Some of you might recall that I’m spending the months of August and September in a condo near Québec City, Canada. We love it here, though it does present some radio challenges. Unlike our rural/remote mountain home in the States, I’ve always had to cope with QRM (manmade radio interference) here at the condo. Not surprising.
I typically bring my PK Loop antenna–it helps lower the noise a tad and is easy to take out on our balcony for optimal reception. Lately, though, the QRM has been even worse on the balcony than inside the condo (more on that in a future post).
Some North American and European stations punch through the noise when propagation is favorable (especially the Voice of Greece and Radio Romania International) but there have been evenings where nothing could penetrate the wall of noise.
One way I escape the noise, of course, is to take my radio to a picturesque remote location for the afternoon or evening. It’s amazing the number of signals you can pull out of the ether when the noise floor is so low.
Back at the condo, though, there’s no easy way to escape the noise.
Or is there?
Perhaps 21st century problems require 21st century solutions.
This year–especially here at the condo–I’ve spent a great deal of time exploring the KiwiSDR network.
For those of you not familiar, the KiwiSDR is a self-hosted WebSDR which operates much like a mini U Twente WebSDR. KiwiSDR owners install their SDRs at home–or in other favorable locations–then share control of their SDR with the world via the the Internet.
Like the U Twente WebSDR, KiwiSDRs allow multiple simultaneous users to control the SDR independently of each other. Each KiwiSDR can allow up to four simultaneous guests (the U Twente WebSDR can allow hundreds of simultaneous users, but it’s also a university-supported bespoke SDR with fantastic bandwidth!).
Over the past few years, the KiwiSDR network has grown almost exponentially. There are Kiwi SDRs on every continent save Antarctica (someone remedy that, please!).
Other than the fact that the SDR audio is piped through the Internet–and you can’t walk outside and adjust the antenna–there is no difference between using a KiwiSDR remotely or locally.
In fact, the KiwiSDR only has a web browser-based application, there is no downloadable application for local use. So quite literally, the experience of controlling and using a KiwiSDR locally or globally is identical.
And it’s so much fun! I browse the KiwiSDR network via the map above, select an interesting location, and virtually travel there for an impromptu DXpedition. I can travel to India, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, or Hawaii via the network and be back in time for dinner here in Canada without breaking a sweat or even using frequent flyer miles!
I’ve found that the combo above makes for an immersive experience. I use Bose Quiet Comfort noise-cancelling headphones paired with my iPad Air (which I have enclosed in a Zagg Rugged Book). With a reasonable Internet connection, it truly feels like I’m there.
Of course, you don’t need an iPad, or any special equipment. The KiwiSDR application works with pretty much any computer, tablet or smart phone that has a web browser. For the best experience, however, I would suggest connecting a good external speaker, bluetooth speaker or headphones.
I know many of you are thinking, “But Thomas! This isn’t real radio!”
But I would argue that it is real radio! It’s a real radio, connected to a real antenna that you’re simply controlling via the Internet with a web-based SDR application. Instead of the audio going through a sound card into your headphones, it’s going into a soundcard, piped through the Internet, then into your headphones.
Give it a try! You might find an impromptu DXpedition is the perfect remedy to your QRM and RFI blues!
Post readers: Any heavy KiwiSDR users out there? Or do you oppose using WebSDRs? What are your thoughts? Please comment!
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