Monthly Archives: July 2024

Weird question . . . from the old retrocrank

The Grundig G3 sported a Dual Conversion PLL Digital tuner with smooth tuning and no discernible muting between frequency steps.

Like some others of my age (roughly) who have posted here, I vastly prefer radios that do NOT mute between tuning steps . . . that provide smooth, continuous tuning.

So, does anyone know of any true, new, currently in production, radios with an analog receiver? Could be AM, FM, and/or shortwave?

And, if there are any, obviously I am interested in the ones that you think work well.

Cheers, Jock

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After sun after the rain

Hi it’s FastRadioBurst 23 from Imaginary Stations here letting you know of a couple of our summertime specials this coming week.

On Sunday 14th July 2024 at 0900/1300 hrs UTC on 6160 kHz and then at 2000 UTC on 6160 kHz and 3975 kHz the Imaginary Stations crew will be bringing you more summer of shortwave celebrations with COOL 3. More summer vibes and happy sunshine tunes even if though the weather outside isn’t summerlike at your QTH (or perhaps it is?)

Then via WRMI on Wednesday 17th July 2024 at 0200 UTC on 9395 kHz we’ll be bringing you  a great show in the form of Radio Ace, alas no Flash Frisbone but an array of wonderful tunes and the story of Mingling Mike. It’s a winner and well worth a listen so tune in.

We now have a Patreon page for our regular listeners here. Monthly memberships are available for exclusive audio and zines.

For more information on all our shows, please send  to [email protected] and check out our old shows at our Mixcloud page here.

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Radio Waves: Baofeng HTs Used by Militants, Ham Radio Memory, and Radio Sunshine

Radio Seribatu FM Tower

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Dan Robinson, William Pietschman, NT, and Tracy Wood  for the following tips:


Walkie talkie made by Chinese firm link militants across groups (Hindustan Times)

Baofeng walkie talkie sets are common among Maoists, insurgent groups, and anti-military forces in India and Myanmar, aiding communication in remote areas.

Made by China’s Fujian Baofeng Electronics Co., huge numbers of these walkie talkie sets have been seized wherever there is insurgency. They are inexpensive, hardy, easy to use, and have a range of 5 km, which can be extended to 10 with an easy hack. [Continue reading…]

Commander 1 Brigade Nigerian Army Donates Baofeng Radios To Civilian Joint Task Force In Zamfara State (EONS Intelligence)

The Commander, 1 Brigade Nigerian Army, Gusau, Brigadier General Sani Ahmed donated 100 sets of BAOFENG Communication Radios (Walkie-Talkies) to members of the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) in a brief ceremony at Headquarters, 1 Brigade Gusau Zamfara State

In his remarks, the Brigade Commander, Brigadier General Sani Ahmed said the donation of the Baofeng Radios is part of his Corporate Social Responsibilities to the host communities and to enhance the operational capacity of the Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF) in the state. He added that this will aid the CJTF to carry out their responsibilities in securing lives and property in their respective communities effectively. [Continue reading…]

Electric ‘Ripples’ in the Resting Brain Tag Memories for Storage (Quanta Magazine)

[Note: this is not a radio article, but mentions a connection to ham radio.]

György Buzsáki first started tinkering with waves when he was in high school. In his childhood home in Hungary, he built a radio receiver, tuned it to various electromagnetic frequencies and used a radio transmitter to chat with strangers from the Faroe Islands to Jordan.

He remembers some of these conversations from his “ham radio” days better than others, just as you remember only some experiences from your past. Now, as a professor of neuroscience at New York University, Buzsáki has moved on from radio waves to brain waves to ask: How does the brain decide what to remember? [Continue reading…]

Radio Sunshine – Niue (Now streaming)

SWLing Post Tracy Wood writes with the following note:

The Internet audio stream for Niue’s Radio Sunshine now appears to be active, albeit not 24×7. The station operates locally on FM but formerly was a top AM DX target.

Niue is a self-governing dependency of New Zealand.

On the technical side, the audio stream URL unfortunately appears to be somewhat dynamic as it’s using a “radioplayer” Javascript. The player (and stream) can be found at the tvniue.com homepage, the official radio/TV corporation of the island.

Fans of Oceania radio can add this one to other area countries that stream such as Nauru, Kiribati, and Samoa.


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The Tecsun PL-990/PL-990x as an MP3 Player, Bluetooth Receiver, and PC Speaker

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


The Tecsun PL-990/PL-990x as an MP3 Player, Bluetooth Receiver, and PC Speaker

By Bob Colegrove

Source: PL-990x Operation Manual

Sometimes after a medium wave or shortwave DX session I just like to kick back and listen to good music.  Perhaps this is an age-related malady.  I recently did a scan of the FM band and came up with 60 listenable stations in my area.  By listenable, I only mean they can be received clearly.  In practice, I only listen to a couple stations.  Although, my tastes in music are quite varied, apparently, they do not coincide very well with local FM broadcast station formats.  No matter, I can still indulge myself listening to diverse favored artists.

The Tecsun PL-990/990x offers a ready solution having both an MP3 player and Bluetooth connectivity.  Actually, there are several compatible audio formats available on the player, but for simplicity I will merely refer to them as MP3.  I really didn’t buy this radio purposely for these additional features.  I bought it as a follow-on to the PL-880, which I still like very much for all its well-known features as a multiband radio.

I spent some time on the Internet reading all the reviews and watching many YouTube videos.  Among useful things, I learned how to take the radio out of its box.  The aggregate of all this information was thorough coverage of all the salient features of the 990 – all except the treatment of the MP3 player and Bluetooth connectivity.  These generally appeared at the end of each review in a by-the-way fashion with little detail.

I bought a PL-990x with expectations that it would be a good radio performer, and that has proven to be the case.  During its setup and checkout, I realized the potential for its MP3 and Bluetooth capabilities.  A few years ago, I digitized all our vinyl recordings and cassette tapes, so I had many hours of material readily available for inclusion on a micro-SD card, which can be inserted on the bottom of the cabinet.

Source: PL-990x Operation Manual

The radio, MP3 player, and Bluetooth modes are available by toggling a single switch.

Source: PL-990x Operation Manual

As an MP3 Player

Unfortunately, the display does not have a multi-segment set of characters for text.  This is the way random RDS information is displayed on radios such as the XHDATA D-808 and Eton Elite Executive.  So, selecting albums and tracks on the 990 is limited to numeric representation, which doesn’t provide much of a clue identifying the musical selection.  The user must either remember where favorite files are stored by number or keep some sort of number-title log.

Files are stored on a micro-SD card having up to 128 GB in capacity.  That’s a lot of content.  The radio comes with a 16-GB card, which will probably be large enough for many users.  There are some details to consider when setting up the card.  This information is lacking in the manual, but I have tried to fill in the blanks below.

Some rules:

1. There is no purpose in trying to alphabetize or otherwise edit album or track titles to locate them in a specific sequence.  The 990 doesn’t understand this.

2. Generally, albums and tracks will be assigned numbers by the 990 in the order in which they are saved to the SD card by the computer.

3. Albums equal folders.  Tracks equal (MP3) files within each folder.  You can mix and match the content in albums and tracks any way you want to.  It does not have to conform to the publisher’s album content.

Source: PL-990x Operation Manual

4. An album/folder can contain both its own tracks/files and nested folders containing other albums.  A nested album/folder will be numbered in sequence after the containing folder.  Any previously saved album/folders will be renumbered higher in sequence.

Rule 4 offers some flexibility.  You can come back later and prioritize any album/folder by simply nesting it with another album/folder.

The table below is an example of five different musical genres compiled into separate albums.  On the computer, the polka album was transferred to the SD card first, then classic country.  At that point, the polka album was A01 and country A02 on the 990 display.  Later, Dixieland and waltz albums were added to the tracks in the polka folder.  They then became A02 and A03 respectively, and the country album advanced to A04.  Finally, the chorus album was added in the root directory and became A05.

  • The 990 recognizes the SD card quickly after it is inserted into its slot.
  • The number of tracks and albums (files and folders) is only limited by the SD-card format, which for all practical purposes, won’t be a limitation.  By way of example, I used the default exFAT format and loaded an album with 657 tracks; I don’t recommend that many.
  • A single track can be repeated by long-pressing the PLAY/PAUSE button.
  • The tracks in an album will be repeated continuously.
  • There does not appear to be a way to shuffle tracks.

I did encounter some difficulty with micro-SD card compatibility, which was independent of brand.  A couple micro-SD cards were prepared on a computer using an adapter card and a micro-SD card reader and operated correctly in the computer, but the content was not recognized by the 990.  I suspect this might be due to the early manufacture of the cards, but I’m not sure.

The 990 manual picks up the explanation from there describing operation of the control keys.  I found it most convenient just to scroll through the albums with the FINE TUNING knob and through the tracks with the main TUNING knob.  The number pad buttons will also work for direct album or track selection.  Their application depends on the last tuning knob turned.

Bluetooth

Bluetooth is a hidden feature of the 990.  Activation is partially covered on the hidden feature sheet.

  1. With the radio off, press and hold the PLAY/MP3 button.  If OFF (for Bluetooth) appears in the display, press and hold the button again until ON appears in the display.
  2. Turn on the radio.
  3. Toggle the PLAY/MP3 button until “BT” appears in the display.  The display will have a horizontal, animated dashed line for a few seconds, then it will change to an animated rectangle indicating that the Bluetooth feature is on.
  4. Follow the procedure for your tablet, computer or phone to pair the device with the 990.  “Tecsun PL-990” should appear on the device as a choice for pairing.  The 990 only pairs with one device at a time.  If you have trouble, ensure that the 990 has not inadvertently paired with another device.

Bluetooth, of course, opens Internet streaming from a phone, tablet or computer.  These ‘remotes’ have the convenience of full text capability and offer easier selection of content.  I paired my PL-990x with a Kindle tablet; it has a range of at least 25 feet.  The same micro-SD card could in theory be transferred from the radio to the tablet and function the same way.  A smart phone would add cellular connectivity.

Control:

Three of the four player control buttons above the display are active in Bluetooth.  The stop button has no effect.  As with the MP3 player, the main TUNING and FINE TUNING knobs will also advance or reverse the track selection.  Interestingly, this works with audio player apps as well as services such as YouTube, where it advances or reverses videos on the tablet, computer or phone.  In addition to the RADIO/MP3 button, pressing any of the band buttons will immediately exit Bluetooth and tune to the selected radio band.

Source: PL-990x Operation Manual

In MP3 or Bluetooth mode, there is no noise from a USB wall wart.  It might be a good time to charge the battery.

As a Computer Speaker

Finally, there is what the 990 manual calls the computer speaker mode.  Sounds inconsequential.  Why would anyone want to use a monaural radio on a computer that’s likely outfitted with stereo speakers?  Actually, it’s more than that.  By plugging your 990 into a USB port on your computer you have the normal charging feature, but you will also have complete USB connectivity with your PC.

Turn on the 990.  You may have to press RADIO/MP3 button until “PC” appears in the PL-990 display.

  • You will not be able to use the radio.
  • The content of the micro-SD card in the 990 should appear as a USB drive in the computer’s file directory.  You can transfer files on or off the 990, but the process will be very slow.  Transfers from the computer to the 990-installed SD card follow the same rules listed above for the MP3 player.
  • The computer will provide the MP3 play function through its own app.  You can select files from either the 990 SD card or those on the PC and play them through the 990 speaker.
  • You can switch speakers between the 990 or those on the computer by selecting the speaker icon on the computer task bar, then selecting the available speakers.

  • The pause/play button on the player controls will work, but the reverse, stop, and advance buttons will not.

Final Thoughts

Some disappointment was registered in the reviews that the 990 does not have a recorder.  Yes, this would have been nice.  One thing it does have is a line out jack which has adjustable gain.  This makes my outboard recorder much happier than when it is used with some other radios.

Since we are talking about audio, I have noted that some reviewers still prefer the sound of the PL-880.  To my ears, the 990 sounds every bit as good.  Remember, these are mid-size portable radios.

The inclusion of MP3 player and Bluetooth capabilities on the 990 adds very useful functionality to this radio.  After nearly four years of consumer availability, I must wonder why they haven’t received more attention.

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Pacific Odyssey Review

Many thanks to Rose Auburn who reached out to share her review of our friend and fellow DXer Ralph Perry’s book, Pacific Odyssey: The Curious Case of Lew 2.0, originally posted on Rose’s review website:

Pacific Odyssey: The Curious Case of Lew 2.0

By Chet Nairene

5*

Thirty-six-year-old tech wizard, Lew Clarke is about to ascend to god-like status at the corporate behemoth he has worked for since leaving Harvard. Accolades, and more importantly to Lew, eye-watering levels of financial recompense are raining down on him.  But when a minor, forgotten issue floats shockingly to the surface, Lew’s gold-plated, superficial existence implodes.

After licking his wounds, Lew embarks on a new business venture, importing highly intricate, bespoke wooden garden ornaments directly from the supplier, Lotus Creations, in the tiny kingdom of Amazia, Southeast Asia.  Money and the good times roll abundantly again. Until a trickle of strange complaints becomes a deluge and Lew is left with no option but to seek out the mysterious retailer from the even more mysterious Amazia…

Pacific Odyssey definitely ranks as one of my favorite novels so far in 2024.  I read Nairene’s earlier novel, Pacific Dash, last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. However, with Pacific Odyssey, Nairene has shifted up into fifth gear. It’s a highly imaginative and unusual book that I found almost impossible to put down.

From the opening couple of paragraphs, the novel instantly hooks the reader. Confident, breezy, and intriguing, it crackles with comic energy and is deceptively well-written. It would have been easy for Nairene’s depiction of Lew, and his employer, the corporate IT titan, Mega, to have fallen into stereotype.

And, while Nairene does tip the reader a knowing wink for some elements, it’s done with clever subtlety and wry, observational humor, a tone that continues throughout the novel.

The structure and ethos of Mega is not only horribly credible but incredibly well-conceived.  When Lew is put out to pasture at Mega’s global call center in Weehawken, Nairene depicts the place with hellish accuracy.

Although the novel is relatively long, it’s fast-moving with wave after wave of itchy foreboding. None more so than when Lew discovers Lotus Creations. However, underneath the suspense and possible chicanery, a faint sub-textual and thought-provoking commentary emerges as Lew and best friend, Sal, navigate the differences between the East and West cultural mores.

These distinctions prove profound, although Nairene keeps the reader guessing about the Amazians. As the novel gathers pace, a compelling mystery begins to unfold at its heart.

Nonetheless, on the surface at least, Part Two also resembles the finest of travel memoirs, certainly reminiscent of Paul Theroux’s rail journeys. As Lew travels from the capital of Amazia, Ruangbang, up to Biti, a deeply rural backwater, it’s excellent stuff. Kafka-esque, funny, immensely authentic, and never becomes far-fetched even as the reader is hurtled into a surreal rabbit hole.

Lew encounters hurdle after hurdle until assistance appears in the form of Boo, an Amazian who speaks English. The advent of Boo changes the novel a touch, it becomes a little more serious, and also rather spiritual both in terms of the narrative and Lew’s trajectory.

This esoteric turn is enhanced by Nong, Boo’s cousin. She reminded me of Fiona Lo in Nairene’s previous book and, at times, seemed underdeveloped, although her enigmatic countenance and reason for it, form the basis of the narrative’s outcome.

Pacific Odyssey is richly descriptive, vivid, sensory, and full of whip-smart, nimble dialogue, especially between Lew and Sal, whose exchanges are warm and amusingly natural. All of Nairene’s characters from Harry at Mega to Wongrat at the Miracle Royal Pagoda Hotel are wonderfully convincing and step from the page.

Pacific Odyssey is a literary thrill ride. Darkly funny and thought-provoking, it’s written with consummate verve and captivating vibrancy that never fails to entertain. Highly recommended.

Click here to purchase Pacific Odyssey on Amazon.com

[Note: This is an Amazon affiliate link that supports the SWLing Post at no cost to you.]

Click here to check out Rose’s other book reviews.

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Dan asks: “What is your longest DX?”

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dan Greenall, who writes:

What is your longest DX (from transmitter to receiver)?

Assuming we are limiting the discussion to planet Earth, Perth, Australia would be represent one of the farthest land based locations to hear at 18145 km or 11275 miles as the crow flies from my receiving post in southern Ontario, Canada.

That would mean the ABC outlet that I received on 9610 kHz in the early 1970’s is the winner for me. Not far behind, however, would be tiny Amsterdam Island (part of the TAAF, Terres Australes et Antarctiques Francaises) in the Indian Ocean at 18031 km or 11204 miles. I was able to log marine radio FJY4 on 8690 kHz CW on a number of occasions and even managed to extract a PFC QSL direct from the station in 1973.

There are a number of distance calculators for this on the internet, such as Free Map Tools at
https://www.freemaptools.com/how-far-is-it-between.htm

Of course, the longest DX may not necessarily be the best. CKZN running 300 watts on 6160 kHz from St. John’s, Newfoundland from right here in Canada was harder to hear than the ABC in Perth, Australia!

Who can top this distance? What is your longest DX? Please comment!

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