22 December 2015

about a radio call-in contest

The year was 1999. I was driving around the Oakland/Berkeley area, locally referred to as the East Bay, and some FM radio station I was listening to was giving away concert tickets. I listened for the phone number, and rushed to pull over so I could use my wireless phone safely.

I was the correct caller, and the DJ who answered the phone did the standard thing of asking questions and recording the call to play back on the air. At the end of the call, she asked me my favorite radio station.


I wasn't a regular FM radio listener anymore. I certainly didn't have any loyalty to the stations in my area. But it was a nice distraction in the absence of other things to listen to. Digital audio players apparently existed for a year by that point, but I didn't own one yet.

So I had maybe two seconds, tops, to remember and say the name of this station, who were so generously giving me two tickets to an upcoming concert.

Let's see, what frequency am I on? 101-something. I don't have that car anymore, so I don't remember what the radio tuner looked like. But it was definitely factory, so I did an image search and see that the radio had a digital frequency display. So I was likely looking at 101.3 on the tuner display. And it's not one of the callsigns I know. Embarrassingly enough, I knew the callsign of the local smooth jazz station, KKSF (since changed to KOSF, and with a different format now). And there was the ubiquitous KOIT, the easy listening station that you might hear in a dentist's office. As for this frequency? The station's identity hadn't been stored in my brain yet.

I had a good guess, and decided to go with it rather than admit I didn't know what station I was calling. I mumbled through the branding for the station, which was correct, and heard it played back a few minutes later on the broadcast.

Thank you, KIOI aka K-101, for those concert tickets!

30 November 2015

the state of my hobby

The date is 28 September 2015. I'm standing on the roof of a parking garage, which was my first regular outdoor shortwave listening location in July 2005. A beautiful sunset took place tonight, and orange remnants are still visible on the horizon. It's always pleasurable to climb the stairs of this structure to view the sky and surrounding area.

There's an airplane approach overhead, for jets coming from the Pacific towards SFO's 28 L/R runways. So a continuous line of carefully-spaced airplanes is often visible. Occasionally, a widebody jet approaching from the north flies to this location and does a U-turn for the approach. (In fact, that's exactly what happened when I finished composing that paragraph.)

As the sky gets darker, a nightly opportunity opens up with the removal of the D-layer of the ionosphere. Sure, daytime skywave propagation occurs under different characteristics, but I'm primarily a nighttime listener. And I'm comforted by my hobby of outdated technology of analog radio broadcasting, despite my daily usage of the Internet. I remember Radio Havana Cuba, in particular, coming through my Kaito 1102 portable. Naturally, when I went home that evening, I wrote my reception log on a computer.

When I began this hobby over 10 years ago, it was already declining. Shortwave transmission sites are being decommissioned and disappearing, and international news organizations prefer Internet distribution. RF noise levels are problematic due to the complicated infrastructure in the average modern home, making cheaper indoor shortwave receivers and their antennas seemingly perform poorly. Shortwave is a niche and a hobby in my country. Smartphones and portable music players tend to focus on digital audio files and Internet streaming. And if a radio tuner is included, it's FM only.

An argument in favor of Internet broadcasting is that the content matters more than the medium. The Internet can deliver better quality further and more reliably than analog radio broadcasting, which is subject to atmospheric conditions and geographic limitations. And shortwave broadcast equipment is expensive to operate.

But these are not reasons to abandon a hobby or a passion. They are limitations and realities to be taken into account so that one may adapt. Rather than complain about what has changed, it's possible to enjoy what's still available. And that's what I plan to do.

22 November 2015

now equipped with wx radio

I recently acquired a small portable radio, a Kaito KA210, which receives AM (520-1710 kHz), FM (88-108 MHz), and the weather band (162.400-162.550 MHz). El Niño is coming, and I thought this would be a good time to explore a previously-ignored radio service. Not every form of local preparedness has to involve my computer, smart phone, or a local all-news AM/FM station, right?

At my home in San Francisco, I've received broadcasts on four of the seven available frequencies, and heard callsigns for all four of these stations.

  • 162.400: KHB49 "San Francisco all hazards" (IDed 22 Nov 2015 0223 UTC)
  • 162.475: WZ2504 (Sonoma County) (IDed 22 Nov 2015 0923 UTC)
  • 162.500: KDX54 "Big Rock Ridge all hazards" (IDed 22 Nov 2015 0923 UTC)
  • 162.550: KEC49 "Monterey all hazards" (IDed 22 Nov 2015 0952 UTC)

There are additional NOAA stations in my area that I haven't yet received:

19 November 2015

bbc shortwave, 26 sep 2015

During 1025-1050 UTC on 26 Sep 2015, I tuned to 9740 kHz on my Eton E5 with a ceiling-mounted random wire antenna connected. I heard a faint and fading English broadcast which sounded quite like BBC due to the accents. Short-wave.info lists three BBC broadcasts for this time and frequency, originating in Thailand and Singapore.

Within a few minutes, I positively identified the broadcast from the phrases "BBC World Service" and "BBC News". BBC's current frequency guide for Southeast Asia matches the data on short-wave.info, confirming broadcasts originating in both Thailand and Singapore on 9740 kHz. I'm assuming that I'm receiving the stronger of the two signals (which is from Thailand). In this case, Nahkon Sawan, Thailand to San Francisco, California represents a reception distance of approximately 7900 mi / 12700 km.

Links relevant to BBC's Thailand relay:

11 November 2015

kaito ka11 on shortwave

I powered up my diminutive Kaito KA11 with two like-new alkaline batteries, raised the miniscule whip antenna, and listened to the tiny speaker. It was shortwave I intended to scan. The time was about 0415 UTC, nighttime in my location, on Sun 18 Oct 2015.

At first, I heard nothing, even on 10000 (enter + 1 + 0 + enter), where I expected either WWV or WWVH to come through. Then while adjusting the telescopic antenna, the signal suddenly became loud as if the antenna had been loose in some way. I wanted to try 5000, but the shortwave frequency range on this receiver is 5800 to 18100 kHz. Although, amusingly, the radio accepts input of 18199 kHz. So with only 10000 and 15000 available on this radio for checking WWV and WWVH, it's difficult to do my initial propagation test.

Having to deal with strong local interference from adjacent apartments, I wandered my apartment in search of a combination of strong signal and low interference, with little success. Rather than consulting published schedule info, I tried to identify broadcasts the hard way.

5935: Female, English, religious, probably University Network
6090: music
7455: Male, English, religious
9790: Female, Asian language, the best signal by far from these receptions
10000: WWVH

In general, I experienced harsh audio with high-pitched static, heavy fading (nothing resembling gain control or sync detection here), and a poor overall listening experience. I've always enjoyed this radio's appearance, with its compact size, modest weight, and pleasant orange backlight for the LED display. The buttons have a satisfying feel when pressed, so operation of the radio is fine but the results are not. And most of my portables take AA batteries. This one takes two. I'm especially happy when a radio takes an even number of AA batteries.

The next afternoon, around 2100 UTC on the same day, I checked the available daytime bands. Again, I could only check WWV/WWVH on 10000 and 15000, and only 15000 registered a very weak tone from these time stations. I didn't even hear the voice identification to help me differentiate which station it was. Quick stepping through the 25m, 22m, 19m, and 16m bands didn't turn up any signals worth mentioning. I may have chosen a bad time for this band scan, and admittedly didn't use a more powerful reference radio to see what kinds of receptions might be possible.

In summary, this radio offers a lot in terms of look and feel, but couldn't receive much shortwave from inside my home.

30 October 2015

firedrake logs, oct 2015

Firedrake has interested me for a while, but I didn't log it at all in 2014. Recently I've been enjoying the UTwente WebSDR thanks to mentions from LondonShortwave on Twitter and my friend Dan. So I thought that would be a useful resource to look for Firedrake again. I found that it's still very active and can be found on a number of daytime and nighttime frequencies.

During 21-24 Oct 2015, Firedrake was located on these frequencies (kHz):

5890 (1800, 2000, 2100 UTC)
5970 (2000 UTC)
7435 (2100 UTC)
7505 (2200 UTC)
9355 (1800, 1900, 2000 UTC)
9370 (2200 UTC)
9685 (2100 UTC)
9745 (1800, 1900, 2000 UTC)
11560 (1800 UTC)
11945 (0100 UTC)
13830 (1100 UTC)
17625 (0500 UTC)
17810 (0600 UTC)

This is a consolidated version of my logs arranged by frequency. Times shown are simply the hour during which the transmission was identified; some receptions were only a minute long.

The target of all of these jamming transmissions, by my recollection, was Radio Free Asia. I saw at least two mentions on Twitter of Radio Free Asia receptions. One was a description of music, the other was a YouTube video. Radio Free Asia is a news broadcast, and the jammer is loud orchestral music. When identifying a station, it's important to ensure that the format is a match, as well as the date, time, frequency, and region (taking things like propagation and greyline location into account).

However, Radio Free Asia itself is not a source of broadcast frequencies for its Cantonese broadcasts. On their broadcasting schedule page, recently updated for the B15 period, the Cantonese schedule is indicated with Frequency Not Promoted.

25 October 2015

brief radio romania international log

25 Oct 2015, 2350 UTC. I've been listening on and off to Radio Romania International, English on 6015 kHz via the UTwente websdr. The broadcast was loud and clear, with the S-meter hitting S9+40. After they read a huge list of social networks in which they participate, they announce that their programming is also available on mobile phones. I was expecting to hear about some smartphone app or another, but instead they gave out a United States phone number.

At the close of the hour, the announcer (or a recording) stated that programming was also available in WMA, MP3, and AAC+ formats. They gave out the email address engl@rri.ro. Then I heard their standard closing melody of nine notes repeated until an abrupt end of the signal at 2357 UTC.

24 October 2015

uvb-76 buzzer on 6998 khz

The mysterious broadcast known as S28, UVB-76, and The Buzzer is commonly found on 4625 kHz USB. In the past few days, I and others found an identical broadcast on 6998 kHz USB. Here's a waterfall image of the broadcast from the UTwente WebSDR, on 23 Oct 2015 at 0125 UTC.

14 October 2015

shortwave scanning, 30 sep 2015

30 Sep 2015, 1933-2015 UTC (daytime), San Francisco, CA, USA. Frequencies in kHz. Broadcasting data from short-wave.info; city distances from geobytes. Eton E5 with ceiling-mounted random wire antenna.

15480: Adventist World Radio, Arabic (Madagascar; 10600 mi / 17060 km)
15580: Voice of America, English (Selebi-Phikwe, Botswana; 10356 mi / 16666 km) -- very weak, fading
15730: Voice of America, French (Greenville, NC, USA; 2477 mi / 3986 km) -- strong and clear
15825: WWCR, English (Nashville, TN, USA; 1960 mi / 3150 km)
17530: Voice of America, French (Greenville, NC, USA; 2477 mi / 3986 km) -- weak
17730: Radio Havana Cuba, French (Bauta, Cuba; 2565 mi / 4128 km) -- 1940 UTC
17730: Radio Havana Cuba, Portuguese (Bauta, Cuba; 2565 mi / 4128 km) -- 2000 UTC
17765: WHRI Overcomer, English (Cypress Creek, SC, USA; 2292 mi / 3690 km)
17855: Radio Exterior de España, Spanish (Noblejas, Spain; 5800 mi / 9325 km)

I've logged the long-distance Botswana VOA broadcast earlier this month, but to my knowledge I've never logged a broadcast from Madagascar before now.

03 October 2015

pdf: introduction to beacon dxing

While searching for more information related to the longwave non-directional beacons I have been recently seeking, I came across this PDF.

28 September 2015

shortwave scanning, 18 sep 2015

2057- 2159 UTC (1:57-2:59 PM local time PDT / UTC-7), San Francisco, CA, USA.

Frequencies in kHz. I used my Eton E5 receiver, with battery power, indoors, and a ceiling-mounted random wire antenna. Broadcasting schedules and frequencies from http://short-wave.info . As this happened during daytime, I focused on frequencies in the range 9400-18000 kHz (covering the 31m, 25m, 22m, 19m, and 16m broadcast bands).


9475: WTWW (Lebanon, TN, USA)
10000: WWV (Fort Collins, CO, USA) -- faint
12105: WTWW (Lebanon, TN, USA) -- faint, French
13845: WWCR (Nashville, TN, USA)
15000: WWV (Fort Collins, CO, USA)
15190: RMI Radio Africa (Okeechobee, FL, USA)
15580: Voice of America (Selebi-Phikwe, Botswana) -- weak, fading
15610: WEWN/EWTN (Vandiver, AL, USA)
17540: NHK World Radio Japan (Cypress Creek, SC, USA) -- strong, Portuguese
17730: Radio Havana Cuba (Bauta, Cuba) -- strong, Spanish
17840: Radio Australia (Shepparton, VIC, Australia) -- strong and clear

NCDXF / IARU beacons 

This monitoring took place 2210-2250 UTC. The W6WX beacon is about 45 miles from me and remains my only reception of the 18 beacons in this group. 4U1UN on 18110 might've made an appearance but that's unconfirmed for now.

14100: W6WX + all four dashes (Los Gatos, CA, USA)
18110: W6WX + all four dashes (Los Gatos, CA, USA)
21150: W6WX + all four dashes (Los Gatos, CA, USA)
24930: W6WX + all four dashes (Los Gatos, CA, USA)
28200: W6WX + all four dashes (Los Gatos, CA, USA)

NCDXF/IARU Beacon transmission schedule


Only a few of the broadcasts were really listenable at an enjoyable level; mostly I sought to identify the broadcasting language and the signal quality. Radio Australia reached me with a transmission distance of 7790 mi / 12540 km. The best catch was Voice of America on 15580 kHz from Botswana, with a transmission distance of 10,356 mi / 16,666 km. I'm often able to pick up WWVH in Hawaii, but was unable during this session.

I was glad to take advantage of my ceiling-mounted random wire antenna, which has been dormant in the past few years. It's 16 feet long, reel style from one of my radio purchases, and runs diagonally across my living room ceiling.

14 September 2015

shortwave scanning, 01 sep 2015

01 Sep 2015, 0900 - 0940 UTC

3330 kHz: CHU (English/French)
4840 kHz: WWCR
5000 kHz: WWV, faint WWVH
5025 kHz: Radio Rebelde
5830 kHz: WTWW
5890 kHz: WWCR / Overcomer
5935 kHz: WWCR / University Network
6090 kHz: Caribbean Beacon / University Network
6195 kHz: NHK (Portuguese)
7570 kHz: RMI / Overcomer
7850 kHz: faint CHU (English/French)
9580 kHz: Radio Australia
9655 kHz: KNLS (Chinese) -- new broadcaster log
9700 kHz: Radio New Zealand International
10000 kHz: faint WWVH
11565 kHz: WHRI
11815 kHz: NHK (Japanese)

Receiver: Eton E5, manual scanning and frequency entry, battery power, no external antenna, indoors. Shortwave broadcast schedules and frequencies from short-wave.info.

31 August 2015

rhode island farmhouse: WW2 monitoring station

A farmhouse in Rhode Island was turned into a listening post during World War 2. Over 16 miles' worth of antennas were strung among newly-installed telephone poles, and a 40-member team operated the station.

• In World War II, dozens of radio operators in Scituate dialed into enemy conversations worldwide

21 July 2015

2015 mlb all-star game on fm

I had the opportunity to listen to the 2015 MLB all-star game on the radio. I retrieved my Tecsun BCL-2000 from its storage drawer, and plugged it in though a voltage converter. Listening began at about 3:30pm PDT, which was about 30 minutes before game coverage. The station is KGMZ, FM 95.7 MHz "The Game", an ESPN Radio affiliate in San Francisco.
Since my radio has Chinese labeling, I went to Eton's website to review the user manual, and searched Google Images to see the corresponding English labels for the front panel controls.

Radio settings:
  • Bass: 6
  • Treble: 1.5
  • RF Gain: 6 (has no effect 0-10)
  • Volume: 1.5 (plenty loud from across my living room)
  • FM AFC: on (never needed this before)
  • Telescopic antenna: raised but not extended
  • Signal strength: full
Even with the treble level quite low, the broadcast has a lot of harsh treble. The audio path in this radio uses cheap components; Kiwa offers an audio upgrade which claims to improve sibilance and dynamics. I tend to listen to a lot of AM broadcast band stations with a narrow filter that doesn't have much treble to begin with. But I'm definitely not happy with the audio quality from this radio; I chose it for this particular broadcast because it's loud.

The connection between the plug and the voltage transformer proved to be loose; attempting to adjust it caused the radio to lose power. (Batteries aren't installed.)

Select program contents (quotes may be paraphrased and are included only for context and identification):
  • (ad) stupid in-broadcast advertisement for a popular ridesharing company involving a recording of Donovan McNabb pulled over for DUI two blocks from home, claiming to be sick and on cough medication
  • Buffalo Bills coach Aaron Kromer charged with assault
  • "I believe we will lead you into the all-star game" (why aren't you sure?)
  • "Coverage starts today at 4" (PDT) "95.7 the game"
  • "I am wearing your headphones right now. If you're missing headphones, they're here in the studio."
  • "The midsummer classic. Don't you go anywhere!"
  • Interviewing a book author about the Oakland Athletics. "The Giants might be interested in Ben Zobrist"
  • "How frustrating is it to know... that this team is better than the record reflects?" "I am just an objective listener!"
  • "Coming up next, it's the fall classic." Nope, that's the World Series, pal
  • "86th Major League Baseball all-star game... tonight another sellout... Welcome back to Cincinnati"
  • "the winner determines home-field advantage for the World Series"
  • "Batting practice continues in this hitter-friendly park"
  • "Major League Baseball got a huge break with the weather"
  • "Greatest home run derby ever"
  • "Who will be tonight's MVP?"
  • (ad) "20% off everything for home or business to save water"
  • (ad) "The whereabouts of cousin Jimmy are still unknown."
  • (ad) "Let me put more icing on that cake!"
  • Summary of the first half of the 2015 MLB season
  • (ad) "Why wait until the end of the season to get paid?"
  • (ad) "Tractors" (does this FM station really reach rural areas?)
  • "Baseball Tonight continues from Cincinnati"
  • Ned Yost pre-game interview
  • "Now, another first half story line..."
  • "Pete Rose... should he be in the Hall of Fame?"
  • "Our great city of Cincinnati, Ohio"
  • Huge ovations for Franchise Four: Johnny Bench, Barry Larkin, Joe Morgan, Pete Rose
  • Bruce Bochy pre-game interview
  • "I can't believe [the Yankees] are playing this well"
  • (after player introductions) "Everyone, all 42,000 on their feet"
  • Four greatest living players: Hank Aaron, Johnny Bench, Sandy Koufax, Willie Mays
  • (ad) "Turn down that radio!"
  • "When he catches, he wears women's perfume!"

01 January 2015

all-time longwave logs

Logged from the San Francisco bay area:

223 "YKA-" (Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada; 900 mi)
236 "YZA-" (Ashcroft, British Columbia, Canada; 885 mi)
251 "YCD-" (Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada; 800 mi)
290 "YYF-" (Penticton, British Columbia, Canada; 825 mi)
326 "DC-" (Princeton, British Columbia, Canada; 815 mi)
332 "LBH" (Blue Lake / Portland, Oregon; 540 mi)
332 "XH-" (Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada; 1030 mi)
335 "CC" (Concord, California; 36 mi) ** logged daytime and nighttime
335 "CVP" (150 w; Helena, Montana; 810 mi)
338 "RYN" (400 w; Tucson, AZ; 750 mi)
344 "FCH" (Fresno, California; 159 mi) ** logged daytime and nighttime
344 "XX-" (50 w; Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada; 785 mi)
350 "NY-" (Enderby, British Columbia, Canada; 920 mi)
359 "BO" (Boise, Idaho; 535 mi)
368 "SX-" (Cranbrook, British Columbia, Canada; 900 mi)
368 "ZP-" (Sandspit, British Columbia, Canada; 1175 mi)
371 "ITU" (100 w; Great Falls, Montana; 880 mi)
374 "EX-" (Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada; 855 mi)
374 "LV" (25 w; Livermore, California; 41 mi)  ** logged daytime and nighttime
378 "OT" (North Bend, Oregon; 405 mi)
385 "WL-" (Williams Lake, British Columbia, Canada; 1015 mi)
397 "SB" (San Bernardino, California; 370 mi)
400 "QQ-" (Comox, British Columbia, Canada; 855 mi)
404 "MOG" (100 w; Montague, California; 285 mi)
408 "MW" (Moses Lake, Washington; 690 mi)
411 "RD" (Redmond, Oregon; 475 mi)

--- 26

Logged from the Watertown, NY area:

216 "CLB" (Wilmington, North Carolina; 685 mi)
236 "OW" (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; 75 mi)
248 "UL" (Montreal, Quebec, Canada; 150 mi)
257 "GTB" (Fort Drum, New York; 20 mi)
263 "YGK" (Kingston, Ontario, Canada; 35 mi)
272 "YQA" (Muskola, Ontario, Canada; 185 mi)
278 "NM" (Matagami, Quebec, Canada; 450 mi)
289 "YLQ" (La Tuque, Quebec, Canada; 280 mi)
303 "YPP" (Parent, Quebec, Canada; 280 mi)
317 "ZMX" (Montreal, Quebec, Canada; 150 mi)
326 "VV" (Wiarton, Ontario, Canada; 250 mi)
329 "YHN" (Hornepayne, Ontario, Canada; 550 mi)
332 "YFM" (Lagrande 4 Baie-James, Quebec, Canada; 700 mi)
334 "YSH" (Smiths Falls, Ontario, Canada; 60 mi)
335 "YLD" (Chapleau, Ontario, Canada; 550 mi)
340 "YY" (Mont Joli, Quebec, Canada; 480 mi)
341 "YYU" (Kapuskasing, Ontario, Canada; 485 mi)
351 "YKQ" (Fort Rupert, Quebec, Canada; 550 mi)
362 "SB" (Sudbury, Ontario, Canada; 300 mi)
366 "YMW" (Maniwaki, Quebec, Canada; 160 mi)
371 "GW" (Kuujjuarapik, Quebec, Canada; 780 mi)
373 "2Q" (Mont Laurier, Quebec, Canada; 175 mi)
378 "RJ" (Roberval, Quebec, Canada; 360 mi)
382 "YPL" (Pickle Lake, Ontario, Canada; 840 mi)
391 "3B" (Brockville, Ontario, Canada; 40 mi)
392 "ML" (Charlevoix, Quebec, Canada; 400 mi)
400 "PTD" (Potsdam, New York; 60 mi)
401 "YPO" (Peawanuck, Ontario, Canada; 870 mi)
407 "ZHU" (Montreal, Quebec, Canada; 150 mi)
409 "YTA" (Pembroke, Ontario, Canada; 140 mi)
414 "3U" (Gatineau, Ontario, Canada; 100 mi)

--- 31