29 August 2005

new countries

Thanks to prime time shortwave, I was able to receive some new broadcasts today:

15385 khz: Radio Exterior de EspaƱa (Madrid, Spain)
6175 khz: Voice of Vietnam (via Sackville, NB, CA)

See prime time shortwave's website for broadcast schedules and targeted regions. I believe I received broadcasts from Italy, Hungary, Malaysia, and Romania; those signals were too weak for confirmation.

28 August 2005

unknown broadcasts

Here are some frequencies I picked up tonight that I was unable to identify through either prime time shortwave or google searches for the frequencies themselves (e.g. "5000 khz"). If you know about any of these frequencies, please let me know.

29 august 2005
0345 UTC: 5925 khz (sounded like French), SIO 333
0350 UTC: 6100 khz (sounded like German), SIO 353
0403 UTC: 7390 khz (sounded like French), SIO 343
0445 UTC: 9735 khz (sounded like German), SIO 555

The 31-meter band was rather inactive tonight. Radio Havana Cuba seemed to be playing last week's broadcast. Their top news story was Cindy Sheehan, whereas one might expect it to be Katrina.

27 August 2005

voice of america

Did you know that there's a radio broadcaster in the United States, funded by the U.S. government, that is forbidden from broadcasting to locations within the country? Meet Voice of America. In 2005, they received $158 million in funding from United States taxpayers. As a bonus, they are exempt from releasing transcripts of their broadcasts in response to Freedom of Information Act inquiries. This unique set of circumstances is due to 1948's Smith-Mundt Act.

The idea is that the United States government should not have direct media access to its own citizens. I think this makes sense when considering that it could be a propaganda tool, but this content can't be reviewed before being used as propaganda for the rest of the world. Right?

Anyway, sometimes I am able to tune into VOA's English to Africa broadcasts on 9575 khz. This suggests that the broadcast originates at their Delano, CA transmitter. I wonder in which direction the broadcast is beamed. The broadcasts I have heard were relatively boring, although they contained interesting news headlines and tidbits relevant to African nations.

I hope to pick up these broadcasts again as I am curious how my government is representing my country to the world population. What is the message they are broadcasting on topics like the Iraq war, Cindy Sheehan, Pat Robertson, and John Bolton? Or are they ignoring these stories?

21 August 2005

using a reel antenna

This may be obvious to experienced shortwave radio users, but I'm posting it becase I'm new to the hobby and I just learned a lesson. If you use a reel antenna, always reel it in slowly. One revolution per second would be a good idea. Also try to keep the wire somewhat taut during reeling. Following these tips can avoid nasty tangling situations.

A reel antenna that I own had its wire caught under two loops, and this was most likely caused by hasty reeling. I could only get several inches of the antenna out of the canister before the snag prevented further unwinding. I turned the reel back and forth, and tried tugging and loosening the wire, but it was hopelessly stuck.

I ended up removing the screw at the center of the reel to disassemble the casing. This allowed me to loosen the correct loops to get the wire free. Then I unwound the entire antenna, gently worked the kinks out of the wire, and rewound it slowly and with some tension. Problem solved, but time wasted.

20 August 2005

sony icf sw7600gr review

I decided that I wanted a higher-end shortwave receiver than my very-capable Kaito 1102, so I purchased a Sony ICF SW7600GR. My decision was made after reading the "best shortwave travel portable" comparison review at radiointel.com.

I'm keeping both radios, as each one might be appropriate in different situations. I'm going to highlight the initial positives and negatives of my new Sony receiver, referencing a few ways in which my Kaito receiver is better.

* An advantage of the SW7600GR's continuous 150-29999 khz tuning range is that the radio only needs two band settings: AM and FM. My 1102 separates MW and SW since it doesn't include continuous tuning between the two ranges.

* The synchronous detection feature is great. I activated it with a few strong-but-fuzzy signals last night, and heard a reduction in the static along with a boost in the quality and stability of the broadcast.

* There are separate up/down button sets for 1khz and 5khz step tuning.

* Having a usb/lsb switch and a fine-tune dial for SSB is an improvement over the 1102, which only has a fine-tune dial.

* The telescopic whip antenna is formidable and sturdy. It is only 5 inches taller than my 1102's antenna, but it has a much more solid feel to it.

* The attenuator seems useful, although I've only tried it in circumstances where interference exceeded a signal, so it did not provide any benefit in that case. I'll have to learn when to use this feature.

* My biggest frustration so far is that the radio only scans within bands. At the end of a band, two quick beeps are heard and the frequency returns to the bottom of the band for another pass. I prefer the continuous scanning of the 1102 (although the 1102 hops between bands and doesn't scan between them unless the user enters a between-band frequency and starts scanning from there).

* The headphone jack is on the same side as the wrist strap. It is awkward to put my hand through the wrist strap and hold the side of the radio when headphones are plugged in. My 1102 conveniently has the wrist strap and the headphone jack on opposite sides.

* The backlight only lights the LCD display, and does not illuminate the buttons. This is something the Kaito 1102 does pretty well. I often use my shortwave radios outside in the dark, so a dark keypad is an impediment.

* I don't hear enough treble while using iPod earbud headphones, even with the music/news switch set to music. The radiointel.com review including the SW7600GR points out that the included filter is a compromise that is appropriate for both MW and SW.

* The SW7600GR is approximately 1 inch taller and 1.5 inches wider than my 1102. It doesn't fit in my jacket pocket. It is also a lot heavier than the 1102.

15 August 2005

their food sucks, too

I picked up the BBC's Caribbean and Central America service on 5975 khz (0330-0345 UTC). But it turned out to be boring.

Radio Havana Cuba was very clear when I first went out tonight, but it was a spanish language broadcast. By the time I switched back and heard them broadcasting in english, the signal was significantly weaker.

14 August 2005

mint / canada

In response to a listener letter, the announcers on Radio Havana Cuba explained how to mix a mojito. That, along with the story of the Cuban five (previously discussed), explains in a nutshell why RHC is so great. They offer a nice mix of serious, compelling news that I don't get anywhere else; along with fun and useful information; mixed with clips of Cuban music. It is my favorite shortwave broadcast.

Tonight I managed to receive CHU @ 7335 khz, which I didn't expect to do since I read that listeners in Vancouver usually can't receive it.

13 August 2005

need a lift?

Tonight, after about an hour of fruitless shortwave listening, I tried some ssb scanning. I scanned parts of 7000-7500 khz and 11000-11500 khz. Then I picked up a ham conversation on 3818 khz. It went something like this:

person 1: "This guy asked the mechanic to check the tire pressure. Well, the mechanic checked the pressure and it was 32 pounds in each tire. Then the guy said he wanted the car up on the lift to be sure the pressure was exact in all four tires. The guy was a teacher."

person 2: "Teachers and engineers; they're the worst."

person 3: "That's the funny thing about tires. If you add up all four tires, it's 128 pounds of air. I can lift 128 pounds, but I can't lift that car."

12 August 2005

give me a vegemite sandwich

Tonight I managed to pull in Russia in the 19 meter band. Rather than use the top level of the trusty parking garage, I tried a new outdoor listening location for weekend nights when the parking garage is busy. A large empty parking lot at a nearby shopping center provided a lot of open space with less interference than I get at the parking garage. Here's an approximate schedule of my listening from tonight (also to be entered in my radio log at a future date):

0430 - 0500 UTC: Voice of Russia @ 15595 khz
0500 - 0530 UTC: Radio Havana Cuba @ 6000 khz
0530 - 0545 UTC: Radio Australia @ 15515 khz

I also listened to the Australian station in short bursts between 0430 - 0530 UTC.

A story I learned about exclusively through shortwave radio is the plight of the Cuban Five, who were arrested in Miami about 7 years ago. They were tried and convicted of crimes such as using false identification, espionage, and conspiracy to commit murder [wikipedia.org]. Imprisonment terms were between 15 years to life.

Just 3 days ago, the 11th circuit court of appeals in Atlanta, Georgia overturned all of the convictions. Radio Havana Cuba has been discussing this story every time I have tuned in. Extensive trial publicity, anti-Cuban sentiment in Miami, and media intimidation of jurors have been mentioned in claims of unfair trials. Now that the convictions are overturned, one of the Cubans wants to see his wife for the first time in 7 years, but apparently is not free to meet with her yet. She was originally under suspicion too, but as she was not formally charged within 5 years of the alleged crimes, she is believed to be safe due to the statute of limitations. (Information in this paragraph is based on a Radio Havana Cuba phone interview with one of the five's lawyers and previous broadcasts.)

08 August 2005

cuba, holland, and the united kingdom

(I guess this is turning into my shortwave radio weblog.)

Tonight I took my shortwave radio out with the intention of listening to Radio Havana Cuba. It would not be so, due to a weak and fading signal. But I got a quite usable signal from Radio Netherlands, this time at 9590 khz. I listened for approximately 20 minutes, and decided to tune away because the content was rather boring. It included several scientific reports: things like how the observed redshift may not be proof of a big bang and an expanding universe (good luck convincing Hawking), how some form of material can be used to fix cavities instead of the traditional drilling and filling, and how some drug does something. In other words, it seemed like easily obtainable content. That serves as an explanation why I wanted to tune into Cuba again.

One major shortwave broadcaster I haven't yet found is the BBC. While I have heard several broadcasts in a UK speaker's accent, I haven't heard any BBC station identifications. Of course, I could be better educated on the BBC's shortwave broadcasting schedule and frequencies. (edit: After consulting the BBC shortwave guide, I noticed/remembered that none of their broadcasts target North America.)

Another goal is to pick up numbers stations. I joined the Enigma 2000 Yahoo group and read their documents that list known broadcasts. I took a stab at picking up two of the so-called easy ones, but nothing yet. Again, information on broadcasting schedules (based on listener observations) and desirable listening locations (I could be wrong but there probably aren't a lot of foreign spies in California) would help fill this gap. So it's an ongoing task.

03 August 2005

shortwave reception

I have a small external antenna that I can hang from my balcony to slightly improve shortwave reception. However, I wanted to see what would be possible by listening from a more ideal location, reception-wise. There's a 5-story parking garage near my apartment, and sometimes I climb all the steps, look around (sometimes there's a ring of fog all the way around that's just fantastic to see), and come back down when I'm out for a walk. So I thought it would be useful to take my radio up there, as it clears all of the area's other buildings.

The reception was pretty great! Although I brought the wire antenna along with some string and clips for hanging it up, I didn't bother attaching it. Using just the telescopic "whip" antenna, I was able to pick up many more signals than I could with the external antenna at my apartment. This was the first time I picked up communication between ham radio operators, and both the Colorado (WWV, a male voice) and Hawaii (WWVH, a female voice) time broadcasts on 5000 khz. I didn't have access to my list of previously received broadcasts, and I haven't been storing stations in my radio's memory. The radio's memory is not particularly useful, because it doesn't include information such as what time of day a usable broadcast may exist.