09 October 2009

shortwave listening cheat sheet updated

When I got started as a shortwave listener in 2005, much of my listening was done outside for better reception and less interference. Hanging a wire antenna from my old apartment bedroom didn't help much; radio waves only had a narrow path to reach me. Being outside away from my computer left me separated from the shortwave information I needed to effectively tune in. So I produced my shortwave listening cheat sheet, a single letter-size page with information such as broadcasting frequencies, North America broadcast schedules, and reception tips. I folded the sheet into a 1/8 size so I could easily put it in my pocket. I'm happy with this low-tech solution.

When I moved a few years ago, I got an apartment that's more favorable for indoor shortwave reception, so I didn't keep the cheat sheet updated. However, I've just updated it for 2009. Unfortunately, I don't have approval from all of the information sources to distribute the information, so I'm providing this image to show what's included and how it has been formatted.

I find it useful to get broadcast schedules from primetimeshortwave.com and eibi.de.vu, and condense the information by choosing specific broadcasters within specific times. Most of my shortwave listening is between 0000-0700 UTC, so the schedules included on my cheat sheet focus on that time range.

For the number station schedules on my cheat sheet, some of them are expected to broadcast on certain days of the week. In instances where a broadcast is expected on more than two days of the week, I write the days in this condensed form: (_m_w_fs) represents monday, wednesday, friday, and saturday. This format also lets me use a single character for both tuesday and thursday, because the position rather than a unique letter is the identifier.

Cramming all of this information onto one side of a sheet of paper is achieved with these tricks:

• Top, bottom, left, and right page margins are 0.15 inch. I printed one copy with 0.10 inch margins, but the printing was cropped at the edges.
• The font is 8-point Monaco.
• Horizontal character spacing is reduced by 1%. The text is still legible with even lower settings, but I can fit all of the desired information already with the current format.
• Line spacing is reduced to 0.8, allowing for many extra lines on the page. Additionally, lines without any text are reduced to a line height of 0.4.
• Some information that would only take up a couple lines across the whole page has been crammed into the right column next to other unrelated data. Unfortunately, the broadcast band and ham band sections don't efficiently use their space.
• Radio Australia has a complex schedule. I don't listen to it very often, and I can't always receive it. To save space, I consolidated that section of the schedule by simply listing every frequency they use during 0000-0800 UTC. Schedules on the cheat sheet for other broadcasters are more precise.
• This may make morse code purists unhappy, but I use a forward slash instead of a hyphen to represent the dashes in my morse code section. This allows me to easily count how many dashes are in a character when I've reduced the character spacing down so much that hyphens would otherwise run together.

I've also produced an audio version of this data, using Mac OS X text-to-speech. All of the data is stored in 16 separate mp3 files, with a total duration of 39 minutes. The text has to be massaged to sound nice, so I have to maintain the information in a second document. For example, I'd rather hear a frequency spoken as "seventy-eight fifty" than "seven thousand eight hundred and fifty." Here's how I reformatted the data about North American time stations: "time stations. frequencies in kilohertz. WWV, colorado. 25 hundred, 5000, 10000, 15000, 20000. WWVH, hawaii. 25 hundred, 5000, 10000, 15000. C H U, ontario. 33 30, 78 50, 14 6 7 0."

As an example, here's an mp3 of the time station data.

Do you do something similar to keep shortwave listening information more handy? What sorts of information do you use the most?


Firestarter5 said...

I always have my Passport To World Band Radio book within arms reach, plus, all my radios are located by my desktop pc so whatever stumps me ends up being searched for on Google. I rarely take any of the radios outdoors.

I also have far too many links saved in Firefox related to only radio-related websites.

**If the rumors are true and Passport may not produce a 2010 book next year, that would be truly a let down.

Erik said...

WRTH and its supplements in pdf work for me. Also, Moleskine Notebooks has a 'wizard' that allows a user to transfer text into a template the size of a small moleskine notebook page (app5x3 inches). Each of your SW entries could fit into each page, into the notebook. Neater, IMO. www.moleskine.com/msk