Open Source Ham – Is that like free range chicken?

by David Lane

If you have not stopped by the #linuxjournal IRC channel yet, I would encourage you to do so. You never know who you will meet or what sort of new ideas will germinate.

For example: the other day, while having !coffee and a danish, I was chatting with our fearless Editor-in-Geek, Carlie, and she was commenting that someone had left the radio on. No, not that radio, the Amateur Radio. This got my attention as I was not aware Carlie had her ticket (she does not - I am working on her - browbeating is the term my XYL uses, but I digress). As many of you know, I too am an Amateur Radio operator - a ham. [I should note that personally, I don't like the does not mean anything, but it is what most folks know us as so...]. And we started chatting.

The history of Open Source software, especially Linux and Amateur Radio, is well integrated. There are as many hackers in the Amateur Radio hobby as there are in Open Source. In fact you could call Amateur Radio the original Open Source project. A number of modern developments in Information Technology, from the radio (d'uh) to the network card can trace their way back to some home brew radio operators working in their basement. The Linux kernel has long supported the AX.25 protocol (a bastard version of X.25 used in early packet transfers via radio) and several popular programs have Open Source analogs. One of the most recent developments in Amateur Radio, the D-Star digital protocol, is a fully Open Source project and is the first in recent memory where a corporation has developed a radio system utilizing the Open Source model.

As Carlie and I were talking, we wondered if there were enough interest in the communities for articles in the Linux Journal about the projects being done in Amateur Radio. Now before you get all spun up, we are not talking about killing off the Paranoid Penguin or converting the wine cellar into a ham shack, but as Dave Phillips has tapped the world of Linux and musicians and music engineers with the occasional article, we think there is interest in the readership for the occasional Amateur article.

Now is your chance. What sort of cool project are you using in your ham shack? Based on an email I sent to the ARRL PIO reflector, there are a lot of projects out there that we could highlight, everything from making it easier for Section Managers to update their web sites to unique ways to inject messages to the radio network via web interfaces to simple radio control software and logging software.

So are you an Open Source Ham? Because, When all else fails…

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