ARRL creates and AIR app for generating amateur radio exams

As some of you know, one of my other interests besides programming is amateur radio. I am the “liaison” or team lead between our local group of volunteer examiners (VEs) and the American Radio Relay League’s (ARRL) group responsible for overseeing license testing for the FCC. Part of the responsibility of being team lead is ensuring that we have an adequate supply of written exams for the three different license classes.

In the past, the ARRL has provided us with a Windows-based program to generate exams from the question pool. The program worked well, but each time there were any changes to the question pools (which happens on the 1st of July in 3 out of 5 years), they had to create a new Windows installer package to disseminate to all the VE team leaders. That in of itself was a pain enough, but for those of us who are Mac and/or Linux folks it became a real hassle.

In today’s newsletter to VEs, I noticed that the ARRL had announced a new version of the exam generations software. When I went to download it, I was pleasantly surprised to find an AIR badge to install the program. It’s an HTML-based AIR application but a lot of thought was put into how it functions. It takes advantage of AIR’s built-in database to synchronize its question pools and answer templates with the latest approved versions as well as periodically checks to see if there are any updates to the program itself–all the things that we love about AIR. Oh, and since it’s an AIR app, it obviously runs natively on my Mac!

I’ve been kind of critical of the ARRL in the past in regard to the applications that they offer for use (some are pretty bad). This one however, really fits the bill for what those of us responsible for printing exams need to do on a regular basis. Hopefully, this will be the first of many applications that they develop on the AIR platform.

BFusion/BFlex was an excellent event

I want to take a quick few minutes and thank Bob Flynn and the rest of the team for putting on such a wonderful conference. I would have written this last night but, honestly, my brain was mush after driving home.

The entire thing was superbly organized, the facilities were absolutely top-notch, and the tracks were well-thought-out and nicely delivered. I took my brother up with me and put him through the intermediate ColdFusion track which was an introduction to Mach II taught by folks from Team Mach II. His feedback was very positive as well. While not specifically going to the conference for the Flex content, he was very impressed with the capabilities of Flex and came away with a lot of good ideas for his company.

If I had to pick a favorite session from each day, I’d have to say I enjoyed Mike Brunt’s talk on Clustering, Administering and Tuning ColdFusion and Aaron West’s talk on Integrating Air, ColdFusion and BlazeDS. Deserving very honorable mention in the ColdFusion track however is Adam Lehman’s talk on ColdFusion Application Security.

All in all it was a great conference. I got to catch up with several people I’ve met through previous conference circuits and meet face-to-face for the first time some more folks that I regularly see on the blog/twitter scene. Of course the price absolutely couldn’t be beat either.

Keep up the good work Bob and team. I’m already looking forward to next year.