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***  Conferences Devoted to Small and Amateur Satellites
You can meet people who share your enthusiasms and learn about the leading edge of technology by going to satellite conferences. Amsat holds meetings and conferences around the world; see its website, http://www.amsat.org, or the websites of the various national chapters, all linked from http://www.amsat-france.org/famsat-inter.htm. Another great one is Utah State University's annual Small Satellite Conference, see http://www.smallsat.org/.
*** Pirate Radio and the Legal Alternatives
The movie "Pump up the Volume" features a high school boy who alters his short wave radio equipment to broadcast on commercial wavelengths. As the movie ends, he gets soooo busted! You may have encountered some of these radio pirates yourself. They drive around in pickup trucks, park in obscure locations, broadcast briefly, and then move on, hoping to keep one jump ahead of the police.

Pirate radio can appear tempting, like hacking on steroids. However, almost all radio amateurs detest and disrespect radio pirates. They know that it doesn't take genius to steal the commercial airwaves. If you want your friends to hear your broadcasts, tell them to buy radios designed to also receive shortwave transmissions, for these include the frequencies that you, as an amateur, can use for your broadcasts. These radios are cheap and open up a planet's-worth of fun. The wonderful thing about the wavelengths available to amateurs is that they tend to bounce off the ionosphere (the upper, ionized layer of the atmosphere). So when conditions are right, and if your receiver and transmitter are good enough, you can send and receive radio communications worldwide without even relaying through an OSCAR satellite.

Even more fun, show your friends how to get the no-brainer version of the amateur licenses and then you can enjoy radio chat groups together. In the U.S., the no-brainer license is called "Technician Class." All they have to do to get the license is answer 35 multiple choice questions. See http://www.arrl.org/hamradio.html for details.

*** How to Become a Hero with Amateur Radio
In New Mexico, if you are a licensed radio amateur, you have the right to disregard zoning laws and protesting neighbors and erect gigantic radio transmission towers at your home.  You may have seen some of these towers where you live, typically you’ll see a modest little home and out behind is a tall skinny metal tower with guy wires and funny trusses and shapes sticking out from it. Or you might have noticed someone on a motorcycle with outrageous antennas swaying in the wind as he or she whizzes by: a mobile amateur radio broadcasting station!

The reason the authorities generally love licensed radio amateurs is because they save lives. When disaster strikes, radio amateurs fire up their electrical generators and provide emergency communications for local rescue teams. They also have ground-based repeaters that enable them to patch their radio transmissions into the Internet and phone system at distant locations outside of the zone of destruction.

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