Tag Archives: Mark Fahey

A recap of the 2018 Winter SWL Fest

The DoubleTree hotel where the Winter SWL Fest is held.

Last week, I attended the 31st annual Winter SWL Fest in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania. This was the ninth year in a row I made the pilgrimage to join my radio friends and family–it was certainly a ‘Fest to be remembered!

I made the trip by car, leaving Monday, February 26 and spent two nights in the DC area so that I could visit friends.

On Tuesday, I met with my buddy (and SWLing Post contributor) Dan Robinson and we headed over to the National Capital Radio and Television Museum in Bowie, MD.

The NCRTV Museum.

NCRTV’s Brian Belanger gave us an excellent private tour of the museum, allowing me an opportunity to snap even more photos of this beautiful museum (you might recall the photo tour I posted in 2015). I will plan to post the new photos soon.

Dan Robinson (left) and Brian Belanger (right) checking out a number of early 1900s receivers.

Wednesday morning, I picked up my friend Mark Fahey (also an SWLing Post contributor) at a Metro stop in Maryland. Mark had just flown into DC from Sydney, Australia, the previous day.

Knowing Mark is a huge fan of all things aviation, we made our way to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles Airport. This was my fourth visit to the museum, but Mark’s first. He had a blast and, like me, is sure to return in the future!

A small selection of aircraft at the Udvar Hazy Center.

View of the new Dulles Airport from the former ATC tower at the Udvar Hazy Center.

We left the museum by 2:00, to avoid serious DC traffic, and arrived in Plymouth Meeting, PA by dinner time.

Like last year, the Winter SWL Fest took place over a Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The schedule was jam-packed and covered the full spectrum of radio.

Here’s the program with descriptions:


Winter SWL Fest Forums

Thursday, 1 March 2018

THE IBERIAN BROADCASTING SCENE with Tracy Wood

1300 – THE IBERIAN BROADCASTING SCENE – Tracy Wood

Our own “fiestero” reflects on his trips to Spain, Portugal and Gibraltar experiencing the complicated radio scene there. From longwave to DAB, community radio to big national networks–even foreign language FM stations–it’s true that the Spanish dial remains impressive. Included are slides from his tour and interview at Madrid’s Radio Exterior de España highlighting their amazing audio vault. He’ll also reflect on DX climbs at the Rock of Gibraltar (UK) and Veleta, the third highest peak in Spain (11,142’). Bring your own sangría.

1415 — MORE CHEAP FUN WITH RTL/SDR – Dan Srebnick

Dan follows up last year’s presentation by telling you what he got wrong. (!?)

You CAN decode FM IBOC, thanks to a researcher who figured out the protocol. We’ll hear how that works, along with a look at how to decode amateur APRS packet and display weather alerts on a map, and how to decode NextGen ATC on the cheap, without having to feed data to Flight Aware. We’ll also give you some ideas on how to make use of a Raspberry Pi with the RTL stick, providing yet another source of cheap radio fun.

1530 — THE GOLDEN AGE OF ANALOG TV DXING…IS NOW! — Rich McVicar

TV DXing via sporadic e-skip and tropospheric propagation, from an historical perspective in the 50s-80s when there were many analog DX targets available in North Americ, to today’s low VHF (Channels 2-6) scenario. Few US stations are using those channels now making DOUBLE-hop e-skip reception possible, something very few experienced before 2009 but a number of us in the northeast US and Canada have observed quite a few times now. Instead of new states and provinces, we’re logging new countries! Includes video clips of single hop vs. double hop and equipment and technique tips.

MORE CHEAP FUN WITH RTL/SDR with Dan Srebnick

1645 – TERMINATED LOOP ANTENNAS – Jef Eichner

This popular series resumes with Jef covering terminated loop theory and construction, along with some new (and old) toys for show and tell. Time permitting, he will start on loop phasing techniques.

 

2030 – THE 1st ANNUAL? WINTERFEST TRIVIA QUIZ – Sheldon Harvey

How well do you know radio? AM, shortwave, utilities, transmitter sites, station names, call letters, frequencies, interval signals, radio personalities, program names, and more, we’ll have questions from all categories. In the end we will crown the first Winterfest Trivia King (or Queen!). The quiz is open to anyone with the courage to participate.

Friday, 2 March 2018

0830 – HOW DO SMART SPEAKERS CHANGE YOUR LISTENING HABITS? – Rob deSantos

We will examine the impact of “smart speakers” on the listening experience. What can you do and what can’t you do with these systems? The internet radio and international radio still live but they live inside the speaker. Bring your own personal experience and questions to share. Included will be the presenter’s personal use and testing of systems such as Amazon Alexa and Sonos and compare the cost and benefits to using these as alternative listening sources as well as their limitations.

0945 – THE ANNUAL SCANNER SESSION – Tom Swisher

Back to Basics – Programming Strategies for the new generation scanners. Have the newer generation scanners got you stumped? This year we’re going back to basics, and will discuss programming strategies, tweaks and tips for the newer digital-capable scanners. We’ll also give a few nods to some of the software packages out there that can make this task easier.

1100 – THE ANNUAL PIRATE SESSION – George Zeller

A review of Pirate Radio news during the past year and the announcement of the new class of inductees to the North American Pirate Radio Hall of Fame. Time permitting, a discussion of the NASWA Pirate Radio Report column also is planned.

It’s quite a coincidence every year that the ‘Fest hotel is chock-full of pirate radio broadcasts. If one were to know such things… (Note I had to illuminate this flyer with a flashlight!)

1330 – TIME SHIFTED TUNING WITH SPECTRUM ARCHIVES – Thomas Witherspoon

We will take a look at both shortwave radio audio archives, what has been done since our 2010 Winter SWL Fest forum, and what collections have been preserved. We will also dive into the concept of radio spectrum archiving, noting the challenges and amazing benefits to future historians, media specialists, anthropologists and—yes–radio enthusiasts too. Imagine a digital library full of recordings you could load on a web-based application and tune through as if it were live radio–a time traveling WebSDR! We’ll live demo spectrum recordings dating back to 1986.

FILM SCREENING – “SPECTRES OF SHORTWAVE” with Amanda Dawn Christie

1500 – FILM SCREENING – “SPECTRES OF SHORTWAVE” – Amanda Dawn Christie

An experimental documentary film by Amanda Dawn Christie about the RCI shortwave radio towers in Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada. Images captured on film are accompanied by personal stories told by people who lived near the towers. For over 67 years, the Radio Canada International (RCI) shortwave site broadcast all over the world. In 2012, budget cuts necessitated the decommissioning of this site.

**Winner** Prix de la vague – meilleur documentaire (best documentary) international category – FICFA 2016
** Official Selection** Atlantic Film Festival 2016

1945 – THE DXER’S SAMPLER MENU – ONE HOUR, FOUR IRRESISTIBLE SENSATIONS – Mark Fahey

This session presents four appetizer sized topics (each which could easily have consumed a full hour of discussion) in convenient, portion controlled sizes.

Transformation of Marginal & Noisy Tropical-Band Stations into Armchair Quality Reception: A live demonstration of real-time digital enhancement and filtering of shortwave signals.

Interval Signals from the Jungles and Volcanoes: For over 40 years I have been recording Indonesian interval signals and now the collection is complete. These are not noisy, low-fi recordings; every one is a pristine, studio-quality recording that reflects the exotic location and unique culture of each station.

What’s Happening in The Studio: Thousands of radio stations now continuously stream high-definition video of their studios in simulcast to their audio broadcast. We will drop in and discover what is happening behind the microphones.

Radio Soundscapes: Let’s explore the growing selection of what hipsters and eclectic music collectors are listening to.

2130 – THE ANNUAL SHORTWAVE SHINDIG – David Goren

David Goren and friends celebrate the short wavelengths in story, song, and vintage sounds. Saul Broudy, our resident folk song laureate presents an extended set of radio favorites and more. Interdisciplinary artist Amanda Dawn Christie performs using her theremin to trigger sounds and images of the towers at RCI Sackville.

Later in the evening, we’ll feature a specially upconverted segment on FM Urban Pirate Radio including the debut of the Brooklyn Pirate Radio Sound Map.

Saturday, 3 March 2018

0830 – THE VERY STRANGE WORLD OF VHF & UHF MILITARY SATELLITES – Matt Blaze

Most modern satellites are on SHF frequencies, are used for high-bandwidth, global communication, and require special antennas and equipment to receive and track. But there are also constellations of satellites operating on VHF and UHF frequencies, easily received with standard communications receivers and antennas, and what you can hear on them can be very surprising. Originally intended for tactical military use, these birds are largely dominated by pirates, unintended signals, and the occasional legitimate user.

0945 – TRAVEL THE WORLD WITH VIRTUAL DXPEDITIONS – Bruce Churchill

For many of us Shortwave DXing has become more a reminiscing than a listening exercise. Oh, if we could only reprise the ubiquitous Indonesians, Venezuelans, Ecuadorians, Brazilians and Indian regionals! Into this seeming abyss comes the world of remote receivers such as the Perseus, Global Tuner and KiwiSDR networks. In this session we’ll educate, discuss and debate the merits of traveling to virtual DXpeditions through the use of remote receivers around the globe.

1100 – RF OPS AT WORLD EVENTS – Paul Kaltenbach

Take a behind-the-scenes look at network news RF/field operations covering some of the largest stories that have made world headlines in recent memory, as well as a discussion regarding the technological changes that have changed the definition of what real-news is, and is not.

1330 – VOICE OF RFCHOKIA SHORTWAVE TV ROLL OUT – Jeff Murray

Introducing VOR’s 2018 North American Short Wave Television Service including a virtually live, slow scan slideshow broadcast direct from Rfchokia – the apocryphal breakaway republic formerly known as South Pottsylvania. This very special event will be emceed and produced by VOR spokesman/ cartoonist Jeff K1NSS/WPE2GEP, eager to wish Best DX to you and your family.

1500 – SHORTWAVE MEMORIES – Dan Robinson/Skip Arey

Dan and Skip chronicle the personal memories of Fest attendees about what shortwave has meant to them throughout their lives, putting some needed focus on the human side, rather than the more commonly heard mechanical or technical aspects, of the hobby.


Silent Auction

Each year at the Winter SWL Fest, we hold a silent auction with a wide array of donated goods. I donated a box full of gear myself.  All of the proceeds are given to charities–Ears To Our World has been a proud recipient of portions of the Silent Auction proceeds since I first attended in 2009!

Here are a few of the items that were in the silent auction:

Nor’easter and power outage

Of course, what everyone at the 2018 Winter SWL Fest will remember is that Friday morning, we were hit by a “nor’easter”–a storm with strong winds, and driving rain that by noon had turned to snow. Traffic outside the hotel was an absolute mess–and quite treacherous.

It was a little crazy. Right around 2:30–only a minute after my presentation ended, the mains/grid power flickered out.

The hotel staff kept everyone informed with news posts like this one.

Fortunately, the hotel’s backup generator did power one set of outlets in the conference room which fed the projector and amplified speakers, so the show continued…albeit in the dark!

Of course, there are advantages to being in a hotel with little power and much less RF noise–I was able to do some satisfactory MW DXing from my room window. A rare opportunity!

We held the Saturday night banquet in the hotel’s atrium area which was was better lit that the interior conference rooms. It was a very memorable banquet.

All-in-all, the Fest was a massive success. I heard very few complaints about the power outage, only praise for the forums, our guest speaker (Amanda Dawn Christie) and all of those who make the Fest a reality–especially John Figliozzi and Richard Cuff.

If you couldn’t make the Fest this year due to your schedule (or the weather!), please come next year. I promise, you won’t regret it! Dates for the 2019 Fest have already been posted!

Festmeisters Ruch Cuff and John Figliozzi prepare banquet material with flashlights.

Once again, many thanks to Richard Cuff and John Figliozzi for all of the hard work they put into organizing the Winter SWL Fest! You pulled off another great one!

Mark seeks advice about the Cross Country Wireless Active Loop

(Source: Sunsdr.eu)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mark Fahey, who comments:

My WRTH is still in transit to me, however, Thomas’s comment in the post about the Cross Country Wireless Active Loop sparked my interest and I surfed over to their website. They have a great collection of really innovative antennas. I’m fascinated to see that their designs use balanced pairs within an ethernet cable instead of a coax feedline. Surfing to their website was very dangerous! My fingers are itching to order an antenna, or worst still (for my wallet) more than one of their models.

Has anyone been using one? My interest would be for “on-the-road” field use on MW & SW.

Thanks for your question, Mark! Like you, I’m very curious how portable this loop may be. Readers: please comment if you have any experience with the Cross Country Wireless Active Loop!

SDR Spectrum to Radio: Can someone please make this device?

The venerable RF switch box from the 1970s/80s allowed game consoles and computers to use analog TVs as monitors.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I actively record and index radio spectrum recordings via my various software defined receivers. Indeed, I have at least 50 TB of SDR spectrum recordings at the moment–and that number is growing!

I was just chatting with SWLing Post contributor, Mark Fahey, and a familiar topic came up: the idea of an RF switch box for radios.

The concept is a piece of hardware that re-modulates–converts digital spectrum data from a digital storage device back to analog RF– and injects a signal into a real tabletop radio.

As Mark described:

“This is just like early computers and Atari-like games consoles did to allow the “computer” to display on a lounge room TV. The games console tricked the TV into thinking it was tuned to a TV station on “Channel 1 (or whatever the console outputted the video to).”

Radio time travel machine!

How cool would it be to take a spectrum recording from 2008, play it through your Hallicrafters SX-100, Kenwood R-1000 or Alinco DX-R8T, and tune through the 31 meter band? You’d receive Radio Australia, Radio Bulgaria, Radio Netherlands Worldwide, Radio Canada International, Voice of Russia and many other broadcasters that are no longer on the air. Indeed, there’s a strong possibility you might uncover DX you didn’t catch when the recording was first made.

I’m enough of a radio geek to know that I would thoroughly enjoy travelling back in time once in a while with a classic radio.

Additionally, this device would make it much easier for museums to create kiosks where visitors could tune through recordings of, say, important events in history.

Can it be done?

I know the technology is out there.  In fact, if you’ve ever been to a large hamfest where Icom, Yaesu or Kenwood have a number of their transceivers “on the air”–so customers can try out transceiver features–they are using a device called a “radio time machine.”

Icom uses recorded IF instead of live antenna input so customers can experience “contest conditions” while evaluating a radio.

The Radio Time Machine injects recorded analog RF, from a HiFi VCR, into the antenna ports of a vendor’s various transceivers. The recordings are typically of a ham radio band during a contest–that way, the customer can get a sense of how well the rig would perform under crowded band conditions.

These devices have limitations: while their bandwidth is ample to tune through the CW or phone portion of a ham band, it’s much too narrow for most broadcast bands. They’re also fed the recording from an analog HiFi VCR.

The device Mark and I dream of would convert digital spectrum files–from a WinRadio, Perseus, Elad, SDRplay, Airspy or other SDR–into analog RF any radio with an external antenna port could tune.

SWLing Post readers: you’re a diverse and knowledgeable community–please comment if you know what it would take to develop such a device and how it could be done. Is this a dream or could it become reality?

North Korea now broadcasting in DRM

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mark Fahey, who writes:

A message to contacts in North Asia (Japan / Korea etc)…

North Korea is currently (right now 1430UTC) broadcasting in DRM format on 3560KHz. Listening to remote receivers in Japan I can see the signal is very strong in the Tokyo and Yokohama areas – I assume it will be strong in other parts of Japan as well. I have NOT been able to decode the DRM successfully, I have tried piping the audio to me here in my Australian location and demodulating it with a software DRM decoder – I just can’t get a lock on the signal. Do you have a DRM receiver – could you please try? If you do manage to receive the signal please don’t forget to record it!

I’m particularly interested to know if the transmissions are relays of KCBS Pyongyang, Pyongyang Pangsong or some other service. If you get a demodulated signal could you check to see if the program is parallel to KCBS Pyongyang on 2850KHz or Pyongyang Pangsong on 6400KHz.

I have a WinRadio Excalibur with DRM here in Australia, but the signal is very weak here – far too weak to lock.

Later, Mark shared the following video by “2010DFS” on YouTube:

Click here to view on YouTube.

Mark also notes that DRMNA.info is following this story very closely and suspects that the content server and or transmitter may be Chinese in origin:

NOTE: Same frequency and bitrate as the 2012 broadcasts so this may represent “Chinese assistance”. Can anyone confirm DRM equipment in Kujang?

20170902 Update: I have received anonymous details that indicate that at least the content server is of Chinese origin. Still no word on actual transmit location. Several other Japanese (and Terje in Japan) have successfully decoded these transmissions.

Click here to read full details at DRMNA.info.

Being a North Korean propaganda specialist, Mark added:

At the Freeman’s Reach monitoring station the bandwidth and microwave paths in are really being tested this afternoon with the full on activity.

All plans for the afternoon and evening now cancelled! YTN (South Korea) via Intelsat, KCTV Pyongyang via Thaicom, CNN International via Foxtel, CNN USA Domestic via Sling, Korean Central Radio and Pyongyang Pansong via KiwiSDRs – Busy!

All spectrum being captured, tonight the servers will be working hard, it will keep this place warm!

Post readers: please comment if you’re able to decode any of these North Korean DRM transmissions, and/or if you have further information about these DRM broadcasts from North Korea.

UPDATE: Mark has at least confirmed that the DRM signal is a relay of the KCBS Pyongyang national service (domestic) broadcast.

Mark records “Pyongyang’s 6 am wake up call”

This week, SWLing Post contributor, Mark Fahey, was featured in the NK News for his research in North Korea. While Mark has made a wide array of his work available through a media-rich (free) iBook, this particular article focuses on the “Morning Chorus” heard throughout Pyongyang in the early hours of the morning:

(Source: NK News)

Why does an eerie electronic ballad play across North Korea’s capital every morning?

It was early in the morning, but Mark Fahey had been awake for hours. A biomedical engineer turned North Korean propaganda expert, he had spent most of the night tinkering with a radio in his room at the Yanggakdo International Hotel, secretly recording the opening moments of Pyongyang FM Pangsong.

While he listened to the station’s typical offering of classical music and propaganda, another microphone and recorder were set up next to an open window to capture the sounds of the city as it roused itself awake. It was August 2011, and the sun hung low on the horizon. Fahey expected to pick up the sound of the dredging work taking place along the Taedong River.

Instead, he heard music.

“Pyongyang is deadly silent at night,” Fahey tells NK News. “If a lorry’s just passing through the city, you’re going to hear it. It’s so quiet. And at 6 am, you hear this kind of weird…” he hesitates. “It sounds like mind control music.”

Seeking an explanation, Fahey brought the tune up with his minder.

“They didn’t know what I was talking about,” he recalls, “but I don’t actually think that means they didn’t know what it was. They probably didn’t realize that I could hear it from where I was.”[…]

Click here to continue reading the full article at the NK News.

The NK News article is fascinating and also includes several more video clips from North Korea media.

Also, consider downloading Mark’s interactive iBook Behind The Curtain from the Apple store by clicking here.