Some thoughts on Young Ladies and Old Men

The terms YL and OM are omnipresent in the world of amateur radio. They have been in use for many decades and should therefore be looked at for revision.

First of all, the terms themselves could be seen as somewhat problematic. Not only isn’t every man who does amateur radio old – calling any woman young might be meant in a charming way, but is also somewhat belittling by creating a hierarchy between „old“ and „young“. Turning YL into XYL (ex-young-lady) as soon as she’s married doesn’t make things better.

An even bigger problem however occurs in actual radio contacts with strangers of which you often know nothing but their callsign at first. It goes without question that guessing gender from someone’s voice is a bad idea, even more so in SSB contacts. And in text-based modes like CW, RTTY or PSK this isn’t a possibility anyway.

Therefore many people (including me so far) would default to „OM“ in such contacts, at least until they know better. Some YLs will explicitly state „YL“ in text macros, as guessing genders from names can go horribly wrong as well, especially in international contacts.

But of course assuming that someone is male by default is inherently problematic too, even in a hobby like ours with a male majority. One could circumvent this by using „YL or OM“, „YL/OM“ or something alike. Which reinforces the gender binary, making it a rather nonpreferential option too.

Using a gender gap or star (YL_OM or YL*OM respectively) would work, but could cause problems in some text-based modes which don’t implement a full character set, and it isn’t well pronounceable in phone either.

Luckily there is a simple solution to this and it doesn’t even require new terminology: Just discard the gendered terms altogether and use „operator“ (short form: OP) instead. I will try to do this as consequent as possible from now on and I’d like to encourage everyone to do the same!

Replacing the worn-out CCFL display in my Thinkpad x200

So I was in the following situation: I bought a used x200 from a friend a few years ago which seems to be virtually indestructable. Yet it had one major issue: The display had severe signs of age already, namely a yellow tint and insufficient brightness even at 100% backlight. It was still usable indoors, but not under daylight or even in a train. Also the high voltage inverter necessary to drive the display made a constant hum, which was subtle yet nasty.

This led to me buying an x201 which already had LED backlight, and also one can hardly own enough compact Thinkpads, right? I would be using the x201 until this day, if it hadn’t broken down – some day, it made weird fan noises, before switching off and refusing to boot ever again. (It shows something about a fan error, but as far as I could find out it seems to be a common mainboard problem with this model, not the actual fan being broken.)

I was glad to have a backup, but also wanted a newer model (hoping it will last me longer) and went with an x230. So far so good, but having an x200 with a broken display and an x201 where everything but the display was broken kept me thinking whether it was exchangable or everything would blow up due to the inverter.

Yet the internet didn’t really deliver useful information on whether this would work and so I never dared to touch it – until yesterday. I had removed the display panel from the x201 to look for its FRU, which turned out to be 42T0711. And exactly this display was also available in the x200! Should work, shouldn’t it?

Now I just needed to take the risk and try transplanting the display. Luckily the disassembly of older x-series Thinkpads is rather easy and I had done it before. I won’t go into largely boring details here, but two things should be mentioned: It turned out that the cable between mainboard and display was incompatible, so I needed to change that too. And also the LED board within the display bezel which – in case of CCFL displays – carries the inverter. So, if you wanna do the same, make sure you have the cable and LED board, although the latter is not necessary to use the computer, so it’s somewhat optional. Remember to re-connect the bluetooth and camera modules in case your Thinkpad has those (both are optional components).

TL;DR: Are displays interchangeable between Thinkpad models x200 and x201? Yes, they are – check the FRU of the actual component in question!

x200 with the new display already built in, but still lacking the LED board beneath it. Sorry for the crappy photo, it’s the only one I took during this procedure.

Old LED board with the inverter on the right side. For non-CCFL-displays, the right half of the board is just empty. The connector on the left however is incompatible, so you need to change the whole board and can’t just un-solder the now useless inverter.

An unorthodox method to keep Dropbox from autostarting

Whether you like them or not, cloud storage solutions are a useful thing. Despite having a self-hosted ownCloud, I also still use Dropbox for various reasons.

Now on my desktop computer the Dropbox client is running all the time, so the default setting for an automatic startup is perfectly fine with me. On my notebook however I don’t want anything data-hungry to start automatically when I log in, because I don’t always have a good wireless connection – sometimes I need to tether using my phone, or I might just have a poor connection to some public network.

No problem you’d think, just disable the automated startup in the client settings and you’re fine. In the past this worked for me too, but on my current installation (running Linux Mint Cinnamon 18.2 at the moment) it didn’t. No matter how I configured it, the client would always start at login. Even when I deleted the autostart file, which is located in ~/.config/autostart, it was simply rewritten every time I manually started the client.

I figured that it might just look whether the autostart file exists, not check its contents, so instead of the command starting the Dropbox client I entered something that wouldn’t do anything meaningful at all (a blank file might work as well, but I didn’t try that). I used echo, but something like pwd or ping -c 1 would be just as fine. However, the client still overwrote that file every time, so I decided to get brutal to set the access rights to 444, making it read only for everybody. That finally worked!

I have no clue why the setting doesn’t work as it should and, to be honest, didn’t bother debugging it. My solution (or rather: workaround) works well enough for me.