Random Radio Thoughts
The tower fell and crashed to the ground in a fairly confined area, with the top and bottom of the tower within twenty feet of one another. Amazingly, the collapsing tower completely missed most of the heavily developed area immediately surrounding the tower, with only one building sustaining minor roof damage. No one on the ground was hurt. Photos of the collapse are available online at: http://www.oldradio.com/archives/warstories/640.htm.
KFI was off the air for about an hour, most of that because authorities securing the scene would not permit Tony Dinkel into the site. Once inside, he was able to get the station back on the air on the station's 200-foot auxiliary tower, which thankfully was not damaged. The station, which is the Los Angeles area co-LP1, is currently operating with 25 kW on the aux tower. The 25 kW IDF from the aux tower calculates to be about 1,350 mV/m, about half the normal IDF for the station. Still, it beats the heck out of being off the air.
Replacing the fallen tower may not be as straightforward as one might think. It's been a long time since the tower was first erected, and a lot of development has taken place in the area since that time. It doesn't help that the headline in the December 21 Region & State section of the L.A. Times was, "Tower in Deadly Crash Was a Menace to Incoming Fullerton Flights, Pilots Say." There is bound to be a lot of opposition to the rebuilding. I suspect that the federal courts will be involved before all is said and done.
It occurred to me when I heard the story that the area where the wire was stolen is also "DA Row," the area where a number of AM antenna sites are located. KRKS/KBJD, KLZ, KHOW, KNUS and KLDC are four of the sites along this corridor. Copper ground systems are always vulnerable, but perhaps we should keep a closer eye on them since we know copper thieves are on the prowl.
If you have news you would like to share with the Rocky Mountain radio engineering community, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Los Angeles Tower Felled By Plane Crash
Chapter 59 – Kansas City
The Associated Press reports that a private plane crashed into the tower of KFI-AM Los Angeles at 9:45 a.m. on Dec. 19. The single-engine Cessna 182 brought the 760' tower down. The two people on the plane were killed. Their identities have not yet been released.
The plane was en route to Fullerton Airport from El Monte, both in California, when it crashed. Fullerton airport is about one mile from the tower site. The FAA reports that the pilot did not issue any distress reports.
KFI's tower has resisted earthquakes and a brush with a private plane once before. The tower survived the previous air incident. The tower's guy wires were replaced in March 2004 after 47 years of use.
KFI reports that the station was off the air for about an hour before switching to an auxiliary tower at the same site at about 5kW. Within a day, the station was able to increase its power to about 25kW. The station is licensed for 50kW into the main antenna.
FCC Adopts Rules For Broadband Over Power Lines
Thanks to Chapter 9, Phoenix
Washington, D.C.--As part of its goal to promote access to broadband services for all Americans and to encourage new facilitiesbased broadband platforms, the Federal Communications Commission last month adopted changes to Part 15 of its rules to encourage the development of Access Broadband over Power Line (Access BPL) systems while safeguarding existing licensed services against harmful interference. Access BPL is a new technology that provides access to high-speed broadband services using the largely untapped communications capabilities of the nation's power grid. By facilitating access to BPL, the Commission takes an important step toward increasing the availability of broadband to wider areas of the country because, power lines reach virtually every home and community. In areas where consumers already have broadband access, BPL can enhance competition by providing another broadband alternative. Access BPL will also facilitate the ability of electric utilities to dynamically manage the power grid itself, increasing network reliability by remote diagnosis of electrical system failures. In the Report and Order (Order) adopting these changes, the Commission recognized the significant concerns of some licensed radio service users regarding the potential of Access BPL systems to cause interference to their operations. Access BPL has been tested in Canada and did not become a source of harmful interference to licensed radio services. Based on extensive research and analyses, as well as experience, it concluded that the interference concerns of licensed radio users can be adequately addressed and that Access BPL systems will be able to operate successfully on an unlicensed, noninterference basis under the Part 15 model. The rule changes in the Order establish specific technical and administrative requirements for Access BPL equipment and operators to ensure that interference does not occur.
The Order also sets forth procedures to measure the radio frequency (RF) energy emitted by Access BPL equipment. fcc.gov that makes for better EAS nationally. FEMA - which is now part of the Department of Homeland Security - said the six-month pilot is aimed at creating better public alert and warning during times of crisis. It uses local public TV digital television broadcasts stations. The agency wants to deploy the system nationally; it said it is talking to radio and TV stations, cellphone providers and others about how to make that happen. The system supplements existing national EAS. An office within FEMA is the government's agent for the national-level EAS system. The pilot program also involves other Homeland Security officials and the Association of Public Television Stations. Goals of the tests: to improve the government's ability to provide alert and warning accessibility to the hearing and visually impaired, target warnings and improve reception by increasing the number of devices that can receive warnings. fema.gov
SBE Short Circuits - December 2005
By John L. Poray, CAE
SBE TO INTRODUCE CERT SPECIALTIES
The first specialty will test on maintaining AM directional antennas. Those wishing to take a SBE Specialty exam will need to already hold a current SBE Broadcast Engineer or higher certification. A one-day seminar on AM directional antennas is also in the works.
LEADER SKILLS 2005 SCHEDULED
SBE COMPILING BREAK-IN OCCURRENCES
SBE General Counsel, Chris Imlay is keeping a log of break-ins and is sharing this information with the FBI in Washington, D.C. Send any information to Chris at email@example.com. You can read more about the recent break-ins in Chris' column in the December issue of the SBE Signal.
Sample tests include 50 to 100 questions and indicate when an incorrect answer has been given. It provides a list of resources from which to learn more about a subject. Cost for each SBE CERTpreview practice test is $27 plus $3 shipping. Contact the National Office to order a copy.
RENO NEWEST SBE CHAPTER
NOMINATIONS OPEN FOR SBE FELLOW
Candidates for election to Fellow must be proposed in writing by a voting member to the Fellowship Committee. The nomination must include an appropriate and complete history of the nominee and the written endorsement of at least five other voting members. Nominations are confidential. Candidates should not be aware that they have been nominated.
Nominations for the year 2005 must be received no later than March 31 for consideration. The Fellows Committee will bring the names of nominees to the SBE Board of Directors for consideration and election. The SBE Secretary will notify those elected. They will receive their award at the SBE National Awards Dinner next October in Dallas, Texas, during the SBE 2005 National Meeting, to be held in conjunction with the Broadcast Engineering Expo presented by Chapter 67.
If there is a member in your chapter who has distinguished themselves in the field of broadcast engineering, this is an opportunity for members of your chapter to prepare a nomination for that person.
Nominations for Fellow are to be submitted to Martin Sandberg, CPBE, Chairman, SBE Fellowship Committee, 9807 Edgecove Drive, Dallas, Texas, 75238-1535 or to firstname.lastname@example.org.
SBE Compiling Break-In Occurrences
The recent rash of break-ins at station transmitter sites in some areas of the country has caught the attention of many broadcast engineers and also that of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. There has been speculation that some of these incidents may not be just random acts but pre-planned activities by terrorist operatives. Be sure to report any break-ins or other malicious activities to your local police department and FBI office but also let SBE know. SBE General Counsel, Chris Imlay is keeping a log of break-ins and is sharing this information with the FBI in Washington, D.C. Send any information to Chris at email@example.com. You can read more about the recent break-ins in Chris’ column in the December issue of the SBE Signal.
The new SBE CertPreview sample certification test software is now available. It’s Microsoft Windows-based and replaces the previous DOS-based software. New sample tests are available for Broadcast Technologist, Audio Engineer, Video Engineer, Broadcast Networking Technologist, Broadcast Engineer and Senior Broadcast Engineer in both radio and television. Sample tests include 50 to 100 questions and indicate when an incorrect answer has been given. It provides a list of resources from which to learn more about a subject. Cost for each SBE CertPreview practice test is $27 plus $3 shipping. Contact the National Office to order a copy.
Certification Exam Session Dates Announced For 2005
The SBE National Certification Committee has announced exam session dates for 2005. Check the list below for the exam period that is best for you. For more information about SBE Certification, see your Chapter Certification Chair or contact Linda Baun, Certification Director at the SBE National Office at (317) 846-9000 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note: SBE Certification exams are administered only by SBE and are proctored in-person by qualified and approved representatives of SBE. No other organization is authorized to administer SBE exams.
Society of Broadcast Engineers
Life With HD Radio (FM At Least)
Kent Randles – Chapter 124 Portland
As I write this, 92.3 KGON's 1 kW ERP HD signal, 1% of their 100 kW analog ERP, has been on fulltime for a little over a month from their aux antenna on the Stonehenge Tower. We're now waiting for the PAD (program associated data) equipment to arrive. Known local listeners are up to eight, which includes the Entercom and Clear Channel engineers' vehicles.
At the Skyline Tower site, feedline installation between the Shively combiner and the Shively panel antenna was to start December 12th. There might be four more FM HD signals on the air in the Portland area from there by Christmas, one more from Entercom, and three from Clear Channel. At the Stonehenge Tower site, 99.5 KWJJ HD should be on within a couple weeks, into the same model of aux antenna as KGON, but at 500 watts ERP, 1% of their analog ERP.
I'm still very happy with the JVC KD-SHX900 radio, with the coolest feature being an "HD" button on the front panel, which switches the display to a page where you can choose auto, digital, or analog listening modes. The radio will stay in the mode chosen until you change frequencies.
In his column later in this issue of the newsletter, Mike Brown writes about his experience of traveling down I-5 to southern California with his Kenwood HD radio during the Thanksgiving holiday. He listened to AM IBOC from San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Where do you need to be?
Thanks to Chapter 59, Kansas City
In today's fast-paced, interconnected world, it is a relatively simple matter to see satellite pictures only a few minutes old, download files from halfway around the world and converse with friends instantly without a telephone. Despite these capabilities, do you still have to make a trip to the transmitter or a remote site to do anything other than maintenance? If so, why?
This point has been driven home lately as I oversee a facility with a studio and two remote transmitters at separate locations. For a variety of reasons, the remote controls are useless. Yes, they provide the functions needed to comply with FCC regulations, but they do not allow sufficient flexibility to troubleshoot or repair remotely. One remote location is 40 minutes southwest of the studio, the other is 30 minutes southeast of the studio. Even though the two transmitters are only about 25 miles apart, thanks to the Missouri river, there is no way to get directly from one to the other, making it a 70-minute trip. Needless to say, time spent (wasted) driving can be considerable, as is the cost off the off-air time.
Yes, remote control can be expensive, but so can off-air time. Interfaces to meters, control points and warning circuits can all be found today from a variety of sources. Some can be home-brewed from relays and other components that may be leftover spares or found in decommissioned equipment. Telephone interfaces—especially modems—are common today. They are on nearly every PC—even the old ones that have been removed from service. These can be used for a variety of purposes, even if you are not skilled at writing software. I/O boards are available from numerous manufacturers that cost less than $200. Most offer a Windows interface that is easy to set up and control over a dialup phone line or through the Internet. An added bonus may the ability to send text messages, or offer voice capabilities, both of which make it easy to interface with just a cell phone, instead of requiring a computer. Something else that is quite common today is an SMTP interface. This is essentially an e-mail client. Properly configured e-mails could easily be sent directly to a database to provide a long-term record of meter readings and status at the remote site.
Next time you "must" make a trip to the transmitter, see if you can implement some additional remote control that would allow you to at least diagnose the problem and, ideally, correct it remotely.
Regardless of what you use, make sure it offers some level of security through passwords. Any modem in an auto-answer mode is a target for hackers. The last thing you need is 12-year old script kiddie who has figured out how to control your transmitter and is enjoying it. Along those lines, having caller ID and a log at the remote site might not be a bad idea if an intruder does find a way in.
Are You Flying Blind
By Steve Epstein, CPBE, CBNT
Recently, I was called in to assist in the repair of a full power UHF transmitter. This particular rig was one of only eight units produced and had been through a lot in the 15 years since it was new, including nearly continuous overheating, years of neglect, and several recent arcs.
The final blow was a water leak that flooded the high voltage section. Prior to my arrival, those responsible had subjected the visual klystron to sufficient stress to crack the tube.
Looking around, portions of the problem were obvious. Not only were the maintenance records extremely sparse, but over the nine days it took to return this transmitter to air, we discovered that most of the meters did not work.
How anyone can run a 60kW transmitter without meters is beyond me, but that was the case. Apparently, this had been done for years. Digging through the paperwork I found a 10-year-old sheet of meter readings that showed three of the 16 meters to be non-functional. Playing with high voltage comes with the territory, but playing with it while blindfolded is simply stupid.
We have all run across the meter or gauge that, after having shown the same reading for many years, has become inoperable with the indicator stuck in the on position. Meters, indicator lights, and status reports are put there to provide troubleshooting information. Sure, it takes time and money to keep these indicators functioning, but the alternative (losing something and not knowing what) can consume far more time and money. In the process of getting that transmitter back on the air, we had numerous instances of emergency parts delivery, both same day and overnight. Each of these added to the overall cost of the repair.
Not only did the previous engineering managers fail to do their jobs as they pertained to equipment maintenance, they also failed to convey the situation to management. Management also is to blame in that it was warned but failed to take action quickly enough. I believe it is up to us as engineers to make those warnings heard. All of us have had to make do with a less than ideal repair due to budgets. For many, finding a way to do it for less is part of the challenge-especially at 3 a.m. when everything is closed. Many of those repairs need to be redone properly as soon as possible for two reasons: first they will likely come back and bite us later, and second we are reducing the value of the station's assets by doing a sub-standard repair.
Money is tight and the economy is weak, but in the end the station's signal and audience is what determines its value. Management knows and understands that. It is up to us as engineers to convey the detrimental long- and short-term effects of sub-standard maintenance to management. If they really want to hold their facility together with duct tape and baling wire, it is time to find another job. However, if their intent is preserve the value of their assets, it is our job to find to most cost-effective way to do that.
Steve Epstein is the Chair of SBE Chapter 59, Kansas City. (http://www.broadcast.net/~sbe59/)
Travels with Fred
It's no secret that I like the travel part of what of what I do, and the places I get to experience. But more often than not, it's the people one meets that makes this fun. On a flight to Salt Lake City, me in my last minute middle seat, 1B, I notice that 1A, window, has an Optimist FM radio and earpiece.
Now, before 9-11, and all of that, I occasionally carried a Realistic Minisette-10 with a stealth antenna (wire and a piece of tape) and a stack of blank tapes. I'd wait for an ID, and then tune to the next station. From 35,000 feet on a trip from NAB to Chicago years ago, I logged stations from Washington State to Texas. Want to learn something of FM antenna patterns? Listen to a Class A frequency. Use your imagination and your knowledge of end-fire versus the power on the horizon, and you can figure out that with the FM capture effect, stations from a hundred miles away via for capture time with stations right below. With 60 mile spacing, the airplane leaves one Class A for another every 10-minutes, and you can fly through a null and maximum every few seconds. It is not at all random, and talk about being one with the electron, listen to the tape a few times and think three dimensionally and it all makes sense.
This guy had to be a radio fan, and he must have known that airlines frown on such things. In fact, there is a real concern, as the local oscillator is 21.4 MHz (for a standard 10.7 MHz IF with high end insertion) above the received frequency, so starting at 86.7 MHz on up to 118.6 MHz (which means the whole Broadcast FM band and then some) the LO covers the entire 108.1-140 MHz aircraft band. If the radio is a bit leaky, it is not unreasonable to expect the LO to interfere with the aircraft radio. I, of course, measured my radio and found the design to be rather tight. It would have had to been within a few feet of the aircraft's antenna to be heard above the noise floor. Some radios do a far better job of radiating their LO and can be heard down the block. I suspect the average passenger doesn't check this out.
In any case, meet Scott Hegle, resident of Milwaukee, and knower of all sorts of radio everything from around the country. It's a quick flight, but long enough to learn that we have acquaintances in radio common (I did grow up in Wisconsin after all, and played engineer and forgive me "talent" at a few Milwaukee area stations a long time ago). One of his favorites was a student of mine (I also taught in Burlington and there was this radio station, WBSD at the high school….), and gee I feel old. He doesn't remember me on the air, which is some consolation.
Somewhere, just before landing, I realized that Scott was blind. More than that, he markets communications devices for the sight impaired, and this was a sales call. The top row of that computer he is carrying has a Brail "display" and it includes speech synthesis.
Scott has a tower with a rotator and FM Yagi, but not as much interest in AM these days, as he points out that the same talk shows are everywhere these days.
Amateur Radio News
By Tom Weeden, WJ9H
o Astronaut Leroy Chiao, KE5BRW, used his recently minted ham radio license for the first time November 19th to speak with students in southeastern Italy from NA1SS aboard the International Space Station. Arranged by the Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) program, the contact also kicked off a series of educational contacts for the Expedition 10 crew, which arrived aboard the ISS in October.
"It's a great pleasure to be addressing you from the International Space Station," Chiao told the youngsters as the contact got under way. "This is my first ham radio contact, so I'm honored to be sharing this experience with you." Chiao got his license in June while training for his ISS mission.
Posing questions from Earth were youngsters from two elementary schools and a comprehensive school in Polignano-a-Mare, ranging in age from 6 to 14. Members of a local amateur radio club set up a satellite earth station at one elementary school and a backup station at the other elementary school. They also established audio and video links from the station to monitors in the other two schools' auditoriums. In all, Chiao answered 18 questions from students during the approximately eight-minute contact.
ARISS <http://www.rac.ca/ariss/> is an educational outreach with US participation by the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), the Amateur Satellite Corporation (AMSAT) and NASA.
o The FCC has turned down a Petition for Rule Making that sought to establish specific bandwidth standards for full-carrier AM and single sideband (SSB) Amateur Radio emissions. Two amateurs filed the petition, designated RM-10740, on May 27, 2003. The FCC said a majority of the approximately 160 members of the amateur community who commented on the petition opposed the concept.
The petition had asked the FCC to "remove the ambiguity" in Part 97 of the Rules, and they referenced Enforcement Bureau letters sent to amateurs alleging overly wide SSB signals-sometimes called "Enhanced Single Sideband." On HF frequencies below 28.8 MHz, the petition recommended a maximum 2.8 kHz bandwidth SSB (J3E) emissions and a maximum 5.6 kHz bandwidth for AM (A3E) emissions.
Asserting that most radio amateurs "operate in a manner consistent with the basic purpose of the Amateur Service," the FCC said its existing rules are "adequate to address any noncompliant practices by amateur operators." Current FCC rules require that amateur transmissions not occupy "more bandwidth than necessary for the information rate and emission type being transmitted, in accordance with good amateur practice," and that emissions outside the necessary bandwidth not interfere with operations on adjacent frequencies. The FCC also said the petitioners failed to show that there is "a particular problem" with stations using AM.
The Order said the FCC's Enforcement Bureau will continue to monitor through its complaint process "nonconforming activities" of operators who fail to abide by its rules.
(Excerpts from the American Radio Relay League's arrl.org web site)
Classic Bay Area Air Checks...
From Chapter 40 - San Franciso
Mike Schweizer, who known as a local phone / tech god for various Bay Area stations, has been airchecking Bay Area radio stations since the late sixties. He passed on a couple of DVDs of airchecks (only a fraction of his archive) to me (Tim) a couple of weeks ago. I have uploaded them and they can be found at:
Great non-telescoped stuff from...
KBRG, KDAY, KDIA, KFRC-FM, KGBS, KGO-FM, KGO, KIKX, KIQI, KLIV, KMPX, KNEW, KOA, KSFX, KTKT, KUSF, KYA-FM, KYA, XEPRS and XERB. And of course KFOG's transition from Beautiful Muzak to the current format. :-)
Featuring News, Rumors and Views
Every year about this time I sit in front of this computer here in the Ham-Shack and look at the calendar…Whew! Where has this year gone? It seems like yesterday we were all sweating Y2K.
I am personally looking forward to winter and a reduced travel schedule and a chance to catch up on that huge pile on my desk, here and in the office, and hopefully some restful hours in front of the wood stove. Before I forget it, a sincere wish for a wonderful holiday season to you and yours.
Now to some tidbits...
Talk about moving up the ladder! Congratulations to Kelly Alford on his promotion to DOE of KOMO Radio -and- Television.
Sometimes doing the math does not help…. In mid-November a number of folks started hearing KING-TV's audio on 107.7. This caused a lot of head scratching when it was determined that a calculator was of no help. I understand that the problem was found in the KING-TV transmitter somewhere. That was 'freaky.'
Shortly after I wrote in last month's column about the 93.7 pirate station, the fine folks from the local FCC office visited the operator and apparently convinced him that his station was not a good idea. Recent checks of the frequency have only yielded a station from BC.
Found an interesting piece in a local paper the other day. A writer was suggesting that Mercer Island High should yield in their radio station dispute. I have not heard much recently about the battle to keep KMIH on the air. I suspect that the commercial interests will win out and 104.5 will become another one of the ever-growing number of radio choices in this area.
The Covington/104.5 facility is not unlike other FMs that are shuffling transmitter sites so as to try and gain a piece of the radio audience in Pugetopolis. 99.3 and 102.9 also come to mind. In time these stations will likely become part of one of the national company's cluster with studios in downtown Seattle.
The local HD score is still at nine, and holding; however I have learned that Infinity is planning on adding HD to KZOK and KMPS pretty soon. Sometime next year Sandusky will add HD to their FM stations. This is going to present a problem for me… as the number of stations operating HD will exceed the number of pushbuttons on my car radio. Down in Portland Entercom is in the process of adding HD to their cluster of stations. It's interesting to hear stories about their experiences.
Entercom is now a cluster of seven stations, down from eight with the sale of their 1210 operation in Auburn. The Auburn based station's new call is KDDS and the format is Latino. This is the 4th owner of this station, which was started by Ed Garre back in 1958 as a 250-watt day-timer.
On the EAS Front there is a whole bunch happening. The FCC released their NPRM (04-296) where they propose to make a number of substantial changes to the system. In my role as the EAS Chair on the SBE National Board of Directors this meant that it was time to write SBE's response to the NPRM. This process took a good deal of time and involved a number of folks on the SBE EAS Committee as well as the SBE FCC Liaison Committee as well as the BOD itself. Finally, just prior to the Oct. 29th due date we filed our comments - almost 14,000 words. Shortly after this the FCC had online all the comments filed…. All 99 of them! My job now: draft the Reply Comments. This is where you read what everyone else has said and decide whether or not you want to make comment on their ideas, etc. This process required that I print out most of the filings and attack them with a pencil and highlighter. Thankfully I had a stint with Jury Duty so I did have some reading time. Then you sit down at the computer and write comments. The result of this was fourteen pages and just over 10,600 words. When I finished this I shipped it to the FCC Liaison Committee (which I am also on) where that group will have a chance to change, delete, edit, etc., and finally, by Nov 29th, it will be filed with the FCC. The next part is the most interesting. You sit and wait…. And wonder while the wheels of government go around and around. My guess is sometime next year the FCC will make the great pronouncement and we will then learn what the 'new' EAS is going to be like. If you are interested in this process, you can go to the FCC, on-line, and see not only the NPRM but also all the comments and reply comments*. Plan on spending a LONG time reading. If you have a question, thought, or just wish to talk about this issue, give me a call.
*Please see SBE response/comments to FCC at:
In the meantime, locally, King County Emergency Management sent out an RMT in November that was REALLY bad quality. Believe me, we are working on this matter. This brings me to a pitch:
The FCC continues to enforce their EAS rules. Down in the Palm Springs area of California they recently fined a Low Power $6400 for not having EAS equipment installed and operating. Duh! You'd think by now that just about everyone knew that.
In the Portland area the Commish fined a fellow 10-Grand for operating an un-licensed FM station on 98.1.
1090 AM (why do I still think of it as KING-AM?) has dropped their country-oldies format in favor of the liberal talk format called Air America. Probably good timing; with the Republicans having made big gains in the past elections, this format will have no shortage of material. The demise of music on 1090 results in another step toward AM becoming a talk-only band. It seems like the most music on AM today is non-English.
Now that the Nextel proposal appears to be moving forward… so is SBE's involvement in the process. David Otey is now full time with SBE with the new responsibility to organize the conversion of all of our 2-gig TV gear to conform to the new band plan. The makers of TV ENG gear have got to love this one. COFDM will shortly become the norm in that world as all the older gear must be replaced. There are a lot of interesting aspects of this project.
Clay, K7CR, CPBE
The End User
A moment of silence now, please… for the official passing of Nullsoft. What's that? You never heard of Nullsoft? Heard of Winamp, Gnutella file-sharing or the Shoutcast MP3 streaming server? Yup. All those were created by Nullsoft. After practically inventing the MP3 craze seven years ago, AOL bought Nullsoft for $100 million in 1999. Company founder Justin Frankel didn't just sit on his hands after that big payday-he created Gnutella, the decentralized peer-to-peer file sharing system (much to the chagrin of AOL) and the free Shoutcast MP3 streaming server, enabling online broadcasting for the masses. Unofficially, Nullsoft was history after the AOL buyout, but last month, the remaining employees left the company and it was officially closed.
So next time you fire up Winamp (or any other MP3 player) or listen to a Shoutcast stream, tip your hat to Justin Frankel and his maverick company that changed the way we listen to music.
Looks like warnings about malicious computing have finally hit the mainstream. The December Reader's Digest had a seven page article on how to avoid "phishing." "Science Update," a syndicated daily radio vignette, has recently talked about "phishing" and other e-mail scams. And TV news always reports on every new virus and malware program as soon as they're discovered. This mainstreaming of computing alerts is definitely a good thing, because these days users need to be a LOT more sophisticated to safely operate their computers.
Tease for next month: In January, we'll take a look back at tech in 2004, and a look ahead to the New Year. And the column certainly won't be centered on new product releases.
Get Emergency Messages On Your Wireless Device
By Vicki W. Kipp
Would you like to receive emergency notifications on your wireless telephone, digital pager, e-mail inbox, Blackberry, fax machine, or any device equipped with an e-mail reception? A free public service provided by The Emergency Email & Wireless Network makes this possible (see figure 1). Their mission is to "Provide notification to citizens of local, regional, national and international emergencies utilizing the Internet and electronic mail (email) in a secure and expedient manner."
To sign up for this service, go to www.emergencyemail.org, www.emergencye.com, or www.emergencyemailnetwork.com. Find your state on the left most "Sign Up Here" column. Click on your county in the left-most column. You will need to enter the email address at which you wish to receive emergency notifications, your home county, zip code, and time zone.
You can select which types of notifications you wish to receive from among "severe weather information" (non-emergency), "Homeland Security Code," "Cyber threats to your computer" (limited time free trial), "Organ Donation," "Daily Weather Forecasts" (if available), "Routine Blood Drive/ Red Cross," and "Missing Children Amber Alerts" (as available). You can also elect not to receive National Disaster News. People who get charged for incoming text messages may want to be more selective about which messages they accept.
Some of the messages offered through this service are not distributed via all the sources we traditionally monitor for emergency messages. Having signed up to be notified about non-emergency severe weather information, I recently received a "dense fog advisory," issued by the National Weather Service, on my wireless device.
The Emergency Email & Wireless Network offers notification of K-12 school closings. However, no schools in Wisconsin are currently signed up to provide notification through this service.
As we know, there is no such thing as a free lunch. On the sign-up web page, there is an option which says, "Keep this service FREE. I agree to receive info from our sponsors WHO make it possible." A few of the sponsors are listed on the Emergency Email & Wireless Network web site. Incidentally, the Emergency Email & Wireless Network offers a separate commercial service to private companies where they provide corporate message distribution as designated by that company.
When signing up, you can elect to block all non-emergency emails during certain hours of the day, and specify a range of hours. To complete the sign-up process, click on the gray "Add" button.
If you wish to change your preferences later or to unsubscribe, go to the web site. Click on the "Update - Unsubscribe" menu near the top of the page. After entering your email address and zip code and clicking on "Update Profile" you can unselect options or unsubscribe.
Agency participation to provide notifications to The Emergency Email & Wireless Network is voluntary. City, county, federal, and civil defense agencies, as well as Red Cross chapters and blood centers, and K-12 schools can sign up to send emergency notifications on the Emergency Email Network at www.emergencyemail.org/911message.htm. Localities are charged for the ability to disseminate their notifications through the Emergency Email & Wireless Network. Notification sources can send notifications through the service's web-based sending interface.
While my favorite source of emergency information is my local broadcast station, getting a text alert on my wireless device can be handy at times.
Watch Out For These New Viruses
Neither Symantec nor McAfee have solutions as yet!!!
The George Bush Virus - Causes your computer to keep looking for viruses of mass destruction.
The Clinton Virus - Gives you a permanent Hard Drive with NO memory.
The Al Gore Virus - Causes your computer to just keep counting and re-counting.
The John Kerry virus - causes the floppy to flip flop on its stored memory.
The Arnold Schwarzenegger Virus - Terminates some files, leaves, but will be back.
The Mike Tyson Virus - Quits after two bytes.
Some January Humor
On the first day of college, the Dean addressed the students, pointing out some of the rules: "The female dormitory will be out-of-bounds for all male students, and the male dormitory to the female students. Anybody caught breaking this rule will be fined $20 the first time. Anybody caught breaking this rule the second time will be fined $60. Being caught a third time will cost you $180. Are there any questions?" "How much for a season pass?"
Real Instruction Labels
ON A HAIR DRYER:
ON A BAG OF FRITOS:
ON A BAR OF DIAL SOAP:
ON TESCO'S TIRAMISU DESERT:
ON MARKS & SPENCER BREAD PUDDING:
ON NYTOL (A SLEEP AID):
ON A JAPANESE FOOD PROCESSOR:
ON SAINSBURY'S PEANUTS:
ON AN AMERICAN AIRLINES PACKET OF NUTS:
Garneth M. Harris
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