On September 5, 1977 NASA launched the Voyager 1 space probe from Cape Canaveral to study the outer Solar System. The little guy just kept on going into interstellar space, still transmitting out of its twelve foot dish antenna, blissfully unaware that QRP doesn’t work. Well, Voyager cheated a little, I do too sometimes, by using twenty three Watts of power, still almost 538 million miles per Watt. Imagine waiting more than thirty seven and a half hour to get a reply to your CQ! Sure, Earth has big ears, but let’s not tarnish NASA’s golden record; pun intended.

Back down to Earth, are we? Some amateurs use levels of power that if not your head, will make your electricity meter spin. How much power do we need? The FCC says as little as possible to make a decent contact. Some play with micro-Watts and get through; millions of miles per Watt. Transceiver manufacturers seem to have settled on one hundred Watts, a number most likely based on marketing and economical factors rather than real life applications. One hundred is a nice round number. I am a big fan of QRP, or rather, ultra-portable radios, usually five to ten Watts. My friend Ray and I used to experiment with reduced power down to one hundred milliwatts over more than eight hundred miles; CW of course. Why signal with a flashlight when you can use a laser pointer? I was making regular contacts to Eastern Europe from Florida using from one to five Watts to about six thousand miles. Power is expensive, in dollars, Amperes and kilograms.

The military figured it out long ago. They deal with life-and-death communications from the field, portable man-pack operations in HF, which is still in use, just not the only option anymore. My RT-320 outputs about twenty five Watts, as do most military portable transceivers.

Power does help, nobody can deny it. There is however the law of diminishing returns. When the ionosphere isn’t cooperating no amount of power will get through. When it does, you don’t need much to be heard. A good resonant antenna and some knowledge will go a long way. I bet inadequate antennas radiating only a few Watts rather than the hundred coming out of the transceiver are the norm rather than the exception.

I suggest any new Hams to save their money, study antenna designs and spend an afternoon at the hardware store. Amplifiers are mostly used for contests where the goal is not to make contact but crush the competition. Better chase losses, hunt for noise sources, use better aerials and more efficient modes like CW or PSK-31.

I believe the magic numbers are five Watts CW and twenty five Watts SSB. You can go on a nice DXpedition for the price of an amplifier. If someone doesn’t believe how well they hear your five Watts, tell them the story of the little probe that could.

I moved to Florida from France when I was twenty six. One of my first order of business was to open a bank account. The local bank I visited had two posters in the entrance, advertising loans to finance houses. One poster had a smiling white family in front of a nice white picket fenced house. The other poster had a black family in front of a similar house. My thought was “why not save by having one poster with a mixed race couple?” We’re not in France anymore Alice…

To emphasize where I come from, consider Alexander Dumas, not the famous French writer but his father Thomas-Alexander Dumas Davy de la Pailleterie, a genuine Marquis. He was half black. He also was a famous French general who commanded vast armies of white Frenchmen and was married to a white French woman. This was right before the 1789 French revolution. His son wrote “The Count of Monte Cristo” and “The Three Musketeers,” among other things.

Thomas-Alexander Dumas Davy de la Pailleterie

Thomas-Alexander Dumas Davy de la Pailleterie

So wondering why that bank poster wasn’t picturing a black man, white woman and mixed kids in front of a white picket fenced house was a legitimate question for a Frenchman fresh off the boat. After twenty two years in the United States, I know better…

I am writing this today after the shooting in Dallas of eleven police officers, five fatalities so far and hopefully no more. Racial tensions in the United States are high, but racism is not new. Why such a big difference between Europe and America? Not that Europe is entirely void of any racism, considering the recent Islamic extremist attacks in Paris and Brussels, but Islam is not a race and most French people understand the difference. Racism however isn’t particularly directed at blacks.

What people don’t like is crime. The United States prison population is 37.7% black (BOP May 2016). The general population is 12% black (2015 Census). I would argue that poverty is the main cause of crime. Drive to MLK Boulevard in your city and have a look… Prisons are also big business and some people are getting richer every time some poor sod gets put in jail for smoking a joint. Still, the statistics can’t be denied.

Blacks are not especially poor in Europe. One of my good friends, both French and black is an airline pilot; not a co-pilot, but a captain on one of those giant airliners. He did well because his parents valued education. He valued education and worked hard to get his license, then jumped from poorly paid jobs to poorly paid jobs flying all kinds of planes, some you wouldn’t want to trust your life to, and finally reached the top. So, why are so many blacks in America selling crack on the street corners?

Before I continue I can already imagine some readers getting worked up here. The fact is, young black men have an image problem in America. The police is so afraid of them they will shot one at the slightest incident. Pervasive racism within law enforcement and to some extent, the white population doesn’t help. I don’t condone racism. Being racist is a sure sign of ignorance and close-mindedness, if not plain bigotry. I condemn racism from both sides, because it isn’t a one-way problem.

Today knowledge is widely available. The Internet is fraught with free courses, tutorial videos and free books you can reach with any computer or smart phone. Unfortunately education, to the young black man, isn’t cool. I don’t think the problem is new, otherwise there would be no black poverty in America, no black crimes and no racism. Poor whites are also as likely to commit crimes, so don’t call me a racist here. Education wasn’t available to the black population until fairly recently mind you, but the new generations are not taking advantage of its availability. I heard expressions such as “The white man’s game.” Unfortunately it’s not a game, it’s people’s lives. Science isn’t white, math isn’t white and money is green. The only way this problem will solve itself is if young black men pick up books and start reading, because they can do as well as anyone else. They should be able to do so without being made fun of by their parents, siblings and friends. I do not know the cause of this cultural pitfall, but it does exist. Just listen to music lyrics… What is extolled is easy money and material possessions. Excuse my French, but “shit doesn’t mean shit.” Better buy a bunch of books than a new flat screen television.

Blacks in America got a bad hand at the card table. Hell, they weren’t invited to the table until recently, but things are different now. America is one of the greatest country in the World because anyone willing to work hard can make it. Unfortunately not everyone believes it. The problem is that the government would rather give poor people hand outs in exchange for their votes instead of encouraging them to educate themselves. It’s easy to get used to stolen money falling in your lap, and I mean stolen by the government.

I wish I knew how to eliminate racism. I do believe education is the key, but education needs to be valued, it needs to be cool again. Otherwise the poor will stay poor, no matter what political party is reigning and there will be crime, violence and bigotry. How to encourage young people to educate themselves, I don’t know. Not by paying for their schooling, because a “free” education has little value. When I was in high school I didn’t learn much because I wasn’t paying for it and didn’t care. College was out of State tuition, and boy did I work hard. Yet the skills I use today to make a living I learned from books, not school. Some of my customers wouldn’t even know if I was black because all my work is online. What they know is that I can solve problems for them and my programs work. My first programming book cost me $50. That book is still feeding me fifteen years later.

Segregation still exists because people are more comfortable in their own communities, but it doesn’t help. We need to put the mixed couple on that poster. We need mixed churches. We need brown babies of all shades. It shouldn’t be forced on people. It should be encouraged. Where are the mixed couples in Hollywood movies? That is real racism, insidious, everywhere, yet not seen, until the bullets fly.

L'Europe Communiste

L’Europe Communiste

Communiqué de presse du Comité Guillaume Tell du 2 juin 2016

Le Conseil européen déclare la guerre aux tireurs sportifs et aux chasseurs !

Au nom de la lutte contre le terrorisme et le crime organisé, la Présidence hollandaise du Conseil vient de soumettre des propositions inadmissibles aux 28 États membres.

A la dernière minute et sans la moindre concertation, la présidence hollandaise du Conseil vient de prendre pour cible les tireurs sportifs avec des contraintes nouvelles imposées sur la taille des chargeurs et sur les dérogations exclusivement limitées aux compétitions sportives.

En parallèle, le même acharnement a lieu contre les chasseurs en supprimant purement et simplement la catégorie D afin que toutes les armes, y compris de chasse, déjà soumises à enregistrement, passent dans un régime lourd.
Qui va nous faire croire que la suppression de la catégorie D va permettre de lutter plus efficacement contre le crime organisé et le terrorisme.

Les criminels qui utilisent des kalachnikovs et les trafiquants d’armes qui fournissent les délinquants se moquent éperdument de ces nouvelles contraintes qui frappent exclusivement d’honnêtes citoyens, détenteurs légaux d’armes à feu et qui déclarent tout.

Un tel choix nous contraindrait à revoir en profondeur la réglementation française de 2012 et 2013 pourtant reconnue par tous comme sécuritaire et efficace.

Les 2 millions de détenteurs légaux vont subir des contraintes supplémentaires considérables, avec une multiplication de nouvelles procédures administratives que l’administration préfectorale ne sera pas en mesure de gérer.

La présidence hollandaise du Conseil européen veut que soient enregistrées en C toutes les armes à canon lisse à un coup, mais aussi les pistolets d’alarmes, les répliques et les armes neutralisées.

Cet élargissement de la déclaration à des armes qui ne répondent plus à aucun critère de dangerosité est totalement inadmissible et démontre le coté bureaucratique et anti armes d’une telle décision.

Selon nos informations, seules la France et l’Autriche se sont opposées à cette initiative de dernière minute.
Cela revient à multiplier par 100 le nombre de déclarations, ce qui équivaut à une paralysie du système pour les prochaines années au moment même où nous allions parvenir à une évolution en France en accord avec le ministre de l’Intérieur.

La présidence du Conseil européen se trompe encore une fois de cible.

Pour le Comité Guillaume Tell, ces mesures inutiles et liberticides vont provoquer la colère des 2 millions d’honnêtes citoyens qui se demandent pourquoi l’Europe, déjà si critiquée, ne se concentre pas sur les vrais enjeux de sécurité publique que sont la traçabilité des armes, leur neutralisation irréversible et l’interopérabilité des fichiers.

Le Comité vient d’interpeller les organisations nationales et européennes afin que chacun alerte les ministres de l’Intérieur de chaque pays qui doivent se réunir le 10 juin 2016 pour prendre une position définitive.

Nous venons de demander une audience au ministre de l’Intérieur, Bernard Cazeneuve, afin d’aborder les conséquences catastrophiques de cette réforme, si elle arrivait à son terme.

Avec ses homologues des autres pays, le Comité va continuer à rencontrer les députés européens pour qu’ils redoublent de vigilance afin que les mesures du Conseil européen ne puissent faire l’objet du moindre compromis dans les négociations qui vont avoir lieu en septembre entre la Commission européenne, le Conseil européen et le Parlement.

Pour les 10 millions d’utilisateurs légaux d’armes à feu, la lutte contre le terrorisme et la criminalité organisée ne doit pas passer par un acharnement contre les honnêtes citoyens qui font déjà l’objet d’un encadrement très strict.

Pour tout contact :
Thierry Coste
Secrétaire général du Comité Guillaume Tell
E-mail : thierry.coste@accesyst.com

Unfortunately the GM5 has been discontinued, but they are still around… I consider three levels of camera grades: Consumer, photographer and professional. The Lumix GM5 is a consumer grade camera. I just want to make this clear beforehand. After losing my Fuji X100S and Olympus OM-D E-M5 to a boating mishap I needed to buy something quickly, discreet and cheap but good enough for street photography. The new Olympus Pen-F would have been my choice, or an APS-C sensor camera, but you don’t get much for around $600.

Panasonic Lumix GM5

Panasonic Lumix GM5

The GM5 is small, very small. It means everything on it is small as well, including the viewfinder. Its size is an advantage in street and candid photography. Nobody is going to take you seriously with something that small (that’s what she says!). The mechanical shutter up to 1/500 is very quiet, and the electronic shutter beyond is silent. So as far as being discreet, the GM5 is awesome. The battery is small as well, so do not expect to take hundreds of photos without a spare. Since I rarely take more than a dozen per outing I couldn’t care less.

Quality wise, I am still on the fence, mostly because of the 12-32 kit lens, which isn’t much better than the bottom of a coke bottle. Well, I may be a bit harsh, but at f8 and darker the lens looses a lot of sharpness. Combine that with high ISO and you get unusable images. I set the aperture to 5.6 and leave it there with auto ISO in aperture priority mode. Kit zooms suck, and this one is no exception. With good light and the correct aperture though, you can get nice images.

P1000102-2
A couple quirks with the body have left me wondering if I am missing some settings in the menus. The first is the impossibility to take a flash photo with a software filter set. I don’t seem to be able to make make the flash fire while in Dynamic B&W mode. The camera needs to be in no-filter mode for the flash to work. Correct me if I’m wrong.. The worst thing however is not being able to lock the exposure with the focus when the shutter button is slightly depressed. I have never seen a camera not able to do so. Again, I wonder if there is some hidden function or trick to do it. Someone help!

I plan on buying the Panasonic Leica Summilux 15mm f1.7. It should be head and shoulders above the 12-32 kit lens. Only then will I be able to decide if the Micro-4/3 sensor size is good enough for my type of photography. Should you get a GM5? If you need something small that you can carry in a vest pocket, then yes. The ability to change lenses and the viewfinder are good arguments in favor as well. Just do not expect high quality images with the kit lens. My review of the GM5 with the Leica lens will come later.

We all have a number of things we like to carry around wherever we go. For me it’s a folding knife, a small flashlight and a lighter. My items are for safety concerns, but others might carry objects for different uses, like a pen, lipstick or a lucky coin. Most people carry a cell phone. We carry them because they make us feel better or we use them often. One item I am thinking of adding to my EDC kit is a simple wooden wedge.

Wedge

Wedge

Now why would I carry one of those? With the recent active shooter and terrorist events everywhere, you might one day find yourself needing to lock a door for which there is no lock or you don’t have the key. Very unlikely, I know, but a wedge has many uses. It can help crack open a locked door or window, fix an uneven table leg at a nice outside cafe terrace or prevent a wheelchair from rolling down a slope; the list is long… We have all at some point looked ariund for some object to be used as a wedge, so why not carry one to start with?