Monthly Archives: January 2018

BBC: “Meet the girl whose teacher is a radio”

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mike Hansgen, who shares this news/media from the BBC World Service:

Could broadcasting school lessons solve Africa’s education crisis? The BBC spoke to a pupil in the Democratic Republic of Congo who is learning through the radio.

Click here to view on the BBC World Service website.

At Ears To Our World we’ve long appreciated the power of radio to spread information in rural and remote parts of the world: it’s effective, accessible and essentially free to the listener. Viva la radio!

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BBC launches new shortwave services for Ethiopia and Eritrea

(Source: BBC Media Centre via Mike Hansgen)

The BBC is launching new daily radio services which will be aired Monday to Friday in Amharic, Afaan Oromo and Tigrinya. The new language services have been available online since September 2017 when they launched websites and Facebook pages in all three languages.

The new radio services will provide impartial news, current affairs, features and analysis for Ethiopia and Eritrea, as well as regional and international news. There will be a strong focus on culture, health and original journalism from the region. These services are part of the largest investment in the BBC World Service since the 1940s and are funded by the UK government.

The programme will be broadcast on shortwave, satellite – and streamed directly onto each service’s Facebook page.

In addition content produced by BBC Learning English, part of the BBC World Service which teaches English to global audiences will feature prominently across the schedules for all three languages, with daily content as follows:
·
Essential English – Beginners (airs on Monday, repeated on Wednesday)
A functional five-minute audio course presented by an English speaker and a local presenter, which aims to help beginners to learn English. Learners will be introduced to essential chunks of functional language, which will allow them to start having simple conversations in English immediately.

English Expressions – Intermediate (airs Tuesday, repeated on Thursday)
This five-minute audio course focusses on common expressions used in everyday English. An English speaking presenter and a local language presenter discuss the meaning and use a different expression each week.

English Together Advanced (airs Friday only)
This is a bilingual five-minute audio with three presenters (2 English and one local language) discussing a current (safe i.e. non news) topic and examining the language used in the story allowing the user the practise their listening skills and equip them with the grammar and vocabulary needed to discuss the story.

The programmes are broadcast Monday-Friday at the following times:

  • 17:30 – 17.45: Amharic news
  • 17.45 – 17:50: Amharic Learning English
  • 17:50 – 18:05: Afaan Oromo News
  • 18.05 – 18.10: Afaan Oromo Learning English
  • 18:10 – 18:25: Tigrinya News
  • 18:25 – 18:30: Tigrinya Learning English

Programmes will also be streamed via the respective BBC websites and Facebook pages (see links below).

Details of how to listen:

Amharic

Afaan Oromo

Tigrinya

Notes to Editors
The Initial shortwave broadcast to go out at 17:30 GMT/ 20:30 EAT on three transmitters providing coverage across Ethiopia and Eritrea:

  • 7.595MHz
  • 11.720MHz
  • 12.065MHz

Repeat to follow at 18:30 GMT /21:30 EAT

  • 9.855MHz
  • 15.490MHz

Satellite Radio content will go out on the following channels:

  • Arabsat (BADR4) – 11.966GHz, Horizontal
  • Nilesat 201 -11.843GHz, Horizontal
  • Hotbird 13D – 12.597GHz, Vertical

Evening satellite broadcast to go out at 17:30 GMT and will be repeated until 21:30 GMT.

  • The BBC World Service reaches a global audience of 269 million weekly, on radio, TV, and digital.
  • BBC World Service received further funding of £291m until 2019/20 from the UK Government to launch twelve new language services: Afaan Oromo, Amharic, Gujarati, Igbo, Korean, Marathi, Pidgin, Punjabi, Serbian, Telugu, Tigrinya, and Yoruba. This additional funding is not part of the licence fee.

MF

Click here to view thisnews item at the BBC Media Centre website.

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Guest Post: Backpack Shack 2.0 – a homebrew wideband magnetic loop antenna

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, TomL, who shares the following guest post:


Backpack Shack 2.0

by Tom Lebryk

Like Audiophile speakers, it could be said that “antennas are forever”.  They tend to not become obsolete like all of our favorite electronic gear (a good one is worth the trouble).  And antennas don’t care if the signals are digital or analog formats.  They are “Digital Ready” (LOL)!

The flimsy “Backpack Shack” prototype broadband loop antenna created over a year ago had found a permanent home on the porch for general listening.  I started itching to make a new one that was even more portable.  To paraphrase an old saying, “The best antenna is the one you have with you!”

The new design criteria were:

  • Retain the broadband design of the amplified loop on a sturdy form
  • Shrink the size to fit into a backpack without heavy stand or long pole
  • Build a modular platform that would allow quick setup
  • Be something durable that can last me 20+ years of use
  • Allow the loop to be rotated and tilted by hand
  • Be easy to hook up to any kind of radio
  • and later on, Enhance the design as a true Ferrite Sleeve Loop

The Backpack:  The existing photo backpack was slightly too bulky.  Found on Amazon was an Adidas Excel II XXL backpack on special sale with plenty of tall compartments and minimal padding. It is surprisingly roomy and comfortable to wear with springy shoulder straps and padded mesh backside!

Sturdy Basic Form:  The Backpack Shack loop was originally built on 14-inch quilters loops (three of them) in a parallel configuration.  I thought to simplify the whole thing and just use one wide loop.  But what should I use for a sturdy form?  The quilters loops were too flimsy and PVC pipe was too heavy.  I stumbled upon a nice company called FlexPVC which allows sales to the public of various kinds of PVC pipe.  Their Thinwalled Air Duct PVC looked promising.  It is thinner than regular PVC but having standard inside dimensions and comes in custom-cut lengths.  I decided 10-inch diameter would fit best inside the Backpack.  FlexPVC even sends you a small booklet of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights with your order!  🙂

Thinwalled PVC form

The “length” as they call it would be my form width for the copper strip.  I thought 3-inch would be nice but decided 4-inch was better.  Supposedly, the aperture + the width of the “radiant element” is the main design consideration for loop performance.  So, I figured that as wide an element as I could get away with was better.

Stable Mounting:  Now, how to mount this thing!  I eventually went back to my photographic web links and found nice rig equipment for video cameras.  The typical construct is made of 15mm tubes of aluminum or carbon fiber (CF) and fit into adapters that allow attachment to other adapters or clamps.  Non-metallic CF seemed ideal, so, I ordered a whole bunch of items from eBay to experiment piecing together two 10-inch CF tubes mounted inside the PVC form. Then, I attached two 15-inch CF tubes to the bottom of the PVC with something called a “Cheese Rod” that has multiple holes.  Those two tubes are attached to another “Cheese Bar” which is attached to a second Cheese Bar on a cheap two-axis tripod head.  This is a simpler photo version with quick release plate that locks pan-tilt separately and only cost $16.

Cheese Rod attached to bottom of PVC

Pan-tilt head assembly with Quick Release plate

For the base, I had an unused Sirui T-2005X 5-Section Aluminum Travel Tripod going to waste, so it was pressed into service. Very good tripod: can hold 26 lbs. (forged aluminum, not cast aluminum), legs can flare out for stability, and folds to 14.5-inches.  Now, everything could come apart and fit into the Excel II Backpack!

Critically, the video rig standardization in the DSLR industry allows me to pick and choose parts from any cheap manufacturer but end up with a system that looks and feels coherent, is both sturdy and light, and can come apart if needed.  Also, the pan-tilt photo head is really easy to work to get maximum peak or null out of the loop when mounted to a camera tripod.

CF Problem:  CF tubes have no internal threads like that of  aluminum tubes.  So, I attached two, small 3/8-1/4 inch tripod adapters to the ends of a 3/8-inch oak dowel inside each CF tube destined for the inside of the PVC (ridiculously, I used up almost a whole bottle of super glue to get these 4 tiny pieces to attach to the oak dowels).  This is definitely a weakness of my design but I could not figure out any other way to get the CF to mount inside the PVC form.  Then, added to this is something wonderful I found at Ace Hardware called “speed nuts” to help push ipwards against the incoming stainless steel socket head screws of exact length. With jam nuts, internal lock washers, wing nuts, and strategic use of Thread Locker Blue, I finally had enough confidence that this thing would hold together!!

Speed Nuts pushing upward against incoming screws

Super-glued 3/8-1/4 inch adapter on end of oak dowel inside CF tube

Bottom assembly (Cheese Rod, Cheese Bar, and 15mm Clamp screwed together + wires to a BNC connector)

Ferrite Sleeve Loop:  Halfway through this project, I became determined to use the ferrite bars and rods I had purchased from eBay mid-summer 2017 to turn this antenna into a real Ferrite Sleeve Loop but with a broadband design (At that time, I ended up purchasing the very last quantities of 62x12x4mm ferrite bars from the Lithuanian eBay seller, just because they were becoming scarce plus some other 8mm ferrite rods).  The Thinwalled PVC is 5mm thick, perfect for this type of application.  The video equipment could handle the extra weight.  I had just enough ferrites to line the inside of this PVC form with two bars side-by-side all the way around the inside (plus some shorter ferrite rods at the top and bottom).  Some quick setting JB WELD Kwik Weld epoxy made quick (and permanent) attachment of these ferrites to the inside of the PVC.  Now, the bars stick out from the PVC form by about ½-inch on each side, so I do have to be careful it does not get abused and chip off any of the exposed ferrite.

Soviet ferrite bars and rods, 400 ui (initial permeability).

Note: Using Gary DeBock’s Performance estimate (diameter * length), this calculation predicts that this FSL 10.75-inch loop should perform similarly to Gary’s 10-inch models using 140mm long Russian ferrite bars (mine probably performs less than his since I am not using carefully tuned (to Mediumwave) litz wire on higher permeability 1500 ui ferrites like he does).

See:  Summary of Gary DeBock Ferrite Sleeve Loop designs

But, “*WHY* do FSL antennas work?!?!” is still the very intriguing question….   🙂

See:  Graham Maynard report on Ferrite Sleeve Loop antennas

Preamplifier:  I believe one advantage of building a portable, table-top loop antenna like this is that all the connections are short.  This allows me to use a Preamp right at the connection point of the loop. Indeed, this was critical since passive testing (no Preamp, nor ferrites) found that this loop is somewhat deaf at the MW frequencies and uninspiring on the SW bands. This was true even when connected to Antenna A of my SDRPlay RSP-2 and the internal Low Noise Amp cranked all the way up.  So, I ordered the DX Engineering RPA-2 Preamp. This adds to the weight somewhat since I also needed a 12V battery supply using a 10-cell holder of NiMH AA batteries and 2.1mm plug.

See:  Short discussion about Preamp placement to antenna

The question arises that I “should” impedence-match the output of the loop before anything else to  increase “maximum gain”.  Well, for one thing, a tuner or matching balun would just introduce loss as soon as the wire comes out at the base of the antenna. The slight net increase in gain does not seem worth it; the signal/noise ratio rarely changes when introducing a device that is meant specifically for matching a transmitter to a load.  Receiver circuits don’t care as long as there is enough signal to process.  That is what the Preamp is for.  The Preselector is for rejecting out-of-band (i.e., increasing signal/noise ratio + eliminate overloading the electronics).

See:  Good discussion why antenna tuners don’t matter

Preselector:  Now that the signal level was satisfactory, I added on the Cross Country Preselector, which I like very much since it is passive, lightweight, and well made.  I had looked at other amplified preselectors but found the schematics showing the preselector came first in the path.  I needed the preamp first, so that is how I ended up with separate units.  In fact, the reverse configuration performs with worse signal/noise ratio because of the loss inherent in the preselector.  In this case, it is definitely needed to amp the loop first with a high quality preamp (high IP3 rating)!

Automatic Bypass:  The Cross Country unit has a great feature in the “off” position as an automatic bypass.  This feature is very important since I do not need a Preselector in the circuit all the time.  The bypass feature also allows the RSP-2 to monitor a large swath of spectrum without having the Preselector cut the bandwidth.  The DX Engineering RPA-2 Preamp also has a circuit bypass when the power is off – very nice feature!  So, I can keep all the antenna wires connected if I don’t want to use either device on a certain band – necessary for my broadband antenna design and use with an SDR.

Modular Portability:  Another advantage of a table top loop is portability.  Because of the modular design, I can put this into checked baggage (except for the AA batteries and laptop) and have it available for DXing in unexpected places.  It could be useful when traveling and I cannot string wire into a tree but want something better than a whip antenna on a small radio.  Everything fits into the bag and can be setup on a balcony, inside a car with a sunroof, or on a park picnic table.

A third advantage is that a short antenna could be clamped to one of the tubes and then connected directly to Antenna B of the RSP-2 for listening to higher frequencies (like a Comet W100RX). This expands the usefulness of this project as a platform for multiple antennas!

Finished Loop and accessories assembled together

Performance:  Good on MW and very good on Shortwave.  It is not in the league of Wellbrook antennas but it is useful as long as the RSP-2 LNA is kept down around  -7 on MW and -4 on SW, else it overloads.  The photo gear makes it easier to use than the original loop.  I found that one side has a slightly larger receiving lobe than the other which is OK in practice.  The null is very sharp and takes a little finesse to null out an offending station by almost 20 dB on MW and 15 dB on SW (the photo head can lock in place).  It is handy to have the pan-tilt arm point directly at a station to maximize the null since the arm is mounted perpendicular to the loop.  I will look for a clear plastic bag to cover the antenna and electronics to use in wet environments.

A larger loop would work better but this one is to use wherever I can.  Also, my work laptop is noisey and shows birdies and spikes here and there on the bands, so I added a large ferrite bead to the USB computer end which helps.  But I don’t have to use an SDR, I just have to change a connector and radio.  It was expensive and fun to build – I guess I am just LOOPY!

Happy Listening,

Tom Lebryk

Appendix I, Field Recordings 27-Jan. 2018 between 21.26-22.36 UTC:

Note 1:  All Transmitter locations referenced from web site short-wave.info at time of recordings

Note 2: My location in a shelter at Dick Young Forest Preserve (41.84334, -88.38133)

Note 3: Moderate but declining solar wind with no flares, Kp Index = Calm (1)

9.420 MHzVoice of Greece booming in like it was next door:

9.640 MHzChina Radio International (weakly) in Spanish from Kashi-Salibah western China:

9.620 MHzHCA, Kununurra Australia beamed at Korea:

9.395 MHzWRMI booming in:

9.445 MHzAll India Radio clear as a bell, quite nice to hear!

9.490 MHzKNLS World Christian Radio, Madagascar in Chinese:

9.600 MHz – Vatican Radio, Tinang Philippines in Chinese:

9.610 MHz Voice of Turkey, Emirler Turkey (endless string & flute music):

15.000 MHzWWVH, Hawaii (halfway, I checked on WWV at 10 MHz to make sure it was on the air, weird propagation, defintely not due to my antenna!):

Appendix II, Parts List:

  • 1 FlexPVC 4-inch Custom cut X 10-inch diameter Thinwall Air Duct PVC
  • 1 pair each size of 15mm CF rods 10-inch and 15-inch
  • Video Camera Rig parts: 2 Cheese Bars, 3 Rod Clamps, and 1 Cheese Rod
  • 1 cheap Neewer pan-tilt photo head with quick release plate
  • 10 screw adapters for tripods 3/8-to-1/4 inch
  • 1 copper sheet roll cut to size (or Aluminum foil instead)
  • 4 Flat Speed Nuts 1/4-20 from Ace Hardware
  • 1 Oak Dowel 3/8” diameter from a local hardware store, cut as needed
  • 1 DX Engineering RPA-2 Modular Receive Preamplifier
  • 10 AA Powerex Precharged NiMH batteries for the Preamp + 10x AA snap battery holder + CCTV 2.1mm snap plug
  • 1 Cross Country Preselector
  • 1 SDRPlay RSP-2 with SDR Console software on Lenovo laptop
  • 1 Belkin USB printer cable with large ferrite bead looped through 3 times on computer end
  • 1 Sirui T2005X travel tripod
  • 1  Adidas Excel II XXL backpack (gaudy Solar Orange color!)
  • Velcro brand 7/8” x 23” One-Wrap velcro strips

Plus shielded cables, BNC and SMA adapters, Thread Lock Blue, tie wraps, rubber bands, super glue, JB WELD Kwik Weld epoxy, speed nuts, jam nuts, acorn nuts, wing nuts, internal lock washers, nylon nuts and screws, and 1/4”-20 socket head screws of various lengths as needed.


What a brilliant project, Tom! What I love is the fact that you consider your unique requirements prior to starting a project and base your design on your specific needs. Additionally, you see each design as an iteration. Fantastic job! No doubt, you’ll log numerous hours with this antenna in the field!  Thank you for sharing your detailed design notes, process, list of materials and even audio clips with us.

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Purchase an original Sony ICF-SW7600 that traveled with a VOA correspondent in the 1990s

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dan Robinson, who notes that one of his friends is selling a radio with a little history:

[For] anyone interested in an older SONY portable with a bit of history attached (he was VOA East Europe and Jerusalem correspondent).

Thanks for the tip Dan.  Now, please, someone purchase this before I do! The BuyItNow price is $59.95 plus a few dollars for shipping. [Either it’s a glitch on eBay or the BuyItNow price might have been removed as I published this–sorry.] I’ve never owned the original SW7600 (though I have a couple SW7600GRs).

Click here to view on eBay.

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Ivan reviews the Sangean WRF-28 WiFi radio

The Sangean WFR-28 WiFi Radio

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Ivan (NO2CW), who writes:

Hello, I posted on YouTube my review of the Sangean WFR-28 FM and Wifi Internet radio receiver.

In particular I was able to sideload my directory of English Language broadcast stations from over 100 countries using their “Favorites” menu. It now sounds like the good old days of shortwave …almost. I can listen to the morning traffic report in Singapore, local news from Guam, afternoon talk show from Gibraltar and a nighttime DJ from Uganda – all in English.

Click here to view on YouTube.

Thank you for sharing this in-depth review, Ivan!

I’m still very pleased with the WFR-28 which I reviewed many months ago. For now, I believe the WFR-28 is the best value in WiFi radios (currently $115 on Amazon–affiliate link).

Of course, a number of personal assistant device like the Amazon Echo also stream radio via the TuneIn Radio aggregator, but since these devices rely on voice commands, some stations can be difficult to call up. I still prefer a proper WiFi radio/Internet appliance like the Sangean WFR-28 or Como Audio Solo.

Thanks again, Ivan!

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James recommends “Seveneves” by Neal Stephenson

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, James Hukill (K7NEO), who writes:

So I just about wrapping up reading a new book that has morse code mentioned as a part of the plot in darn near 80% of the book. Well and not in a cheese demeaning way.

[Stephenson] is one of my favorite authors and popular enough to not be obscure to most folks.

Anyways, thanks for all your hard work.

My pleasure, and thank you for the book recommendation, James! I read through the synopsis and–being a sci-fi and dystopia fan–it does sound like a fascinating read indeed! Putting this on my wishlist.

Click here to view on Amazon.com (affiliate link).

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Kenneth is impressed with the W6LVP Magnetic Loop Antenna

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Kenneth Wigger, who writes:

One Friday evening I contacted Larry W6LVP and asked a question about the kind of coax that he would recommend for his Magnetic Loop antenna. I was surprised to get a response with technical information within an hour or so. With this kind of customer service I decided to go ahead and order one of his antennas later that evening. I actually received the antenna on Monday afternoon within a couple days.

I have extreme electrical noise that was S-8 most of the time on my Carolina Windom and made my radio almost unusable. I temporarily installed the Magnetic Loop antenna on a short 5 FT pole in the backyard. With the XYL as the null monitor at the radio I called her on my cell phone and rotated the antenna by hand and was able to get a sharp noise null of about S-1. Very tight null when rotating just a few degrees one way or the other. Went in the house and couldn’t believe the clear signals that were hidden by the previous high noise level. It reminded me of SWLing 50 years ago as a kid back in the good old days before the electrical noise environment turned so bad!

As I mentioned, the antenna arrived within a couple days and was of high quality construction and packed extremely well for shipment. I had read the previous reviews about Larry’s product quality and customer service and my experience was also very good!!

I am planning to mount the antenna on a Channel Master rotator one of these days to get the full effect of the excellent directionally of this Magnetic Loop antenna. I even read where Broadcast Band Listeners use this antenna to pick up and select between multiple stations on the exact same AM frequencies.

I highly recommend Larry W6LVP and his Magnetic Loop antenna to other Hams and SWL listeners. He responds personally to emails within a business day usually just an hour or two. What more could a customer ask for?

Thank you, Kenneth, for sharing your review! It’s nice to have an alternative to the pricier Wellbrook and Pixel Loop antennas. Someday, I’ll get around to reviewing the W6LPV loop antenna as well.

Click here to view W6LVP antennas on eBay.

Click here to view the W6LVP website.

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