The US used to be a much worse place to live...

Now that the Mueller findings is old news, the news-cycle is already changing and going back to the old standby that world is going to die from a environmental disaster in a decade or two.

People who believe this crap need to take some refresher courses in history.

Things used to be much much worse. We produced released more CO2 into the air a century ago than now. By WE, I am referring the United States. We do not talk about it because it does not fit the current political narrative and we simply did not have a way to even track it.

Go look at the living conditions in any US city at the turn of the 20th century. Air quality was horrible due to using things like coal for heating and cooking. Disease was common due to the lack of clean water and sanitation services like sewage and regular trash pickup. Tenement housing was common.

Now go to the industrial areas. Companies simply did what they wanted. There was no consequences for unsafe conditions or environmental harm. Places like mines did so much harm that they destroyed entire water tables and ecosystems. Look at Lake Tahoe's history on that. This kind of thing was common. Yet somehow we have to go to history books or museums to learn about this? Where did all of these damaged sites go to? Places like New York City and St. Louis should have layers of soot baked onto their buildings if all of this was true and old building soot dust in the sub floors and walls.

If you lived in the Midwest the odds are that you did not see any trees that were close to any town. Trees were such a big deal that if one survived in town, a park usually developed around it. Look at pictures from any town in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, and you will not see trees in the pictures. Entire forests were leveled in places like central Missouri to build the big cities. Almost all of the modern forests in the Midwest are new growth forests. The only old growth forests in the US are in extremely rural parts of the Northwest, Alaska, and protected lands.

If this was true, why are forests and trees common almost everywhere in the Midwest?

What has changed? Technology and public policy.

Technologies like electricity created the possibility for natural gas and water to be delivered to homes and businesses, negating the need for coal to be used in the cities. This led to a massive shift in public policy to electrify and install water and sewage to everyone. We all benefited from this and the diseases that were common in the 19th and early 20th century are now in history books or something you find in third world nations.

Next, oil products like kerosene and fuel oil, eliminated the need for rural and urban homes to use coal, wood, and whale oil to heat and light their homes. Once electric and natural gas/propane became common even K1 ( kerosene) and fuel oil has been mostly phased out.

We used to put lead in gasoline as a requirement for engines of that era. That caused its own issues. Engines were improved to not need it. It is impossible to find leaded fuel in the US.

Smog used to be a major problem in the US. Now it is not that common in most cities because public policy shifted to place an economic cost on existing technologies. This drove for increases in public transportation and more importantly improvements to engines became affordable to where even the most affordable entry level vehicle produces far less pollution than even a generation ago. Today, smog is only common on extreme days in most US cities.

Overall the US is actually one of the cleanest first world nations. We tend to change things by creating affordable improvements in technology that is sometimes driven by public policy.

Look at hybrids and electric cars. Electric cars pre-date gas powered cars. They never got popular as a common vehicle because they have major limitations and are expensive.

Hybrids were developed to address the limited range problem and initially were quite expensive, demand drove research and the technology has improved to the point that hybrid models cost the same as a gas car with significant less long term operation costs. Now they are a very practical vehicle for things like commuting and some kinds of long distance travel.

Electric cars are growing in popularity and is driving research. Right now the problem is the same problem electric cars have always had, cost, range, and charging infrastructure. This is starting to change. Once a model that can carry a family, 500 miles on a single charge for under $30,000 and that family can drive across the US in the same amount of time as a gas car, you will see the era of gas powered cars end. They will be used only for extremely rural areas and expensive to operate.

People do not study history, thus they have forgotten their past. If people did remember their past, they would automatically reject ideas that the US is destroying the world though its technological advances. Of course we can improve things, but under a capitalistic system, viable affordable improvements are the solution. Banning and taxation will only harm the economy and force people to revert to older technologies to survive.

Apple figured out a new way to lock users in. The appleCard!

Computer company offering consumer products. Sure.

Computer company having its own storefronts and online store. Done.

Computer company offering their own media services. Ok.

Computer company offering a credit line to encourage purchasing... Fine...

Computer company becoming its own credit card company........ ?

Ok, this is something new.

The big three credit card companies, well two are processors, and banks license the name and ability to use the processing of the brand ( MasterCard and Visa.) These two and American Express ( who is a true credit card company bank and processor) all originated directly from the banking industry.

Discover was the creation of Sears which at the time was the most powerful and richest retailer in the United States. Sears pioneered the use of a credit line to encourage people to use Sears as their primary store. This allowed Sears to become one of the most powerful companies in the world. In the late 70s, Sears started to expand its internal credit processing network to compete with the other processing based banks through a self-funded credit card called Discover.

Discover disrupted the market due to its lack of fees, high credit limits, and generous rewards programs. This move, while revolutionary to the credit card industry led to the downfall of Sears. This and other company decisions led Sears away from their core market of being a retailer. They were not able to see the slowing use of malls and the rise of online purchasing. Eventually, Discover was sold off and thrives to this day. One can argue that other than dead hub stores in malls, Discover is the only remaining portion of Sears left.

Now Apple is getting into this game. They have created a credit card that is dependent on their consumer technologies for use. The card is intended to be a market disrupter with a focus on privacy. The card has none of the traditional features like a number, CVV, expiration date, or signature.

Since the focus is on privacy, all that is done on the back-end is transaction approval or denial. All information about the purchase is stored locally in the Apple Device and not in external servers.

The technology is highly dependent on Apple's Apple Pay NFC system that is becoming more common. A physical card will be available but will require an Apple device to be present for the transaction to take place.

Well, good luck. I can already see that Apple will embed this into all of their mainline products and it will be successful simply due to the number of users out there. More device lock in for Apple, which means more devices sold. Switching to Android will not only mean buying new apps and migrating your data, but it also means switching to a new credit card company. Well played Apple. This ensures that Apple will only have to put out a functional level in their product line to guarantees customer retention.

Personally, I do not want to be the person behind someone in line trying to get not only the watch to work with the credit card terminal at Walmart, but also making sure that the app on their phone is working correctly. If this is successful, I see Capital One building something similar that will be cross platform and just work.

Lessons from Harvey

Here are some lessons to learn from Harvey.

1. Martial law was declared in Houston.

2. People were ordered to shelter in place and not to leave their homes under the threat of arrest or immediate execution. (Yes boys and girls, that is what a curfew is. The idea is that the police will arrest violators, but the reality is that they can use lethal force at their discretion. A second reality that you will not see in the media is that once curfews are established martial law is in place and the military can be used for police actions. Unlike the police, the military is trained to kill first and then ask questions, this is why our founding fathers never wanted a standing army.)

3. Gun confiscations took place. Not only were the Katrina like door to door confiscations, people were required to be disarmed to assist or to seek aid from a shelter.

Here are a few suggestions to avoid becoming a victim begging for food and water from the government or somewhere like the Red Cross.

1. Always have enough supplies to be able to survive in place for at least 30 days.

2. Always have the ability to bug out to a prepped safe location.

3. Always be aware of the situation around you and in something like the case of a hurricane, you will have plenty of notice to bug out of needed,

4. Never put yourself in a situation where you must give up liberty for safety. It is avoidable if you plan ahead.

For where I live in central Oklahoma, this can be simple things like having a good gravity based water filtration system, stored water, a stocked pantry with foods that do not require a freezer, a generator, storm shelter, and guns/ammo.

The weeks following 20 May 2013 was the most recent test for my area. While not directly impacted by a tornado, we were cut off from anything north of South Moore. We had a complete cell phone failure for the first 48 hours and unreliable cell for a week, lost power for 48 hours with another week of unreliable power. Finally, we lost potable water for close to a month.

For us it was not that big of a deal. The generator was on, we actively use the Berkey water filter for all our potable water needs anyway, and we had plenty of stored foods in the pantry. Cox managed to get their internet back up within a few days, so we had internet. It took about a month for things to return to normal.

Things would have been much different if we did not prepare. Since we were prepared, we were able to assist others and helped where we could.

A new HF digital mode - FT8

After my last trip, I caught the dreaded airplane flu and have not had the desire to do much but watch tv (which I hate) or go play with my radio.

A few days ago I decided that I did not want to ragchew, so I spun up WSJT-X and tuned 14.076. 

I saw a bunch of weird blocks of data every 15 seconds at the low end of the band? There was enough of it that it was screwing up my AGC and making it hard to do JT65.  

Intrigued, I made a screen copy of my flexradio and posted it on a couple of ham forums. The response was that it was the new mode FT8.

In a nutshell FT8 is a mode similar JT65, and JT9. The operation is very similar, but much more fast paced. With JT65 and JT9 the transmission is about 55 seconds long with 5 seconds for processing and operator control. FT8 is based on a 15 second interval with about 1 second for processing and operator control.

This means that you really need to automate your station or you will not have much fun with this new mode. The purists out there will say that this is not ham radio since it is computer controlled, and the operator does not do anything other than clicking. I am sure the guys who said that considers the use of anything but a straight key is not true ham radio since something is automated. Like all of the newer modes, this mode requires not only ham radio skills in the setup of a station, antennas, grounding, etc. It requires information technology skills.

If you want to have fun with FT8, I will suggest the following setup. This setup also works for all of the other modes that WSJT-X works with.

1. Download and install WSJT-X v1.8.0-rc1.

2. Figure out your maidenhead location. It is a mandatory requirement for operating these modes.

3. Go to Settings and go from here.

  •  Settings - General Tab
    • Make sure your call and location is correct.
    • Click Display distance in miles
    • Click Tx Messages to Rx Frequency
    • Click Double-Click on call sets Tx enable
    • Disable Tx after Sending 73
    • Set the TX watchdog to 10 minutes
  • Radio Tab
    • Select your rig and configure it.  I use a Flex6300 and the Paid Version of HRD
    • Test CAT and verify that the program is working. Your radio frequency should be on the display.
    • Test PTT - It should work.
  • Audio Tab
    • Make sure that the Input: matches the radios RX or output
    • Make sure that Output: matches the radios TX or input.
  • Reporting Tab
    • Click Logging
    • Click enable PSK Reporter Spotting
    • Enable UDP Server - IP, port 2237
    • Click on all UDP server options, this is critical for a later step.
  • Frequency Calibration
    • Do not mess with this unless you are having problems. Contact me directly and I will help you out.  My info on QRZ is up to date ( KB0FHF )
  • Advanced
    • Under JT65 - enable two-pass decoding

Now turn on your radio.

On the main window MODE, select FT8.

4. Operation Window Setup

  • In the MODE menu select FT8
  • The main window should display the frequency of the radio.
  • Use the pull down and select 20m.
  • The program and radio should be on 14.074 000
  • Lock TX=RX is enabled
  • Auto Seq is Enabled
  • Call 1st is enabled
  • Click tab 2 to use the canned response sequence. 
  • Power - I leave mine set at 100% and control the power on the radio.

5. Radio Setup

  • Drop your power to something below 30 watts. Go as low as you want. I usually run 30 watts.
  • Make sure the radio is always in USB, this applies to all bands.
  • Use the widest filter you have. I run a 4.0K on my flex.
  • Disable AGC and adjust it to a level that does not overload the radio.
  • Disable all DSP functions.
  • Disable TNF if you have that capability.

6. Make sure that your computer time is synced with an external time server. Even being off by a few 100ms will make FT8 unusable. Contact me directly and I can help you with this.

7. TX setup

  • Tune the radio via auto tuner or external tuner and triple check that you have the TX power set below 30 watts.
  • Turn off all TX processing. If you can't, make sure it is set to Normal and not the DX setting.
  • While on the empty frequency ( you did change to an empty frequency for tuning :) ) press the Tune button in the APP. This will send a carrier at the power your radio is set at. On the radio or via the PWR slide on the app, adjust the power to where you are not splattering all over the place. On a flex, Adjust until the Level is just below the yellow line and is still green.
  • Enable the Monitoring - MON on a flex and adjust the volume.

8. The program should be showing lots of QSOs at this point. Feel free to double click on one of the CQs. The actual QSO is automated, and you will be promted to save the log at the 73 portion of the QSO.

9. When ready locate an empty spot on the waterfall and select it. Click the Enable Tx button and wait until the end of a cycle and press CQ.  Sit back and let it go.

Now you make have noticed that the logs are separate from your favorite logging program and everything is so fast paced that it is hard to check your log book to see if you have worked this station.

Remember earlier when I said to enable the UDP server options?  Download and install JTAlertX v2.10.0, sound files, and call database.  Install in that order.

Shutdown WSJT-X.

Set up JTAlertX. The complicated part of this process is getting it to work with your specific logbook.

1. Settings

  • Own Call
    • Enable Own Call Alert
    • Put the call sign that you use in #1
    • Test the audio by pressing Test, you should hear some dings.
  • Enable CQ and QRZ Alerts
  • Enable Worked B4 - Once you have your logbook running, this helps prevent you from hitting the same person all of the time.
  • Logging
    • Pick your database and set it up accordingly.
    • I use HRD Ver 5 - THe program should pull the database info in.

2. Shut down WSJT and JTAlertX

3. Start JTAlertX and then start WSJT-X

4. If everything is working, you should hear CQ and see that JTAlertX has the information about the current cycle. Click a CQ and sit back. 

5. Once the QSO is at the 73 stage, you will be prompted to log. If the logbook is working, then JTAlertX will confirm the log entry. At a later time, check your logbook program.

6. In just a little bit, you should start to see stations that you have worked as with either a B4 after the call and it should be greyed out a little bit. 

This is much more that this program will do, but this is the starting point.

If you need any help, just ask me.

73 de KB0FHF aka The Technical Skeptic




Credit Card Number Modulation for the Common Man

A long time ago, Paypal used to offer one of the coolest possible features out there, the ability to create a debit card number that is either tied to a single vendor, or for use as a one-time transaction.

The obvious use for this was to protect your account from fraud if the site was ever compromised.

My preferred use for this was to create a merchant tied account that I could cancel once I decided that the business relationship was over. One of the really crappy things common today, when you try to end a business relationship, is when the vendor insists on playing games with you by continuing to charge your card or add some insane charge at the end that will require hours on the phone with them to resolve.

A common use for credit card number modulation is canceling your cable bill or other hard to cancel service. Instead of waiting on hold and then putting up with an annoying sales pitch. Call their retentions department, tell that person you are canceling your account and get their operator id number. Ask them where to return the equipment if needed. As soon as they start their retention bit, cancel the credit card. Once verified, nicely tell them that you have canceled the payment account and this conversation is over. Next, write up a simple document to the company's legal department with the operator's id number and contents of the conversation. If you are returning equipment, include a copy of this document taped to each piece of equipment. Also fax/mail a certified letter to the company's corporate number/address to the attention of the legal department. 

Why should you go through this trouble? Because the company will slam you with fees and send you to collections since they can not charge it to your card. Direct TV tried this with me and this process with PayPal saved the day. 5 years later and I still get collections calls for my direct tv account that was canceled since I moved to a location that did not have a view of the southern sky. Each new collector gets a nastygram warning them to stop and that I will sue them if they continue. I also attach the cancelation fax, judgment letters and redacted check stubs from previous collection companies that I have sued in small claims court and won $500 - $2000 each time.  It does not stop them, so it is a source of income every year or so.

My other use for credit card modulation is one time numbers. This is really handy for transactions where you do not trust the company for any length of time longer than this specific transaction. In my case, I use this for buying bitcoin and usenet feeds from international vendors. 

This was all great until about three or four years ago when Paypal was forced to drop the service. MasterCard and Visa immediately added this service but either made it part of their premium card service or charged to have each number created. 

In recent months, companies have started to address this gap. The one I am working with right now is Final Card. This is a credit card for good to excellent credit scores. Final Card focuses on credit card security. This is not a premium card so I am not sure if it is a good idea to rent a car on this. However, it is an excellent card for the use of its number modulation. Within minutes of approval, you will have access to their app and web page with the ability to generate card numbers. I quickly switched all of the accounts that I pay via my preferred Capital One Venture card, to their own specific vendor locked Final Card.

So far I am happy with the service. I will update this in the future.

If you are interested here is a link to the card.  Final Card.




We Live in the era of Fake News, be careful for what you wish for.

We are seeing a push for algorithms and actions from our tech leaders to solve the fake news "problem."

Anyone who thinks that this is a good thing or even possible must sit back and dust off their critical thinking skills.

If this problem was solvable, then we would not have spam or phishing attacks on the internet.

We all know what spam is and that it is simple for a human to identify it. It is very difficult for a computer to identify it in any reliable manner. Spam detection is so unreliable that we all have lost important mail that got misclassified and placed in a SPAM or JUNK folder.

Email phishing is a social engineering attack where the target is tricked into going to an improper site on the internet to collect data or download malware. Sometimes it is a little bit harder to detect than spam, but once one is trained on how to identify it, a human can spot one almost instantly.

Media is something completely different. It is very difficult to identify if something is real or not. You have to be educated on how to vet something that you watch or read. This can take time and in some cases a lifetime to master.

The other problem is how does one define fake? Who or in this case what determines if something is fake? Previous generations would have said that is it the consumer of the information that must make this determination in a free society. A key part of the education of our children was to give them the tools to be able to do this. This is commonly called critical thinking. Have we lost these skills? If the answer is yes, we must ask ourselves why and what are the motives behind this.

Since this is a technical blog, one has to question how can we suddenly have algorithms which can identify "fake news" which in many cases are hard to identify in the first place, but have yet to solve the spam and phishing problems, which are easy for a human to solve, but has plagued us for over 30 years?

There is an answer on why and what is going on. Go pick out your favorite dystopian and see if you notice a common thread. All news and information is controlled by the central computer or committee and is used to control the masses. The masses are dumbed down to the point that they lack the language and critical thinking skills to object to their masters. 

Brazil - The entire story is based on the main character learning the truth about their society. The central committee controlled the media. The main character learns the truth because of an error. The masses are distracted with terrorism and mass media.

1984 - The entire story is based on the main character learning the truth about their society. A computer called Big Brother controls all information. Undesired information is either rewritten or simply destroyed in a memory hole. The language is restricted to keep the classes under control - Thinkspeak. People are controlled through work and mass media.

Brave New World - The entire story is based on the main character learning the truth about their society. A central group of Alpha citizens controls all information and keep the masses dumbed down to where they do not understand information outside of their social class. 

Babylon 5 - A key story arc is the change to the Interstellar News Network over the five seasons. INN starts off as an unbiased news network that told both sides of a story. Throughout the series, there would be news segments on the network that showed their interpretation of the events taking place. After the coup, the network is taken over and becomes a mouthpiece for Clark's government. As the revolution starts the network shows pure propaganda. After Sheridan wins Earth’s Civil War, a key INN segment shows just released newscasters from the first season break down on air and give out the first free news cast in years.

Wake up people, you are being manipulated into accepting censorship.

Picking my next computer. I think it is time to divorce from Apple.

For the last 17 years, my main computer was some form of an Apple OSX machine.

Since Jobs passed on, Apple has made a shift to reject the needs of high end professional IT users and focused their efforts on consumer grade junk. The shift is even visible in the operating system where their main new features are things like Siri, and a new music app. Thus the windows machines and alternatives are starting to become attractive.

My last machine has been a first generation Macbook Pro 15 Retina. While it is a great machine, it is stating to show its age and I my career changed to where I travel somewhere in the US most weeks out of the year. 

Only people who travel all of the time will understand this, but the macbook pro is heavy, especially when you consider that I have to carry around a complete office in my backpack that includes another work laptop. 

A few months ago my screen starts to flicker and I decide it is time to consider replacing the computer with something much smaller and lighter. 

No big deal, just buy a MacBook or MacBook Air. Although I do have a decent home lab that I can remote into when needed, I need the ability to run some kind of local hypervisor for Windows and the occasional linux app. This requires a 16 gig machine and some kind of a decent multicore processor. This rules out the entire MacBook Air line and MacBook. Apple insists on soldered ram and limits those machines to 8 gigs. 

So I decide to downsize to a 13" macbook pro Retina. First the machine is limited to soldered ram, and then the processor is limited to dual core only. Next Apple is still using fifth generation processors in all of their macbook pro line. All of this is at a premium to a PC equivalent. 

It was not long ago that one could go to the Dell and other sites, and build out the equivalent professional model  (Precision line for Dell) of the same hardware in a macbook pro or desktop. The resulting machine would cost significantly more than the macbook pro or macintosh. Now the roles have changed. One can go to the Dell Site and build a machine that is impossible to obtain in the mac world for less than you can get a current high end macbook pro.  

An example of this is a Precision 5510. A model with the 4k screen, Intel mobile Xeon, 32 gigs of ram, 1TB flash, and a battery that gets around 8 hours, in a package slightly smaller than the current 15 inch MBP Retina, for $3100 before any discounts. The street price as of writing this article is $2,800 delivered. The highest end Macbook pro has a street price for $3,000 and is nowhere near the same level of machine. 

Now comes the inevitable operating system comparison. Yes, OSX is a unix. kinda... Each new version of OSX, umm macOS, has more and more iOS like restrictions. Even Apple admits that it is intentional.

One of the appeals of OSX is that it runs on unix and that makes power users like me happy. That is true. I still have to run windows apps and remote into other systems in order to both work and to play. Thus I have to run a VM from time to time.

What about Windows 10? Until a few weeks ago, that was simply impossible. I prefer a unix shell and do all of my script writing in unix. To accomplish this I would have to keep a running copy of linux in a vm on all of the time. This does not work well in windows or even macOS. Leaving a vm running all of the time kills the battery and you do not want a vm going into hibernation every time you moved the laptop. The next issue is that the slimmer the laptop, the worse performance VMs are going to have on it. Since one of my main goals is to downsize, this model is not going to work.

I then decided that I was going to run linux and use a hypervisor when needed.  I started to save money to get that dell precision I described earlier.

Everything changed a couple of weeks ago.

Windows 10 added a small little feature that is a game changer for the platform. The Linux subsystem is a re-implementation of their posix subsystem that was dropped earlier. Unlike Cygwin, the linux subsystem is a true interface to the windows micro kernel that runs actual linux elf binaries based on Ubuntu. The older posix system was a horrible implementation that lacked any support at all. I will not even go into the nightmare called Cygwin.

The Ubuntu based Linux subsystem allows me to run a true bash shell on my windows computer and most of the tools I am used to using on a linux machine. This product is still in beta and is improving as I write this. I am now in the situation where if I need to run a more powerful version of linux, I can either consider dual booting, or running a linux vm. So far I have been very happy with using the linux subsystem.

To test how useful this would be, I dug up an old Latitude 7440, i5 with a 1920x1080 matte display that I use for frequency coordination during football season. I changed the OS to windows 10 from 7, upped the system to 16 gigs of ram and added a second 512gig ssd to it. 

I have windows 10 pro installed on the 256g ssd, and will partition a 256g linux partition and a 256g common drive for both operating systems on the second 512 gig drive. 

Starting next week I will be on the road in NYC for three weeks and I am going to use this as my daily driver.  My plan is to see how well my use case works for this and point out anything that may help other power users out there. If this works, I will end up buying the precision I listed above and pay the extra $120 for Windows 10 pro.

From a travel perspective, this is going to be nice. My work laptop is also a dell that uses the same power supplies and dock. For road use, I only need to pack one power supply. At home in my office, I can use my dock during work hours and then change systems at night for fun. In a hotel, I rarely touch my work laptop unless I am billable thus the power supply is used on my personal laptop.

Lesson #1 - Change your console app. CMD.exe sucks and will always suck. There are many alternatives out there. I find ConEmu close to what is in linux or OSX. Change its default setting to where it executes a bash shell and you are up an running. 

To Be Continued. 


Rural Internet

What gets me is that people agree that living without phone or grid electricity is impractical. I have friends who live in Montana with no grid at all and they survive because her husband works in Silicon Valley most of the time.

However these same people do not see why having actual broadband is important. Then they wonder why there is a "brain drain" since they can not keep their children in the area and have to import people at very high costs or STEM careers.

Personally, I would love to move to a rural area, but I will not live in a place that I can not get unrestricted reliable high speed affordable broadband. In Paragould Arkansas, I talked with an executive at the local city owned cable company and even offered to pay for a custom package, I have no problems at all paying several hundred a month for access. His response was a simple, nope. They do not want the business. They only offer a cable internet package that does not even meet the FCC minimums for broadband and they have extremely low data caps, even for their business customers. My work vpn usage would exceed the cap, if I could even get it to connect since they are double natting everything. I asked about getting multiple service lines installed and he stated that it was not allowed. User reports for the service rate their towns internet offering as one of the worst in the United States.

Here is a way for a small rural town to compete in the world market. Invest in emerging technologies like fibre, etc. Improve the STEM classes in the local schools. There is an active trend for companies to remote their workers.

ISIS now has a secure messaging app!

Today on the internets, we are learning that ISIS has developed a "secure" messaging app.

The article gives a scary description how it can be used for terrorism. At the end of the article it talks about the current debate where the FBI wants all end to end communications to either have backdoors installed in them or be made illegal.

Here is the thing and where the skeptic in me cries out. The article states that this is an android app. All cellphones have a legally mandated backdoor installed in them as required by CALEA

Cellphones are essentially two computers in one. One is for the user interface(Android, iOS), the other is for the radio and to some degree the physical hardware (baseband.) Phone basebands are closed secrets that are absolutely illegal to modify or access. Not much is known about them or their function outside of interfacing with the phone network. Many people suspect that basebands can access microphones, keyboards, GPS, etc. 

Second, although there is debate with Apple and Google on the backdoor issue, they will work with law enforcement to unlock phones and recover information. What is recoverable is never disclosed. 

Finally, I really doubt that ISIS has access to world class crypto experts who can create unbreakable systems. Schneier's Law applies here: "any person can invent a security system so clever that she or he can not break it."

I am quite sure there are plenty of people who can.

This is simply FUD to get people to insist that "secure" backdoors are installed on consumer devices in order for all of us to feel safe. 

Rules of Operation That My Elmer Taught Me

As I get older in this hobby, I am finding lessons that were taught to me as a teenager by my elmer ( SK W0NAZ) are repeated as I am now assuming the role as an elmer.

When I was first entering the hobby, there were digital modes but the due to the cost of a tnc and a computer with a serial port, CW was my only option.

Today we are seeing a revival of the hobby since the barrier of entry to the hobby has been decreased with affordable and easy to use technology.

A common question I see asked is what mode do we use, how do we use it, and when do we use it?

This is where I always end up repeating the rules of operation that my elmer taught me.

The rules are simple since there are not that many.

1. Follow the FCC rules and laws. 
2. Learn how to use your radio!
3. Listen before you transmit.
4. Use the modes common to that frequency (aka a band plan) 
5. Ask if the frequency is in use. 
6. Use only the amount of power that you need.
7. Monitor your signal, if you can't, ask someone about your signal while saving up to buy the equipment needed to monitor your signal.
8. Ask someone about your signal.
9. Give time in-between transmissions to let other people talk. 
10. Yield control of the frequency to those who need it more than you do.
11. If someone needs the frequency more than you do, ask them how you can help.

This is how my elmer taught me to operate and it has served me well over the years no matter how much the technology has changed.

73  de KB0FHF aka TechnicalSkeptic