Month: April 2013

P25 still is a challenge for support staffs
Apr. 16, 2013-Glenn Bischoff | Urgent Communications.

During the past two decades, Project 25 (P25) has been developed as a leading public-safety communications standard, but those charged with supporting and maintaining the interoperable nature of these systems have seen challenges, according to panelists at the International Wireless Communications Expo (IWCE) last month.
More About: Interoperability

When it comes to Project 25 digital radios, cost still is a significant barrier to entry. While the standards suite—more than two decades in the making—finally is fulfilling the promise held for it regarding interoperability, the ability to mix and match subscriber units has not yet resulted in the dramatic price reductions that many imagined would result from increased vendor competition.

But there are other challenges. One concerns maintaining radios from several different vendors, said Karl Larson—public-safety project manager for the city of Portland—who participated in a P25 panel discussion last month during the International Wireless Communications Expo (IWCE).

“Competition, particularly for the subscriber units, is very important,” Larson said. “But since we maintain all of the public-safety radios in Multnomah County … when you have nine different radios, the radio shop is concerned about the number of templates, how long it’s going to take to do all of that, and how they’re going to maintain all of that.

“So, what we’ve done is split our RFP process into two processes,” he continued. “We have an infrastructure RFP that I’m reviewing right now, and then—in 2014—we’ll be issuing a subscriber RFP that will get more into that competition. We want to structure it somehow so that we don’t have nine [radio types], but maybe a top tier, middle tier and lower tier, so that we can limit the number of maintenance problems that we might have at the shop.”

Tom Sorley, deputy director in charge of the city of Houston’s radio communications system, said he’d like to see future iterations of the standard include a common template that all vendors would use. Short of that, Sorley encouraged vendors to create troubleshooting databases that would ease the maintenance burden.

“Come up with use cases or known scenarios—create a knowledge base—so that when a person who owns a Harris radio system and they program an Icom radio, if they get this problem—whatever this problem is—they can go to the database to find out what the trigger was the last time someone had this issue,” Sorley said. “In order to religiously encourage competition, I’ve got to be able to support it.”

Another step in the right direction would be to add a component to the Inter-RF Subsystem Interface (ISSI)—the interface that connects disparate P25 systems by establishing roaming between authenticated users—that would address system migration.

“You have systems that have had multiple revisions from the same manufacturer,” said Steve Devine,  interoperability program manager for the Missouri Department of Public Safety. “So there really is a need for a standard system interface, whether it’s between two vendor systems, or even within a single vendor system that happens to be at different revisions.

For example, the city of Joplin, Mo., uses the same Motorola P25 system that the Missouri statewide network is using, but the latter system operates at a different software revision. Because each revision has different features and capabilities, incompatibilities result that negatively affect interoperability, Devine said.

“So, there needs to be something in the ISSI that would promote intersystem [migration between] multiple vendors, as well as within the same vendor at different revisions—that would really be helpful,” he said.

When upgrading, it is vital that system operators ensure that operability isn’t compromised, Sorley said.

“One of my neighbors upgraded to an newer version of the operating system on their radio, and the ability for a certain type of roaming that they used for the other vendors would no longer work,” Sorley said.  

“Not only did they break the other manufacturers’ radios, they broke their own. They would still operate in a basic functionality mode … but if you have a feature that’s not basic functionality, but is a primary feature that makes your system usable, [breaking] it can have some big issues.” 

A stark reminder of why training is so important in any system.
Apr. 11, 2013 by Glenn Bischoff in Urgent Matters/Urgent Communications.

Training often seems to be the first item cut when budgets are tight, but a recent New York transit incident provides vivid evidence of the importance of proper training.
A few days ago, a New York City transit worker encountered a grave situation, as reported by an item that I found on Yahoo News. A man had fallen onto the tracks and was convulsing. The transit worker—55-year-old Danny Hay—immediately tried to radio the agency’s control center, with no success (the story provided no details concerning why the communication failed). So, Hay ran to a station booth and told the person manning it to contact the control center and tell those in charge to cut power to the electrified third rail.

When Hay returned to the scene of the emergency, he discovered that two patrons had jumped down onto the tracks to try to help the stricken man. That wasn’t all that he discovered: a rush of air from the tunnel was the unmistakable sign that a train was coming—and that the third rail still was electrified.

So here’s the situation at that moment: three people, one of which is suffering convulsions, are on the tracks, with a train bearing down on them, only a few feet from a rail that can fry them should they come into contact with it.

Thinking quickly, Hay ran to the end of the platform and used his flashlight to signal the train operator to stop before he entered the station. According to the story, transit workers are trained to utilize a series of signals to communicate with each other when normal communications are unavailable.

The title of our franchise is Urgent Communications, and undeniably this particular episode qualifies as such, with three lives at stake. What impressed me most was what Hay did after normal communications failed, not once, but twice. This is important, because communications can fail, for myriad reasons. When they did a few days ago in Manhattan, Hay had only a few seconds to assess the situation and determine what to do. The fact that he was well trained resulted in incredibly quick thinking that saved three lives.

The moral of this story is that communications training is vital. And as this episode illustrates, training should not just encompass how to use the communications technology; it also must encompass how to respond when it isn’t working. Because of his training, Hay was able to communicate without any technology at his disposal. That’s awesome.

Yet, after a decade in this industry, we still hear complaints about inadequate communications training. Funding—or, more accurately, the lack of it—is the big bugaboo. The federal sequester likely is exacerbating the situation, but the problem always has existed—there always seems to be something more important to fund.

If you could track down the three people who found themselves on the subway tracks in Manhattan last Sunday, I think they would argue that point. They are alive today because the transit agency planned for the contingency of communications failure and ensured that its employees knew what to do when it happened.

OpenSource University-2013

Why open source?

All educators and administrators, and hey, students too, should read and pass along this short note on Why should open source software be used in schools? Information like this helps begin the process of understanding, gets people on board, and can make the difference between action and talking.

Open education resources

OSS Watch provides tips for selecting open source, or for procuring free or open software.

SchoolForge and SourceForge are good places to find, create, and publish open software. SourceForge, for one, has millions of downloads each day.

Open Source Education Foundation and Open Source Initiative, and other organization like these, help disseminate knowledge.

Creative Commons has a number of open projects from Khan Academy to Curriki where teachers and parents can find educational materials for children or learn about Creative Commons licenses. Also, they recently launched the School of Open that offers courses on the meaning, application, and impact of “openness.”

Numerous open or open educational resource databases and search engines exist. Some examples include:

OEDb: over 10,000 free courses from universities as well as reviews of colleges and rankings of college degree programs
Open Tapestry: over 100,000 open licensed online learning resources for an academic and general audience
OER Commons: over 40,000 open educational resources from elementary school through to higher education; many of the elementary, middle, and high school resources are aligned to the Common Core State Standards
Open Content: a blog, definition, and game of open source as well as a friendly search engine for open educational resources from MIT, Stanford, and other universities with subject and description listings
Academic Earth: over 1,500 video lectures from MIT, Stanford, Berkeley, Harvard, Princeton, and Yale
JISC: Joint Information Systems Committee works on behalf of UK higher education and is involved in many open resources and open projects including digitizing British newspapers from 1620-1900!
Other sources for open education resources


The University of Cambridge’s guide on Open Educational Resources for Teacher Education (ORBIT)
OpenLearn from Open University in the UK

Unesco’s searchable open database is a portal to worldwide courses and research initiatives
African Virtual University ( has numerous modules on subjects in English, French, and Portuguese is Google’s open source software that is designed to let anyone create online education courses
Global Voices ( is an international community of bloggers who report on blogs and citizen media from around the world, including on open source and open educational resources
Individuals (which include OERs)

Librarian Chick: everything from books to quizzes and videos here, includes directories on open source and open educational resources
K-12 Tech Tools: OERs, from art to special education
Web 2.0: Cool Tools for Schools: audio and video tools
Web 2.0 Guru: animation and various collections of free open source software
Livebinders: search, create, or organize digital information binders by age, grade, or subject (why re-invent the wheel?)
Legal help

New Media Rights is trying to help digital creators use public domain or open materials legally. They have guides on how to use free and open software materials in various fields.
Free, non-profit resources 

WatchKnowLearn and Good Sites for Kids are examples of non-profit organizations that operate in an open way, but are technically not open source. Keep an eye out for them as well to help you along the open education way.

Uncovering open education challenges with ISKME’s Lisa Petrides
Adventures in copyright
Remixing Euclid

Dave Kerpen 25 Quotes to Inspire You to Become a Better Leader. March 18, 2013


1) “When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” – Ernest Hemingway

2) “The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.” – Ralph Nichols


3) “Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today.” -Robert McKee

4) “If you tell me, it’s an essay. If you show me, it’s a story.” —Barbara Greene


5) “I had no idea that being your authentic self could make me as rich as I’ve become. If I had, I’d have done it a lot earlier.” -Oprah Winfrey

6) “Authenticity is the alignment of head, mouth, heart, and feet – thinking, saying, feeling, and doing the same thing – consistently. This builds trust, and followers love leaders they can trust.” -Lance Secretan


7) “As a small businessperson, you have no greater leverage than the truth.” -John Whittier

8) “There is no persuasiveness more effectual than the transparency of a single heart, of a sincere life.” -Joseph Berber Lightfoot

Team Playing

9) “Individuals play the game, but teams beat the odds.” -SEAL Team Saying

10) “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller


11) “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” -Charles Swindoll

12) ‘”Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” – Bill Gates


13) “When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.” -Ben Franklin

14) “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” –Charles Darwin


15) “The only way to do great work is to love the work you do.” -Steve Jobs

16) “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” -Albert Einstein

Surprise and Delight

17) “A true leader always keeps an element of surprise up his sleeve, which others cannot grasp but which keeps his public excited and breathless.” -Charles de Gaulle

18) “Surprise is the greatest gift which life can grant us.” – Boris Pasternak


19) “Less isn’t more; just enough is more.” -Milton Glaser

20) “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” -Leonardo daVinci


21) “I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” -Gilbert K Chesterton

22) “The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude.” -Friedrich Nietzsche


23) “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” — Peter F. Drucker

24) “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” —John Quincy Adams

25) “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” —John F. Kennedy