Tag Archives: David Korchin

Zello: A PTT (push to talk) app surges in popularity with Hurricane Irma

(Source: The Washington Post via David Korchin)

As Hurricane Harvey dropped anchor over Southeast Texas last week, Zello became the go-to app for rescuers working to save thousands of people trapped by floodwaters.

Within days of Harvey’s arrival, the app saw a 20-fold increase in usage in Houston, according to Bill Moore, the Austin based startup’s the chief executive.

As Hurricane Irma hurtles across the Caribbean toward the coast of Florida, Zello continues to boom in popularity. The free Internet “walkie-talkie” app — which relies on cellphone data plans or WiFi and is designed to operate in places where signals are weak — became the top app on iTunes and Google Play Wednesday.

The latest influx began Tuesday and, at one point, Moore said, 120 people were registering for the app every second. In recent days, the app has also trended on Facebook and Twitter, offering another example of the pivotal role social media is playing in natural disasters.

“The heat map of where the registrations are occurring looks like the hurricane’s forecast path,” he added. “It’s very dense at the tip among the Caribbean islands and then fans out across Florida.”[…]

Continue reading at The Washington Post online.

I find Zello quite interesting. If you think about it, this app mimics the concept of traditional PTT/two-way radio which certainly has traffic management advantages during times of emergencies. Of course, Zello has many features traditional two-way radio does not (voice history, the ability to leave messages, native GPS and mapping functionality, etc.).

Zello does rely on some sort of Internet connectivity via 4G, 3G, WiFi, GPRS and/or EDGE. During disasters, these services may not always be accessible. Of course, amateur radio, CB and other traditional radio services do not require Internet connectivity.

Zello requires no license, no radio, nor any other accessories–just a smart phone–and is free. That’s a powerful combination and, as The Washington Post reports, Zello is obviously helping with Irma relief efforts. Thanks for the tip, David!

DK’s Barn Find: A GE Super Radio II

My good friend, David Korchin (K2WNW), has a knack for finding diamonds in the rough.

He’s been known to find a radio that needs TLC, take it home and restore a bit of its former glory. He’s had some amazing luck in the past.

Recently, DK sent a video of of his recent acquisition: a beat-up GE Super Radio II he purchased for two dollars. This radio will win no beauty contests, but it still plays well.

Check out DK’s video:

Click here to view on YouTube.

Many thanks, DK, for allowing me to post this video. It goes to show you that you should never pass up an opportunity to adopt a Super Radio. Even if the telescopic antenna is all but missing, the internal ferrite bar is where the money is!

Play on!

Auction Score: a Sony ICF-SW55

Goodwill-listing

Regular SWLing Post readers know that I’m a sucker for classic solid-state portables and vintage tube radios.

What many of you may not know, however, is that I’m not a fan of auction-style bidding for radios. Those who are familiar with it will recognize the story: it begins on an optimistic note, when I find something I’m enthusiastic about.  Then the bidding war begins, and invariably, the price quickly ratchets upwards to far beyond my comfort zone.  It’s only then I find I’ve wasted my time on the entire process, and my hopes are dashed.  So it’s not a purchasing method I relish.

Therefore, despite all of the radio gear I’ve purchased over the years, I’ve only bid for a radio in an online auction perhaps three or four times.

But a couple of weeks ago, my buddy David Korchin (K2WNW)––who has a knack for finding deals on radios, and often alerts me to them––mentioned that he was bidding on a Sony ICF-SW55.

Photo of the ICF-SW55 from auction listing.

Photo of the ICF-SW55 from auction listing.

David wasn’t bidding on the popular online auction eBay––rather, he’d found this deal on ShopGoodwill.com.

A note about ShopGoodwill.com

ShopGoodwill-ScreenShot

In case you haven’t heard, ShopGoodwill.com is Goodwill Industries International’s online auction site.  Goodwill employees select exceptional donations, items they feel are worth more than typical Goodwill retail prices, and post them there for online auction.

I believe it was SWLing Post contributor, Mario Filippi, who first introduced me to ShopGoodwill.

The cool thing about ShopGoodwill is that it’s not as popular as, for example, eBay. Thus a bidder has a better chance of finding a good deal, with the added benefit that less enthusiasts will be hiking up the price with rapid bidding.

There are issues with ShopGoodwill.com, though, some of which are very off-putting:

  • Items are often poorly described, thus:
    • searching through the collection can be rather difficult
    • you often can’t trust these condition descriptions, as they’re written by someone who is clearly not an expert
    • Photos are sometimes of low quality, low resolution, and rarely offer enough detail for an informed decision
  • Buyer beware: nearly all items are sold “as-is,” and are untested
  • No returns on most items
  • No real seller feedback: if you’re frustrated with a Goodwill shop, you have no real recourse other than complaint

So, in summary: unless otherwise specified in the listing, you must assume that any item offered for auction on this site doesn’t function and may be in poor cosmetic condition as well. After all, these are donated items.

With that said, even though the risk is higher than on eBay–where sellers are rewarded with positive feedback and endeavor to fully describe merchandise––some good deals are occasionally to be found on ShopGoodwill!

Now back to my story…

The Sony ICF-SW55 listing that David found on ShopGoodwill.com kept a steady bid of $28 until the day before the auction’s end, when it increased to $48 US.

It’s likely that this listing would have seen more active bidding if the description were better––it didn’t even provide the model number, and was listed as “Sony Worldband Portable Receiver.” Moreover, the feature photo for the listing was of the radio’s case, not the radio itself (see below), yet another reason the listing got so little attention. But David, being the deal hound he is, found it!

The feature photo.

The feature photo.

I encouraged David to really go for it, saying that this could be an excellent opportunity to snag one of these classic portables for a good price. And if it didn’t work, there would be a good chance Vlado could fix it for a fair price.

The morning the auction concluded, David messaged me that he’d decided to pull out of the bidding. He found something else he wanted to snag, so he encouraged me to take the baton and bid on the ICF-SW55, myself.

I read the vague description…then took a deep breath, and decided to go for it!

Sony-ICF-SW55-Listing-Description

Again, I’m not adept at bidding, but at least I have a method that has worked for me in the past. My simple rules:

  1. Only bid once.
  2. Wait until the last few seconds, then offer my highest comfortable bid.

Final bidding, blow-by-blow

Here’s how the final moments of the auction played out:

I waited until one minute before auction end. I decided I would go as high as $120––a little rich for my modest budget, considering this could amount to a parts radio, but it was late in the day and I admit I wasn’t thinking clearly.

Then, at thirty seconds before auction’s end, the ShopGoodwill.com site simply stopped responding––!

Error-Chrome

No, it wasn’t my dubious Internet connection this time––their site was having problems loading.

finally got the auction screen to pop back up ten seconds before auction’s end. I quickly attempted to place my bid: the web page churned…and churned…and churned.

Finally, up popped the review screen at literally the last breath of a second. I clicked “confirm/submit” (thank you, LastPass, for filling in my password immediately) and just managed to record the bid!

I’m certain that my bid was received within the last second. I had the countdown clock running on my Android phone so I’d know when the auction’s end was coming up. Unlike eBay, there is no dynamic counter on ShopGoodwill: you must refresh the page to see the time remaining. The Android countdown was set to end three seconds before the actual end of auction. When I confirmed the bid, it read “-3 seconds.”

The Goodwill site was having so many problems, that it took it two full minutes before I could get the auction screen to refresh after it accepted my bid––it was still stuck on the screen that confirmed my bid was recorded and that I was––for the moment, anyhow––the highest bidder.

When the page finally loaded, I saw that I had, by the skin of my teeth, snagged the SW55, and for a mere $53.

ShopGoodwill-WinningBidThat is one of the lowest prices I’ve ever seen one of these units go for in an online auction, even when listed as a “parts-only” radio.  Needless to say, I was exhilarated!  My heart pounded.

I’m certain that the problem with the Goodwill site helped me win the auction. There were multiple bidders, and I think mine just happened to trigger a bid, leaving the competition no way to outbid me in the last 1/10 of a second.  This wasn’t bidding skill.  And it surely wasn’t a fat wallet.  Frankly, I was just lucky.

I was thrilled to have won the radio at such a relatively low price, but the relief afterward reminded me why I don’t like auctions like this. I definitely prefer a more straightforward, less exciting (and less anxiety-producing), approach to making purchases.

Good news comes in small packages

Sony-ICF-SW55-Front

Goodwill can be relatively slow to ship.  It took about two weeks, but on Monday, I received the package from Goodwill in California.  The rig, save a little dust, looked fine.  But…how would it function?

I put in some freshly-charged Enloop AA batteries and turned it on.

Much to my surprise, the rig turned on…I rapidly tested all the functions. Again, I couldn’t believe my luck: it functions perfectly!

Sony-ICF-SW55-Right Side

The only feature in need attention is the DX/Normal/Local switch, which makes the rig sound a bit scratchy when I change positions––an easy fix, however, with the aid of a little DeOxit.

Sony-ICF-SW55-back

This auction had a happy ending: I got a radio I’ve always wanted for a price I could swing, I didn’t need my friend Vlado to come to my rescue (though I’ve no doubt he would have), and best of all, I find I absolutely love the ICF-SW55.

Sony-ICF-SW55-3

Stay tuned…A review of the classic SW55 is in the works, and will be here on the SWLing Post in the coming weeks!

Sony-ICF-SW55-1

eBay find: Acoustical Manufacturing of England

Acoustical Mfg England - AM Tuner

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, David Korchin (K2WNW), who writes:

I remember when I was a young kid back in Saskatoon, being invited over to a friend’s house to hear his “English stereo.”

We both worked at the CFMC-FM radio back then (he did the 10 PM-2AM slot, and I worked overnights). He being a little older, wise, cooler, than me, I jumped at the chance to browse his vinyl collection, read through his punk magazines and generally look to have his coolness rub off on me.

It was the first time I heard a Quad stereo system. He had the pre-amp, amp, and FM tuner (I think he might have had a Technics turntable, and a pair of Klipsch speakers). I remember being awestruck by the warm sound and the precise imaging of the system. Tracks that I thought I knew intimately took on new dimension. I wanted that system!—and I still don’t have it.

But I’ve noticed a few pieces on eBay, and I wondered if you’ve heard of them, too?

http://ebay.to/1n90DYm

Surprisingly, Acoustical made MW and SW tuners, too!

Acoustical Mfg England Shortwave

http://ebay.to/1PxLSEP

Here’s an early FM example: 

Acoustical Mfg England FM Tuner

http://ebay.to/1n915Wz

And a later one, that I think I saw at his house: 

Acoustical Mfg England FM TunerII

http://ebay.to/1OoIQoJ

These are all tube rigs, OM! And if nostalgia carries any weight, they are worth checking in to.

Many thanks for the links and trip down memory lane, David!

Some of you may know that David is my ultimate radio enabler; my savings account nemesis! 🙂  He about got me this time, too. I almost pulled the trigger on that Acoustical Manufacturing Shortwave Tuner. It is a beauty indeed!  Though not tested (and one would assume it could use some new caps), it does look very clean and I bet it performs like a charm.

Still, I’ll pass this time. I recently dipped heavily into my radio savings so I need to allow a little time for the account to build up again!

I’m curious if other SWLing Post readers are familiar with Acoustical Manufacturing products? Please comment!

Urban go-kit

Davids-SuppliesMy good pal David Korchin (K2WNW) posted the above photo in his Facebook feed yesterday, simply titled, “Today’s carry.”

David is very much a kindred spirit; like me, he is constantly tweaking his go-gear. He works in New York City and likes to have his essentials with him there––radio included, of course. Since he’s a professional photographer, he never leaves home without the Lumix GF1 + Leica 20MM, very nice gear. Since he’s a ham and an avid ARES guy, he carries a Motorola XPR7550 UHF transceiver. And since he’s a radio listener, he carries the CC Pocket AM/FM radio.

True, he doesn’t have a shortwave radio in this kit, but he certainly takes his shortwave with him when traveling any further afield. Indeed, we once did some field work in Belize for ETOW and enjoyed a great SWLing session with the our Grundig G series receivers. Made for great comparison.

What’s in your kit?

Someday soon, I’ll take some photos of the kit that accompanies me most everywhere I go. In the meantime, we’d love to know what’s in your go-kit! If you have one, take a photo and add a few brief notes describing everything in it. I’ll post it here on the SWLing Post!

PS: For those who want to know, here’s David’s description of the above, in his own words:

“CLOCKWISE: Motorola XPR7550 UHF transceiver; Lumix GF1 + Leica 20MM; Moleskin folio notebook; Lamy Safari fountain pen; vintage Zippo lighter; Mercator lock blade penknife; CCrane Pocket radio; Sony El Cheapo™ earbuds; Luminox ANU Watch; iPhone; CENTER handmade leather card case from YXE, because Canada.”

Brilliant…! Thanks, DK!