TUNING IN (PDF)
News, Trends, And Short Takes
Broadcasters May Lose Battle To Expand 4–10 MHz Allocation
On October 22, 190 nations gathered in
Geneva for the quadrennial World Radiocommunication Conference, which
allocates global radio frequency spectrum. Richard Russell, the U.S.
ambassador to the conference, described it as the Spectrum Olympics.
Australian commercial radio broadcasters have unveiled a digital radio-enabled mobile phone that allows users to view, navigate, and store visual content broadcast by radio stations. The phone features the “Visual DAB/DAB+” application that can receive digital radio broadcasts, along with images such as track details, news headlines, weather images, and competitions.
Digital radio broadcasters could use the technology for a range of interactive services, such as competitions, music charts, shopping, voting, and user-generated content, as well as for revenue opportunities through special offers and electronic coupons.
The Australian government has set an
official start date of January 1, 2009, for digital radio in Australia,
which will allow radio stations to broadcast multiple channels, along
with images and data, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.
The Czech government has extended the contract with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) on the lease of its seat on Wenceslas Square in Prague center to the end of March 2009, Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek recently told reporters. The original contract was to expire this year. In the meantime, a new RFE/RL seat is being built in Prague Hagibor by the Orco Property Group. It is to be completed by the end of 2008.
RFE/RL previously estimated the construction and relocation costs at about 14 million dollars. RFE/RL will have a 15-year contract of lease on the new building, which will be over 23,000 square meters, with the possibility to extend it by another 10 years. The building will meet the strict security criteria.
RFE/RL began considering relocation from
Prague center after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington on
September 11, 2001. The headquarters moved to Prague from Munich,
Germany, in 1995.
Capitol Hill And FCC Actions Affecting Communications
FCC’s Amateur Radio Enforcer
After announcing in late October that he would be stepping down this month as Special Counsel for the Federal Communications Commission’s Enforcement Bureau, Riley Hollingsworth a few days later reversed his decision, opting to continue in the post.
“After spending the entire weekend thinking about the decision [to retire], it became more and more clear to me that it just isn’t the right decision for me right now,” he said. “There are several issues on the table that I want to continue to work through with the amateur community.” A licensed radio amateur with the callsign K4ZDH, Hollingsworth initially announced he would be stepping down January 3, 2008.
The Enforcement Bureau is the FCC’s division responsible for enforcement of the Communications Act, the Commission’s rules, Commission orders and terms and conditions of station authorizations. It also oversees enforcement of amateur radio rules in Part 97.
Before reversing his decision, Hollingsworth told the American Radio Relay League that “after about a year of thinking about the ‘if not now, when?’ question, I decided to retire. I love working for the FCC and I’ve always had great jobs, but this one involving the Amateur Radio Service has been the most fun and I have enjoyed every day of it.
“For nine years I’ve worked with the best group of licensees on earth, enjoyed [the League’s] support and tremendous FCC support and looked forward every day to coming to work,” Hollingsworth said in the ARRL Letter.
Hollingsworth is noted “as being the force
behind the re-introduction of amateur radio enforcement in 1998 and
continuing those efforts through today,” the ARRL said. “His
contribution in cleaning up the amateur bands has been substantial and
The FCC has levied a six-month restriction of the amateur radio license of a Missouri operator, alleging “deliberate interference, broadcasting and failure to identify.”
The Commission wrote Darin W. Colville, KMØQ, of O’Fallon, Missouri, that “the information contained in the complaints, if true, raised serious questions regarding your qualifications to retain an Amateur license.
“We requested detailed information from you pursuant to [the Communications Act of 1934], which gives the Commission the authority to obtain information from applicants and licensees about the operation of their station and their qualifications to remain a licensee,” the FCC said.
“After telephone conversations between
Colville and FCC representatives, it was agreed that Colville would
accept ‘a six month restriction on your license that would prohibit
operation on any Amateur station on UHF or VHF for a period of six
months in order to avoid further enforcement sanctions. That restriction
is retroactive to July 9, 2007, and will end at midnight Jan. 6, 2008.’”
Bhutan Broadcasting Service—Voices From The Roof Of The World
With A New
Transmitter And Antenna, Thunder
Tune a radio across the AM broadcast band during daylight hours in Thimpu, the capital of the Kingdom of Bhutan, and you will hear nothing but static. The small Himalayan state, called Druk Yul (land of the Thunder Dragon), was long in self-imposed isolation. Wedged between giants China and India, it has no AM broadcast band stations. It never has.
Until recently, when FM relay stations were created, the only radio station in Bhutan was the shortwave broadcaster of the government-funded Bhutan Broadcasting Service (BBS).
“We don’t have the budget to cover Bhutan with mediumwave,” says BBS Executive Engineer Rajesh Kafley. “We would need a minimum of three transmitters.”
There would be technical barriers even using multiple transmitters, says former BBS engineer, Dorji Wangchuck. “Ground conductivity is poor here,” says Wangchuck, who credits Indian engineers with recommending shortwave as the best wavelength to cover Bhutan. And the experts contend that Bhutan’s terrain does not make FM a viable option either, considering the mountains and valleys that must be traversed just to reach a little more than 600,000 people. But that does not mean Bhutan isn’t trying.
BBS’ 34 FM transmitters (a few are even solar powered) cover about 80 percent of the country. Most are only 10 to 50 watts, but a few of the transmitters are in the 1–2 kW range.
Shortwave gives “practically 100 percent coverage” of Bhutan, according to Kafley. But he acknowledges a chronic QRM (interference) problem from China for listeners in northeast Bhutan.
Many Bhutanese have shortwave bands as a
standard selection on their car radios. During treacherous nighttime
drives, sometimes in blinding downpours, heading east from Thimpu to the
former capital, Punakha, via the Dochula Pass (over 10,000 feet
altitude), the shortwave bands provide the only radio signals heard in
this part of the Himalayas. And my driver and guide, Tshewang Nidup,
indulges me by allowing me to do some mobile SWLing after BBS signs off.
VOA, BBC, Radio China International, and Voice of Russia provide the
strongest and steadiest signals.
For most rural Bhutanese, who are largely illiterate, despite the proliferation of cable television and several newspapers in the cities, the main source of news, information, and entertainment in the remote villages remains the BBS shortwave broadcasts.
BBS radio broadcasts from 0600 to 2100 Bhutan
time (0000 to 1500 UTC) daily in English and in three indigenous
languages: Dzongkha, Sharchopkha, and Lhotshampa. Dzongkha, related to
Tibetan, is the official language and mandatory in schools. Sharchopkha
is spoken in eastern Bhutan by a distinct ethnic group. Lhotshampa is
spoken by those with Nepalese roots and is widespread in the south.
English, used in official communications, is spoken with near native
fluency by most government officials and other educated people, as well
as by students and merchants in Thimpu and Paro, the largest cities.
A Tour Of Radio Exterior De España
How One SWL’s Wildest Dream Came True
by Chip Rice
I’m not sure how the subject of shortwave listening came about in Mr. Zinn’s history class during my 8th grade year, but it must have been involved my intense love of all things related to astronomy and spaceflight. My middle school buddy Vonn Mosser was relaying to me that on shortwave he could always hear the chirps, beeps, and whistles of satellites streaming data down from earth orbit. My eyes grew big as he continued about broadcast stations, not much different than my West Virginia hometown’s own WKLP except that they were beaming programs around the globe that were meant for international audiences.
Vonn told me how the signals were propagated from the antennas in these faraway places and how they reflected off the ionosphere directly to the listener. Well that was it! I just had to have one of these receivers that were the gateway to other nations and even the stars.
This is my personal story of a young shortwave
enthusiast, new to the hobby, who one day realized his early dream and
visited the studios of one of his favorite international stations. The
journey from my initiation into radio by a friend to walking the halls
of Radio Exterior de España (REE) has been a fantastic adventure, the
kind seldom realized by most SWLs.
In my youth, RadioShack had just put out the more “kid’s-budget” DX-100. While it certainly wasn’t the dream receiver, it was a table model with a few more controls to fiddle with than most. In no time, I had converted our upstairs linen closet to a listening shack, much to my mother’s chagrin. I wrapped a long wire antenna around the attic’s support beams and dropped the lead down through the portal on the ceiling of the closet, past the sheets and blankets on their shelves and into my shiny new receiver. If memory serves, I was put to bed early that night for plodding my feet through the attic’s fiberglass insulation in more than a few places.
In my new hideaway I would stare dreamily at my copy of the annual periodical Communications World. It bore on its cover a Panasonic RF-4900 with its gleaming teal-colored digital frequency readout and shiny, chrome rack handles. The digital readout alone would have made my life easier as I tried to bag distant stations using the DX-100’s less-than-perfect analog dial.
Within the advertising pages of Communications World, perhaps buried somewhere deep in White’s Radio Log, was an ad for a light-blue book with nothing on its cover but the words Shortwave Listener’s Handbook. Intrigued and on my teenager’s budget, I bought a copy. Within this thick hardcover guide, I found limitless information on my new hobby as well as pictures of QSL cards from exotic lands.
One that really spurred my sense of wonder was
from station ELWA in Monrovia, Liberia. It had a hand-drawn African
scene set next to a ceremonial fire. In the center was a tribesman
beating out a metaphorical radio signal from a native tom-tom. I’d
dreamed for years of catching that station and finally logged it late
one night in early 1981, while a raging thunderstorm flashed beyond my
Zombie Army Of The
Allow me to briefly reset the scene…In 1968, a young George A. Romero started a part-time industrial movie company in Pittsburgh. Working with a group of friends, he put together a cheap black and white horror flick called Night of the Living Dead, never expecting it to do much more than make a bit of money. To everyone’s surprise, the movie grossed over $40 million dollars, was entered into the United States National Film Registry, and did nothing less than come to define in the public mind the Zombie archetype of today!
As I outlined in Part I of this article (November 2007), Zombies are not just a product of the imagination, but actually exist!
You may be aware that a computer can be infected with a software virus that can damage valuable files and crash hard drives. But did you also know that specialized viruses can hijack your computer, turn it into a Zombie, and instruct it to attack other computers, just like Zombies attacked people in the movie? Zombie computers are not a minor problem; in fact, they’ve become a matter of national, economic, and personal security.
There are an estimated 150 million Zombie computers in operation today around the world, and millions more are being recruited, even as you read this article. Because of this Army of Zombie computers, government offices, military installations, and business systems are experiencing an unprecedented level of “cyber attacks.” The attacks themselves are becoming increasingly sophisticated and expensive, both in terms of increased security costs and actual damage done to equipment.
It’s an interesting point to consider that it used to take a hacker an average of 288 days back in 1999 to figure out a way to exploit a vulnerability that had been discovered. Today it only takes an intruder an average of 10 days to do the same. This is because the people exploiting these vulnerabilities are no longer college kids proving how smart they are; they’re organized professional computer programmers, often being paid big money by either crime, rogue governments, or terrorist organizations.
The intruders creating the Zombies
deliberately target home computers because of their lax security. The
problem is that most owners of “Zombified” computers have no clue that
their equipment has been infected and hijacked.
OUR READERS SPEAK OUT
Each month, we select representative reader letters for “Our Readers Speak Out” column. We reserve the right to condense lengthy letters for space reasons and to edit to conform to style. All letters submitted must be signed and show a return mailing address or valid email address. Upon request, we will withhold a sender’s name if the letter is used in “Our Readers Speak Out.” Address letters to: Edith Lennon, Editor, Popular Communications, 25 Newbridge Road, Hicksville, NY 11801-2909, or send email via the Internet to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I was a “morning man” on WRUC in the late-60s. Our equipment was relatively primitive, and we broadcast in AM over a carrier current system through the wiring of the college residence halls and by telephone line to nearby Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York. But our production standards were high, and many of our alumni went on to successful careers in broadcasting and entertainment, including CBS News correspondent Richard Roth, and film director Phil Alden Robinson (Field of Dreams and Sneakers).
Today, WRUC enjoys a superb FM studio that is still maintained and staffed entirely by volunteer undergraduates. Their sound is imaginative, and best of all, they’re having a great time.
Peter K. Smith
Programming The PRO-94—A Tutorial
by Ken Reiss
Some things just never seem to lose
popularity. Although it was just recently discontinued, I continue to
get letters about the PRO-94 trunking scanner by RadioShack, so there
must be quite a few of them out there. One batch of recent letters dealt
with how to program a trunking system on the PRO-94, so I thought I’d
offer a few tips and perhaps a somewhat simpler process than the owner’s
manual. As an added benefit, the PRO-96, the 94’s bigger brother is
still produced, and much of this should apply to that receiver as well
(although the 96 does deal with a few things differently and some of the
key sequences are different).
The PRO-94 is sold as a 1,000-channel scanner, but that’s a bit misleading; it’s really two 500-channel scanners occupying the same box. It offers 50 channels in each of 10 different banks, in two separate groups, A and B, and the first thing you need to do is figure out which one you’re in. Press the MAN switch to stop the scanning and then press and hold the A/B HOLD switch to switch back and forth. An A or B should show on the display to indicate which group you’re in. Once that’s decided, then you can pick one of the 10 banks, 1–10, and a channel.
You can navigate to a particular channel by entering the channel number and pressing MAN, or you can use the UP and DOWN arrow buttons to skip through manually. Press PROGRAM to put the unit into the program mode after you’ve picked the bank group, bank (1–10) and channel (any of the 50 in that bank) that you want to store a frequency in. Enter the frequency and press enter. It’s stored there as a conventional channel that can be scanned, as in any normal scanner. If you’re entering a conventional frequency, that’s about all there is to it.
Again, there are 50 channels per bank, and
10 banks are active at once (group A or B), so up to 500 channels can be
scanned at once in the conventional mode. Or, you can choose to dedicate
one or more of the banks to trunking mode, and add that in with the
Trunking is where programming always gets a bit tricky. No matter what kind of scanner you have, there’s additional information required to scan a trunked system, and each scanner manufacturer handles that differently. Let’s take a look at the basics of how the PRO-94 handles a Motorola trunking system, which is by far the most common for public safety use.
An Even More Super Super Loop
by Bruce A. Conti
The Super Loop antenna, a member of the
terminated broadband loop genre of antennas that includes the Flag and
Pennant, was introduced last August here in “Broadcast Technology.”
Since that introduction, there have been further developments warranting
a design update. Here’s another look at the Super Loop, new and
The Super Loop, Flag, and Pennant antennas are all terminated broadband loop antennas that feature a single loop of wire with a series “termination” resistor. One major advantage of a loop antenna is its ground independence or floating ground; no direct connection to ground is required at the antenna. Therefore, the antenna “termination” is essentially a “self-termination” rather than a conventional termination to ground. That means a loop antenna can be used anywhere, regardless of whether or not a good ground is available. Other advantages of a loop antenna are its low noise characteristics, broad bandwidth covering longwave through shortwave frequencies, and directional capability. A broadband loop is also easy to build, simply consisting of a single loop of wire, RF matching transformer, and lead-in to the receiver.
What separates the Super Loop, Flag, and
Pennant from a simple broadband loop antenna is the termination
resistor. The addition of a series termination resistor forces the
normal bidirectional figure-8 reception pattern of a loop antenna to
favor a single direction with a wide cardioid beam.
The Super Loop initially earned its name because of its super-sized dimensions. Unlike the relatively compact dimensions of the Flag and Pennant, the Super Loop was super-sized in an attempt to improve low-angle gain at mediumwave frequencies. The hypothesis is that the bigger the antenna, the better the performance, due to the long wavelength of AM broadcast band frequencies.
Well, tests of mini and micro Super Loops are
proving that size doesn’t really matter. Three different size antennas
were modeled and tested at a southern New Hampshire site. Super Loop
antennas measuring 45 x 95 feet, 50 x 75 feet, and a mini 10 x 20 feet
all proved to have comparable performance. Other DXers are reporting
similar results with various dimensions. Mark Connelly, WA1ION, went one
step further, successfully testing an approximately 6 x 6-foot micro
Super Loop while DXing from a coastal Massachusetts site.
THE ANTENNA ROOM
Active Antennas For Better SW Reception
by Kent Britain, WA5VJB
An easy way to improve SW signal reception is to add an amplifier to your antenna, and the best way to do that is to make the amplifier part of the antenna itself. Putting an amplifier on a small antenna can really improve your SWL experience, so this month we’ll be covering a couple of active antennas, the MFJ-1020 and the Ramsey AA7B, which do just that. And, of course, we’ll also be covering our usual assortment of side topics as well as addressing a couple of our reader’s questions.
In Photo A you see a shortwave receiver and two types of active antennas. The idea behind active antennas is that a small antenna with a lot of gain can give the same signal strength as a much larger antenna.
Most active antennas amplify a signal 100 to 1,000 times. This extra gain can really help pull in weak signals, but at a price. I’ve often described this problem as “Wearing a Hearing Aid at a Rock Concert,” meaning that if the sound outside the hearing aid is louder than what the little speaker in the hearing aid can put out, the device acts as an ear plug, not an amplifier.
This is the problem in many urban areas. In my case, I live about seven miles from 40 FM broadcast stations, and just over 50 TV transmitters. If I put a power meter on a pair of common TV rabbit ears and set them on top of my living room TV, I read about 0 dBm. Or about 1/1000 watt. This is about the same output power as many Bluetooth products.
(I can’t resist and must diverge for a moment
here. Do you know who “Bluetooth” was? He was a Danish chap noted for
his military exploits nearly 1,000 years ago. In Scandinavia is he
considered a king and military conqueror. Most of Europe, on the other
hand, considers him a pirate who looted surrounding cities. He seems to
have had a dead front tooth, and when he smiled you saw his “bluetooth.”
I guess if we ever have a similar product in the United States, we could
code name it “Red Beard” for our infamous pirate.)
Photo B shows an MFJ-1020 active antenna. The MFJ-1020 is designed to both amplify and preselect from .2 MHz to 30 MHz. Preselection is good for several reasons. Many shortwave radios produce what are known as images. Images are caused by design limitations in a radio, and are what’s going on when you think you’re listening to one frequency, but are really listening to two, three, or even more frequencies at the same time. With older radios, for instance, you could often tune in WWV at 10.000 MHz, but you could also hear it coming in almost as strong on 10.91 MHz. This was caused by the
Stuff You Really Need To Know About Antennas
by Kirk Kleinschmidt, NTØZ
When I was a teenage ham in the 1970s, I made a lot of mistakes when it came to antennas. Sure, I measured every wire segment religiously, I used good-quality ceramic insulators—and I even had a 50-foot tower in my backyard from which to hang my creations.
I made quads and wire Yagis out of bamboo
poles I scavenged from the local carpet store (they were used as
“spindles” inside rolls of carpet that came from the factory). I made
G5RVs from enamel-covered copper wire that the guy at the motor repair
shop gave me (the ends of big spools that were too small for winding
coils for big electric motors) and 300-ohm twin-lead from the corner
Because the sunspot cycle was cooperative in
those days—unlike today and for the next little while—I worked a lot of
stations and even a lot of DX. But if I’d known then the stuff I’m going
to mention in this month’s column, my experiences would have been
better. A lot better!
One of my biggest sins involved 150-foot runs of cheap, crappy coaxial cable. Yep, I had a quad at 65 feet, fed with a seemingly endless run of disgusting, super-lossy coax! I had a two-element “bamboo Yagi” for 15 and 10 meters at about 55 feet, fed with another length of the same disgusting coax. (I couldn’t afford a rotator or 150 feet of control cable, so I aimed the beams at Europe or Africa. Seasonally, when it was time to point toward Japan or the South Pacific, I climbed the tower and re-aimed the antennas!) The same went for my G5RV, although because it had a 29-foot length of twin-lead attached to the feed point, the length of junky coax was that much shorter.
The coax was inexpensive and my after-school job paid all of $3.50 an hour. Instead of saving up for something better (and a lot more expensive) or trying to wrangle some leftover 75-ohm hardline from the cable company, I used what I could afford and what was available: cheap RG-58 coax. And I paid a heavy price in the long run.
It’s no wonder I gravitated toward QRP
operating right from the start. Even though my trusty Tempo One
transceiver was putting out 100 watts or more, I shudder to think how
much RF was actually making it to the antenna! And when you throw in my
“soldered by a teenage ham” PL-259 connectors, well, let’s not even go
there! (Three issues back I detailed how I handle that nowadays, with
RG-6 satellite cable, good-quality crimp-on F connectors, and a
selection of handy adapters. Problem solved.)
So, now that I’ve confessed, let my
transgressions pave the way for your success—success from the get-go and
not from the school of hard knocks! Here are this month’s tips, in no
THE POP’COMM TRIVIA CORNER
Radio Fun And Going Back In Time
by R.B. Sturtevant, AD7IL
Q. Before World War II got started, did the Allies broadcast anything to help the Europeans see the danger of war?
A. Yes, but not very effectively. The British, who would become masters of radio propaganda in their own right, had a rather shaky start under Neville Chamberlain. Two days before his historic meeting with Hitler in Munich, Chamberlain made a speech to the British people at 8 p.m. on September 27, 1938. The BBC was asked to broadcast the same speech to the continent in German, French, and Italian, which was something it had never done before. One of the first things the BBC discovered was that it had nobody on staff to do the German and French translations or to read the speech in those languages. The Foreign Office said it could come up with the translations and speakers but didn’t.
The BBC’s director of overseas services tracked down G. Walter Goetz, a German-born editorial cartoonist for the British Newspaper The Daily Mail. Goetz made his radio debut reading the German version of the speech. BBC announcers were found to read the French and Italian versions. Two hours before the broadcast was ready to begin, the Foreign Office wanted all three transmissions to include news announcements with the speech.
The translators began getting the speech at 8:15 p.m. one page at a time. They worked quickly and passed on their work to the speakers, also one page at a time. The last page came in at 8:30. Despite the errors and mispronunciations and other on-air gaffs the transmissions were judged a success, given the circumstances.
The director general of the BBC believed that, on the eve of war, the peaceful intentions of the British people could be demonstrated by sending to Germany the sound of a nightingale in an English wood. During the speech, Chamberlain unfortunately used a phrase about the Czechoslovakian crisis as “a quarrel in a far-away country between people of whom we know nothing.”
After a farce like that anything Churchill’s
government tried was an improvement.
POWER UP: RADIOS & HIGH-TECH GEAR
New, Interesting, And Useful Communications Products
Rugged PCs For EMS Applications And More
Computer manufacturer GETAC Inc., which offers rugged notebook and convertible tablet PCs for field-based applications, showcased three models at the recent EMS Expo 2007: the V100, M230, and W130.
The new GETAC V100 is a MIL-STD 810F and IP54
compliant notebook that features an LCD screen that instantly transforms
into a tablet PC. The portable 4.9-pound V100 features an ultra-quiet
fanless design and includes a wide range of standard features, including
a 10.4-inch screen, power-saving 1.2 GHz Intel Core Duo Platform
Technology, 512 MB expandable to 2 GB of DRAM, 120 GB shock-mounted
removable hard drive, integrated bluetooth, reversible waterproof
camera, and a full menu of wireless networking capabilities, all housed
in a water-resistant, rugged magnesium alloy case and ready for mounting
in any emergency vehicle. The V100 offers a variety of advanced options,
including a 12-inch LCD screen featuring a daylight readable screen and
choice of digitizer or touch screen interface, as well as optional
Integrated GPS, 3G and 802.11a/b/g.