Since I was a kid I dreamed of having my Amateur Radio License, or Ham radio license.  My fascination with radios is part of why I got a degree in electrical engineering. But, I could never get very proficient as Morse Code, despite trying for years. In 2006 they dropped the Morse code requirement for licensing, and since then I’ve been meaning to give it a try. I finally did.

At the end of last month I passed the test for the Technician class license and got my call sign, KF5UDQ.  Then last weekend I took the test for the General Class license and passed it as well.

I still don’t have a transceiver, or radio.  But I’ve kinda sorta made a deal for one and I’m excited about getting on the air with it as soon as the deal is complete.  There are several amateur radio satellites that it is possible to communicate through and I want to try that. The idea of talking to satellites is something I find appealing.

WordPress Programming

If you are interested in programming WordPress I recommend the excellent tutorial videos by Derek Banas at New Think Tank. An easier way to access the videos is just to search for them on his channel on YouTube. He will show you how to lay out a website using HTML and CSS, and then convert the same website into a WordPress site. There are also videos on a range of other subjects.

These are tutorials by a programmer for a programmer and they move along, so if you are just trying to upload a picture of your cat to your blog that’s not what I’m talking about here. But if you are comfortable with computer programming and want to use php, html, and css to create your own WordPress theme or something of that nature these videos might be where you should look. They are available in HD and I recommend viewing them full screen so you can see the code as he shows you what you need to be thinking about.Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

Excellent mushroom risotto tutorial by Derek as well.


Replacing Facebook

Facebook does so many things wrong. More importantly, I don’t trust them and neither should you. They do not deliver your updates to the people you think they do. They decide who sees your posts, not you. They do not trust you, and therefore you should not trust them. I could go on, but let’s just start with that. Or you can just trust me. I’ve been around this internet stuff since before the World Wide Web was an experiment. I’ve seen a lot of this kind of stuff before and I’m here to tell you Google+ is much better than Facebook for a lot of reasons. You should go ahead and make the change now. You will be glad you did.

Google+ is open to everyone. You no longer need an invite to join. And you should join, if you haven’t already.

When I started with Google+ it was a little slow at first. For one thing very few of my Facebook friends were on Google+. And that’s still true. But my Facebook friends collection has gotten unwieldy. And there are a lot of interesting people to follow on Google+ with lists of them for those just starting out. After adding a few of those people to my “Following” circle I found a whole world of conversations happening between thoughtful and intelligent contributors. It was like being invited to a dinner party of fascinating people with the chance to get to know them.

Google+ allows me to organize the people I interact with into groups called circles. Yes I know Facebook just introduced Lists, but again it’s unwieldy, they did it to try to be like Google+, and it’s not the same thing. Some of what Facebook is doing these days to try to be more like Google+ is not only ineffective and confusing, it’s creepy.

Just getting started on Google+?

  • Take the tour. It’s quick and you’ll know your way around. Or at least check out circles. It’s how you organize your friends and information. I have a circle for audio people. I have a circle for tech people. And I have a circle for noisy people I hardly every look at but I want to check in with every once in a while.
  • Here is Chris Brogan’s advice. A lot of people on the interweb follow him if you don’t know who he is.
  • Here is a directory of influential people to follow. No, I don’t know why they are influential, but I look at this like the NYTimes best seller list. If a bunch of other people notice this person or that stuff then there might be something interesting there.
  • Here is a list of 35 people to follow according to Cooper Smith at the Huffinton Post. I don’t read the Huffington Post, but there are some interesting people listed here cialis pfizer.
  • Google+ makes it easy to search Google+ for people interested in the same things as you. Want to find people in Houston interesting in knitting? Go to Google+ and search it for “houston knitting”. Click on “People”. When I checked there were about a dozen. So, okay a lot of them don’t live in Houston anymore but they used to, and you get the idea.

Just like Facebook, just like any social network, Google+ can be a huge time suck. It’s up to you not to let that happen. But if you are spending any time on Facebook you should start to move that over to Google+. You will be rewarded in the end.

What, you are just starting to figure out Facebook? All of your friends are there? Are you still on MySpace too? Help your friends move to Google+. Besides, there are games on Google+ too and those games don’t bother your friends every time you feed your goat.


A Smoldering Spark

I have long been interested in recording music. Some of you may know I worked years ago with a company in Dallas called Sound Productions. They provide equipment and services for live music events. Since I had for all practical purposes sought my electrical engineering degree to find out how my stereo works working with professional audio gear was a big treat for me. It built on a high school dream of owning a recording studio. Now, at more than 50 years old, a lot has happened since then but the dream, if only a spark, is still alive.
This Christmas Santa brought me an audio interface for my computer. Almost all computer’s come with an audio interface in the sense of a sound card that will both play music or sound and record through a microphone input, but this one is a more specialized item suitable for professional quality recording. The common sound cards, built in to today’s computers are very inferior, and even many gamers, or those who optimize their computer’s for the high specifications needed for today’s computer games invest in a better sound card for their computers. Those sound cards are usually optimized for playing sounds. My Christmas present, while it has output to play music or sound,  provides a great deal of flexibility and professional quality signal handling on the recording side of audio signal processing.

Made by M-Audio, my interface sports the model name Fast Track Pro. It bills itself as a 4×4 audio interface, meaning it will record 4 channels or sources simultaneously and play back four signal streams  as well. That is a little misleading in that two of the inputs/outputs are digital. Digital interfaces are found on many or most newer items such as CD/DVD players and recorders. In a practical sense, the Fast Track Pro (FTP) is mostly useful as a two channel interface.

The FTP connects to your computer via a USB 1.1 interface. This makes it perfect for traveling with my laptop which was the goal here. It is also comparable with my Linux operating system, really important to me as I detest having to work in Microsoft windows of any stripe.

While it is limited to two analog inputs it is well equipped to handle those. Two combination jacks good for either the XLR connections expected by microphones as well as balanced ¼ inch inputs are available. The pre-amps are regarded as good quality, and switches are present for selecting instrument or line level inputs as well as a 20db pad. These options are coupled with the capability of recording at 24-bit 96kHz levels, although the FTP is limited to 48kHz if you are using inputs and outputs at the same time. As CD quality is presented at 44.1kHz and 16-bit at that the overall effect is that the FTP is capable of recording music at signal qualities common to professional audio processing.

Rounding out the package are headphone jacks, RCA outputs, and 48 volt phantom power for condenser microphones. Also included is I/O for midi devices. While it is capable of running from an external power supply non is needed when the FTP is connected to a computer as it derives it’s power from the usb connection.

I’ve had the opportunity to put the Fast Track Pro through real world applications the last couple of weeks and my complaints are minor and had mostly to do with my own confusion in handling the flexibility of the device as it was new to me. Without a doubt it was up to the job I gave it of handing 24-bit 44.1 kHz recording. When used properly the resulting recording are clear and concise; I would say sometimes stunning in clarity. Santa was good to me this year.

Heating It Up with a Wood Stove

Here at the cabin my wife and I built we installed a wood burning stove. It’s a high efficiency unit, rated to heat our whole house. The plain black unit stands on legs with an airtight glass door on the front, the steel unit being very heavy. It is simple but attractive in design and is a beautiful addition to the decor of the room Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

When I was a teenager my girlfriend’s father installed a wood stove in the lake house where they lived. I watched him as he tiled a space on the wall behind where the wood stove was to be placed and built a brick pad where it was to sit. I don’t recall actually watching him install the stove, but I do recall seeing a fire burning in it later. He called it a Franklin stove.

I’ve always been intrigued by the wood burning stove. It seemed to me a much more efficient way to heat than with a fireplace. As the stove gets hot it radiates heat completely around it instead of just to the front as with a fireplace. I imagine during the pioneer days of old wood burning stoves, used for cooking as well as heat, were more common than fireplaces. I don’t know this to be the case, but I imagine it. There is a strange nostalgia I feel for a wood stove even though I’ve never had one until now.

Last weekend I built a fire in my new wood stove for the first time. It is recommended you keep the windows open the first time it’s lit, that the paint needs to cure and may emit from unpleasant smells the first time it is used. I kept the windows open but I did not notice any unpleasant fumes.

The first time I tried to build a fire in the wood stove it didn’t turn out really well. The next day I got the proper kindling and remembered a couple of things they told me. I also read the instructions. The second time I tried I was rewarded with a handsome fire. It’s amazing what following directions can do for you.

The wood stove is an amazing piece of engineering. It burns the wood very efficiently and leaves very little ash. It’s suppose to have a secondary level of burn above the first where it finishes up the fuel left in the smoke. It burns with a beautiful flame and puts out a lot of heat. Even with all of the windows and doors open it heated up the house. It’s rated to heat our whole house and now I believe it. It has a lever on the front to control the rate of burn. I left it on high because I wanted to get the thing real hot and because I wanted to burn the wood up.

In a recent discussion of the wood stove I was reminded of the heaters commonly used for heat in rural East Texas when I was a child. They typically burned LP gas although there were still come kerosene heaters in use. As a centralized source of heat you could move up next to them when you came in from the cold for an intense session of warming up. Usually you backed up to it to warm the back of your clothes and spare your face. Coming in from a brutal cold it was a wonderful feeling to soak up the intense heat next to the heater. It was handy and nice to have a source of heat you could back up to.

I’ve had several fireplaces over the years. With a fireplace you have a central source of radiant heat as with a stove, but most fireplaces are not very efficient. Ii is especially true of open air fireplaces. It is possible for open air fireplaces to send all of their heat up the chimney and actually cool a room. The efficiency can make a big difference in the heat output and therefore how pleasant it is standing next to it when you are chilled. Still, one of the advantages of having a fireplace is having that radiant hot heat when you need to warm up quick.

I burned a couple of logs at a high rate of burn to bake the new paint on to the new wood stove and within a few hours the first fire was over. But I wasn’t sad, I was excited. I can’t wait to get some practice this winter keeping the house warm with the wood stove. For the first time in my life I’m looking forward to the cold damp dreary days of winter. It’s going to be a lot of fun getting to know my wood stove. And I’m looking forward to having a heater I can back up to.

Computer Update

Last weekend I updated and upgraded my desktop computer. For hardware, I tend to rely on the generosity of others. If this makes you inclined to feel sorry for me and want to send me computer hardware, drop me an email and I’ll tell you where to ship it. But seriously, don’t feel too sorry for me. I have a few well placed connections and I do better than scrapping by in the computer department. Recently some memory and hard drives stopped by to help out, and as a result I have a new 500 GB hard drive and 3 GB ram. This is in a dual core quick as lightning Intel processor computer box. It will be a long time before I begin to make a dent in the 500 GB, and it looks like the memory is much more than I really need as well. I don’t do much gaming which is where most of the home hardware gets used these days.Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

With the addition of new hardware I took the occasion as a prompt to upgrade my software situation as well. For years (and years) I have used a Unix variant called Linux as my operating system instead of the popular Microsoft offerings such as XP or Vista. No, I don’t use a Mac either. While many accuse me of being anti-Microsoft, the reality is a little more nuanced. I have little respect for Microsoft as a technology provider. I have enormous respect for them as a monopoly. As most monopolies behave, they stifle advancements and overcharge for their products. I actually use Vista most of the time on my notebook computer. The bottom line truth is I run Firefox mostly on any computer I use these days, and it behaves pretty much the same regardless of what type of computer I use to run it.

$200 PC

WalMart has just announced a PC priced at $200. It runs linux (as do I) and has been described as a “Google PC” since it comes preloaded with links to Google’s main offerings.

Read the Wired article -> HERE

Read the AP article -> HERE


For years I have been reading the columns of Sandra Henry-Stocker at A knowledgeable and talented system administrator, she explains here why she has made the switch to gmail. The more I use gmail, the more I rely on it instead of the email program I’ve used for around seven years now. If you haven’t tried it, you should. If for no other reason the spam filtering is spectacular. And you need not give up your old email address to use gmail.