Tag Archives: Covid-19

Radio Waves: Hacking Satellites, “Close-Knit” Ham Radio Culture, TV Drama Diplomacy, and Ofcom Relaxes Restricted Service Licence

(Image: NASA)

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers.  To that end: 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 BJ Leiderman, London Shortwave, and Michael Bird for the following tips:


Hacker Used £270 of TV Equipment to Eavesdrop on Sensitive Satellite Communications (CBRonline.com)

“Vulnerable systems administration pages and FTP servers were publicly routable from the open internet.

An Oxford University-based security researcher says he used £270 ($300) of home television equipment to capture terabytes of real-world satellite traffic — including sensitive data from “some of the world’s largest organisations.”

James Pavur, a Rhodes Scholar and DPhil student at Oxford, will detail the attack in a session at the Black Hat security conference in early August.

Pavur will also demonstrate that, “under the right conditions” attackers can hijack active sessions via satellite link, a session overview reveals.

The news comes as the number of satellites in orbit is expected to increase from approximately 2,000 today to more than 15,000 by 2030. (Elon Musk’s SpaceX alone has permission to launch 12,000 satellites.)[]

A close-knit culture, with separation at its core (Christian Science Monitor)

Ham radio operators are a global collective with a common aim: to forge human connections in an expanding network. As COVID-19 makes us all ‘distance,’ we wanted to tune in to their world.

You’re logged in, the Zoom meeting underway, and suddenly faces freeze. The best you can do: Reboot the router and cross your fingers. You’re on the phone with a friend, deep in conversation, and the audio gets garbled as the bars on your phone drop from one to none. Technology can fail us at inconvenient times. But imagine a communications technology that could hold up even in the most rugged and remote situations.

It exists, and it’s much older than the smartphone.

Amateur radio, or ham radio, has been around for more than a century, functioning as both workhorse and recreational hobby. After the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, amateur operators coordinated communications as cellphone systems became overloaded. They played a key role in Puerto Rico in 2017 after Hurricane Maria took down much of the communications infrastructure. Though there hasn’t been as much of a need during the pandemic – with traditional systems up and running – amateur radio is keeping its own user communities in touch, informed, and emotionally grounded.[]

Australia criticised for TV drama diplomacy (Radio New Zealand)

[Listen to full interview above or at RNZ.]

Australia has been told it should not send low-brow TV dramas and reality shows to the Pacific, but find out what the region really wants.

Canberra has announced plans to stream television content to the Pacific as part of efforts to promote Australia’s relationship with the region, and to counter Chinese influence.

But a spokesperson for advocacy group, Australia Asia Pacific Media Initiative, Sue Ahearn, says sending programmes like Neighbours, Border Force is not the answer.

She believes Australia could provide a much greater service for the Pacific.[]

Update: Licensing drive-in movies and church services (Southgate ARC)

Drive-in movie and church service event organisers could be granted temporary radio licences by Ofcom, which may allow film lovers and congregations to come together while still observing social distancing.

Ofcom has today updated its licensing information to offer guidance to individuals or organisations who may wish to hold these types of events. They require a ‘restricted service licence’ from Ofcom, so that people in their cars can hear the film soundtrack, or what is being said, on their FM car radios.

Given the current coronavirus pandemic, we are waiving the usual 60-day notice period for licence applications. We will also process applications quickly, with the aim of providing an answer to applicants within two weeks of it being received.

We recognise that these events may be a way for communities and congregations to enjoy a film or to worship, while still observing social distancing. In granting any licence, however, we are not authorising the event itself. It is for licensees to ensure that any events are permissible under Covid-19-related laws and guidance.

More information, including on how to apply for a restricted service licence, is available.
Licensing information []


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Radio Waves: More Solar Minimum, Cold War Moscow, C-19 Ham Radio Event, and a WWII Code-Breaker is SK

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers.  To that end: 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 Bill Patalon, Dirk Rijmenants, Rodrigo Tarikian, and David (G4EDR) for the following tips:


Deep ‘Solar Minimum’ is feared (Southgate ARC via Forbes)

Forbes magazine reports a deep ‘Solar Minimum’ is feared as 2020 sees record-setting 100-day slump

Jamie Carter writes:

While we on Earth suffer from coronavirus, our star—the Sun—is having a lockdown all of its own. Spaceweather.com reports that already there have been 100 days in 2020 when our Sun has displayed zero sunspots.

That makes 2020 the second consecutive year of a record-setting low number of sunspots

So are we in an eternal sunshine of the spotless kind?

Read the full article at
https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamiecartereurope/2020/05/12/the-sun-is-asleep-deep-solar-minimum-feared-as-2020-sees-record-setting-100-day-slump/

Radio Moscow and the Cold War (SIGINT CHATTER)

Geopolitics and international conflicts during the Cold War made it important for the United states and the Soviet Union to inform people or influence their political views, and this in many countries around the world. But how did they reach their audience?

Today, we can hardly imagine a world without Internet, cable and satellites that brings all the news and information from across the globe in your lap. Yet, during most of the Cold War, people only had newspapers, local TV, FM and AM radio. The only solution to spread ideas was shortwave radio, as these waves travel around the globe and can listened to by everyone with a shortwave radio.

Both East and West had, and still have, shortwave radio stations with a world service. The best known were Voice of America, Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty on one side, and Radio Moscow, Radio Beijing and Radio Havana Cuba on the other side. Everyone had their own truth and accused the other side of expansion drift, disinformation and inciting across the world.

One truly iconic station was Radio Moscow World Service. Their foreign service broadcasting started in 1929 with transmitters in Moscow and Leningrad, and later also relay stations in Vladivostok and Magadan. Radio Moscow reached whole Eurasia, Africa and North and South America. During the Cold War, their broadcasts reached across the world with transmitters in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe and Cuba, and they broadcast in more than 70 languages.[]

COVID-19 Radio Communication Event (SRAL)

COVID-19 RADIO COMMUNICATION EVENT
DATE: June 06-07, 2020.
STARTS 10.00 UTC SATURDAY – ENDS 09.59 UTC SUNDAY

For amateur radio operators worldwide, social distancing is not an issue. Our ham radio network of radio-wave signals flies high and wide, across all borders near and far. Amateur radio operators are well-known for their communication on skills during the happy days, but also during times of crisis.Even if ham radio operators are now confined to their homes, they are encouraged to communicate, to enhance their friendships, and to keep their minds and skills sharp for global messaging whenever needed.

Click here to download the full announcement with event details (PDF).

Tributes as World War Two code breaker Ann Mitchell dies aged 97 (BBC News)

Tributes have been paid to Ann Mitchell – one of the last of a World War Two code-breaking team at Bletchley Park – who has died aged 97.

Mrs Mitchell, who deciphered German codes at the British code-breaking centre from 1943, died at an Edinburgh care home on Monday.

Her family and friends said she had been declining in health for some years and had “a life well lived”.

The Scotsman reported she had tested positive for Covid-19 recently.

Her son Andy Mitchell, 61, told BBC Scotland: “She was a loving mother and it’s very sad but she was declining in old age with memory loss and physical frailties.

“I’m pleased she has been given the recognition for a life well lived.”[]


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Radio Waves: Radio Listeners Key to Economy, DXcamp Updates, Coronavirus Hospital Radio, and Hamvention QSO Party

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers.  To that end: 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 Dennis Dura, Martin Butera, and Dan Van Hoy for the following tips:


Nielsen: Heavy Radio Listeners Are Key To Restarting U.S. Economy. (Inside Radio)

With 39 states beginning to relax restrictions imposed to diminish the spread of the coronavirus, many Americans are ready to pick up the pieces and get back to their previous lifestyles. An online survey of 1,000 persons aged 18+, conducted from April 30-May 2, found nearly two thirds (63%) say they plan to resume normal activities next month. Conducted by Nielsen, the survey also shows heavy radio listeners are key to driving commerce and supporting the economy since they’re more likely to go out and shop once COVID-19 eases in their market.

Presenting the findings during a client webinar Friday afternoon, Tony Hereau, Nielsen VP of Cross-Platform Insights, summed up the top takeaway succinctly: “AM/FM radio is the soundtrack of America’s re-opening and reemergence.”[]

Marajo Dxcamp updates

Ivan Dias and Martin Butera inform us about their most recent update on the receptions of the last DXcamp on the Amazonian Island of Marajo, in the north of Brazil.

Interesting medium wave receptions from the following link
https://dxcamp-marajo2019.blogspot.com/p/only-log.html

Be sure to visit the official website of the Dxcamp, where you will find a lot of material about this important event
https://dxcamp-marajo2019.blogspot.com/

The Tiny Radio Stations That Lift Spirits in Hospitals (NY Times)

LONDON — Last Wednesday, Steve Coulby, a D.J. for Nottingham Hospitals Radio in England, read out a request from a patient battling Covid-19.

“Brian, you’ve given me an awesome responsibly, as you’ve asked for ‘any jazz,’” Mr. Coulby said. “I have to admit,” he added, “what I know about jazz is limited.”

Mr. Coulby then told his listeners he’d spent much of the day searching jazz tracks online, looking for one that might aid Brian’s recovery, or at least lift his mood. He decided on “Let Me Into Your Heart” by the British singer Isaac Waddington.

“I hope it’s good enough, Brian,” Mr. Coulby said, with a nervous laugh. “To be honest, it’s all you’re getting.”

Britain’s hospital radio stations are one of the less well-known features of its health system: tiny operations, staffed by volunteers, that you would never know existed unless you’d been a patient here.

Patients can normally listen to the shows, which are heavy on chart music and old hits, using headphones connected to an entertainment unit beside their beds. In some cases, the shows are even played out of speakers on the wards or in the emergency room waiting area.

The end of hospital radio has been declared many times over in Britain. Some hospital stations have struggled to raise funds, while the rise of smartphones filled with music and radio apps has meant patients have less need for them. But there are still over 200 such stations, according to the Hospital Broadcasting Association, and some claim they have found themselves more useful than ever during the pandemic, providing a human connections to patients who would otherwise be alone.[]

Hamvention QSO Party Saturday May 16! (Hamvention.org)

Let’s celebrate the many years we have all had at the Great Gathering we call Hamvention. We also want to remember Ron Moorefield W8ILC who never missed a Hamvention and contributed to our club until his recent death.Let’s light up the airwaves with our remembrances of Hamventions of the past! See you on the air! K3LR, Tim Duffy and W8CI, Michael Kalter.

Here is the deal: 12 hour event, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EDST on Saturday of Hamvention May 16, 2020.  Operate CW or SSB on 160, 80, 40, 20, 15 and 10 meters. The exchange is a signal report and first year you attended Hamvention. If you have never attended Hamvention you send 2020.

Send your score (number of QSOs) to 3830scores.com within 5 days of the event. You can print a certificate on line via www.HVQP.org. More details will appear on the Hamvention QSO Party web site being set up now.

Special bonus: W8BI, the club call of the Dayton Amateur Radio Association (DARA is the host of Hamvention) will be activated by designated DARA members from their home stations. You can add 10 points for each band/mode QSO with W8BI (12 available). So you can earn 120 bonus points (like having 120 additional QSOs).


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Finding local Emergency Alert Stations in the US

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mario Filippi (N2HUN), who shares the following guest post:


Emergency Alert Stations: A great source of local information

by Mario Filippi

During the pandemic a source of local information for residents in certain areas of the country can be found on Emergency Advisory Radio stations that dot the country and provide 24/7 information pertinent to a community.  Not all communities have these stations, which can be found from 1610 – 1710 kHz and operate at varying power outputs.

Author’s Yaesu FRG-100 tuned to EAS station

For example, a station I regularly hear is WRBX655 about 12 miles away in Franklin Township, NJ operating on 1630 kHz : https://www.franklintwpnj.org/Home/Components/News/News/6384/1130?cftype=News

At the moment it is broadcasting information on COVID-19 from the Center for Disease Control.  Every EAS  station has a call sign and wattage generally is from about 10 – 50 watts. However some stations do not necessarily announce their call signs so you can check theradiosource at: http://www.theradiosource.com/resources/stations-alert.htm

Now some of these stations are part of the HAR (Highway Advisory System) that broadcast on major roadways and usually have prominent road signs announcing where to tune your car’s AM radio for latest traffic conditions.  These stations were also termed TIS (Traveler’s Information Stations) at one time and were the precursors of HAR.  However, over the years the FCC allowed more leeway on what information could be broadcast and as a result these EAS stations appeared in communities and even state parks.

You can look up the locations of these stations to ascertain if one serves your community but the best way is to tune regularly from 1610 – 1710 kHz.  The optimal time to listen is during daylight hours as propagation changes greatly after dark and you’ll hear commercial AM radio stations coming in and overpowering most EAS.  As for range, I’ve heard HAR stations as far away as 40 miles depending on ground wave conditions which can vary greatly. QSB is common. Many of these stations will rebroadcast NWS weather information when no pertinent emergencies exist and that is another way to spot them. Some highway stations I’ve heard will begin each broadcast loop with a tone, they’re all different in their approach.

Attached [at the top of the page] is a picture of the author’s Yaesu FRG-100 tuned to WRBX655 from Franklin Township, New Jersey. For an antenna I’ve used a 31 foot vertical and a loop and success will depend on using an outdoor antenna but when away from the home QTH, I’ve heard many of these stations while traveling on the roadways of America, They’re a good break casual AM radio listening.  Give it a try.


Thank you, Mario! I must admit that when I travel, I often hunt down EAS transmitters via my car’s AM radio. Besides being a good source of local information, I do know some DXers who’ve identified and logged an impressive number of distant stations when conditions were ideal. 

If you live outside the US, do you have similar networks for local information? Please comment!

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BBC: “How amateur radio is connecting people during lockdown”

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors, Kris Partridge and Mark Hirst, who share the following article from the BBC:

Coronavirus: How amateur radio is connecting people during lockdown

By Vanessa Pearce
BBC News

Amateur radio use in the UK has seen a “significant” rise during the coronavirus lockdown as people seek new ways of staying connected. The national body that represents users – the Radio Society of Great Britain (RSGB) – has said many people who formerly enjoyed the hobby are also returning to it.

Mark Rider’s social life before the coronavirus lockdown consisted of the occasional trip to the pub, rehearsing with musician friends and visiting his wife in her care home.

“But when I knew that wasn’t going to happen any time soon I decided to dust off my amateur radio equipment to seek out some other social interaction,” he says.

Mr Rider, a retired engineer from North Warwickshire, said “ragchewing” – or chatting to people on the airwaves – “has become one of the highlights of my day”.

“Because I live on my own, and because of lockdown, I knew I couldn’t do what I used to do, which wasn’t going to be very good for me or my mental health.”

The 67-year-old says keeping in touch with others has been more important since his wife was taken into care after a stroke.

“Just speaking to somebody else in the same situation is very rewarding,” he says.

The RSGB defines amateur radio as a “technical hobby for people who want to learn about, use and experiment with wireless communications”, like Mr Rider, who uses his radio kit to speak to others using designated radio frequencies.

Steve Thomas, RSGB general manager, says the organisation has experienced a threefold increase in the number of people asking to sit licensing exams since social distancing rules came into place. There are currently about 75,000 licensed users in the UK.

“Across the country, clubs and individual radio amateurs are supporting one another by setting up ‘nets’, or online meetings,” Mr Thomas says.[…]

Continue reading the full article at the BBC.

Thank you for sharing this excellent article! A number of readers have been commenting about how much more activity there is on the ham radio bands these days. I concur! With everyone at home, ham radio certainly does provide a way to reach out and be a part of a larger community.

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Radio Waves: Zombie Sats, Radio Provides Undemanding Friendship, Boom in New Stations, and One Retailer’s Ham Radio Connection

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers.  To that end: 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 BJ Leiderman and Richard Black  for the following tips:


Long-Lost U.S. Military Satellite Found By Amateur Radio Operator (NPR)

There are more than 2,000 active satellites orbiting Earth. At the end of their useful lives, many will simply burn up as they reenter the atmosphere. But some will continue circling as “zombie” satellites — neither alive nor quite dead.

“Most zombie satellites are satellites that are no longer under human control, or have failed to some degree,” says Scott Tilley.

Tilley, an amateur radio operator living in Canada, has a passion for hunting them down.

In 2018, he found a signal from a NASA probe called IMAGE that the space agency had lost track of in 2005. With Tilley’s help, NASA was able to reestablish contact.

But he has tracked down zombies even older than IMAGE.

“The oldest one I’ve seen is Transit 5B-5. And it launched in 1965,” he says, referring to a nuclear-powered U.S. Navy navigation satellite that still circles the Earth in a polar orbit, long forgotten by all but a few amateurs interested in hearing it “sing” as it passes overhead.[]

Ken Bruce: ‘Radio provides friendship in an undemanding way’ (BBC News)

You wouldn’t normally hear a tractor driving past or birds tweeting in the background of Ken Bruce’s BBC Radio 2 show.

But, if you listen closely, those are just a few sounds you might be able to pick up on now the presenter is broadcasting from his Oxfordshire home.

“I do live in dread of the binmen arriving or the Royal Air Force flying over in extremely noisy Chinooks as they do sometimes,” Bruce laughs. “But so far it’s been fine.”

Bruce’s mid-morning show on Radio 2 – which he has hosted continuously since 1992, following an earlier stint in the 1980s – is particularly popular at the moment as more listeners turn to the radio while confined to their homes.

“At a time like this, people want to hear the news, but they don’t want it all day,” Bruce says. “From my point of view, I’ll pay attention to one news broadcast a day, and after that I don’t really want to know too much unless it’s a major development.

“So escapism is a big part of keeping people feeling right during this and I think we provide a certain amount of that, a chance to put the worries of the world to one side.”[]

The coronavirus is bringing about a boom in new radio stations (The Economist)

MILLIONS OF PEOPLE in lockdown are finding diversion at the flick of a dial. According to Radiocentre, the industry body for commercial radio in Britain, local and national stations reported increases in daily listeners of between 15% and 75% in the second half of March. They’ve got competition. Radio stations offering information, entertainment and reassurance to listeners isolated at home have sprung up from Ireland to Syria, Italy to India. Informal and interactive, many are run by amateurs from their homes, with producers learning the ropes as they go.

In Italy Radio Zona Rossa (Radio Red Zone) began broadcasting from the town of Codogno, the site of the country’s first locally transmitted coronavirus infection, just days after Lombardy went into lockdown on February 21st. Hosted by Pino Pagani, an octogenarian whose co-presenter and friend was killed by the virus in March, the twice-daily programme uses the registered FM frequencies of a local station, Radio Codogno, to provide updates on the spread of the virus and the opening hours of local essential services. Mr Pagani also interviews experts and invites residents to call in for a chat. [Note that the full article is behind a paywall …]

Unclaimed Baggage began from a social distance connection, 1970’s style (Unclaimed Baggage)

Doyle Owens loved radios––specifically ham radios. We don’t use them much these days; most of us don’t even know what they are (for the uninitiated: “ham” is slang for “amateur” radio, and its enthusiasts make a hobby of connecting with each other over radio frequencies). In the ‘60s and ‘70s, it was the equivalent of a group FaceTime call, sans face.

Doyle, call sign K4MUR, went to bed early so he could be on the radio by 4:30am to talk to friends in different time zones all around the world. Some were friends from childhood, friends from his days of service in the Korean War. Most of his friends, however, were friends he’d never met in person, who he knew only from the airwaves. Many of them knew him more intimately than the friends and neighbors he saw every day.

Those mornings were his window into the world outside Scottsboro, Alabama, population 9,324 (in 1970), where he’d been working in insurance since shortly after the Korean War. The insurance business paid, but it bored him to tears. Creative energy ran in his blood: during the Great Depression, his father ran a general store on wheels in rural Alabama, which he used to barter for much needed goods. Doyle knew he was destined for more, but he didn’t know what.

One day, a ham radio friend who worked for Trailways Bus Company in Washington, D.C. let Doyle and his friends in on an unusual problem: the bus line had an accumulating pile of unclaimed bags that they didn’t know what to do with. Doyle’s ears perked up. “How much would you sell it for?” he asked his friend. “Well, I’m not sure,” his friend said. They settled on three hundred dollars.

That afternoon, Doyle borrowed his father’s ’65 Chevy pickup truck and stopped at his father-in-law’s house on the way out of town to borrow three hundred dollars. When he returned, he and his wife Mollie Sue set to unpacking the massive load of luggage. They rented a house on the outskirts of town and set up card tables inside to display the contents of the luggage. Outside, a homemade storefront sign read “Unclaimed Baggage”. That Saturday the doors opened for business, and by the end of the day the tables were empty.

The rest isn’t exactly history. It took many more loads of luggage, many more loans, many more long days and short nights before Doyle’s business grew into the worldwide, fifty-year-old retail phenomenon it is today. But it all started with an idea.

No one knows where they come from, ideas. What we do know is that the right environment––the kind populated by dear friends, clear air, long drives down country roads and the like––clears space for them to land.

The current moment, plagued by uncertainty, financial distress and, well, actual plague, could be seen as less conducive than ever to creativity. Ernest Hemingway once wrote that worry destroys the ability to create, and ill health, which produces worry, attacks your subconscious and destroys your reserves. If we all, like Hemingway, had the ability to combat the malaise with all the fishing, sailing and boxing our hearts desire, we might not be in such a tough spot.[]


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Radio Waves: Libre Space Foundation Reviews SDRs, ARRL VEC Statement, Pandemic Pastime, and Former CEO of RadioShack Now C-19 ER doctor

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers.  To that end: 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 Ron, Paul, Marco Zennaro, and Richard Langley for the following tips:


The Libre Space Foundation reviews software defined radios (Hackaday)

If you want to go to the next level with software defined radio (SDR), there are a lot of choices. The RTL-SDR dongles are fine, but if you get serious you’ll probably want something else. How do you choose? Well, your friends at the European Space Agency Libre Space Foundation have published a paper comparing many common options. True, they are mostly looking at how the receivers work with CubeSats, but it is still a good comparison.

The devices they examine are:

  • RTS-SDR v3
  • Airspy Mini
  • SDRPlay RSPduo
  • LimeSDR Mini
  • BladeRF 2.0 Micro
  • Ettus USRP B210
  • Pluto SDR

They looked at several bands of interest, but not the HF bands — not surprising considering that some of the devices can’t even operate on HF. They did examine VHF, UHF, L band, S band, and C band performance. Some of the SDRs have transmit capabilities, and for those devices, they tested the transmit function as well as receive.

The review isn’t just subjective. They calculate noise figures and dynamic range, along with other technical parameters. They also include GNURadio flowgraphs for their test setups, which would be a great place to start if you wanted to do these kinds of measurements yourself.[]

ARRL VEC Issues Statement on Video-Supervised Online Exam Sessions (ARRL News)

Very few ARRL Volunteer Examiner teams have successfully conducted in-person exam sessions (following social distancing guidelines) and video-supervised exam sessions using fillable PDF exams and documents. So far, we have found that both types of sessions take volunteer teams two to three times longer to conduct and accommodate fewer candidates than sessions conducted prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. So far, the video sessions have included only one examinee per session.

We ask the community to be patient with our volunteer teams as they navigate uncharted territory. Please remember with the introduction of significant new processes such as these, that there should be proof of concept, establishment of protocols and procedures, and beta testing before expanding to a larger audience. Video-supervised exam sessions require a different skillset than in-person exam administration. Not all teams will be equipped to deliver video exams right away.

The ARRL Volunteer Examiner Coordinator (VEC) has been investigating options for an online examination system.

Fillable PDFs are cumbersome within a video-supervised exam session process. We recognize that online testing would represent a large-scale solution for our thousands of VEs and would make session procedures easier for our teams, but this will not happen overnight.

The ARRL VEC will continue to adapt and respond to the evolving crisis as we search for viable and easy-to-use online examination system solutions and conduct exam sessions in innovative ways.[]

Pandemic Pastime – Shortwave Radio (KFGO)

Ever since I was a little kid, I was fascinated that at night you could listen to radio stations from all over the country. My little Heathkit radio, which I built myself, could pick up stations in Minneapolis, Chicago, St. Louis, Denver, Little Rock, Pittsburgh to name a few. West coast stations were rare because it was tough getting a signal over the Rocky Mountains.

Then there was shortwave radio. A buddy of mine had one and he showed me a list of all the countries he was picking up. England, France, Germany, Latin American countries, numerous stations on the shortwave bands in America. Even Radio Havana coming out of Cuba. Anything from religion to hard edge rock and roll. He also noted he picked up Radio Free Europe and the Voice of America.

Well years later I would stop by my local Radio Shack and decided it was my turn to take up this hobby of monitoring shortwave radio. This particular radio also had a built in cassette player so you could record your found stations as well. It was really interesting to hear the news from other countries and get their take on what was happening in America.

One of the first frequencies I tuned in was WWV a shortwave radio station out of Fort Collins Colorado, that broadcasts the time via the atomic clock. The seconds tick off until the top of the hour when you hear a voice announce the time, followed by a tone that hits the top of the minute exactly on the nose. Great way to set the clock.

Now I know you can probably find all these shortwave stations on the internet, but what fun is that right?

With the covid-19 pandemic, this is a little something different than binge watching television, or building that 10th jigsaw puzzle or cleaning out that closet again and again.

Have a chair on the patio, a glass of your favorite beverage, extend the antenna, and start turning up and down the dial and see what you can find. I had a little notebook that I kept track of my searches. Don’t have it now though…lost it.

I’ll start a new one.

Stay safe everyone![]

Former CEO of RadioShack now an ER doctor (National Post)

‘I am just one of those people who was very fortunate, where things worked out, and where I could do not just do one thing I really enjoyed in life, but two’

Brian Levy loved science as a kid. He had a microscope, read up on stuff in the encyclopedia and messed around with home experiment kits. During his high school years, he took every science credit possible. By his own admission, he was a “geek,” one with an equally strong passion, alongside science, for electronics.

Levy knew how to operate a shortwave radio. Weekend teenage heaven, in his mind, was hanging around the local RadioShack store, a warehouse of gizmos where he scored his first part-time job in 1974, earning US$1.40 an hour at a shop in downtown Atlanta. He was 15, which, alas, was too young to be working for the company, according to the folks at corporate headquarters in Texas, who fired him upon receiving his paperwork.

The dismissal didn’t sit well with Levy.

“I actually called the vice president of human resources in Texas,” he says. The executive was impressed by the moxie of the kid. On the day he turned 16, Levy was hired back.

[…]Levy did not foresee the premature end to his business career. When it came, rather than being crestfallen, he felt liberated, and free to pursue an “itch” that he had always felt the need to scratch. So he applied to medical school at McMaster University in Hamilton, ON. (Levy came to Canada in the first place after relocating RadioShack HQ north of the border as CEO. He is now a dual citizen, although his soft, buttery accent betrays his roots in the American south.)[]


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