Posts Tagged ‘Soapbox’

Cut the quotes, please

Why do some people find it necessary to put some irrelevant quote after their signature in forum and mailing list postings? When you see posts from these people several times a day it becomes incredibly irritating.

One person whose posts I seem to encounter frequently has two quotes after his signature: “Whoever said nothing is impossible never tried slamming a revolving door!” and “A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have.”

I can’t say I ever found the first one very funny but it has got very old after the 100th viewing. And I didn’t join a ham radio mailing list to learn about people’s political opinions, whether or not I agree with them. So please, just stop doing it.

Avoidable Acronym

You’ve all seen it: a new or prospective radio amateur joins a web forum and posts: “I’m looking for advice on how to get started in HAM radio.” HAM is not an acronym. What do they think it stands for? I consulted the Acronym Finder and could find nothing remotely relevant.

Having been in computing for more years than I care to remember, I know that the avoidable acronym is not a new invention. The one that really used to bug me is HELP, as in “Software includes full online HELP.” For goodness sake! Help is a word, not an acronym. I don’t think it was meant as a cry for assistance: HEEELLLPPP!!!! though I have come across a few programs where that would be appropriate.

Another example is FAX. Again, I can’t think of three words it could be an acronym for. It’s short for facsimile, so it’s just fax.

And ham is short for amateur, so capitalization is not required. There are many suggestions as to why amateur radio became known as ham radio. No-one really knows. Some say it has the same origins as “ham actor”, though that’s a pejorative term for an actor who overacts and generally isn’t very good. Others suggest it comes from British English. Cockneys (working class Londoners) drop the leading H from words like “hurry” or “have”, so they would often insert it in front of words where it doesn’t belong when trying to “speak posh.” Hence “amateur” would become “hamateur” and then “ham”.

Who knows? But whatever the origin, ham certainly isn’t an acronym.

Making a mistake, rapidly

Someone commented in the eHam ratings for my blog that I spent too much time complaining about retailers. I’m sorry about that, I only tell it how it is, but it appears that no-one in this country is capable of doing their job properly. Perhaps the government’s policy of sending 50% of people to university means that most people are over-qualified for the job they do and are too bored by it to actually think about what they were doing.

Phase 2 of my shack renovation was completed earlier this week. It should have been finished a couple of weeks ago. Olga designed and ordered a system of wall units including shelves, cupboards and a bureau with a door that drops down to form a working surface. This bureau is to be my workbench – now I can start something and when I have done enough for one day I can just close the door on it so everything stays looking tidy.

The consignment arrived consisting of all 11 boxes as marked on the shipping labels. However as we started to assemble it we found that a few bits, including the entire bureau, were missing. On contacting the retailer they were sure that 12 boxes had been sent, but the bureau was never discovered and they had to order a new one from Sweden – hence the delay.

My workbench is now separate from my operating area so I can no longer use the Diamond power supply that powers my radios to power my projects. So I needed a variable power supply for the workbench. Yesterday I was pleased to win in an eBay auction a refurbished variable power supply from Rapid Electronics for about half what a new one would have cost. The courier delivered a large parcel this morning which was labelled with my address, but when I opened it I found four retractable mains cable extensions that had been ordered by Workington Sixth Form College, together with their invoice. So now I have to wait in while Rapid arranges for its courier to collect the mains extensions. Whether I will ever see the power supply, or whether it will just vanish like our original bureau, remains to be seen.

I’m sure some readers must be thinking “take a chill pill, mistakes happen.” But mistakes seem to happen rather too often, if you ask me. If you were in the mail order business, wouldn’t you put systems in place to ensure mistakes like this don’t happen, because they annoy your customers and cost money to rectify? Rapid Electronics “operates a Quality Management System to BS EN ISO 9001:2008.” What a load of spherical objects that is.

While on the subject of retailers, last week I sent an email to a company that advertises notebook PCs with Linux installed, asking for a quote for a system for my business. I have not received a reply. Why does that not surprise me?

Uranus to blame for poor propagation

A recently published paper suggests that the peaks of the next two solar cycles are likely to have greatly reduced sunspot activity similar to solar cycles 5 & 6 during the Dalton Minimum of 1790 to 1830. Solar records going back over 11,000 years have been correlated with planetary ephemeris and the results appear to show that solar cycles are affected by the position of the solar system’s outer gas giants Uranus and Neptune.

However I’m not sure what is more depressing: the thought that I’m unlikely to see a solar maximum in which ten metres is wide open for worldwide propagation during my lifetime, or the reaction of some of our fellow amateurs to the news on “WHY CRY about it? Buy a BIGGER antenna & amp for the bands you enjoy & have FUN!” read one comment. “All the whiners about hams using kilowatt amps will be crying constantly. Life is too short for QRP.” went another.

QRPers have been having fun throughout the extended solar minimum of the last few years and will no doubt continue to do so despite the dearth of sunspots. What is sadder, in my opinion, is the passing of an era when radio amateurs were all thoughtful, intelligent, articulate, considerate and gentlemanly individuals who treated their fellow enthusiasts, whatever their interests, with respect.

Avoiding the Microsoft Tax

I need a new office notebook. Yesterday, while working on something a thin bright blue vertical line appeared on the screen. It’s still there this morning. I guess the TFT display is going on the fritz. Well, this Toshiba Satellite M60 is 4 1/2 years old and has been in heavy use 10 hours a day 5 days a week for nearly all that time, so I can’t complain. Time for a replacement. The trouble is, I use Linux on my work PC and it doesn’t seem to be possible to buy a high-spec laptop with Linux ready installed and working on it.

Obviously, I’d like to avoid paying for a copy of Windows I’m not going to use. If you’ve ever seen it on sale, you’ll know that the cost of a copy of Windows is quite substantial. Since, thanks to Microsoft’s obsessive copy protection, it will be an OEM copy locked to the hardware and without installation media I won’t even be able to install and use this copy under VirtualBox if I want to.

But also, as it’s a work machine, I’d like to buy one on which the operating system is supported and all the hardware works with it. I’ve installed operating systems far too many times in my life to have any enthusiasm for doing it one more time, and I know from experience that laptops often contain hardware that isn’t supported out of the box by Linux.

When we bought a new laptop for Olga a couple of years ago I bought a budget HP laptop that came with Windows Vista – which ran so slowly it took two hours just to finish it’s automated initial setup routine. I installed Linux but had an anxious couple of hours as I couldn’t get the wi-fi adapter to be recognized. I did in the end, and the chances are that any problems with whatever system I got this time could be resolved after hours of ferreting through support forums. But that long ago ceased being fun and I would really prefer to avoid it.

However, it is virtually impossible to buy a PC or laptop with Linux installed and supported. Dell appears to offer a small selection of laptops preinstalled with a long superseded version of Ubuntu. There is also a firm called The Linux Emporium that offers a limited range of Lenovo laptops with Ubuntu installed on them. But they have nothing that meets my spec. This old Toshiba has a 17in display with WGXA+ 1440×900 resolution and I’m not going to settle for anything smaller. So it seems the only way I am going to get what I want is to buy the laptop I want, pay the Microsoft Tax, throw away Windows and do my own Linux installation.

Is it any wonder that Microsoft enjoys such a virtual monopoly when people who buy PCs don’t even know there is an alternative? Why hasn’t the EU done something about this? It has taken months and cost millions to force Microsoft to install a screen that lets people choose what web browser to use, despite the fact that a) the browser market already has healthy competition and b) switching browsers later on if you want to isn’t a problem. But it has done nothing about a situation that forces people to pay for a Microsoft operating system even if they know enough not to want one. Even if computer manufacturers don’t want to offer Linux because they don’t wish to support it, they should at least be required to offer the OS as an optional extra so those who don’t want it don’t have to pay for it.

Small minded Britain

I’m sorry for another non-radio related post but as someone whose wife is an immigrant from outside the EU I can’t let this news pass by without comment. The British government has announced today that it is bringing forward measures to require people from outside the EU who marry British citizens to demonstrate a knowledge of English in order to obtain a visa. I think this is discriminatory, insulting and a denial of what ought to be a basic human right to be able to live in your own home with the person you have chosen to marry.

Although Olga knew sufficient English when she came to the UK to have met the requirement had it existed at the time, I know of British men who have married women they met whilst working or holidaying in Russia, China or Asia who spoke little or no English at the time they came here. I’m sure most of them learned the language after they got here, which of course is now (quite rightly) a requirement for gaining British citizenship. But there is a world of difference between allowing someone to learn the language in their own time, if they choose to (after all, gaining citizenship is not essential to live in Britain) once they are here, instead of compelling them to do so before they are allowed to live in the country that is home to the person they married. It’s the difference between treating someone with respect or as a second class citizen.

I’m sickened by some (the majority, actually) of the small minded comments supporting this measure on the various blogs and news media forums. It seems that most people in this country view all immigrants as idle spongers who contribute nothing and only come to the UK to claim benefits and become a drain on public services. I’m sure that’s true of some, but all of those I know are hard working and pay their taxes. I also know of many born and bred Brits who prefer living on benefits to getting off their backsides and earning a living. Perhaps we should cut benefits and make them less attractive?

If it’s OK to stereotype immigrants then I guess it’s also OK to stereotype working class Brits as lazy uneducated whingers who think the world owes them a living just because they are British, and who complain about immigrants taking their jobs when the truth is employers prefer immigrants because the British are idle, useless and far too prone to “take a sickie.” There was a TV programme a couple of months ago where firms that employed East Europeans were persuaded to hire some unemployed Brits and they either were late for their first day, called in sick, or had egos that couldn’t take being shown up for being too dumb to do even a simple manual job properly. I’d employ a Pole instead of a Brit any day.

There is a latent racism in British society which is pandered to by the right wing mass media, with the result that the government can get away with policies like this that go completely against the old British tradition of fairness. It’s perfectly reasonable to expect that someone coming to live in Britain has a means of support, whether that is a Swiss bank account, a job or a husband. But to keep people out because they can’t speak the language when they have a husband to support them (spouses from outside the EU aren’t even allowed to work for the first two years in another nonsensical piece of regulation) is pure discrimination which I’m sure we’d be up in arms about if it started to be applied when we want to live in their countries. It’s well known that the British are useless at languages. When in Rome – or Paris, or Madrid, or Moscow – JUST SPEAK ENGLISH LOUDER.

A community in mourning

Once again our quiet English backwater of West Cumbria is in the news for the wrong reasons, this time after hitherto mild mannered taxi driver Derrick Bird went on the rampage with a sniper rifle killing 12 people and injuring 11 others – many apparently for no reason other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time – before killing himself. This kind of event is traumatic at the best of times, but in a sparsely populated area there are few people who don’t know, or know someone who knows, someone who witnessed or has been affected by the atrocity.

Britain has very strict gun control rules. Gun owners have to give good reason why they need to own a weapon and confidential enquiries are made as to their soundness of mind before granting permission. Derrick Bird had apparently legally owned his weapons for 20 years. But understandably questions are now being asked as to why people who have no professional need to own weapons capable of such carnage should be allowed to keep them in their house.

The sporting guns lobby has reacted with, it seems to me, rather disrespectful haste, to stem cries for even tighter controls, using arguments such as banning guns would make it impossible for Britain to host the Olympics. I doubt if the relatives of the 12 innocent people who were killed could give a damn about the Olympics at this moment.

There are many other silly arguments being raised against tighter controls. It is argued that much gun crime is carried out with illegally owned weapons, so making it harder to legally own one wouldn’t make a difference. But if Derrick Bird and others who use guns in crimes of rage or passion had to obtain them illegally first they would probably just resort to shouting or using their fists like the rest of us.

Another daft argument is that cars can kill and no-one advocates banning the use of cars. But quite apart from the fact that cars are useful to almost everybody whilst guns aren’t, it is also true that serious road accidents are examined to see if road safety legislation could be improved in order to try to prevent such accidents in the future. So I think that examining the laws regarding gun ownership is entirely appropriate.

If people own guns solely for sporting reasons, do they need to keep these weapons at home? Perhaps they should be securely kept at a licensed gun club or a police station and signed out for a specific period of time and purpose.

If Derrick Bird had not been able to get his hands on his weapons whilst he was thinking murderous thoughts, 13 people would still be alive today and 11 more would not be in hospital. Can anyone seriously argue that their sporting freedom is more important than that?

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