Thursday, November 26, 2009

Why Linux/OSS for Amateur Radio?

How to explain to a non-computer-geek ham what Open Source Software and Linux are all about? OSS and Linux are important to software users the same way a good repair manual and schematics are important to hams. Not every ham knows what to do with schematics, but those who are inclined to open up, understand, repair, and modify their equipment certainly do. Without being able to see what's inside and what connects to what, there is very little you can do. That's exactly why you need to be able to access and work with source code when it comes to software.

These issues will directly affect relatively few hams. Many are "appliance operators" when it comes to software, just as for hardware. For them, a proprietary OS may be a good choice because of its familiarity and the huge choice of available software.

We can admire the dedicated hams who build their own stations and who are on the cutting edge of new hardware technologies. It's the same with software. With software becoming increasingly central to amateur radio (in SDR, digital modes, etc.), competence in coding is getting to be just as important as operating a soldering iron.

While you can roll your own software from scratch, it can be far more efficient (and -- as we like it -- cheaper!) to build your code in the OSS "ecosystem", making use of many libraries and tools that are free for the download. OSS really pays off when you give the fruits of your labor back to the community to spur further development.

These are a few of my open source thoughts!

(a comment on a Linux Journal blog)

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

AC plugs around the world

If you've traveled around the world at all, and you're a ham operator, you've surely wondered about all those different AC power plugs. So who has the best? We have a view from the UK here.

Naturally, the UK wins! I can sympathize with the safety advantages: fusing in the plug and automatic shutters in the socket. (This is for a "manly" 240 V, you know.) But the authors don't consider a few other questions: cost, size, and weight, for example! Those plugs are heavy, bulky, and expensive. The wall sockets take a lot of area for each power point. Don't even ask about outlet strips or "cube taps".