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Monday, May 2, 2011

5/2/2011 - Sailmail and the news

Still at anchor at Isla San Francisco. Might be able to head out tomorrow as the weather dudes are saying that the brisk north winds we've been getting will drop dramatically on Tuesday. Sure hope the tienda in San Evaristo sells cerveza as we're getting dangerously low.

Got an e-mail late last night from our friend Scott, telling us of the death of Osama Bin-Laden. In his e-mail he mentioned that he'd just gotten an e-mail from me and was hoping to get this news out while I was still "on-line". It occurred to me that, unless you've used Sailmail or Winlink on a high frequency radio, you probably don't realize how it works. Here's what I know so far.

Once you connect, via radio, to the Sailmail post office, things are out of your hands. The software looks in my outbox to see if anything is queued up to go and, if so, starts uploading my outgoing e-mails. Then it looks at the "WDE8358 outbox" on it's end and downloads any e-mails it finds to my inbox. I also use a little feature called Shadowmail. With this, Sailmail looks at any of my other e-mail accounts that I've given it permission to look in (it does this every 6 hours) and then puts the header information (who, when, subject, size) in my mailbox and downloads the list along with the rest of my e-mails. Then it disconnects me from the station.

So, I can't actually read my e-mails until I've been disconnected. Then I read them and answer them if necessary. They are then placed in my outbox where they'll sit until the next time I connect. I also look at the Shadowmail headers and, if I see one that entices me to download the entire message, I right-click and say "retrieve". This request is then added to my outbox along with my outgoing e-mails. Next time I connect, the retrieve request will go out but I won't get the e-mail in question until the next time because it won't be in my outbox during this connection. At least I think that's how that part works. I have one e-mail set to be retrieved tonight so I guess I'll find out then just how fast the transfer happens.

So, in the case of the Osama Bin-Laden news, I just happened to decide to answer some e-mails and reconnect and that's when Scott's e-mail came in.

BTW: these blog updates are actually just e-mails. Blogspot has a feature that allows me to set up a special e-mail address to send messages to. It then treats these messages as blog posts and posts them.

Okay, thoroughly confused? What it boils down to is that all my messages are set to go out before I connect to the radio and I can't read my incoming messages until after I disconnect.

And now, the news...

The OBL information reminded me just how far removed from events of the day we actually are. I always figured that any news that was really important would get to us and, so it did. However, it would be nice once in awhile to get some timely updates. All the books and such always say they get their news from the BBC World Service. But I haven't been able to find a frequency or schedule that will allow me to tune into their broadcasts. Guess I'll have to wait until I'm back in internet land to do some research. If any of you know, please let me know via the comments or e-mail (if you happen to have this e-mail address). I won't see the comments until we're back in internet land but you could save me some research. In the meantime I managed to find Radio Australia (7.238 MHz AM) which I can get pretty clearly in the morning. I'll have to try it this evening to see how it comes in at night.

Oh, and if you're not familiar with HF radio, it's not like your AM/FM where you just go through the dial until you light on something. You can do that but it's very tedious. My dial is set in 0.1 KHz increments. So, say you were tuning your radio at home and just wanted to see if there was anything on between say, 550 KHz AM and 820 KHz AM. On my radio you'd start at 0.5500, then go to 0.5501, then to 0.5502, etc. Each step is one click on the dial. You can spin the dial some but you still have to go through each step along the way. This would take awhile on your home AM radio which only goes from about 520 KHz to 1300 KHz, a span of about 780 KHz or 7800 clicks on the dial on my radio. My HF radio goes from 500 KHz to 29.999 MHz (29999 KHz), a span of 29,499 KHz or about 250,000 clicks on the dial. So it's kind of nice to have a starting point. Granted, I can narrow it down some since not all of these available frequencies are going to be used for voice broadcasts, but still.

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