One Year Out, but who’s counting…

Wow, I can’t believe it’s been a year since I hung up the old Raytheon badge on my 30th anniversary with the company, and headed to the lake full time.

Although I had been looking forward to this for a long time, I was a little worried that there wouldn’t be enough to keep me occupied.  But, as my friend Jim Hester had told me, “you won’t believe how busy you’ll be.”  He was sure right about that.

Of course, via the Internet, I remain in touch with many of my colleagues and friends at Raytheon around the world. Otherwise, I would really feel cut off from so many of my friends!

For those that are wondering what I’ve been up to since dropping off the Raytheon RSpace grid, I offer this short synopsis.

The transition to retirement has allowed me time to take on projects where I thought I could make a difference. I took on the presidency of our local property owners association, the Harbor Point POA. Of course, I started a President’s blog on the web site I manage for them. Major tasks have been to streamline the record-keeping  moving mass emails to a free system (mailchimp.com), transitioning the membership records from Access to Excel, moving mailing to a mass mailer, and transitioning all our records to the cloud (Dropbox).

Leslie accepted the Neighborhood Watch volunteer position for our POA and also coordinates the activities. We’re trying to get more people connected and active in the POA, which has hundreds of members but most not involved. She has started several new activities that are enjoying good attendance!

In researching crime statistics, I stumbled across crimereports.com, and brought it to the attention of our Police Chief here in Gun Barrel City (GBC). Within a month, the city had it installed and made it available to residents!

I also joined the Leadership Cedar Creek Lake class of 2012, sponsored by the Greater Cedar Creek Lake Chamber of Commerce.  We meet monthly in different cities, where we learn more about local government, health care, education and economic development. So much of this is new to me that it’s been quite an eye-opener.  

A month ago, Leslie ran across an innovative litter control program on the Internet. It’s called Reverse Litter and an initiative within it Ten on Tuesday.  What a great concept! She and I pitched it to the GBC Beautification Committee, where they enthusiastically adopted it as an initiative. We jointly presented to the GBC Chamber chapter last week, and it will be go before the GBC City Council next week. We’re looking forward to rolling it out citywide!

Ham radio has been my avocation since high school, and this past year I’ve been able to devote more time to it. Though I still don’t have my dream “antenna farm” (and never will on our small lakefront lot), I can operate all bands now, and have been dabbling with more digital modes. I accepted the Public Information Officer position for the local  Cedar Creek Amateur Radio Club and, of course, set up a web site for them.

Just recently, I accepted a voluntary position as Emergency Coordinator for Amateur Radio Emergency Services here in Henderson County.  In this post, I coordinate the planning for use of ham radio during local emergencies including SKYWARN. It’s a great chance to work with County officials and the ham community, especially the two active clubs in the county. Very interesting work, and of course, one more website.

Well, that’s about it. I had promised to blog more but have just been too busy!

Let’s keep in touch! Any mode will do… Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or ham radio (Echolink node 820121).

73 from TX!

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Read a good book lately? Share it!

The goodreads.com service was new to me, though it’s been around for years and has over 11 million members.  Since I’m not an avid reader, it was just not on my radar. I prefer the online world and magazines like Wired and Fast Company.

The book reading habit sort of snuck up me when I read a couple of short stories on a Palm Pilot years ago, primarily as a way to fall asleep.  Once I got accustomed to the small format, I was hooked.  I do have to admit, though, that bedtime is still  my primary reading time.  The reading device has changed, from the Palm to iPod, iPhone, iPad and now the Nexus 7.

I’ve always purchased ebooks from Amazon.com so that my entire online library is available on any of my online devices.

While browsing widgets for my blog, I ran into the Goodreads widget, was intrigued and signed up for the free service. It’s kind of a Netflix for books; the more you review, the better the recommendations.  You’ll see how other readers rated each book (1 to 5 stars) and find quite a few detailed reviews. You may find, as I have, there are good recommendations within those reviews. Plus, you can add your friends, and browse their book lists and reviews.

Their website is easy to use, and you’ll find apps available for both iOS devices and Android.

Give it a try, and add me to your friends list!

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Thinking Back on 30

It’s been seven months since I retired after 30 years with Raytheon.  The weekend before I retired, I spent some time thinking back on my career. Those notes became the last post on my internal home page on Raytheon’s internal social media system.

It’s funny that the accomplishments aren’t what you remember most; it’s the little things that pop to the surface.

It was a fun ride!  Perhaps you’ll enjoy the post.

My first assignment at what was then E-Systems Garland was to wait for my closed area security clearance, which could take up to six months. In the meantime, I was looking for something to do, and my boss’ boss, a fellow TRS-80 user, asked if I would be interested in a little programming assignment. Without thinking, I said “sure!” He handed me a 60 page document titled Navy Level of Repair Analysis, and asked me to program it in BASIC.

Of course, it turned out to be much more complicated than I had ever imagined, especially for someone that learned BASIC on an 8 Kb home computer. I bummed time on a WANG multi-user system when the word processing folks had an open terminal, and finished the programming and documentation just as I got my clearance five months later.

As a tech writer, I learned that working with engineers is a unique experience. One told me: “The system is inherently obvious. Now, what’s your question?”

One of my first big projects was to manage the development and roll-out of a document control system across the product lines at Garland. While its use would help the site move toward common processes, there was no mandate requiring it. Part of my job was to cajole each product line into coming on to the system; Engineering had the final say.

Our first installation had gone well, and I was pitching what we now call the value proposition at a director’s meeting hoping to snag a second user department. After the meeting, one of the directors said, OK, I trust that you can do this without disrupting my schedules. I smiled and said, “We already did. Your department went first and has been on it for two weeks!”

I remember attending a futures briefing at the Dallas InfoMart in the mid nineties. Xerox had brought in several of their best researchers from their famed Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) to give us a glimpse of the future. It was a mind blowing day, with presentations on epaper, data glyphs, 3d imaging, comprehensive search… all commonplace now but still years away at that time.

Each speaker casually mentioned that they used something called Amberweb as a way to share files and coordinate activities. At day’s end, I asked about Amberweb and was given a CD by our Xerox account manager. They were thinking of productizing their in- house developed system and were anxious for input as to its usefulness. With IT help, we had it up and running within a week and quickly realized its potential as DocuShare.

Within a month, we had 100 users, blossoming to a thousand within a year. It soon became the common document repository during the consolidation of the four companies (legacy Raytheon, E-Systems, TI Defense and Hughes Aircraft) that became the “new” Raytheon. From that one disk, it has grown to 36,000 users on over 30 systems; unless things have changed in the last six months, it’s still relied on as the document management backbone to the Intranet throughout the company.

I recall a briefing at Garland in the early 90’s by Adobe of a product in development that they hoped we would be interested in. They called it Visual Postscript; its mission was to display any document as “what you see is what you get.” It was a powerful concept way back then and blew me away.  Of course, as Adobe Acrobat, it’s proven pretty successful!

I still remember the first intranet site we set up in 1995 called Garland Online. It was a true joint effort of IT, Engineering and Configuration & Data Management (where my team resided at the time). We met with Public Relations to get buy-in before presenting it to our General Manager for approval to take it live. To keep it legal, we had to purchase disk copies of the Mosaic browser release 1 for everyone at Garland.

An aha moment for me was attending my first Global Communications Meeting. That’s when I realized that what my team and I had been doing on the Internet and Intranet for the past several years was in fact “communications.”

We were the first to use to video streaming in the company, live webcasting our business president’s quarterly message to employees long before it became commonplace. I was the moderator on camera with our business president. He would give a “state of the company” report, while questions came in on a laptop on the set. I would ask the questions during the webcast, all of which remained anonymous. There were some pretty frank questions, but he never got flustered.

I learned the value of having two approaches to solve any problem before bringing it to my boss. Very early in my career, while complaining about something to my VP, he said something I’ll never forget: “See this big chair and big office? I got that because I’m the boss. When I was at your level, I knew a lot about the details, much as you do. As I moved up the ladder here, I knew less and less about more and more. Now, I know nothing about everything! Now go back to your office and figure it out… you’re the expert!”

Thinking back on all the bosses I’ve had over the years, I can honestly say I learned from every one of them. I can only hope my team members say the same about me!

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– 30 –

I recently posted this on RSpace, the internal social networking system at work:

The term -30- has been used for many years by journalists to indicate the end of the story.  This February, it will hold a special meaning for me, as I celebrate 30 years with Raytheon. And, with that milestone, I’ll also be retiring! 

Until that time, I’ll continue what I‘m doing, plus aid in the transition to the new Communications departmental model that we are introducing in IIS. 

Of course, after I leave here, I hope to remain in touch with many of you via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and whatever the next big thing is. And, I am looking forward to having the time to update my blog. 

Ok, we’ll have plenty of time reminisce. Now back to work…. 
– Rich

Yes, and I really will begin updating my blog!

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Moving to WordPress.com

This venerable Casey’s Place blog, first begun on StarText back in 1982, is now hosted on WordPress.com.  StarText, which actually predated the web by several years, was a pioneering online system in Dallas/Fort Worth; I was one of its first volunteer columnists, as we called ourselves back then.

When the web took off, I jumped to a local provider in Dallas, then to GeoCities, later to Blogger, and now to WordPress. I’m very impressed with the templates, tools and options, but especially enjoy the iPhone app, which will allow me to blog and post photos directly.  I’ve already migrated both my local ham radio club and our neighborhood’s Property Owners Association from hand crafted web sites to WordPress.

The majority of my activity these days is via Twitter, so my latest tweets will always be here (and forwarded to Facebook).  But, I have a lot to learn about WordPress.com and will share as I go.

Thanks for stopping by, and feel free to drop in a comment!

– Rich

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D-Star: A New Kind of Ham Radio

I’ve been a radio guy all my life. I passed my amateur “ham” radio license exam about the same time I passed my driver’s license test, and have been happily sending signals into the sky since then.

The past ten years, I have been playing with digital ham radio, which for me meant keyboard to keyboard contacts, APRS (GPS & ham radio), home weather stations and such. But last weekend, digital ham radio took on a whole new dimension when I plugged in a microphone.

The technology is called D-Star (Digital Smart Technologies for Amateur Radio) and it was developed with research by the Japanese Amateur Radio League. It combines the best in ham radio technology with Internet networking to provide a unique experience.

I first saw D-Star several years ago and was stunned by the audio quality, not surprising since it uses part Internet and part radio to make the path. But there were no repeaters and it was pretty much a “point to point” system. For me, half the fun of ham radio is “calling CQ” and listening for a response from anyone anywhere.

D-Star has really grown since then, with more than 40 reflectors and hundreds of repeaters. It was time for me to jump in. I ordered an Icom ID-880 transceiver and, when it arrived, programmed in my local VHF D-Star repeater frequency here in Dallas. Then I programmed in my call sign (N5CSU) and entered the path to Reflector 001C, the so called MegaReflector. This takes my little VHF transmission and retransmits it to about 25 repeaters that are currently connected to that reflector. On my first transmission, a ham near Melbourne, Australia answered my call! Later that evening, I talked to a ham that was operating mobile near Times Square (describing in detail the St. Patrick’s day celebration going on.)

Just listening to reflector 1C this weekend has been fun, with voices from Australia, Scotland, England, Russia, Canada and all parts of the US coming out of my little radio.

There are many advantages to digital comms over analog! The call sign, name and short message scroll by on my radio display, and you can see the activity logs on an Internet site; www.dstarusers.org lists the last 100 or so hams using D-Star. And, hams can now use a headset and a “dongle” plugged into a USB slot and come out on an repeater in the world!

While D-Star is currently only supported by one manufacturer, and there is a learning curve to using it, it has definitely won me over as a new fun mode! It will be on here in the “ham shack” from now on.

To learn more about D-Star, check out the Wikipedia entry. And if you would like to join us on the air, check out arrl.org/getting-licensed! Ham radio is a lot of fun, and a great way to learn about new technology. And, you no longer have to learn the Morse code.

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