Tag Archives: Hackaday

Radio Waves: The Woodpecker, Gutter Antenna, Air Travel With Radios, and “A Spy in Every Embassy”

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 and Dan Robinson for the following tips:


The Russian Woodpecker: Official Bird Of The Cold War Nests In Giant Antenna (Hackaday)

On July 4th, 1976, as Americans celebrated the country’s bicentennial with beer and bottle rockets, a strong signal began disrupting shortwave, maritime, aeronautical, and telecommunications signals all over the world. The signal was a rapid 10 Hz tapping that sounded like a woodpecker or a helicopter thup-thupping on the roof. It had a wide bandwidth of 40 kHz and sometimes exceeded 10 MW.

This was during the Cold War, and plenty of people rushed to the conclusion that it was some sort of Soviet mind control scheme or weather control experiment. But amateur radio operators traced the mysterious signal to an over-the-horizon radar antenna near Chernobyl, Ukraine (then part of the USSR) and they named it the Russian Woodpecker. Here’s a clip of the sound.

The frequency-hopping Woodpecker signal was so strong that it made communication impossible on certain channels and could even be heard across telephone lines when conditions were right. Several countries filed official complaints with the USSR through the UN, but there was no stopping the Russian Woodpecker. Russia wouldn’t even own up to the signal’s existence, which has since been traced to an immense antenna structure that is nearly half a mile long and at 490 feet, stands slightly taller than the Great Pyramid at Giza.[]

Gutter Antenna, Ultimate Stealth Antenna? (Broken Signal)

Air Travel With Amateur Ham Radio Q&A (Ham Radio Crash Course)

A Spy in Every Embassy (Southgate ARC)

‘The intelligence coup of the century’. The extraordinary story of the longest running and most successful secret intelligence operation of the 20th Century.

For more than half a century, governments all over the world trusted a single company, Swiss-based Crypto AG, to keep the communications of their spies, soldiers and diplomats secret. But what none of its customers ever knew was that Crypto AG was owned for over 20 Cold War years by the CIA in partnership with the BND, the German Intelligence Service. The machines that many customers bought had deliberately weakened security – a window through which the CIA and BND could read the diplomatic traffic between their embassies, their trade negotiators and their own spies.

The BND sold out its share in 1993 for a tidy profit while the CIA continued until the company was broken up in 2018.

Crypto AG’s own secret was only cracked last year in a combined investigation by German ZDF television, Swiss SRF and the Washington Post following the discovery of a secret history, Operation Rubicon, that had been assembled by some of the operatives who had been involved in the deception.

A Spy in Every Embassy is the story of the story, presented by German intelligence journalist Peter F Muller, who produced last year’s television programme for ZDF, and British journalist David Ridd.

It gives the chronology of the manoeuvrings, arguments, successes and deceptions of the partnership that remained secret for a quarter of a century. Its revelations offer a new perspective on some of the landmark events of those decades – the Falklands War, the US bombing of Libya from British airfields, the negotiations that lead to the Camp David Accords and the Iranian Hostage crisis, as well as the daily churn of intelligence information from around the world about both friends and opponents.

The programme considers the collateral damage of deception on a grand scale. Most employees of Crypto AG knew nothing of the built-in weaknesses of the machinery they were building or trying to sell to governments in some very dangerous parts of the world.

Produced by John Forsyth
Assistant Producer: Alexandra Quinn
A Loftus Media production for BBC Radio 4
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000w499

Extracts read by Lanna Joffrey, Annette Kossow, Blanca Belenguer, Mike Christofferson and Thilo Buergel.
Archive by kind permission of ZDF Television, Crypto Museum, Harry S Truman Library, National Security Agency Archive and Bletchley Park podcast.
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000w499


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Radio Waves: Radio Survivor Covers Pirates Pt. 2, Radio Scatter and Theoretical WSPR, RIP Bob Fass, and Vatican Radio Celebrates Marconi Day

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 Paul L, Pete Eaton, David Iurescia, and Troy Riedel for the following tips:


Podcast #294 – Reading the PIRATE Act / FCC & the Supremes Pt. 2

The PIRATE Act was signed into law more than a year ago, but the rules governing increased fines for unlicensed broadcasting are about to go into effect on April 26. The Act is intended to give the FCC additional tools for tamping down pirate radio activity in hot beds like Boston and Brooklyn, NY, but there are reasons to be skeptical.

Brooklyn-based writer, post-production mixer and field recordist David Goren joins to help us tease out the real-world implications. Goren is also the creator of the Brooklyn Pirate Radio Sound Map and has been monitoring and recording unlicensed radio activity in the borough for decades.

Also joining the show is Dr. Christopher Terry from the University of Minnesota. A professor of media law, he helps illuminate some of the legal and bureaucratic elements that complicate the Commission’s efforts. He also catches us up on the latest development in the battle over media ownership rules, with the Supreme Court issuing a narrow unanimous ruling in favor of the FCC’s most recent changes, but not quite addressing the decades-long gridlock in that policy area.

Click here to visit Radio Survivor.

WSPR May Hold The Key To MH370 Final Position (Hackaday)

The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 after an unexplained course change sent it flying south over the Indian Ocean in March 2014 still holds the mystery of the wreck’s final location. There have been a variety of efforts to narrow down a possible search area over the years, and now we have news of a further angle from an unexpected source. It’s possible that the aircraft’s path could show up in radio scatter detectable as anomalously long-distance contacts using the amateur radio WSPR protocol.

WSPR is a low-power amateur radio mode designed to probe and record the radio propagation capabilities of the atmosphere. Transmit beacons and receiving stations run continuously, and all contacts however fleeting are recorded to an online database. This can be mined by researchers with an interest in the atmosphere, but in this case it might also provide clues to the missing airliner’s flightpath. By searching for anomalously long-distance WSPR contacts whose path crosses the expected position of MH370 it’s possible to spot moments when the aircraft formed a reflector for the radio waves.[…]

Click here to read the full article at Hackaday.

Bob Fass, Pioneer of Underground Radio, Dies at 87 (NY Times)

His provocative “Radio Unnameable,” long a staple of the New York station WBAI, offered a home on the FM dial to everyone from Abbie Hoffman to Tiny Tim.

Bob Fass, who for more than 50 years hosted an anarchic and influential radio show on New York’s countercultural FM station WBAI that mixed political conversation, avant-garde music, serendipitous encounters and outright agitation, died on Saturday in Monroe, N.C., where he lived in recent years. He was 87.

His wife, Lynnie Tofte, said he had been hospitalized with Covid 19 earlier in the month, but he died of congestive heart failure.

Continue reading at the NY Times.

Vatican Radio celebrates 30th International Marconi Day

The Dicastery for Communication marks the 30th International Marconi Day with a celebration at Vatican Radio’s historic broadcast station outside Rome.

International Marconi Day is held every year on the Saturday closest to the birthday of the inventor of the radio, Guglielmo Marconi, on 25 April 1874.

This year’s commemoration fell a day earlier, and saw dozens of radio stations exchange messages, including Vatican Radio, which Marconi himself helped found in 1931.

The 30th iteration of Marconi Day was celebrated at Vatican Radio’s broadcast center at Santa Maria di Galeria, outside Rome.

Day for those who love radio

According to Dr. Paolo Ruffini, the Prefect of the Dicastery for Communication, it was “a day spent in a family spirit” for those who love the Radio and the man who invented it.

He noted that the broadcast station forms both the center and periphery of Vatican Radio, since it is the place where radio waves are emitted which carry the Gospel and the words of the Popes throughout the world.

Marconi’s favorite Radio

The 30th Marconi Day falls within the 90th anniversary year of the founding of Vatican Radio.

The great Italian inventor’s daughter, Princess Elettra Marconi, who was present for the celebration, recalled that the station was her father’s favorite, though he had founded several others.[]


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Radio Waves: Friedrichshafen Cancelled, Coast Guard Seeks Rare Diode, Kindred Spirits in DXing, and DRM Pitch for India’s FM Band

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, Ron Chester, and Mangosman for the following tips:


Ham Radio Verbindung 2021 kommt nicht zustande/Ham Radio convention 2021 has been cancelled (Messe Friedrichshafen)

[Note that the following is a Google translation of the original piece in German]

Ham Radio cannot take place this year either – other trade fair events remain on course

Due to the current corona developments, Messe Friedrichshafen cannot hold the international amateur radio exhibition Ham Radio in the planned period from June 25 to 27, 2021. Instead, the industry meeting will take place from June 24 to 26, 2022.

“The decision was not an easy one for us, but a trade fair like Ham Radio lives from its high level of internationality. Due to the current uncertainties in the travel sector, implementation is currently not feasible, ”explains Klaus Wellmann, Managing Director of Messe Friedrichshafen. All other trade fair events in the second quarter of 2021 and beyond should take place as planned at the present time. “A large percentage of our customers from these industries are still on board at the 2021 events. Together we hope that the immunization of society continues to gain momentum and that we can carry out the events with appropriate protection and hygiene concepts. “

Further information at: www.messe-friedrichshafen.de and http://www.hamradio-friedrichshafen.de/.

Rare Diode Threatens Coast Guard’s Arctic Ambitions (Hackaday)

The United States Coast Guard heavy icebreaker Polar Star is literally a one-of-a-kind ship. After its sister Polar Sea was deactivated in 2010 it became the most powerful icebreaker in the fleet, and one of only two US icebreakers capable of operating in the treacherous polar regions. The vessel is critical to protecting America’s scientific and economic interests in the Arctic, but according to a recent article in Business Insider, the ship’s age and scarcity of spare parts is making an already difficult mission even harder.

In the article, Captain William Woityra specifically mentions that the ship’s diesel-electric propulsion system is running on borrowed time as the diodes used in its AC/DC rectifier are no longer manufactured. With none remaining in the Coast Guard’s inventory, the crew has had to turn to eBay to source as many spares as possible. But once their hoard runs out, Captain Woityra fears his ship will be dead in the water[]

A toast to the fools standing high on broadcasting’s hill (Doc Searls Weblog)

In Winter, the cap of dark on half the Earth is cocked to the north. So, as the planet spins, places farther north get more night in the winter. In McGrath, Alaska, at close to sixty-three degrees north, most of the day is dark. This would be discouraging to most people, but to Paul B. Walker it’s a blessing. Because Paul is a DXer.

In the radio world, DX stands for for distance, and DXing is listening to distant radio stations. Thanks to that darkness, Paul listens to AM stations of all sizes, from Turkey to Tennessee, Thailand to Norway. And last night, New Zealand. Specifically, NewsTalk ZB‘s main AM signal at 1035 on the AM (what used to be the) dial. According to distancecalculator.net, the signal traveled 11886.34 km, or 7385.83 miles, across the face of the earth. In fact it flew much farther, since the signal needed to bounce up and down off the E layer of the ionosphere and the surface of the ocean multiple times between Wellington and McGrath. While that distance is no big deal on shortwave (which bounces off a higher layer) and no deal at all on the Internet (where we are all zero distance apart), for a DXer that’s like hauling in a fish the size of a boat.

In this sense alone, Paul and I are kindred souls. As a boy and a young man, I was a devout DXer too. I logged thousands of AM and FM stations, from my homes in New Jersey and North Carolina. (Here is a collection of QSL cards I got from stations to which I reported reception, in 1963, when I was a sophomore in high school.) More importantly, learning about all these distant stations sparked my interest in geography, electronics, geology, weather, astronomy, history and other adjacent fields. By the time I was a teen, I could draw all the states of the country, freehand, and name their capitals too. And that was on top of knowing on sight the likely purpose of every broadcast tower and antenna I saw.[]

DRM Makes Its Pitch for India’s FM Band (Radio World)

In India, where regulators have been working toward recommending a standard to digitize the FM band, Digital Radio Mondiale is presenting its case.

DRM has been conducting trials and demos since late February, when a digital radio transmission with three audio services and Journaline text information went live in Delhi alongside existing analog FM transmissions.

It said it is also showing the possibility of extending a shared transmitter infrastructure by broadcasting up to six individual DRM signals or blocks, carrying up to 18 audio services plus 6 multimedia services, being broadcast from one FM transmitter and antenna. It said the number of individual DRM signals is only limited by the bandwidth of the transmitter. Each signal can have its own power level, and gaps in the spectrum are possible, as are individual SFN networks per DRM signal.

“The transmission is part of an extensive trial and demonstration of DRM conducted by Prasar Bharati and its radio arm, All India Radio (AIR), with the help of the DRM Consortium and its local and international members,” DRM stated in a press release. “The test was officially launched on Feb. 24 and 25 at the headquarters of All India Radio in New Delhi.”

The test was requested by regulator TRAI and the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting.

DRM officials said a presentation to AIR’s committee showed DRM in the FM band on various car radios including line-fit, aftermarket, standalone receivers, mobile phones and tablets. A head unit from Mobis, upgraded for FM via firmware, was installed in a Hyundai Verna. DRM said, “The reception was found to be excellent for over 15 km radius with just 100 W of DRM power in digital,” including 5.1 surround sound test broadcasts on DRM.[]

You might also check out the article HD Radio and Digital FM in India at Radio World.


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Radio Waves: Digital Audio via Vintage Radio, “10-Minute-ish” Transmitter, Why No Channel 37, and Inventor of the Audio Cassette Dies at Age 94

Image by Jon Tyson

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, Valdo Karamitrov, Ronald Kenyon, and the Southgate ARC for the following tips:


‘I play digital music through my 1949 radio’ (BBC News)

When we think of technology our imagination usually takes us to images of the future. But for some, technology links us to the past – whether for nostalgia or for personal reasons

Following our recent feature on vintage technology, we asked you to share some of your collections with us – and people from around the world responded..

Rob Seaward, North Yorkshire, UK: 1949 Murphy A146 radio

I have a collection of older technology which I have collected throughout my life – including old cameras, calculators, hi-fis and radios. I had been interested in music from an early age, but it was really when my father purchased a Bang and Olufsen music centre that my interest in not only music, but style and function really took off.

To me, a lower middle-class grammar school kid living in Bradford, I suddenly had access to a world of real style and glamour.

My favourite piece must be the Murphy A146 console radio designed by Gordon Russell in 1949.

Its nickname is the “Batwing” because of the shape of the back panel. The sound is rich, slightly warm and typical of valve equipment. In its day, the radio cost the equivalent of an average monthly wage, it was built to last and the original valves are still working today.

However, as it pre-dates FM it is a little limited. I’ve had it restored and as part of the process we had a Bluetooth adapter installed which means I can now play my favourite digital music through this wonder from the 1940s – which really amazes people.[]

Getting on the Air With a 10-minute-ish Ham Transmitter (Hackaday)

Artificially constrained designs can be among the most challenging projects to build, and the most interesting to consider. The amateur radio world is no stranger to this, with homebrew radio designs that set some sort of line in the sand. Such designs usually end up being delightfully minimalist and deeply instructive of first principles, which is one reason we like them so much.

For a perfect example of this design philosophy, take a look at [VK3YE]’s twist on the classic “10-Minute Transmitter”. (Video, embedded below.)

The design dates back to at least the 1980s, when [G4RAW] laid down the challenge to whip up a working transmitter from junk bin parts and make a contact within 15 minutes — ten for the build and five for working the bands. [VK3YE] used the “oner” — one-transistor — design for his 10-minute transmitter, but invested some additional time into adding a low-pass filter to keep his signal clean, and a power amplifier to boost the output a bit.[]

Why Channel 37 Doesn’t Exist (And What It Has to Do With Aliens) (Vice)

Since the advent of analog TVs, channel 37 has always been static. Here’s why.

A version of this post originally appeared on Tedium, a twice-weekly newsletter that hunts for the end of the long tail.

I’m endlessly fascinated by stories of the quirks that were built into the TV system where the well-laid plans of the system simply fell apart because it was asked to do too many things.

Nearly five years ago, I wrote about one of them, the tale of how radio broadcasters were able to shoehorn an additional FM station into the radio because of the proximity of TV’s channel 6 to the rest of the radio feed.

So when I was informed that there was another oddity kinda like this involving the TV lineups, I decided I had to take a dive in.

It’s a tale that centers around channel 37, which was a giant block of static in most parts of the world during the 20th century.

The reason for that was simple: it couldn’t fend off its scientific competition.

1952

The year that the U.S. Federal Communications Commission opened up the television system to use UHF, or ultra high frequency signals. The practical effect of this addition of bandwidth was that the total number of potential TV stations increased dramatically, from 108 to 2,051, overnight. The first UHF applications were granted on July 11, 1952, according to The History of UHF Television, a site dedicated to the higher-frequency television offerings.

The radio telescope that became a headache for the television industry

Within a 600-mile radius of the city of Danville, Illinois, population 31,246, are numerous major cities—among them Chicago, Detroit, Milwaukee, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Toronto, and Washington, DC.

Nearly the entire length of the Mississippi River fits into that radius. If Danville was located just a little farther to the east, the radius would also include Philadelphia and New York City. For all intents and purposes, a 600-mile radius from Eastern Illinois covers basically the entire East Coast except the state of Florida and the Northeast.[]

Dutch inventor of the audio cassette tape dies aged 94 (Southgate ARC)

Lou Ottens, inventor of the cassette tape and a CD pioneer died aged 94 at his home in Duizel in Brabant on Saturday, Dutch media report.

Ottens, who studied to be an engineer, started working for Philips in 1952. Eight years later he became head of the firm’s recently introduced product development department. Within a year he and his team had developed the first portable tape recorder of which over a million were sold. Two years later he revolutionised the old reel-to-reel tape system by inventing the cassette tape.

‘I got annoyed with the clunky, user-unfriendly reel to reel system, it’s that simple’, Ottens said later. The new carrier had to be small enough to fit into his jacket pocket, Ottens decided, and he had a wooden model made to determine the ideal size. In 1963 the first plastic encased cassette tape was presented at an electronics fair carrying the slogan ‘smaller than a pack of cigarettes!’ The tapes were quickly copied by the Japanese but in different formats!

Ottens managed to make a deal with Sony to use the mechanism patented by Philips to introduce a standard cassette which was then rolled out globally. Over 100 billion were sold worldwide. Ottens went on to develop the CD, which again became a Sony-Philips standard and which sold over 200 billion.

In 1986 Ottens retired but he was often asked if he was proud of his inventions, which allowed millions to have access to music. ‘I have no ‘pride dial’’ Ottens said in an interview, stressing that both inventions were team efforts. His biggest regret was that that Sony, not Philips, invented what he considered to be the ideal application for the cassette tape, the Walkman. ‘That still hurts,’ he said. Dubious about the recent revival of the cassette tape Ottens said ‘nothing could beat the sound of a CD.’

Read more at DutchNews.nl
https://www.dutchnews.nl/news/2021/03/dutch-inventor-of-the-audio-cassette-tape-dies-aged-94/?


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Radio Waves: Michael Pack Resigns, FCC Enforcement Advisory, Upcoming ISS SSTV, and Prowling TV Detector Vans

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 Eric McFadden, Ronald Kenyon,  for the following tips:


Defined By Scandal At Voice of America, CEO Resigns At Biden’s Request (NPR)

Michael Pack resigned Wednesday as the CEO of the federal agency over the Voice of America and other federally funded international broadcasters after a turbulent seven-month tenure. He leaves the U.S. Agency for Global Media with a Trumpian legacy of ideological strife, lawsuits and scandal, his departure effective just two hours after the swearing-in of President Biden, who requested him to leave.

Biden has named senior VOA news executive Kelu Chao as acting CEO.

Pack came to lead the U.S. Agency for Global Media with the support of former President Donald Trump; his appointment was delayed more than two years in the U.S. Senate by lawmakers who feared he was too ideological and also who questioned his finances. The soft-spoken conservative documentary maker proved to be an ideological warrior in the mold of his patron, taking to one conservative news outlet after another to denounce his own staff, all in the name of fairness.

In his resignation letter, Pack said he was “solely focused upon reorienting the agency toward its missions.” And he attacked the request for his resignation as “a partisan act,” saying the leadership of the agency and its networks “is meant to be non-partisan, untethered to alternations in the political regime.”

He added, “I had no political agenda coming into USAGM, and I still do not have one.”

NPR conducted scores of interviews over the controversies Pack’s actions engendered. And few at the agency or its broadcasters agreed with Pack’s characterization of his mission or performance, instead characterizing him as seeking political control over their coverage. Just last week, a VOA reporter’s insistent questions to then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and VOA Director Robert R. Reilly over the siege on Congress after a public event led to her demotion and an investigation.

Pack routinely accused journalists of anti-Trump bias, sought to fire top executives as part of a “deep state,” ominously accused the networks of being receptive to foreign spies and denied requests for visa extensions from his own staffers who are foreign nationals.[]

FCC Issues Enforcement Advisory: Radio Users Reminded Not to Use Radios in Crimes (ARRL News)

The FCC has released an Enforcement Advisory for licensees and operators across radio services.

[Complete text of FCC Enforcement Advisory follows.]

FCC ENFORCEMENT ADVISORY

DA 21-73

Released: January 17, 2021

WARNING: AMATEUR AND PERSONAL RADIO SERVICES LICENSEES AND OPERATORS MAY NOT USE RADIO EQUIPMENT TO COMMIT OR FACILITATE CRIMINAL ACTS

The Enforcement Bureau (Bureau) of the Federal Communications Commission issues this Enforcement Advisory to remind licensees in the Amateur Radio Service, as well as licensees and operators in the Personal Radio Services, that the Commission prohibits the use of radios in those services to commit or facilitate criminal acts.

The Bureau has become aware of discussions on social media platforms suggesting that certain radio services regulated by the Commission may be an alternative to social media platforms for groups to communicate and coordinate future activities. The Bureau recognizes that these services can be used for a wide range of permitted purposes, including speech that is protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Amateur and Personal Radio Services, however, may not be used to commit or facilitate crimes.

Specifically, the Bureau reminds amateur licensees that they are prohibited from transmitting “communications intended to facilitate a criminal act” or “messages encoded for the purpose of obscuring their meaning.” 47 CFR § 97.113(a)(4).

Likewise, individuals operating radios in the Personal Radio Services, a category that includes Citizens Band radios, Family Radio Service walkie-talkies, and General Mobile Radio Service, are prohibited from using those radios “in connection with any activity which is against Federal, State or local law.” 47 CFR § 95.333(a).

Individuals using radios in the Amateur or Personal Radio Services in this manner may be subject to severe penalties, including significant fines, seizure of the offending equipment, and, in some cases, criminal prosecution. 47 U.S.C. §§ 401, 501, 503, 510.

Media inquiries should be directed to 202-418-0500 or MediaRelations@fcc.gov.

To file a complaint with the FCC, visit https://consumercomplaints.fcc.gov or call 1-888-CALL-FCC. To report a crime, contact your local law enforcement office or the FBI.

To request materials in accessible formats for people with disabilities (Braille, large print, electronic files, audio format), send an e-mail to fcc504@fcc.gov or call the Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau at (202) 418-0530 (voice), (202) 418-0432 (TTY).

Issued by: Chief, Enforcement Bureau[]

ISS SSTV 145.800 FM Jan 28-29 (Southgate ARC)

Russian cosmonauts on the International Space Station (ISS) are planning to transmit Slow Scan TV images on 145.800 MHz FM using the SSTV mode PD-120

The transmissions are part of the Moscow Aviation Institute SSTV experiment (MAI-75).

Jan 28 – Starts after 12:10 GMT and ends at 17:15 GMT*

Jan 29 – Start about 13:10 GMT and ends at 18:05 GMT*

*Dates and times subject to change.

ARISS SSTV Blog
https://ariss-sstv.blogspot.com/

Useful SSTV info and links
https://amsat-uk.org/beginners/iss-sstv/

TV Detector Vans Once Prowled The Streets Of England (Hackaday)

The United Kingdom is somewhat unique in the world for requiring those households which view broadcast television to purchase a licence for the privilege.

Initially coming into being with the Wireless Telegraphy Act in 1923, the licence was required for anyone receiving broadcast radio, before being expanded to cover television in 1946. The funds generated from this endeavour are used as the primary funding for the British Broadcasting Corporation.

A typical TV licence invoice. Separate licences for black and white and color sets still exist, with 6000 B&W licences issued in 2019.

Of course, it’s all well and good to require a licence, but without some manner of enforcement, the measure doesn’t have any teeth. Among other measures, the BBC have gone as far as employing special vans to hunt down illegally operating televisions and protect its precious income.

THE VAN IS COMING FOR YOU

To ensure a regular income, the BBC runs enforcement operations under the TV Licencing trade name, the entity which is responsible for administering the system. Records are kept of licences and their expiry dates, and investigations are made into households suspected of owning a television who have not paid the requisite fees. To encourage compliance, TV Licencing regularly sends sternly worded letters to those who have let their licence lapse or have not purchased one. In the event this fails, they may arrange a visit from enforcement officers. These officers aren’t empowered to forcibly enter homes, so in the event a homeowner declines to cooperate with an investigation, TV Licencing will apply for a search warrant. This may be on the basis of evidence such as a satellite dish or antenna spotted on the roof of a dwelling, or a remote spied on a couch cushion through a window.[]


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Radio Waves: Ajit Pai to Resign, Hams Need to Embrace Hacker Community, Coast Guard Might Abandon HF Voice Watchkeeping, and FCC Action Against Unauthorized Transceivers

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!


FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to leave agency on Inauguration Day (PBS News Hour)

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, a Republican, says he is leaving the telecommunications regulator on Inauguration Day.

President-elect Joe Biden will choose a new Democratic head for the agency. A new administration typically picks a new chairman.

Pai has presided over a contentious FCC over the last four years. He undid net neutrality rules that barred internet service providers like Comcast and AT&T from favoring some types of online traffic over others in 2017 and championed other deregulatory efforts. He has also worked to free up spectrum for cellphone companies so they can roll out 5G, the next-generation wireless standard that promises faster speeds, and cracked down on Chinese telecom companies as national security threats.

The incoming FCC is likely to try to reinstate net neutrality rules and focus on closing the “digital divide,” getting internet service to Americans who don’t have it because it’s not available or they can’t afford it.[]

Ham Radio Needs To Embrace The Hacker Community Now More Than Ever (Hackaday)

As many a radio amateur will tell you, ham radio is a hobby with as many facets as there are radio amateurs. It should be an exciting and dynamic place to be, but as those who venture forth into it sometimes sadly find out, it can be anything but. Tightly-knit communities whose interests lie in using $1,000 stations to chase DX (long-distance contacts), an advancing age profile, and a curious fascination of many amateurs with disaster communications. It’s something [Robert V. Bolton, KJ7NZL] has sounded off about in an open letter to the amateur radio community entitled “Ham Radio Needs To Embrace The Hacker Community Now More Than Ever“.

In it he laments that the influx in particular of those for whom disaster preparedness is the reason for getting a licence is to blame for amateur radio losing its spark, and he proposes that the hobby should respond by broadening its appeal in the direction of the hacker community. The emphasis should move from emergency communications, he says, and instead topics such as software defined radio and digital modes should be brought to the fore. Finally he talks about setting up hacker specific amateur radio discussion channels, to provide a space in which the talk is tailored to our community.[]

Coast Guard Proposes to Discontinue HF Voice Watchkeeping (ARRL News)

The US Coast Guard has invited comments by January 21, 2021, on a proposal to discontinue HF voice watchkeeping. The proposal [PDF] appeared on November 20 in the Federal Register. The USCG proposes to cease monitoring 4125, 6215, 8291, and 12,290 kHz, in the contiguous US and Hawaii, due to a lack of activity.

“We believe this change would have a low impact on the maritime public, as commercial satellite radios and Digital Selective Calling (DSC) marine-SSB HF radios have become more prevalent onboard vessels,” the Coast Guard said. “However, we would like your comments on how you would be affected if we terminated monitoring HF voice-only distress frequencies within the contiguous US and Hawaii, particularly if you use HF, but do not currently have a commercial satellite radio or an HF DSC-capable radio aboard your vessel.”[]

FCC takes action against marketing of unauthorized transceivers (Southgate ARC)

On November 24 FCC Enforcement Bureau (EB) issued a citation and order concerning the illegal marketing of unauthorized radio frequency devices

The citation says:

This CITATION AND ORDER (Citation), notifies Rugged Race Products, Inc. d/b/a
Rugged Radios (Rugged Radios or Company) that it unlawfully marketed six models of radio frequency devices that (a) operated outside the scope of their respective equipment authorization, or without any equipment authorization; (b) permitted any operator to program and transmit on new frequencies using the device’s external operation controls; and (c) lacked the appropriate labeling. Specifically, Rugged Radios marketed models RH5R-V2, RM25R, RM25R-WP, RM50R, RM60-V, and RM100 in violation of section 302(b) of the Communications Act, as amended (Act), and sections 2.803(b), 2.925(a)(1), 80.203(a), 90.203(a), 90.203(e), 95.361(a), and 95.391 of the Commission’s rules.

Read the Citation and Order at
https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DA-20-1395A1.pdf

Source FCC Enforcement Bureau
https://www.fcc.gov/enforcement


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Radio Waves: Signals from Mars, Two More Hamstronauts, M17 Digital Voice Mode, and Climbing Trees for a Better Signal

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 Troy Riedel, LG, Ron and the ARRL News for the following tips:


Radio Signals from Mars (Spaceweather.com)

How close is Mars? Close enough for radio reception. On Oct. 4th, amateur radio operator Scott Tilley picked up a carrier wave from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) circling the Red Planet. Turn up the volume and listen to the Martian Doppler shift:

Tilley is a leader in the field of satellite radio. Dead satellites, zombie satellites, spy satellites: He routinely finds and tracks them. “But this was a first for me,” he says. “A satellite around Mars!”

It’s not easy picking up radio signals from distant planets. NASA does it using the giant antennas of the Deep Space Network. Tilley uses a modest 60 cm dish in his backyard in Roberts Creek, BC. This week’s close encounter with Mars set the stage for his detection.

“MRO’s signal is weak, but it is one of the louder signals in Mars orbit,” says Tilley. “The spacecraft has a large dish antenna it uses as a relay for other Mars missions. With the proximity of Mars these days, it was the perfect time to try.”[]

Two More Astronauts Earn Amateur Radio Licenses (ARRL News)

Although the lockdown of Johnson Space Center (JSC) postponed amateur radio training and licensing over the past 7 months, NASA ISS Ham Project Coordinator Kenneth Ransom, N5VHO, was able to work with all of the new astronaut-class graduates, as well as offer some refresher courses with already-licensed astronauts. Licensed astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) may operate the on-station ham radio equipment without restrictions.

Astronauts often participate in Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) contacts with schools and groups on Earth.

NASA Astronaut Kayla Barron, who completed her introductory course in June and received basic ham radio operations training in late September, recently tested and received the call sign KI5LAL.

European Space Agency astronaut Matthias Maurer passed his amateur radio exam on July 30, and he got his basic ham operations training in July. He now is KI5KFH.

Astronauts Shane Kimbrough, KE5HOD, and Shannon Walker, KD5DXB, completed the refresher course earlier this year. Two other new astronauts are in the queue to take the Technician license exam. — Thanks to Rosalie White, K1STO[]

M17 Aims to replace proprietary ham radio protocols (Hackaday.io)

While M17 might sound like a new kind of automatic rifle (as actually, it is), we were referring to an open source project to create a ham radio transceiver. Instead of paraphrasing the project’s goals, we’ll simply quote them:

The goal here should be to kick the proprietary protocols off the airwaves, replace DMR, Fusion, D-Star, etc. To do that, it’s not just good enough to be open, it has to be legitimately competitive.

Like some other commercial protocols, M17 uses 4FSK along with error correction. The protocol allows for encryption, streaming, and the encoding of callsigns in messages. There are also provisions for framing IP packets to carry data. The protocol can handle voice and data in a point-to-point or broadcast topology.

On the hardware side, the TR-9 is a UHF handheld that can do FM voice or M17 with up to 3 watts out. The RF portion uses an ADF7021 chip which is specifically made to do 4FSK. There’s also an Arm CPU to handle the digital work.[]

Armed with a radio, Cambodian girl climbs tree to access education (SE Asia Globe)

When Cambodian schools closed due to Covid-19, poor internet access and a lack of minority language materials made distance learning in rural communities near impossible. But armed with a simple radio, children are rising above these obstacles to their education

Jumping down from the tree near her home, Srey Ka assumes her spot in the shade underneath as she adjusts the dials on her radio. Her pet piglet remains asleep at her feet, twitching his nose as he dreams, his belly full of leftover rice. Around her, cows meander by, their ringing bells competing with the sound of static from her radio.

While her school is still closed due to Covid-19 regulations, she still wears her Grade 3 uniform as she attempts to locate a signal. She’s listening out for distance learning programmes – six hours of educational radio broadcasts per week for children in Grades 1-3, some of which are in her ethnic minority language.

It was August and Srey Ka had just received a radio from international nonprofit Aide et Action, two weeks before her school reopened as pandemic measures eased in Cambodia in early September.

From the Phnong ethnic minority group, Srey Ka struggled to find learning resources in her language during school closures. Eager to cram as much as she can before returning to school, Srey Ka tied the antenna of her radio to the highest point of a tree to get the best reception. Even a clear radio signal is hard to come by in the small fishing village of Pun Thachea, located along a remote stretch of the Mekong river in Cambodia’s northeast Kratié province.[]


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