Tag Archives: Guest Post

Guest Post: Peter’s FM CB Update

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


Thomas – Still Famous

by Peter Laws

We’re getting closer to the first legal FM CB on the market in the USA.  President Electronics  USA has announced that the President Thomas FCC CB radio will hit dealers in early 2022.

When first reporting on this, the assumption was that the Thomas FCC was going to be an FCC-spec Thomas ASC, a somewhat long in the tooth European multi-norm set.  As the release date has approached, and President has released marketing collateral, it’s apparent that this new product is, in fact, a rebranded President Barry II, a current-production state-of-the-CB-art AM/FM European multi-norm model.

Richard, G0OJF, a pipe organ restoration and two-way radio expert from Lincolnshire, England, runs a wonderful YouTube channel “UK FM CB radio servicing”, where he restores old UK-spec CBs and then tests them on air.  He also tunes up newly-released UK-spec CBs … and occasionally demonstrates restoration of 150-year-old pipe organs.  He recently covered the Barry II so if you are curious about the Thomas FCC you are strongly encouraged to watch his video about its European counterpart.

Your humble reporter, who, perhaps surprisingly, has not followed the CB radio market since, (checks notes), 1977 or so, was amazed to see that the MSRP will be $109.  In 1976 terms, that’s just under 25 bucks and had CBs been that price then, your reporter would have bought three because he’d been saving his pennies and that was the amount he’d saved!

Undoubtedly, the reduction in cost is from using components that are readily assembled by robots.  If you watch G0OJF’s video above, you’ll note that the unit is almost completely made of surface-mount components.  Remarkable.

Watch for dealers to begin offering these in the next few weeks.  Your reporter plans to buy one and will be hanging out on Channel 31 FM once it’s installed in his radio room.  Presumably, President (and other vendors) will be watching to see how these units sell in order to make plans for releasing other CBs that include FM.  An AM/FM/SSB CB would be quite versatile!

Let’s play a game:  Spot the differences!

Full manuals for both versions are here:

President Thomas FCC operating manual

President Barry II operating manual

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Off the Shortwaves: Unhappy & Despondent

Guest Post by Troy Riedel

Every radio enthusiast or ham operator knows this definition – something we all dread.  Electromagnetic interference – also known as radio-frequency interference when in the radio frequency spectrum – is a disturbance generated by an external source that affects an electrical circuit by electromagnetic induction, electrostatic coupling, or conduction (Source: Wikipedia).

I’ve been “off the shortwaves” (in fact, off ALL bands!) for a few weeks (a reminder to those who do not remember – I’m an SWL’er, I’m not a ham operator so I’m a listener only).  Here’s my story:

My house was built in 2004 thus the home’s electrical is “modern era”.  I’ve never, ever had a significant problem with RFI … except when the dishwasher is running (if it’s running, I have ZERO reception).

I didn’t want this (I acquiesced only in an attempt to become grandfather of the year), but an in-ground (vinyl liner) pool has been installed in my backyard (yeah, I’ve probably lost everyone’s sympathy with this statement).  If it’s any consolation, construction started long before the summer and won’t be fully completed until [hopefully] next Spring (and what’s left of my yard is a disaster zone and something that will cost a fortune to mitigate – maybe I’ve gained back just a little bit of sympathy?).

Pools are required to be bonded (the process by which the electrical and metallic components of the pool are joined together with a wire to form a non-resistive path between the components. The goal of bonding is to connect, contain and prevent the transmission of any harmful electrical voltage to pool equipment, people and pets).

I’m not an electrician, but essentially the pool is grounded by a copper wire … and a copper wire “ring” encircles the pool (now covered by the concrete pool deck).  The copper wire runs underground and resurfaces where the pump & filter are installed.  That copper bonding/grounding connects to the remote master switch at the pump & filter (pictured here – note where the copper line connects to and grounds the unit):

Electrical power line(s) run underground from the pump/filter area until resurfacing just outside the garage wall where they enter my home’s main breaker box inside the garage.

There is an unfinished electrical component.  A conduit was installed to add a pool light when the project is completed next Spring (see below), but at this point there’s nothing connected thus a “pool light” is not yet present.

Throughout the dig, installation of the steel walls, pouring the concrete bottom & steps, liner installation, the bonding, and covering the bonding “ring” with the concrete pool deck – all of this had zero negative effects on my SWLing.

Once the pool electrician connected power (connected the pump/filter) to the house, ALL radio bands were knocked out due to very extreme RFI.  All bands – the complete spectrum (choose your letters … AM/MW, FM, SW, VHF, UHF – all bands).

I’ve easily spent double-digit hours trying to isolate the EMI.  This is what I’ve done & discovered:

(1) Disconnected the pool grounding: no effect.

(2) [Only] Powered-off the two main breakers for the pool pump & filter: no effect (the pool equipment was tested, then the pool was winterized so nothing has been running).

(3) We used a handheld EMI detector over every inch of the interior and exterior of the house.  Yes, there are sources but nothing to the level that should cause a radio blackout.

(4) Turned off the main breaker, all power to the house: this is the only thing that eliminated the EMI/RFI.

(5) Multiple times, I’ve painstakingly turned-on one breaker at a time (isolating each circuit, on/off then proceeding to the next breaker).  I’ve found that for whatever reason, extreme RFI returns (and is present) on these three circuits: (upstairs) Master Bedroom (my Listening Post), the other upstairs bedrooms (combined on another circuit), and the (downstairs) Family Room circuit.  Note: Even if everything is unplugged on one of these circuits, just turning on the breaker introduces the extreme RFI (thus it must be coming from the breaker & not introduced from a device plugged-in).  Ferrite chokes have been installed on nearly everything plugged-in to outlets on the three “trouble” circuits.  I’m not saying the house was an RFI-free zone before the pool – but these three circuits only produced light-to-manageable RFI prior to the pool equipment being connected to the house’s main breaker box.  After 6000+ days of living in this house with no significant RFI issues, I’ve been in a complete radio blackout with very extreme RFI since the moment the live electrical line was connected between my pool pump/filter and my main breaker box.

And before you ask: No, there have not been any new electronics, no new devices, no new appliances, no LED lights, and all big screen TVs and other notorious RFI unfriendly devices are unplugged – nothing new has been plugged-in or added to the household except for the pool equipment.  There have been no new utilities in my area that could have caused a coincidental problem (no DSL, no fiber optic – nothing).  I cannot see how this situ could be caused by a neighbor, because the problem ceases when my power is off.  And “no”, I can’t move my Listening Post because even though the majority of the RFI is introduced over those three circuits, the entire house is impacted and it’s a complete radio blackout.

To reiterate, I had no radio-related problems during the entire construction (I listened to my radios as I pleased) and the problem did not start until the pool’s electrical line was connected to the main breaker.

Could the new wiring – at/inside the breaker box – be improperly shielded?  Could something be touching(?) that shouldn’t be?  Could something be loose inside the breaker box?  The three circuit breakers that are introducing the extreme RFI are in close proximity to each other in the breaker box and in close proximity to the two new pool breakers – could there be contamination from one to another?

I don’t make it a habit to play with electricity.  The pool company could frankly care less about my radio woes (it’s my problem, not theirs).  My power company supposedly checked their utility line coming into my house (I didn’t see them here, but they said the problem is not on their end).   And local electricians all essentially say, “[from their prospective] EMI sources are hard – if not impossible – to find”.

I have an electrician lined-up but we both thought it might be best to “put this out there” because someone may have an idea that he hasn’t thought of. Thus far, I’ve done almost everything myself that they stated they would do (minus opening-up the breaker box).  I’m hoping to solicit ideas from the SWLing Post Nation before I put the electrician on the clock.  And on the clock = $$$.

Thanks in advance for your input.  If I can’t get this mitigated, a liquidation event may be in my future.

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Guest Post: Peter discovers the first FM-capable CB radio for the US market

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


Thomas is Famous!

by Peter Laws

A few weeks ago, a summary of the recent change to Title 47 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 95, Subpart D — better known as the rules for the CB Radio Service — was published here.  That change, following a successful petition for reconsideration of a previous petition allowed FM as an additional mode in the CB Radio Service.  The original petition was the one that caused the FCC to do away with the nearly-impossible-to-enforce “DX Rule” that prohibited communications of more than 250 km.  For one, the ionosphere had a long history of ignoring the rule entirely, at least for part of the Sun’s eleven-year cycle.

In that article, the author speculated that it may not be too long before manufacturers brought radios that were capable of FM to market, since they already existed in other markets, namely countries that were members of CEPT.

That author has been watching the FCC OET site to see who will be the first out of the gate to get an FM CB approved.  The Office of Engineering and Technology is the FCC’s line office that handles, among other things, Equipment Authorization.  They also handle Experimental Licensing, i.e., “Part 5”, like the recent 630- and 2200-m band projects that resulted in new Amateur Radio allocations and the ongoing 8-m band experiments under WL2XUP (see that license’s details at https://apps.fcc.gov/oetcf/els/reports/CallsignSearch.cfm).

OET also provides a public database of equipment authorizations.  If you know a radio device’s “FCC ID” (usually an alpha-numeric string found on the label of a device or in the device’s documentation), you can look up the details in the database.  A manufacturer’s ID — the first 3 to 5 characters of a product’s ID — will show all the devices that have been authorized.  Fortunately, you can limit the search by date as by frequency range.   https://apps.fcc.gov/oetcf/eas/reports/GenericSearch.cfm Authorizations available online go back into the 1990s but the further back the results go, the less detailed they become.

So who won the race to bring the first FM-capable CB radio to the US market or at least to get a product authorized?  Our benefactor, Mr Witherspoon, will be thrilled to hear that the first radio to gain FCC authorization is the President Thomas FCC!

The President Thomas ASC model in Europe.

As soon as President Electronics can get stock to distributors, the radio should be available.  This writer has no information about when that may happen.

The President Thomas FCC is an older design (c.2013), meaning that whatever R&D costs President Electronics had for the bulk of the design will have been amortized years ago.  As noted in the previous article, changes for conformity with the FCC Part 95 rules are expected to be minimal and likely have to do with locking out the “multi-norm” ability in the new model’s European counterpart.  Following FCC rules, this is an AM radio that has FM as well.  The new Part 95 regulations require AM in every radio with FM as a possible option.

Several websites have details on the existing President Thomas ASC (ASC is automatic squelch control). [See photos above.]   It’s a multi-norm radio as is common in the European market and offers CEPT channels, UK channels, and Polish channels among others.  CEPT channels are identical to the FCC allocations, UK channels are completely different though still between 27 and 28 MHz, and Polish channels are exactly like the FCC channels except that they are all 5 kHz lower (i.e., our Channel 19 is 27.185 while their Channel 19 is 27.180).  Here is an example of a site with data on the European version: http://www.cbradio.nl/president/thomas.htm

FCC authorization was long ago turned over to contract labs.  Here is the Equipment Authorization for the President Thomas FCC:

https://apps.fcc.gov/oetcf/tcb/reports/Tcb731GrantForm.cfm?mode=COPY&RequestTimeout=500&tcb_code=&application_id=AgTi5CpzImyrjI5Oicfj2A%3D%3D&fcc_id=2AEOCPC208

Peter Laws

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Keepa extension & Eton Bundle

Guest Post by Troy Riedel

Click to enlarge the photo

I decided to compose a post that ‘kills two birds with one stone’.

Almost every time a post appears here that states something like “Amazon its selling WXYZ Shortwave Portable for the lowest price I’ve ever seen”, I typically post a comment “doesn’t everyone use Keepa”?

Okay, lets kill the two birds:

Bird #1: Amazon (3rd party seller fulfilled by Amazon) started bundling the Eton Elite Field BT Radio, a carry satchel & the Eton Elite Mini 30-days ago (how do I know, I’ll explain that below with bird #2).  The bundle was introduced at a price of $179.95.  Frankly, given the street prices of the Elite Field with satchel & the under $25 street price of the Elite Mini, $179.95 wasn’t a great price.  But at the time I start writing this post, 3-hours ago the price dropped to $139.00.  That’s a pretty good price IF you’re looking to buy all 3 in this bundle (or even if you want the Field with satchel but choose to gift the Mini as a Christmas gift).

But this opportunity brings me to:

Bird #2: Keepa.

Click to enlarge the photo

Keepa is a great extension (pictured above loaded on my Safari browser).  I have Keepa loaded into multiple browser applications.  With Keepa loaded, I have a complete history of Amazon pricing.  All-time Amazon pricing!  Take a close look at the graphic (click to enlarge).

Keepa tells me this item has been listed on Amazon for 30-days.  It tells me the starting price was $179.95.  It gives me a day-by-day graph of the Amazon price.  It shows me that the price dropped to $149.00 on October 26th at 16:56 EDT.  And it tells me that, 3-hours ago, the price dropped to $139.00.

Want the average Amazon price over the last 90-days?  Easy.  What about the average Amazon price for the past 180-days?  Easy – I get that, too (note: this item has only been listed for 30-days, so the 90-day & 180-day average pricing is the same).

Some of what I am telling you – re: the exact time of the price drop – is only visible when you’re [live] on the product page and you move your cursor over the graph (that info pops into view).

And here’s the best part: you can Manage Price Watches.  What does that mean?  I can set a target price and Keepa notifies me if/when the product’s price meets or goes below my target price (what I want to pay for it).  I cannot tell you how many times I have had items with price watches set … and a few days … or a few weeks go by and <Ding>, I get an email notification that tells me my desired item has dropped below my target price.  I set price watches for radios, tools, tents – even my contact lens solution!  I Manage Price Watches for anything that can wait days, or weeks or even months to buy (I let the price dictate when I buy the item).  Keepa even gives you 24-hours advance notice of an Amazon Lightning Deal.

In summary, this bundle is a pretty good deal as it includes two SW portables & a carrying satchel for the Field.  But this also gave me an opportunity to show everyone how I use Keepa.  I use Keepa for every item I view on Amazon.  And if you look closely, there is an eBay link in Keepa … with a click of my mouse/track pad, I can compare eBay pricing to Amazon.  If this item had ever been listed as “Used”, I could graphically track used pricing.  Keepa also tracks Warehouse Deals & even the date, time & price of past Lightning Deals.  Why would anyone not use this handy little extension?  It’s like tracking a stock’s price history except I’m tracking a specific product’s price on Amazon.

But then again, if everyone did use Keepa … there’d be no point in readers sending Amazon deals to Thomas!

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Update: The Elite Satellit

Guest post by Troy Riedel

I have badgered people I know – mainly this site’s owner, our friend Thomas.  Question: does Eton still plan to bring the Elite Satellit to market?

Image Credit: Eton Corp

I’ve posted here before (in the Comments section of more than one post) stating “I’ll believe it when I see it”.

Last week I emailed Eton Corp and I flat-out asked them if they could provide a “status update” regarding the production of this radio and “do you still plan to bring [this model] to the marketplace”.

Moments ago, I received this email reply:

Hi Troy,

Thank you for your interest in the Elite Satellit radio.  Due to the global shortage of chips and the backlog of delivery of materials to our manufacturer, it is taking much longer to bring this radio to market.

Thank you for your understanding and patience,

Esther

This isn’t very definitive … it offers very little detail, and no expected release date – but – it appears this project (proposed new model) has not been tabled, has not been canceled.  Seeing as how it’s November 1st … Christmas is less than 8-weeks away – well, this would be a good time to ask the question because surely I would think an imminent release date would be best for business.

As such, I guess I’ll stand-by my comments over the past 18-months … “I’ll believe it when I see it”.  The optimist in me is happy the reply wasn’t an outright cancellation of this gorgeous radio!

If there is anyone out there with more information, definitive information, I’m sure the SWLing Post Blog Nation would love to hear it.  For now, I guess those of us interested will continue to wait.  And those among us who still have doubts, this group “will believe it when we see it”!

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CQ Satellite: ARISS FM Repeater, Ham Sats, Tracking, Antennas, and Looking At The Future

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dan Van Hoy (VR2HF), who shares the following guest post:


ARISS FM Repeater May Be Back on Early December and a Short Ham Satellite Summary

by Dan Van Hoy (VR2HF)

I’ve recently had a lot of fun learning about the current batch of ham satellites and operating through some of them for the past several months with only a Diamond discone (and a short run of RG-213 double-shielded coax), Yaesu FT-817 (for SSB/CW) and TYT TH-9800 for FM satellites (more power, Scotty!). This simple set-up has yielded hours and hours of great fun. The last time I did satellite work was in the ’70s making contacts from my car through Oscar 6. If I had a car here in Hong Kong I might try it again!

Here’s my living room TV tray and sofa shortwave and satellite station (no XYL in house at the moment).

ARISS FM Repeater

One of the recent highlights for both newcomers to satellite operations and old-timers was working the International Space Station’s (ISS) new FM repeater which came on the air in early September. It is a specially modified Kenwood D710-GA VHF/UHF transceiver. Unfortunately, it was only operational for about a month. For the past several weeks it has been used mostly in APRS mode.

The ARISS FM repeater runs five watts and sounds just like a regular terrestrial repeater in many ways. You can work it with any dual-band VHF/UHF FM rig and the right antenna. Full-duplex is not required, but it helps. Lower power requires some kind of gain antenna, but receiving can be done with simple antennas.

The ARISS organization just updated the schedule for the ARISS operation with this announcement:

“Next mode change (cross band repeater) targeting early December.”

YEAH! What a nice Christmas present!

Here’s a link to the full ARISS information page:

https://www.ariss.org/current-status-of-iss-stations.html

ARISS QSO with E21EJC

Here’s a Youtube video of one of my ARISS contacts with E21EJC. It was right after he came back from his DXpedition hauling microwave gear and dishes out to the Thai countryside to work the QO-100 geosynchronous satellite. I tell him “welcome home and have a good rest.” Kob really is “Mr Satellite!” He has posted hundreds of Youtube videos of satellite contacts.

In addition, here is video of their HS0AJ/P special “portable” station antennas for QO-100. 10 GHz RX dish (downlink) and 2.4 GHz TX dish (the big one). I listened to Kob and his friend make several QSOs via the QO-100 WebSDR:

Amazing the things we hams do just to spray some RF in the right direction!

Beyond the ARISS: A Ham Satellite Summary

Presently, AO-91 is probably the most popular FM satellite, along with SO-50, AO-27 and PO-101. RS-44, a linear satellite for SSB and CW, is far and away the most popular for those modes. RS-44 is in a higher orbit providing less Doppler shift and longer contact times per pass. You can easily see from the Amsat status page which satellites are in operation and which are the most popular. Many of the ham satellites do not provide two-way communication capability, but still have beacons (CW and data) that can be heard (those are in YELLOW on the Amsat status page). Everyone with a ham callsign can contribute by by uploading a reception report of the satellites you hear or work.

Full-duplex on SSB/CW satellite work is very desirable but not mandatory. I have learned you can make contacts without it coupled with a little skill and some luck. Staying near the center of the satellite’s particular passband is helpful. Sadly, there are few full-duplex rigs available these days. One of the best may be the Yaesu FT-847 which can be found on the used market. Some satellite ops are using SDRs for RX and a ham rig for TX to achieve full-duplex. I’m going to try that soon using two Diamond discones and vertical separation.

For current status of all ham satellites and ARISS operation, go here:

https://www.amsat.org/status/index.php

Tracking

For tracking the ham sats and ISS, I like the Heavens-Above app (or Webpage: https://heavens-above.com/). The Pro version of Heavens Above is worth every penny. In the app, I put only the active satellites I am interested in in the search box. That way all the remaining unusable satellites will be ignored. Heavens-Above also lists the satellite operating frequencies for a quick reference.

 

One cool side note. With Heavens-Above, you can also see when ISS visible passes are available over your area (almost always near sunrise/sunset). Look for the passes with a magnitude greater than -3.0. If you have clear skies or a thin layer of clouds it’s quite a treat to see the ISS zoom overhead at 17, 000 miles per hour. When the ARISS repeater is operating, you can see and hear the ISS! The screen shot above is a visible pass at -3.9 magnitude, as bright as Venus.

Antennas

I have found my Diamond discone to work quite well for satellite operation. It’s probably the cheapest, simplest and most effective antenna you can use for this application If you really get interested in satellite work you can always spend the big bucks for AZ/EL rotators and beams as well as the software to run it all including tuning your rig to compensate for Doppler shift. Or you can buy quite expensive omni-directional antennas designed specifically for satellite use. So far, the KISS approach has worked well for me.

The Future Is Now

Finally, we can all get a taste of the future now by listening to the only ham radio geosynchronous satellite currently in operation, QO-100. It is centered on Europe and covers about 1/3 of the earth from Brazil to parts of Asia.

It was a thrill for me to listen (via the WebSDR listed below) to one of my new satellite colleagues, Mr Kob, E21EJC, who I call “Mr Satellite,” work Brazil and many other stations in the EU, the Middle-east and elsewhere through QO-100 during a special event operation from Thailand.

Anybody can listen to activity on QO-100 at the link below. When you get there just find the CLICK TO START SOUND! button. Then, click UNDER one of the signals in the waterfall and tune with the controls below. Weekends and holidays seem to be the best time to listen.

https://eshail.batc.org.uk/nb/

Because both the uplink and downlink frequencies are way up in the microwave bands, it’s not easy to get on QO-100, but, it appears to me, worth the effort. Maybe one day we will have two more QO-100-like birds linked together to cover the whole earth for 24/7 communication anywhere in the world. One can dream.

Full details about the QO-100 geosynchronous satellite can be found here:

https://amsat-uk.org/satellites/geo/eshail-2/

CQ Satellite!

When the propagation is bad, or actually anytime, ham satellites are a wonderful alternative to HF for having fun on the air.

Sorry, gotta go, RS-44 is just about here. CQ satellite, CQ satellite, de VR2HF…


Thank you so much for the satellite overview, Dan!

You’ve inspired me to get out of my comfort zone and try a little satellite work! The perfect project to do with my two daughters. I’m such a “below 30MHz” guy, I have to remind myself that there are actually some pretty amazing things you can do further up the band! When I purchase a discone antenna, I’m going to accuse you of being an enabler. Fair warning.

SWLing Post readers: Anyone else here tune to and track satellites? Please comment!

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