Hamshack Hotline

Hamshack Hotline (HH) is a FREE dedicated voip telecom service for the Ham Radio community. (taken from their website – see https://hamshackhotline.com )

I heard about this via, if I remember a post on Facebook. It sounded interesting, and free, and so I purchased a refurbished Cisco SPA504G VoIP phone from a trader on eBay. Once you register with them they send a link to a configuration file for the phone and this makes it all work. So, what do you get? Well, review the website but basically a VoIP phone and an online phone directory. The line is full featured with ‘do not disturb’ and an answering machine. The exchanges are set up in various places – I am connected to the European one (HHEU). There is also an exchange for unlicensed members. RF links are being set up too for those with an amateur radio licence.

As the service expands this could be a very interesting facility, and for the price of the phone – around £20 – one I could not resist.

They support a small range of SIP phones and I chose the 504G because it uses PoE, meaning no wall-wart as it gets its power via the Ethernet cable from our PoE switch.




The RSGB  certificate arrived today and Ofcom already had the licence waiting so I chose 2#0IGP (thus 2E0IGP from home at least, as I’m rarely out of England!). I tried other combinations but nothing that I wanted was available so I decided to keep the IGP, regardless of the fact it actually means nothing! I shall be rather more choosy when I eventually pass the Advanced exam.

Awful cookie consent pages…

There’s an interesting mixture of cookie consent pages and functions these days, ranging from one nice site I saw that had defaulted to ‘none’, to those that seem to want you to opt out individually to over 400 advertising cookies, with quite a few of those requiring you to go and find the advertiser in question to opt out. I just saw one which has the usual half-page banner that only gives an option to accept all cookies, but hidden (in plain sight) is a link that takes you to a consent page. This page does nothing that wanting you to consent to all cookies but, if you try hard enough it tells you how you can opt out – by visiting some advertising agency cookie control site. Er, no, that’s not how it should be done.

I wonder if anyone (other than me) actually bothers to complain to whatever agency is even listening about these stupid practices!

Intermediate passed

Passed the Intermediate exam today – now wait for the 2E-whatever callsign… then I can wind the wick up if needed. Mind you, the autotuner can only cope with 30W digi anyway, and it’s been fun seeing how far I can get with 10. Actually, the important thing to me is access to those microwave bands that the Foundation does not give, and also the ability to use homemade transmitters. Time to tidy the workshop!


The perils of using remote scripts

The BBC ran an article on the recent BA hack. The thing that stands out for me is the following:

“Hacks like this make use of an increasingly common phenomenon, in which large websites embed multiple pieces of code from other sources or third-party suppliers.
Such code may be needed to do specific jobs, such as authorise a payment or present ads to the user. But malicious code can be slipped in instead – this is known as a supply chain attack.” (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-45481976)

I’ve argued against this in the past but to no avail. And it’s everywhere now. Designers use code located in any old place in order to make their websites work. I’ve even seen it inside commercial CMS systems where, when PHP versions come out with functions deprecated the software vendor has a major task in finding or writing new libraries because the Internet sourced one they use is no longer being updated. I have also seen font libraries used where the usage exceeds the agreement and the download then fails, sometimes causing a delay in the poor user’s browser. Browse to just about any commercial website now and take a look at the connections your system is making and to where, these often to download a font or a Javascript library to do some jazzy function.

Remember the news when some Javascript library included a bitcoin mining script?

And heaven forbid programmers won’t simply take bits of code from Internet sources and glue it all together to create a new app. I mean, that would just be asking for trouble, right?

Basically, we’re doomed…

Big clearance!

So… I started work now on the garage and that’s where all the valves are. I’ve been swaying for weeks now between just concentrating on CVs and also other British military types. And I’ve come to a decision, finally. My collecting interests have for some time now been just CV types but I have also kept bits going where I have collected 1Bxx, RELxx, and Ax/Nx/Vx British types, and all sorts of other bits and  bats.

I am now only collecting CV types – and by that I mean they must actually be CV marked – and will be selling off / giving away everything else. So if anything takes your fancy let me know. Pity shipping costs are so expensive these days… but then some of the stuff I have is rare so many well be worth it.

This will cut the collection considerably but will also help fund my other hobbies! I got to about 3,000 valves at one stage, currently there are just over 1,800 individual valves (plus a few duplicates), and just under 1,300 individual CV types in the collection. I will be culling many of the CV semiconductors too – I went a little mad there!

One other change is I am no longer cataloguing non-CV names, i.e. where a valve is dual marked. There are a number of these in the database which will slowly be weeded out once things are cut down. There are loads of data sources out there and the CV Registers show equivalents, so no actual loss of data. It just makes more sense to me to do it this way.

(Edit: note that some valves were donated and in such cases these will be donated suitably elsewhere)

Network ‘radio’

The network radio rave continues and everyone will have, and will be perfectly entitled to their own views. Here’s mine.

I got into amateur radio after decades of not doing so but the interest began when I could pick up strange music and news from far away. This was in my childhood. I worked in electronics for some time and understand RF and all that jazz. I went through various SWL phases including getting heavily into RTTY, at one time having a couple of Creed 7E machines, a tape reader, a tape punch, and a TU connected to either my B40 or B41 receivers. Those are long gone but the number of radios I have is increasing. People ask me why bother with any of it when I can simply use the phone? But it still tickles me that electrons emitted from a bit of wet string in our loft can be picked up in the Falkland Islands. This is the essence of amateur radio to me.

Why bother? When asked why he wanted to climb Everest mallory famously and simply said “because it’s there”. Yet, I’ve seen photos of rock climbing vs climbing wall climbing used an an example of how network radio is the same as ‘real’ radio. I don’t see that. Climbing is climbing – a wall, a tree, a mountain. Yes, each is very different but all are still a physical exercise of getting oneself up a thing and defeating gravity. Extending this analogy, I would suggest that if climbing a wall were an analogy of radio, then taking a lift is an analogy of network radio.

Radio in the common sense differs, i.e. listening to local radio for example on a radio receiver vs streaming on a PC. But here, the listener wants to access whatever is playing regardless of the transmission medium. A colleague once stated the medium is not the message – when you need to access information, or music, or whatever it matters not what the medium is, only that you can access whatever you are after. But amateur radio is about RF. It’s about communicating for the sake of it rather than for the message. Here, the medium is the reason, regardless of the message.

True, lightwave radio is not RF, but it is cutting edge stuff and experimental and so still fits my idea of what the hobby is all about. Hotspots? These are just local repeaters – sort of anyway – and you still use an actual radio and RF to connect to it, as does the person the other end. And digimodes are kind of the inverse. A hotspot is RF – Internet – RF; digimodes are PC – RF – PC. Network radio is, well, Internet and nothing else. And remove the Internet, give me a decent battery and I can still talk to the world.

So I am solidly in the ‘if it does not use amateur frequencies it is not amateur radio’ camp. To me, network radio has more in common with a pair of tin cans and a string than with amateur radio. Skype, other VoIP, these are all a means to an end and not a means in themselves. You don’t Skype for a hobby, but you do ‘do’ radio. (that is not meant to belittle any hobby-Skypers out there!)

Meteor scatter

The Perseids are with us, peaking on 12th August apparently. Anyway, I’ve never received any MSK144 before so I left the rig running two nights ago on 50.280 and actually received two properly decoded CQs from a DK station. Now, if I had a decent aerial, and more watts…

Google’s hopeless reCaptcha strikes again!

Good grief. The infernal recaptcha is used on the car insurance amendment form of a well known insurer. I had to use this today as it is a lot easier than the phone. SEVEN screens of asking me to click every road sign and every store front, then the form would not finish, simply saying ‘field required’ – all were filled in correctly. No way back so I reloaded and started that part of the form over, another SEVEN screens, this time road signs and busses. Finally I got through. So FOURTEEN of these infuriating Google screens later I got to the end of the form. Actually, phoning would be easier, let’s give up on these web forms, as the use of this maddening junk makes it wholly useless now.

Oh yes and still if I dare click for the audio version it just tells me I have clearly mounted an automated attack and blocks all further requests. Clearing all my cookies sorted that one but the voices are generally unintelligible, so little help there.

Again with the photo ID

I need to collect some building supplies. These were ordered online ‘click and collect’, the emails and associated text comes to my phone, and yet I am told I need to bring photographic ID with me. I wonder if they will accept a photo of my passport photo on my phone… if there’s no queue I may well try that out!

Ok I can see the point, after all I already paid for the supplies and I would be really cross if someone faked my name and grabbed them.

Maybe if there was some government-backed ID other than a passport that can prove I am me… oh, wait.