Tag Archives: Kim Andrew Elliott

Kim Elliott on shortwave radios & signal jamming in 2015

"Russian Federation (orthographic projection) - Crimea disputed" by FutureTrillionaire - Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Russian_Federation_(orthographic_projection)_-_Crimea_disputed.svg#mediaviewer/File:Russian_Federation_(orthographic_projection)_-_Crimea_disputed.svg

(Source: USC Center on Public Diplomacy)

BBC Russian Wants to Expand, But It’s Not So Easy

The BBC, as part of its 2015 Charter Review document, announced proposals to “invest” in BBC World Service. This includes a desire for a “bigger digital presence in Russian through a new digital service on platforms such as YouTube and the Russian equivalent Rutube, together with TV bulletins for neighbouring states. We would also start a feasibility study for a satellite TV channel for Russia.”

[…]The feasibility of BBC satellite TV for Russia is problematic. Very few Russians have rotatable satellite dishes, surfing the Clarke Belt in search of outside news. About 25% of Russian homes have fixed Ku-band satellite dishes to receive proprietary domestic direct-to-home services such as TricolorTV and NTV+. Western Russian-language news channels are not included in these channel packages and are unlikely to be invited aboard. Content from Western Russian-language broadcasters, including Voice of America and Radio Liberty, is also legally not welcome on Russian domestic terrestrial television and radio stations.

[…]So far, Russia has not blocked the Internet content of Western international broadcasters, at least not on a continuous basis. The Kremlin’s repeated denials of any intent to block Internet content suggest that it has at least been thinking about it. And recent press accounts indicate that Russian authorities may even try to ban anonymizers and other methods used to work around online censorship. Circumvention tools would have to become even cleverer, and Russian users would have to be willing and able to use them. In an extreme scenario, Russia could physically cut off the landlines of Internet traffic into the country. Then no circumvention tool within the Internet Protocol would work.

This could bring BBC Russian full circle to the venerable but unfashionable medium of shortwave radio. To be sure, Russians are out of the habit of listening to shortwave. Shortwave is no longer used for domestic broadcasting in Russia. BBC Russian eliminated its shortwave broadcasts in 2011. But, if need be, Russians could dust off their Cold War era shortwave radios. Or they could purchase inexpensive Chinese-made portable radios with shortwave bands.

In addition to traditional voice broadcasts, text, images, and even formatted web pages can now be broadcast using existing shortwave transmitters, and received on any shortwave radio. The audio must be fed to a PC or mobile device equipped with appropriate (free) software. Such a method allows reception of content even in difficult reception conditions, and allows unattended reception. This new capability of existing shortwave broadcast technology has been demonstrated through the VOA Radiogram experiments.

If Russia blocks Internet content from abroad, it will also probably try to jam shortwave radio content from abroad. Most jamming transmitters of the Cold War era have been dismantled or have fallen into disrepair. Many of the jamming transmitters are outside of Russia, in former Soviet republics. Reviving a shortwave jamming apparatus would be a much more expensive proposition than blocking Internet content. Various Cold War anti-jamming tactics, using various tricks of ionospheric propagation, can be employed. Text via shortwave would be even more resistant to jamming than voice broadcasts.[…]

Read the full article by Kim Andrew Elliott at the USC Center on Public Diplomacy online.

Want to develop a VOA Radiogram application?

VOARadioGramAre you an application developer?

The VOA Radiogram is seeking a developer to create software for PCs and mobile devices “to simplify the decoding of text and images transmitted by VOA and other radio stations.”

The RFQ and Statement of Work from the Broadcasting Board of Governors can be dowloaded by clicking here.

Note that there is a very short deadline–September 26–to submit your proposal.

One Post reader notes that, “although BBG will make the software available for free, and will provide the source code, this is a paid procurement. Respondents are expected to state their fee.”

The category is $15,000 – $25,000 as can be seen here:

http://www.bbg.gov/partnerwithus/doing-business/

Again, responses are due September 26, 2015!

VOA Radiogram this weekend mixes bad noise with good noise

VOARadioGram(Source: VOA Radiogram)

During the past weekend, we experimented with mixing music with MFSK text modes. Reducing the MFSK modes by 9 dB was not a problem if the signal level was good, but the MFSK text did break up for some listeners if reception conditions were marginal.

This weekend, 15 and 16 June, we will mix some actual noise taken from shortwave with MFSK text. After the noise begins, a VOA News story in MFSK16 will first be transmitted at full level, then reduced to -6 dB, then reduced to -12 dB. I will probably lose many of you when the level is reduced to -12 dB, but please stay tuned: the audio level will soon be restored.

Here is the lineup for VOA Radiogram, 15 and 16 June 2013:

  • 2:10 MFSK16: Program preview
  • 1:58 MFSK16: Introduction to noise experiment
  • 10:09 MFSK16: At -0 -6 -12 dB versus noise
  • :59 MFSK16: Image of VOA logo
  • :47 MFSK16: Introduction to MFSK32
  • :51 MFSK32: Image of VOA logo
  • 3:19 MFSK32: VOA News re Curiosity Rover on Mars MFSK32: VOA Radiogram logo
  • 2:40 EasyPal Image of the week
  • 1:10 MFSK16: Closing announcements
  • :20 Surprise mode of the week

VOA Radiogram transmission schedule

(all days and times UTC)
Sat 1600-1630 17860 kHz
Sun 0230-0300 5745 kHz
Sun 1300-1330 6095 kHz
Sun 1930-2000 15670 kHz

All via the Edward R. Murrow transmitting station in North Carolina.

Please send reception reports to radiogram@voanews.com

Capture images on the VOA Radiogram this weekend

VOARadioGram(Source: VOA Radiogram)

VOA Radiogram for the weekend of May 11 and 12 will feature long stretches of VOA News in plain text, using the MFSK 32 and 64 modes. No Flmsg or Flamp this time. This weekend’s program will also include our first test of slow scan television (SSTV).

Here is the lineup:

MFSK16 (2:28)     Preview

MFSK32 (12:08)     VOA News stories

The first of the three stories will be in Spanish. This is to determine how letters with accent marks appear on your display. The second VOA news story will be followed by an accompanying MFSK32 image

MFSK16     Intro to the next mode

MFSK64 (3:34)    VOA News story

MFSK16     Intro to the next mode

SSTV Scottie DX (4:31)

There are several software programs that decode SSTV, including Digital Master 780 (DM780) andMMSSTV. A free receive-only SSTV decoder is RX-SSTV from users.belgacom.net/hamradio/rxsstv.htm

MFSK16 (1:11)     Closing announcements

Closing music, accompanied by the surprise mode of the week

Please send reception reports to radiogram@voanews.com

Screenshots and audio samples are welcome, especially audio of less than perfect reception conditions.

VOA Radiogram transmission schedule
(all days and times UTC)
Sat 1600-1630 17860 kHz
Sun 0230-0300 5745 kHz
Sun 1300-1330 6095 kHz
Sun 1930-2000 15670 kHz
All via the Edward R. Murrow transmitting station in North Carolina.

 

More shortwave digital text (and the reason behind it)

Screenshot of digital mode being selected in FLDIGI. Click image to enlarge.

SWLing Post readers have seen previous posts regarding text being broadcast via shortwave digital modes on WBCQ, WRMI and The Mighty KBC (which broadcasts again this weekend).

Recently, Kim Elliott explained his mission behind these digital tests. Not only do I agree, but I support him completely. Why? It’s proof that the shortwave spectrum is an excellent medium to transmit digital information across the globe. Decoding requires a very basic shortwave radio, some free software and a computer. I believe, in the near future, there will be a smart phone app that can handle this with ease–it simply needs a developer (hint, hint).

Here is Kim Elliott’s post on the topic–I have emphasized points in bold:

Radio amateurs use several modes to transmit text via shortwave. It occurred to me that text via shortwave might be a workaround whe[r]e the internet is not available because of disasters, dictators, or other causes.

I have not yet convinced any major international broadcasters to let me test this hypothesis on their (remaining) shortwave transmitters. However, the Netherlands-based Mighty KBC has kindly been allowing me two one-minute segments during their broadcast to North America at 0000 to 0200 UTC on 9450 kHz. This is via leased time on a transmitter in Bulgaria.

Reception of text via shortwave is possible on an inexpensive shortwave radio, even one without single sideband (SSB) capability. The audio is patched into a PC that does not have to be especially powerful. This involves a patch cord from the earphone jack of the radio to the microphone input of the PC. If there is no patch cord, placing the radio’s speaker near the built-in microphone of a laptop might work.

Software for decoding the text should be installed in the PC. There are several available to radio amateurs, including DM780, MixW, and MultiPSK. Especially popular these days is Fldigi. This is available from www.w1hkj.com. While you are there, please also download Flmsg, because it will be needed for this weekend’s test on KBC. [Note: This software is free and open source.]

This weekend’s test on KBC will feature the MT63 modes with long interleave. After Fldigi is installed, go to Configure > Modems > MT-63 > check 64-bit (long) interleave, 8-bit extended characters, and Allow manual tuning. Also, go to Configure > Misc > NBEMS > check Open with flmsg and Open in browser and, below that, indicate where your flmsg.exe file is located.

The first KBC text transmission will be around 0130 UTC Sunday (Saturday evening 8:30 pm EST). The MT63-1000 mode with long interleave will be centered at 1000 Hz on the waterfall visible on the software display. PSKR125 will be cenetered at 2200 Hz. Decode one while listening, and decode the other from your recording of the transmission.

The second text transmission will be just before 0200 UTC Sunday (9 pm Saturday EST). This will be MT63-2000 centered at 1500 Hz. This message will be formatted for Flmsg. If all goes well, the shortwave transmitter in Bulgaria will open a new window of Flmsg and then open a new window of your web browser with formatted content, in color no less.

One week after my first text transmissions (11 November) on KBC, Arnie Coro at Radio Havana Cuba began transmitting digital text modes on his Dxers Unlimited program (in English). He might do so again this weekend. The schedule for DXers Unlimited can be found at the World of Radio website (where all times and days are UTC, so those UT Monday transmissions are actually Sunday evening in North America).

More discussion of the concept of digital text via analog shortwave broadcast is in Kim’s December 2012 column (pdf) for the North American Shortwave Asociation.