Monday, December 22, 2008

Are you Helen Chapman?

I have been aware for some years that I had another sister born in the mid 1960's in the Wimbledon area.

By chance in 2006 I came across this ad which had been posted on the website The ad had been posted in 2003 and the name and date of birth matches my mother, as does all the other info, so it seems possible this is my sister.

Text of the ad:
Board Name: England (Adoption Related)
ANGELA CHAPMAN SW19 Sep 07, 2003
Searching for my birth mother - ANGELA CHAPMAN. (DOB 6/5/41). I was born as HELEN CHAPMAN on 24/10/65 in NELSON HOSPITAL, KINGSTON ROAD, MERTON, SW20. Any information please, about Angela or any other member of the family. Thanks.

I discovered the ad in 2006 and replied but by that time it was three years after it had been posted and the persons email address may have changed or my reply may have been spam filtered. Either way, I got no reply.

Unfortunately the woman who posted the ad did not give her current name, which would have been changed at adoption. This makes it impossible to trace her. I did contact the owner of the web site but he had no further information, so it reached a dead end.

Its possible she has tried tracing us through our grandmother Doris Chapman (nee Minnis), but Doris died a few years ago. It is unlikely that Helen knows she has a brother so she may have given up looking.

Request for help
  • Do you know anyone in their 40's who was looking for their birth mother in 2003?
  • Are you the person who posted that ad?

If you have any information about the whereabouts of Helen Chapman, please email me - click here.
If you do not receive a reply within 24 hours then you should assume I have not received your email.

There is further information about Angela Chapman here.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Keeping New Year Resolutions

Normally I am very bad at making new year resolutions, but last new year I decided that I needed to make more friends and this would be a good subject for a new years resolution.

In order to get there I have:

  • Made a point of making small talk with people during my normal everyday activities.
  • Accepted almost every invitation to a social event I have received this year.
  • Tried to get to know some of my acquaintances better.
  • Looked up some old friends and renewed the relationship.

Has it worked?

To some extent.
I have extended my social circle and met new people and from those I am gradually making more friends.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A simple way to make use of the YouTube widscreen and high quality functions

The native resolution for Youtube widescreen is 480x360.

It is also possible to upload HD videos which are 720x1280 but these only show in HD when &fmt=22 to the end of the page URL

I discovered that if I put my digital still camera on movie mode and set it to high quality it give a 640x480 image. If I change the settings to 16:9 mode it gives me 848x640 and if I upload the .mov quicktime file straight to youtube it fills the full wide screen area and gives the option to view in high quality.

Click Here to see the example video (the embedded player is not widescreen so I can't embed it in this page).

I have not tried editing any of the 16:9 files and then uploading them. I suspect that this might cause me to lose the view in high quality option depending on what format I save the edited file as. I need to experiment more with this.

The camera I am using is a Leica C-Lux 2 which is similar to the small Panasonic Lumix compact with image stabilisation. The high quality movie setting gives me about 10 minutes on a 1GB SD card with sound. The quality is sufficient to put onto a DVD using DVD Flick and even on my 40 inch TV its not as badly pixelated as I would have expected. On a smaller TV its fine and the camera is so small its easy to take places. It also has a carrier on the strap for additional SD cards so its gradually getting used more and more for video.

I suspect that my small Nikon compact would give the same results although I have not tried it.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Personal Bill of Rights

  1. I have the right to ask for what I want.
  2. I have the right to. say no to requests or demands I can't meet.
  3. I have the right to express all of my feelings, positive or negative.
  4. I have the right to change my mind.
  5. I have the right to make mistakes and not have to be perfect.
  6. I have the right to follow my own values and standards.
  7. I have the right to say no to anything when I feel I am not ready, it is unsafe or it violates my values.
  8. I have the right to determine my own priorities.
  9. I have the right not to be responsible for others' behavior, actions, feelings or problems.
  10. I have the right to expect honesty from others.
  11. I have the right to be angry at someone I love.
  12. I have the right to be uniquely myself.
  13. I have the right to feel scared and say 'I'm afraid."
  14. I have the right to say 'I don't know.
  15. I have the right not to give excuses or reasons for my behavior.
  16. I have the right to make decisions based on my feelings.
  17. I have the right to my own needs for personal space and time.
  18. I have the right to be playful and frivolous.
  19. I have the right to be healthier than those around me.
  20. I have the right to be in a non abusive environment.
  21. I have the right to make friends and be comfortable around people.
  22. I have the right to change and grow.
  23. I have the right to have my needs and wants respected by others.
  24. I have the right to be treated with dignity and respect.
  25. I have the right to be happy.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Unraveling of Christianity #3 - Prayer Does Not Work.

"Prayer does not work. There is no objective evidence for believing that prayer makes any difference to any situation. If God appears to answer peoples prayers it is either coincidence; the likelihood of that outcome happening was quite high anyway; or that God answered the prayer by saying no or wait (which is another way of saying he did not answer the prayer)."

This video shows how sane rational people can believe that prayers are answered when their own experience is that they are not.

The secret is that God can answer with three possible answers yes, no or wait which means that he could answer by saying "its not the right time" which gives people the impression the prayer has been answered when the request has not been.

Its worth persevering with this video because it makes a very important point:

Thursday, November 13, 2008

London Pride by Noël Coward

A small video I made of this song. I also cleaned up the audio and added a stereo effect to broaden it out.

Coward wrote "London Pride" in the spring of 1941, during the Blitz. According to his own account, he was sitting on a seat on a platform of a damaged railway station in London, and was "overwhelmed by a wave of sentimental pride". The song started in his head there and then and was finished in a few days.

The song compares the pride of wartime Londoners to the flower "London Pride" which can grow anywhere and was often found growing on bomb sites.
Coward gave many morale boosting broadcasts to people in wartime London via the BBC.

The tune is partly based on "Won't You Buy My Sweet Smelling Lavender" and partly on the German wartime national anthem "Deutschland über alles".


London Pride has been handed down to us.
London Pride is a flower that’s free.
London Pride means our own dear town to us,
And our pride it for ever will be.

Oh Liza! See the coster barrows,
Vegetable marrows and the fruit piled high.
Oh Liza! Little London sparrows,
Covent Garden Market where the costers cry.

Cockney feet mark the beat of history.
Every street pins a memory down.
Nothing ever can quite replace
The grace of London Town.

There’s a little city flower every spring unfailing
Growing in the crevices by some London railing,
Though it has a Latin name, in town and country-side
We in England call it
London Pride.

London Pride has been handed down to us.
London Pride is a flower that’s free.
London Pride means our own dear town to us,
And our pride it for ever will be.

Hey, lady! When the day is dawning
See the policeman yawning on his lonely beat.
Gay lady! Mayfair in the morning,
Hear your footsteps echo in the empty street.
Early rain and the pavement’s glistening.
All Park Lane in a shimmering gown.
Nothing ever could break or harm
The charm of London Town.

In our city darkened now, street and square and crescent,
We can feel our living past in our shadowed present,
Ghosts beside our starlit Thames who lived and loved and died
Keep throughout the ages
London Pride.

London Pride has been handed down to us.
London Pride is a flower that’s free.
London Pride means our own dear town to us,
And our pride it for ever will be.

Grey city! Stubbornly implanted,
Taken so for granted for a thousand years.
Stay, city! Smokily enchanted,
Cradle of our memories and hopes and fears.

Every Blitz your resistance toughening,
From the Ritz to the Anchor and Crown,
Nothing ever could override
The pride of London Town.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The view from my Hotel room this morning in London

As pictured with my phone camera.

The Unraveling of Christianity #2

#2 If God does exist then he must be very complex and that means he must have resulted from an evolutionary process or indeed been created himself by some higher being. God could not have just come into being by accident

Believers often say that the chance of the world having been created by accident is the same as a watch appearing in a field or an aircraft being assembled by a wind blowing through a scrap yard. Here Richard Dawkins shows that this argument can't be used to prove that god exists. Quite the opposite. If a Boeing 747 being created by accident is improbable how less probable is the existence of God?

If God does exist then he must be very complex and that means he must have resulted from an evolutionary process or indeed been created himself by some higher being. God could not have just come into being by accident, so the creationist case is actually injured by the use of this argument from improbability.

Hate mail from Christians

I have received many responses since I decided to come out as an atheist.
Every week I receive one or two emails or blog comments.
Naysayers outnumber well wishers by about four to one and they tend to make very similar statements of dislike towards me: dislike to the point of wanting to see me harmed (usually by God) and a rather gleeful expectation that they will enjoy watching me being so punished.
They rarely engage in any of the issues with me and when they do they can't respond other than to say that I am wrong and I will find out the hard way.

Apart from the unecesary personal hurt that these communications cause me there are a number of areas in which my critics have either misread or misunderstood what I have been saying.

Firstly they assume that I have purposefully rejected God.
In fact I have not rejected God, just discovered that he does not exist, which is not the same thing at all.
If I knew that God existed and rejected him then that would be a very illogical thing gto do, but I don't believe there is a God or indeed any need for there to be a God in order to explain existence, with one proviso: It is possible that a superior being does exist somewhere in the cosmos, but if he does exist then he would have to be the culmination of some sort of evolutionary process himself. The chances of God existing by chance is very unlikely, and if he did exist he could not be the God of the bible.

Secondly they assume that I believe that everything came into creation by chance. This is not the case. I believe in natural selection which means that the environment in which creatures have to survive causes them to adapt and change over long periods of time. This is something that Darwin saw in microcosm when he visited the Galapagos islands and saw the adaptations of birds beaks for different survival purposes. This is natural selection or as I like to call it logical selection.

Thirdly, they believe that I think life is pointless, without meaning and without hope. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have found life to be far more meaningful without God. I have a greater understanding of my role in the world and a feeling of being part of something significant: the human race. I have become a kinder more understanding person and this might explain why I find some of these critical emails so surprising coming from people who tell me that God loves me (while they obviously don't).

So what can I make of this? I think that what these people are doing is defending their own belief system to themselves rather than trying to persuade me to believe. In fact they seem more interested in watching me suffering in hell than persuading me to avoid going there. Therein lies the heart of the issue. Christians seem to require a lot of bolstering of their own faith and can only cope by feeling slightly superior to those with whom they disagree. Rather than trying to win the argument by reason they rely on the fact that their dad is bigger than my dad and will get his revenge while they hide behind his legs sniggering at me.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

List of Bessie Smith tracks played on by Louis Armstrong

As far as I know there are eleven Bessie Smith tracks that have been released which have Louis Armstrong as a backing musician.

Here is the list along with personnel and recording dates:

January 14, 1925, New York, NY

  • St. Louis Blues
  • Reckless Blues
  • Sobbin' Hearted Blues
  • Cold In Hand Blues
  • You've Been A Good Ole Wagon

Smith, Bessie (Vocal)
Armstrong, Louis (Cornet)
Longshaw, Fred (Piano, Harmonium)

mid January, 1925, New York, NY

  • I'll See You In My Dreams
  • Why Couldn't It Be Poor Little Me?

Henderson, Fletcher (Piano / Director)
Chambers, Elmer (Trumpet)
Scott, Howard (Trumpet)
Armstrong, Louis (Cornet)
Green, Charlie (Trombone)
Bailey, Buster (Reeds)
Redman, Don (Reeds)
Hawkins, Coleman (Reeds)
Dixon, Charlie (Banjo)
Escudero, Ralph (Tuba)
Marshall, Kaiser (Drums)

May 26, 1925, New York, NY

  • Nashville Woman's Blues
  • Careless Love Blues

Smith, Bessie (Vocal)
Armstrong, Louis (Cornet)
Green, Charlie (Trombone)
Longshaw, Fred (Piano)

May 27, 1925, New York, NY

  • J.C. Holmes Blues
  • I Ain't Gonna Play No Second Fiddle (if I Can't Play The Lead)

Smith, Bessie (Vocal)
Armstrong, Louis (Cornet)
Green, Charlie (Trombone)
Longshaw, Fred (Piano)

How to clean up (remaster) an audio track using Audacity

Although there are good remastered sets from all the main artists of the 1920's and 30's there can be times when you have a single track on a cheaper reissue CD that you would like a better copy of.
These CD's are usually made by recording directly from 78 records so there are a few processes involved.
All of these can be done using free programs available to download on the internet.

Rip track as a .wav file (if from a CD use Free Rip as its the simplest ripping program I have found). You could also record an original record to your PC using an analogue to digital converter or one of those USB turntables.

Now use Audacity to perform these tasks

  1. Use speed plugin (in the effects menu) to manually adjust speed to get pitch to A=440 because some 78 records were recorded at slightly different speeds.
  2. Use stereo plugin to create spatial Left/Right effect (I use the MDA_stereo VST plugin from you need to install the VST enabler from Audacity but this is also free)
  3. Use the equalisation plugin to adjust for recordings made from 78 records (this is a preset) or experiment at removing the centre range slightly
  4. Use the noise filter plugin to remove any remaining noise (tricky, and you don't want to lose anything from the original recording)
  5. Use the amplify plugin to increase volume across track if required
  6. Output as .wav file to keep losses down and so you can burn the track to a CD

On this Bessie Smith track you can hear the original CD track up to 1:07, then it switches to the cleaned up version (although the pitch correction has been applied to both halfs).

My purpose in doing this:
  • Get pitch corrected
  • Make the vocal stand out more
  • Remove some of the noise
  • Make it play better on a larger hifi system.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Unraveling of Christianity #1

#1 Without Adam there is no fall, no original sin and no need for a substitutionary atonement.

A clear and succinct explanation of why the doctrines of the atonement and original sin do not make any logical sense even within themselves:

For those who say that this proves that Adam must have existed, please think on this:

If I told you I had fairies at the bottom of my garden you would expect me to provide objective evidence for my claim. The same burden of proof is required for any religious argument such as the existence of Adam. Simply using one source (the bible) to validate itself is not good enough.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

CB Radio Memories

My first contact with CB radio was in 1977 when I was given two single channel CB walkie talkies by a relative from Canada who was visiting us.
Having walkie talkies was a very exotic thing in the UK at that time when radio regulation was very strict, and they were used in many childhood games of secret agents and cops and robbers.
The radios had a single channel on 27.125 (channel 14) AM and 100 mw of power output. The range was about a quarter of a mile and on two noteable occasions I managed to make contact with other people! The first time was when another boys voice answered me back from a street quite a distance from ours and we ended up meeting up half way. The two gangs with the walkie talkies. The second time was with a motorist in a nearby car park.

What I did not realise at that time was that channel 14 was not used as the calling channel where I lived in Stirling. For some reason they used 16 and this is why I wasn't hearing as much as I might have. Various reasons have been given for the choice of 16, but the one I like best was that in the days of 23 channel crystal controlled radios one of the locals had a bad channel 14 crystal so everyone moved to 16. Another possibility was that they were trying to avoid us kids on our channel 14 walkie talkies.

The walkie talkies moved my interest in radio, which already included listening for exotic stations on medium and short wave radio, towards transmitting. I started getting amateur radio books out of the local library and went on to study for my radio amateurs exam. I got my licence at the age of 15 in 1982, but before this CB had been legalised in the UK after a campaign by existing users of illegal equipment.

Round about 1980 I came across a protest demonstration in the nearby Kings Park with people speaking from the bandstand and lots of cars with aerials on them. It was part of the campaign to legalise CB. I am pretty sure that one of the speakers went on to become a prominetn local radio amateur and a good friend of mine but my memory may be playing tricks.
I scooted about on my bike listening to all the traffic on my single channel radio.

The legalisation of CB in the UK
CB was finally legalised in 1981 but using 40 channels at the top end of 27MHz which meantt he illegal US equipment was not compatible. At the timne various celebrities promoted the use of CB including Tony Blackburn and the Lord Provost of Glasgow, Michael Kelly, who had a CB radio fitted in his official limo so he could "talk to the people" as he was driven through the city. Incidentally, CB was officially called "Open Channel". Eventually this was changed to "Citizens Band Radio" because thats what the public called it.

When CB was legalised in 1981 none of the illegal equipment would work on the new channels so there was a rush by manufacturers and retailers to get radios on the market. The craze became so large that you could even buy a CB radio in Boots the chemist. When the boom broke, Boots sold off York CB's for £10 each, like many retailers who had to dump stock to get rid of it. COmet eventually sold the Amstrad 901 for £20. Prices had originally been much higher. I worked in Dixons in 1984 when they were clearing out their stock of Harrier CB's at 50% off (£50 for the base station which was normally £100). At this time a few radio amateurs bought cheap CB radios for conversion to 10m. The Cybernet boarded radios were quite difficult to convert requiring an expensive additional board, but the LCL, DNT and Icom 1050 could be converted more easily. The Icom 1050 was a bit cheeky as it was not made or sold by Icom, but was someone else cashing in on their good name. SMC also marketed a CB radio called the Oscar, which they also sold in a 10m version. The reason for this interest in converted CB's was that most amateur radio HF transceivers did not have FM at all or required expensive FM boards fitted. Even if they were fitted they did not have the repeater shift for operating through the european 10m repeaters. It was possible to add the repeater shift to some of the converted CB radios and the SMC oscar had this on the switch normally used for high/low power. CB operators sometimes added a channel zero which was 10KHz below channel 1 and was considered to be more private (but illegal).

Harvard and Harrier radios were very similar and I can explain why. Harrier was Dixons own brand and had previously been used on their airband radios. Dixons actually had a sales caravan that toured air shows selling cheap airband radios and binoculars. Binoculars had a very large profit margin and they did very well from it. Harvard was a brand marketed by Harris Overseas Ltd. Harris eventually bought Alba and they now operate as Alba Radio. They also own the Bush and Hinari brands. In the early 80's they were sourcing CB radios from the far east and Dixons sourced their radios through them. The Three radios in the Harvard and Harrier ranges were identical inside and only had cosmetic differences on the outside. Harvard radios were sold through various retailers, but most commonly Comet.

While I am talking about radios I should point out the similarity in the ranges of all the manufacturers at this time. usually they had three types of set with progressively more features.

1. Basic set with volume, squelch, high low power switch. (e.g. Rotel RVC220)
2. More advanced set with the addition of CB/PA, tone and mic or RF gain controls (e.g. Rotel RVC230)
3. Top of the range with controls like delta tune which allowed you to communicate with people using US style multimode radios (e.g. Rotel RVC240)

If you open up these radios you will find the same board with extra components for the additional features. Some of the features are of little real value such as RF gain or Microphone gain.
The receivers and transmitters were identical across the different models in the range.

It was also possible to buy CB handheld radios which were the size and weight of bricks, took 10 batteries and had telescopic antennas 1.5m long. We often sold pairs of these to skiers. I often wondered how long the antennas would last on the ski slopes.

One of the biggest problems with most of the CB radios of that period was poor receiver selectivity with adjacent channel interference (known as bleedover) being a problem with many of the cheaper radios. The Home Office specification was mainly concerned with reducing the risk of interference and did not have a specification for selectivity. Some radios could be improved by fitting different crystal filters, but the root of the problem was the narrow 10KHz channel spacing with the relatively wide FM modulation type. If a transmitter had the deviation turned up too far or a receiver had poor filtering then the signal could be picked up on adjacent channels. This is one reason why radio amateurs used 25KHz channel spacing on FM and commercial PMR radio used either 25 or 12.5KHz spacing. 10 KHz was a technical obstacle. Eventually the government revised the CB specification to tighten up receiver specification and most modern CB radios do not suffer from these problems.

Antennas or aerials (as we call them in the UK)
The quarter wave whips (often mounted on the bumper) were around in the 70's and 80's but eventually gave way to loaded whips. The standard mobile antenna early on was the DV27, a fiberglass top loaded antenna with a handy tuning tip. These actually performed very well and because they were light and the bases had a tilt on them they were easy to fit to most cars. Eventually other antennas became popular like the K40 base loaded antenna then the half breed base loaded and the modulator type (with a larger base loading coil). The firestick antennas were also popular especially with truck drivers but they needed a good solid base.

Most base stations used the half wave "silver rod" antenna with some going for the larger Sigma 4 which was a three quarter wave vertical. The CB regulations at the time required no antenna to have a radiating element of longer than 1.5m which made these antennas illegal. Also if the antenna was above a certain height the power had to be reduced by 10db which was the reason for the high/low power switch on the radios. Of course lots of people ignored this and some manufacturers even made antennas that looked loaded which were actually longer than 1.5m, the support pole actually being part of the antenna. There were some loaded base station antennas that became popular like the Thunderpole which had three radials positioned to try and get a lower angle of radiation from it for increased range.

DX operaters on SSB would sometimes use yagis or delta loop beams (I think a model made by Avanti).

RF amplifiers (known in CB language as "burners" or "boots") were not that common where I lived, but people who had them tended to use them in the car to increase range a bit. Home users often opted for the valve amplifiers by Bremi and Zetagi that used PL509 TV valves. This was because high current 12v power supplies were expensive or hard to get and it was cheaper to use a mains powered valve amplifier. The problem with CB amplifiers was that they were suually class c, not linear and if they were putting out 100w you could never be sure how much of that was actually on 27MHz rather than its harmonics.

934 MHz
When CB was legalised in 1981 there were a further 20 channels at 934 MHz which was real cutting edge territory at the time. Equipment was very expensive and it worked best in flat areas which is presumably why I don't remember anyone near me every having any equipment for it. This service was withdrawn in 1998, ten years after the last equipment had been made for it and the frequencies were sold off to mobile phone companies.

The end of the craze
The problem with CB was that it went from being a fairly popular hobby or communication tool to the must have Christmas present. The resulting over supply in the market meant that anyone with £10 could pick up a discounted radio and begin a career as a narrow band FM DJ. The other problem was that the launch of CB coincided with rising sunspot activity and interference coming in from Europe made 27MHz unusable a lot of the time. Although we have seen a recent increase in CB activity since deregulation in 2006, the pending move to the CEPT frequencies in 2010 could mean that interference is even more prevalent during the next sunspot maximum. This could kill CB stone dead. At least the UK channels did not coincide with the legally used ones in Europe where most of the interference was.

Other bands
As well as legal 27 MHz and 934 MHz there was illegal activity between 26 and 28 MHz (known as freeband) and some rare activity on 6.6MHz and 3.4 MHz using converted amateur radio equipment. I did not know anyone involved in this, but even today there are occasional nets on 3.4MHz (known as the 85m band) around the north of Scotland.

American culture, secrecy and the lingo
Because CB was illegal in the 70's it was not safe to give exact names or locations. Amazingly, this still continues today. I was told off recently for saying what street I lived in so someone could find my house, yet my details are published in the amateur radio call book. The other thing which went along with this was the use of "secret" codewords, 10 codes and slang. For example Stirling was "silver city" and Kilsyth was "dry town" (referring to the fact it was one of the last places in Scotland to have pubs). The 10 codes were not used in their original meaning. For example 10-10 originally meant "fight in progress" but was changed to mean something like "goodbye". 10-100 originally meant "dead body discovered" but this was used to refer to going to the toilet.

Part of the attraction of CB was the popularity of southern US culture typified by CB, truck driving and country music. Films like Convoy, Smokey and the Bandit and TV shows like the Dukes of Hazzard made CB identified with working class people doing things that were borderline illegal and getting away with it. CB in Britain became a cultural phenomenon rather than a communications tool.

Impact on Amateur Radio
The impact of CB on amateur radio was generally been positive, with more people being exposed to radio communication in the pre mobile phone days. Many of the older illegal users got fed up with CB and moved on to Amateur radio causing a big influx of new amateurs in the early to mid 80's. As time has moved on there is much more crossover and while I am primarily an amateur radio operator I do use CB radio for informal family communication because anyone can use CB without needing a licence.

The Future
There has been a definite increase in CB activity since licencing was abolished in 2006 and it has got a bit of a following amongst off road enthusiasts. Also, the launch of PMR 446 has sent some people in search of radios with greater range and some of them have ended up on CB. The risk, of course, is that with the sunspot maximum approaching the band may become unusable. There is also the risk of some sort of clamp down on the use of CB 27/81 radios when those channels are withdrawn in 2010. Although there have been 80 channel UK/Eu radios on sale for ten years there is still a lot of CB 27/81 equipment in circulation.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

PHP 5 and Ruby on Rails web hosting

I thought I would point out a very good offer on PHP 5 web hosting with ruby on rails from .

For £3.99 you get 100GB of web space and the ability to use this space to host more than one web site. As far as I can tell its the cheapest multiple domain hosting from any of the established UK suppliers and its pretty reliable too.

What is the range of CB radio?

Having used CB recently for family communication it seems that a reasonable reliable range is:

Base station to base station with proper antennas : 10 miles
Car to car with medium sized antennas : 2 miles
Car to base station : 5 miles
Handheld (with helical antenna) to base station : 1 mile

This refers to UK CB radios (FM, 4 watts output, 27MHz).

Range can be more than this but if you want to communicate reliably this should give you a guide to whats possible.

CB radio in the UK no longer requires a licence and can easily be fitted in a car using a magnetic mounted antenna and a connection to the cigarette lighter socket.

Monday, September 1, 2008

My favourite free software.

A selection of my favourite free software (freeware) for windows. If you bought commercial software to do these jobs it would cost over £500. These free alternatives are very good and I use them at home every day.

I regularly update this article. If you find a broken link please leave a comment and I will update the broken link.


AVG Free Antivirus

PDF Tools

FoxitPDF Viewer - faster than Adobe PDF Reader and uses fewer

PrimoPDF - makes a PDF file from any type of file.

Text Editor

EditpadLite - better than Notepad

File Compression

Jzip - like Winzip but free


Tree Size Free - Gives a breakdown of the usage of every directory on your computer hard drive including those used by other users on the same machine.

SyncBack Freeware - for backing up your files automatically to a second drive, even an external USB hard disk.

Office Suite

Open Office - free alternative to Microsoft Office, requires Java runtime
environment (also free)

Image Editor image editor - handles layers and has lots of filters available.


Real Alternative - simpler plug in codec for Real Audio and Real

AVS DVD Player - very good free DVD player for Windows. If you
can't get DVD's to play in Windows Media Player this will work instead.

Divx Player - plays divx files and installs the codec so you can play them in
Windows Media Player too.


DVD Flick - turns any video clip or collection of clips into a fully functional DVD with menus. Even burns the DVD.

Auto Screen Recorder Free - for making screen capture video recordings of activity on your computer screen.


Audacity - comprehensive audio recording and editing software with lots of effect plug ins, also does multi-track recording.

Free Rip - Rips audio files to MP3, WAV and several other formats


Electronic Piano - Play music from your qwerty keyboard using the midi synthesizer in your sound card.


Kompozer - WYSIWYG HTML editor for designing and building web sites.

Sam Spade for Windows - network tools like whois, ping and traceroute.

PuTTY - SSH and Telnet client.

Win SCP - FTP client

Friday, June 6, 2008

National Lottery Odds of Winning and ROI

This table shows the best odds of winning the smallest prize on each national lottery game.

It grew out of my own experience of putting £30 into a national lottery account at the beginning of March. It is now June and I still have £20 in it even though I have bought tickets for every Saturday and Wednesday draw plus Euromillions. Its just luck, but I am now being careful and working out which game is likely to cost me the least to take part in.

Game Min Win Min Win Amount Min Win Odds ROI
Daily Play Match 4 £5 1:23 21%
Lotto Match 3 £10 1:57 17.5%
Dream Number Match 1 £2 1:12 16%
Thunderball Match1 + TB £5* 1:33 15%
Euro Millions Match 1 + 2 STRS £7* 1:39 11.2%

Lotto + Dream Number


*approximate winnings based on recent weeks

ROI is return on investment.

i.e. if you spent £100 on daily play tickets you would be statistically likely to win back £21 of it.

My calculation assumes that you only ever win the smallest, most frequently awarded prizes.

The combination of main Lotto plus Dream number is likely to cost the least to take part in on a regular basis as you may win 33% of your stakes back in prizes compared to only 17.5% for Lotto on its own.

Average Odds of Winning Any prize

Thunderball 5.50% (18:1)
Euromillions 4.25% (23:1)
Lotto 1.86% (53:1)
Dream No. 10.00% (10:1)

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute any sort of advice and is for entertainment purposes only. Don't bet on it!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Icom IC-2N comparison with IC-2E

The IC-2N was the Japanese home market version of the popular IC-2E sold in Europe or the IC-2A sold int he USA from 1980 onwards. In the UK the IC-2E originally sold for £159.

Once production of the IC-2E ceased, it was cloned by Kenpro as the KT-200, which accepted the same battery packs and accessories.

The Japanese version (denoted as IC-2N) has a number of differences to the European version.

Differences that do not affect operation:

  1. Supplied with dry cell case instead of rechargeable battery and charger (not a problem as you can fill the dry cell case with NiMH batteries that work better than the old Nicad packs).

Important differences affecting its useability:

  1. No repeater shift (switch is completely missing from the rear panel).

  2. 10 KHz channel steps instead of 5 KHz. There is no +5KHz switch (the switch in this position is used to go from a preset frequency of 145.000 to whatever frequency you have set on the thumbwheel switches). This means that you can not use this radio on frequencies like 145.525.

  3. No toneburst (the volume control does not depress to provide a 1750 hz tone)
    This means that you can not use this radio through repeaters.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Instruction manual for Commtel COM203 scanner (Also Realistic PRO-39)

This is my own home written manual for the Commtel COM203 scanner which was sold around 1993/94.
This manual assumes you already know how to use volume and squekch controls, install batteries etc.

The scanner is marked on the back "Commtel COM203, made in China for Commtel by GRE".
The COM203 is identical to the Realistic or Radio Shack PRO-39 and made by the same company (GRE), although the band coverage may vary (see coverage below).The later COM204 and PRO-43 models have the same operating controls but different frequency bands and the ability to switch between AM and FM on any band at will (the COM203 uses FM on all frequencies apart from airband where it switches to AM).

Its not a particularly sensitive scanner. On airband my cheap Maycom 108 scanner is much more sensitive.The Commtel also suffers from breakthrough on airband from strong local amateur radio transmissions on 144 MHz.On the plus side, the Commtel and Realistic scanners are very cheap second hand, the batteries last a long time and they can stand a lot of abuse.My Commtel also has a matching carying case which gives it some protection against light rain.

Coverage and model variations
68-88 MHz (US version has 30-54 MHz instead)
108-174 MHz (Switches automatically to AM on airband frequencies)
380-512 MHz
806-960 MHz (US version has gaps from 824-851 MHz and 869-896 MHz to prevent access to analogue cellular frequencies)

It is possible to modify the coverage by adjusting jumper diodes.
This can enable the blocked cellular freqencies or swap the 68-88 MHz for 30-54 MHz and visa versa.
If you have the skills you might be able to add a switch to allow coverage of both 30-54 MHz and 68-88 MHz by switching the jumper diodes over.
There are modifications and jumper information available elsewhere on the internet:

The scanner has 10 banks of 20 channels where frequencies can be stored.200 memories in total, plus 10 Monitor frequencies which act as temporary memories when looking for new signals.Normally the scanner will scan all 10 banks of memories, but when it is scanning you can press the buttons on the front to remove any of the banks from the can process.
This is why the buttons are marked "1-20", "21-40" etc.
The scanner can scan up to 25 memory channels per second.

Programming the memory channels
Key in the memory number you want to use
Press PGM (PGM will light up on the display)
Enter a frequency (using the number decimal point keys)
Press ENTER to store the frequency in the chosen memory.

Repeat this process until you have programmed in all your chosen memories.

Scanning the memories
To start scanning the 200 memory channels press SCAN.
Pressing DELAY will cause the scanner to pause for 2 seconds at the end of each transmission so it does not start scanning and miss the other side of the conversation (DLY will be shown in thew display).
If the scanner stops on a signal you do not want to listen to press SCAN to continue the scan.
To stop scanning press MANUAL.

If a channel is constantly causing the scanner to stop you can remove it from the scan by pressing L/OUT when the scanner stops on it.
This will remove it from the scan.To put that memory back into the scan you need to select the channel manually and then press the L/OUT button again.
You can remove any block of 20 memory channels from the scan by pressing on the appropriate button.
You will see a bar in the display under the blocks you are currently scanning.
This allows you to have all your aircraft frequencies in one block and all your amateur radio frequencies in another so you can scan one without the other.

Selecting memory channels manually
Key in the number of the memory channel you want to listen to and press MANUAL
To move through the memory channels keep pressing MANUAL and the scanner will switch through the 200 memory channels one at a time.

Scanning using the limit function
Press PGM
Enter the lowest frequency you want to scan from
Enter the highest frequency you want to scan to
Press the up arrow and the scanner will start to scan from the lowest frequency set.
The scanner will stop on a transmission.
If you want to keep a note of this frequency you can store it in the current temporary monitor memories by pressing the MON button.
If you have stored a frequency in the monitor memory you can return to the limit search by pressing LIMIT followed by the up or down arrow.

Manual Tuning
Press MANUAL followed by MON then use the up and down arrow buttons to scan up or down from that frequency.
"-d-" is shown in the display to denote that you are not on any stored channel.
You can also scan up or down manually from any one of the 200 memory channels.
If you want to keep a note of this frequency you can store it in the current temporary monitor memories by pressing the MON button.

Using the Monitor channels
To listen to the memorised monitor channels press MANUAL then MON and then the number of the monitor memory you want to listen to.
The monitor channel you are listening to is indicated by the bar under the memory number in the display.
You can move stored frequencies from one of the temporary monitor memories to one of the permanent 200 memory channels like this:
Enter the channel number you want to move the monitor memory frequency to.
Press PGM
Press MON
Select the correct monitor memory

Priority Channel
To program the priority channel do this:
Press PGM
Enter the channel number you want to use as the priority one.
Press PRI
P appears in the display whenever you are on the priority channel.

To turn on the priority channel function press PRI (PRI will appear in the display).
The priority channel will be checked every two seconds and the scanner will switch to it if a signal is present.
To turn off the priority function press PRI again.

(c) 2008 Gordon Hudson, GM4SVM

Monday, February 18, 2008

I rest my case

This summary is not available. Please click here to view the post.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

What Christians mean by the "word of God".

The whole word of God thing is a bit complex because what most christians mean by this is:
  • What the pastor told me I had to believe,
  • because of what he was taught that something in the bible means,
  • that was translated by someone,from their selection of possible texts,
  • of books chosen by one particular group in the fourth cenury,
  • based on the translators particular theological background,
  • using modern understandings of word usage in ancient times,
  • from a text copied and recopied over hundreds of years,
  • which was written by a human being,
  • who was usually claiming to be someone else,
  • writing about things he had not directly witnessed,
  • quoting conversations verbatim that he could not have heard,
  • claiming that this was inspired by God.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Argument against proof for the existence of God from experience

One of the responses I have had from a few Christians to my deconversion story can be summarised like this:

"If you had experienced God like I have experienced God then you would believe too."

Yet, I have experienced similar things to the people who have said this (and in some cases in exactly the same places or organisations). I just seem to have interpreted them differently. Rather than looking for unlikely supernatural explanations I have tended to look for more obvious explanations based on reason and knowledge of how the world works. For example, the person whose life has been transformed by prayer, might have just found the confidence to turn their own life around, or the person healed of a gammy leg might already have been a lot better, but just needed the confidence to stop using a stick.

I think this is where the argument for the existence of God based on experience falls down. The whole thing is subjective and cannot be tested objectively.

There is also a certain element of over egging the pudding by Christians. I knew one person who had to go and have tests for cancer, was prayed for and found not to have cancer. This was proclaaimed as a local miracle when, in fact, she had never actually had cancer. The doctors just wanted to investigate it further because they were concerned about her condition.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Further background to my deconversion

There are two separate parts to my deconversion, my loss of belief in God and the collapse of the logic of the Christian faith.

1. The realisation that God is so unlikely to exist that it wouldn't make any difference whether he did or not.

Anyone looking at the facts would realise that the God described by Christianity, Judaism and Islam does not exist (I can't comment on other religions because I do not know enough about them). If God does exist he has not had any involvement with the world since he started the creative processes. His role can only be that of scientist, starting off an experiment and observing it. This is not the supreme being described by those religions, who will intervene to cure us of illness, forgive our sins or whisk us off to a better hereafter.

If we reduce God to the function of the man with the starting pistol or the mad scientist observing an experiment it doesn't take much to see that even that role is unnecessary. I am not a scientist but what I have read on cosmology and modern physics provides no evidence of the creation of matter from nothing. The universe may expand and contract over vast periods of time, there is not necessarily an initial big bang and creation ex nihilo.
Therefore there is no need for there to be a God or anything else to do any creating.

2. The realisation that my own religion, Christianity, did not make logical sense.

This is more difficult and more personal because I was a preacher. I trained for ministry in one of the world's top Divinity faculties under some very eminent scholars of the liberal Christian tradition. My personal faith was a large part of my own personality for a very long time.

So what attracted me to Christianity and the level of commitment that I had?First of all, the person and teachings of Jesus are very attractive. If more people behaved like him the world would be a better place, or at least thats the idea thats put around by people who have not read some of the more nasty things he is reported to have done and said in the four canonical gospels.

Here is just one example that shows his opinion of non Jews:

"And, behold, a woman of Canaan coming forth from those borders cried out to Him, saying, Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is badly demon-possessed. But He did not answer her a word. And coming near, His disciples asked Him, saying, Send her away, for she cries out after us. But answering, He said, I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. But coming, she worshiped Him, saying, Lord, help me! But answering, He said, It is not good to take the bread of the children to throw it to the little dogs." (Matt 15:22ff)

Whatever actually happened in first century Palestine is shrouded in the interpretation put on it by the people who built up a religion around the man Jesus; there is no real historical Jesus that can be uncovered. He may not even have existed; there are even clues within the four gospels that suggest it is myth rather than history. For example, Bethlehem was known for two things: making bread for use in temple ceremonies and breeding animals for sacrifice, hence it being the ideal place for Jesus to be born, among the animals that would one day be replaced as a sacrifice by him. The wise men from the east even presented him with gifts of embalming products which conveniently prefigure his ultimate purpose. The gospels read more like mythology than history.

There are all sorts of logical problems as well. People sin, God cannot accept them in a sinful state so there has to be a sacrifice of blood. God then sacrifices his own son, who is also God so that he can forgive us anyway; therefore there was no need for the sacrifice at all.Of course this comes from legal ideas from the ancient near east. This is mentioned in the bible as the law of the "Medes and Persians" in the book of Esther, that rather than cancelling one law they have to have another law put on top of it to reverse the effects of the original one.

I could expand on this for hours, possibly one day I will write a book or maybe I should go back to my alma mater and do a PhD?

The community feeling of being in a church with like minded people is very comforting especially in a society which is lacking in community. The church provides a social network that does work. However, it requires the members to be less free thinking and less questioning than I naturally am. To me life is about asking questions and discovering new things. I remember getting into terrible trouble for my belief that Jesus was not a carpenter (an idea that is based on a wrong translation of the Greek word tekton by Wycliffe or Coverdale). It was put to me that this would undermine other people's faith. Well it couldn't have been much of a faith then! I suppose the problem is that if Jesus was not a carpenter but some sort of builder how did he earn a living in Nazareth? Well I could answer that question but it might require me to relocate Nazareth and therefore undermine the truth of the bible. Its another shaky foundation.

So what is my attitude to Christianity now?

I don't really feel the need to try and damage or destroy Christianity, but I do want to encourage Christians to think for themselves and question things that they are being taught. Take the simple idea that God is eternal. It's in lots of hymns but it is not clearly stated anywhere in the bible. If you have been misled about something as central as this what else have you been misled about and what else can you investigate? If you start looking you will find all sorts of holes in the scheme of Christianity.

If you are a Christian reading this and recognise that you are asking the same sort of questions I did then I would be happy to help you think through the issues. I have benefitted greatly from moving on from Christianity and you might too.

What if I am wrong?

Well I don't think that I am totally right. Understanding the purpose of life and our role in the universe is a work in progress for all of us. I don't think I have all the answers or any solutions that would necessarily apply to anyone else. If it turned out that God did exist then I would be surprised and somewhat disappointed that he had not made himself known or helped us out from time to time.

Am I entitled to express these opinions and ideas?

Yes. We do not live in a medieval world; we live in a world of scientific investigation and discovery. What is wrong with questioning religious ideas? What does the church have to lose? What does it have to hide? How can asking a question be against a religion if that religion is actually true?Christians seem to feel threatened by me. Some see me as being utterly evil or having the spirit of antichrist just because I dared to ask "why?" Well I am going to continue asking the hard questions even if it annoys them.

Friday, January 18, 2008

From Christian to Atheist


It is with some trepidation that I write this but I need to come clean with a number of friends around the world and writing it down seems to be the best way of structuring an explanation of where I find myself.

My journey out of faith

First of all I didn't wake up one day and decide "hey I am going to become an atheist". In fact I don't think its possible to become an atheist as atheism is an absence of belief in God rather than a positive belief in something.

It happened like this. One day I realised that I no longer believed that there was a need for a God in order for me to exist or life itself to be worthwhile. The main question that I could not answer from my Christian beliefs was "who created God?". If biological life needed something to create it then God needs a creator. One answer is that God has always just existed, but you could say that about life itself. Maybe life has always existed? We know that’s not true because of evolution and if the bible is wrong about the origins of life (which it clearly is - animals did not appear as fixed species and human history is longer than the 6000 years the bible suggests) then it must be wrong about all sorts of other things.

If Adam did not exist and did not sin then there is no need for a second Adam. Indeed, suppose that atonement was necessary, how could the death of one man actually make God change his mind, especially if the man dying was actually God? It all started to unravel when I looked at the logic of the whole scheme of Christianity.

I did try to discuss these issues with various Christian friends but the universal advice I got was variations on "just believe". In other words, just pretend to believe, agree to all the creeds, but don't really believe and you will be OK when you die, just in case you were wrong. This did not make any sense to me. It had no integrity to it so I had to accept that I did not believe any more and just tell people the truth.

This seemed to be an honest approach, but it was quite challenging for them. Generally their response was to argue in favour of God's existence either from creation or by trying to prove the historical accuracy of scripture (on the basis that if it is right about history then it must be right about theology). It was rather like being cross examined by an advocate who also did not know the real truth but knew what the law said.

I also looked at the standard proofs for the existence of God from Thomas Aquinas and St Anselm, but I did not find these either helpful or convincing.

One brave person

One brave person called Ross (thank you Ross) from a church I attended years ago did engage with me by email which was very kind of him. This included the big question of how anything can exist (creation out of nothing).

I replied:

If God created everything out of nothing, where was he when he did it?

Thats the problem with using that argument, it actually pushes any possibility of God out of the picture.
Matter can not be created or destroyed it just exists and changes.
Science uses superstring theory in physics to suggest that the universe expands and contracts so there is no need for a single big bang event
or something being created from nothing.

In fact Jewish thinking is that God created himself in Genesis chapter one.
Early Christians separated the idea of the creator God from the God, whom they were praying to, which is one reason why Jesus gets assumed to be pre existent and doing the creative acts in Genesis 1.
This allowed the father to be higher than the son/creator.

This also raises the argument in favour of God from complexity.
i.e. something as complex as our world must have been created by something greater than itself.
The same can be said about God.
There must have been something bigger than God that created him, yet if thats true then God is not God.
Therefore the argument from complexity is also self defeating.

This is the problem. There is just not enough evidence for the existence of God or for the need for a God in order for things to be the way they are.

Some reactions from my other Christian friends

These have ranged from "I always knew there was something not quite right about you" to quotations from the parable of the sower about some seed falling on stony ground where it withers and dies, as if this is an occupational hazard and not something they have to be too concerned about. I have also had a large number say "I will be praying for you". I wonder how long they will pray for me?

The overall results and effects

First the negatives:

  • I have no contact with any of my friends from church. No one from the church has contacted me since I said I was stopping going. Its like I have stopped existing. It turned out they were all conditional friendships. This has been very painful. People who I thought cared about me as a person turned out to only care about me as a soul that could be won or lost and put on the trophy shelf (in some ways I do feel like a bit of a fool thinking they were my friends, I imagine I am a bit like someone coming out of a cult, I have a bereavement process to go through). To be fair I have not tried to contact them but a couple of them have walked to the other side of the street to avoid me so I have been a bit scared to contact them.
  • There is a certain embarassment factor involved in how other people see me. I was a person of faith for so long that they would expect me losing it to have wrecked my life, but I have not really changed.

Now the positives:

  • I now realise that only I can help myself. There are no quick fixes or miracle cures. If I am going to make my life better then I have to do it myself. I am no longer bound by the guilt of having to seek professional help rather than prayer or miracle cures so I am going into inter personal therapy with a psychologist and making various changes to my life to improve my wellbeing.

  • I have developed a great interest in nature. As a Christian I could climb a mountain look down and say "how great is the world that God has created", but I had little interest in the workings of the natural world. Since my deconversion I have started to get great pleasure from small things like watching spiders build webs and birds feeding in the garden. Its as if I can see my place in the world in context for the first time and I enjoy watching all the other living things.

  • I can see a point to living. I now know what I am here for. As well as passing on my genes to my children the world is being built on the actions that I and all the other people living today are taking every day. Human progress is actually an accumulation of what everyone from every previous generation has done. We all build on what has gone before, so I really believe that I am actually worth something rather than being a soul who may or may not end up in a lake of fire.

Some thoughts about the church

At the same time as I was going through this I started to realise some things about the church I had been attending for about eighteen months:

If you joined and your life was not significantly transformed within six to nine months they lost interest in you.

They did not like people asking difficult questions and in group bible studies they asked people not to disagree with any of the material during the group discussion but take it up with the leaders afterwards (something that really set my alarm bells ringing, actually I laughed the first time I heard it because I thought it was a wind up).

A large number of people had drifted through the church over the years so they were used to people leaving. It seemed like a good place to be where everything worked for the people that were there, but what was happening was that of all the people who passed through the only ones that stayed were those for whom it worked. Therefore it gave the impression that it was making a difference to the lives of those who were there and that it could do the same for anyone. I call this the "filter effect".

So what was happening was that people were drifting through the church and if their lives were changed for the better they stuck in the filter and this created the group of people who made up the church.

Some side issues for Christians to consider

At the same time I was becoming very concerned about contemporary Christianity's urge to distance itself from science and discourage scientific explanations for physical effects. At a simple level mental illness has to be caused by a demon not by physiological changes in the brain. I was very concerned that I was bringin up my children in an environment where science was not trusted and they were not going to be able to acheive their full potential as contributors to society by being part of a ghetto.

To set the record straight
Just to be absolutely clear I was a soundly converted, born again, bible believing, spirit filled Christian and I was attending a Pentecostal church when all of this happened. I was not lacking in any aspect of my experience of God. If anything I was looking for facts to back up experience and found the facts to be extremely lacking once the surface was scratched.

Since I originally wrote this article I have clarified some of the issues in another article - click here to read it.

Please read this before commenting on this article
I welcome comments on my blog and generally let them all through whether negative or positive.

However, this article is my personal opinion and feelings on these issues.
I am not saying I am right and you are wrong.
I am not interested in promoting atheism or trying to destroy Christianity.
In fact if Christianity can be destroyed by one blog article then it really can't be much of a faith.
It is entirely possible that I might change my mind again at some point, but if I do it will be because I have found evidence for God, not because someone on the internet has expressed concern about the fate of my soul or argued with me about the flood or how the evolution of the eyeball.

If you still want to comment then please go ahead.