Brother, could you help a pirate out?

It is not news that the FCC has its hands full with the FM pirates in the NYC area, particularly Brooklyn. On any given night, as many as thirty unlicensed signals can be heard, jammed between the commercial and non-commercial broadcasters in the FM band.

I am quite sure that other parts of the country have similar pirate problems.  I do not see the FCC getting much more funding for enforcement purposes.

John Anderson asks; perhaps a pragmatic approach?

For most engineers, this will be a non-starter.  Engineers (and other technical people) tend to see things in binary; on/off, right/wrong, black/white, legal/illegal, working/broken, etc.  It is the nature of logic and dealing everyday operating status’ of technical equipment.  A transmitter that is halfway working is broken.  There is very little grey area in the interpretation of these things, nor is there very much human element.  One cannot reason with a broken piece of equipment; it is to be either repaired or replaced.

Helping a person engaged in what is ostensibly an illegal activity, no matter how pragmatic such help might be, or how just or helpful the illegal activity may be to the community, would not be something that most radio engineers that I know would want to take part in.

Truth be told, some good might come from helping pirate broadcasters clean up their act.  Over modulation, spurious emissions, and poor quality transmitters all create bigger problems for everyone else.  The moral dilemma is what type of help to offer and can this or any technical advice then be used to make bigger and better pirates.

I don’t know, but it may be time to start thinking about things like this…

This is interesting

Another trove of surveillance documents reveals some interesting technical aspects of spying in the modern age:

Gigabit cooper network tap
Gigabit cooper network tap

What we have here is a copper wiretap. This allows some telco or ISP to split an ethernet feed, and send one output on its merry way, while the other output goes to? If not interception and collection, I don’t rightly know what else this device is designed for.

There are many many more like this on the WikiLeaks website. Have any doubts about how deep the internet surveillance goes? Spend a few minutes poking around, it is an eye-opening experience.

Man electrocuted putting up a pirate radio antenna

A south Florida man was electrocuted when the antenna he was putting up struck a power line. Police say 42-year-old Jean Adelphonse was working in the dark Monday night when part of an antenna to be used for an unlicensed radio station collapsed and struck a power line.  The Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reported that he was working on the roof of an office building where his other businesses were located.

That is rather unfortunate and completely preventable.  The first red flag here is working in the dark.  The second would be working alone.  Safety is always paramount; whether it is working on a transmitter, putting up an antenna, working on a ladder, or environmental conditions such as heat, weather, etc.  In my younger days, I had gotten away with a few careless moments mainly due to blind luck.  I cringe thinking about it today.  Nothing on the radio is worth killing yourself or anyone else over.

This type of thing used to happen more often when almost every house had an outside TV antenna.

Let’s be careful out there.


I have read an interesting series of articles on something called Panopticon. This is a concept put forward by an English social engineer where a prison is built in such a way that allows all inmates to be observed at any time without knowing whether they are under observation.   Jeremy Bentham described it alternatively as “a new mode of obtaining power of mind over mind, in quantity hitherto without example,” or “a mill for grinding rogues honest.”

Panopticon, courtesy of Wikipedia
Panopticon, courtesy of Wikipedia

A few examples were built and used for a while:

Presidio Modelo Prison, Cuba
Presidio Modelo Prison, Cuba

This is, of course, tied to the current situation that the nation finds itself in with the NSA. The defenders of these actions have two common refrains; nothing we did is against the law and if you are not doing anything wrong than you have nothing to fear. Both are wrong, of course.

First, the notion that constitutional rights can be regulated away is incorrect. The US Supreme Court has ruled that (Marbury V. Madison) in the Constitution, the people established a government of limited powers: “The powers of the Legislature are defined and limited; and that those limits may not be mistaken or forgotten, the Constitution is written.” The limits established in the Constitution would be meaningless “if these limits may at any time be passed by those intended to be restrained.” Chief Justice John Marshall observed that the Constitution is “the fundamental and paramount law of the nation”, and that it cannot be altered by an ordinary act of the legislature. Therefore, “an act of the Legislature repugnant to the Constitution is void.” The limits of government intrusion provided in the fourth amendment to the Constitution of the United States stand, regardless of what the USA PATRIOT Act or any other recently passed federal legislation says.

Secondly, things have not ended well when a government has given itself this much power. In conjunction with the NSA’s all-seeing eye, the executive branch has also acquired the power to detain and hold indefinitely without charge anyone deemed a threat (defined as “terrorist”) to the government (NDAA 2012, 2013) and the ability to extra-judicially kill all they see fit (Justice Department: US drone strikes constitutional). Of course, neither of these things are constitutional either.

As the former East German Stasi officer Wolfgang Schmidt states “It is the height of naivete to think that once collected this information won’t be used.”  We have, through our own lethargy and inattention brought upon ourselves the overly attached government, only not as cute as that, something like this:

I will be your girlfriend
I will be your girlfriend

Heaven forbid.

I wrote, a while back, that we have not reached a Runnymede moment. I retract that statement, we have indeed reached a point in time where civil disobedience may be necessary in order to restore our constitutional republic.  The time for being safe, sitting on the fence, flying under the RADAR is over.  As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said:

And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand?… The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin’s thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt! If…if…We didn’t love freedom enough. And even more – we had no awareness of the real situation…. We purely and simply deserved everything that happened afterward.

Let us not learn the hard way.