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A view to remember.

A view to remember.

This morning, the Facebook “Memories” feature presented me with a variety of beautiful pictures our Communications Technology students shared with me after returning from the Introductory Seminar Outing to Hirschegg in the Austrian Alps. While I normally enjoy this feature, it left me with considerable melancholy today.

You see, there is no outing this year. And I don’t participate in the introductory seminar either. The latter is my own choice, the former I believe is a mistake.

While we did present (hopefully important) information on the German educational system in general and the Master program more specifically, the outing presented a much more important message: that we wanted to be a close-knit community of people from very different cultures, with very different beliefs, who form friendships that last well beyond graduation.

We hiked, we sang, we danced and played on occasion, we presented impromptu talks on our home countries. Well, some even brought food, dessert mostly, to augment the arguably somewhat simplistic fare at the lodge. For many, it was the first time to experience the high mountains and the snow. We experienced how hard it is to walk up a snow covered slope, and on occasion sank into the white stuff up to our hips.

And the discussions at night. I personally learned so much about where our students come from, their faith, their attitudes toward life. I discovered young men and women with an incredible breadth of knowledge, who came from Asia and Africa and knew more about European history and philosophy than many Europeans.

I am sure there are reasons that the outing is no more, just as there were reasons I decided to step down as the program director in 2014 after 17 years. My reasons were both professional (new responsibilities) and emotional. But I will keep the hope alive that the “Hirschegg Outing” only took a hiatus and will be back next year.


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Amateur Radio: D-STAR assists recovery

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For a couple of days now, I have been following, remotely, the recovery of an amateur radio operator who, in his thirties, is recovering from a serious stroke, which came in the wake of tumor surgery. The stroke left him paralyzed and with a serious speech impairement, at least temporarily.

In rehabilitation, his family set up for him a local access point to the amateur radio D-STAR digital voice communication network, which he now can access with a small handheld transceiver. Now that his speech is returning, he is supposed to practice as much as possible – and his ham radio transceiver allows him to do just that. A few days ago, he told how difficult and tiring it was, but he kept on going. His speech gets better everyday, and due to the connected network of digital radio repeaters, his radio friends all over Germany share in his delight.


My new toy – Elecraft K3 shortwave transceiver

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Early may blesses us with summer-like temperatures. Time for a backyard fieldday with my brandnew Elecraft K3 tranceiver, and the Buddipole configured as a quasi-vertical dipole.


Germany’s best cities – Ulm is No. 3


The reputed German weekly Wirtschaftswoche, which focuses on economics and business administration, published an exclusive ranking of Germany’s 100 largest cities. It looked at diverse criteria – wealth, security, employment, perspectives for the future. A surprising result – the medium sized cities fare frequently better than quite a few  big and better known metropolis. Ulm is a striking example: it was ranked as No. 3.

Ulm scored big with its efficient administration, its low unemployment, and its low number of people dependent on welfare. The study saw improvement opportunities in the area of employment among older citizens, and the number of places in day care centers. However, as the article said, you have to use a magnifying glass to find real weaknesses in Ulm.

So who’s ahead of Ulm? Ingolstadt, home of the Audi cars, and Erlangen. And Munich, everyone’s favorite city? No. 4, just behind Ulm. Stuttgart, our state capital, didn’t even make it into the top 20.

EEEfCOM Innovation Awards: two out of four

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EEEfCOM Innovation Award is a well-known German prize for innovative ideas in communications close to practical applications. It is offered by Gerotron Communication GmbH, with the help of other corporate sponsors, and attracts many submissions from German speaking countries. This year, two out of four awards went to groups from Ulm University.

A team from the Institute of Microwave Techniques, led by Peter Feil, was rewarded for their work on Millimeter-Wave Synthetic Aperture Radar for Surveillance and Security Applications. The fourth place was awarded to Bernd Schleicher of the Institute of Electron Devices and Circuits for his work on FM-IR-UWB – a simple Communications Concept, which describes how legacy FM short-range communication links can be easily converted to use the new impulse radio ultra-wideband frequency allocations in the GHz range, which can be used license free, yet are largely unused at present.

Read more: Gerotron Press Release “Ausgezeichnete Ideen” (in German)

Asbestos: Germany’s “Library of the Year” closed indefinitely

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Two week ago, the University of Konstanz’s library was celebrated as Germany’s Library of the Year. This last week, it had to be closed until further notice when Asbestos fibers were found in several parts of the building.

Interestingly, and luckily, the fibers were absent in air samples, but found on top of shelves and on books. The facility needs to be cleaned (by specialists), but more importantly, the source of contamination will have to be identified and eliminated before the library can re-open.


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