Final Statement Of An Infamouse Booze Hister

The Signal Corps Bulletin was the professional journal of the US Army’s Signal Corps from 1920 to 1940. After the establishment of the War Department’s radio net, a section was included in the back were individual stations could make comments about their equipment, personnel transfers, and sometimes snipe at rival stations. Station WAR, located at Ft. Meyer, VA (near Washington D.C.) was net control for the net that reached all the way out to San Francisco, Seattle, Alaska, Hawaii and even the Philippine Islands. The following is taken from a Bulletin from the late 20s which I found pretty amusing:

It is with great regret that I leave members of the radio station and take this means of expressing to each and every one my hearty appreciation of the many kind favors and good fellowship shown by all during my stay. I wish you all a Merry Christmas and for the New Year may you all be staff sergeants. I shall always hold a warm spot in my heart for the members of this outfit and if at any time one of you needs succour don’t call on me because I will probably be broke too.

Usually when leaving a station it has been my practice to donate my sign to some member of the station to filly able to hold up the traditions of this fine old sign so I hereby solemnly will bequeath my sign to A to operator TN as he has been wanting a good sign. The sign may only be accepted by TN on the following conditions: 1. That he will discontinue all prevarications. 2. Discontinue the practice of bumming cigarettes or smoking butts. 3. Will not try to get excused from duty through subterfuge such as a lame wrist or shoulder.

When I am again battling the bitter cold and nearly unconquerable obstacles of the primeval wilds of the northland and my tea is running low and I am completely out of whiskey I will be cheered and spurred on to greater efforts by the thought that I am an ex-member of the undefeatable gang at WAR. I am crying so much that I can not see to write more. Goodbye. – Avery
(Former operator WAR now en route to Alaska)

NOTE: a booze hister was defined back in those days (of Prohibition) as a drunkard.

Cleaning up the station

Unfortunately my station looks a bit more like the one on the bottom rather than the top. I need to make a concerted effort this weekend to get things straight. It shouldn’t take long to get things in order, the hard part is just to get started.

Chasing MARS…

I’m continuing my research of piecing together the history of MARS starting back from the early days of the Army Amateur Radio System (AARS). The process of research is as enjoyable as the information I’m digging up.

- Jeff, KE9V, had a post on his blog the other day that featured a humorous cartoon of different styles of keying and he sited it from a 1952 MARS Bulletin. The “MARS Bulletin” reference caught my eye, because I had not yet heard that there was such a bulletin. Additionally, the time frame of the bulletin in 1952 was near the time when MARS had been reincarnated from the ashes of the pre-WWII AARS. Jeff said he had got the picture from Dr. Kristen Haring’s book Ham Radio’s Technical Culture, published back in 2006. I contacted Dr. Haring (she’s a professor at Auburn University) and asked if she could provide me any additional information on the MARS Bulletin. Dr. Haring told me that she had accessed the MARS Bulletin while conducting research at both the Library of Congress and Columbia University’s library. She also recommended a search tool called WorldCat to help locate copies of the MARS Bulletin nearby. WorldCat is a great tool (it would have been helpful to have had this earlier on in my research) and I was able to locate copies of the Bulletin at the Linda Hall Library of Science, Engineering and Technology located in nearby Kansas City (with the next closest source at Indiana University which is some distance away). The library here at Fort Leavenworth is top notch – its official title being the Combined Arms Research Library.

But I am sometimes surprised that they lack items like the MARS Bulletin. Tomorrow I will head down to Kansas City and see if the MARS Bulletin can help explain why MARS was resurrected after WWII and what was the military’s intended mission for the organization.

- Following another lead for QST, I found a letter to the editor in the October 1998 issue from a gentleman by the name of Robert Gabardy, K4TJ. In the letter, Mr. Gabardy explained how he was part of a team which formed to bring MARS back to life back in 1949 and explained how they arrived a the new name for the organization. I was able to contact the retired Lieutenant Colonel Robert Gabardy, who served in the US Army for a period of over 23 years and is a veteran of WWII. He was able to give me a bit more background and also agreed to respond to some additional questions that I am developing.

- My last hot lead comes from another QST letter to the editor from the June 1998 issue that had caused LTC Gabardy to write in. This letter was from George Hart, W1NJM, a former staff member of ARRL… but also a former member of the AARS and also an Army veteran of WWII. From what I can tell now, Mr. Hart is in a retirement facility in Connecticut. I am going to try to reach him tomorrow and see if I can conduct a telephone interview with him. He would be an amazing source of information into how AARS functioned. I am particular interested in trying to determine why the US Army failed to directly draw from the pool of trained AARS operators to fill the ranks of the Signal Corps after Pearl Harbor. Equally confusing is why the Army didn’t maintain the organization to continue to fulfill its domestic responsibilities of acting as an auxiliary communications network. Instead AARS disintegrated within hours after Pearl Harbor, but only to be replaced later by the Wartime Emergency Radio Service (WERS).

I am hoping tomorrow will be a productive research day.

EchoLink Node #496698

I have not played around with EchoLink for a while. Reviewing my manual for the Kenwood TM-D710A that I have running my APRS traffic for my home weather station, I saw how the D710A can also simultaneously run an EchoLink node (with the additional PG-5H cables). Configuring the EchoLink software to work with the D710A is pretty simple and is covered in one of the Kenwood manuals for the rig that focuses on both APRS and EchoLink operation. I established my EchoLink station as a simplex “link”. That allows me to have the EchoLink node operational on a simplex VHF/UHF frequency and accessible by either HT from the house or from my mobile rig while I am driving in and around town. By using DTMF commands over the simplex link, I can bring the node up and down as well as connect to different EchoLink enabled repeaters and conferences. It is interesting to note that since I was last playing around with EchoLink, it seems there are a lot less nodes around. I’m guessing this can be attributed to the growing popularity of IRLP over EchoLink. If you are near an EchoLink repeater or have the software installed – give me a call at EchoLink Node #496698.

Grub… more than just a tasty treat

With a dual boot (Windows and Ubuntu linux) system, Ubuntu installs GRUB (GRand Unified Bootloader) which allows you to select which OS you want to boot with. The default is Ubuntu. However, sometimes you’ll have a system that you’d like to have default to Windows (like my wx-aprs computer).

The latest distribution of Ubuntu (9.10) has changed the way GRUB works and the Ubuntu wiki explains what you need to do if you want to change the default OS GRUB will select when going through the boot process.

How To Remove Ubuntu’s Password Keyring

An issue than has creeped up in some of the more recent distributions of Ubuntu is the use of the Password Keyring. While a great idea for security, it makes it a bit more difficult to remotely reboot an Ubuntu computer if it is using a wireless connection. Fortunately a solution was available…

From Dave’s Tech Blog:

I would have made the title of this post “How to remove the Keyring password manager in Ubuntu Linux” but that’s kinda long… Anyway, you might be wondering what the keyring password manager is. It is a built in feature of Ubuntu that remembers passwords for things like FTP account logins, Evolution Email accounts, your wireless network authentication passwords, etc., and locks them all behind a kind of Master Password of sorts. So for example, lets pretend that the password for your wireless network was 64 characters long and was just a bunch of random numbers and letters that you’d only be able to remember if you were some kind of freak savant mathematician. The keyring password manager would remember this for you, but will only allow the system to access and use that long password after you grant it access to the keyring.

As nice and handy as this might sound to security buffs, it’s struck me as a minor inconvenience. For starts, if I were to configure Ubuntu to automatically login to my account after I turn the computer on, I would then also be asked to type in my keyring password so it would connect to my wireless network. This becomes a bigger problem if, for instance, I were to connect to my computer remotely and had to reset it for some reason, like applying a recent kernel update. The snag there would be that after restarting, my computer would boot up, but since I’m not physically sitting in front of it, it would sit there waiting for me to enter a keyring password before it would reconnect to my wireless network, and I’d have to go home or ask someone else to type in the password for me.

So what I’ve always wanted to have happen is this:

* I start or restart the computer by remote (such as through SSH or VNC).
* After booting it automatically logs into my account and connects to my wireless network without asking for any passwords along the way so I can VNC right back into the system with no further trouble.

I’ve finally learned how to do this, and it’s stupid easy to do.

There is of course a few security drawbacks about doing this. For starts, if any person were to gain physical access to my machine they’d be able to connect to my wireless network without needing to enter a password. Then again, if someone I don’t trust has somehow gained physical access to my machine I might as well go ahead and consider it to be compromised.

Now, if the PC were in an office with a bunch of random co-workers always around, I’d be a lot more concerned. If that were the case, I’d have that puppy locked down with a power on password, disable booting from the CD-ROM/Ethernet/USB in the BIOS, perhaps have a GRUB password and be working with an encrypted HD partition, and of course auto-login would be disabled so I would be required to enter anywhere from 2 to 3 different passwords just to login to the system. But this thing is in my house behind two large dogs and a dead-bolt locked door, functioning as a server that requires a password for me to access it by via SSH or VNC anyway. So for this particular PC, I see little harm in opting out of using this security feature.

So here’s how you get rid of the keyring manager. Please note this will erase saved passwords you have so be sure you know or remember them before you make your computer forget them:

1. Open up your Home Folder by clicking Places>Home Folder
2. Press CTRL-H (or click View>Show Hidden Files)
3. Find a folder called .gnome2 (it has a period at the beginning of the name) and open it by double clicking on it
4. In side of the .gnome2 folder, there is another folder called keyrings. Open it up.
5. Delete any files you find within the keyrings folder
6. Restart the computer

After you restart and login (if you’re automatically logging in) you’ll probably be asked to enter your wireless networks WPA/WEP encryption key. After you type that password in, the keyring manager will appear to let you know that it would like to handle the storage of that password and lock it away with a new keyring password. The box looks like this:

Instead of typing in a new password, leave both boxes completely empty and click Create.

You’ll then be asked if you know what the hell you’re doing:

Go ahead and click Use Unsafe Storage.

WARNING: Doing this creates a new file in your ~/.gnome2/keyrings/ folder called default.keyring and it will now house passwords IN CLEAR TEXT and not in an encrypted form. So it is imperative that you are certain no untrustworthy persons can access your user account (either physically or by remote) or they will be able to easily open and read this file and obtain many passwords (for things such as FTP accounts, SSH, e-mail accounts, etc). Proceed with caution.

From here on all keyring stored passwords you enter will not safeguarded behind a master password or encryption. Whether or not you want to do this is entirely up to you. I personally have had enough of the keyring manager and consider it kind of annoying. But as I said before, you may have certain environmental factors that make having a master password over the rest of your passwords a good idea. Keep in mind that the keyring password manager has absolutely nothing to do with your administrative/root privilages password that has to be entered any time you want to apply updates, or add/remove software. You will still have to type your account password in for these actions, and that is something I am quite comfortable with. I’m just happy I don’t have to have to ask my girlfriend to type in a keyring password every time I want to restart the computer while I’m away from home.

Thanks Dave!

Dell Mini 9 + Ubuntu 9.10 Netbook Remix = Netbook Nirvana

My Dell Mini 9 netbook had been limping along on the Ubuntu distribution that came with it – 8.04. This specific version put out by Dell had some flaws. Follow on distributions were rumored to be glitchy with the Dell Mini 9; problems with WiFi, the integrated webcam, and other nits. With 9.04, Ubuntu introduced the Netbook Remix. Ubuntu’s website says that, “a remix is a ‘respun’ version of Ubuntu built for a specific purpose. Although Canonical has encouraged community projects to use this terminology for some time, this is the first time that Canonical has used it. We are using it to differentiate from an ‘Edition’ which we consider a complete version with daily builds suitable for the average user with no additional work beyond installing the CD.”

I loaded the remix from a USB flash drive (the Dell Mini does not have a CD drive). Everything worked flawlessly. The initall WiFi connection is quicker, Skype works with the embedded webcam, and the menu driven layout of the remix is intuitive. The initial OS took up only a mere 2GBs worth of space on the Dell Mini’s solid state hard drive.

While I do not enjoy the small keyboard and screen, the Dell Mini is a great little netbook to take notes on in a classroom and makes for a light load when traveling. Perhaps a good companion for a QRP field operation?

I look forward to playing around with my revitalized Dell Mini.

Here Comes the Sun

After a week of cold temps here on the eastern edge of Kansas, it looks like we are finally going to see some relief and also bid farewell to all the snow that’s been hanging around.

Some initial high temps back around New Year’s Eve was able to melt a bit of the snow around my weather station perched way up on our roof. Then temps dropped and my wind vane froze pointing almost north (indicated by the solid red line at the top of the graph).

Some increased sunlight and rising temps finally freed the vane. Probably next will get some melting snow making the rain collector indicate some rainfall.

My Davis Vantage Pro2 weather station is going to need a good spring cleaning, replacing the on-board battery, cleaning off the solar panel that helps with power, and cleaning out the rain collector.

So far, so good with my new weather station >dedicated< computer setup. The computer has been puttering away without issue. I do still need to hook up the UPS to keep both the computer and radio alive should the AC power get interrupted.

The Geek-Nerd Singularity

I have been reading a few of books lately that have focused on the geek/nerd subculture. Benjamin Nugent’s American Nerd: The Story of My People does the best job of providing an overall examination of the subject. His conclusions say that nerds like a rule-bound world and sites examples that include amateur radio operators (to include those who favor Morse Code).

Two other books focus on the Dungeons and Dragons role-playing culture. Mark Barrowcliffe’s The Elfish Gene: Dungeons, Dragons and Growing Up Strange is an autobiographical look at Mark’s adolescent life growing up as a roll playing enthusiast who takes his gaming desires to a bit of an extreme.

Ethan Gilsdorf’s Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms is the latest. Ethan is a journalist and former gamer who, when he stumbles across his old stash of Dungeons and Dragons material, turns his journalistic talents towards a journey of self-reflection through the current growth (and acceptance(?)) of the gaming culture.

I rented this on my Apple TV: Monster Camp. A hilarious documentary about folks who take role playing to the extreme – leaving the table top and miniature figures and donning the garb of their character to spend the weekend bringing fantasy gaming to life.

These examinations of the geek/nerd subculture have been very enlightening. The recent ground swell is probably due to the maturity of those who lived through the hay-day of Dungeons and Dragons (late 70s and early 80s) which also paralleled the computer revolution. Whether it is for recreational escape or gravitating towards rule-based environments, the geek/nerd has come out of the high school A/V closet and has proudly integrated as a member of society… no longer on the social fringe.

Finally, Cory Doctorow’s Makers is a book I got for Christmas. I actually thought it was non-fiction… I hadn’t read much about it but I enjoy Cory Doctrow. The book is actually science fiction, based in the not to distant future based around a changing world economy that is driven more by small groups of creative individuals reather than large, corporate monoliths. The book has bogged down a bit towards the middle but I am hoping it starts to pick up again.

RE: Getting Back on HF with Code

I enjoyed this article on eHam and thought that the roll up of CW prosigns and abbreviations was quite helpful..

RE: Getting Back on HF with Code
by N2EY on January 2, 2010
K0CBA writes: “Please learn and use the proper prosigns and abbreviations”

Also Q signals!

Here’s a short list of prosigns and abbreviations:

Prosigns (brackets means you run the letters together as one) :

DE – means “from” or “this is” – used before your own call

K – means “over” or “go ahead” – used at the end of a CQ or during a QSO

KN – means “over only” or “go ahead only” – used during a QSO when you only want the called station to respond

[AR] – 1) used at the end of a response to a CQ, instead of K or KN, to indicate that a QSO hasn’t started yet

2) used at the end of a formal message, to indicate the end of the message. When followed by N, there are no more messages, when followed by B, there are more messages to follow.

[SK] – means “end of QSO”

[CL] – means “closing down station”


ABT – about
ADR – address
AGN – again
ANT – antenna
BCNU – be seeing you
BK – break
BN – between
C – Yes
CFM – Confirm
CK – Check
CUD – Could
CUL – See you later
ES – and, &
FB – fine business, excellent
GA – go ahead; good afternoon
GB – goodbye; glowbug
GD – good
GE – good evening
GG – going
GL – good luck
GM – good morning
GN – good night
HB – homebrew
HI – laughing
HR – hear; here
HV – have
HW – how
LID – poor operator
N – no
NIL – nothing
ND – nothing doing
NR – number
NW – now
OB – old boy
OM – old man
OP – operator; name
OT – old timer
PSE – please
PWR – power
R – received as transmitted (same as voice “roger”)
REF – reference
RX – receiver
RIG – rig (station except for antenna)
RPT – repeat; report
SED – said
SIG – signal; signature
SINE – nickname used instead of name
SKED – schedule
SRI – sorry
TFC – traffic
TNX – thanks
TT – that
TU – thank you
TX – transmitter
TXT – text
UR – your; you’re
URS – yours
VY – very
WD – word
WUD – would
WX – weather
XTAL – crystal
XYL – wife
YF – wife
YL – young lady
73 – best regards
88 – love and kisses

73 de Jim, N2EY