Friday, January 29, 2010

Odd things you find while looking for work

Came across a job posting today on sologig for a SharePoint Analyst that had one of the oddest job requirements I've seen yet.  Apparently this employer believes that a qualified candidate will be able to "[p]repare strategic business requirements, uses accepted concepts, standards, SDLC methodologies, and toilets".

Now, I would think that applicants for most jobs in the United States would generally be expected to be toilet-trained, and in any case not being toilet-trained would probably fall within the scope of a protected disability under the ADA.  Maybe one of the duties includes maintaining the programmer's restroom.

Original listing here; saved for posterity here for when the posting expires or is "corrected".

Monday, January 18, 2010

More things you can't do on amateur radio

I wrote a while back about some of the things you cannot do on amateur radio.  Here's some more of them.

First of all, amateurs are forbidden from broadcasting: that is, amateurs are prohibited from making transmissions of content transmitted with the intention that it be heard by the general public, either directly or indirectly.  That doesn't mean that hams aren't allowed to make one-way transmissions, it just means that an amateur may not use his or her amateur station, in general, to talk to people who aren't also amateurs.  It's important to understand that certain one-way transmissions such as a CQ call, QST bulletin, or telemetry transmission are not "broadcasts" because they are not intended to be heard by the general public, but instead by "all amateurs" or "amateurs with an interest in this communication".  The key to the definition of "broadcasting", which is entirely prohibited to the amateur service, is that the communications must be intended to be received by the general public.  Obviously this regulation is to prevent amateur stations (with their zero license fee) from competing with the broadcast service.  If your interest in radio is to be a talk radio star, then amateur radio might not be you, and you should consider looking elsewhere.

Similarly, the transmission of music is also prohibited (with one exception: music incidental to an authorized retransmission of communications from the Space Shuttle is permitted).  However, there is reportedly a ruling that one ham singing "Happy Birthday" on the air to another ham does not count as the "transmission of music", presumably because most hams seem to be unable to sing.  Again, this is a noncompete regulation; if you want to transmit music the FCC wants you to use the broadcast service or a low power service to accomplish your purpose, not amateur radio.  If your interest in radio is to be an on-air DJ, again, amateur radio might not be for you, and you should consider looking elsewhere.

The use of codes, ciphers, encryption, or any other method for concealing meaning is prohibited, with two exceptions that are very similar in nature.  A station may use encrypted transmissions for the telecommand of an amateur space station (that is, an amateur station more than 50 kilometers above the earth's service; typically, a satellite, either manned or unmanned), or for the remote control of a model craft (such as a model airplane, boat, or car).  In the satellite station case, the FCC mandates that all satellite stations be able to be "remote killed" from the ground, and in any case a malicious operator could easily pervert a satellite's operation by tweaking its control parameters to the point that it could not be recovered.  Given the high expense of putting satellites in orbit, and the extreme difficulty in servicing them once they're there, the FCC lets us protect those stations in this way.  The same permission is granted for remote control craft for much the same reason; also, telecommand stations for remote control of model craft are subject to power limitations (one watt) that make it unlikely that the remote control transmissions will create difficulties for other stations, and to physical identification requirements that will allow identification of the station operator in the unlikely event that there is unacceptable interference.

Amateurs may not send "false or deceptive signals".  This mainly means that amateurs may not use fictitious identification to try to appear to be someone they are not, or to try to get someone else in trouble.  It also means that, e.g., false calls of distress are bad (but we've already covered that). 

Amateurs may not use indecent or obscene language on the air.  This one is probably one of the most violated rules on the bands, sad to say: there's quite a lot of indecent and no small quantity of obscene language on the HF bands (75 meters is especially notorious for this) as well as on VHF and UHF repeaters in many areas.  What exactly is meant by "indecent" and "obscene" is complicated, and it's probably best to play on the safe side here, not so much for the sake of not violating the rules, but simply out of respect for not only your fellow amateurs (who may well be very much not like you) but also anyone else who might be listening in.  Remember that kids, and even entire classrooms, listen to this stuff sometimes, and your name and address are published by the FCC so (unless you've been making "false or deceptive signals") anyone who does hear you swearing on the air will be able to find out exactly where you live.  And that might prove to be embarrassing. 

This post has been brought to you by pool questions T2A01, T2A02, T2A03, T2A04, T2A06, T2A07, and T2A08.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Responsibility of the Amateur Radio Operator

As the casual reader of this blog has no doubt noted, I have been blogging about the question pools used for the amateur radio examinations in the United States, focusing (so far) on the Technician exam.  The NCVEC just announced the 2010 edition of that pool, and I'm going to have to take a look at it soon and comment on it the way I did on the 2008 Extra pool when it was released.  However, I want to grouse about a particular question on the old pool first, and I'm going to continue to blog about the old pool for now because that's what people will be testing against until July, at least.

Question T1D08 asks: "What is your responsibility as a station licensee?" and gives (like all other questions on these tests) four choices.  Now, of course, amateurs have many responsibilities as station licensees, many (but not all) of which are set out explicitly in the various regulations in Part 97 and elsewhere in Title 47 of the Code of Federal Regulations.  Hams are, obviously, required to follow those regulations; this is so blindingly obvious that it almost should go without saying.  Which is, I suppose, why the correct answer to this question is "Your station must be operated in accordance with the FCC rules".  There is really no excuse for getting this one wrong.

It is worth noting, however, that the other three options for this question are not only wrong, but relatively obviously wrong.  "You must allow another amateur to operate your station upon request" is nearly the exact opposite of the real rule, which is that you are never required to let anyone use your station and are responsible for any transmissions by anyone you do let use it.  "You must be present whenever the station is operated" is simply not true; there are many situations in which you may be absent from the station or its control point while the station is being operate.  And the third, "You must notify the FCC if another amateur acts as the control operator", is dismissable on the grounds that the FCC is certainly not interested in getting constant such reports from amateurs.

I question the merit of questions like this one: they're so easy that anyone with even mediocre test-taking skills can get the answer without knowing anything more about amateur radio than the fact that it's regulated by the FCC.  One small bright spot on this: it appears that this question has been dropped from the 2010 pool, although I won't know that for sure until I do the full match-up and comparison.

This post has been brought to you by pool question T1D08.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Renewing your amateur radio license

So you've had your license now for ten whole years and it's about to expire.  Obviously, you're going to want to renew it.  The question is, how do you go about doing this?

Well, you have several choices.  You can fill out a paper FCC Form 605 and mail it to the FCC.  The problem with doing this is that this form is used by the FCC for about a half dozen different services; filling it out correctly is something of a challenge.  So don't do that unless you have no other choice.

Second, you can renew through a VEC.  The ARRL offers free renewals (except for vanity calls) through ARRL/VEC for its members, and will process renewals for nonmembers for a small fee. 

Third, and probably simplest, is to renew online through the FCC's website.  Every amateur licensee has been issued a CORES account by the FCC, and using this account information, can log into the FCC's site to manage his or her amateur license (as well as any other FCC licenses that he or she might have).  This includes renewals, modifications of the various details on the license such as address or even name, and applications for vanity call signs.  The only thing you cannot change via CORES is your license class; that can only be done via a VEC. 

If you're like most people, of course, you've not used CORES since you got your license ten years ago (or never, if you got your license before CORES came online in the early 2000s) and so you don't know your password.  Don't fret, the FCC will send you a password at your mailing address if you ask them to.  (Of course, this assumes you've kept your address current on your license, but you're required to do that anyway.)

The only time the FCC charges a fee to renew an amateur license is if that license was issued a vanity call sign.  In this case, to renew the license you must pay a new regulatory fee for a vanity license.  If you do not wish to do so, you can first file a modification asking the FCC to issue you a new sequentially-issued call sign, which will convert your license back to a standard amateur license, which you can then renew for free.

You can renew your license beginning 90 days prior to its expiration, and for up to two years after it has expired.  If you go beyond the two year grace period, you will have to retest, and you won't be able to get your call sign back, except by using the "former holder" provision of the vanity call sign program (for which you will have to pay a fee).

Remember also that the two year grace period is strictly a renewal-without-retest grace period.  If your license expires, you may not operate on the air until the FCC has received, processed, and granted the renewal of your license, as reflected by the FCC's ULS license database.

This post has been brought to you by pool questions T1D06, T1D07, and T1D11.