Month: October 2012

Pretty clear who won this debate

President Obama definitely brought he A game this time.

And Romoney – what an arrogant prick! So much so that I want the next round of debates to adopt the method used by the Ed Show on MSNBC – text A or B to 622639. But I want it to be a Bitch Slap scheme.

By that I mean – assign A to President Obama, B to Romney. Whoever gets the most Bitch Slap texts for each question – the moderator must get out of their chair, walk over to the winning party and bitch slap the hell out of them.

If the above were implemented I can see a seriously bruised Romney.

My Raspberry Pi has arrived

So I checked the mail today and there was a little box from Allied Electronics. What could it be?

Opened it up and there it was, the Raspberry Pi Model B. The different between the Model A and B is that the latter has dual USB ports.

Raspberry Pi Board

It’s a wild little platform! It’s name was derived as follows:

First – a lot of computers in UK were named after fruit, in fact computers and music players in the U.S. are made by Apple. So they chose the name Raspberry.

The Pi part is a morph of Python which is the programming language it understands.

I’ve got to order an SD card with decent capacity for it, I can get a 32GB for $18.99 – not bad!

I do have a 2GB SD card in my camera that I could wipe and replace. I also have an 8GB micro SD in my wallet and I have the adapter for full size so maybe I’ll use that in the interim.

But it’s finally here. It will probably see light sometimes this week. Been kind of busy.

But the Raspberry Pi specs:

Broadcom BCM2835 SoC
ARM1176JZF-S 700 MHz emulated
Dual USB and 10/100 Ethernet
HDMI Out supports 1080p
RCA Composite Out

Pretty wild little computer.

Programming Computers – and why we’re failing miserably

In preparation for receiving my Raspberry Pi I downloaded the Raspberry Pi User Guide from Amazon by Eben Upton and Gareth Halfacree.

In the introductory chapter Upton makes an observation that I too have seen in the past. The computers we use today, many of us don’t use them to their full potential.

I saw this doing Program Reviews for the RI Department of Education a few years ago. In one class they were using Excel to do a payroll sheet. The teacher had them using a paper look-up to calculate the tax.

This prompted me to ask the teacher if they had any plans to teach them about VBA, a fairly powerful little tool inherent in Microsoft Office since day one. And it hews to BASIC, a language that if you took any computer class, you more than likely have a passing knowledge of it.

With that you could have a module that auto-calculates the tax and other deductions. The teachers answer was that you needed advanced math to program a computer. Granted, when compared to some others I did get a bit more advanced mathematics training for my I.S. degree but out of all of it the most used is some algebraic functions. So on my review I put that they should introduce students to programming using Microsoft VBA that is included with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, and even Outlook!

In my career I’ve done extensive VBA in Word, Excel, Access and Outlook. In Word it was to do automatic document conversions from WordPerfect, in Excel it was normalizing data such as fixing short UPC codes, etc. and in Outlook it was a routine to scan the body of a message looking for a specific indicator, then forward the message to a pre-determined route. This is what allowed police department in RI to run a suspects fingerprints and receive positive identification if the subject had prior contact with the criminal justice system.

That’s the power of VBA.

And if kids knew that – and perhaps some Python there’s no end to what we might see.

Some marvels we take for granted in the 21st Century

I went on Amazon.com and ordered a book on the Raspberry Pi – I did it because I got the ship notice and am expecting the unit this week.

But it struck me, in less than 1 minute it was delivered to my phone.

The lead to me marveling at the speed of 4G LTE, and the fact where before I had to go to a bookstore, and maybe they had the book there, or they had to order and I’d have to wait. Now it’s instantaneous.

And the other marvels on my phone – web, email, music, video, the list goes on and on. I can even talk to amateur radio repeaters around the world from my phone. Well not just repeaters but people.

And then I start to think what went into this phone. It was decades of research – by the likes of Bell Labs, and then other companies labs that improved the state of the art. But key inventions like the MASER, transistor, LED, and whole bunches of technology in the phone are easily traced to Bell Labs. I wonder what the future will bring though.

Well – battery technology is improving. Thin and lightweight batteries with high charge densities will mean flexible electronics. That will be interesting.

But smaller, lighter, faster seems to be the trending that’s going on now.

Coolness – my Raspberry Pi shipped

I just got the email that it shipped yesterday via USPS Priority mail. It’s probably coming out of Fort Worth, TX – and USPS from there to Providence is usually two days. So I should get it between Monday and Wednesday.

It’s about time – and they did tell me back in August that I could expect it mid-October.

Coolness! And about damned time!

Issues sync’ing Yaesu VX-7r with VX-7 Commander

So I was having hit or miss results synchronizing my repeater and frequency list with my Yaesu VX-7RB. (The B means black annodized case.)

So I mucked around and I recalled that I had some issues setting up a com port below 8. It was because Windows had allocated the first 8 com ports. Grrrr!

Thinking this may have something to do with it I also went into VX-7 Commander and changed the port setting for delay from 15 to 25. Now it synchronizes just fine.

This brings up another point – why do amateur radio handhelds still hold to the old fashioned keypad and fudged data connection? Surely the SDR inherent in these radios has USB capability or even FTDI. And the buttons – touch screens have become very reliable.

But then it hit me – no need. My phone has the features I mention above and it has the Echolink app installed on it. I do need to find an IRLP application though.

But as I said in another post – Echolink depends on the network connection being available. In any type of widespread emergencies wired and wireless networks go belly up. They weren’t designed for emergency communications for all. In fact on all telecom switches there is a think called Class of Service and Class of Access. (COS/COA). Higher COS means you get priority through the phone system. But almost all of us have a lower COS. High COS is usually reserved for government.

So I’ll keep the radio – just in case.

What newspapers and magazines do I read

Newspapers first. I never read a single newspaper cover to cover, only articles that interest me. Those can be anything from hard news, political news, etc.

On the local front there is the not quite adequate to line the litter box with Providence Journal. Traditional newspapers are dying. For other local sources there’s the gay oriented Edge Providence, RI Future, Go Local Providence, Greater Cities Providence.

Then I use up my ten article limit on the NY Times quite often. I also read a number of article from the SF Gate, WSJ, the whole nine.

Magazines are a different story – there are only two I read regularly. Make Magazine and QST. The former is an O’Reilly publication that is for makers. I call myself one as I do occasionally build things. In fact I’m happiest when I am building something, be it a recipe or a new lighting system. QST is a magazine for the Amateur Radio community.

And books – oh boy. That’s a biggie for me. I’ve got VoIP: Internet Linking for Radio Amateurs by Jonathan Taylor K1RFD on order, should have it soon. I’m also re-reading a gay classic “The Dreyfus Affair” as well as having just finished reading a couple of other books. What can I say, I love to read.

It’s funny – I was looking for a book on my bookshelf the other day and realized I had loaned it to someone years ago. Ah well, found the digital version online for free so no big deal.