Handiham World for 27 April 2011

Welcome to Handiham World!

And welcome to our special occasional computers-drive-me-crazy edition! Since the personal computer has become such a mainstay in the ham shack, every so often we devote an edition to the blessings and curses these machines visit upon us, and this is that edition.

If you are anything like the typical computer user, you use your computer to do a variety of plain vanilla tasks like web browsing and email. These functions are so mainstream that even grandma and grandpa have become comfortable with them. I know from my experience with amateur radio and amateur radio operators that most of us will go way beyond asking our computers to do those basic things. The typical ham shack is full of equipment that is just begging to play “tag, you’re it” with your computer. There is a specialty software for everything from antenna modeling to rig control, and of course VoIP software like EchoLink. Ham radio operators are often interested in other activities like astronomy, photography, aviation… The list seems to be just about endless. Personal computers can host software applications to make all of those other hobby activities even more fun. With all of these different applications installed on the ham shack computer there is potential for conflicts and – dare we say it – computer problems.

Who among us hasn’t had their personal computer drive them crazy on a semi-regular basis? Whether it is just one application that simply refuses to work even though it worked perfectly the day before or the whole computer being overtaken by malware or perhaps some kind of hardware failure, we have all experienced the frustration of dealing with this machine that has become pretty much essential in our daily activities. Why do we keep it around? Well, because it’s so doggone handy! I know I would hate to go back to the bad old days of typing on a typewriter. I’ve always been a terrible typist and make oodles of mistakes that used to require gallons of white correction fluid. When I type something on a typewriter, it is more efficient to use a paint roller to apply the correction fluid to the page than that little brush that comes in each bottle of “Type White”. In fact, I am typing this using voice input computing, Dragon NaturallySpeaking to be specific. I know my blind friends would hate to go back to the days before personal computers and modern screen readers opened up so many pathways to accessibility. And in the ham shack my radios are controlled by software, Ham Radio Deluxe, and I’m afraid I’ve gotten pretty spoiled with how easy this software makes keeping my amateur radio logbook up-to-date. Although the computer may be a pain in the posterior more often than I think it should be, I would never go back to the bad old days of pre-computer ham radio.

So today let’s take a look at some ongoing issues with computers in the ham shack and computers in general as well as some new stuff that has been suggested to us by Handiham members.

For Handiham World, I’m…

Pat Tice [email protected]

Pat Tice, WA0TDA, is the manager of HANDI-HAM and a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com. Contact him at [email protected].

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