Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Presentation at Ham Radio 2013, Friedrichshafen

I've prepared a presentation for the Ham Radio 2013 event taking place this weekend in Friedrichshafen. The title of the presentation is "Providing authenticated amateur radio services on the Internet", and it'll be held at Conference Center East, room Paris, at 14:00. Same time and place as last year!

How can we provide Internet services restricted to amateur radio users with reasonable guarantee that non-hams do not gain access to the services, without an awful lot of manual work by the service provider and mailing license copies for every service? Current practices, alternatives, a proposal for better future implementation of distributed trust using X.509 certificates, and a demonstration of an implementation for a web service.

If you're an user of authenticated amateur radio web services such as the APRS-IS network, or Echolink, or Logbook of the World, this should be interesting. If you're developing a service like this, or would like to develop one, it should be especially interesting.

There's a catch, though. Due to a surprising event I won't be able to fly to Germany myself this weekend. Fortunately Erik Finskas, OH2LAK, has agreed to act as a proxy and present my material there! Not a bad deal, since he happens to be a seasoned professional in the right field, and has applied the presented technology both at work and in the linked UHF repeater network in Finland.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Join Amateur Radio on Stack Exchange

Stack Exchange is the latest internet gizmo at the crossroads of a forum, a wiki, a blog and a poll. The end result is a question and answer site which is much more qualitative and easier to search than any ordinary internet forum. Programmers and system managers may know it from the well-established Stack Overflow. In contrast, the amateur radio section is still at its infancy. It resides as a recreational topic in a staging area inauspiciously called “Area 51.”

Here is where things get serious and where your help is needed. Stack Exchange will not open a new Q&A site until they are absolutely sure that a critical mass of members will commit to actively participating. They are quite categorical about it and the vetting process is ruthless. “Area 51” is literally scattered with the mutilated remains of Q&A sites that were once to be. Yet, the amateur community at large cannot afford to miss out on this unique opportunity! This is why we need you to be part of the group of pioneers who started the Amateur Radio Stack Exchange site by following this link and commit!

Text by Serge Y. Stroobandt, ON4AA, CC BY 3.0

Monday, June 10, 2013

Updated statement on PRISM at

Last night's "statement" was generated using the PRISM involvement denial statement generator, and is not completely serious. Hopefully it'll serve as a little reminder of the privacy aspects of APRS. If you care about your privacy, you probably should not transmit your location to the public. With APRS, you have the privilege of switching your beacon on and off at any time, and it's sometimes a good idea to exercise that right. Some other tracking systems don't let you do that.

APRS data, like all other amateur radio communications, are public and unencrypted, and can be received, recorded and archived by anyone. With APRS, it's just easier to do so.

As for there have been no requests from governments to at any point. They can just pull the data from the APRS-IS without asking if they happen to care, or use the web UI to look at whatever historic data there is – just like anyone else.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Statement on PRISM at

Dear users,

You may be aware of reports alleging that and several other APRS sites have joined a secret U.S. government program called PRISM to give the National Security Agency direct access to our servers. We would like to respond to the press reports, and give you the facts. is not and has never been part of any program to give the US or any other government direct access to our servers. We have never received a blanket request or court order from any government agency asking for information or metadata in bulk, like the one Verizon reportedly received. We hadn't even heard of PRISM before yesterday.

When governments ask for data, we review each request carefully to make sure they always follow the correct processes and all applicable laws, and then only provide the information if is required by law. We will continue fighting aggressively to keep your information safe and secure. Any suggestion that is disclosing information about our users’ APRS activity on such a scale is completely false.

We strongly encourage all governments to be much more transparent about all programs aimed at keeping the public safe. It's the only way to protect everyone's civil liberties and create the safe and free society we all want over the long term. We here at understand that the U.S. and other governments need to take action to protect their citizens’ safety—including sometimes by using surveillance. But the level of secrecy around the current legal procedures undermines the freedoms we all cherish.