19 November 2010

radio drama and audio theatre

As you might expect, I owned and operated a tape recorder in my youth. It was a console-style cassette deck, with a large mechanical dial for setting the mode of operation. My parents gave it to me, along with a simple microphone. Naturally, I realized that this was most of what I needed to establish the production side of a radio station. As for transmitting and finding an audience, well, that only existed in my imagination.

I had a nook just inside my bedroom door which accommodated a small desk. The walls in this location were soon filled with old newspapers, mainly Sunday comics and peculiar or rearranged headlines. I took a wire hanger from my closet and bent it into a microphone boom to enable hands-free recording. That ten-year-old had an enviable setup.

At the time, I was aware of radio personalities like Dr. Ruth and Casey Kasem. But instead of acting like them, introducing songs like a DJ or taking calls, I told sci-fi stories.

After I moved to California, I had a roommate who frequently listened to KCRW on Sundays, particularly to Joe Frank and Harry Shearer. I was very enthusiastic about hearing opinionated, satirical, and surreal commentary from a radio station (albeit via a RealAudio stream). Talk radio wasn't something I much explored prior to that. My roommate also introduced me to Ruby the Galactic Gumshoe in compact disc form.

Joe Frank parted ways with KCRW in 2002, and my interests in KCRW shifted towards their music programming for the next few years. I don't regularly listen to KCRW anymore. But I wanted to acquire some of Joe Frank's work. There has been the option of purchasing CDs, but that just didn't appeal to me. A few weeks back, I researched Joe Frank again and found that he has radio shows available for purchase in MP3 format. I jumped at the chance and purchased one of the shows.

Radio drama is an area in which I am completely inexperienced. What else is out there that's worth exploring? Where should someone look to find something new? If you have comments on Joe Frank, radio drama, podcasts, or other forms of alternative media distribution, I'm all ears.

Except for my legs, which are normal human legs. But the rest of me is all ears.

27 October 2010

bay area dxing opportunity on 740 khz tonight

San Francisco's KCBS has announced that they will not be broadcasting on AM 740 KHz from 12:10am to 3am on Thursday, October 28. This is a scheduled outage for transmitter work. KCBS will continue broadcasting on FM 106.9 MHz during this time.

If I had the opportunity to stay up late tonight, I would love to see what I can pull in on 740 kHz, and on the two adjacent channels that are often jammed by that ridiculous HD radio stuff.

If you're in the area and can take advantage of this, please share your findings!

19 October 2010

eton corporation wikipedia page tampered

Approximately three years ago, Eton Corporation's Wikipedia page was edited several times by a user named Sohrabah, and all of those edits were reverted. Reasons cited for the reverts include spam, COI (confict of interest), and violating NPOV (neutral point of view). Sohrabah submitted five edits to the page during July 16 and 17, 2007.

The comment included with one of Sohrabah's submissions is "Eton Corporation is redoing this site to make sure they are reflected fully and accurately to wikipedia audiences". That's not how Wikipedia works. But it appears that no damage has been done, and the pre-existing, factual content has won out.

03 October 2010

animal rescue foundation radio commercial

KCBS has been airing a refreshingly amusing commercial for ARF, the Animal Rescue Foundation. It's available on the multimedia page of their website, with the title "At the park":

• Animal Rescue Foundation - multimedia

19 September 2010

new military-oriented radio from redsun

I periodically search eBay for shortwave radios, and I just noticed an interesting new product from Redsun. The Redsun RP007 is a portable, digitally-tuned radio with AM (522 - 1620 or 520 - 1710 kHz), FM (66 - 108 MHz), and SW (3000 - 30000 kHz). The eBay listing I looked at describes this radio as having been designed for the Russian military. It claims that the radio is especially durable and tolerant of environmental conditions, and the product photo shows a camouflage front panel.

The price and shipping cost from China make this item too expensive to buy on a whim, but I'd like to know more about this new product. Are its radio circuits derived from the RP2100? Should I buy one now and keep it available for my eventual survival shelter? Could it be a better radio than the Eton E5/Grundig G5? Will a North American distributor eventually offer this item?

28 August 2010

redsun rp2100 coming to grundig

It looks like the popular Redsun RP2100 radio will be rebranded as the Grundig S450DLX. The radio will come with a price tag around US$100, and feature a slightly redesigned user interface compared to the RP2100. Eton Corporation, owners of the rights to the Grundig name in North America, become the fourth company to sell this product, following Redsun (the designer and manufacturer), Kaito (North American distributor of other radio brands including Degen and Tecsun), and C. Crane. Grundig's offering appears to continue supporting SSB only as an external add-on.

All four of the aforementioned distributors are (or were) offering radios based on the original RP2100 design, featuring a tuning knob but lacking a numeric keypad. The RP3000/RP3100 products from Redsun were expected to essentially be an RP2100 with a numeric keypad, but neither of these products have yet materialized.

03 July 2010

the intrigue of russian espionage

Last month, eleven people were arrested and accused of performing espionage for Russia while living in the United States. I am not qualified nor sufficiently informed to discuss any of the political, security, or legal aspects of this. It's fascinating to speculate that Russia would have espionage operations in the United States in current times. But I'm going to focus on the purported communications techniques that were employed.

The wikipedia article about this incident, Illegals Program, makes reference to tradecraft including hiding messages in digital images, disappearing ink, ad hoc wireless networks, hf radio communication, and exchanging physical items in public places.

I was most surprised to hear about how wireless networks were used. Coffee shops located in modern United States cities often have patrons using laptops, so this alone does not arouse suspicion. A vehicle parked in front of the coffee shop, requiring as little as a laptop running on its internal battery, is sufficient to create an ad-hoc wireless network to which a coffee shop customer can connect. Then, computer files can be exchanged freely without relying on the cafe's own wireless network. This is not a completely secure technique, but encrypting the files before transferring them further reduces risk of detection or interception.

This is essentially the wi-fi version of a dead drop. Two people can exchange information without meeting; they only need to agree to a time and a place. The person driving the vehicle that sits outside the coffee shop can be a cutout without knowledge of the operation. Wikipedia also references unmanned wireless data exchange in the dead drop article.

23 April 2010

product evaluation process

As I casually browse online radio websites and consider the current product offerings, a constant theme I'm encountering is "bare-minimum checklist completion".

One product, which shall remain nameless but will serve as the focus of this article, combines a digitally-tuned shortwave radio with a detachable MP3 player. The detachable MP3 player has been criticized for having a complicated user interface, particularly for managing recordings made from the radio with which it can connect. The MP3 player has inadequate memory capacity, considering what else is available in the standalone MP3 player market. I make no claims that I've used this product, but without owning one, I can make observations about its shortcomings. It seems to be a case of the whole being barely a sum of its parts.

How did the product end up this way? Perhaps a goal of combining a shortwave receiver with an MP3 player came about. It would be cheap to include a small amount of memory, so choose some small storage size and go with that. Ignore how quickly the flash-player market will change over the next two years; this product is in a different category (even though it may likely end up in the same home as a flash-based MP3 player). Find some way to allow the MP3 player to detach from the radio, no matter how ugly the resulting product ends up. Put it in a box and sell it. This is a pretty cynical view of things, but how far is it from the truth?

What is the manufacturer doing to resolve the criticism of this product? Probably nothing. They may decide to focus on implementing other features, or they may decide that there's not enough interest in the product, so it will get scrapped. Or it will remain on the market, unchanged, to languish (from the manufacturer's perspective) and potentially damage the manufacturer's reputation (from the consumer's perspective).

There are two distinct ways to evaluate a product. They differ in the method and, I would argue, in the quality of the purchasing decision. One way is to compare a product against a checklist of required or desired features: the product has this, the product doesn't have that. The other way is to individually rate each of the features. "This radio has a below-average speaker (2 out of 5) but above-average sensitivity on shortwave bands (5 out of 5)," for example. I prefer to use numeric ratings for product features, such that I can come up with a formula to express my overall rating of a product.

This ratings-based feature list evaluation is the method I used for selecting my current car from among about 10 possibilities. Obviously, it would've been far too time-consuming to test-drive all of the candidate products, so the initial ratings were based on aspects that I could rate without using the product. This included details like exterior appearance, safety rating, line-in support, fuel economy, price, and so on. When a few clear winners emerged, I test-drove those models and made my selection. And the ultimate winner wasn't the one I expected, but I made my purchase and had full confidence in it.

The fact that two individuals may rate the same product completely differently is due to something that we call taste. This is perfectly normal, and both people can be right no matter how far apart their individual ratings are. But when it comes to technology products, the average consumer doesn't pay very much attention to the important factors for enjoying a product after purchase. It's easier to make a checklist of required features and find a product to fulfill that, than to come up with a scoring system to determine what the best choice would be. And sometimes, people base much or all of their decision on price. In some cases, if they really thought about it, price would not turn out to be the only important factor in the decision.

27 March 2010

passband.com also closing

The book Passport to World Band Radio saw its last issue published in 2009. Now, Larry Magne indicates that the website will cease to exist:

Passport to World Band Radio
Shortwave Gets a Bit Shorter (Radio World)

19 January 2010

outdoor listening checklist

I recently had a portable radio kit with me so I could take a break during a lengthy drive home and spend some time listening to shortwave broadcasts. However, I omitted one critical item from my standard set of items, and paid the price. So, to better prepare myself for future listening sessions away from home, here's my personal checklist of required items:

• Portable receiver
• Two sets of alkaline batteries
• Printed shortwave broadcast schedule
• Log book
• Two ballpoint pens
• Earphones
• Miniature flashlight

01 January 2010

a place for comments and questions: 2010

Readers of the Cobalt Pet shortwave / mediumwave radio weblog are encouraged to post comments and questions. In case you have a comment that's not related to a specific article, you are welcome to reply here. I'll link to this post from the website's sidebar so it's always easy to find. I welcome general comments, questions, and any feedback about the website.

I'll do my best to respond, either with a comment here of my own, or an article on the front page.

* (there is no 2009 comments and questions page)
* 2008 comments and questions
* 2006 comments and questions
* 2007 comments and questions