December 28, 2011

New tablet junkie

Through the very thoughtful birthday gift from my bride today, I received a new Kindle Fire! I'm going to have a lot of fun with this as I join the ranks of tablet junkies!

Amazon had cranked up its Kindle Fire orders to more than 5 million units to meet the holiday season demand.

According to the sources, Amazon increased its volume to more than 5 million because it believes demand for the Kindle Fire became even stronger throughout December.

Amazon claims that the Kindle Fire tablet supports “thousands” of apps right out of the box. The tablet sports a customized version of Google’s Android 2.3 “Gingerbread” OS, meaning that most of the apps hosted by Amazon’s own Appstore for Android will be compatible with the device. Owners will also be greeted with a free app each day thanks to Amazon’s current Free-App-Of-The-Day promotion.

The Kindle Fire has a 7-inch IPS display with a 1024 x 600 resolution and 169 pixels per inch. It will also come packed with a dual-core Texas Instruments OMAP4 SoC clocked at 1 GHz, 512 MB of RAM, 8 GB of internal storage (but no SD card slot), 8 hours of continuous reading with Wi-Fi turned off, and more.

So far so good!

December 24, 2011

A Christmas Blessing

Give us, O God, the vision which can see Your love in the world in spite of human failure.

Give us the faith to trust Your goodness in spite of our ignorance and weakness.

Give us the knowledge that we may continue to pray with understanding hearts.

And show us what each one of us can do to set forward the coming of the day of universal peace.

Apollo 8 Astronaut Frank Borman from lunar orbit, Christmas Eve, 1968

December 22, 2011

Good Old Days

Ah, the "good old days" of ham radio...the "golden era" of the 1950's.

I don't know...I just like the pic!

"Hey honey, can you bring me another one?  Honey...honey....?"

December 17, 2011

Ham Radio in Hollywood: Comedian Tim Allen stars as radio amateur on new TV show

Tim Allen -- star of Home Improvement, Toy Story, The Santa Clause and Galaxy Quest, just to name a few -- stars in Last Man Standing, an ABC comedy airing at 8 PM (EST) on Tuesday nights. Allen plays Mike Baxter, KA0XTT, a married father of three and the director of marketing at an outdoor sporting goods store in Colorado whose life is dominated by women. While Amateur Radio has not been prominently featured in the first episodes, according to John Amodeo, NN6JA -- the producer of Last Man Standing -- it is a part of the show and an important part of Mike’s character. The episode that will establish Mike as a radio amateur is currently scheduled to air in mid-January.

 “Tim’s character Mike is involved in creating the sales strategy for the store, including their catalog and Internet identity,” Amodeo told the ARRL. “The store is like Bass Pro Shops or Cabelas. There is a strong self-sufficiency overtone to Mike’s approach to life. Ham radio fits in the story as a means of emergency communication. It’s not directly featured in the foreground story, but at the moment, it’s a background element on the home set. Once I allow something to be put on the set, there’s a chance the writers will feature it. Now that we have actually established Mike Baxter as KA0XTT, we can do more things featuring Amateur Radio.”

 To make Mike a ham, Amodeo needed Mike to have a call sign. So he contacted ARRL Media and Public Relations Manager Allen Pitts, W1AGP, to help him out. “In film and TV, we create fictitious telephone numbers, addresses and brands,” Amodeo explained. “We do this mostly to avoid being sued by real brands and to avoid complications with advertisers. As a producer and a ham, I was torn between wanting the show to be accurate and needing to keep my studios out of trouble. An accurate and positive portrayal of ham radio on TV would be a good thing.” Many TV shows and movies use telephone numbers with a 555 exchange (such as 555-1212), as that exchange is not valid.

Together with Pitts, and with input from Tim Allen, Amodeo created a call sign for Mike Baxter: KA0XTT. Since the show is set in Colorado, they wanted Mike to have a call sign with a 0 in it. “We wanted a call sign that sounded real, but was not valid,” Amodeo said. “The call sign is a 2×3 format with an X suffix. A call sign in this format is an experimental call sign and is not assignable to a radio amateur except in special circumstances. We especially liked the suffix, as it is a play on Tim’s character from his former show, Home Improvement: ‘ex-Tim Taylor.’”

Amodeo told the ARRL that both his studio (Fox) and ABC were “delighted to have a useable call sign. In the past, TV shows just made up some crazy call or used someone else’s without permission. And because we’ve had so much talk about Amateur Radio here on the show, a few of my production assistants took their Technician exam.” Amodeo applied to be an ARRL Volunteer Examiner so he could help administer the exams. On October 6, Amodeo and two other ARRL VEs administered the Technician exam to seven prospective hams. All seven passed, with two making perfect scores.

Since Mike Baxter is a ham, he needed a shack. So Amodeo and the set designers installed an Amateur Radio station in the corner of Mike’s set office. Allen, as Baxter, uses an ICOM IC-9100 HF/6 meter/2 meter transceiver and an IC-92AD handheld transceiver, both provided to the show courtesy of ICOM America. Amodeo told the ARRL that he has plans to add vintage equipment to the shack in the future. “The radio equipment was originally intended to be used as props and set dressing items,” Amodeo told the ARRL. “But since eight of the show’s staff members are radio amateurs, it didn’t take long before we made the radio equipment ‘practical,’ which is to say, actually capable of making radio calls live from the stage when we’re not shooting.” He said that radios will always be on and lit whenever they are shooting scenes in the office.

Pitts and ARRL News Editor S. Khrystyne Keane, K1SFA, have been working with Amodeo to make sure that Amateur Radio is correctly portrayed in the show. Keane also provided ARRL and Amateur Radio-related materials that are used on the set, such as issues of QST, NCJ and QEX, as well as a call sign map, a 2012 ARRL Handbook, a 2012 ARRL calendar and various ARRL stickers (look for one on the HF rig). “We also sent fake versions of DXCC, Worked All States and Worked All Continents certificates, as well as a Morse Code Proficiency Certificate,” Keane explained. “Each certificate bears the name Mike Baxter and has KA0XTT as the call sign. All the certificates have issue dates of December 25, playing upon Tim Allen’s role in The Santa Clause movie series.”

Amodeo told the ARRL that he also installed a Comet CHV-5X HF dipole and GP-1 antenna for 2 meters and 70 cm (courtesy of NCG/Comet) “up high, about 50 feet, inside the sound stage. The ultimate goal is to have the hams on our staff make contacts from our stage during down times.”

December 2, 2011

Hero saint in process

A Catholic priest, an Army chaplain and war hero from Kansas who died while a prisoner of war during the Korean War - and is being considered for canonization by the Catholic Church - may soon be awarded the Medal of Honor.

Father Emil Kapaun will receive the honor if the Defense Authorization Act of 2012 passes a Senate-House conference committee with amendments sponsored by Kansas lawmakers. The U.S. Senate Thursday night passed its version of the bill with an amendment co-sponsored by Senators Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran of Kansas. A similar measure passed by the house contained an identical amendment sponsored by Rep. Mike Pompeo.

"Father Kapaun inspired many with his unshakable faith," Roberts said in a prepared statement. "His story is an inspiration to all of what it means to be a true hero. We've taken a huge step forward towards finally recognizing Father Kapaun's countless acts of heroism on behalf of his fellow soldiers."

Kapaun, a native of Pilsen, Kan., was serving in Korea as an Army Chaplain when he was captured in November 1950. He died in a prison camp in April 1951. He continued to minister to his fellow prisoners of war until his death.

When all else looked hopeless, Father Kapaun uplifted the spirits of his fellow soldiers and helped them preserver in spite of great suffering," said a statement from Moran.

Father Kapaun was born in Pilsen, Kansas in the Diocese of Wichita, Kansas on Holy Thursday, April 20, 1916. He was ordained as a Priest for the Diocese on June 9, 1940 and entered the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps in 1944. Separated from the service in 1946, he re-entered the Army in 1948 and was sent to Japan the following year. In July of 1950 Father Kapaun was ordered to Korea. On November 2 of that same year he was taken as a prisoner of war. In the seven months in prison, Father Kapaun spent himself in heroic service to his fellow prisoners without regard for race, color or creed. Ignoring his own ill health, he nursed the sick and wounded until a blood clot in his leg prevented his daily rounds. Moved to a so-called hospital, but denied medical assistance, his death soon followed on May 23, 1951.

The Diocese of Wichita and the Vatican have begun the formal process that could lead to Father Kapaun's canonization. In 1993, it was announced that Fr. Kapaun would receive the title of "Servant of God".