Tag Archives: Guy Atkins

More info about Eneloops and avoiding counterfeits

Following our post yesterday regarding Eneloop rechargeable cells, SWLing Post contribtors Guy Atkins and Ivan Cholakov both warned of numerous fake and counterfeit batteries available from sellers on eBay and elsewhere. Ivan notes:

Please be aware Eneloop batteries are widely copied and there are many many fakes out there. You should only buy them from a reputable source.

Thank you for that warning, Ivan!

Guy also comments:

I use Eneloop Pro AA batteries in small portables. The newest version of the “Pro” comes in a 2500 maH size and retains 85% of the charge for one year. The downsize is that this model is “only” good for 500 recharges. A useful comparison chart is here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eneloop

[…]Here is a FAR more comprehensive page of Eneloop model & version comparisons, charts, FAQs, tips, warnings, etc.: https://eneloop101.com/batteries/complete-lineup/. This web site also contains warnings about Ebay fake Eneloops, and other useful details…probably more than most people want to know but if you want to make the most informed choice, check it out!

Many thanks to both of you for sharing. I agree that purchasing Eneloops from a reputable seller is incredibly important. For one thing, if you plan to invest in Eneloops, there is no rationale to buy something sub-standard. Additionally, I do worry about counterfeit cells having an unstable chemistry which could result in overheating or fire.

Click here to read our original Eneloop article with links to reputable sellers.

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SDR Console Version 3: A Holy Grail SDR application for the radio archivist

Encouraged by SWLing Post contributors Guy Atkins and Ivan Cholakov, I recently installed the latest version of SDR Console on my PC.

I had not tried SDR Console in many, many years, but after Guy announced that SDR Console had moved from preview to Beta, I decided it was time to try it once again.

All I can say is: WOW!

As someone who evaluates a number of software defined receivers and who regularly makes off-air audio and spectrum recordings, I’m simply amazed by SDR Console’s versatility.

The recording functionality, as Guy previously stated, is phenomenal–perhaps the best of any SDR application I’ve used to date save, perhaps, that of the Titan SDR Pro (which is proprietary).

Though I still haven’t logged a lot of hours on SDR Console, I can already mention several powerful features that I love:

Virtual receivers

So few SDR applications allow you to run multiple virtual receivers and–especially–make independent recordings from them simultaneously.

When I started writing this post last night, I was listening to and recording the Voice of Greece on virtual receiver #1,  Radio Guinea on #2, and WRMI on #3 using the brilliant little AirSpy HF+.

Audio recording options

When you start a recording of an active virtual receiver, a dialog box pops up allowing you to make a custom file title–it pre-populates the date, start time, frequency and mode. This is a simple but time-saving feature as most SDR applications save files according to global application settings–not for each individual recording. With the SDR Console dialog box, I can insert the name of the broadcaster in the file title which makes organizing recordings later a breeze.

Additionally, you can choose between MP3, WAV or WMA file types for each recording. I know of no other SDR app that gives you this flexibility.

Scheduled recordings

I’ve yet to use the scheduler feature, but based on Guy Atkins’ feedback, I know this will be an invaluable resource for collecting off-air recordings while I’m away from home.

So many features to discover…

As both Guy and Ivan have shown us in past posts, SDR Console allows for multiple application “instances”–meaning, you can run two independent SDRs simultaneously. This is a fantastic feature for those of us who make multiple spectrum recordings. Of course, it’s an ideal platform to compare SDR hardware as settings can be easily matched between both units (something very difficult to do when using different SDR applications).

I’ve so much to learn about SDR Console, but I can tell I’ll be spending a great deal of time with the application this year, attempting to learn every nuance.

I took Guy Atkins’ suggestion for new users of SDR Console and downloaded Paul Jones’ (NN4F) PDF manual.

I sent a donation to Simon (G4ELI) last night after having only used SDR Console for a few minutes. SDR Console is totally free, but I’m a firm believer in supporting creators who are doing amazing things! If you use SDR Console, consider sending Simon a donation as well.

I’ve a little free time this morning and plan to set up SDR Console to run my Elad FDM-S2, RTL-SDR dongle, SDR Play RSP1A and RSP2. It’ll be a bit revolutionary to have one SDR application to unite them all!

Post readers: Any other SDR Console fans out there?  What are your favorite features?

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An EDC Bag for the Classic Sony ICF-SW100 Receiver

In a 2014 article, this site’s administrator Thomas Witherspoon introduced readers to the CIA’s Survival Kit which is housed in a superbly sturdy waistpack, the Maxpedition M-2. Thomas observed that the M-2 pouch is perfectly suited to holding the diminutive Sony ICF-SW100 receiver.

I was intrigued by that possibility, but only recently tried to combine the two after I resurrected another ICF-SW100 that fell silent to the chronic broken ribbon cable problem. Indeed, the radio is a perfect fit and the M-2 is impressively solid and well designed. I was not aware of the Maxpedition firm prior to learning of the M-2 bag, but I see in various forums they are a major player in well-made gear for the survivalist and outdoor enthusiast crowds. The M-2 is a very popular item, and one or more of the four available colors are sometimes out of stock at the manufacturer. Fortunately there are many sellers on Amazon and Ebay who have these waistpacks available.

What is EDC you may ask? It refers to “Every Day Carry”, the essentials that an individual deems necessary for their lifestyle or a particular activity. For me, an EDC bag is taken along on hikes or other outings to the countryside and typically contains a compact shortwave radio and related accessories. It’s always fun to stop for lunch or a break in a remote location and be able to search for interesting stations whenever the mood strikes.

This photo shows what I’m able to carry in the Maxpedition M-2 bag; a coffee mug is shown for size comparison. Contents of the “kit” include:

  • The Sony ICF-SW100 receiver
  • Zero Audio Carbo Tenore In-Ear Monitors & soft pouch
  • Sony AN-71 reel-up antenna
  • Panasonic RR-XS400 Digital Voice Recorder
  • Short 3.5mm male-to-male stereo audio patch cable
  • Two extra AA batteries for the Sony receiver
  • An extra AAA battery for the Panasonic Digital Voice Recorder

A few comments on the contents. The Zero Audio Carbo Tenore In-Ear Monitors (IEMs) provide excellent audio quality for their price. They are among a handful of IEMs regularly recommended by budget-minded audiophiles on the popular Head-fi.org site. I like these IEMs not only for the audio quality, but also their small size (in the cloth bag) which barely fits into the M-2’s main compartment along with the ICF-SW100. Larger earbuds or IEMs might not fit the M-2 without being mangled by the hefty YKK zippers. One caution: the similar Carbo Basso model by Zero Audio is deemed by many to be overly heavy on the bass frequencies. I find the Carbo Tenore to be more than sufficient for bass heavy genres like Electronica.

The Panasonic RR-XS400 digital voice recorder has been out of production a few years, but is a highly capable and compact recorder. It contains a hidden USB plug for charging and data transfer, has a fully featured and backlit LCD display, built-in stereo microphones, switchable LINE/MIC inputs, and other useful features. In excellent used condition the RR-XS400 is worth about $50 USD in 2017, despite some Amazon sellers trying to move them at the original $280 price.

The extra AAA battery for the recorder slips into the front pouch of the M-2 bag along with the Sony AN-71 antenna. The additional AA batteries for the radio, however, are held in the two “pen loops” on the left and right of the M-2. Despite these loops being open-bottomed tubes, the fit is tight enough to hold the batteries securely.

Like every portion of the Maxpedition M-2 bag, the belt loop is proportioned perfectly and sewn with precision. With the Sony ICF-SW100 EDC “kit” secured to my belt on a hike, I’m assured of quick access to a DXing opportunity, such as when hiking the Naches Loop Trail near beautiful Mt. Rainier:

Guy Atkins is a Sr. Graphic Designer for T-Mobile and lives near Seattle, Washington.  He’s a regular contributor to the SWLing Post.

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A New Approach to FSL Antenna Construction

Introduction

I’m very fortunate to live across town from my good radio hobby pal Gary DeBock. He has been responsible for the rapid growth in Ultralight radio DXing and the construction of Ferrite Sleeve Loop (FSL) antennas. Living near each other as we do, I’ve benefited a lot from his expertise and creativity in the hobby. We’ve enjoyed visiting about Ultralight radios and antennas many times over a leisurely lunch. If you’re unfamiliar with Gary’s efforts, just do a YouTube search on his name and see just a few of the many FSL antenna variations he’s built!

Gary uses PVC tubing, “Fun Noodle” foam cylinders, sections of curved foam, and rubber plumbing adapters almost exclusively as the core supporting structures for his FSLs, from small 3-inch models to 17-inch monsters. Gary certainly has perfected his own techniques with these raw materials; he’s an expert in combining them. He even makes PVC table structures to support his FSLs during Oregon coastal DXpeditions, as seen in some of his YouTube videos.

These materials work well, but over time even FSLs as small as 7 to 8 inches in diameter begin to sag and lose their perfectly circular shape. This seems to be caused by the shifting of individual segments of foam which are wrapped around a “Fun Noodle” core and center PVC tubing.

What possibilities are there for other materials in FSL antenna construction? It would be a fun challenge to build a small to medium sized FSL antenna that would have these qualities:

  • Maintain a circular cross-section without sagging
  • An appearance less like a threatening explosive and more like a commercial product
  • Use alternate construction methods for those not skilled with cutting & gluing PVC tubing

I began to keep my eyes open for likely candidates as I visited hardware stores, department stores, and office supply outlets. Eventually some ideas began to gel.

Raw Materials

Here is a visual and descriptive list of what I used in this alternate design of Ferrite Sleeve Loop antenna. I won’t go into great detail about dimensions, quantities, and measurements, as other DIYers should be able to easily follow the general idea presented here. This article is mainly to get you thinking about other ways to construct a ferrite sleeve loop antenna.

The Core of the Matter

This 18-inch long, semi-rigid foam roller is six inches in diameter. It’s a workout and exercise aid which I found in the sports department of my local Walmart store. The cost was approximately $13. This one-piece foam is a perfect foundation for holding and protecting the fragile ferrite rods and keeping them in a circular arrangement; since the roller is in one piece there is nothing to shift around, or sag. When placed on this core, the final diameter of the FSL antenna is approximately seven inches.

So, what to put the antenna in? Something needs to suspend and protect the antenna as a substitute for the PVC frame previously used. This Sterilite tote box is the perfect size to hold the antenna. As shown in the photo, the dimensions are approximately 14-1/4″ X 9-5/8″ X 12-1/4″; the model number is 1896.

Early on, I decided that the flimsy “locking tabs” on the cover would not suffice for holding the relatively heavy antenna when carrying the tote by the handle. I drilled holes and attached a dozen small Nylon nuts and bolts to secure the cover. (Nylon avoids distorting the medium wave reception pattern of signals, as metal hardware could.)

An ample quantity of 200mm ferrite rods are needed, plus a air variable capacitor (preferably with a 8:1 reduction drive shaft), and Litz wire. 1162 strands/46 ga. Litz provides the most sensitivity but the coil will cover a greater width on the rods.

Gary likes to use waterproof medical tape, sticky side out, to hold the rods in place, but I like to use Gorilla brand tape, as it is extremely sticky and holds the rods better. My choice for the rod-to-coil spacing  material is two turns of 1/8″ thick bubble wrap.

This is the foam core, ferrite rods, bubble spacer, and coil assembly prior to fitting in the Sterilite tote container. Before assembly to this point you’ll need to cut the foam roller to length using a serrated knife or electric carving knife. Two sturdy cable ties help hold all of the rods in place. A better alternative might be strips of 1/2″ wide Velcro straps purchased from a fabric shop or home improvement store.

Another key item to this construction method is the use of plastic drywall anchor screws. These are meant to be pushed and screwed into gypsum wallboard for sturdy attachment of bolts or picture hangers on walls. When screwed through drilled holes in the side of the Sterilite tote, they secure and suspend the foam roller/ferrite sleeve loop assembly. The density of the foam roller is sufficient to give a good grip to the drywall anchors. Eight to ten anchors per side are enough to hold the assembly in place. See the photo at the beginning of this article for a good view of this mounting method.

Every good FSL antenna design needs an official sounding manufacturer! With tongue firmly in cheek I’ve appropriated the name shown on this self-produced label. Clearly, a Ferrite Sleeve Loop antenna from Naughtabaum Ferrite Specialties Ltd. stands a better chance than most of passing through TSA checkpoints, right?

I hope this article has given you some new ideas for FSL antenna designs. There’s certainly room for improvement, including making the antenna’s ferrite rods look less intimidating…less like a bundle of dynamite! Perhaps the entire assembly can be wrapped with something that shields the rods from view, or you could use an opaque tote container rather than a clear model.

Be on the lookout for useful materials to repurpose. Trips to your local home improvement stores, office supply, and other outlets will give you further ideas on how to design your own Ferrite Sleeve Loop antenna.

Guy Atkins is a Sr. Graphic Designer for T-Mobile and lives near Seattle, Washington.  He’s a regular contributor to the SWLing Post.

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Rare Hitachi KW-WSI WorldSpace Receiver on Ebay

This is the first and only “WorldSpace” satellite receiver I’ve seen on Ebay, currently offered at a $175 Buy-It-Now price from a seller in Australia:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/HITACHI-KW-WSI-DIGITAL-RECEIVER-WS-FM-MW-SW1-SW2-/282192383263

The radio is listed as in excellent condition with the original box and literature. Besides the long-gone WorldSpace satellite frequencies, the radio covers medium wave, FM, and most of the shortwave range. A brief PDF data sheet for the radio gives a description of features and operations.

hitachi-kw-wsi

Wikipedia describes this radio’s satellite service as 1worldspace, formerly known as ‘WorldSpace’, is a defunct satellite radio network that in its heyday provided service to over 170,000 subscribers in eastern and southern Africa, the Middle East, and much of Asia with 96% coming from India. It was profitable in India, with 450,000 subscribers.

I wonder if the Hitachi KW-WSI is a reasonable performer for shortwave listening? Does anyone know any technical details of this receiver?

Guy Atkins is a Sr. Graphic Designer for T-Mobile and lives near Seattle, Washington.  He’s a regular contributor to the SWLing Post.

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