Tag Archives: Guest Posts

Guest Post: Battery Testers–Don’t Get Caught Without One!

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


Battery Testers; Don’t Get Caught Without One!

by Mario Filippi, N2HUN

(All photos by author)

Ever consider what life today would be like without the humble dry cell battery? Old timers know the term “dry cell” as opposed to “wet cell.” The dry cell is your garden variety battery for sale composed of a semi-dry composite or paste of chemicals designed to make electrons flow when the circuit is complete, such as in flashlights, radios, remotes, watches, etc. “Wet cells” on the other hand have fluids, such as sulfuric acid that work in conjunction with lead plates. But let’s stay with dry cells for now. Walk into any house and you’ll find some form of battery powering a plethora of devices that contribute to the quality of daily life. In short, life without the humble battery would be unfathomable.

Electronic Menagerie: Radios, Timepieces, Flashlights, Remotes, Test equipment, Mouse.

Batteries, like humans, unfortunately expire due to age or use. True, they toil tirelessly while out of sight and mind, hidden behind plastic compartment panels somewhere in the bowels of a device and for the most part are ignored or taken for granted. That is until the device they are powering ceases to function. We’ve all been there and done that countless times in our lives with an array of consumer products. Most instances of battery failure tend to occur at the most inconvenient times, that is when the device they are powering is needed most (a corollary of Murphy’s Law hi hi). A good example is the toolbox flashlight. It can sit amongst the tools quietly and ready to go (at least in our minds) until we switch it on while working in some dark, cramped location. Or late at night when under the covers and the bedside shortwave radio starts spewing out distorted audio. To boot, the radio’s convenient dial light is too weak to determine where you are in the shortwave spectrum.

Motley Crew of Cells in Author’s Armamentarium Awaiting Call to Duty.

Well, all is not lost my fellow hobbyists; it is time to do some cell (dry cell that is) soul searching and plan for future failures. I propose a useful acquisition for the home, shack, Go-Bag (or what have you) that won’t break the bank; a simple battery tester that’ll be the end to your power problems.

At this QTH an AMPROBE BAT-200 was purchased a few years back from Amazon and has proved its worth and utility many times over. This simple tool, which ironically needs no batteries, will test many of the common batteries around the shack and home such as AAA, AA, C, D, 9V, and button batteries.

Pocket-size BAT-200. A Snap to Use.

Since purchasing the BAT-200, life in the battery cosmos has become a lot less complicated. Armed with one of these, you can immediately rule out battery failure when troubleshooting myriad devices. You can also test outdated batteries to determine their status.

Flashlight, Magnifying Light, and Head Lamp…

…Test meter…

…And Various Remotes Use A, AA or Button Batteries.

AA Battery from Remote Tests “Good.”

An item such as the BAT-200 can be found for less than five dollars if you shop around, and will pay for itself by taking the guesswork out of the bad battery scenarios. You’ll wonder how you ever did without one!


Thank you very much for sharing this post, Mario!  

At the SWLing Post HQ, we keep all of our loose batteries in a “battery box.” All new cells stay in the packaging where we mark the date purchased (although many alkaline cells now have a “best by” date). We recently pulled all of the loose/orphan batteries out of the box–there must have been 40+–and tested the voltage of each one. I used the test meter from my toolbox to do this, but I’ve just ordered one of the BAT-200 chargers from Amazon and will now keep this in the battery box permanently.

Thanks for enabling me, Mario! Ha ha!

Click here to check out the BAT-200 in Amazon.com (affiliate link).

C. Crane’s latest deal: Free Shipping on the CC Pocket Radio

Though not a shortwave radio (the SWLing Post loves ALL radios!), C. Crane’s latest special involves free Priority Mail shipping to U.S. customers for their CC Pocket Radio.  Just use the Promo Code: CCPKTSHIP.  This special ends at midnight PST on 17 December.  The CC Pocket Radio comes standard with the CC Buds earphones – a quality set of earbuds.

Crane’s Amazon Canada store offers free shipping with a number of C. Crane products through Amazon Canada Prime.

Post author: Troy Riedel

 

Tom’s AM broadcast band recordings during eclipse totality

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, TomL, for sharing the following guest post:


August 21, 2017: Individual Recordings of MW During Totality

by TomL

I setup flimsy “Backpack Shack” loop antenna and preselector to my Sony ICF-2010 to listen to any propagation of MW signals as each transmitter experienced Totality. My location was a picnic area facing southwest with only a small hill to the east at Ferne Clyffe State Park near Goreville, IL.

I did not bring a DSP radio and computer which would have been better in hindsight. My observations were generally as follows:

Anything west of my location, except for local St. Louis stations were not identifiable.
Noise levels were somewhat elevated because of thunderstorms that had just moved through the area during the evening.

Anything east of my location experienced dramatic increases in signal along the path of totality.
Since large signal increases were seen with the Umbra moving AWAY from me, it would be more beneficial to use a DSP receiver with good outdoor antenna than a single frequency radio and preselector like my setup. The loop antenna sitting on a picnic table acted great and was usable to get strongest signal for each station.

It is still unknown why I could not identify any stations west of me with the Umbra moving TOWARDS my location and needs further study. I thought I heard KTWO in Casper WY, but upon listening to the recording, it was a male announcer buried in the noise and unintelligible.
A transmitter being IN the path of Totality has a better chance of lasting longer with a strong signal than one that is just outside of Totality. Compare behavior of WSB vs. WBT.

If this happens again, make sure to make multiple hotel reservations and cancel the ones not needed. Traffic was horrible and had to stay in a hotel half way from home and I aggravated an achillies heel problem in the stop and go traffic (YUK).

So, it was quite disappointing to not hear anything special west of my location. As Totality neared my site, I just left the radio tuned to KNOX for the people around me to hear. Its signal did become about 25% stronger and near the end of the recording you can hear other weaker stations trying to break in.

Click here to download 1120 KMOX recording.

As soon as totality was over, and my picture taking was done, I returned to the radio and found 1510 khz WLAC Nashville, TN was moderately strong! And this was seconds after their Totality had already ended. A baseline reading beforehand showed this station coming in very very faintly. Subjective SINPO rating beforehand=15452, just after Totality=34433.

Click here to download 1510 WLAC recording.

The next surprise was tuning to 750 WSB Atlanta GA was BOOMING in! They were very clever and had no announcers. Instead they were playing snippets of songs about sun, moon, dark themes. Very entertaining! Baseline beforehand was just moderate noise, no signals. During recording, SINPO=55444 with propagation getting slightly worse near the end of the recording.

Click here to download 750 WSB recording.

Final surprise was 1110 WBT Charlotte, NC, which was not in the path of Totality but just north of it also booming in but not as strongly. Also, near the end of the recording, the signal dropped off very sharply, unlike the WSB signal which stayed strong throughout the 5+ minute recording. Baseline beforehand was low noise and no signals. During recording, SINPO=43434 at 14:40 ET, then approximately 1½ minutes after their maximum eclipse (14:43 ET), SINPO=33423, then at 14:46 ET a SINPO=22422 with another unidentified station breaking through playing a Johnny Cash song.

Click here to download 1110 WBT recording.


Tom, thank you for taking the time to share your recordings and listening experiences with us! Snagging a daytime MW broadcast from the Atlanta, GA and Charlotte, NC regions is most impressive. I reckon they were about 400-500 miles (as the crow flies) from your Ferne Clyffe, IL location.

Sounds like you had an amazing experience, despite the stop-and-go traffic! 

Guest Post: Old School Infrared Wireless Headphones

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


Old School (Infrared) Wireless Headphones

by Mario Filippi (N2HUN)

Have you ever mindlessly walked away from your TV with headphones/ear buds still tethered, causing all sorts of havoc? Been there, done that hi hi! Let’s face it; there are plenty of avenues to remedy the situation by upgrading to wireless headphones. Nowadays most state of the art wireless headphones use radio frequencies to achieve a wireless method of listening. For example, my XYL blissfully listens to TV audio with Sony stereo wireless headphones, using a frequency of 915.5 MHz; below is the actual signal viewed with an RTL-SDR dongle.

Sony wireless headphones signal viewed via a SDR dongle; FM modulation.

But hold the presses: there’s good news for folks not averse to old-school technology.

I recently purchased a set of RCA wireless headphones using infrared technology from shopgoodwill.com.  Yes, those of us who are somewhat long in the tooth remember infrared as the common method for consumers to “cut the headphone cord” way back when.  Infrared is located just above the radio frequency spectrum starting around 300 Gigs (Gigahertz) and is still commonly used in TV and satellite remotes, but less so now with modern wireless headphones operating in the  900 MHz  and 2.4 GHz ISM (Industrial, Scientific, Medical) bands.

Admittedly, the new breed of wireless headphones possesses an array of options not available with older infrared units, but if you are satisfied with a no-frills method of headphone freedom (well about 25 feet range that is), check out the pre-owned inventory offered on shopgoodwill.com.  The pair I purchased started at  $7.99 with no other interested bidders so the total with shipping was $16.82 with the original box and was complete, including the rechargeable NiCad batteries which still functioned but undoubtedly will need replacing.  To boot, the money went to a charitable organization.

Wireless IR stereo headphones from shopgoodwill.com

Interestingly, I tried using the wireless IR headphones in conjunction with a shortwave receiver (Panasonic DR22) but there was lots of interference, evidently from the IR transmitter; shortwave and the AM BCB were wiped out by the interference. Now on the FM BCB it worked fine. Even tried it with a scanner and it seemed to work well with FM transmissions (police, fire, EMS) but not with aero AM (108 – 136 MHz).

In the end my venerable older headphones have been relegated to the “shelf of infrequently utilized equipment.” Radio hobbyists might want to visit www.shopgoodwill.com as there are lots more radio memorabilia for window shopping or adding to one’s armamentarium. Remember to read the descriptions carefully as to the working condition. In the interest of full disclosure, I am not associated with ShopGoodWill in any way except that I’m a very satisfied customer. And yes, there are new, state-of-the-art wireless headphones available at a comparable price, so why the reason for this tale? Well, for knowledge, a little history, and a dash of sentimentality, that’s all! hi hi!


Thanks, Mario!

I briefly worked in a RadioShack store in the mid 1990s. We had a set of IR wireless headphones on display and hooked up to a receiver. I remember putting them on and listening to music after/before store hours completing mindless tasks like inventory, clean up, etc. It felt incredibly liberating to walk around the store without a headphone cord umbilical cord! The IR footprint covered the entire store, but fell apart if I had to duck below an end-cap or shelf partition.  

Thank you for taking us on a wireless stroll down memory lane, Mario!

Guest Post: “Uncle Stoogie and the Pink Radio”

Many thanks to Gary Neil Carden, who recently shared the following story with friends on Facebook, and has kindly allowed me to publish it here on the SWLing Post for everyone to enjoy. Thank you so much, Gary!  Enjoy:


 

Uncle Stoogie and the Pink Radio

by Gary Neil Carden

Let me tell you a story.

When I was five years old, my Uncle Stoogie won a pink radio at the Cherokee Fair and he gave it to me. He told me he was worried about me because I stayed in my bedroom all the time reading funny books (most of them were not funny….but wonderful).

My bedroom had been my Uncle Albert’s bedroom, but with the coming of WWII, he joined the Navy and I moved from the old couch in the living room to the dark, chilly bedroom on the back of the house. What was I doing there in the first place?

When my mother left me on the porch after my father was murdered, I came to live with my grandparents who were ill-prepared to raise a quirky little kid. They grieved for my father’s death for years and in the meanwhile, I was in the back room with nothing for companionship except a huge stack of funny books.

I stayed there in that dark room much of the time. I spent more time with Submariner, Captain Marvel, Superman and Plastic Man than I did with other kids because other kids were rare.

And when Uncle Stoogie came to see me…..he said he had promised my Momma that he would….he was upset. I was pale and sickly, not to mention shy. So, he said I needed to go to the Cherokee Indian Fair and he dragged me out of that dark room and we got in his car and drove to Cherokee, which for me, was like visiting a foreign country.

I was fascinated by Uncle Stoogie in his Air Force uniform that was loaded with brass and medals and he had a scar on his cheek that looked like he had pressed a Coke bottle cap against the flesh until it left that scar and he chewed Dentine and grinned and asked me a thousand questions. We smelled the Cherokee Indian Fair for two miles before we got there! It was hot dogs and fried sausage and cotton candy and that smell hung in the chill, October night over the Indian Fair like a cloud.

There were Cherokees camped out on blankets and quilts around the Fair Grounds and you could hear the Ferris Wheel and the Merry Go Round, and I ate three hot dogs and rode the swings and threw up and then ate three more hot dogs. We fished little wooden fish with numbers on their backs from a tin tube of rushing water and won a stuffed cat and we threw darts at balloons and shot rifles at metal ducks that fell with a CLACK when I hit them and then, finally we played Bingo.

That is when Uncle Stoogie told me, “You see that radio on the top shelf?”…..a pink radio, and he said “I am going to win that radio for you.”

Now, when aI look back on that night, I guess I realize that Uncle Stoogie was drunk, but I didn’t know what drunk was, so we played and we played and we won a big blanket but we never got close to winning that radio until Uncle Stoogie just bought it! We just got out his billfold and he told that carny fellow, “How much for that g**damned pink radio?” and suddenly I had it….and on the way home with my pink radio in my lap, Uncle Stoogie said, “Hey kid,”….yeah, he talked like that….sorta like James Cagney, he said, “We are just beginning.”

When we got to my grandparents home, he knocked down two rows of corn in the field turning his car around, and then he said, “I’ll see you in the morning” and I didn’t know what that meant, but the next morning, he woke me up. He said, “Come on, kid.” and the next thing i knew, he had me unrolling a huge wheel of copper wire and we strung an antenna from my bedroom window to the top of Painter Knob, ran it on little white insulators and then from Painter Knob back to the barn and when we surveyed our creation that winked in the sun and whistled in the wind, he roughed my hair up and said, “Now, Kid, we are going to listen to Russians, and Chinese and Eskimos!”

It was dark before he was done, but then he plugged that radio in and hooked it up and SHAZAM! That radio was like a great pink night light, and we sat on my bed and turned that turner knob that sang and wept and squealed. It was wonderful…there was music and sirens and people jabbering and orchestras and a quartet singing,

“You better get Wildroot Cream Oil, Charlie” and a laughing man who said “From high atop the downtown Rose Room in Chicago, we bring you, TOMMY TUCKER TIME! Then there was a husky-voiced woman woman who whispered, “Are you lonesome out there tonight, Big Boy? Well, this is your gal Sal and I am here to keep you company”and then she sang songs about being alone at night and somewhere in her serenade, Uncle Stoogie said “Well, kid, I’ll leave you to it” and he was gone and I lay in the pink-tinted darkness and listened to the voices singing and shouting and sometimes I slept, but always, I would wake to find my room singing to me.

Hey, I got a lot more to say about my pink radio, but this has gone on too long. Uncle Stoogie’s is gone……He ended up as croupier in Las Vegas…..but I owe him a thousand nights of “Let’s Pretend,” and “The Squeaking Door,” and “Roma Wines brings you Suspense and Arthur Godfry singing, “The Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia” and then the Shadow laughed and said, “The Shadow Knows.” I swapped Clark Kent for Lamont Cranston and learned to sing all the words to “Hear That Lonesome Whistle Blow.”

There was a quartet that sang, “Turn the radio on and listen to the music in the air,” and I did. Hush now.