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I am also a co-host on The NBD Show podcast.
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So everyone's heard of Amateur Radio, but certified Amateur radio operators are becoming a rarity. It's not hard to speculate why Amateur radio is disappearing, just go to a restaurant or visit the mall you'll see every other person focused on their cell phone.

Even though our nation's cellular networks are growing and becoming more robustAmateur radio operators still provide an important public service.  The largest disaster response by U.S. amateur radio operators was during Hurricane Katrina. More than a thousand ham operators from all over the U.S. converged on the Gulf Coast in an effort to provide emergency communications assistance. Subsequent Congressional hearings highlighted the Amateur Radio response as one of the few examples of what went right in the disaster relief effort.

A good way to be introduced to Amateur radio is to attend a local Amateur radio group event.  I have included a link to help find your local group.

The next step is to get certified.  Many local chapters provide Amateur radio certification tests. Also this year at Defcon they will be offering the exams right at the convention. 

The Defcon guys provided a terrific study resource to help you with the exam.

Finally you'll need a radio. For my first radio I decided to play it safe and bought a low-priced hand held to get a feel for ham radio.  Here it is:

  • Frequency Range: 136-174 / 400-480MHz; 25KHz/12.5KHz Switchable
  • 128 Channels 50 CTCSS and 104 CDCSS; Channel Step: 2.5/5/6.25/10/12.5/25KHz
  • Dual-Band Display, Dual Frequency Display, Dual-Standby; A/B band independent operation
  • Comes with all necessary accessories, backed up by 12 Months Seller Warranty

I have searched high and low for a decent low-priced alternative for Visio on the Mac, and I think I have finally found one.

yEd Graph Editor is a powerful desktop application that can be used to quickly and effectively generate high-quality diagrams. Create diagrams manually, or import your external data for analysis. Thier automatic layout algorithms arrange even large data sets with just the press of a button.

The install is strait forward and works great, but us network guys want cisco icons.  The network icons that come with are a little weak.  So I found a German website that had the Cisco default icons as .svg files.  Here is the link to the download cisco_svg_icons.

Next how to install the icons.

  1. Open yEd Editor Go to Edit --> Pallte Manager
  2. Create a new Click New Section (name it)
  3. Highlight newly created Section and click import symbols
  4. Select .svg symbols and import them.
That's it... You should have a diagram tool that will let you make professional looking network diagrams.

Let me know if you have any better alternatives.