30 August 2006

shortwave summary: aug 2006 (part 3)

    august 2006 reception reports: (part 1) (part 2) (part 3)

These receptions were gathered with my Eton FR250, a radio that includes a dynamo power source. Listening and logging was challenging due to continual tuning adjustments, some hand-crank interruptions, and local interference. Shortwave reception was weak with just the telescopic whip, so I attached my DE31 loop antenna.

Eton FR250

The FR250 has a wider tuning scale than my analog pocket radios, and that makes it easier to estimate the current frequency.

There's another mention of the AIDS conference in Toronto; some golf; Hezbollah crap; then some stories from Tonga, Papua New Guinea, and India.

Received stations:
* Voice of America
* Radio Australia

* 20 Aug 2006, 0405 UTC, 9575 khz (Voice of America): Hezbollah says that Israel violated the ceasefire agreement. Hezbollah has been handing out cash compensation, which critics say came from Iran. Compensation is for damaged homes; aid for businesses will come later. There was a brief instrumental portion of "A thousand years" by Sting, from his "Brand new day" album. Bush says that USA forces in Iraq are making Americans safer because it's better to fight terrorists abroad than at home. Democrats want Iraqis to be responsible for their own country. There was discussion of Bush's use of the phrase "islamic fascists" and the effects it had.

The AIDS conference in Toronto drew the world's attention to the disease. New drugs were discussed that reduce levels of the virus in infected persons. Harm reduction was also discussed and viewed as effective (it involves needle exchange and methodone clinics). Male circumcision can reduce infection by up to 60%. The World Health Organization wants antiviral drugs available to all that need them by the year 2010. The next international AIDS conference will be in 2008.

Tiger Woods and Luke Donald are tied in the PGA championship; both are 14 under par. Cricket scores; England vs. Pakistan. Rally of Finland update.

Bill Clinton's 60th birthday was Saturday. On this day in 1975, the USA launched Viking 1. On this day in 1998, president Clinton ordered missile attacks on Afghanistan in response to embassy attacks. Lebanese and Israelis are returning home. Bush blames Hezbollah for the suffering, and blames Iran and Syria for supporting Hezbollah. Tony Blair called the violence in Iraq and Lebanon part of a larger terrorist threat. We're seeing the beginning of a Sunni vs. Shia civil war in Iraq. One person has the opinion that the USA has destabilized the middle east. Someone said that it is a mistake to allow Hamas and Hezbollah to run for office before being forced to disarm. Terrorists are figuring out how to use our democratic system against us.

In my reception notebook, I noted dispiritedly that the voice of America is political and war news. I suppose that since the government pays for the VOA, the news is about the government rather than the many interesting people that live here.

* 22 Aug 2006, 0514 UTC, 15160 khz (Radio Australia): I started at 0500 UTC, trying to find Radio Havana Cuba. It took three minutes, because they started their broadcast late! Unfortunately, the signal was too noisy so I took the opportunity to do some analog band-scanning. Finally in the 19 meter band I found a nice clear signal in English which turned out to be Radio Australia. The needle was below 15100 khz, but the closest frequency I could find on primetimeshortwave.com is 15160 khz.

Tonga will allow women to inherit land from their fathers if a woman has no brothers. The reporter and an official from Tonga debated equality of the sexes. "The tradition of inheritance is down the male line." Outsiders claim discrimination against women, but Tongans think that their women are the best-treated in the world. This change does not signal more rights to come for women in Tonga. Australia's refusal to fund abortions is in conflict with health aid initiatives in Asia. Australia places restrictions on its financial aid, which is in line with the practices of the USA. A woman interviewed for this story said that all donor countries should provide information about abortion.

Papua New Guinea's parliament is adding 8 weeks to its state of emergency declaration; the initial 3 weeks have passed. 21 countries will participate in the South Pacific Games, which will start on 25 August 2007. This broadcast included a long sports segment, and elsewhere in the broadcast was an advertisement for sporting events that will be carried by Radio Australia. I remember a few discouraging instances last year when I would tune into Radio Australia, have a pretty good signal, but tune away because the broadcast was a sporting event.

Rice consumption has increased in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. Some rice is imported from Australia. Papua New Guinea imports between 150,000 and 160,000 tons of rice per year. There, the major rice brand is called Roots Rice. Papua New Guinea does not have food tariffs. PNG's food supply is under threat from its growing population. Lots of people in PNG live in remote areas without roads or bridges.

The Papua New Guinea rice story was annoying at times because information was often repeated. The interviewer was not doing a very good job. "Still the storms" by Ziggy Marley was played to fill out the hour. Shortwave radio stations should make better use of local music!

Police in India had a breakthrough in the train bombing case in which 180 people died. Due to a tip, police found two suspects in a run-down building, and gunfire was exchanged. President Bush called for an urgent peacekeeping force in Lebanon to preserve the ceasefire. A plane from Guangzhou to Sydney had to be diverted due to a note on the plane that made a bomb threat. The plane was on its way to Sydney again. Radio Australia said that this story had not yet been reported by China's government-controlled media.

Five Mexicans went shark fishing last October, ran out of fuel, and drifted away in the Pacific. Two died at sea; the remaining three were rescued by Taiwanese. Some of the Pacific islands are difficult to monitor and could be used for staging criminal activity.

    august 2006 reception reports: (part 1) (part 2) (part 3)

28 August 2006

the grundig g5 appears

A radio called the Grundig G5 suddenly appeared on Universal Radio's website as a future product. It looks like an Eton E5 in a black plastic enclosure.

I assume that this will be the $150 radio in the Grundig product line, and the classic G4000A (formerly called the YB400-PE) will either stay at the $100 price point as seen on the websites of resellers, or be discontinued.

I don't have any knowledge yet as to any improvements that the G5 might have over the E5. Hopefully we'll find out why there's both an Eton version and a Grundig version of what appears to be the same product. Perhaps the company feels that the Grundig brand is more marketable.

Now I'm curious if the Eton E1 will also be sold as the Grundig Satellit 900. But what color should it be?

[Update: Eton confirmed that the E5 and the G5 are identical.]

more on nimh batteries in the e5

While I scanned a few shortwave bands tonight, the E5 shut itself off and flashed the empty battery icon. I finally dug out my multimeter to test the battery levels for the point that the E5 was shutting itself off. The voltage on the batteries that just came out of the E5 are: 1.12, 0.89, 1.21, and 1.02. That's a total of 4.24 volts, which is about 11.6% below the best-case scenario of four full rechargeable batteries at 4.8 volts.

These are Energizer 2500 mAh NiMH batteries. The E5 charges NiMH batteries at a rate of 100 mAh per hour for a maximum of 23 hours, which means that it cannot fully charge these batteries if they are empty.

I have twelve of these batteries; the E5, the SW7600GR, and my Olympus digital camera each take four batteries. I should come up with a way to label the batteries so I can measure voltage on each one when I am about to recharge them. This could help indicate if there's a battery that is draining much quicker than the others.

26 August 2006

chu time station qsl

CHU is a time station based in Ottawa, Canada. I sent them a reception report and received this QSL card.

The english text on the back of the card:

CHU time signals are transmitted continuously on 3330, 7335, and 14670 kHz, from individual vertical antennas located at 45(deg) 18' N, 75(deg) 45' W, with powers of 3, 10, and 3 kW respectively. An AM compatible mode (H3E, upper SSB with carrier reinserted) is used. Carrier frequencies, and the onser, frequency and phase of the 1 kHz tones whose beginnings mark the seconds are all controlled from a cesium frequency standard. A time announcement is made just before the start of each minute, in English and French. A computer-readable code (Bell 103 modem at 300 bps) is appended to seconds 31-39. Its decoding is described in Canada's Time Service, available from NRC.

Thank you for your report of reception on
3330 kHz
7335 kHz
14670 kHz

The card came in a brown envelope like the ones Cuba uses, but without the appearance of having been left out in the rain. The reported frequency was not circled on the back of the card, and there was no reception date noted. An oddity with the envelope was this stamp providing the return address: "Return to PO BOX 1957 / BUFFALO NY / 14240".

24 August 2006

shortwave summary: aug 2006 (part 2)

    august 2006 reception reports: (part 1) (part 2) (part 3)

Here's another instance where a story (the AIDS conference in Toronto) was told by more than one station. There's also news about abortions in Quebec, gorillas in the Calgary zoo, and my complaint that Radio Thailand gave out their contact information too quickly for copying.

Receiver used: Sony ICF SW7600GR

Received stations:
* Radio Canada International
* Radio Thailand

* 19 Aug 2006, 0105 UTC, 13710 khz (Radio Canada Intl): I started off the hour by trying to make use of a noisy and faint signal from Radio Budapest on 9590 khz. Sadly, it wasn't happening. I'd be happy to add that station to my list!

When I picked up RCI, they were discussing an AIDS conference currently being held in Toronto. On one of the days during the conference, hotel workers showed up wearing labor union pins attached to red AIDS ribbons, and were reprimanded. The workers are involved in a labor dispute due to working without a contract since February.

The United Nations wants 3500 troops on the Lebanon border within 10 days. France's small troop contribution is being criticized, although Italy may fill the gaps. Clear rules of engagement need to be established. Israel destroyed an estimated $3.6 billion worth of Lebanon's infrastructure. Iran is reportedly sending money to Hezbollah from its oil riches. Hezbollah has been giving cash to the Shia. Olmert put an indefinite hold on a plan to redefine Israel's borders. Israel will instead focus on rebuilding the north and taking care of its own. The cost for Israel's military offensive is estimated at $6 billion. The UN food agency will send aid to North Korea after a flooding incident last month. North Korea initially refused aid (it practices a self-reliance doctrine known as juche).

A judgment in Quebec requires the reimbursement of $13 million that was paid to private clinics for abortions. The Canadian government considers itself financially responsible for the procedures under its Federal health act. Some women had to go to private clinics due to overcrowding at public facilities, but then they had to pay out-of-pocket. Ford is cutting production by 20% in its 4th quarter, causing its stock price to fall. On Friday, the Toronto stock market was down by 11 points. Canada has 800 organized crime groups. A baby gorilla died at the Calgary zoo after it was taken from its mother by another gorilla. The new mother was not producing milk. 30% of gorillas born in captivity do not survive.

This was a loud and clear broadcast. At the half-hour mark, which is about when I stopped listening, the broadcast was identified as a transmission to central and western United States on 13710 khz starting at 0100 UTC. The same content is also on Sirius satellite radio, channel 137, but I don't use that craptechnology.

* 20 Aug 2006, 0200 UTC, 5890 khz (Radio Thailand): The royal highness will pay a visit to Japan, present a talk in Tokyo, and visit some museums there. Leaders in Thailand say that every party should put their bodies and souls into solving unrest problems in the deep south. All citizens are encouraged to visit the fair on its 8th and final day on Sunday. Scholarship programs for underprivileged and poverty-stricken children have been expanded; the scholarships encourage the students to complete studies and seek work near their homes. A youth fair was held at the national stadium on Saturday. Thailand was praised at the Toronto AIDS conference for working to prevent the spread of the disease. Elections are coming on 15 October (although I missed the purpose of the elections). The new international airport will be operational on 15 September, and airlines are encouraged to begin flights there. 28 September will be the end of operations at the old airport.

There were unauthorized price increases for powdered milk and fish sauce. 33 youths at a detention center escaped by climbing a wall; 31 were already recaptured. During their excursion, they threatened a bus driver with a knife. The escape was provoked by youths with behavior problems. License plate numbers were recently auctioned off; the most popular number was "9999". Thailand's king is the longest-reining monarch in Thai history, marking 60 years on the throne. He has "worked tirelessly to ease [citizens'] hardships." "This is Radio Thailand news." Now, someone is discussing Bali, and it sounds a lot like an advertisement. The segment only lasted for a minute or two. It has relaxed beaches on the east, and more active, happening beaches on the west. Its government has developed three areas as tourist resorts. Hungary national day is 20 August. The forefathers of Hungary were from Asia. (This part is a recording of the Hungarian ambassador to Thailand, and included the standard praise for the king.) "Time for us to bid farewell." They mentioned a gmail email address but I didn't hear it clearly. Grandfather clock bells are marking the end of the broadcast. "That concludes our program in English to the United States west coast." More clock bells.

A notable exclusion from this broadcast was any mention of John Mark Karr, a murder suspect who recently surrendered while staying in Thailand.

Unfortunately, the quick delivery of contact information made it impossible for me to copy it. I just went to their website to retrieve it, but the webpage says "this account has been suspended. Please contact the billing/support department as soon as possible."

After this reception, I reached the end of my second "marble memo" reception report notebook.

    august 2006 reception reports: (part 1) (part 2) (part 3)

22 August 2006

usenet thread about audio quality

Threads on the rec.radio.shortwave newsgroup, when they are on-topic, mostly fall into a small number of categories. Common threads are:

* which radio should someone buy
* how can someone improve reception or reduce interference
* did anyone hear [weird thing] on [random broadcast]
* how is [weird new technology] going to affect our hobby

Today, a poster named Terry started this thread about hearing and audio quality and its relation to the radio hobby. His posting is atypical and detailed, and I recommend taking a look. The link goes to radiobanter.com which provides a moderated interface to several radio newsgroups.

20 August 2006

ionosphere at risk over satellite protection

The US Air Force and the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) have proposed using very low frequency radio waves to flush particles from radiation "belts" above Earth and dump them into the upper atmosphere over either one or several days.

This deluge of dumped charged particles would temporarily change the ionosphere from a "mirror" that bounced high frequency radio waves around the planet to a "sponge" that soaked them up, Dr Craig Rodger of Otago University's physics department, said.

Full article: US satellite plan 'will knock out Pacific radio links'

Source: kimandrewelliott.com

19 August 2006

shortwave summary: aug 2006 (part 1)

    august 2006 reception reports: (part 1) (part 2) (part 3)

When I started planning my August shortwave receptions, I set two goals: try using some of my sub-$20 radios, and provide more of my own commentary in the reports. Let's see how this turns out.

Radios used: Tecsun R-9012, Sony ICF SW7600GR

Received stations:
* Radio Havana Cuba
* Radio Netherlands
* Radio Japan

* 04 Aug 2006, 0500 UTC, 11760 khz (Radio Havana Cuba): There's news about violence in Iraq. Zionist warplanes bomb Beirut. Documents show that the costs of using nuclear weapons in Vietnam were calculated and determined to be too high, given the potential benefits. Fidel Castro "needs to rest after the operation." Workers in Cuba rallied in recognition of Fidel to increase productivity and strengthen the communist party.

Since this broadcast, we have simply learned that Castro is as Castro says. The rallying in Cuba is in support of communism, whereas the rallying in south Florida is in hopes for Fidel's death.

I wanted more detail on the Vietnam story but the signal wasn't clear. The experiment of using cheap radios for indoor reception was not a success. Noise levels were high, clarity was bad, and the experiment only lasted 15 minutes! Audio clarity is of the essence.

* 15 Aug 2006, 0400 UTC, 6165 khz (Radio Netherlands): The curtain came down on the middle east conflict, ending a month of intense fighting. Residents of Lebanon are returning home (although I'm not sure where they were staying in the interim). Who won the conflict? Israeli troops are still in Lebanon, and there is still an air-and-sea blockade of Lebanon. Olmert has been criticized for not delivering on promises and for accepting the UN ceasefire proposal.

Four owls were found to be infected, possibly with H5N1. These zoo animals could be the first occurrence of bird flu in the Netherlands. The Netherlands is the most committed rich country when it comes to aiding developing countries. G7 countries are contributing a lot but not living up to their potential. Haiti is affected by gang fighting, and local police and UN security are involved. 200 bullet wounds have been treated in the past 3 weeks. 800k people are living in violent areas. The fighting broke out after recent elections, and is related to broken promises. A Dutch newspaper has a story about manipulated photos of attacks in Beirut. There's deep sympathy for jews in the Netherlands due to the holocaust.

Research file: the sense of smell. A machine that detects smells can detect tuberculosis in humans. TB bacteria have a smell similar to pineapple and daffodils. The machine incorporates an artificial neural network and is trained by receiving samples of different materials, along with the information of whether or not the sample contains TB. For the test, a person spits into a container, and this is incubated for one hour at 37C (98.6F) prior to evaluation. Examining microscopic smears for tuberculosis is more time-consuming and is too subjective. A similar scent technique can detect lung cancer through breath analysis. Dogs, rats, bees, and wasps have an excellent sense of smell. TB is treated with a drug cocktail, which needs to be taken regularly to avoid developing resistance. There was a brief interview with an NOAA employee who noted that 85% of volcanic activity is underwater.

This was a very strong signal, which originated in the Dutch Antilles in the Caribbean. Radio Netherlands makes frequent use of interviews to add detail to their stories, which is highly effective. Hearing an unfamiliar voice for a few minutes also helps me pay attention. I sent a description of the tuberculosis story to some of my acquaintances in the medical industry.

* 18 Aug 2006, 0101 UTC, 11935 khz (Radio Japan): This was an unusual broadcast. First, I tried 17825 khz because primetimeshortwave.com suggested that it was a North American transmission. I could barely hear it though. But 11935 khz to Central and South America sounded great. This hour-long reception contained a brief news segment, at least three j-rock/j-pop songs, and a recording of someone underwater.

Beirut's international airport has reopened for commercial flights. France is doubling its force in Lebanon from 200 to 400. Japan's prime minister is visiting central Asia for energy talks. When the announcer mentioned the frequencies of the current broadcast, her pronunciation of megahertz sounded like "mega-hearts". By the year 2050, Japan might rank 18th in the world in terms of population; it currently ranks 10th. India is expected to have the world's largest population. Typhoon Wukong, with winds of 83 km/hr, has hit Kyushu. The Japanese yen fell against the US dollar.

Here's an upbeat song that features guitars, drums, and an older male vocalist. I don't like it. The second song has acoustic guitar, is slower than the previous song, and also has a male singer. There's slide guitar in the background. Next will be the "44 minutes" show.

In Japan, it's time for summer holidays and family reunions. A song called "dutiful dreamer" is being played. This is a slow pop song with a female vocalist. I like this one! Next is a show replay from last year called "call from the coral reef." It was produced on and near Iriomote Island, the "Galapagos of the Orient". Voices in this show were hard to understand over shortwave due to the accents and the sound of ocean waves. The island is 2100 km south of Tokyo, and 200 km from Taiwan. This island is 90% mountainous.

Something weird has happened! It sounds like the person speaking is using a snorkel or scuba gear. I hear talking, bubbling sounds, and breathing. He spotted a clownfish. A bit later, he said "okay, back to the boat." Coral reef has suffered from bleaching, which was caused by rising water temperatures. The reefs are recovering. "Blue, green, pink, a few reds, everything!" (coral description.) I like the interlude music for this show. Female announcer who stayed above-water says "I feel like I have come to another world." They're talking about El Nino, and how it caused higher water temperatures which damaged the reefs. The reef needs clear water to allow for underwater photosynthesis. The diver goes by the name Captain Mac.

I updated this report after listening to the "Call from the coral reef" program again via the NHK website. It was an unusual show, and I like finding this kind of content on shortwave.

    august 2006 reception reports: (part 1) (part 2) (part 3)

17 August 2006

radio taiwan international qsl

Radio Taiwan International generously sent me a variety of items along with the QSL card that I requested. They also sent it to me very quickly: the QSL card shows that my reception was on 23 July 2006 (which is mentioned in my July 2006 part 4 reception reports), the postmark date is 01 August, and I received it on 14 August (it probably sat at my office for a few days while I was away).

If you click on these images, it will take you to Flickr, which has the full-size images and their descriptions.

15 August 2006

eton e5 rechargeable battery life

I use Energizer nickel metal hydride (NiMH) 2500 mAh batteries in my Eton E5. The radio would not stay on tonight, so I decided to check my records and determine how long they actually lasted.

According to part 1 of my July 2006 reception reports, I had just put fully charged batteries in my E5. Tonight, I switched on the radio and it powered off after a few seconds due to depleted batteries.

My reception report notebook tells me when the E5 was first used in July (which would be when the new batteries went in). I can also determine how many hours of use the E5 had.

The recharged batteries went in on 03 July 2006. They were depleted on 15 August 2006, which is 44 days later. According to my notebook, I can account for 3 hours and 22 minutes of usage with that set of batteries.

13 August 2006

old time radio recordings

Be sure to visit the Old Time Radio network library, where you can hear dozens of radio shows in realaudio format. Looking at random pages on that site, I saw recordings from the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s.

11 August 2006

team buying in china

As a result of my shortwave radio interest, I have an increased interest in issues related to China. Something I recently learned about through online news sources is team buying, or tuangou. This wikipedia article indicates that bargaining is a Chinese tradition.

This article on shanghaiist.com discusses the Christian Science Monitor article on team buying and mentions a couple tuangou organizing sites. Here's a similar tuangou article from the Economist.

06 August 2006

kaito 1102 ssb modification

Here's a thread in the Kaito-Degen1102 Yahoo group describing a modification to reduce the tuning range of the fine-tuning knob to make ssb tuning easier.

03 August 2006

an old letter from rhc

Over on Civil Commotion is a letter from Radio Havana Cuba to Bob Felton [pdf], received with a QSL card, dated January 1995. I didn't know that the RHC mailbag show used to be on the weekend!

Their contest announcements have the look of mass production now. I've received them in both English and Spanish.

01 August 2006

radio havana cuba's future

I need to tune in to Radio Havana Cuba again soon. This is not just to hear their reporting of Fidel Castro's illness, but also to gauge the future of this broadcaster. I didn't think until today about how brief our RHC experiences could turn out to be.

RHC is a good station to hear, in my opinion, because they are critical of America's political and military actions in a reasonable way. I'm not saying that I agree with everything they say, but at least I can understand their viewpoints. And the announcers keep things interesting and fun. I always enjoy hearing Cuban music as well. These factors keep listeners returning to hear whatever message RHC wants to distribute.

With Fidel Castro in ill health, I wonder about how involved the government of the USA will become in Cuba's future. My recent reception report, part 3 for July 2006, mentions Cuban fears that Castro's death could lead to a forced transition to democracy.

I do not know the whole truth of life in Cuba, and RHC does us no favors in this respect. But it's hard for me to think favorably of any country dictating the government style for any other country.

Assume that a government transition takes place and succeeds in Cuba, what would become of Radio Havana Cuba? I could take the cynical stance and call RHC a promotional tool for communism and for Castro himself. Would they still have anything to say? The blockade story only exists because of Cuba's current communist government. The story of the Cuban Five is important to Cuba's current government. With Radio Havana Cuba funded by its host government, it could either be dismantled or turned into a news outlet for the transition government.

What do you think will happen in Cuba over the next decade?