Friday, August 16, 2013

So *you* have radio interference problems?


If you want to work at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory at Green Bank, WV (my stomping ground in ancient times), you better be prepared to leave your technology behind.  It's a little ironic, because they have some of the most powerful computers, receivers, and electronics you would ever hope to use, but all the local equipment is rigorously RFI-suppressed and tested in anechoic chambers before it is installed.

Check out "The Enemy Is Us" (pdf).

Added: NRAO Green Bank is near the center of the National Radio Quiet Zone.  This is a much larger area (13,000 sq. miles) where all radio emitters by law have to be coordinated to minimize impact at NRAO.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Luddite Cellphone Report


For a few years, I've been telling folks about how I've gone from a $100/mo. smart phone service to  $10-15, non contract, on a barebones Tracfone device.  I don't need e-mail and Internet connectivity when on the hoof, and I have a Nexus 7 tablet for navigation and portable use. Lately, we've had a weird sequence of events that got me to re-evaluate, but the situation is stabilizing now.

The story outline:

  1. Noticed that my car's Bluetooth hands-free system isn't functioning.  After a few days,
  2. Leaning over to check my pool water, and my Tracfone fell out of my pocket into the deep end.
  3. Phone is retrieved after 5 minutes and placed aside to dry out.  Not much hope, as my last Tracfone suffered the same fate and never came back.
  4. Recalled that at least one smart phone is now being advertised as waterproof (or resistant?).  Maybe that would be a good one to have?  It would be nice to have mobile yelp and other services like my friends all seem to have...
  5. Trying to do some banking business, I discover that I'm blocked because I signed up for 2-factor authentication.  I can't add my wife's phone to the list without receiving a code on my dead phone.  (I could call the bank about this, but that's a last resort.)
  6. Google's 2-factor process at least allows me to use one of my one-time pass codes since, thankfully, I haven't lost my wallet.  Anyway, I better get a phone back with my old number asap.
  7. The quickest and easiest way to get my number working again is to go back to Tracfone.  I ordered a reconditioned LG.
  8. Phone arrives, costing a little over $20 including overnight air.  It wants me to charge for "5 hours", but charging is complete after about 2 hours.
  9. Now to the T'phone website to register the new unit and hopefully snag my old number back. End up with a human operator of uncertain nationality talking through a horrendous phone circuit.  She said many things that I did not understand, but finally it seemed we agreed on the basics.  (I hope I did not agree to sell my firstborn.) My number should be effective overnight.  Actually, it only took an hour or so.
  10. The new phone became registered in stages.  At first, I could dial out, but not receive calls.  Then it seemed I could send text message, but not receive them.  After 1-2 days, we seem to be fully registered wherever cellphones get registered.
  11. Car's hands free Bluetooth is still bust.  I'm guessing that repair will either be free (find the right reset button) or probably 10X the cost of the new phone.
So I'm outfitted with a new (old) phone that is rather snazzier than my previous Motorola W376g.   Still no email, no yelp, etc. but it's a phone.

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