A document to help with installing Zoom

I started using Zoom with some groups this month and many were nervous about this new technology. I wrote up a quick and dirty document to help them. One caveat though. I don’t have an iPhone so that page is real short! I’ll fill it out more when I get my hands on one!

WordPress Exploit

This weekend during ARRL Field Day I was posting to Twitter, Facebook and the club website. Toward the end of the day I was ready to upload some pictures to the gallery so I tried to log in to the site. I was told that because I had logged in too many times and failed that my account was locked. Apparently this is a function of the iThemes WordPress Security module.

This is a bit of an inconvenience so I asked one of the officers to see if he could get in and unlock my account. Surprise, surprise. he was locked out as well. This was going to be more inconvenient that we expected.

After viewing the activity against the site we found what appeared to be some script kiddie who had found our ids, probably from one or more posts that we created and then went about trying to guess our passwords. This only worked until the system locked out any further attempts, frustrating the script kiddie and us.

Our admin then tried to log in and got the same error. Now of course we can fix the issue by getting into the MySQL database and fiddling with the data. Kinda messy. However our admin had another trick up his sleeve. In a moment I watched him switch usernames and log in with no trouble at all. Whaaaa?

Apparently his strategy is to create administrative user names that he never uses to post or create content. It appears that if you only use it to administer the site and not create content there is no way to easily discover the user name from the front end.

So, that is what I am doing. For each of the wordpress sites I administer I am creating a user named, for example, “oV9T450RxgDt” with a password of “H9umpELvcJWl” (trust me, this won’t work on any of my sites). Of course this is only practical if you use a reliable password management program like LastPass or KeePass. I’ll let you know if I get hacked with this in place. I’m sure that security wizards will tell me that there are a ton of other things to do but I’m guessing this can’t hurt. I think the key is to NEVER post using this ID.

Can’t we all just get along: Reflections on 50/50 political returns

My Church and society professor in Seminary made an interesting observation about Jerusalem. Why would He have placed the most sacred places of three of the world’s major religions so close together if He didn’t want us to learn to live with one another?   

Of course, that is not the reaction we are most apt to hear these days. “Get them out of my neighborhood,” might be more typical. Whoever “them” happens to be at the moment. 

Reading all the scores this morning from Tuesday night’s “Big Game” I was struck on how evenly divided the results were. Yes, there were some outliers, with wide margins between the candidates, but overwhelmingly the differences between winning and losing candidates were pretty razor thin, needing decimal percentages to report the difference between winner and loser. Percentage-wise we are not separated by much. Percentage-wise we are living in the same neighborhood, next door to one another. There is no mandate on one side or the other. The mandate is to not exacerbate the razor thin gulf between us but to work at strengthening those things we hold in common. “The other side” is not an irrelevant minority. “Them” is fully half of the nation, the state, our neighborhood. The mandate from this election is to struggle with the difficult task of leadership in an evenly split electorate. The most appropriate question is, what can we accomplish together? This takes creativity. I repudiate any elected official who uses a razor thin margin, on either side of the aisle, as an opportunity to wield a sledgehammer in the public square, no matter how high or low the office. 

Reflections on Goodness in Genesis Chapter 1

Imagine, if you will, that you are an inquisitive youngster. Your family lives in relatively close proximity to the ocean and you are in love with the rhythm and power of the waves. Each day, or as often as you can pull yourself away from chores, carrying water, feeding the livestock or picking on your little sister, you wander down to the shore, sit at the edge of the sand and just watch. Observe. Study.

You marvel at the way the sand disappears beneath the surf, the way the blue of the ocean flows out further than the eye can see, the way the blue of the sea seems to end and then appear to then take a sharp turn up and up and up and overhead and behind, disappearing behind your village. You observe the jagged rocky places jutting out of the water, off shore, further than you are allowed to swim, surrounded by water.

Some evenings you are allowed to stay down by the sea while the great light of the day disappears beneath the edge of the sea and soon a tableaux of smaller lights bedecks the expanse above as the color of the sky changes to black. Across that array of smaller lights one larger one rides on its own speed across the heavens, along with a number of others travelling the same road, at their own speed sometimes backwards sometimes forwards as you watch them night after night.

It is not hard to imagine that the first chapter of Genesis was born of this kind of observation. Before humans understood orbits and the elliptic, the revolutions of our own planet, gravity, ionospheric refraction, stars and the like. It appeared that the waters of the sea extended out to the edge of a firmament and was then held back by this firmament creating a bubble below and above in which we lived. The stars the sun and the moon performed their dance against this backdrop every day, and we lived and worked on this little island home under that firmament.

What then is the role of faith as we read this story about the creation of the heavens and the earth, and of the creatures with which it is populated. Is it in the mental calisthenics required to stand against all scientific inquiry and observation and hold that this is an accurate description of the creation of the space in which we live?

I read this story and see it not as a repudiation of scientific inquiry but as an example, creating a hypothesis that explains the observed universe. Here we have an inquisitive soul seeking to understand his observations and describe a paradigm that fits what he observes. Later inquiry, exploration and technology would cause him to adjust his hypothesis but given the tools with which he had to work, it was a pretty good paradigm.

I would further suggest that using our mental and spiritual energy to present this story as an accurate description of our living space, to literally believe it, is expending our energy in the wrong place. Faith calls the believer to task in this story, but it is not in stubbornly accepting the mechanics, the how of this creation. Rather, faith is challenged, in every age, not by the how but the what and why. The call to faith resides in the word Good, “and God saw that it was good.”

I believe this is the particularly challenging question of faith for today. How do we treat a creation that God called good? How do we care for that with which we have been entrusted.

I was also reminded during this past week, while I sat in a in a jet travelling home from Europe, of how fragile this home of ours is. I can comfortably stroll 5 miles in a couple hours. If I were to “stroll” that distance straight up the air temperature would drop between 90 and 100 degrees and if that didn’t kill me, the lower air pressure, about one third of what I normally live in, would. And this, at the distance of a casual stroll.

Our habitable zone, what seems vast and robust, is rather thin and fragile on a global scale, less than the skin of an apple. Absolutely amazing that it supports such wonder and diversity. The challenge of faith asks us how we care for this. Do we litter plastic, spew carbon, pollute precious waters without concern. Or do we seek to live sustainably, to allow for the questions about our impact on the planet to be asked and then to find sustainable ways to respond. How should I practice my responsibility to care for that which God has called good, by stubbornly believing the scientific accuracy of at story with pre-historic roots, or by acting responsibly toward that creation today?

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Elon’s 8

In a recent interview Elon Musk listed the 8 books that were most influential for his life. I list them here as much for me as for anyone who happens on this post. This is my new reading list. Not that I will be building rockets to Mars but they  certainly will bolster my geek cred.

Imagine my surprise that I’ve already read a couple of them (actually since #8 is a trilogy I’ve read 4).

  1. Structures: Or Why Things Don’t Fall Down” by J.E. Gordon

  2. Benjamin Franklin: An American Life” by Walter Isaacson

  3. Einstein: His Life and Universe” by Walter Isaacson

  4. Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies” by Nick Bostrom

  5. Merchants of Doubt” by Erik M. Conway and Naomi Oreskes

  6. Lord of the Flies” by William Golding

  7. Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future” by Peter Thiel

  8. The “Foundation” trilogy by Isaac Asimov

    1. Foundation
    2. Foundation and Empire
    3. Second Foundation

More stuff for my Kindle!


Web Masters: does your robots.txt file check out?

I discovered a new tool today and in discovering it, I found that I needed to make some corrections to some of my sites.

The file robots.txt that sits quietly at the root of most web sites tells spiders what they can index and what they cannot. All responsible search engines respect what the robot.txt file tells it to search and what not to search. This file doesn’t, in any way, actually restrict your web site’s subdirectories from prying eyes but it does help the good guys to concentrate on the good stuff and not waste their time on the stuff you don’t want out there.

There is a particular syntax for robots.txt. It is not extensive but I was surprised that some of the software that I was installing didn’t respect what little syntax there is.

I discovered a web page that will check the syntax of your robots.txt file and let you know what needs to be corrected. Just go to http://tool.motoricerca.info/robots-checker.phtml and enter your web site name followed by robots.txt and you will receive a page that verifies the syntax of your robots.txt file and let’s you know what, if anything, needs to be corrected.

APRS on Yaesu FTM-400 not transmitting beacon

OK. I’ve been frustrated that for some reason my FTM-400 stopped transmitting the beacon. I would monkey with settings and test again and I would never show up  at APRS.FI. Dang. I had it working but for some reason it stopped.

Today I stumbled upon the solution. It was not necessarily the explicit settings but one that is usually missed in the instructions. At a later date I will give some more details of my APRS settings but for now I will just describe what I was doing wrong.

There are quite a number of web sites that describe the settings in pretty good detail. They walk you through the configurations in the APRS and the DATA menus and the frustration was that I followed them but had no luck. The one thing that was not described to me was the squelch.

Perhaps to some of you it is a no-brainer and now to me it is a Homer Simpson Doh! moment.

There is a setting under Data:

  • Press and hold the DISP/Setup button for one second to show the setup menu.
  • Select and touch the [DATA] button  and the menu list will be displayed
  • Number 4 is the [4 DATA SQUELCH] option.

There are two choices. RX BAND and TX/RX BAND. I set mine for TX/RX BAND.  I tried both but neither seemed to make a difference.

I neglected to check my squelch level on the band (Band B) I was using for APRS. If your radio detects activity on the band you are using it won’t interrupt that activity to send an APRS beacon. Band A and Band B squelch is set separately. I found that my squelch was turned all the way down on Band B so I was always hearing background noise on that Band. The Data Squelch Condition never detected an open frequency upon which to transmit. Once I turned up my squelch so that only a clear signal, would activate the Band, only then could my APRS find space to transmit.

  • From the main screen touch [SQL] from the bottom menu.
  • On the bottom of each Band the Squelch level will display in yellow.
  • Using the dial on the right of the Band you want to adjust, turn up the squelch until you no longer hear the background noise.

As soon as I corrected this my radio sent out a beacon and my position showed up on aprs.fi . Having fixed this now I can experiment with the other settings for APRS.