Category Archives: How To

Free download: A Tecsun PL-880 hidden features booklet

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, S. Thomas Bradley, who shares the following:

I just upgraded my receiver from my trusty old FRG-7 (I bought it new back in the 70’s) to a Tecsun PL-880. For my own benefit I have gathered together all of the PL-880 hidden features I could find on the web and put them into a booklet which I then printed out for easy reference and put a copy with the PL880 Operators Manual.

I don’t know if anyone else would be interested in this, but I thought I would share, so attached is a pdf copy.

Click here to download the PL-880 hidden features booklet.

Very well done!  Thanks for sharing your quick reference guide. I’ll also add a link to our PL-880 Hidden Features page.


Do you enjoy the SWLing Post?

Please consider supporting us via Patreon or our Coffee Fund!

Your support makes articles like this one possible. Thank you!

Spread the radio love

More advice on avoiding scams

In response to Paolo’s recent post regarding Internet scams, SWLing Post contributor, 13dka replies:

Sellers should be aware too: the same scammers have various schemes to scam sellers as well, and these fake ads play a role in those too, IIRC one popular variant is that the scammers try to buy your item, and offer the same thing on another platform in a different country, then they give their buyer your bank data to let them pay for your item, which gives them the advantage that they don’t even need a bank account to scam you. At the end the scammers have your item, the other buyer reverses the payment because he didn’t get anything.

Anyway, of course the same type of scams can be found with any article on the various “classifieds” platforms, also including eBay and Amazon’s “Marketplace” – RVs, cars, cellphones, computers, anything rare, collectible and/or vintage, pricey and sometimes even more common and cheaper things.

I noticed a serious wave of fake ads for guitars and other music gear on the German “eBay Kleinanzeigen” platform this year. One day I noticed several offers for vintage Gibson guitars usually sold in the $6,000-$10,000 range, each offered around 2,000, of course with pictures and article descriptions stolen from ended eBay auctions and US shops. It wasn’t only the price that wasn’t right, the descriptions being obviously translated from English was quite a dead giveaway. A few days later I found new offers like this and this went on and on, making me curious how many of those might be published every day.

To understand this properly, you need to consider that these “classifieds” are usually searched for local offers people can pick up personally, particularly with musical instruments that people often want to see, touch and try before buying. If I found that many fake offers just in my state, how many of those might show up in the entire country? In short, the amount of fake ads I found on a random sample basis (its impossible to survey the entire thing) was devastating. Even worse, I found that this extended to much less obvious, relatively low-priced current production instruments, also offered at prices that were only “attractive” or “very fair” and not obviously alarming.

A common denominator with all of these scams is indeed the stolen pictures from ended auctions and shops, and original article descriptions translated. You need a bit of “Google-Fu” to retrieve the origins of those and it takes a bit of common sense to distinguish fake offers and offers where the seller was just too lazy to take pics,. However, digging as deep as I could I found out that this musical instrument scamming goes on for at least 12 years now and there are so obvious similarities in the communication between sellers and buyers and shipping addresses that I think it’s the same scammers doing this successfully for that long time. The authorities are apparently over challenged and powerless due to the international character of the scam. Mind you, I checked only this one area of expertise I have and the result was alarming. The dark figure of scam attempts and actually scammed people might be incredibly high if I extrapolate this to all kinds of items.

If you want to stay on the safe side, just don’t try to buy stuff you can’t pick up yourself (or where the seller tries to avoid this by claiming he’s currently in some other country), don’t fall for surprisingly low prices offered by Amazon Marketplace dealers outside of your own country (like the brand new Icom 7300s offered for 599€ a while ago), on everything eBay/Kijiji/Gumtree/whatever try to check the seller’s reputation thoroughly so you don’t fall for 100% reputation scores gained from selling used baby clothing before the account was hacked and used to sell pricy things. If you have the faintest feeling of doubt, just let the deal pass. If you haven’t thoroughly read up on eBay scams et al, keep buying your stuff at local stores.

Thank you for sharing! All very sound advice. As for performing a little “Google-Fu” to find the source of an image, check out this tutorial on Google reverse image searches. Read the entire article as it describes doing this from tablets, phones and PCs. In addition to asking the seller to photograph something specific and unique on the item (like asking them to tune it to a specific frequency or to write their callsign on a card and include it with the item) I also perform a reverse image search anytime I’m purchasing from someone I don’t know.


Do you enjoy the SWLing Post?

Please consider supporting us via Patreon or our Coffee Fund!

Your support makes articles like this one possible. Thank you!

Spread the radio love

Mike’s tips for decoding SW Radiogram broadcasts

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mike (KA3JJZ), who writes:

Have you ever heard of the SW Radiogram digital broadcasts? These are produced by Dr. Kim Andrew Elliott and started way back when as the VoA Radiogram. They are now carried on 2 other stations (WRMI and WINB) on a schedule (check every week for a summary of images) that you can find on the SW Radiogram website;

https://swradiogram.net/

These tests consist of both text and images. Currently MFSK32 and 64 have been used, and an occasional ‘secret’ mode has been slipped in at the end of the transmission. The last time this was done, the mode was PSK125R.

You might ask how you can receive these broadcasts, and what you need to decode them. We have 2 wiki articles that go into great detail – one for PCs, and one for Android devices – here;

https://wiki.radioreference.com/index.php/Decoding_the_SW_Radiogram_Broadcasts

https://wiki.radioreference.com/index.php/Decoding_the_SW_Radiogram_Broadcasts_with_TIVAR

Yes, you can copy these broadcasts using an Android powered phone or tablet using an application called TIVAR. John VK2ETA has written a quick start guide which is available on the SourceForge website as well as the RadioReference wiki (the links are provided in the article)

These articles are written for folks who are just getting their feet wet, so the above articles touch on radios (no, you don’t need to use an expensive radio, though many do), antennas, propagation and more. The most popular software is FLDigi, but if you happen to have MultiPSK or DM780 (part of Ham Radio Deluxe), they can be used as well. Links are given for the software and any available support.

Along with Tumblr, SW Radiogram has both a Facebook and Twitter page (where members often post decoded images) here…

https://www.facebook.com/groups/567099476753304/

https://twitter.com/swradiogram

Thank you, Mike! Yes, I’m a big fan of the SW Radiogram–the community that has formed around this particular shortwave program is quite amazing. Thanks for all of the tips!

Click here to view the SW Radiogram website.

Spread the radio love

Guest Post: Paolo’s Tips For Avoiding Internet Scams

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Paolo Viappiani (SWL I1-11437), who shares the following guest post:


Some Tips For Avoiding Internet Scams

by Paolo Viappiani – SWL I1-11437

pviappiani@tin.it

Recently, I have been amazed by the growing number of frauds that foul up the radio market on the Internet (I was scammed too), so I decided to write a post in order to help anyone who is interested in buying anything on the web.

First, it’s worth saying that most scam attempts involve high-quality items that are offered at surprisingly low prices. One of the most significant examples involves some rare (and discontinued) high-end radios by National Panasonic, typically the RF-8000 and RF-9000 models. In this post, I make an example of the RF-8000, but scams also concern radios of other brands..

Generally speaking, a number of advertisements on the most known advertising/classifieds sites (Quoka.de and ebay-kleinanzeigen.de in Germany, Subito.it, Kijiji and AAAnnunci.it in Italy, Le Bon Coin in France, ComoFicho in Spain, etc.) are mirrors for larks only, and we have to pay a great attention in order not to be scammed.

But… how can we recognize a scam?

The most common scams use the following techniques:

  1. The scammer advertises a very rare radio in like-new condition at an unbelievably low price. The buyer does not want to miss the bargain, so he contacts the seller and promptly transfers the money to him without further ado, but after that he waits in vain for the delivery of his item.
  2. High quality radios offered very cheap. If you contact the seller, the item is suddenly abroad. The alleged seller then proposes to handle the purchase through a “trust company”. The radio should be paid for in advance and the amount sent via cash transfer, but after that you never hear anything from the seller again.
  3. Alternatively, the buyer is requested to to deposit the money to the eBay company account to get the product. But the account is fake (really eBay has no “COMPANY ACCOUNT” and never handles private transactions–!), so the buyer loses his money and receives nothing in return.

Please also notice that often the fraudulent sellers offer a free period for evaluating the item, saying that  if you do not like the device, you can send it back. Please don’t fall into this trap, it is only one of the means the scammers use to entice you to purchase, but it is not true at all!

In the following section I’ll recount some examples of real scams concerning the National Panasonic RF-8000 and RF-9000 radios (but, as I already mentioned, the scams involve many other radios and also high-quality electronic or electro-acoustic devices).

One of the most prevalent (and very dangerous) scams concerning the RF-8000 radio is (was) perpetrated by a Portuguese seller who offered (for about 2.300 Euro on the AAAnnunci.it and Quoka.de websites) a very nice appearing radio, look at the photos below.

Really a radio in like-new conditions, uh?

But it is just a trap: most of the Panasonic RF-8000 radios have the leather covers on all sides cracked like crocodile skin (look at the image below); only a very few units still have the covers in pristine condition and for sure they cannot be found at cheap prices!

Incidentally, all the pictures used by that scammer (including the two shown in the first two pictures above) were stolen from an old eBay advertisement of October 2018 and that wonderful appearing RF-8000 was sold to a radio collector in China for about $ 5,000 USD.

But the same images also recently appeared on some European advertisement websites (in Italy and in Germany too); if you ask for info, you’ll be contacted soon by a seller from Portugal who offers to handle the purchase through a “trust company” of his confidence, named TrafCargo (beware of this, it is a convincing but fake website!).

Then, the seller requests that the amount for the radio and its shipping costs be sent via a bank wire transfer to the fake transportation company.

After that you never hear anything from the seller again.

Very similar scams are also found in various advertisement/classified websites (Quoka.de, ComoFicho.com etc.), look at the images below as examples. If such items are offered cheap, it is for sure a scam:

A similar attempt of fraud is commonly perpetrated by other people, including a female seller from Spain. As you might suspect, she offers something that looks like a real bargain, but it’s only a scam. After you have asked for info on the product, you receive a message in which it is specified that the item is located abroad and you are asked to deposit money to a fake “eBay” account (note that eBay does not accept any payment outside their site!).

In order to be more persuasive, often the scammer attaches a copy of his/her passport of other identity documentation in order to appear as a serious seller–please do not trust them however!

Also, beware of the fake “eBay invoice” that sometimes the scammers send, and for anything that involves eBay, contact the eBay helpdesk, ask for specific info and report them the fraud eventually.

In the following section you’ll find some useful advice on recognizing scams and making secure and safe purchases on the Internet:

  1. Always beware whenever the item is in a place (or a country) different from the one that was specified in the advertisement; also there is a valid reason for suspicion when the name or the address of the advertiser does not match the seller’s ones;
  2. Do not completely trust the pictures sent by the seller (they could be stolen from the Internet) and don’t forget to proceed to a “Google Image” search in order to find the sources of similar ones;
  3. Always ask the seller for some specific pictures or videos (radio precisely tuned on various frequencies and/or modes) and do not accept any runarounds about it (“you can try the radio for some days”, etc.); normally the scammers do not have the items they offer at hand, so they are not able to satisfy your precise requests.
  4. Never pay for the item in advance by rechargeable cards like Western Union or other non-secure ways of payment. Also the Bank Transfer (Wire Transfer) is not a secure form of payment in order to avoid frauds;
  5. Always ask the seller for payment by PayPal “Goods and Services” (NOT “Send money to friends”). If you choose Goods and Services, your purchase will be fully covered by the PayPal warranty.

And, in the case that you are a victim of a scam anyway, please always report the incident to the Police or the Judiciary of your Country, and don’t forget to also warn the site where the announcement was found.

Following the above advice should be sufficient to avoid any scam. So, good luck on your future web purchases!


This is excellent advice, Paolo. Thank you for sharing your experience!

One of my favorite bits of advice above–and one I use anytime I make a significant purchase via a classifieds website–is to ask the seller for specific photos or a video of the item. As you say, they don’t typically have the item on hand, so can’t comply and will make up excuses. That’s a major red flag!

Another red flag? If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! Trust your instincts and avoid the hassle and headache.

Post readers: Please share any other advice you have about avoiding radio scams. Have you ever been the victim of a scam? How did it play out? Please comment!


Do you enjoy the SWLing Post?

Please consider supporting us via Patreon or our Coffee Fund!

Your support makes articles like this one possible. Thank you!

Spread the radio love

Radio World: Construct an EAS Receive Loop Antenna

The completed antenna, showing the F-connector on the tee box. (Source: Radio World)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Kris Partridge, who shares the following antenna construction article from Radio World:

Ken Beckwith is a field engineer with EMF based in Nebraska. Being a hands-on engineer, Ken has done his share of construction over the years. One of his projects was the construction of an octagonal-shaped AM loop EAS antenna using PVC pipe.

[…]The antenna has a broad coverage angle with a deep null when the antenna is broadside to the signal. Aim the “edge” of the loop toward the AM station you want to receive. The strongest signal will be received when the antenna end or edge is pointing to the signal source. The antenna can be mounted on a mast with U-bolts, hose clamps or whatever else works.

Here’s the construction parts list:

A 10-foot length of 3/4-inch diameter, schedule 40 PVC conduit cut into the following lengths:

2 – 4-inch
1 – 2-inch
1 – 2-1/4-inch
2 – 2-1/8-inch
6 – 9-1/2-inch
1 – 23-1/4-inch

Whatever is left over can be discarded, but before making your cuts, cut the flared end off, so all cuts are even.

1 –  3/4-inch 90 degree elbow
2 – 3/4-inch tee
8 – 3/4-inch 45 degree elbows
1 – 3/4-inch cap
1 – 3/4-inch tee box, plastic, with weatherproof gasket
1 – 7-foot piece of Belden 8777 or other three-pair shielded cable
3 – 7-foot single-pair shielded cables can substitute for Belden 8777
PVC primer and cement
Wire nuts or other connectors
1 – 3/8-inch ring terminal
F connector barrel with nut

[…]

Click here to read the article which contains step-by-step instructions.

Spread the radio love

Ed’s ultra low-cost “upcycled” radio case for the Realistic DX-440

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Edward Ganshirt, who writes:

I have seen some very good radio cases for carrying your radio with you with a price tag.

I needed one for my DX-440 but did not want to shell out a hundred bux for it, so I made a home brew version out of packing foam, bubble wrap, Velcro patches, hot melt glue and lots of imagination. this is what I came up with:

Thanks for sharing, Ed! I’m sure your upcycled case will serve the DX-440 quite well. Bubble and foam wrap are durable materials and it’s always get to give them a second life!

Post readers: Have you made your own radio protective cases? Please comment!

Spread the radio love

Marty needs advice as he builds a passive magnetic loop antenna

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Marty Kraft, who asked that I share the following question with our community:

I’m still working on a receive-only passive hula loop magnetic antenna for my Tecsun PL-660.

After viewing thousands of YouTube videos (LOL), I built the PVC-pipe structure [you can see in the photo below].

But I need some tech help to finish…

The antenna is 90 inches tall; large loop diameter is 40 inches; and small loop diameter is 17 inches. The wiring is 14 gauge braided.

I plan to put the antenna outside on the porch. Then I’ll run coax from the small loop to the receiver inside and use a 365 pF air variable capacitor to tune the large loop.

My first question is, what’s the best coax to use for the 10-ft run from the small loop to the radio inside? Second, will that 365 pF cap tune the entire 3-30 MHz range?

It’s hot here in Louisiana, so I’d really like to tune the capacitor from inside my apartment, also using coax to connect the cap to the large loop. Will that work? Or does the cap have to connect directly to the large loop?

Any other tips or suggestions? Thanks for the help!

Post Readers: If you have any helpful advice for Marty, please comment!

Spread the radio love