Installing an AT&T Microcell

Ever since I moved, the wireless coverage in my home has been abysmal. It may be the tech shield or just the signal strength down here in South Carolina, but whatever it was I finally couldn’t tolerate it anymore.  As I told my kids growing up, if you are going to complain about it — you might as well do something about it. I was missing more calls than I was getting!

I decided to install an AT&T Microcell. These are essentially a small cellphone tower for my home. I got the old 3G model:

AT&T Microcell from CISCO

Since my cell is usually connected to WiFi when I am at home a 3G connection should be good enough. Also they were not that expensive on Ebay.

Once I got it plugged into power (runs on 12 volts) and connected to the Internet through a  10-base-T cable. It just sat there flashing away, since it needed to be activated. I read through the manual — horror!! That’s the manual for the version I have but the new version manual has a bit better information.

The person who sold it to me didn’t deactivate it (you can deactivate it from the Manage Settings area of the Microcell page), so it took about an hour on the phone with AT&T to get the device started through the activation process. They handled the situations very effectively I thought. Since I’ve done some technical support in my life, I was pretty tollerant.

The Microcell has a built in GPS receiver, so it needs to be close enough to a window… to receive the satellite signal. It will not go through the activation process until it is satisfied it knows where it is — this process can take up to 90 minutes. Yes, it happens every time the device powers up (thought it didn’t seem to take as long the second time). Once the activation completed, AT&T sent me an email, a SMS message and even called me back later in the day.

Well now I have 5 bars throughout my entire house. I am very pleased so far.

Access to the Microcell is limited to cellphones you allow to connect — naturally they also need to be an AT&T number. 

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Field Day 2018

IMG_20180623_164854092The Sun City Hilton Head amateur radio group had its annual field day event, consisting of the normal equipment setup, some operations and tear down. We had the usual comradery of a group lunch and discussion of the various new modes and old field day recollections from across the globe. One of the great things of a group with such a diverse experience base has is the range of stories they can tell. That photo shows one of the 4 operating positions we had set up.

The ARRL section representative and his assistance stopped by and stayed for quite a while, adding their stories to our oral anthology.

We had the ‘normal’ issues of operating interference and antenna. I had to dig out an old G5RV, when one of our verticals wouldn’t tune up right. We had this new antenna up and operational in less than 15 minutes. By the time we were done stringing antenna wires between the trees, it looked like a spider had been busy out there. We had three wire antennas and a buddipole working. Not bad since it was in the mid-90s that day.

IMG_20180623_164932197

One thing that surprised me (since I was operating digital modes) was the few number of field day operators across the globe who had not figured out how to operate FT8 for field day – that was frustrating! Hopefully by next year, the minor changes will be made to make the mode work for this event more naturally. Eventually, I switched over to the faithful PSK31 and RTTY. The group operated for a few hours and then packed everything up. 

On Sunday, I operated for a few more hours from home and racked up 100 contacts and was happy with that result.

Since the overall goals were:

  • Emergency preparedness
  • Work as many stations as possible
  • Comradery
  • No one gets hurt (I was the safety officer)

 We can met those objectives and can mark it down as a success.

Field Day 2018 #ARRLFD

2018ARRLFieldDayLogoDOWNLOADJune 23rd- 24th (starting at 2PM Eastern) is the annual Amateur Radio event called Field Day, where radio operators from around North America exercise their emergency response skills. It is also a contest to contact as many stations as possible in 24 hours, following a well defined set of rules for exchanging information. One thing different this year will be the exchange of more detailed geographic information than in the past.

Field Day is also ham radio’s open house, where groups of radio operators come together in a very visible way and interact with the public. Every June, more than 40,000 hams throughout North America set up temporary transmitting stations in public places demonstrating ham radio’s science, skill and service to our communities and nation. It combines public service, emergency preparedness, community outreach, and technical skills all in a single event. Field Day has been an annual event since 1933 and remains the most popular event in ham radio in the Americas.

This year I will be operating with the KE4HAM group at Sun City Hilton Head. We are planning to be running on all battery or generator power and string up a number of temporary antennas. I hope to be operating mainly FT8 (a relatively new digital mode).

You should be able to see a live update on the Internet of both those hearing KE4HAM as well as those I am hearing via PSKReporter.

45th Anniversary of the First Cell Phone call

Motorola dynaTACThe first mobile phone call was made 45 years ago on April 3, 1973. Motorola employee Martin Cooper stood in midtown Manhattan and placed a call to the headquarters of Bell Labs in New Jersey, using a prototype of what would become the Motorola DynaTAC 8000x, the world’s first commercial cell phone. He stood near a 900 MHz base station on Sixth Avenue, between 53rd and 54th Streets in New York City and placed a call to the headquarters of Bell Labs in New Jersey.

If we only knew then what impact this device would have on our personal lives as well as the world economy, what other decisions would we have made??

Morse code activity

Though my skills with Morse code are not as strong as they used to be, it doesn’t stop me from leveraging it with my other hobbies:

Every once in a while, I have the opportunity to play World of Warships — sometimes with my son who lives many states away. Besides being a challenging, multi-player naval simulation, WoW often provides some history on the ships and men it is based on.

Their latest background post had just a bit on the background of Morse code and its use by the various Navys of the world  – Squall line: Morse code.

It can be strange how various parts of your life can intersect.

Automation and leadership

automation2One topic that has been getting people excited over the last few years is that robots are going to replace many jobs or make some jobs much more boring. That is not even touching on the whole autonomous robot rebellion crowd’s concerns (I posted about an AI risks related podcast on NPR just last week).

Robotics is taking important roles ranging from milking cows, to working in kitchens, to logistics and order fulfillment. Now they are taking on more important functions in our business processes that used to be the domain of knowledge workers (even though it is happening slowly).

I do believe that the increased use of automation should shift how enterprises architects think about the enterprise and how that environment is structured. Automation is just another enterprise resource that needs to be defined, understood and optimized. The leaders are going to have to include these possibilities in their thought processes too.

These changes are inevitable. That got me thinking about a post that McKinsey put out about beating the transformation odds – after all automation efforts will be a transformation. Most of the article focused on the need for executive vision, clarity and communications. It also discussed the need for continuous improvement as part of the plan. Too often teams and breathe a sense of relief once a project is deployed, when in reality that is just point where it was given birth and now needs to develop and mature. Automation efforts are no exception.

Transformation is hard work, and the changes made during the transformation process must be sustained for the organization to keep improving.

Service Innovations over time…

SaaSI was in an exchange with Jim Spohrer (of IBM) the other day about Service innovations and he gave me the following lists dealing with service innovations:

Top Ten Service Innovations in all of History
1. Division of Labor – an entity gets to do more of what they do best, and less of what they do less well
2. Cities – local concentration of division of labor, including security and protection
3. Writing – allows communications over distance and time
4. Written Laws – brings more objectivity into governance and justice
5. Money – brings efficiency into exchange transactions
6. Universities – local concentration of division of knowledge, including preparation of next generation
7. Democracy – collective decision making via voting (citizen -> decision)
8. Republics – two stage collective decision making via voting (citizen -> representative -> decision)
9. Checks – safer than carrying paper money
10. Banks – safe storage of money, and compound interest/loans

Top Ten Service Innovations of Last 100 years

1. Universal Education – increases capability of population, and allows more complex problem solving
2. Universal Service – even rural people can communicate, and have right to communicate efficiently
3. Rural Electrification – even rural people can have lighting and access to modern appliances
4. Credit Cards – convenience and safety
5. Loyalty Programs – incentives for usage
6. Franchises – standard service in multiple places
7. FedEx – overnight package delivery
8. Automobile Transportation – systems of filling stations, roads, laws
9. Internet & Worldwide Web – access to information
10.  Wireless Communication Networks – Radio & Television – conquest of distance and access to service

Top Ten Service Innovations of Last 10 years
(or so)
1. Amazon – market for books and things
2. eBay – market for personal stuff
3. iTunes – market for music
4. Etsy – market for home made things
5. Uber – market for rides
6. AirBnB – market for rooms
7. Smart Phones & App Economy – access to information, communications, and other mobile services, including cognitive assistants
8. MOOCs – massively open on-line courses to augment education
9.  Mutual funds – finance investments that provide benefits of diverse portfolios
10. Global IT-enabled Outsourcing – division of labor between nations and large corporations

I’d add 3D printing to this list myself, but that may be just me.

Top Ten Service Innovations that broke out in 2014
1. TransferWise – lower transaction cost of transferring money
2. Coinbase – bitcoin digital wallet
3. Apple Pay – easier to pay money out
4. Lending Club – easier method to get investments in and out (founded in 2006)
5. Quirky – inventor community (started in 2009)
6. Bill.com – small business pay bills better (started in 2008)
7. Betterment.com (investment personal assistant)
8. Kickstarter – crowd funding (I think this actually started in 2009)
9.  Amazon Echo (home assistant)
10. Google Nest (home assistant) (actually the first Nest appears to be released in 2011)

Some things to think about…
What would be on your list? What should make the list for 2015? Do these innovations have anything in common?