28 August 2012

shortwave summary, august 2012

My ceiling-mounted random wire antenna is properly set up again, aside from a properly insulated feed line. A daytime manual scan of 11-18 MHz revealed that I was getting good reception from broadcasts in Asia and Oceania. So I initially focused on that region for logging broadcasts. I've truncated what I originally logged, but this is still quite long. For these receptions, I used my Eton E5, powered by batteries, with my ceiling-mounted antenna.

My Eton E5 workhorse receiver.

Stations received:

• China Radio International
• Radio Australia
• Radio Havana Cuba
• Radio Kuwait
• Radio New Zealand International
• Radio Taiwan International
• Radio Vaticana
• Voice of Croatia
• Voice of Russia

Source: Wikipedia


 • 2012-08-02, 0600-0700 UTC, 13630 kHz: Radio Australia. Before landing on this frequency, I checked several other Radio Australia frequencies, which had weak or noisy signals.

The United States government is increasing military defense assets in the Asia-Pacific region. Pacific countries have workers ready for Australia's seasonal work program, which offers up to 12,000 jobs over the next four years. Papua New Guinea has a high rate of domestic violence. "This is Radio Australia right across Asia and the Pacific."

Demand for the Australian dollar has driven the exchange rate higher, and some within Australia are calling for its value to be lowered.

A star Chinese badminton player quit the sport after being disqualified at the London 2012 Olympics. Several players were disqualified after allegations of deliberately losing to manipulate rankings for the next round.

A choir from East Timor is performing live on air from Melbourne. Following the first song, the host and the choir director talked about encouraging East Timor people who have left to return to the country. The choir will perform later in the week at the Melbourne Millennium Chorus event. They performed a second song during the broadcast.

Two western Pacific typhoons are moving towards China, after visiting Taiwan.

"Wherever you are in the Pacific, this is Radio Australia." Well, I'm next to the Pacific, in California, so thanks!

• 2012-08-03, 0242-0252 UTC, 9610 kHz: Radio Vaticana. This broadcast is in French but is scheduled to switch to English at 0250 UTC, so I'll have to wait until then to get a positive identification. Is this broadcast originating in Bonaire?

Just before 0250 UTC, there was a short musical interlude, then the signal went off the air. I just confirmed I have the correct frequency at radiovaticana.org. And the EiBi schedule does not show any day of the week restrictions for these broadcasts. But these two information sources were (at the time) missing the information that Radio Vaticana is discontinuing their North American shortwave service.

• 2012-08-03, 0300-0330 UTC, 5950 kHz: Radio Taiwan International. The broadcast began at the top of the hour, stuttering at first.

A tropical storm made landfall on Thursday afternoon; was previously a typhoon. People have been evacuated from disaster areas. Approximately 40,000 households are without electricity due to the storm. Trains and flights were cancelled.

A Taiwanese olympian has advanced to the Olympics quarterfinals for the first time. Eight badminton players have been disqualified.

A Taiwanese pop singer will perform in London's Wembley Stadium in November.

"This is Radio Taiwan International."

The hosts are now speaking about buying emergency supplies in preparation for the storms. One host mentioned buying instant noodles and oreos, admitting that the oreos were not necessary for survival.

• 2012-08-03, 0400-0410 UTC, 13775 kHz: Voice of Russia. "This is the Voice of Russia world service."

News from Moscow. Kofi Annan's resignation is expected to increase violence in Syria. Moscow plans to launch additional GLONASS satellites. Names of Olympic medal winners will appear on coins matching the medals (gold, silver, and bronze). The signal was weak and audio too often got lost in the fading and noise, so I decided to stop listening.

• 2012-08-03, 0650-0730 UTC, 11725 kHz: Radio New Zealand International. "Radio New Zealand International, Pacific regional news."

In Fiji, an ousted prime minister was sentenced to one year of jail for corruption-related charges. Papua New Guinea has elected a new prime minister. Sales of high-powered arms have tripled in New Caledonia, reportedly due to changes in laws making it easier for hunters to obtain firearms. "There is no limit on the number of arms that an individual may buy."

New legislation in American Samoa seeks to boost military protection. American Samoa is prone to natural disasters and must be prepared. They have the highest per-capita enlistment rate for the United States army.

This broadcast targeted Oceania, and the signal was extremely variable in quality. It faded in and out rapidly. With the New Zealand accent, their rapid pace of speech, and the uneven signal quality, it was difficult for me to keep up with this broadcast. It probably would sound fine as a high-quality digital download, even though I don't prefer to get my news that way.

• 2012-08-04, 0200-0215 UTC, 9925 kHz: Voice of Croatia. Two sectors of Croatia's transportation system, motorway maintenance and toll collection, will be merged within the next five years to save money. A prime minister supports Bosnia joining the European Union and NATO. Wall Street opened sharply higher on Friday due to positive jobs data.

Voice of Croatia packed a lot of news stories into the first eight minutes of the broadcast. This was followed by two minutes of sports news, then the top headlines were repeated. "This is Croatian radio - the Voice of Croatia." Then the broadcasting schedules were explained, and an acoustic guitar song completed the 15-minute broadcast.

While dealing with below-average signal strength, I struggled to keep up with the news and got annoyed by the frequent orchestra-hit sound effect that played between stories.

• 2012-08-04, 0300-0330 UTC, 9790 kHz: China Radio International. So, China has a different view of the Syrian civil war compared to most western hemisphere countries. My concern is, who has a solution that results in peace and saves lives?

Putting pressure on only one party won't resolve the issue in Syria. UN General Assembly adopted a resolution condemning the Syrian government. "The Syrian issue must be resolved through political means." British prime minister David Cameron: "I don't think military options are right in this case". The UN General Assembly overwhelmingly adopted a resolution urging political transition in Syria due to violence. "The international community does not tolerate what is happening in Syria."

Gales and rainstorms have plagued coastal regions in China. It is rare for two typhoons to make landfall in China within 24 hours. Approximately $165 million was made available to help citizens affected by the typhoons. "This is CRI news."

Hiring in the United States was strong during July, but the unemployment rate remains high.

In the Olympics, the United States has just overtaken China for the total number of medals won.

London 2012 Olympics logo. Source: Wikipedia

Chinese roads developed sinkholes following the recent typhoons. Beijing weather: cloudy, 23-26C.

• 2012-08-04, 0400-0430 UTC, 13775 kHz: "Voice of Russia." Russia voted against the UN resolution regarding Syria. Sudan and South Sudan have come to an agreement regarding oil transportation.

Emerald mining sites in the Ural mountains are now available to tourists. Mining other substances using explosives resulted in destroying lots of precious stones. Processing 100,000 pounds of rock typically results in 66 pounds of emeralds. Tourists are not allowed into the mines.

During the Kaleidoscope segment, an interesting story about a band came on, and I unfortunately missed the band name. That sort of thing is distracting enough that it becomes hard to focus on the story. Maybe I can catch this segment again in the future.

• 2012-08-04, 0500-0530 UTC, 6010 kHz: Radio Havana Cuba. "Thanks for joining us for the English hour on Radio Havana Cuba."

A Cuban literacy program helped over 6.5 million people in 28 countries become literate. It is reportedly becoming easier to be self-employed in Cuba.

Kofi Annan: "The Syrian people desperately need action." Syrian violence has continued to escalate. The Syrian foreign ministry expressed regret over Annan's resignation as UN Arab League special envoy to Syria. Russia and China were adamant in their opposition to foreign intervention. Militants are reportedly being trained at a United States base in Turkey to fight in Syria.

The United States has wasted money on ineffective construction projects in Afghanistan. In one case, a military base had to be abandoned because it lacked a water supply.

A regularly-featured pre-recorded segment stated that the United States Supreme Court would not allow the Cuban Five to have their fair day in court, and called for the Cuban Five to be released and returned to their families.

RHC is promoting their RealAudio stream. "Never fear, RealAudio is here." Ed Newman still always omits the dot after "www" when announcing a URL. I know I've mentioned this before when writing to RHC.

At 0524 UTC, my ears were treated with Cuban music to fill out the half hour.

RealAudio. Source: allthingsd.com

• 2012-08-05, 2007-? UTC, 17550 kHz: Radio Kuwait. A fun, exuberant middle-eastern style song was playing when I first tuned in. Then a male host started speaking, but I was unable to understand. The schedule data I had listed this as an English broadcast, but another source listed it as Arabic. Since I couldn't follow the broadcast due to both signal strength and language, I decided to explore the propagation properties of this broadcast.

The broadcast strength is 500 kW, with an azimuth of 350 degrees. The signal will go almost over the geographic north pole towards North America. Using the Great Circle Mapper website, I mapped flight paths from KWI (Kuwait International Airport) until I found an example airport (Reno-Tahoe International Airport) where the resulting great circle route had an initial heading of 350 degrees. From Kuwait to my location is approximately 7800 miles. My notes state that a radio signal refracted by the F2 layer of the ionosphere can travel up to 2500 miles per earth-ionosphere-earth hop.

Transmitting from Kuwait at a compass heading of 350 degrees essentially targets western North America, and my 2009 copy of Passport to World Band Radio indicates that Radio Kuwait has separate transmission times and frequencies for western and eastern North America.

I'm curious about the altitude angle with which the signal is sent. We know the approximate elevation of the ionosphere layers, and I could probably figure this out with more math. The target region is approximately 7000-8000 miles from Kuwait, requiring three or four hops, depending on how geographically dispersed the signal would be after three hops. As the altitude angle increases, the hop distance decreases, but I imagine that broadcasters want to hit their targets with as few hops as possible to minimize attenuation.

• 2012-08-05, 2315-2338 UTC, 19000 kHz: Radio Australia. "Radio Australia, with a capital r for radio, and a capital a for Australia."

Two hosts are discussing the United States and European economies. "The unemployment rate did tick up a little bit." "The Dow was up over 200 points." Now they're discussing sports and education. "Just one gold medal to Australia's credit." (They ended up with seven.) "Parents are less inclined to get their children to play sports." An easy multiple-choice trivia question was announced asking why the 1916 Olympics were cancelled. My guess was confirmed correct by Wikipedia.

• 2012-08-06, 0201-0300 UTC, 9680 kHz: Radio Taiwan International.

Discussing peace strategies for the East China Sea. Temporary housing and economic assistance is available for villagers affected by the typhoons. Taiwanese basketball star Jeremy Lin was greeted by fans and media in Taiwan. He says his family and fans in Taiwan provide him with the best encouragement. Taiwanese pitcher Wei-Yin Chen helped the Baltimore Orioles defeat the Tampa Bay Rays 4-0 on Saturday night.

Week in review: Typhoon Saola ripped through Taiwan on Wednesday and Thursday. Agricultural losses are estimated at US$25 million. The Japanese government offered money to purchase three disputed islands, which are also claimed by Taiwan and mainland China. Taiwan won its first silver medal, the only medal so far for Taiwan in the London 2012 Olympics.

Regional weather for Monday. Northern Taiwan: partly cloudy, occasional showers, 26-31C. Hong Kong: thunderstorms with a high of 33C. Tokyo: rainy with a high of 28C.

"Stay tuned for another 50 minutes of English language features, brought to you by Radio Taiwan International."

Taiwan was recently ranked as one of the top ten destinations for food by hotels.com. "That's not bad for a country of only 23 million people!" The hosts discussed popular Taiwanese dishes (including Taiwan's version of fried chicken), and which food items they especially missed while traveling outside of Taiwan. After announcing the other countries on the list, they offered their opinions on each location. Food offerings in the United States were aptly described as "hit or miss".

Now there's a segment on translating between English and a Chinese dialect (I'm assuming Mandarin, which is the official language of Taiwan). The subject of the lesson was air travel.

Soundwaves segment: I love music, but the songs played during this segment were pop-oriented and not at all ambitious or notable. "Thank you for listening to Radio Taiwan International." The last two minutes of the broadcast hour featured broadcast schedule info. And the relay site provided identification: "This is WYFR. Okeechobee, Florida."

• 2012-08-24, 1203-1225 UTC, 7490 kHz: WWCR (USA). "Power hour" show.

The latest on Lance Armstrong. Republican National Convention vs Hurricane Isaac in Tampa, Florida. Three minutes of commercials. Dietary supplements. "Keep your metabolic rate up to lose weight." Tax assistance.

Author Tama Kieves will appear on the show. "The US and Israel's Iran policy has failed to find followers." "Iran produces 97% of its medications." Drone attacks. "We're at war with Pakistan." "How often do you see it on mainstream media that we're bombing Pakistan?"

Julian Assange. The UK threatens to "storm the [Ecuador] embassy." "I wonder if they're armed to the teeth inside."

"Massive student protests returned to the streets of Montreal."

Casseroles. Source: thepaltrysapien.com

"Iceland allowed its banking system to fail in the economic downturn." "Unemployment in Iceland has shrunk to less than 5%."

Norwegian court sentenced Brevik to life in prison, denying a claim of insanity, holding him accountable for 77 deaths.

Now a four-minute break! These commercial breaks keep getting longer. Heart supplement. Gold investing. Dietary supplement: "Put the evil genie back in his bottle." Home security. Gold again.

"This is Joyce and Josh at the Power Hour."

27 August 2012

two new shortwave receivers from sony

Sony Asia has introduced two new AM / FM / SW receivers, the ICF-F11S and the ICF-F12S. I've just become aware of them via eBay and Twitter, although the service manual linked below is dated 2007. These radios are similar in appearance and specs, aside from shortwave coverage. F11S shortwave coverage is 2.3-7.35 MHz, and F12S shortwave coverage is a considerably more generous 5.9-18 MHz.

Sony ICF-F11S
Sony ICF-F12S

I question the usefulness of the F11S radio with nighttime shortwave coverage lacking the 31-meter band. Between these two, I would definitely opt for the F12S. But overall, the product doesn't seem to have a purpose for me.

Initially I expressed confusion via Twitter that an eBay auction for an F11S listed the SW coverage as 2.3-7.35 MHz, whereas the product photo showed a shortwave band labeled 6-18. @swlistener replied with a link to an ICF-F11S/ICF-F12S manual that shows the specs for both radios. I was unaware that the F12S existed.

EDIT: XQYZ on reddit pointed out that these radios require two D batteries. After learning that, I wanted to share the dimensions as well. Sony Asia provides dimensions of 216 x 129.8 x 68.6 mm for these radios (8.5 x 5.1 x 2.7 inches). So, these are large portables requiring large batteries, with small shortwave coverage.

15 August 2012

the status of shortwave in sackville

Let's talk about Sackville. Sackville, New Brunswick, is the location of a shortwave broadcasting and relay site owned and operated by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Two shortwave transmitters were initially installed at the site in 1943, during the second World War. At its peak, Sackville had nine shortwave transmitters.

The Sackville transmitter station and a portion of the antenna system (source: Wikipedia)

Radio Canada International, the primary user of the Sackville station, stopped broadcasting shortwave in June 2012 due to budget cuts. RCI will continue broadcasting online, despite the known risks of Internet content filtering. CBC is further reporting that the transmission site and equipment is for sale, potentially to other shortwave broadcasters, or for use as a wind farm. As a last resort, the site would be dismantled.

Past and current international broadcasters also using the Sackville site for relay broadcasting include BBC World Service, China Radio International, Deutsche Welle, KBS World Radio (South Korea), Radio Japan, Radio Sweden, Vatican Radio, and Voice of Vietnam.

As a shortwave listener in North America, I have frequently received broadcasts coming from Sackville. If this transmitting site goes dark, I'll lose yet another reliable source of shortwave broadcasts. 

Here are a few YouTube videos involving RCI and the Sackville site:

08 August 2012

commercials that punish listeners

A few days ago, I heard a new commercial for the first time on my favorite local all-news radio station. And it really annoyed me. The entire ad is a song, and it uses one of the most jarring audio manipulation effects currently available.

The fact that this garish pop music audio effect is being used isn't really the problem. I have a problem listening to all of the song-based commercials on this station. Obviously, I don't tune in to listen to ads, but I certainly don't tune in to listen to music. And calling it music is often being too generous on my part. Music ads are simply a poor fit for any all-talk radio format. That which stands out too much is more likely to be rejected and ignored.

So please, get these crappy jingle ads off my favorite all-news radio station!