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www.arrl.org www.eham.net

2004-12-24

Caller ID spoofing a la carte

Caller ID spoofing a la carte is now available, thanks to Camophone's "Privacy Guard" service. This extends to the private individual what call centers, telemarketers and other users of large phone systems have had for years, as well as illustrates the Caller ID data on your phone may be right, but if it's vague, it's probably not your Aunt Minnie calling.

2004-12-23

More PDA advice: Latest PalmOne PDAs not suitable for amateur packet radio, or to cable to cell phone for Internet service

Earlier this month, I posted a few tips about PDAs. I had a question today at AllExperts.com about PalmOS connectivity which leads me to enhance my earlier suggestions. Someone asked about using the Tungsten E from PalmOne to connect to a cellphone, so they could get e-mail and browse the web.

The T|E* does not have PalmOne's Universal Connector, or the serial connector of earlier Palms. It only has a USB connection (with a mini-USB socket), plus does not have adequate intelligence on board to control a USB device, such as a USB-serial adapter.

Therefore, unless PalmOne's support line can tell you another way to do this, the T|E, or any PalmOne device with the mini-USB connector, does not seem suitable to cable to a cell phone for connectivity, or to a TNC for packet radio. This also applies to the T|5.

Any PalmOS device which has a serial hot sync cable should, AFAIK, work. These include many models of the Zire, and Tungstens up to the T|3.

Now, browsing from a Palm is a limited experience at best, so make sure to use Skweezer to pre-render the pages for maximum speed. Also consider downloading the free Eudora Information Suite from Qualcomm. Their text-only browser is a speed demon compared to other PalmOS browsers, and the e-mail package supports STARTTLS/SSL, required by some POP3/SMTP e-mail servers.


*(T|E reviews here: C|Net, InfoSync World, PC Magazine, and PDA Buyer's Guide).

2004-12-22

Free MobileDB for PalmOS

PDA software distributor Handango is offering free software (registration is required for the download), and this week's offering for PalmOS is Mobiledb, a database with a decent rep and significant presence.

There are over 1,800 databases available for download at the publisher's home web site and a small Yahoo Group for informal support has spring up.


2004-12-21

Packet interface for HT and featherweight notebook PC

I've got a one-kilo featherweight notebook, a Fujitsu P1032 (700 MHz Transmeta CPU, about like a Pentium III-450MHz) I picked up for travel. It has no serial port, and the thought of adding a serial->USB adapter plus a spendy TNC has kept me from adding packet to my Yaesu VX-5R. I'd have to tote around:
1. HT
2. HT's power brick
3. HT's antenna
4. Cable into HT
5. Laptop computer
6. Laptop's power brick
7. USB to serial adapter
8. Serial cable to TNC
9. TNC
10. TNC's power brick

I suppose I could add the $67 Tigertronics Signalink ( QST review here with its cable kit and then add the fitting for the four-pole 3.5mm connector and a $10 power brick for it... but I wanted portable operation.

There's a comparison chart of other sound card interfaces here and here. The $80 USB RigBlaster nomic appears to be the simplest but does require a USB-serial adapter as well as a tangle of cables plus an adapter cable for the four-pole Yaesu VX-5 cable.

Here's packet software for sound cards. What have y'all used which works best when starting with a USB-only laptop, and does adding a dedicated sound adapter help (and if so, which)?
Multiplatform Soundcard Packet Radio Modem by Thomas Sailer, HB9JNX/AE4WA (PC Flex/Net & DirectSound-compatible drivers required)
PC Flex/Net
PC sound for packet overview with PTT circuit ideas
$50 MixW software w/ 14d trial (req. 'SoundBlaster compatible')
$49 Packet Engine Pro plus various packet programs
AGWPE
Rascal GLX (with some interesting reviews)
Other Packet Radio sites

And, here's a QST reprint on the subject.

WiFi security: WEP no longer very secure (updated)

WEP is the simple security method of closing your wireless network to outsiders, advocated by the well-meaning popular press. That was then, but this is now, and WEP is no longer enough.

Robert Bruce Thompson, author of O'Reilly's PC Hardware In a Nutshell, revealed this morning cracks for WEP security of WiFi wireless networks are, if not trivial, easy enough for crackers with rudimentary skills (i.e., anyone who has studied cracking for over an hour- Ed. note). After explaining some (not all) of the most dire implications of poor network security, he refers to a Security Focus article which documents the process and tools involved.

Thompson advocates moving from WEP to WPA as a security solution, which may require updating the 'firmware' in your WiFi cards and routers, or replacing them. Therefore, if you are planning to buy wireless gear, make sure it offers WPA.

BTW, There's another WPA: Windows XP Product Activation. We're talking about Wi-Fi Protected Access here.

More links on the subject:
Hackers explain how to keep your WiFi secure
Daily Wireless
Broadcom, a chip maker, explains WPA
Tech-FAQ.Com
Security Forums FAQ on WPA
About.Com explains how to configure XP for WiFi WPA
Microsoft on WPA and XP
WiFi Planet Tutorials
WPA Security Enhancements
Tom's Networking on WPA
Unless your organization has multiple dedicated servers, the WPA PSK (Pre-Shared Key) Mode is the way to start.

And, here's the Slahdot discussion on this topic, set to screen any posting without at least two other positive reviews (as Slashdot respondees sometimes need a little filtering).

2004-12-18

Major National ISP tells FCC BPL not "Commercially Viable"

from the ARRL (paraphrased for brevity):
Officials of Internet service provider EarthLink told the FCC that broadband over power line (BPL) cannot compete with the dominant cable or DSL technology today or in the near future. EarthLink President and CEO Garry Betty and other company officials met November 16 with FCC Chairman Michael Powell and Commission attorney Aaron Goldberger to deliver an ex parte presentation on several Wireline Competition Bureau and Common Carrier Bureau proceedings.

"EarthLink discussed that it has invested in and is in trials with several potential 'third wire' broadband transmission paths to the home, including WiFi, WiMax, MMDS and broadband over power lines," EarthLink Counsel Mark J. O'Connor informed FCC Secretary Marlene Dortch in a November 17 letter. "However, EarthLink pointed out that cable and DSL still account for virtually all consumer broadband connections and that none of these alternative technologies offer a commercially viable alternative today or in the near future."

An EarthLink analysis indicated that BPL is the most expensive of the broadband technologies it evaluated. In a chart titled "Next generation broadband," EarthLink said that wireless and BPL "are not likely to be competitive in cost and performance with cable and DSL over the last mile to the home."

EarthLink judged as "not successful" one unspecified BPL technical trial using Amperion equipment in a "wireless/BPL combo." In discussing other trials using Ambient and Current Technologies equipment--in one of which EarthLink had invested-- the ISP's assessment was that the high cost per household passed-- $125 in both instances-- would require a better than 15 percent market penetration to attain a competitive cost.

ARRL's reporting of EarthLink's submission to the FCC apparently struck a nerve at Ambient, with which EarthLink has a business relationship. In a classic case of shooting the messenger, Ambient CEO John J. Joyce took the League to task on behalf of the BPL industry in a statement posted via Market Wire on the CBS MarketWatch.com Web site. Joyce seemed to suggest that the League itself had provided the EarthLink information and was spinning the company's remarks to advantage.

ARRL CEO David Sumner, K1ZZ, said the League stands by its account, which Joyce characterized as a "claim" on the ARRL's part. "ARRL's report on the document was accurate in every way, and we stand by our report," he said. "The conclusions given are not ours, but EarthLink's. Anyone who wishes to do so can read the submission for themselves."

2004-12-17

Updated: Freeway Speed Map

The ODOT Freeway Speed Map is now available (or, you can just use a shorter link, http://tinyurl.com/6pyty. A full-scale version's also available.

I had been hoping for something like this, and have a version for my PalmPhone which works for the Seattle area. Fortunately, the ODOT version does, too, although the Washington equivalent is clearer on my PalmPhone, with wider color stripes. You can also see when comparing desktop versions the version for Pugetopolis offers more detailed speed information.

Also, here's another traffic link, for the PDXinfoNet Traffic Report web page, a plaintext page easily read by cellphone browsers.

2004-12-16

Helen, Sweetheart of the Internet

May I commend to you all, one of my favorite comics the Oregonian does not carry? Helen, Sweetheart of the Internet.

2004-12-15

PDA advice

Thinking about buying a PDA? Here, have some free advice.

If you are willing to buy used or 'factory reconditioned' (Overstock.com and eBay come to mind, as does Craigslist), then virtually any PDA can be had for less than retail.

I prefer the PalmOS, but must admit Windows Mobile 2003 (formerly known as Windows CE and Pocket PC) is less sucky than its predecessors (although it still has a long way to go). PDAs with other operating systems (i.e., Linux and Symbian) just don't have the wide diversity of programs available for me to recommend them to a new user.

Avoid the Blackberry and the Sidekick. They have *very* limited software available, and Blackberry's company just lost an important court appeal which will slow down its acceptance further.

FreewarePalm.Com is a great source for free programs for PalmOS PDAs. There are Palm-compatible PDAs from folks other than PalmOne (over a dozen makers), and I will recommend them to many folks based on need, as they all will run software for Palms.


Now, I have a few questions for you:

1. KEYBOARD OR GRAFFITI? Many Palms have a keyboard which make it very easy to enter text. Those which do not rely on your writing with a stylus (a plastic-tipped pen; my fave is the Bic e.3 pen-pencil-stylus @ $5 ea.), and almost all PDAs come with a stylus which fits into their body.
Are you a quick learner of manual dexterity tasks? If so, Graffiti might be OK.
I started with Graffiti, and never thought a keyboard would be important, but I used a Palm with a keyboard, and now I am sold for life on built-in keyboards.
Snap-on and plug-in keyboards are nice, but even though I have them, I rarely use them, only on plane or train trips where I have a lot of writing to do. It's Another Thing To Carry Around, and snap-on devices wobble (which I dislike when keyboarding).
As for Windows Mobile devices; their script recognition system is not Graffiti and seems to be to be significantly inferior. I would not have a Windows Mobile without a built-in keypad.
If you can, go visit a CompUSA or other electronica store, and test drive typing on built-in thumboards of the Palm Tungsten C and other PDAs.


2. SCREEN

DO NOT get a monochrome screen. Color is much easier to see, and the earlier problems with bright daylight have almost all been resolved.


3. CONNECTIVITY

If you want to connect to get or send information from your PDA when you are away from a PC, you will want wireless of some kind.

There are three broad categories of wireless systems for PDAs. You can buy a good PDA without any of them, but let me explain what each does. Different wireless types can co-exist, BTW, and often do on spendier models.

a) BLUETOOTH: Very short range (10 meters), suitable to allow a PDA to use a Bluetooth phone for a link to the Internet for e-mail and web browsing, as well as for peripherals (keyboards, syncing to a PC). Bluetooth can work for a data connection, for a voice connection (like a cordless earset), or both, but sometimes only one or the other.

b) WiFi (also known as 802.11, of which there are many varieties): Longer range (100m? Possibly longer) so you can sync to your home PC or a shared PC and use its Internet connection for e-mail and web access. If you want to check your e-mail while sitting in Starbucks, you can do so... but many places (e.g., Starbucks) charges for WiFi access. WiFI can be an add-on for many PDAs, but check before you buy to make sure the WiFi adapter you want to use absolutely, positiviely, works with the model of PDA you will buy. You can also add WiFi to your home computer so you don't have to use a desktop computer to work the net and e-mail.

c) CELLULAR BY BLUETOOTH: There's an alphabet soup of acronyms for different kinds of cellular. Suffice it to say you can, if you have 1) a Bluetooth cellphone and 2) a data service plan with your cellular carrier and 3) a Bluetooth PDA, have web access and do e-mail. It will not be as fast as broadband, but it's better than nada.

d) CELLULAR BUILT-IN: I have two PDAs with cellphones built-in. One works on Sprint and another on T-Mobile. If you buy a PDAphone, you only have one thing to tote around (plus) but PDAphones are spendier than regular PDAs and phones, and are never as fast or fancy as the competing equivalent PDA. I like PDAphones, but my wife likes a separate PDA and a separate phone connected by Bluetooth.

It's so darned handy to be able to dial directly from my PDAphone's address book, and to e-mail directly as well. Web browsing is hit-or-miss, as lazy web designers make websites which don't work well with a PDA, but it's also neat to be able to Google to get information when you're out and about.

I scouted around until I got the very best deals on data plans for cellphones, but if you're new at this, just make sure if you need connectivity, that your cellphone carrier cost for data service won't break the bank.

So: Is connectivity important to you? Or, do you just need to have a spare brain in your pocket and just update data & send/receive e-mail when you get back to the home or office? If the latter will suit you fine, then you can do without.

PDA Phone Home is a good place to look further into connectivity, BTW.


4. USE

If you will want to read, write, create and edit wordprocessing and spreadsheet data on your PDA, then get a Tungsten model, as those come with the DataViz Documents To Go software, which does better than even Pocket Word and Pocket Excel on the Windows Mobile Pocket PCs.

What else do you want it to do for you? Make a list before you talk to any sales droids.


GENERIC RECOMMENDATIONS:


BASIC NO-KEYBOARD MODEL WITHOUT CONNECTIVITY: PalmOne Zire 31, $150 or less


BASIC NO-KEYBOARD MODEL W/ BLUETOOTH: PalmOne Zire 72, $300 or less.

You can also add a WiFi card or case to this, if WiFi's important.


ADVANCED MODEL W/ BLUETOOTH: PalmOne Tungsten T5, $399 and under


KEYBOARD MODEL w/ WiFi: PalmOne Tungsten C, $399 or less
It's better to start with the Tungsten C if you know you want WiFi, as it's got a bigger battery than the Zire 72 and will run for longer in Wi-Fi mode.


PDAPHONES: These vary according to which cellular company has good signal where you live, work and play, as well as a reasonable rate plan. I don't know where you are, so I can't make a specific suggestion about PDAphones. However, I will warn you that cellular companies can, and generally do, 'subsidy lock' any cellphone they sell so it can only be used with them. Unlocking the phone is not casual, and can be difficult-to-impossible, so if you like Cellular Company 'X', then make sure what you buy worked on their system or make it a condition of sale that it must.

If you like the idea, you can get started with a decent PDAphone for $200-400 (PalmOne Treo 600 or equivalent). The Treo 650 has a better screen than the Treo 600 plus Bluetooth for a cordless earset, but is spendier, and might not be a good match under several circumstances.

Also take a look at PC Magazine's PDA reviews, which are not perfect, but will be a good start.

2004-12-14

Some darned good suggestions for personal computing safety

From an article originally posted at C|Net, Some darned good suggestions for personal computing safety.
I am regularly asked what average Internet users can do to ensure their security. My first answer is usually, "Nothing--you're screwed."

But that's not true, and the reality is more complicated. You're screwed if you do nothing to protect yourself, but there are many things you can do to increase your security on the Internet.{snip}

Wi-Fi Cloud over Umatilla raining profit?

A Portland Business Journal story describes how a Wi-Fi entrepeneur will resell a Wi-Fi net in Umatilla and Morrow County to commercial ISPs.

2004-12-13

WiFi update

Thinking about adding WiFi to your gadgetry?

Best wireless base station/router: Linksys WRT54G, because you can easily upgrade the software. More software is info here, and web pricing here.

Best wireless network adapter: The Buffalo USB external? Prices
here.

Best really cheap antenna: A wok scoop with 15db gain.

2004-12-10

Grant expanded for Bone Marrow testing for Hillsboro FD doc

The grant to cover the costs of Bone Marrow Registry signup I mentioned Wednesday over on Clackablog for the Hillsboro FD doc has extended to cover all the costs. This is slated for next Wed. evening; let's all do our part!

2004-12-08

New Forum for Support at PalmOne

PalmOne, the folks who created the Palm series of PDAs, now has a new support forum which will make it easier for Palm users to find answers. When added to USENET's comp.sys.palmtops.pilot and the other support websites, PalmOS PDA users have excellent support choices.

And, BTW, if you haven't heard, PalmSource (the independent spinoff from Palm which does the PalmOS operating system), announced today future versions of the PalmOS will run on top of the Linux core OS. This is insanely great news for Palm users and folks about to buy a Palm, as it assures the long term domination of Palm as the leading PDA system.

2004-12-06

Need WiFi really, really, urgently?

Dropzone has created IntelliEdge, a WLAN in a box; a Linux server, but with the unnecessary bits of Linux stripped of, for an extremely reliable (many more times than Windows) host for communications. It distributes Internet access by WiFi (802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, et al.) over a local area.

It connects back to the Internet by WiFi, WiMax, 3G cellular and other kinds of connections, and only needs 9W at 12VDC. There's a solar-power/battery option, and multiple can be solar powered.

Applications can be run on the server, with its own GPS, so you could mount one on a 4X4 doing SAR work, and let it not only provide data connectivity, but keep feeding map updates (e.g., showing which sectors have been searched) to wireless PDAs and notebooks.

PDX now free WiFi hot spot

Most of Portland Airport is now a free Wi-Fi hot spot. That means anyone with a wireless-enabled portable device (laptop, Pocket PC, Palm handheld, cell phone or whatever) can access the Internet, e-mail or corporate networks in 70 percent of the airport terminal's main level. Using the service requires an 802.11b-capable wireless network card. PDX says the service will remain free for at least one year. The service provider is XO Communications of Reston, Va.

Wired travelers can find dial-up Internet access, for a fee, at service centers on concourses A, B, C and D; at the PDX Conference Center and at an Internet kiosk on the terminal's upper level. Questions? Call PDX Customer Service at 877-739-4636.

PDX has company in offering free Wi-Fi. Here's a Web site that lists airports with free access.

Fighting Crime Smarter, not harder

Here's a good example of recent research into automating the search for patterns of criminal behavior. Crime data is analyzed by software which looks for patterns, and then maps the linkages between evens visually for detectives and crime analysts to see.

This is the kind of thing a regional task force, or even the Oregon State Police, might use to connect-the-dots and point to criminals operating in multiple jusisdictions.

2004-12-02

For the Aquaman who has everything

The SwiMP3 and the The SwimMan are solid-state MP3 players with waterproof connections and earphones. If you've got $250 and already have fins or gills, this looks like an interesting gift.

2004-12-01

MP3 players which work from USB memory drives

Found a few MP3 players which work from USB memory drives. Here's one I bought, and its review.

It works well in her '99 Subaru Impreza. My '95 Toyota 4Runner has too much RF noise for it to work well, but, then, as a ham, I have a few more transistors in that truckette than many third world nations.

Here's an earlier version, reviewed.

And, BTW, here's a very neat stocking-stuffer kinda gizmo I'm asking Santa for.