems that are put into orbit high above the earth. Amateur Radio offers something for everyone.

20120811

posted Aug 11, 2012, 8:30 AM by Tommy Williams   [ updated Aug 11, 2012, 9:05 AM ]

-----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE-----
Hash: SHA1


Wouldn't it be great if you could verify that an email or forum post was really from the person it claimed to be from?  You can. It takes a little tech savvy and the desire to learn how to use a new tool. Say hello to the GNU Privacy Guard.

As stated on the GNU Privacy Guard home page:
"GnuPG is the GNU project's complete and free implementation of the OpenPGP standard as defined by RFC4880. GnuPG allows you to encrypt and sign your data and communication..."
"GnuPG is Free Software (meaning that it respects your freedom). It can be freely used, modified and distributed under the terms of the GNU General Public License ."

Sounds complicated huh?  Its not!  Or... it could be.  "Casual" use of GPG in communication is fairly simple. The underlying system is difficult to wrap your head around unless you are a mathematician and enjoy studying cryptography (subjects most of us (myself included) find dull and dry).  Let me take a stab at explaining how this works and perhaps provide an example. The system relies on the existance of two pices of data (generally files) called keys. One is your private key. This private key is password protected (a pass phrase would be better), and you should be the only person with access to this key. The other bit of data is your public key. This key should be publicly available and is used by other people to verify signatures created by your private key.

Digital signatures are a great place to begin implementation of GPG for yourself. A message signed with someone's private key can be verified by anybody who has access to the sender's public key. What this does is allow someone to be reasonably sure that the sender had access to the private key (or was someone with access to the private key and knows the password). This signature also allows a person to be sure that the message has not been tampered with and is authentic. A good analogy for digital signatures: They are like sealing an envelop with a personal wax seal.

So here we have Dumbledore and Harry Potter. Dumbledore has generated a GPG key and shared his public key with Harry Potter. Dumbledore sends a message to Harry Potter and decides to digitally sign it. Dumbledore is prompted for his private key file and his password when he sends the message. The message has a digital signature attached to it and is then sent along its merry way. Harry Potter receives this message and notices its digitally signed. Harry Potter imports Dumbledore's public key and is able to verify that this message was indeed digitally signed by someone who had both access to the key file and knowledge of the password. Harry Potter is also able to verify that the message has not been modified by anyone while it was in transit and arrived just as it was composed by Dumbledore . Harry Potter trusts Dumbledore to be careful with his private key and trusts also that this message did indeed come from him.

Security is paramount. Its your personal signature. People will depend on this to verify who you are, verify messages you have sent, and potentially send you encrypted messages. Never re-use a pass phrase. The pass phrase on your GPG private key should be 100% unique. Never loose your private key. Its not something you can recover. It can be replaced with a new private/public key pair, but then everyone has to know you did this. If you have questions or want me to clarify anything, I am leaving the comments section open below.

PS
For the sake of beginners being introduced to the use of GPG for encryption I have intentionally not gone into a lot of detail here. Lets get them used to the idea first.
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20120804

posted Aug 4, 2012, 10:13 PM by Tommy Williams

Not a lot of radio being played this past week. The shack is still in need of some straightening and cleaning, but the oppressively hot weather here the last few weeks has reduced my desire to be outside in it to none.  I have however spend most of the last week migrating my domain (ki4vso.net) away from GoDaddy over to DreamHost. As the domain was about to expire, I felt it was time to go ahead and cut the last string with GoDaddy. With the new registrar, a new website. I like this one much better. I hope you enjoy it. Any suggestion you may have please feel free to send them to me via email. james AT ki4vso DOT net.

<RANT>
With GoDaddy's public backing of SOPA and their ever present sexist twist on their marketing (not that I mind looking at beautiful women), I am mostly done with them. To push me over the edge, I find that as they have become more popular their pricing model has reflected this. For half the price of what they wanted to keep my domain registrations for the next year I was able to register two domains with DreamHost. The icing on this whole experience came when I asked them to close my account. I asked them to purge my personal information and billing data from their systems, and was greeted with an email outlining how their privacy policy (which has changed since I originally signed up as a customer) prevents them from deleting user accounts from their system. The email went on to explain how the support folks are 100% not allowed to modify my personal or billing information and that I would need to go in and do this personally. Its frustrating to be a single individual and having to interact with with large companies.
</RANT>

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