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Chapter 36 - Northwest Indiana

~ Creaky Knees and Rusty Keys ~


I think Spring Fever is finally kicking in, and we had a nice increase in attendance for our April meeting with 31 members and guests joining us for an excellent meal at the Dynasty Buffet in Valpo.

We also got to make it another Awards Night which is always fun. Don Smith, WA9KRT, received his 50-Year Anniversary and 50-Year Continuously Licensed Awards. Don is very active on 2m/70cm SSB and moonbounce, and he is always helping his fellow hams with antenna work. Congratulations, Don!

We had a number of show-and-tell items this month. Tom Ruggles, W8FIB, showed more of his collection of DX QSL cards. He has really been working the bands, mostly on CW. Bob Pence, W9ORW, showed us his QSL card for an upcoming trip to Aruba, but it got washed out from the camera flash in my photo.

Last month, Rich "Doc" Lochner, K9CIV, won a gift certificate from Wolf River Coils, and this month he brought in the loading coil he received from them, called the Silver Bullet 1000. The coil is a screwdriver-type design and can achieve a good SWR from 10-80m, depending on the length of a user supplied whip. It can be used mobile, portable, or fixed, and it looks to be a very fine product.

Ron Banaszak, W9FB, showed us an Indiana license plate with his old call, W9MDF. Ron's wife Renee has that call now. He also told us how our state is no longer issuing new plates to hams every year as has been done in the past, and we will only get a sticker with the next new year to update the plate. Ron suggests we complain to our state representatives and encourage them to get the BMV to reverse this decision.

I brought in an example of how to create an easy-to-remember strong password and explained the need for most folks to change passwords on the sensitive websites they visit (like banks) because of the Heartbleed security flaw that was recently discovered. As I write this report, the news of a critical security flaw with all modern versions of the Internet Explorer web browser is so extreme that our federal government (DHS) is advising people to switch to another web browser until Microsoft releases a patch for this flaw. And remember that Microsoft won't be providing security updates for Windows XP users at all anymore. I know this stuff can seem rather dull and boring, but I strongly encourage everyone to read up on these serious threats and stay vigilant to protect your identity, your credit, and your assets.

Strong passwords should be at least 8 characters, with a mix of letters (uppercase and lower case), numbers, and also special characters, if allowed. Some websites, even banks, may not allow special characters, and they might not even be case sensitive. But if added security is available to you, please use it. You should NEVER use the same password on multiple websites, especially sensitive sites like banks or other places that can access your money. I know that it is hard to remember strong passwords. My tip (see photo below) is a simple way to help remember one or two, but if you need to remember many you might want to look at password managers. Password managers are apps (or browser plug-ins) that will help you to use secure strong passwords on the websites that you visit, and you would only need to remember a single password that accesses the manager app itself. It is a good system and highly recommended by many professionals, but you must always remember that critical password to the app.... if you forget that, you might have a very hard time regaining access to all the accounts that it is protecting. Here is a good article comparing the top password managers. Some are free, and some aren't. (I like free!) I don't use a password manager so I can't offer a personal recommendation, but some of you may be interested in their protection.

Folks, I've been on the Internet a long time, and I have to admit that the future scares me as it concerns online security. I am not a security expert, but I know that there is no magic program that will protect you. The best defense is to read the news and keep aware of the threats that are out there. Often there is a simple fix or workaround to protect you from a single flaw. This recent problem with Internet Explorer can be mitigated simply by disabling the Adobe Flash plug-in in IE. But if you aren't aware of that, and if you don't take action, then you remain vulnerable to this flaw until it is patched by Microsoft. If you are still running Windows XP, then please start shopping for a new computer and a new operating system. (Did you hear me say, "Linux?") But even Apple Mac's and Linux systems can be susceptible, although less likely than Windows products. If you use Windows, run an anti-virus program and keep it updated. Also run another anti-malware program and keep it updated too. Don't click on suspicious links sent to you in emails, especially if they ask for any of your passwords. The problems with online security are going to get worse in the future, not better.

Although I'm not an expert, I will be glad to help if I can. If you have questions about online security, drop me an email or text/phone me anytime. If I don't answer, I will call you back as soon as possible. I sincerely do not want to see any of our ham friends victimized online. Please be careful out there.


Photos by Stan W4SV. Click for larger view.


Attending: (in last name order)

Ron Banaszak (W9FB)
Ron (WA9RON) and Mary Broviak, and son Mike N9MIK
Don (K9WHK) and Verneice Buchanan
Carl (W9CJH) and Lila (N9ESS) Hallberg
Troy (KC9E) and Claudette (KA9IXZ) Harrison
Chuck (KC9OYE) and Cheri Hill
Rich (K9CIV) and Marcia Lochner, and son Andy
John Miller (W9ZG)
Dave (W9DN) and Fran Nicolaus
Bob Pence (W9ORW)
John (W3ML) and Paula Poindexter
Mike Rohwedder (WU9D)
Tom (W8FIB) and Cindy Ruggles
Don (KD9HI) and Marie Sims
Don Smith (WA9KRT)
Stan Vandiver (W4SV)
Gene (W9CWG) and Helen Wiggins, and daughter Barb


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