06 November 2012

firedrake logs, aug-sep 2012

Firedrake, that trusty source of smashing orchestral music from the far east, has turned up once again on my shortwave receivers. Here are some recent logs. Eton E5, indoors with random wire antenna. Although I could use the DX Listening Digest as a guide for recent Firedrake frequencies, I've decided to only use manual scanning for this set of logs. My usual range of manual scanning while generating these logs was 7 - 17 MHz.

2012-08-10
0710 UTC : 11900 kHz : weak with moderate fading. Didn't hear it when rechecked at 0731 UTC.
0740 UTC : 13430 kHz : very weak.

2012-08-24
1149 UTC : 14870 kHz : very weak, almost inaudible among the noise.

2012-08-25
1117 UTC : 12320 kHz : very strong, went off promptly at 1200 UTC.
1118 UTC : 12670 kHz : weak.

2012-08-27
0834 UTC : 12320 kHz : weak.
0836 UTC : 12230 kHz : fair.
0838 UTC : 13850 kHz : strong.

2012-08-29
0840 UTC : 13850 kHz : strong.

2012-09-02
0748 UTC : 12230 kHz : fair.
0750 UTC : 12670 kHz : strong.
0825 UTC : 13850 kHz : fair.
0827 UTC : 12320 kHz : weak.
0828 UTC : 12670 kHz : strong.
0923 UTC : 12670 kHz : strong.
0924 UTC : 13850 kHz : strong.
0929 UTC : 12980 kHz : fair.

2012-09-07
0754 UTC : 13850 kHz : strong.





Image from satdirectory.com

24 October 2012

hf air traffic control logs

During a casual frequency scan, I came across some air traffic control voice traffic on 8891 kHz USB. It looks like that frequency is used for North Atlantic traffic, and the signal was very weak.

• 2012-08-04, 0750 UTC, 8891 kHz: heard a woman talking in short segments, ended with "Okay, goodnight!"
"...selcall."
"You're welcome!"

After looking for a webpage of air traffic HF frequencies, I found 5547 kHz listed as an ARINC frequency for my local airport (SFO). Here are some of the exchanges that I logged, with the ground-based controller typically being more audible than the aircraft. I looked up flight routes and included them after some of the messages that included a callsign and flight number. There's a lot of Hawaii flights here.

• 0800-912 UTC, 5547 kHz:
"Air Canada 033" "stand by for selcall" (YVR-SYD)
"Delta 2246, San Francisco, go ahead." (HNL-SEA)
"Delta 2246, say again your temperature only."
"...requesting flight level 310."
"Delta 2246... climb and maintain flight level 310. read back."
"2246, San Francisco, roger."
"American 14, San Francisco, go ahead." (OGG-LAX)
"Alaska 822, San Francisco, go ahead." (OGG-PDX)
"Air Canada 048, San Francisco, roger." (HNL-YVR)
"All Nippon ... destination O'Hare... stand by for selcall."
"All Nippon 12, San Francisco, roger." (NRT-ORD)
"Delta 2246, San Francisco, go ahead."
"Delta 2246, ... flight level 310, San Francisco, roger."
"American 286, San Francisco, go ahead." (LIH-LAX)
"American 286, San Francisco, roger, copy all."
"EVA 620, San Francisco, go ahead." (ANC-LAX)
"...flight level 330..."
"EVA 620, San Francisco, roger... say your aircraft registration and destination."
"Say your aircraft registration and your destination. go ahead."
"Roger and say your aircraft registration... your tail number."
"Maintain this frequency primary, secondary 6673. Stand by for selcall."
"EVA 620, San Francisco, roger."
"Alaska 871, San Francisco, say request." (HNL-ANC)
"...Requesting climb flight level 370. stand by."
"...Say again your altitude and your selcall."
"Position American 102..."
"American 102, San Francisco, roger." (HNL-DFW)
"American 14, San Francisco, roger, copy all."
"Alaska 860, San Francisco, go ahead." (HNL-SEA)
"Alaska 860, San Francisco, roger."
"ATC clears Alaska 871... flight level 370... read back."
"American 298, San Francisco, go ahead." (HNL-LAX)
"Philippine 103, San Francisco, go ahead." (LAX-GUM)
"Philippine 103, San Francisco, roger."
"Korean air 012, San Francisco, go ahead." (LAX-ICN)
"All Nippon 2, San Francisco... stand by for selcall." (NRT-IAD)
"American 246, San Francisco, go ahead." (KOA-LAX)
"38 north, 130 west..."
"Confirm the next waypoint is ALLEB... alpha lima lima echo bravo?"
"American 267, San Francisco, go ahead." (LAX-HNL)
"Boeing seven-seven whiskey... Hong Kong..."
"Cathay 873, San Francisco, roger. ... stand by for selcall." (SFO-HKG)
"American 176 selcall bravo kilo juliet mike." (NRT-DFW)
"Asiana 203, San Francisco, go ahead." (LAX-ICN)
"Delta 2246, San Francisco, go ahead."
"Delta 2246, say your remarks after winds, your transmission was stepped on after that."
"Cathay 883, San Francisco, go ahead." (LAX-HKG)
"Philippine 103, San Francisco, go ahead."
(Philippine 103's transmissions aren't copyable by me, but wow they have a terrible hum over it.)
"ATC is requesting, confirm you are at ... waypoint."
"Confirm your flight level is 320..."
"Saab? 247, San Francisco, go ahead." (unsure of callsign)
"WestJet 1865, San Francisco, go ahead." (HNL-YVR)
"American 286, San Francisco, roger, copy all."
"American 14, San Francisco, go ahead."
"...flight level 380."
"American 14, San Francisco, roger, copy all."
"Air Canada 048, San Francisco, go ahead."
"...flight level 350."
"San Francisco, position, American 102..."
"Korean Air 012, San Francisco, go ahead."
"American 298, San Francisco, go ahead."
"Alaska 822, San Francisco, go ahead."
"Alaska 871, San Francisco, go ahead."
"Alaska 871, confirm waypoint was 45 north, 153 west."

• 2012-08-05, 0503-0513 UTC, 11282 kHz:
(selcall tones)... "1874, San Francisco"
"Roger ATC clears WestJet 1874... climb and maintain flight level 380... read back." (YVR-LIH)
"Alaska 877, San Francisco, go ahead." (PDX-HNL)
"WestJet 1874, San Francisco, go ahead."
"...stand by, selcall."

• 0747-0807 UTC, 5574 kHz:
(three identical selcall tone sequences)
"United 333, roger." (LIH-LAX)
"United 333, San Francisco."
"United 344, roger, stand by." (KOA-SFO)
"United 2, San Francisco." (HNL-IAH)
(seven identical selcall tone sequences)
"United 631, copy all." (KOA-DEN)
"United 1114, San Francisco." (OGG-SFO)
(two identical selcall tone sequences)
"United 1114, roger, copy all."

10 October 2012

number station logs, aug-sep 2012

Here are my logs for the V02 (Spanish numbers) and M08 (morse code) number station broadcasts, believed to originate in Cuba. My usual rig for these logs was the Eton E5 with my indoor random wire antennas.

2012-08-02, 0804 UTC, 5898 kHz: V02 using the usual groups of five digits.
2012-08-03, 0600 UTC, 6800 kHz: M08. Went silent at 0635 UTC.
2012-08-05, 0711 UTC, 5883 kHz: V02. Ended with "Final, final, final" at 0742 UTC.
2012-08-05, 0808 UTC, 5898 kHz: V02.
2012-08-06, 0732 UTC, 5883 kHz: V02.
2012-08-10, 0700 UTC, 5883 kHz: V02. Heard "Atención!" intro.
2012-08-10, 0724 UTC, 9153 kHz: M08.
2012-08-20, 0713 UTC, 5883 kHz: V02.
2012-08-20, 0817 UTC, 5898 kHz: V02.
2012-08-23, 0704 UTC, 5883 kHz: V02.
2012-08-24, 0821 UTC, 5898 kHz: M08.
2012-08-24, 0822 UTC, 9063 kHz: V02. Looks like M08 and V02 frequencies are flipped for this hour, or my information is out of date.
2012-08-30, 0814 UTC, 5898 kHz: V02.

2012-09-01, 0503 UTC, 5898 kHz: M08.
2012-09-01, 0623 UTC, 5800 kHz: M08.
2012-09-01, 0709 UTC, 5883 kHz: V02.
2012-09-02, 0834 UTC, 5898 kHz: V02. Ended with "Final, final, final" at 0842 UTC.
2012-09-02, 0909 UTC, 10432 kHz: M08.
2012-09-03, 0703 UTC, 5883 kHz: V02.
2012-09-05, 0903 UTC, 9040 kHz: V02.

01 October 2012

northern finland dxpedition camp for rent

A group of serious DXers have assembled an impressive camp in northern Finland, and set up 12 beverage antennas. They're offering to rent out the camp and help anyone who wants to use it. The page states "We want you to succeed and we'll do everything to make your DXpedition as comfortable and successful as possible."

This remote arctic circle location with very little radio frequency interference promises to put you in touch with nature and provide an ideal environment for AM DX.

Aihkiniemi DX cabin in Lapland for rent

The webpage shows a photo of the cabin exterior, a few interior photos, a Scandinavian map showing the location of Aihkiniemi, a list of the 12 antennas with the direction and target areas for each, a globe with the antennas drawn over them to illustrate the target regions. "The antennas hang 3-5 meters above the ground to prevent reindeer and moose from getting stuck in the wires." However, nature still interferes: "Bears, moose, reindeer and rabbits have all wreaked havoc with our antennas at some point (mostly cutting or damaging the coax cables on the ground)."

Aihkiniemi antenna directions 8/2011. Source: dxing.info

Due to the effort required in getting there, and the chances of DX being affected by a solar storm, they recommend staying at the camp for at least a week. Since the northern location is only practical for long-range reception during the northern hemisphere's winter, snow will be a factor. "In between major snowfalls, there's a shovel under the cabin for your exercise."

I grew up in upstate New York, where I've already had enough winter to last a lifetime. But an expedition to this well-equipped camp could be quite productive and fun for those prepared to make the effort.

The camp's DXing room. Source: dxing.info

22 September 2012

mediumwave logs, mammoth lakes, september 2012

To celebrate the 2012 northern hemisphere autumn equinox, here are some mediumwave dx logs. I only had a few hours to spend on this project, so many of the logs are low-hanging fruit. But it certainly whet my appetite for winter dx.

In mid-September, I stayed in a condominium for three nights in Mammoth Lakes, California. Relatives traveled with me and stayed at a hotel nearby. They are from the east coast and wake up early, so I had time to myself in the evenings. The condo I stayed in had an iHome iH6 radio, and while it isn't an ideal mediumwave dx receiver, I put it to work.

This location is on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevadas, just east of Yosemite National Park. There was no daytime reception anywhere in 520-1710 kHz.


The iHome radio had a digital frequency display, and was tuned in 10 kHz steps with a scroll wheel. Selectivity seemed poor, or some stations were simply polluting adjacent frequencies. Occasionally the radio made loud buzzing sounds, which I was unable to identify. A battery-powered radio would've certainly been preferable. Also, the AM antenna was external, with poor nulling capability.

Confirmed stations are listed with location and distance. CKWX was only confirmed by branding ("news 1130") and slogan ("traffic and weather together every 10 minutes on the ones"), not by callsign.

I'm also including my raw logs, which I typed into a smart phone. I came up with a simple keyword system to describe what I heard on each frequency. Some of the keywords are multiple words written together. In the notes, callsigns followed by question marks are guesses, and were not confirmed. Phrases in quotes are quoted from the broadcast. 920 and 1130 were my favorite frequencies to work. It would've been fun to sort through the other pileups in the band if I had more time.

States/Provinces logged

• Arizona
• British Columbia
• California
• Colorado
• Nevada
• New Mexico
• Oregon
• Utah
• Washington
• Wyoming



26 stations identified

580: KMJ (Fresno, CA; 50 kW; 78 miles)
640: KFI (Los Angeles, CA; 50 kW; 252 miles)
660: KTNN (Window Rock, AZ; 50 kW; 563 miles)
680: KNBR (San Francisco, CA; 50 kW; 191 miles)
720: KDWN (Las Vegas, NV; 50 kW; 231 miles)
740: KCBS (San Francisco, CA; 50 kW; 191 miles)
750: KOAL (Price, UT; 6.8 kW nighttime; 451 miles)
760: KFMB (San Diego, CA; 50 kW nighttime; 354 miles)
770: KKOB (Albuquerque, NM; 50 kW; 706 miles)
780: KKOH (Reno, NV; 50 kW; 139 miles)
790: KABC (Los Angeles, CA; 5 kW; 252 miles)
830: KLAA (Orange, CA; 20 kW nighttime; 274 miles)
840: KXNT (North Las Vegas, NV; 25 kW nighttime; 231 miles)
850: KOA (Denver, CO; 50 kW; 763 miles)
920: KBAD (Las Vegas, NV; 500 w nighttime; 231 miles)
1000: KOMO (Seattle, WA; 50 kW; 709 miles)
1030: KTWO (friendly Casper, WY; 50 kW; 751 miles)
1050: KNBR/KTCT (San Francisco, CA; 10 kW nighttime; 191 miles)
1070: KNX (Los Angeles, CA; 50 kW; 252 miles)
1100: KFAX (San Francisco, CA; 50 kW; 191 miles)
1120: KPNW (Eugene, OR; 50 kW; 494 miles)
1130: KRDU (Dinuba, CA; 6.2 kW nighttime; 82 miles)
1130: CKWX (Vancouver, BC, Canada; 50 kW; 828 miles)
1190: KEX (Portland, OR; 50 kW; 574 miles)
1530: KFBK (Sacramento, CA; 50 kW; 153 miles)
1560: KNZR (Bakersfield, CA; 10 kW nighttime; 158 miles)


Raw logs


540: weak

560: weak

580: fair cbsnews "Fresno" KMJ

590: fair pileup

600: poor noisy

610: music

620: sports poor

630: poor noisy

640: c2c strong KFI

650: noisy

660: rock music poor/fading nativeamerican chanting/drumming KTNN

670: noisy adjacentinterference660

680: sports KNBR

690: Spanish fair

700: Spanish fair

710: adjacentinterference720

720: strong KDWN

730: poor

740: KCBS

750: poor pileup billshomefurnishing mainstreetgrill castrovalley? KOAL

760: good, trucking job ad, "redeyeradioshow.com" KFMB

770: good, same/delayed content as 760 differentads KKOB

780: good, same content as 770 KOH

790: good, call-in show, "some bad news about kickstarter" "1-888-825-5254" moneytalk KABC

800: mex music

820: poor

830: poor pileup KLAA

840: good news radio c2c KXNT

850: fair music c2c KOA

860: Spanish good

870: fair pileup Spanish music "las vegas"

880: religious good

890: sports fair noisy

900: poor pileup

910: poor pileup

920: poor pileup moneytalk sports "sierra vista" KPSI? KXLY? "KBAD las Vegas"
920: "Montana meat company" KWYS? "chucks tavern on Durango" "fox sports 920 las vegas" [edit: There's a Shuck's Tavern on Durango Drive in Las Vegas. Montana Meat Company is also in Las Vegas.]
930: Spanish poor

940: fair noisy
950: music poor noisy

960: poor

980: fair pileup

990: poor pileup

1000: poor noisy "olympia" KOMO

1010: poor

1020: Spanish poor

1030: c2c good and spanish music poor "Wyoming" foxnews "ktworadio.com" KTWO

1040: noise

1050: golfmart south San Francisco ad KNBR/KTCT

1060: noisy

1070: "southern California" KNX

1080: poor

1090: sports strong XEPRS?

1100: "aclj.org" "1-800-684-3110" middleeast talk show "Salem communications" KFAX

1110: pileup

1120: poor c2c foxnews sfgiants KPNW

1130: good, religious, focusonthefamily KRDU

1130: traffic for Richmond/surrey BC? "news 1130" "traffic and weather together every 10 minutes on the ones" CKWX?

1140: poor

1150: pileup poor

1160: sports

1170: pileup poor

1180: fair

1190: good astronomy c2c KEX

1210: good

1230: pileup

1240: pileup

1250: poor

1260: pileup poor

1270: pileup

1280: pileup

1290: poor "Los Angeles"

1300: poor noisy

1310: pileup

1320: pileup

1330: Spanish good

1340: pileup

1350: poor noisy

1360: Spanish music poor

1370: poor

1390: Spanish music poor

1400: pileup

1420: poor

1430: poor

1440: poor

1450: pileup poor

1470: music poor

1480: Spanish music poor

1490: pileup

1500: poor

1510: pileup poor

1520: poor

1530: good c2c KFBK

1540: Asian fair Japanese?

1550: dance music? poor

1560: good c2c legendsofsuccess KNZR

1580: Spanish poor

1590: pileup

1600: weak

1620: religious fair

1630: music poor

1640: poor

1650: fair

1670: poor

1690: Spanish fair

1700: fair "[inaudible] seventeen hundred" "Baja California"

Station cities and broadcasting power obtained from radio-locator. Distances obtained from the City Distance Tool. Blank North America map from realclearwx.com.

15 September 2012

pirate qsl: radio true north

While on the #pirateradio irc channel last year, I learned that Radio True North was live on 6925 kHz. I tuned in with my Eton E5 and was able to just barely copy the signal.

The show was a hosted collection of pop and classic rock songs, several of which I knew and at least two I was able to identify with the Shazam app held up to my radio. Songs I heard and identified:

  • Janet Jackson - "Control" (recognized)
  • Rocky Burnette - "Tired of Toeing the Line" (shazam)
  • Foreigner - "Cold as Ice" (recognized)
  • Richard Marx - "Shoulda Known Better" (recognized)
  • male announcer: "…four one four UTC"
  • unrecognized female singers; someone on #pirateradio said "dixie bitches"
  • Credence Clearwater Revival, "Bad Moon Rising" (sounded familiar but used Google to search with the lyrics)
  • REM - "Losing My Religion" (recognized)
  • unknown synth rock (RTN_6925a said "Johan Timman - Journey Into Human Body")
  • echoey male voice: "...two five (perhaps the second half of "6925"?) - Radio True North!"
  • Dannii Minogue - "Put the Needle On It" (shazam)
  • AC/DC - "You Shook Me All Night Long" (recognized)
During the broadcast, I chatted with both the host and other listeners on irc. Hearing this broadcast was challenging. The noise level for reception within my apartment can be a problem, and the broadcast was very low power. But it was fun all around.

My emailed reception report was confirmed within about a half hour, and I received this electronic QSL about a month later:



06 September 2012

degen de321 dsp portable receiver review

A number of new portable radio products are being designed around a DSP chip. The Tecsun PL-300wt was one of the earlier DSP-based radios that caught my attention. Enthusiasts of so-called ultralight radios were impressed with its AM broadcast band and shortwave reception. So this is a category of products I want to follow.

A popular radio near the $25 price point, the Tecsun R-911 / Kaito WRX911, seems set to be replaced by the physically similar, DSP-based Degen DE321 / Kaito KA321. In October 2011, I purchased a Degen DE321 for a total of $21 from an eBay seller in China. As I already have a WRX911, that radio will be used for comparison in this review. My trusty Eton E5 will be used as a reference to confirm broadcast frequencies.

I powered the DE321 with alkaline batteries and went to work in my somewhat radio-hostile apartment in San Francisco. Here's what I found.

Degen DE321.


The basics

Both the DE321 and the older WRX911 measure approximately 4.75 x 3 inches on the front, but the WRX911 is 1 inch thick and the DE321 is 0.75 inches thick. The new radio feels sturdy, but it gives an impression of being less sturdy than its predecessor.

The DE321 lacks the DC adapter port that the WRX911 has. That doesn't affect me, since I never got an adapter for my WRX911 and I prefer to power my radios with batteries. As you might expect, the battery compartment door is very thin.

The telescopic antenna is approximately 1.5 inches shorter on the new radio.

The tuning dial provides just the right amount of resistance, making tuning easy. On contrast, I find that the volume dial is very touchy. It's challenging to dial in the right volume level, and it's startling when the volume changes dramatically.

Block diagram of the Silicon Labs Si4831 / Si4835. Source: silabs.com

The audio

The DE321's built-in speaker is fine for news/talk/sports, but not a good performer for music. When I turned the volume up to room-filling level, the output began to distort. The volume is there, but the radio and the speaker aren't really capable of delivering it.

With an old pair of iPod earphones, I spent some time listening to a baseball game on KNBR 680. It was difficult to plug in the headphones. Hopefully the headphone jack does not stay this tight over time.

At zero volume, there is a persistent hiss noticeable in the earphones. I have experienced this same problem on other pocket-sized radios, but I'm always disappointed when each new radio I get has the same problem. This hiss was also noticeable in my Sennheiser headphones.

When I tried to unplug the white earbuds for the first time, I had a problem. This is one stubborn, incredibly snug headphone jack. And these old earphones don't have much of a plug to hold onto, either. I twisted, I pulled, I pinched, and didn't make any progress until I resorted to a pair of needle-nose pliers. Headphones forcibly unplugged, and headphone jack appears intact.

Mediumwave

It's a pleasure to find stations on mediumwave, because the tuning is precise and the audio lacks distortion from imprecise tuning. I did not observe any problems finding local stations.

I am satisfied with the bandwidth and clarity of strong local station receptions on the DE321. This radio delivered the 2012 MLB all-star game to me (from KNBR 680).

Tuning to local flamethrower KCBS 740 shows the tuning needle right on the 800 in the mediumwave band.

I ended up hearing a bit of music on mediumwave, as "Is this love" by Whitesnake was used as bumper music on Coast to Coast (KKSF 910).

Naturally, I came across infomercials on mediumwave. One ad promoted a pill that promised to combat stress and pain, and keep your heart beating. It used a doctor-on-the-phone with easily-impressed-host format. I didn't feel compelled to pull out my credit card to place an order, despite the free offer to the first 100 callers.

If you're used to tuning slightly off frequency to emphasize the treble portion of the audio tone, you will be disappointed here. I don't know the exact specs, but the AM bandwidth is limited, and tuning off the frequency means that the signal is lost. The reduced treble for AM stations is another noticeable difference between this radio and the WRX911.

Shortwave

The WRX911 has a 60-meter band (including 5000 kHz for WWV and WWVH), and the DE321 does not.

Radio Taiwan International on 9680 kHz from Okeechobee turned out to be my first shortwave reception test. I had a relatively strong signal on my Eton E5 for reference, and found the broadcast on the DE321 pretty quickly. However, the reception was covered with noise, and momentarily muted at times.

Voice of Russia was coming in decently on my reference radio, on 15425 kHz from eastern Russia. I found this broadcast on the DE321 easily, with the needle just above the "15.40" label on the tuning scale. (The shortwave bands are labeled with megahertz frequencies, but I prefer to write frequencies in kilohertz). This broadcast was difficult to listen to, though I think that Voice of Russia's audio production could be improved.

WWV on 10000 kHz came in loud and clear from Fort Collins, Colorado. The tuning needle is right on the "10.00" label, indicating good calibration.

Radio Nacional Amazonia is a regular catch for me on 11780 kHz (broadcasting Portuguese to South America). While the signal sounded fine on the E5, I tuned all the way through the SW4 band (covering the 25-meter band) multiple times on the DE321, but only heard what sounded like distorted FM radio stations covering a wide span of frequencies.

One of the best shortwave catches on the DE321 was Radio Japan on 5960 kHz, from Sackville, broadcasting Japanese to Latin America. Strong signal, low noise. However, I noticed a lot of momentary muting. This could just be the usual signal fading, but the effect seems more dramatic on the DE321 than other radios. It seems like the DE321 takes longer to recover and bring the volume level back up. I put my head between the two radios at one point, and the DE321 was muting the signal while the E5 still had an audible broadcast. Interestingly, the muted moments on the DE321 were directly correlated with what sounded like increased static on the E5. My ears and my mind can filter out the static, but I can't simply imagine a signal that's not there, so the DE321 is not performing up to my expectations here.

University Network on 6090 kHz (English from Anguilla) came in fine on the E5, but was weak, distorted, and frequently muted on the DE321.

Voice of Croatia on 9925 kHz from Germany (English to North America) performed a bit better than average. I heard frequent muting, but in this case, each instance of muting was very short. So although the audio level was jumping all over the place, the aggregate signal was understandable. It would be fatiguing to listen to something like that for longer than a couple minutes.

China Radio International was loud and clear on 9690 kHz on the E5, coming from Spain. This signal came up easily on the DE321 and was one of the better receptions there.

FM

I spent some time tuning through local FM stations. As expected, I had no problems clarifying the stations or isolating adjacent stations. The internal speaker showed itself as inadequate for music. It was easy, however, to tune slightly off-frequency from an FM station and hear a distorted broadcast.

I came across a classic rock station (K-FOX 102.1) and listened to a few songs: "I can't get no satisfaction" by the Rolling Stones, "Hitch a ride" by Boston, "Even the losers" by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and "Always with me, always with you" by Joe Satriani. To my ears, with the internal speaker, cymbals often detracted from the audio quality. I'd speculate that the higher-frequency audio signals cause the speaker to distort. The electric guitars sounded great, though. There may or may not have been a few moments of air guitar. But, this experience shows that the internal speaker is a poor choice for listening to music.

A community radio station (KPOO 89.5) was playing jazz both times I came across it, and I enjoyed listening to this the most on FM. Brass instruments, including trumpet and saxophone, really sounded great. This station is in San Francisco, broadcasting with 270 watts. For this station, the tuning needle was just about centered on "90" for the FM1 band.

While listening to my local NPR station (KQED 88.5), I heard a clear signal, but the signal was somewhat distorted with crackling, and sibilance sounded poor through the speaker. The sibilance distortion was not heard in my Sennheiser headphones. "Electric counterpoint (movement 3)" by Steve Reich was used as bumper music at the end of "To the best of our knowledge".


Kaito WRX911 and Degen DE321.


Conclusion

So, is this a good $20 radio? Would this radio be a good way to introduce someone to shortwave?

This DSP-based radio with analog-style tuning display is an interesting product, but ultimately, I do not recommend it.

I always prefer a digital frequency readout to know what frequency I'm receiving. I consider this especially important for shortwave where the challenge tends to be "where's 7490", as opposed to "where's something I can listen to" for local broadcast bands. But the slide-rule tuning display keeps component costs down, and the tuning scale is as accurate as it can be for its size. The tuning knob offers the right amount of resistance.

I didn't like how this radio performed on shortwave. With weak signals, the radio was very noisy, and the signal muted at times of high static or low signal strength, or some combination of both. For me, that makes the radio less usable, since I have no chance of knowing what was missed. I've learned that the muting behavior is a design feature of radio receiver DSP chips. It's a good concept, but it's happening far too often during my usage of the radio.

The volume control is loose and touchy, quickly and dramatically altering the volume. The headphone jack proved problematic as I needed a tool to unplug my iPod-style earphones. The combination of the audio circuit, its filtering, and the built-in speaker result in a product that by itself is not good for music. Using high-quality headphones remedies this.

So, what does DSP do for this radio? Tuning accuracy was excellent, but complete and accurate delivery of the desired audio content was lacking. I decided not to open the DE321, but it would be interesting to compare the circuitry inside the WRX911 and the DE321. I'd expect the DE321 to use many fewer components and have a smaller size. With a DSP chip at the center of the design, radio manufacturers could consider making much smaller radios. By excluding a built-in speaker and telescopic antenna, and using a thinner rechargeable battery for power, portable radios could become something quite different from the typical black rectangles.

When reviewing a product like this, there's always the chance of receiving a bad iteration, whether due to a quality control issue, or a problem that is subsequently fixed for later production runs. As always, I'd be pleased to learn how my experience compares with yours on this product.

03 September 2012

latest receptions, 03 sep 2012

Manual nighttime scanning of 11 - 16 MHz on my Eton E5. Out-of-country transmitting locations are listed when known.

0706 UTC : 11520 kHz : WEWN/EWTN (English to Africa)
0708 UTC : 11640 kHz : China Radio International (Cantonese to Asia)
0709 UTC : 11725 kHz : Radio New Zealand International (English to Oceania)
0711 UTC : 11770 kHz : BBC (English to Africa) (transmitter: Ascension Island)
0714 UTC : 11780 kHz : Radio Nacional Amazonia (Portuguese to South America)
0716 UTC : 11800 kHz : BBC (French to Africa) (transmitter: Ascension Island)
0717 UTC : 11870 kHz : WEWN/EWTN (Spanish to South America)
0719 UTC : 11945 kHz : Radio Australia (English to Asia)
0721 UTC : 11960 kHz : China National Radio 1 (Mandarin to Asia)
0722 UTC : 12080 kHz : Radio Australia (English to Oceania)
0726 UTC : 13630 kHz : Radio Australia (English to Oceania)
0728 UTC : 15000 kHz : WWVH
0729 UTC : 15240 kHz : Radio Australia (English to Oceania)

Those BBC signals were very weak. The Radio Nacional Amazonia broadcast was loud and clear, and I was treated to some lovely music.

Schedule data obtained from EiBi and short-wave.info.

28 August 2012

shortwave summary, august 2012

My ceiling-mounted random wire antenna is properly set up again, aside from a properly insulated feed line. A daytime manual scan of 11-18 MHz revealed that I was getting good reception from broadcasts in Asia and Oceania. So I initially focused on that region for logging broadcasts. I've truncated what I originally logged, but this is still quite long. For these receptions, I used my Eton E5, powered by batteries, with my ceiling-mounted antenna.

My Eton E5 workhorse receiver.


Stations received:

• China Radio International
• Radio Australia
• Radio Havana Cuba
• Radio Kuwait
• Radio New Zealand International
• Radio Taiwan International
• Radio Vaticana
• Voice of Croatia
• Voice of Russia
• WWCR (USA)

Source: Wikipedia

Notes:

 • 2012-08-02, 0600-0700 UTC, 13630 kHz: Radio Australia. Before landing on this frequency, I checked several other Radio Australia frequencies, which had weak or noisy signals.

The United States government is increasing military defense assets in the Asia-Pacific region. Pacific countries have workers ready for Australia's seasonal work program, which offers up to 12,000 jobs over the next four years. Papua New Guinea has a high rate of domestic violence. "This is Radio Australia right across Asia and the Pacific."

Demand for the Australian dollar has driven the exchange rate higher, and some within Australia are calling for its value to be lowered.

A star Chinese badminton player quit the sport after being disqualified at the London 2012 Olympics. Several players were disqualified after allegations of deliberately losing to manipulate rankings for the next round.

A choir from East Timor is performing live on air from Melbourne. Following the first song, the host and the choir director talked about encouraging East Timor people who have left to return to the country. The choir will perform later in the week at the Melbourne Millennium Chorus event. They performed a second song during the broadcast.

Two western Pacific typhoons are moving towards China, after visiting Taiwan.

"Wherever you are in the Pacific, this is Radio Australia." Well, I'm next to the Pacific, in California, so thanks!

• 2012-08-03, 0242-0252 UTC, 9610 kHz: Radio Vaticana. This broadcast is in French but is scheduled to switch to English at 0250 UTC, so I'll have to wait until then to get a positive identification. Is this broadcast originating in Bonaire?

Just before 0250 UTC, there was a short musical interlude, then the signal went off the air. I just confirmed I have the correct frequency at radiovaticana.org. And the EiBi schedule does not show any day of the week restrictions for these broadcasts. But these two information sources were (at the time) missing the information that Radio Vaticana is discontinuing their North American shortwave service.

• 2012-08-03, 0300-0330 UTC, 5950 kHz: Radio Taiwan International. The broadcast began at the top of the hour, stuttering at first.

A tropical storm made landfall on Thursday afternoon; was previously a typhoon. People have been evacuated from disaster areas. Approximately 40,000 households are without electricity due to the storm. Trains and flights were cancelled.

A Taiwanese olympian has advanced to the Olympics quarterfinals for the first time. Eight badminton players have been disqualified.

A Taiwanese pop singer will perform in London's Wembley Stadium in November.

"This is Radio Taiwan International."

The hosts are now speaking about buying emergency supplies in preparation for the storms. One host mentioned buying instant noodles and oreos, admitting that the oreos were not necessary for survival.

• 2012-08-03, 0400-0410 UTC, 13775 kHz: Voice of Russia. "This is the Voice of Russia world service."

News from Moscow. Kofi Annan's resignation is expected to increase violence in Syria. Moscow plans to launch additional GLONASS satellites. Names of Olympic medal winners will appear on coins matching the medals (gold, silver, and bronze). The signal was weak and audio too often got lost in the fading and noise, so I decided to stop listening.

• 2012-08-03, 0650-0730 UTC, 11725 kHz: Radio New Zealand International. "Radio New Zealand International, Pacific regional news."

In Fiji, an ousted prime minister was sentenced to one year of jail for corruption-related charges. Papua New Guinea has elected a new prime minister. Sales of high-powered arms have tripled in New Caledonia, reportedly due to changes in laws making it easier for hunters to obtain firearms. "There is no limit on the number of arms that an individual may buy."

New legislation in American Samoa seeks to boost military protection. American Samoa is prone to natural disasters and must be prepared. They have the highest per-capita enlistment rate for the United States army.

This broadcast targeted Oceania, and the signal was extremely variable in quality. It faded in and out rapidly. With the New Zealand accent, their rapid pace of speech, and the uneven signal quality, it was difficult for me to keep up with this broadcast. It probably would sound fine as a high-quality digital download, even though I don't prefer to get my news that way.

• 2012-08-04, 0200-0215 UTC, 9925 kHz: Voice of Croatia. Two sectors of Croatia's transportation system, motorway maintenance and toll collection, will be merged within the next five years to save money. A prime minister supports Bosnia joining the European Union and NATO. Wall Street opened sharply higher on Friday due to positive jobs data.

Voice of Croatia packed a lot of news stories into the first eight minutes of the broadcast. This was followed by two minutes of sports news, then the top headlines were repeated. "This is Croatian radio - the Voice of Croatia." Then the broadcasting schedules were explained, and an acoustic guitar song completed the 15-minute broadcast.

While dealing with below-average signal strength, I struggled to keep up with the news and got annoyed by the frequent orchestra-hit sound effect that played between stories.

• 2012-08-04, 0300-0330 UTC, 9790 kHz: China Radio International. So, China has a different view of the Syrian civil war compared to most western hemisphere countries. My concern is, who has a solution that results in peace and saves lives?

Putting pressure on only one party won't resolve the issue in Syria. UN General Assembly adopted a resolution condemning the Syrian government. "The Syrian issue must be resolved through political means." British prime minister David Cameron: "I don't think military options are right in this case". The UN General Assembly overwhelmingly adopted a resolution urging political transition in Syria due to violence. "The international community does not tolerate what is happening in Syria."

Gales and rainstorms have plagued coastal regions in China. It is rare for two typhoons to make landfall in China within 24 hours. Approximately $165 million was made available to help citizens affected by the typhoons. "This is CRI news."

Hiring in the United States was strong during July, but the unemployment rate remains high.

In the Olympics, the United States has just overtaken China for the total number of medals won.

London 2012 Olympics logo. Source: Wikipedia

Chinese roads developed sinkholes following the recent typhoons. Beijing weather: cloudy, 23-26C.

• 2012-08-04, 0400-0430 UTC, 13775 kHz: "Voice of Russia." Russia voted against the UN resolution regarding Syria. Sudan and South Sudan have come to an agreement regarding oil transportation.

Emerald mining sites in the Ural mountains are now available to tourists. Mining other substances using explosives resulted in destroying lots of precious stones. Processing 100,000 pounds of rock typically results in 66 pounds of emeralds. Tourists are not allowed into the mines.

During the Kaleidoscope segment, an interesting story about a band came on, and I unfortunately missed the band name. That sort of thing is distracting enough that it becomes hard to focus on the story. Maybe I can catch this segment again in the future.

• 2012-08-04, 0500-0530 UTC, 6010 kHz: Radio Havana Cuba. "Thanks for joining us for the English hour on Radio Havana Cuba."

A Cuban literacy program helped over 6.5 million people in 28 countries become literate. It is reportedly becoming easier to be self-employed in Cuba.

Kofi Annan: "The Syrian people desperately need action." Syrian violence has continued to escalate. The Syrian foreign ministry expressed regret over Annan's resignation as UN Arab League special envoy to Syria. Russia and China were adamant in their opposition to foreign intervention. Militants are reportedly being trained at a United States base in Turkey to fight in Syria.

The United States has wasted money on ineffective construction projects in Afghanistan. In one case, a military base had to be abandoned because it lacked a water supply.

A regularly-featured pre-recorded segment stated that the United States Supreme Court would not allow the Cuban Five to have their fair day in court, and called for the Cuban Five to be released and returned to their families.

RHC is promoting their RealAudio stream. "Never fear, RealAudio is here." Ed Newman still always omits the dot after "www" when announcing a URL. I know I've mentioned this before when writing to RHC.

At 0524 UTC, my ears were treated with Cuban music to fill out the half hour.

RealAudio. Source: allthingsd.com

• 2012-08-05, 2007-? UTC, 17550 kHz: Radio Kuwait. A fun, exuberant middle-eastern style song was playing when I first tuned in. Then a male host started speaking, but I was unable to understand. The schedule data I had listed this as an English broadcast, but another source listed it as Arabic. Since I couldn't follow the broadcast due to both signal strength and language, I decided to explore the propagation properties of this broadcast.

The broadcast strength is 500 kW, with an azimuth of 350 degrees. The signal will go almost over the geographic north pole towards North America. Using the Great Circle Mapper website, I mapped flight paths from KWI (Kuwait International Airport) until I found an example airport (Reno-Tahoe International Airport) where the resulting great circle route had an initial heading of 350 degrees. From Kuwait to my location is approximately 7800 miles. My notes state that a radio signal refracted by the F2 layer of the ionosphere can travel up to 2500 miles per earth-ionosphere-earth hop.

Transmitting from Kuwait at a compass heading of 350 degrees essentially targets western North America, and my 2009 copy of Passport to World Band Radio indicates that Radio Kuwait has separate transmission times and frequencies for western and eastern North America.

I'm curious about the altitude angle with which the signal is sent. We know the approximate elevation of the ionosphere layers, and I could probably figure this out with more math. The target region is approximately 7000-8000 miles from Kuwait, requiring three or four hops, depending on how geographically dispersed the signal would be after three hops. As the altitude angle increases, the hop distance decreases, but I imagine that broadcasters want to hit their targets with as few hops as possible to minimize attenuation.

• 2012-08-05, 2315-2338 UTC, 19000 kHz: Radio Australia. "Radio Australia, with a capital r for radio, and a capital a for Australia."

Two hosts are discussing the United States and European economies. "The unemployment rate did tick up a little bit." "The Dow was up over 200 points." Now they're discussing sports and education. "Just one gold medal to Australia's credit." (They ended up with seven.) "Parents are less inclined to get their children to play sports." An easy multiple-choice trivia question was announced asking why the 1916 Olympics were cancelled. My guess was confirmed correct by Wikipedia.

• 2012-08-06, 0201-0300 UTC, 9680 kHz: Radio Taiwan International.

Discussing peace strategies for the East China Sea. Temporary housing and economic assistance is available for villagers affected by the typhoons. Taiwanese basketball star Jeremy Lin was greeted by fans and media in Taiwan. He says his family and fans in Taiwan provide him with the best encouragement. Taiwanese pitcher Wei-Yin Chen helped the Baltimore Orioles defeat the Tampa Bay Rays 4-0 on Saturday night.

Week in review: Typhoon Saola ripped through Taiwan on Wednesday and Thursday. Agricultural losses are estimated at US$25 million. The Japanese government offered money to purchase three disputed islands, which are also claimed by Taiwan and mainland China. Taiwan won its first silver medal, the only medal so far for Taiwan in the London 2012 Olympics.

Regional weather for Monday. Northern Taiwan: partly cloudy, occasional showers, 26-31C. Hong Kong: thunderstorms with a high of 33C. Tokyo: rainy with a high of 28C.

"Stay tuned for another 50 minutes of English language features, brought to you by Radio Taiwan International."

Taiwan was recently ranked as one of the top ten destinations for food by hotels.com. "That's not bad for a country of only 23 million people!" The hosts discussed popular Taiwanese dishes (including Taiwan's version of fried chicken), and which food items they especially missed while traveling outside of Taiwan. After announcing the other countries on the list, they offered their opinions on each location. Food offerings in the United States were aptly described as "hit or miss".

Now there's a segment on translating between English and a Chinese dialect (I'm assuming Mandarin, which is the official language of Taiwan). The subject of the lesson was air travel.

Soundwaves segment: I love music, but the songs played during this segment were pop-oriented and not at all ambitious or notable. "Thank you for listening to Radio Taiwan International." The last two minutes of the broadcast hour featured broadcast schedule info. And the relay site provided identification: "This is WYFR. Okeechobee, Florida."

• 2012-08-24, 1203-1225 UTC, 7490 kHz: WWCR (USA). "Power hour" show.

The latest on Lance Armstrong. Republican National Convention vs Hurricane Isaac in Tampa, Florida. Three minutes of commercials. Dietary supplements. "Keep your metabolic rate up to lose weight." Tax assistance.

Author Tama Kieves will appear on the show. "The US and Israel's Iran policy has failed to find followers." "Iran produces 97% of its medications." Drone attacks. "We're at war with Pakistan." "How often do you see it on mainstream media that we're bombing Pakistan?"

Julian Assange. The UK threatens to "storm the [Ecuador] embassy." "I wonder if they're armed to the teeth inside."

"Massive student protests returned to the streets of Montreal."

Casseroles. Source: thepaltrysapien.com

"Iceland allowed its banking system to fail in the economic downturn." "Unemployment in Iceland has shrunk to less than 5%."

Norwegian court sentenced Brevik to life in prison, denying a claim of insanity, holding him accountable for 77 deaths.

Now a four-minute break! These commercial breaks keep getting longer. Heart supplement. Gold investing. Dietary supplement: "Put the evil genie back in his bottle." Home security. Gold again.

"This is Joyce and Josh at the Power Hour."

27 August 2012

two new shortwave receivers from sony

Sony Asia has introduced two new AM / FM / SW receivers, the ICF-F11S and the ICF-F12S. I've just become aware of them via eBay and Twitter, although the service manual linked below is dated 2007. These radios are similar in appearance and specs, aside from shortwave coverage. F11S shortwave coverage is 2.3-7.35 MHz, and F12S shortwave coverage is a considerably more generous 5.9-18 MHz.

Sony ICF-F11S
Sony ICF-F12S


I question the usefulness of the F11S radio with nighttime shortwave coverage lacking the 31-meter band. Between these two, I would definitely opt for the F12S. But overall, the product doesn't seem to have a purpose for me.

Initially I expressed confusion via Twitter that an eBay auction for an F11S listed the SW coverage as 2.3-7.35 MHz, whereas the product photo showed a shortwave band labeled 6-18. @swlistener replied with a link to an ICF-F11S/ICF-F12S manual that shows the specs for both radios. I was unaware that the F12S existed.

EDIT: XQYZ on reddit pointed out that these radios require two D batteries. After learning that, I wanted to share the dimensions as well. Sony Asia provides dimensions of 216 x 129.8 x 68.6 mm for these radios (8.5 x 5.1 x 2.7 inches). So, these are large portables requiring large batteries, with small shortwave coverage.

15 August 2012

the status of shortwave in sackville

Let's talk about Sackville. Sackville, New Brunswick, is the location of a shortwave broadcasting and relay site owned and operated by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Two shortwave transmitters were initially installed at the site in 1943, during the second World War. At its peak, Sackville had nine shortwave transmitters.

The Sackville transmitter station and a portion of the antenna system (source: Wikipedia)

Radio Canada International, the primary user of the Sackville station, stopped broadcasting shortwave in June 2012 due to budget cuts. RCI will continue broadcasting online, despite the known risks of Internet content filtering. CBC is further reporting that the transmission site and equipment is for sale, potentially to other shortwave broadcasters, or for use as a wind farm. As a last resort, the site would be dismantled.

Past and current international broadcasters also using the Sackville site for relay broadcasting include BBC World Service, China Radio International, Deutsche Welle, KBS World Radio (South Korea), Radio Japan, Radio Sweden, Vatican Radio, and Voice of Vietnam.

As a shortwave listener in North America, I have frequently received broadcasts coming from Sackville. If this transmitting site goes dark, I'll lose yet another reliable source of shortwave broadcasts. 

Here are a few YouTube videos involving RCI and the Sackville site:

08 August 2012

commercials that punish listeners

A few days ago, I heard a new commercial for the first time on my favorite local all-news radio station. And it really annoyed me. The entire ad is a song, and it uses one of the most jarring audio manipulation effects currently available.

The fact that this garish pop music audio effect is being used isn't really the problem. I have a problem listening to all of the song-based commercials on this station. Obviously, I don't tune in to listen to ads, but I certainly don't tune in to listen to music. And calling it music is often being too generous on my part. Music ads are simply a poor fit for any all-talk radio format. That which stands out too much is more likely to be rejected and ignored.

So please, get these crappy jingle ads off my favorite all-news radio station!

30 July 2012

shortwave scanning 11 - 19 mhz

2012-07-29, 1829 UTC: Quiet Sunday. Freshly-charged NiMH batteries in the Eton E5. Just the telescopic whip antenna for now. I tried to pick up WWV on 5, 10, 15, and 20 MHz, but no luck. Next I'll check the NCDXF/IARU beacons. Their five frequencies are programmed into one of the E5's memory pages for easy access. Nudge the BFO dial a bit. Wait two minutes on each frequency. The first frequency is quiet. Well, by quiet, I mean that I don't hear any morse code rising out of the noise. The second, third, fourth frequencies are also lacking morse ID. And the fifth frequency seems idle too.

I grab the plug end of the random wire antenna that's hanging from my ceiling and plug it into the radio. Now I have audible signals of WWV on 10 and 15 MHz. The signal on 10 MHz is faint; the one on 15 MHz is strong, as can be expected for this time of day. 20 MHz is noisy, and I don't hear a time signal.

I'll start dialing through the bands, starting with 25 meters.

1848 UTC, 11540 kHz: Enthusiastic male and female announcers are speaking an Asian language. Schedules list Radio Free Asia and a China National Radio 1 jammer on this frequency at this time, both broadcasting Mandarin to Asia. I wonder which one I'm hearing. I found a page that lists live streams of CNR; I'm trying the CNR1 stream now. No luck. After showing a "buffering" animation for about two minutes, the stream is now reported as disconnected. I ran http://www.cnr.cn/ through Google Translate to see if a stream is offered there. Nothing found. I think I'll move on to the next signal.

1851 UTC, 13760 kHz: Very faint music; strings and piano. The schedule lists Voice of Korea (North Korea) broadcasting English to Europe. The signal is fading, but I want to stick with it and see if there will be any more commentary during the remainder of the hour. Ah, I heard the "Voice of Korea" identification. Now they're giving broadcasting schedules. Kilohertz sounds like "kilohats". I think I heard "Goodbye from Pyongyang." Not bad propagation: broadcasting from North Korea towards Europe, and hitting California.

I figure I'll take another trip through 25 meters, since a lot of broadcasts start and stop on the hour.

1908 UTC, 12160 kHz: This is a decently strong signal in English. It sounds like it could be religious content. I get a match for WWCR in the schedule data; they're in Nashville, Tennessee.

1914 UTC, 13760 kHz: There's something faint on this frequency. I haven't identified the language yet. It sounds like Spanish. If it is Spanish, then this is likely Voice of Korea again, broadcasting to Europe.

1919 UTC, 13780 kHz: This is a strong broadcast in an Asian language. Here's another frequency with Radio Free Asia and a China National Radio 1 jammer both broadcasting Mandarin to Asia. And there went a little music interlude with voiceover that could've helped me identify the station if I knew how. Hey, how come I'm not recording this?

1921 UTC, 13820 kHz: There's a very faint voice here, mostly lost in the noise. If this is Spanish, it's Radio Marti broadcasting to Latin America. I'll have to wait here for a while and pick up the signal as it fades in, just to identify the broadcasting language. Well, several minutes later, nothing is happening here. I have to move on.

1932 UTC, 13845 kHz: I can tell this is a religious broadcast by the pauses in the speech. The schedule lists this frequency for the University Network, Dr. Gene Scott's radio home. This is an English broadcast to North America.

1936 UTC, 15110 kHz: This is a strong Spanish signal. This is Radio Exterior España broadcasting Spanish to North America. The tone of their commentary makes it sound like a sports-related broadcast. Interesting; they're using "She Drives Me Crazy" by Fine Young Cannibals as bumper music, which Radio Havana Cuba also uses. I wonder if FYC know how often their song is heard on shortwave.

1947 UTC, 15580 kHz: There's a very weak signal here; I probably can't identify it. This is a Voice of America frequency, but I can't determine the broadcast language.

1950 UTC, 15610 kHz: This is a weak English broadcast, which looks to be WEWN from Birmingham, Alabama.

1952 UTC, 17850 kHz: This is a strong and clear Spanish broadcast. The schedule has Radio Exterior España here.

2008 UTC, 15110 kHz: "Chariots of Fire" by Vangelis. (REE again)

2012 UTC, 15730 kHz: This is a weak French signal, which the schedule shows as Voice of America broadcasting to Africa. Smooth jazz music. Is there really nothing to discuss? Or are they just filling airtime cheaply while most people are focused on the Olympics?

15 July 2012

amelia earhart: failure to communicate

I have become fascinated recently with the story of Amelia Earhart, who departed for her ill-fated flight from Papua New Guinea to Howland Island 75 years ago. Based on what's documented about the trip, the disappearance of plane and crew are unfortunately not especially surprising. But unsolved mysteries are often appealing to me. A group called TIGHAR (The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery) has departed on an expedition to Nikumaroro Island (also known as Gardner Island) to search land and sea for clues about the trip's fate. One area of criticism I heard about TIGHAR with which I agree but can't recall the source, is that TIGHAR is clinging to one possible outcome of the flight to the apparent exclusion of other plausible outcomes. Anyway, one goal of this mission is to perform underwater searches for the missing aircraft. TIGHAR has a sizable Wikipedia-style website with articles on the subject. Of potential interest to radio enthusiasts is the article, Failure to communicate.

15 April 2012

enjoying npr

I became a regular listener of an NPR station around the year 2000. At the time, I had a roommate who regularly listened to two hour-long Sunday shows, hosted by Joe Frank and Harry Shearer. But we weren't listening to a local station, we were tuned in via RealAudio, as the station was hundreds of miles away.

In San Francisco, where I live, there's a local NPR station, KQED 88.5 mHz. But I have ignored it for all these years. For some reason, my local radio listening typically involved KCBS 740 kHz for news, traffic, sports, weather, etc. Then I started to grow tired of the fast-paced, bite-sized news appetizers they serve up. The fixed schedule of their broadcasts may be nice in the mornings when I have to get ready for work, but it's just not the right format for me after about 10AM or so each day.

Although FM radio around here is just plain crap, I started exploring the band out of curiosity. And I don't remember what KQED was airing at the time, but I stuck with it and enjoyed it. Now, KQED is where I tune when I just want to relax without being bombarded by KCBS.

06 February 2012

calculating distances between cities

When I'm doing mediumwave dxing (that is, identifying and logging distant AM broadcast band stations), I like to know the distance between the transmitter site any my listening location. This isn't as exact as it could be, because most of the time I only log the city of the station license holder. This is not always the same as the location of the transmitter site. For example, KCBS AM 740 is licensed in San Francisco, CA, but their four transmitter towers are near the city of Novato; almost 30 miles north of San Francisco.

In the case of logging 10-watt Travelers' Information Stations (TIS), I like to get an exact distance. So here are some methods for determining the shortest distance between two cities or map locations:

Geobytes city distance tool - Also shows compass heading
• Great circle mapper - Focuses on the distance between two airports
• Google Maps distance calculator - Lets you zoom in to plot or move the pins
• MWList - worldwide longwave, mediumwave, and TBL database; shows logged receptions on a world map

Thanks to the folks on starchat.net irc channel #mwdx for sharing some of these resources.

29 January 2012

firedrake jammer logs

To participate in Firedrake monitoring again, I loaded my Eton E5 with six memory pages worth of recent Firedrake frequencies. With seven frequencies per page, but only four frequencies on the last page, that's 39 shortwave frequencies. I suppose I've created something of a hitchhiker's guide to firedrake monitoring on my radio. In spite of this setup, band scans are really more helpful in locating the broadcasts, as jammers are moving targets.

Finding Firedrake on shortwave has been difficult for me. Most of the recently reported frequencies from Glenn Hauser's DX Listening Digest have been daytime frequencies, and most of my shortwave listening is at night. I'm in California, so I'm in an advantageous geographic location for receiving Firedrake if it's broadcasting.

Early morning monitoring has worked the best for me so far, although I don't get a lot of opportunities. Here are some of my firedrake receptions, all with the Eton E5 receiver and the Degen DE31 active loop antenna.

• 21 Sep 2011, 1452-1456 UTC, memory scan

7970 kHz: very poor, lots of fading (sky is fully bright now)
10300 kHz: poor but clear
11560 kHz: very poor

• 24 Sep 2011, 1515-1535 UTC, band scan from 10000 to 20000 kHz

10300 kHz: fair
12175 kHz: good and clear

• 25 Sep 2011, 1140-1150 UTC, memory scan

7970 kHz: very poor, severe fading

1320-1334 UTC (morning twilight), memory scan + SOH frequency scan (SOH frequencies from short-wave.info)

7970 kHz: poor
10300 kHz: fair
11500 kHz: very good and clear

• 06 Oct 2011, 1535-1545 UTC, memory scan

10300 kHz: good
13850 kHz: fair

• 07 Oct 2011, 1550 UTC, memory scan

10300 kHz: poor

• 10 Oct 2011, 1332-1348 UTC, memory scan then manual scan 7000-14000 kHz

7970 kHz: good
10300 kHz: poor

1420-1423 UTC, memory scan

10300 kHz: good
13970 kHz: good

• 16 Oct 2011, 0845-0900 UTC, manual scan 7000-18000 kHz

7970 kHz: poor
12230 kHz: very good
12600 kHz: good
13130 kHz: poor

My firedrake reception video on 12230 kHz, on 16 Oct 2011:



• 22 Oct 2011, 0738 UTC, memory scan

10300 kHz: very poor; off promptly at 0800 UTC

• 23 Oct 2011, 0058 UTC, memory scan

13850 kHz: poor; off promptly at 0100 UTC

• 25 Oct 2011, 1555 UTC, memory scan

12175 kHz: good
13970 kHz: good

• 27 Oct 2011, 1457-1500 UTC, memory scan

7970 kHz: good
10300 kHz: good
11500 kHz: good
12600 kHz: good
13130 kHz: good
13970 kHz: good
14700 kHz: good

1635 UTC, memory scan

13970 kHz: good

• 02 Nov 2011, 1620 UTC, tuning in the range 7500-20000 kHz

7970 kHz: poor
12160 kHz: good; hearing voice in the background but can't determine the language; could just be WWCR

12 January 2012

fun with ebay

Since starting with shortwave radio during the summer of 2005, I've searched for radios on eBay as a way to stay informed with current prices, features, manufacturers, and so on. During some recent searches, I found some rather entertaining listings. I mean, some of these people are clearly a bit loopy.

Here are my observations and thoughts after reading a number of listings.

• Over 250,000 results for "ipod"; around 2000 results for "shortwave".
• A Sony ICF SW7600GR, commonly sold for around $150, listed for $402.79
• Another Sony ICF SW7600GR, listed for $799.96
• A brand new Grundig G3, with starting bid of $200, 0 bids, simply described as "AM FM Shortwave Radio". Perhaps they don't want you to compare prices elsewhere, which are actually around $100.
• A brand new Tecsun PL-210, listed for $168 (other listings are around $45), with a photo including the mis-spelled phrase "HIGH QULITY"
• "Expedited shipping available" probably means "We can't wait to get rid of this"
• Radio Shack spelled as "Radio Schack", despite the correct spelling appearing in the auction photo
• A Tecsun R-911 listing from "Curly", with great content such as "THIS RADIO REQUIRES TWO AA BATTERIES. HOWEVER, IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO LISTEN TO IT, THEN NO BATTERIES ARE REQUIRED."
• A listing for a Grundig/Eton S350DL has a photo with an American flag in the background and "No Photo Available" in a handwritten-type font
• A used Eton E1 in poor cosmetic condition is listed for $299
• A refurbished Eton E10 listing with a stock E10 photo.
• A Kchibo radio listed for $4.99 with shipping cost of $4.99
• A deceptive listing for an Eton AM/FM/SW/Airband radio, with a Grundig G5 photo, and no product description. $179.99.
• Why do so many Chinese-manufactured radios have an FM range of 76-180 mHz, covering everything needed for the USA, Japan, and Russia, but only an AM range of 520-1610 kHz? The AM expanded band has existed in North and South America since 1993.
• There's a radio brand called Ultra-Power? The listing has a photo of the radio with the logo printed on it.
• A radio branded as "Borg Johnson" (now there's a trust-inspiring name) looks like the Sony ICF SW11.
• One listing showed a side or back view of a radio as the primary photo. The seller might be onto something, because the photo stood out and I looked at the listing.
• A listing by kaito-electronics-inc uses the phrase "The newly released Kaito KA1103". Didn't this radio come out in 2004?