Category Archives: SWLers

Guest Post: Tom’s Backpack Shack 3

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


Backpack Shack 3 – Amplified Whip Antenna

by TomL

So, having enjoyed using the Ferrite Sleeve Loop I created last year, I have wanted something a little more sensitive and less bulky.  I will eventually create a much BIGGER FSL antenna on the order of 2 feet long and perhaps 18 or 24 inches in diameter for indoor/attic use.  But that is not a priority at the moment.

Since I already have the DX Engineering Pre-Amplifier and the very nice Cross Country Preselector from the loop project, I thought it might be useful to create an active whip antenna for it.  And the cool looking Solar Red backpack needed something to do!

Power

Now that the bulky loop was not taking up the main compartment of the backpack, I could think about what else to put in there, like a larger power pack.  I scoured FleaBay for ideas and stumbled upon this contraption for backup power to network systems, the CyberPower CyberShield for Verizon.

This has 12 spaces for D-cell batteries and was mounted inside the demarcation terminal to provide backup power for things like cable systems and Copper-to-Ethernet networks.  It is not waterproof, so would be inside the premises of the customer getting the internet/cable service. But my Pre-Amp needs 12-18Volts and would love to have nearly unlimited power.  So, I bought a used one, cut the end off of the power lead and put on my own 2.1×5.5mm plug (carefully glued down and tie-wrapped). Then I filled it with 1.2Volt Tenergy D-cells.

Everything was just fine until I forgot to double check the polarity of the plug that I had wired onto the end.  Plugged it into the DX Engineering Pre-Amp, flipped the power switch and fitzzz…. The Pre-Amp light went on, then off (permanently!).

So, my expensive mistake is that I start using the FREE multimeter I got from Harbor Freight and check the polarity before I connect homemade battery packs to anything!!

DX Engineering charged me $60 to fix my mistake and it is working fine now after I swapped the wires on the plug. Yes, their Pre-Amp is NOT reverse-polarity protected! Disappointing, since the price tag for that device is $148!!!  The CyberShield now sits comfortably inside the bottom of the backpack.

Antenna

Now that the drama was over regarding the Power pack, I could think about the whip.  I did not want a wimpy whip! (No one should rightly aspire to this, in my opinion). More FleaBay searches found me looking at Trucker parts.  Loaded whips, magnetic mounts, 10 foot tall MFJ telescoping whips, etc was looking a bit expensive.

Besides that, I cannot fit a 10 foot tall telescoping whip into the backpack, I am limited to at most 18 inches (and that is at an angle to fit it in there).  But I found an old-fashioned mirror mount that looked promising since it had a nice SO-239 connector at the bottom and standard CB antenna fitting on top of 3/8”-24.

Then I found the 44 inch SuperAntenna with the same threads; then found the replacement Stainless Steel Shafts for a Wilson antenna in different lengths (I ordered the 10 inch version to test).  With a couple of rod coupling nuts and I was ready for testing!

Test Locations

I had already scheduled a short vacation to Sleeping Bear Dunes on the thumb of Northwestern Michigan, so I took this test setup with my Sony ICF-2010. This area is a very nice remote National Lakeshore with minimal noise.  I tried a beach setting and a couple of hilltop picnic areas (including meeting a local Porcupine) and had very nice reception at all locations. The hilltop locations are approximately 400 – 600 feet above the Lake (yes, the Dunes are THAT big there!).

Meeting a local Porcupine

Later on, I went to Grand Haven, MI on the way home and stopped at their very lovely beach.

Reception was just as good as the hilltop locations at Sleeping Bear! In both areas, I was next to a large body of water (in this case, Lake Michigan) and makes for an advantageous place for DXing!  I had also stopped at a Rest Area off the highway and that was a terrible place even though it was electrically quiet but nowhere near the big Lake. I guess the rumors are true about being near a large body of water somehow enhances reception of weak signals–?

I will submit recordings later since I lost the mini-B cable for the Sony digital recorder and had to order a replacement.  However, this was a nice project that freed up some space inside the backpack. I will add an 18 inch extension to the whip that will give me a total length of 72 inches.  Plus, it is mounted 12 inches up on the poly cutting board and I place the backpack on a small hunters folding chair that is about 24 inches tall. So, the tip will be about 9 feet off the ground.

Not pictured but I was also able to easily fit inside a used CCrane Twin Coil Ferrite antenna for mediumwave use that also performed very well.  I noticed that the picnic benches at some locations are made of metal, so that gives me a future idea of trying to leverage that to use as a ground plane somehow.  The battery pack is heavy but also gives great ballast to the backpack and will not tip over. Cannot wait for the Tecsun S-8800 to arrive so I can try leaving the radio inside the bag and just use the remote control to tune!

Happy Listening,

TomL

Parts List


As always, I’m so impressed with your spirit of radio adventure, Tom! I love the fact that your goal is to make a field-deployable DX kit that isn’t cumbersome or time-consuming to set up on site. I imagine you only need a couple of minutes to open the pack and have it on the air. 

Those DXing spots are stunning! I had no idea one could find 400-600′ dunes in NW Michigan–! With that said, I’ve heard that part of the state is one of exceptional natural beauty.  If you could somehow turn the lake into a body of salt water–thus increasing ground conductivity–you’d really enhance that already impressive reception! I’m guessing that sort of project would be a bit outside your budget! Ha ha!  That and the freshwater fish might protest!

To me, there is no better way to enjoy radio than finding a nice RF quiet spot in the great outdoors…no matter where you live in the world. On top of that, Tom, you’re constantly building, experimenting, documenting and sharing your findings–you’re a true radio zealot! Huzzah!

Post readers: Read Tom’s past contributions and articles by clicking here.

Dean seeks input for his holiday radio adventure

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dean Denton–our intrepid 13 year old DXer–who seeks a little input from the community. Dean writes:

I am going on holiday in July this year, to Fuerteventura in Islas Canarias, near west Africa.

This will be the first time I will be going on holiday, you will probably know the feeling. Because I am a hardcore radio-fan, I will of course bring my Tecsun PL-660, and I will be posting clips on my YouTube Channel, EuropeDX.

Please could you give me, some vital tips when going on holiday when DXing?

The Canary Islands are in close proximity to North West Africa, so I will be DXing: Morocco, Mauritius, Algeria, Western Sahara, Senegal and others.

To those who are reading this post, I am compiling a list of tech that I am bringing with me. Please help add to this list, off of your experience of being abroad.

Here is the list:

  • Shortwave Radio, Tecsun PL-660, for the immersion.
  • Tecsun AN-200 Loop antenna, for pulling AM stations.
  • Travel adapter, we all need one.
  • Portable MP3 player, to listen to music
  • A Portable Digital TV, for watching movies on USB.
  • An action camera w/lapel microphone, for capturing videos.
  • FM Transmitter, to show the locals what music is!
  • 4G Mobile Data Router, internet is a basic human requirement.

Please suggest more!

I think that the AM and FM DXing will be breathtaking. The Canary Islands are located where I will be able to pick up African radio stations, but also Transatlantic Brazilian and American stations. Due to the high pressure and high temperature, FM Tropo is not rare in the Canary Island’s climate. Enabling this, it will spark my YouTube channel.

Thank you for reading this, and I hope the SWLing community help me. If you would like to contact me, email me at europedx(at)gmail(dot)com.

Yours,

Dean.

Thanks, Dean! You’re talking my favorite topics: radio and travel!

I know we have a number of readers who live in the Canary Islands.  No doubt, you’ll get to experience some serious radio fun across the bands.

In terms of tips, I would suggest you assume your accommodation could be plagued with radio noise and you may be forced to find an outdoor spot to do all but your FM DXing. If you know where you’re going to stay, check it out on Google Maps and see if there’s an obvious safe spot to play radio outdoors. Of course, it helps if your accommodation has an outdoor space like a balcony, patio or garden.

Looks like you’ve got a pretty good checklist there. Here are a few additional items I typically take on a holiday DXpedition:

  • Earphones/Headphones (never leave home without them!)
  • A small back-up radio (if you have one–something like a Tecsun PL-310ET)
  • A copy of the World Radio TV Handbook (though I don’t take the WRTH if space/weight are too tight–I rely on apps with offline schedules like Skywave Radio Schedules [Android] or Shortwave Broadcast Schedules [iOS])
  • Extra set of AA batteries for the PL-660
  • Small headlamp or flashlight for night time outdoor listening
  • Notepad and pencil for logs

SWLing Post readers: How do you plan and what do you take on radio holidays? Please feel free to comment and share your advice!

Exotic shortwave DX copied in Rio Capim, Northern Brazil

The beautiful Capim River in a land of Jaguars, Tarantulas and occasionally, wonderful shortwave DX

Hi there, I returned from my third trip to the Rio Capim area of Pará, Northern Brazil about 5 weeks ago, having been out there for exactly a month. Now, whilst this was strictly a business trip I always make time to tune around the bands, mostly shortwave, in the hope of copying some interesting DX. My previous two trips were reasonably successful; however, I didn’t really hear anything new – just lots of Tropical Band – and tropical stations with much greater signal strength and clarity. Part of the problem is one of which most of us suffer from – the dreaded local QRM. Even in the depths of the rain forest noise is present from building electrical systems (particularly lighting) and other equipment. In my first attempt to escape the noise on this trip I ventured out of my accommodation building (basically a very large hut) to the wire fence that separates us and the larger fauna (although having said that, the monkeys and everything else that lives in the area appears to have no difficulty scaling a 6 foot fence – funny that! ). Anyway, ultimately, you’ve really got to want to hear something special quite badly to venture out. I suppose it could be the definition of hard-core DX! I tried this only once because as I was copying a very nice signal from Radio Guinea on 9650 kHz, I found myself about 2 feet from a Tarantula Hawk Wasp dispatching a very large spider (check out the very brief video on my YouTube channel). That was me done for alfresco DXing in the jungle.

Bonito’s USB-powered MegActive MA305 E-field antenna up a tree…performed superbly in Brazil

Fortunately, I was lent a 4-wheel drive truck for the duration of my visit and so I decided to find a quiet location to park up and listen to the radio – therefore only having to venture outside (at night) to place my antenna. One evening after dinner I got in the truck and drove around the site for a while until I found a location, effectively on the edge of the jungle that was mostly very quiet. Perfect…as long as I didn’t end up as something else’s dinner. I took the super-compact USB-powered Bonito MegActive MA305 antenna with me on this trip because I’d already tested it at home on DXpeditions and in Crete and thus I was confident as to how superbly well it would perform in a quiet location. To supplement my antenna choices, during the first weekend, I made the 90 km drive to the nearest town and bought, amongst other supplies, a 40 metre length of speaker wire and a 3.5 mm jack connector to make a temporary long-wire antenna.

In my experience, there are roughly 3 tiers of Tropical and Tropical Band DX on short wave. There’s the bottom tier of stations which with a decent portable and a few metres of wire can be readily heard in the UK on a Dxpedition – and at home with a magnetic loop antenna, for example and a good quality table-top receiver or SDR. Amongst this group of signals I would include Rádio Clube do Pará, Brazil on 4885 kHz,  Radio Difusora Roraima on 4875.3 kHz, Emisoras Pio XII 5952.5 kHz, Radio Santa Cruz, 6134.8 kHz etc. etc. On the next tier are tropical stations that are really difficult to hear in the UK – but can be heard with good propagation and good equipment. This group includes Radio Aparecida  on 6135.2 kHz particularly, Rádio Educação Rural on 4925.2 kHz, Radio Tarma Internacional on 4774.9 kHz, Rádio Evangelizar (formerly Radio RB2) on 6040.7 kHz etc. There are many more examples from these two groups I could use, but you get the picture. Lastly, there is a tier of stations that are very rarely or never heard in Europe, irrespective of equipment or propagation. Often these stations operate with low TX power which makes them extremely difficult to copy anyway – and that leads to ambiguity farther as to whether they are even on-air. Furthermore, some of these stations broadcast very irregularly, which makes copying them even more of a lottery.

My mainstay travel receiver, the brilliant Eton Satellit..two-time veteran of South American DXing

In this context, a month in Northern Brazil was a useful timescale for surveying the Tropical Bands and geographically tropical stations for the presence of very rare signals. Fortunately, over many hours of listening in Rio Capim with the Eton Satellit and mostly the Bonito MegActive MA305 antenna, I manged to record six signals that are very rarely heard outside of South America. The list of stations follows below, complete with the antenna arrangement. Further below you will find embedded reception videos and text links to the same videos on the Oxford Shortwave Log YouTube channel. Please take the time to watch the videos and note the comments made by some of my subscribers with local knowledge. In particular, Rádio Gaúcha and Rádio Canção Nova on 4825 kHz are very irregular broadcasters and therefore I was fortunate to be in the right place, at the right time to copy their signal. More luck came my way with the reception of Radio Sora de Congonhas on 4775 kHz – made possible because of a total power cut on site, reducing noise effectively to zero (I was indoors at the time). I, personally, never heard anything else other than Radio Tarma, Peru on or around 4775 kHz – itself something of a rarity, except when conditions are very good.

In conclusion, I have to say, once again, the DXing credentials of the Eton Satellit and the Bonito MegActive MA305 USB-powered antenna are clearly demonstrated here. The perfect travelling companions for the serious DXer and broadcast band listener alike, I had no issues getting through security at any of the airports and their combined weight is unnoticeable in a fully loaded backpack. I definitely recommend both products. It’s also worth noting that if you’re travelling to a relatively remote location, even with modest equipment, you might be able to copy rare signals that will provide good information to the rest of us trying to hear those same signals from 1000’s of km away. I will be returning to Rio Capim early in 2018 and I’m seriously considering taking my Perseus SDR with me. A superbly sensitive and selective receiver with noise reduction that actually works, it opens up the possibility of even more exotic DX on that trip.

As always, thanks for watching/listening/reading and I wish you all excellent DX and Season’s Greetings. 73!


   The list of exotic catches and antennas utilised:

  • Radio Apintie 4990 kHz, Suriname – Bonito MegActive MA305
  • Radio Cançao Nova 9675 kHz Sao Paulo – 20 metre long-wire
  • Radio Verdes Florestas 4865 kHz, Cruzeiro do Sul – Bonito MegActive MA305
  • Rádio Gaúcha 11915 kHz, Porto Alegre – Bonito MegActive MA305
  • Radio Sora de Congonhas 4775 kHz, Congonhas – Bonito MegActive MA305 antenna
  • Rádio Canção Nova 4825 kHz, Cachoeira Paulista – Bonito MegActive MA305

 

Click here to watch on Oxford Shortwave Log YouTube channel

 

Click here to watch on Oxford Shortwave Log YouTube channel

 

Click here to watch on Oxford Shortwave Log YouTube channel

 

Click here to watch on Oxford Shortwave YouTube channel

 

Click here to watch on Oxford Shortwave YouTube channel

 

Click here to watch on Oxford Shortwave Log YouTube channel

 


Clint Gouveia is the author of this post and a regular contributor to the SWLing Post. Clint actively publishes videos of his shortwave radio excursions on his YouTube channel: Oxford Shortwave Log. Clint is based in Oxfordshire, England.

“Farewell to Miki Gurdus, Israel’s National Listener”

(Source: The Tablet via Richard Cuff)

With a powerful shortwave radio and a battery of TV screens, he broke national news long before the internet, scooping everything from the Entebbe raid to the first Gulf War

Had he been born two or three decades later, Miki Gurdus would probably have been just another middle-aged man glued to his smartphone, scrolling through endless torrents of social-media ephemera. But Gurdus, who passed away in Israel this week at the age of 73, was born with a radio. And early on, he knew the device would change his life.

[…]And listen Gurdus did. Commanding six languages—Hebrew, English, Arabic, French, Russian, and Polish—as well as numerous shortwave radios and as many as 11 television sets, he tuned in not only to broadcasts from far and wide but, often, to private conversations, military wire exchanges, and other dispatches not meant for public consumption. In late June of 1976, for example, he interrupted a radio broadcast to announce that he had just picked up a conversation between Palestinian terrorists and an air traffic controller in Libya announcing that they had just hijacked an Air France flight and intended to land it in Benghazi en route to Entebbe, Uganda. It wouldn’t be his last scoop: In 1990, when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, Israeli military intelligence got the news from Gurdus, who had intercepted the transmissions of the Iraqi army.

[…]With each passing decade, Gurdus’ fame grew. A reporter interviewing him in 2003 described his office as “half Aladdin’s cave and half control tower, a labyrinth of television screens, radios, remote controls, electric wires, speakers, model airplanes and photos of Saddam Hussein and George W. Bush stuck on the walls.” And in the center of it all was Gurdus, tartan slippers on his feet and dark shades covering his eye, to protect his vision from the glare of a dozen screens. Even as Israel’s media landscape flourished and more and more commercial radio and television channels debuted, giving rise to new generations of reporters, anchors, and celebrities, Gurdus remained a national treasure, a name you knew even if you weren’t sure exactly what “our listener” did.

And then came the internet.

Gurdus, in his typical tough manner, minimized it, calling it just another arrow in his quiver. “The internet is just another tool for me,” he said in a recent interview, “and not a major one at that because you can’t compete with what’s broadcast on all these satellites. Besides, neither the internet nor anything else can make me stop working, or make me irrelevant. I’ll continue to report the news, to listen, and to try and deliver scoops. I’ll be there for as long as I’m breathing.”[…]

Earlier this week, Gurdus passed away in his home in Yehud. Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Rivlin both eulogized him, the latter calling him “our mythological listener, the man who brought into our nation faraway voices even before the internet.”[…]

Read the full article at The Tablet Magazine.

London Shortwave’s innovative PocketCHIP-powered field portable SDR

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, London Shortwave, who recently shared his latest SDR project: a field-portable, ultra-compact, SDR spectrum recording system based on the PocketCHIP computer.

London Shortwave has built this system from the ground up and notes that it works well but is currently limited to the FunCube Dongle Pro+ at 192 kHz bandwidth. There is no real-time monitoring of what’s being recorded, but it works efficiently and effectively–making spectrum captures from the field effortless. The following is a video London Shortwave shared via Twitter:

Click here to view via Twitter.

The PocketCHIP–the device his system is built around–is a $69 (US) handheld computer with color display:

Click here to view the PocketCHIP website.

I think this field portable SDR system is absolutely brilliant!

Homegrown innovation

London Shortwave has done all of the coding to make the FunCube Dongle Pro + work with the PocketChip computer. Even though live spectrum can’t be monitored in the field, the fact that it’s making such a clean spectrum recording is all that really matters.

All London Shortwave has to do is head to a park with his kit, deploy it, sit on a bench, read a good book, eat a sandwich, then pack it all up. Once home, he transfers the recording and enjoys tuning through relatively RFI-free radio.

A very clever way to escape the noise.

The kit is so incredibly portable, it would make DXing from any location a breeze. You could easily pack this in a carry-on item, backpack or briefcase, then take it to a park, a national forest, a lake, a remote beach–anywhere.

What I really love about this? He didn’t wait for something to be designed for him, he simply made it himself.

Thanks again, London Shortwave. We look forward to reading about your radio adventures with this cool field SDR!