29 April 2007

c. crane is selling rebranded redsun products

The C. Crane website now offers two Redsun shortwave radios, rebranded as C. Crane products. The Redsun radios being rebranded by C. Crane appear to be the well-known RP2100 (CCRadio-SW), and the currently obscure RP300 (CCRadio-SWP). C. Crane's version of the RP2100 is described as having a built-in twin coil ferrite antenna, as previously mentioned at RadioIntel.com.

These radios have an availability date of June 30, 2007.

26 April 2007

shortwave summary, apr 2007 (part 1)

I've had a hard time tracking down shortwave signals this month. When I find something that I want to hear on a schedule, I tune in at the designated time, but hear nothing. So I've been relying on my more reliable broadcasters recently. I've been using my Eton E5 along with a Degen DE31 active loop antenna.

Received stations:

* Radio Taiwan International
* Radio Havana Cuba
* Radio Netherlands

* 05 Apr 2007, 0300 UTC, 5950 khz (Radio Taiwan International): "Coming to you from Taipei, Taiwan, the Republic of China." All eight army officers aboard a helicopter were killed in a crash. The helicopter crashed into a radio tower in southern Taiwan. Taiwan wants a free trade agreement with the USA. President Bian is renewing a push for the agreement. Taiwan is the USA's eighth-larget trading partner. Taiwan has a new envoy to the USA. China is Taiwan's largest obstacle to foreign relations.

Chiang Kai-Shek fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing to the communists. He hoped to be buried in the China mainland after China/Taiwan unification, which seems increasingly unlikely. "Chiang Kai-Shek has done so many inhuman things." Financial market update (no details logged). Taipei: 15-22C (59-72F).

Chinese girls and women like to make themselves beautiful. Fake eyelashes can look "so real". They attract attention to the eyes. Most fake eyelashes are made in Japan and Korea. When applied carefully, they can last 1-2 months without being removed. "People" biography show (no details logged).

* 08 Apr 2007, 0302 UTC, 6180 khz (Radio Havana Cuba): USA VP Dick Cheney refuses to admit that there was no connection between Iraq and Al-Qaeda. Zarqawi was not part of Al-Qaeda. A chlorine gas bomb killed 27 people in Iraq. A top aide to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has resigned; she refuses to testify or answer questions about her involvement in the federal prosecutor firings. A global warming report was "watered down" due to the demands of politicians. Cuba news: immigration fraud, unjust prison sentences for the Cuban Five, Posada Carriles, World Health Day, Holy Week. Spain's foreign affairs minister visited Cuba, and met with VP Raul Castro.

* 15 Apr 2007, 1900 UTC, 15315 khz (Radio Netherlands): "Time now is 1900 hours UTC... Radio Netherlands worldwide." Vox Humana show about the Abraham Lincoln assassination. April 14, 1865 was Good Friday, and right after the Civil War ended. The play in the theater was "Our American Cousin." During this segment, audio from the play was combined with narration of the shooting. After committing the crime, John Wilkes Booth jumped over the rail onto the stage. He exited through the back of the theater. President Lincoln died the next morning. Was the assassination modeled after the killing of Julius Caesar? There are dozens of books about Lincoln assassination conspiracies, and they sell well. Where did Booth cross the Potomac River after the shooting? Booth was caught by the Union around April 26th. The barn in which he hid was set on fire, and he was shot as he exited. Some believe they got the wrong guy.

Kudos to Radio Netherlands for covering this part of American history.

Booth was a successful and popular actor before the assassination. Vox Humana ended at 1930 UTC. The news will be followed by weekend connection. The Israeli PM and the Palestinian leader met in Jerusalem to discuss middle east peace. Iran wants to build two new nuclear power plants. At least 35 people were killed in a string of attacks in Baghdad. Two British helicopters collided and crashed. 100 people were detained in Russia during a demonstration against Putin. 21 were killed in Nigeria in voting booths. Ecuador is voting on whether to draw up a new constitution.

Weekend connection. Belarus--Europe's last dictatorship. Is Mugabe being mistreated by the media? Radio Netherlands is celebrating 60 years of broadcasting.

* 19 Apr 2007, 0300 UTC, 5950 khz (Radio Taiwan International): Today's headlines: campus safety in Taiwan, USA/Taiwan free trade could benefit China, medical-grade cosmetics. A review of campus security standards for Taiwan schools was prompted by the killings at Virginia Tech. South Korea expressed grief and shame at the killings, as the perpetrator was a South Korean. A free trade agreement between the USA and Taiwan would also benefit China. China currently opposes such an agreement. Taiwan's representative to the EU said, "treat Taiwan according to its traditional values."

Advanced Semiconductor Engineering, a Taiwanese firm, is no longer being pursued by the Carlyle Group because the final offer was declined. Taiwan is working on a new health center in the Marshall Islands to study and combat diabetes. Taiwan and India have a memorandum of understanding to exchange technologies; including nanotech, biotech, and satellite technology. Taiwan will help fund an IT park in the Dominican Republic with a US$50 million investment. There's a prediction of a slowdown in Taiwan's economic growth. Rain and cold air is expected over Mongolia. Hong Kong will reach the high 20s C (29C is approximately 84F).

"Trends" segment, discussing medical-grade cosmetics. Last year, Taiwan spent US$1.3 billion on skin products. Why are some people switching to medical-grade cosmetics? Skin is like soil and needs to be nourished. Medical-grade cosmetics are usually developed by doctors. No artificial fragrance additives. Packaging is not at all flashy.

Today in history: Republic of Ireland declared, Albert Einstein died, royals from Monaco visited Taiwan. Topic: effects of Taiwan's high-tech industry on the environment. The high-tech industry is the most popular industry in the world. Lots of dangerous chemicals are used during manufacturing. Computer manufacturing needs to be made safer. Greenpeace publishes corporate rankings as a way of enforcing social responsibility. Consumers can choose a company that acts responsibly. Taiwan's companies are manufacturers and suppliers, not brand names, with the exception of Acer. These manufacturers and suppliers have worked to reduce toxic emissions. Acer has a large market share in Europe, and they must work within EU regulations. The industry should try to be more environmentally sustainable. Employers need to provide proper training. Hon Hai was recently exposed for having sweatshop conditions. A higher than anticipated cancer rate was discovered among IBM workers.

I was glad to hear Radio Taiwan International discuss the issue of environmental impact by the high-tech industry. It's interesting to think about Acer in the context of being a Taiwanese company that has to cooperate with EU regulations in order to continue doing business there. Companies in the USA also try to ensure reasonable labor practices for their contract manufacturers and suppliers in Asia.

21 April 2007

dxtuners is shutting down

The Cumbre DX mailing list alerted me to the news that the DX Tuners website is ceasing operation:
Regretfully, recently due to other business and personal commitments, I am unable to dedicate as much time or find as much inspiration as before in running the network and it is with much sadness and sincere regret that I have decided to wind up my business over here.
The entire text is available now at dxtuners.com.

15 April 2007

radio netherlands shortwave plans

Radio Netherlands recently posted new content on their feedback page. It includes this encouraging quote:
Many of our shortwave listeners wrote in to add to the voices that say: "please stay, keep shortwave alive". In response, here's an additional reassurance: there are no plans to stop shortwave broadcasts to those areas that now receive it.

I have heard great content from Radio Netherlands and I plan to continue listening.

meet the tecsun dr-920 / grundig g1100

I emailed tquchina, an eBay seller, to ask if he could get me a Tecsun DR-920. I provided $28.80, and I received my new radio after a shipping time from China of 9 days. This radio was tested with alkaline batteries and iPod earphones; no external antenna was used.

Appearance

This radio is the same size and shape as the Tecsun R-9012, which has an analog tuning display. The DR-920 is slightly heavier between the two.

The front of this radio has a curved surface to the right of the speaker grille, which I believe originated on Yacht Boy radios. This is a simple radio, with only a few controls on the uncluttered front panel. I like the dark gray casing; silver buttons, knobs, and switches; and black border around the screen. The Grundig version has black controls instead of silver.

The predecessor of this radio, the uglier DR-910, is sold under the name Grundig G1000. This radio, the DR-920, is now also being sold under the name Grundig G1100.

This radio comes with standard Tecsun pocket radio amenities such as a wrist strap, a flip-stand on the back to allow angled positioning on a flat surface, a detachable battery door on the back of the radio, and a rotating telescopic "whip" antenna.





Power button

Each time I pick up this radio, I look at both the left and right sides, trying to find the power switch. Instead, there's a power button on the front panel near the bottom right. That switch on the right lets the user select "radio" or "buzzer" for the alarm mode.

Display

The LCD is small and very easy to understand. The leftmost column of the display shows the band (FM, MW, or SW); three to five digits show the current frequency, and a frequency unit (kHz or MHz) is on the right of the frequency. A sleep icon appears at the top right of the screen if the radio is in sleep mode, and a battery icon at the bottom right of the radio indicates battery life. If the alarm is set, the right side of the display shows a speaker inside a rectangle.

The amber backlight for the LCD display is on the left side. It can adequately illuminate the frequency digits, but the icons on the right side of the screen are harder to see in the dark.

One way the display could be improved is if the last 0 wasn't shown when using FM. For example, a station in the FM band is displayed as "96.50 MHz". The 0 never changes, and it is unnecessary.

Displaying the time while the radio is on can be done by pressing the time set button. The time will display and the backlight will illuminate for about 4 seconds.

Pressing the light button briefly will illuminate the backlight for about 5 seconds. Holding the light button down for about 2 seconds will keep the backlight on, but the backlight first turns off and comes back on when doing this.

Tuner

The tuning knob has a nice, tight tuning action. My radio came with the tuning knob all the way at the end, so I didn't realize at first that I was trying to tune past the top of the scale.

This radio is good for band-scanning, as long as the band ranges suit your needs. The tuning knob is more sensitive than I tend to remember, so each time I start using the radio, I tune too far until I adjust to the sensitivity.

While using the radio for FM and MW, slight frequency drift was observed along with the unfortunate side-effect of activating the backlight. The drift doesn't behave like my updated BCL-2000: rather than slipping down by one or two hertz, sometimes the display rapidly switches between two adjacent frequencies such as 739 and 740 khz. That's what keeps the backlight lit. Some additional logic should be added by Tecsun to make backlight activation less sensitive, if frequency drift can't be eliminated.

Sound

Sound quality is what I would expect for a radio (and speaker) of this size. It lacks good bass response, but I won't use this radio for music listening very often. Remember that this radio does not have a tone or bandwidth control, so what you hear is what you get.

Clarity of mediumwave signals is much better with the speaker than with earphones. Earphones seem to increase the presence of static. Low-end frequency response is better with earphones, so this is a good way to use this radio for music.

Alarm

I tried out the alarm buzzer. Once per second, the radio emits a fast beeping sound with a low scratchy component. Personally I'd rather awaken to the sound of a running stream with birds chirping! With this radio, I'll stick with the "Radio" alarm option.

Other operations

I can't seem to activate the keypad lock with the radio on. I suppose this is a more important feature for a digital-entry radio, since bumping the tuning knob on an analog-tuned radio such as this one is going to change the frequency no matter what. But why would this radio need a keypad lock only when the radio is off? The only thing I can think of is that it helps prevent accidental power-on when traveling.

Frequencies

Here are the frequency ranges for all of the bands on the radio that I received. These are the frequencies I was able to reach on my radio; this likely varies from unit to unit. If you have a DR-920 or G1100, I'd like to know how ours compare.

FM: 74.2 - 108.6 mhz
MW: 515 - 1619 khz
SW1: 3.81 - 4.325 mhz
SW2: 4.675 - 5.235 mhz
SW3: 5.810 - 6.37 mhz
SW4: 6.935 - 7.82 mhz
SW5: 8.99 - 9.98 mhz
SW6: 11.485 - 12.43 mhz
SW7: 13.345 - 14.155 mhz
SW8: 15.03 - 15.725 mhz
SW9: 17.295 - 18.52 mhz
SW10: 21.24 - 22.32 mhz

FM and AM (mediumwave)

I'm finding that mediumwave stations are the clearest if I tune 2 khz below the station's frequency. So when the display says 1258 khz, I have good reception of the station on 1260 khz. This seems to reduce some of the harshness that comes through if I tune to the exact station frequency.

Local stations were received just fine, but there was a station that I could receive on my Eton E5 and my Eton E100 that the DR-920 would not receive. This was KOMO 1000 khz in Seattle, which is about 750 miles from my apartment in San Francisco. When tuned to 1000 khz, the DR-920 seemed to have an image from another frequency whereas the other two radios had a signal of medium strength and full clarity on a night in early September 2006.

Tuning off the main frequency to improve clarity didn't hold true for FM, where stations sounded clearer overall. But this radio does not do a good job with FM reception. It picks up strong stations, but those stations appear at several locations through the FM band. One FM station that lives on 104.5 MHz was audible from 104.3 to 105.7 MHz. A local station on 96.5 MHz was also heard on 94.7 MHz and 91.1 MHz. Another station on 98.1 MHz was picked up on 95.5 MHz. However, this condition was improved by simply lowering the antenna.

I had similar problems with FM overrepresentation on the Tecsun R-9012, so this seems to be a common trait of portable Tecsun analog radios. It remains to be seen if the Kaito WRX911 behaves similarly.

Shortwave

I like to use WWV on 5, 10, and 15 mhz as a reference or test signal. On this radio, I can only get 5 and 15 mhz. The 31-meter band stops on my radio at 9.92 mhz.

Shortwave reception met my expectations. I did some nighttime listening tests between 0430-0530 UTC. Some of the major broadcasters that I picked up include WWV in 60 meters; VOA, China Radio International, Radio Marti, and Radio Netherlands in 49 meters; Radio Havana Cuba in 25 meters; WWVH and Radio Australia in 19 meters.




Wrap-up

This radio has a simple and appealing interface, with only modest reception performance and audio quality. I found that when I'm using a radio with frequency limitations, I prefer to have an analog display such as the one on the Kaito WRX911. Within this price category, I suspect that the WRX911 radio may be a better choice.

14 April 2007

more about nimh battery consumption

As you may have heard here previously, I own Redsun's "other radio", the RF-1210. This is an analog-tuned, multi-band portable radio with a speaker approximately 3 inches in diameter. It looks a lot like the Tecsun R-9700DX. I've been using it primiarly for mediumwave in my kitchen and dining room during the morning. This means that it is used for 30 minutes at most per day.

It is powered by four AA batteries, and I have been feeding it with Energizer 2500 mAh NiMH batteries. They're charged in an Energizer battery charger, which states on the back that it can charge AA batteries up to 2500 mAh.

It seems to me that the past two times the batteries ran out in this radio, it was only after about a month of use. The way I'm informed of the battery drain is that the audio quickly reduces in volume. I turn the knob to increase the volume, then it fades rapidly again, becoming inaudible.

I haven't beeen measuring the voltage level of the batteries before insertion, which I should try next time. Using my multimeter, here are the battery voltages after removal:

0.87
0.14
1.10
1.20

I wish rechargeable batteries had serial numbers so I had an easier way to track individual battery behavior. The 0.14-volt battery is a concern; it should be charged right away. For now, I decorated the slacker battery with masking tape that has "0.14" written on it.