30 June 2006

shortwave summary: jun 2006 (part 2)

For these receptions, I used my Kaito 1102 and Redsun RF-1210 receivers. Seems like it is time to use my Eton E5 more often.

Received stations:

* Radio Havana Cuba
* Radio Thailand
* Radio Taiwan International
* KBS South Korea

* 14 Jun 2006, 0500 UTC, 6000 khz (Radio Havana Cuba): Cuban rights groups and the ACLU call for Guantanamo prison investigations due to suicides. Bush administration should stop trying to minimize the damage. Those who died participated in hunger strikes. The USA has reportedly violated "several international laws and treaties." ACLU called for the medical treatment of detainees. USA plans long-term force of 50k in Iraq. President Bush made a surprise visit to Baghdad on a day that he was instead planning to participate via a videoconference. Air Force One made a rapid, spiraling descent into Baghdad to avoid enemy fire. The trip was kept very secret; only Dick Cheney, Condoleeza Rice, and Donald Rumsfeld knew in advance. The USA wants to develop weapons for use in outer space to protect satellites, and sees no need for a treaty regarding space weapons.

The El Nuevo Herald published an article titled "US Interests section in Havana under siege". It claims that the section "could be forced to temporarily suspend its activities." The USA claims that the interests section's power has been repeatedly cut off. Cuba bemoans USA espionage and subversion, funding mercenaries, and perpetrating the blockade. The USA operates an electronic billboard in Havana to display messages like "Many decent Cuban women cannot live decently without doing something indecent." The USA interests section also claimed poor availability of potable water. Cuba claims that the power outages were actually widespread. The electronic billboard has offended and insulted Cubans since 16 January. 26k kilowatts are consumed monthly by the interests section facility. Services are reportedly restored quickly following any outages. The USA reportedly commits "illegal espionage against its own citizens." "Cuba fights openly." Cuba claims that the USA wants to eliminate food and agriculture sales to Cuba. "Cuba would not shed a single tear at its departure."

Syria supports Venezuela for a seat on the UN security council. Cuba hopes to develop a soccer team in time for the next World Cup. Arnie Coro (CO2KK)'s DXers Unlimited segment. Solar activity is at rock-bottom levels. He mentioned some atmospheric anomaly that I did not hear clearly. 820khz and 950khz are two AM stations in Havana. He described using those signals to measure antenna strength and noise levels when restoring an old receiver. RHC is using a new antenna for 11760 khz as mentioned in a previous article.

* 16 Jun 2006, 0200 UTC, 5890 khz (Radio Thailand): Diesel prices were increased by all companies except PTT. Thailand is helping to improve the quality of World Health Organization laboratories. The government is increasing spending to promote Thailand tourism. Burglaries at a new airport resulted in new security measures. (This broadcast was interrupted by about 10 seconds of static.) An upcoming exhibition will showcase new fishing technologies and demonstrate fishing safety. Laotian rock rat, believed to be extinct, has been spotted. It's a squirrel-sized animal but with different behaviors: docile, calmly remained in handler's hands. Thailand celebrating the "King's grand diamond jubilee." A message was played from the Korean ambassador to Thailand, with congratulations from the Korean people for the 60th year of the King. Thailand was the second country to send troops to protect South Korea during its war. This is the 60th anniversary of the King's ascension to the throne. A blueprint for starting war between the USA and Iran was found in an Al-Qaeda safehouse in Iraq. Evidence was also found that concludes that the Iraqi insurgency is weakening. NATO security will take over from USA forces in southern Afghanistan in late July. Thai cuisine is a major export, and considered one of the world's top cuisines. There's smooth jazz background music while the announcer talks about a popular tea room and restaurant located in Bangkok. The broadcast ended with grandfather clock bells.

* 17 Jun 2006, 0700 UTC, 5950 khz (Radio Taiwan International): Four pirate radio stations have been shut down in southern Taiwan after broadcasting threats. Some of Taiwan's cab drivers are learning English. They typically take 14 hours of courses and must pass a speaking test in order to be able to place a "Yes, I speak english" sticker on their cab. English-speaking drivers could charge more than other drivers, but do not have exclusive rights to wait at places like hotels. English knowledge is considered a great skill that makes the job more lucrative. However, tourists don't know how to find a cab with an English-speaking driver.

The new cross-mountain Hsuehshan roadway tunnel opened. The 12.9km tunnel is the longest in Asia and cost approximately US$3 billion. Wikipedia states that "25 lives have been lost in the past 15 years of construction." Travel time should be cut from 2 hours to 30 minutes. US$100-150 billion invested in China by Taiwanese companies, which is 2-3 times more than has been approved by Taiwan's government. Saturday weather for Taipei: increasing clouds, 24-35C (75-95F). On this day in 1944, Haiti declared independence from the USA. Groove Zone show. The two announcers are joking with each other about who usually interrupts the show with a ringing cellphone. Now talking about bungee jumping and whether or not they would do it. "Taipei 101 - the world's tallest building". There was a fundraiser in which participants climbed the stairs in Taipei 101 to the top (94th) floor and raised a total of around US$60,000. The money went to charities that help abused women and children.

* 18 Jun 2006, 0200 UTC, 9560 khz (KBS South Korea): USA warns North Korea against missile test. The USA has the technical means to monitor for such a test. North Korea's ICBM testing could lead to further global isolation. A peaceful resolution to the situation has been urged by Nobel Prize winners. If South Korea defeats France in a World Cup game on Sunday, they will advance to the next round. Earnings of Golf player Michelle Wie (born in Hawaii of Korean descent) are estimated at US$17 million. The monsoon season is starting. South Korea will reassume control of its military in 2-3 years.

27 June 2006

shortwave recordings around the web

My friend Simon used to work on archive.org. So when I noticed that the complete Conet Project (recordings of shortwave numbers stations) was on archive.org in mp3 form, I emailed Simon about it. He then told me about Seism, a contributor who has uploaded recordings of numbers stations.

I searched archive.org for more shortwave audio. For something weird and noisy derived from shortwave recordings, try the Unproduct layered radio soundscapes (with low volume at first).

This archive.org query lists all audio files with "shortwave" in the description: shortwave AND mediatype:audio.

ShortWaveMusic is included in my links section. The author posts audio creations derived from multiple shortwave sources. [shortwavemusic hasn't been updated since January unfortunately!]

Here's a collection of shortwave recordings on another site. Visit Hugh's Awesome Shortwave Recordings and listen to many station IDs, jingles, and more in realaudio format. That page links to intervalsignals.net which is also worth visiting.

22 June 2006

shortwave summary: jun 2006 (part 1)

Greetings all! Here's what I heard on shortwave in the first two weeks of June. Just a reminder: the information portion of these reports is the opinion of the broadcaster, and I just provide a summary of what I heard. Radios used for these receptions: Sony ICF SW7600GR, Kaito 1102.

Received stations:

* Radio Havana Cuba
* China Radio International
* Voice of America

* 06 Jun 2006, 0500 UTC, 6000 khz (Radio Havana Cuba): There's a weekly segment about the Cuban Five on Mondays. Violent deaths in Baghdad were at an all-time high in May 2006; shooting was the most common cause of death. Chilean students protested to demand free public transportation and a waiver of university entrance fees. Some tires were set on fire during the strike. The AIDS pandemic was discussed at the United Nations meeting last week in New York City. The disease has spread faster with more catastrophic effects than any other disease. Indonesia quake survivors still need shelter. Aftershocks are still a problem, and there's an insufficient number of toilets available. US$100 million is needed over the next 6 months for the recovery. Two of the Cuban Five had birthdays this week.

The story about protesting Chilean students was new to me. I wonder where the burned tires came from.

* 09 Jun 2006, 0400 UTC, 6080 khz (China Radio International): There's a call for domestic companies to invest internationally. Al-Zarqawi was killed by United States forces in Iraq. Al-Qaeda will continue its holy war. The European Union was urged to hold trade consultation with China to resolve disputes. China wants the Iran nuclear issue to be resolved diplomatically. China is paying attention to the issues in Darfur. A CRI identification clip included the quote "News from China in an international language." The EU arms embargo for China is "outdated." China is actively working to encourage foreign investment to build up manufacturing industry. China also seeks investment in its service industry and its western region. Iran is ready to discuss its nuclear program with the United Nations. Incentives could convince Iran to stop enriching uranium. The addition of power plants in China will ensure sufficient electricity supply. Supply and demand should be balanced in the second half of this year. Illegal power plants have recently appeared, providing 15 million kW. They are a major source of pollution. The country is focusing on power from hydro, nuclear, and clean coal. Live broadcasts of World Cup games are from 9pm to 5am Beijing time. Chinese companies are offering flexible work hours for World Cup fans. Beijing weather: overcast, 18-30C (64-86F).

China's public bath houses are preferred by the elderly, while posh spas are favored by young people. Public bath houses are economical and convenient, and good locations for social activity. Many users stay under the hot water for a long time. The announcer then described a luxurious spa with peaceful music and dim lighting. Full treatment there costs 600 yen or US$75, whereas the public bath house costs 10 yen for unlimited time. Nowadays, more ordinary Chinese people have a bathroom in their homes. Leukemia sufferers have new hope due to a marrow donor program, which began in 1992. There are 4 million leukemia sufferers in China. Previously, sufferers relied on foreign marrow donations or strong medications while waiting for a transplant. High-speed rail construction will begin later this year, linking Beijing and Shanghai. It will be the first of its kind in China. The trip currently takes 13 hours but could be reduced to 5 hours with a train running up to 350 km/h. The rail would be 1300 km with 21 stops, and is expected to help economic development along the line. A one-way trip on the high-speed train could cost 600 yen or US$75. (Vote with your wallet: do you want to be luxuriously clean, or do you want a train ride?) Further development plans call for 100,000 km of new rails. The broadcast ended with an instrumental version of "Moments in love".

The story about Chinese bath houses and spas was unusual for this station. It makes me think they're taking after Radio Taiwan International. I'm always glad to hear something besides political or economic news.

* 14 Jun 2006, 0444 UTC, 9575 khz (Voice of America): This is the World News Now show. It is flag day in the USA. Some Americans say that it is more important to protect the constitutional right to free speech than to protect the American flag from desecration. The "important thing is the spirit and the meaning of the flag." On 26 June, Congress will vote on a flag protection amendment. It raises the question of what qualifies as a flag, as the design is printed on objects such as paper plates and neckties. (Also: tacky paper flags attached to toothpicks, as commonly seen in Chinatown stores.) On this day in 1777, the USA designed its first flag with the 13 stripes and starfield with a blue background. On this day in 1951, a Univac 1 computer began service for the census bureau.

This reception had strong fading, but the broadcast was intended for Africa so I had good reception in spite of that. I am interested to hear the flag burning amendment outcome.

19 June 2006

redsun rf-1210 first look

I received my Redsun RF-1210 radio two weeks after sending the payment to Liypn, who is in China. The product's box was inside a bubble-lined envelope. The box contained the radio, a power adapter, and a reel antenna with a very thin insulated wire.

The labels on the radio are all in English. This receiver has a very similar appearance to Tecsun's R-9700DX (which I do not own). It is very close in size to my Eton E5. The RF-1210 lacks a backlight, so keep a light handy if you want to use this one in the dark.

The radio's plastic casing has an uneven appearance at the seam. Squeezing the plastic beside the seam on the top of the radio causes flexing. I don't know anything about plastic molding, but it appears that Redsun has some work to do to produce plastic components that are more exacting in dimension and form. On the other hand, the flip stand and the battery cover are solid and sturdy, and the plastic grill over the speaker barely bends under pressure.

Right after taking the radio out of the box, I extended the whip antenna to its full length of approximately 32 inches. Unfortunately, the two thinnest segments of the telescoping antenna are noticeably bent. If anyone has a suggestion for correcting this safely, I'd love to try it!

I plugged the radio in with the included 110-volt adapter to get started, as I didn't have four AA batteries handy. I am glad that a switch is used to power off the radio rather than the volume dial, but "off" is unfortunately one of the positions on the news/music tone switch.

Here are my impressions after tuning around the dial for a while and listening to a few FM, AM (mediumwave), and shortwave broadcasts.

There is only a very small width of the tuning needle visible between the FM and mediumwave frequencies. Making the needle more visible here would be a nice improvement. The higher ends of both the FM and mediumwave bands are quite compressed, so fine-tuning is required to hit the desired frequencies.

The 76-108 mhz range supports both the Japanese and non-Japanese FM bands. I found that some FM broadcasts were noisy. Even though I could find the strongest point for a local station on the FM band, a fair amount of static was present. There were two spots in the FM band where I could hear two broadcasts at once, so selectivity seems poor. I haven't experienced this in the FM band before, so I'd be interested to hear if someone else is able to explain the problem.

The 525-1610 khz range for mediumwave leaves out the extended AM band in North America. Why does this radio have full support for the FM band but not the mediumwave band? Anyway, mediumwave reception seems better, as receptions of strong local AM stations were consistently clear. I couldn't find a signal weak enough to test the directional quality of the mediumwave antenna, and I don't yet know what's inside this radio. (On that note, I am still awaiting an email with the English manual from Liypn.) This acts like a radio that's only good at receiving strong local mediumwave signals.

Shortwave receptions are clear, similar to the experience on mediumwave. It is here though that frequency drift causes the most problems. I have only done a few shortwave receptions with this receiver: Radio Canada Intl on 17765 khz, KBS South Korea on 9560 khz, Radio Havana Cuba on 9550 khz and 6000 khz, and WWV as mentioned below. The KBS reception was notable for becoming noisy after a few minutes and requiring retuning.

This radio has a couple tuning problems. First, the needle that sweeps the tuning spectrum can touch the surface of the tuning display on the right side, making a clicking sound. This happens when reaching certain locations of the tuning spectrum or when jiggling the radio. I don't experience this with other analog-tuned radios I own, such as the Tecsun R-912 and Tecsun R-9012.

Second, the visual location on the tuning spectrum where a station can be found will change depending on which direction the tuning is going. I'll try to explain this more clearly with an analogy. Imagine a tuning scale that is marked with numbers from 1 to 10. Now imagine that you are tuning, starting from position 1. A station you want to hear can be found from position 5 to position 7. You tune all the way to 10, and then tune in the other direction. Now, the same station is found from position 5 to position 3. So, the tuning needle is not an accurate representation of the tuner. It also makes usage difficult as I often tune all the way past a station to evaulate the signal strength, then tune back into it. That type of usage is difficult with this radio. It makes retuning after frequency drift more challenging as well.

Further evidence of the tuning needle's inaccuracy is seen when locating WWV at 5 mhz, 10 mhz, and 15 mhz. Each of these three frequencies is directly labeled on the tuning scale. WWV at 5 mhz is found with the needle fully below the 5 mhz label. WWV at 10 mhz is found with the needle fully above the 10 mhz label. When finding WWV on 15 mhz, the tuning problem described above is experienced. If tuning in a downward direction, the station is centered on the 15 mhz label. But if tuning upward, the station is above the 15 mhz label.

I like the RF gain knob on this radio. Unlike on my Tecsun BCL-2000, the RF-1210's RF gain seems to provide a linear response. Decreasing the RF gain was useful for reducing noise on an unidentified reception near 15550 khz.

The problem for Redsun here is that their RF-1210 is similar to the Tecsun R-9700DX in terms of price (on eBay), features, and appearance. That brings into focus the questions of quality and performance, where I feel that Tecsun would win. This Redsun radio is below average in terms of construction, tuning accuracy, and signal clarity. Without having used it, I would still suggest that the R-9700DX is a better value due to the quality of the Tecsun radios I have used, and the fact that the R-9700DX is a second revision product.

17 June 2006

radio story on snopes

Old lady who receives the gift of a radio from some schoolkids pens an interesting 'thank you' letter

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14 June 2006

new radio havana cuba antenna

On 14 Jun 2006 around 0550 UTC, Arnie Coro (CO2KK) mentioned a new Radio Havana Cuba antenna that serves their 11760 khz broadcasts. He mentioned that this frequency provides English service from 0500 to 0700 UTC.

Radio Havana Cuba is interested in current reception reports for that frequency, including the date, time, signal strength, amount of fading, and interference. And as recommended for any reception report, include your listening location, receiver, and details of any antenna that was used for the reception. RHC reception reports can be sent to the usual postal or email address.

10 June 2006

sending money to china

Recently, an Australian told me that he was asked by a customs agent at an airport if he had sent money to China. At first he said he hadn't, but then he remembered purchasing a cellphone from China, using Western Union for payment. Unfortunately the money went to a province of China known for human and drug smuggling, and the customs people knew about the transaction.

Anyway, nothing happened as a result and he certainly had no criminal intent. If there was a serious issue, I'm sure he would have been contacted sooner rather than being questioned by customs.

I have purchased a few radios from China via eBay: Tecsun PL-350, R-912, R-9012, and BCL-2000; and a Redsun RF-1210. Thankfully, liypn and tquchina seem to be legitimate! But it's strange to think that a small, simple overseas financial transaction to purchase electronics could be linked to criminal activity.

04 June 2006

a bcl-3000 in bcl-2000's clothing?

I was re-reading Radiointel's Tecsun BCL-3000 review and noticed some strange things. Features described as new to the BCL-3000 sounded like features that are on my red BCL-2000 purchased a few months ago (quotes are from the Radiointel BCL-3000 review):

"operating the controls turns the illumination on for a few seconds"

Yes, my radio does this.

"FM Stereo is now available at the headphone jack"

No, I don't have this feature. Maybe the only difference here with a real BCL-3000 is that a mono headphone jack was installed instead of a stereo jack.

"The Time can now be set with the radio either on or off"

My radio can do this too!

"Improved action of RF Gain control"

I don't have a basis for comparison.

"an Automatic Frequency Lock Up Function has been added"

I seem to have this too. Particularly on AM where I use this radio the most, "khz" is flashing until the tuner stops on a frequency, then "khz" stops flashing. It takes a large tuning action with the dial to get the frequency to move again. Once the frequency locks, it will drift 1-2 khz but the signal is always persistent.

The battery icon on my LCD screen also matches the photo of the BCL-3000 on Radiointel's review.

"The auto off feature now remembers the last time setting you chose"

My radio does this as well.

Another oddity is the fact that the circuit board inside my radio is labeled with BCL-3000. The front of the radio is labeled with BCL-2000 though, and it came in a BCL-2000 box.

Did I actually get a BCL-3000 that was assembled as a BCL-2000? Has this happened to anyone else?

03 June 2006

redsun rf-1210 ordered

I've been watching with interest as Radiointel.com posted details about Redsun, a new shortwave radio manufacturer based in China. The other day, I happened to search eBay, and found that Liypn was selling the Redsun RF-1210. I dwelled on it for a day, and decided to get one. But when I checked, the sale was over!

I emailed Liypn and said that I was interested in this radio, and he wrote back to report that it was re-listed. So I bought one for a total of US $52.90. I'll share details with you once I receive it and load it with double-A times four.

That's like, eight As.