Archive for April, 2007

Hacker Whacking

April 27th, 2007

It’s kind of funny when individuals get paranoid about hackers and fly off the handle. This post on the main page of a site I visited recently reminded me of it:

Recent attempts by hackers to break into my server have not gone unnoticed. I have blocked numerous IP address segments, mostly ones used by Asian-Pacific networks. However, I recently blocked an IP in use in the Tampa, FL area. When I do block an IP address, I usually block 255 addresses at a time. For example, if the hacker’s IP address is, I will block the range of – This reduces the time I must spend monitoring my network since the hacker can easily obtain another IP address in the same segment. The downside is that if you are not a hacker, but your neighbor is, your IP address might also be blocked because of your hacker neighbor. Users of blocked IP addresses will not be able to use the unique call lookup.

No hacker is reading that…and if they are, they’re laughing. Hacking, like most Internet crimes, is generally a crime of opportunity. In other words, although they are looking for something (usually control of your computer), hackers aren’t usually specifically interested in you. They want it to be easy. The best defenses against hacking for the individual are:

  1. keep your system updated
  2. don’t download little widgets (like the **** Weather Bug and the xyz toolbar)
  3. use some sort of passwords

That’ll make it hard enough to keep out of 99% hackers. If you have something they want worse than that, chances are you are already paying an expert to protect you.

It’s very likely that the paranoid guy quoted above was being pounded by computers that had already been compromised by hackers, and not directly by the hackers themselves. As they say, you’d think Windows Update was illegal in the Far East.


April 25th, 2007

I saw the incorrect use of “antennae” on eHam again this morning. From the authority (Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language):

antenna (an ten’ e), n., pl. -tennas for 1; -tennae for 2. 1. Radio. a conductor by which electromagnetic waves are sent out or received, consisting commonly of a wire or set of wires; aerial. 2. Zool. one of the jointed, movable, sensory appendages occurring in pairs on the heads of insects and most other arthropods.

I think this is pretty clear: hams have antennas, bugs have antennae.

Sustainable Technology

April 15th, 2007

I’ve decided to make a more conscious effort to obtain (buy, barter, etc) used electronics. Of course, this is at odds with being an electrical engineer in some sense. But, I’ve gotten a certain amount of joy out of scrounging and repairing used radios, test equipment, and computers. Furthermore, I believe it amounts to good stewardship of time and resources.

Byproducts of the semiconductor manufacturing process are extremely hazardous. Progress has been made in recycling and minimizing waste. However, scrap devices usually contain significant quantities of lead, mercury, and other nasty stuff. There is no reason to throw this stuff out if it still serves a useful purpose.

Perhaps most important to a lifestyle of sustainable technology is the process of purchasing it. Is the new device necessary? Do I have an outlet for disposing the one it replaces? For a brief period, I was down to two computers (a notebook and a desktop). That number has blossomed to three of each. I suppose it’s time to re-evaluate this situation. (In all fairness, two of them were obtained through marriage.)

I’m satisfied with a couple of 5-10 year-old computers, 10-20 year-old ham radio gear, and 20+ year-old test equipment. I hope that even after it becomes a financial reality to replace them with brand new equipment, that I can remember to be sustainable.

(One exception to this is the inevitable day that the current AC power distribution system is outclassed by something better and more efficient. Think of the mess that’s going to cause!)

This week on the radio…

April 13th, 2007

I was able to make some time for the radio this week. I got N8S (Swain’s Island) on 17 and 40 CW. I’m not sure I care if I work them any more; but, I might try before they leave on Sunday. It really amazes me how horrible some of the calling operators are. I’ve made honest “wrong-VFO” mistakes before…but, there’s a patent lack of discipline and ability out there.

Speaking of discipline and ability, W9RE prodded me to get back into the NCCC Sprints on Thursday nights. This is about the best half hour of radio anytime, anywhere. K0SR is the one who convinced me to try Sprinting (the 4-hour NA Sprint) in the first place by saying “It’s a CW operator’s contest.” He’s right. The Sprint is a truly a thing of choreographed beauty as people who know and love CW weave from frequency to frequency working each other. Some day I hope to get good at it.

I need to work on the antenna situation at K8GU. K9BF invited me (again) to come dig through his aluminum pile. I need to do that. I might try to suspend a small tribander on a caternary between two trees. That way, I can lower it if the WX whips up. But, I need to talk to our duplex neighbor about that.

The blog…

April 7th, 2007

It never seems that I have time to update the site as completely as I would like. Part of that is in no small part due to the fact that I have to edit lots of HTML using vi. Some sort of CMS (content-management system) was in order. I’ve decided to go with the blog format because it’s a little like a research notebook. I can keep my thoughts somewhat orderly and don’t have to make massive entries as I work on things.

This is my philosphy on the blog: it’s a way for me to organize my thoughts in a public setting.