Tag Archives: Michael Guerin

Radio Waves: The “Weird Wide Web” of SW, VOA Whistleblower Complaint, KiwiSDR v RaspberrySDR, and the Portable Operations Challenge this weekend

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 Steve Lord, Michael Guerin, and the Southgate ARC for the following tips:


Propaganda, Pirates and Preachers: The Weird Wide Web Of Shortwave Radio (The Dork Web)

The world of Shortwave is a world of state-backed propaganda, cults, pirates, and spies. You’ll find every form of freakery and geekery on air. Digital, analogue, even stuff where you can’t tell if it’s digital, analogue, bad music or interference.

[…]In a world of constant connections Shortwave radio may seem anachronistic. But there’s something special in Shortwave and I’d like to show it to you. With a tiny bit of effort and at zero cost you can explore this world from the comfort of your own home.

How Shortwave Shaped Lives

Of all the things I expected to get into, Shortwave radio wasn’t one of them. As a kid I’d listen to my dad’s old valve radio. Strange voices from distant lands floated through the air. Shortwave’s audio quality was terrible even by early 80s standards. There was something magical in hearing distant voices from across Europe and beyond.

I got back into Shortwave listening earlier in the UK lockdown period. Over the past few months I’ve heard stations from as far as Florida, Cuba, Botswana, North Korea and China. I’ve heard signals broadcast from Ascension island in the Atlantic to Tinian island in the Pacific.

Some people will tell you that Shortwave is dead. While it’s passed a 20th century peak there’s plenty happening. In 2002 the National Association of Shortwave Broadcasters estimated that hundreds of millions of households around the world had Shortwave-capable receivers.[]

Six senior Trump admin officials file whistleblower complaint over Voice of America CEO (The Hill)

Six senior Trump administration officials filed a whistleblower complaint with the State Department’s inspector general over allegations that Michael Pack, CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), violated federal law and abused his authority, according to a copy of the complaint reported by Politico on Wednesday.

The 32-page complaint includes allegations from six members of the Senior Executive Services at the USAGM accusing Pack, who was confirmed as head of the agency which oversees the state-run network Voice of America in June, of engaging in conduct that “constitutes an abuse of authority and gross mismanagement.”

The six officials who filed the complaint were all placed on administrative leave Aug. 12.

The complaint alleges Pack, who was appointed by Trump, wanted to force out the complainants because they were part of the “Deep State” and had “played a role in the delay” of Pack’s confirmation to his position at the USAGM.

The complaint alleges Pack ordered a close aide to conduct research on the voting history of agency employees, including one of the complainants, Matthew Walsh, the deputy director for operations who was placed on administrative leave. The research “was to be utilized in evaluation of career civil servants’ abilities to carry out the duties of their positions,” the complaint states.[]

KiwiSDR vs RaspberrySDR— a tale of two SDRs (Hackaday via Southgate ARC)

Once you move away from the usual software defined radio (SDR) dongles, you have only a few choices unless you want to drop some serious cash. One common hobby-grade SDR is the KiwiSDR. This popular unit runs Linux and can receive up to 30 MHz. The platform uses a dedicated A/D converter, an FPGA, and BeagleBone computer. Success of course breeds imitators, and especially when you have an open source design like the Kiwi, you are going to find similar devices with possibly different end goals. That’s how the RaspberrySDR came to be. This is a very similar unit to the KiwiSDR but it uses a Raspberry Pi, along with a handful of other differences. What’s different? [KA7OEI] tells us in a recent blog post.

Other than the obvious difference of the computer and all that it entails, the RaspberrySDR has a higher speed A/D (125 MHz vs 66 MHz) and 16-bits of resolution instead of the Kiwi’s 14 bits. This combines to give the Raspberry a wider receive range (up to 60 MHz) and — in theory — better performance in terms of dynamic range and distortion.

[KA7OEI] measures a few key parameters on both devices and arrived at some surprising conclusions. The Kiwi appears to boost signals near its cutoff frequency to compensate for losses in the system. The Raspberry — using adapted software — looks as though it does the same trick, but does it around the Kiwi’s cutoff frequency, which is lower. Probably a software fix could take care of that, of course.

There are also tests of image rejection and front-end overloading. The tests revealed a few problems with signal strength measurement and some other problems with the RaspberrySDR. The biggest issue, though, was that the 16-bit A/D didn’t seem to have better performance. Without proper design, throwing more bits at a problem isn’t always helpful and this appears to be a good example of that.

In the end, the Raspberry looks like a cheap clone of the Kiwi with some benefits, but also some drawbacks. The blog post also covers some open source issues where Kiwi is now saying some parts of their code will only be binary in the future and there has been some difficulty finding all of the Raspberry’s files. If you are looking to buy one, you might not find the name “raspberrysdr” but [KA7OEI] suggests searching for “New 16bit 62M real-time bandwidth network shared SDR receiver” which does turn up some results.

Of course, you can always use a Pi with a more conventional dongle, and that works well enough. If you want to make a Pi just transmit, you can do that with little more than a wire, although the quality might not be perfect.

https://hackaday.com/2020/09/30/kiwisdr-vs-raspberrysdr-a-tale-of-two-sdrs/

Portable Operations Challenge (Southgate ARC)

The final rules for the FMH Portable Operations Challenge are now posted on the POC webpage at foxmikehotel.com/challenge/. N1MM+ users, need to select FMHPOC as the contest and VKContest Logger users just POC.

The organisers wish all other contests taking place this weekend success and lots of fun – the bands will be busy again and we’re hoping propagation plays along.

We hope many amateurs give this new-style contest a go whether from a home QTH station or out portable.

Ed DD5LP


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An HF “Renaissance”: Militaries reinvests in shortwave communications

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Michael Guerin and Dennis Dura who share the following story from C4ISR.net (my comments follow excerpt):

LONDON — Special operations commands across Europe are ramping up their capabilities with high-frequency communications to ensure connectivity on the battlefield. Leaders there are turning to high frequency communications as a way to optimize properties that provide a low probability of interception and detection.

Special forces in France, Germany, Poland and Ukraine continue to receive high-frequency, or HF, systems as a way to diversify communications plans, industry sources confirmed to C4ISRNET.

Some special operations organizations have selected L3Harris’ AN/PRC-160(V), industry sources said.

Enhancements in HF come at a time when NATO members and partner forces are suffering from a disruption of satellite communications, particularly along the alliance’s eastern flank where Russian armed forces continue to conduct electronic warfare.

In an online presentation to the Association of Old Crows on Aug. 6, Paul Denisowski, product management engineer at Rohde and Schwarz North America, described how communications satellites are vulnerable to antisatellite systems as well as ground-, air- and space-based “kill vehicles.”

“China, Russia and the U.S. have all carried out ASAT tests and many other countries are developing ASAT capabilities,” Denisowski said, using an acronym for anti-satellite. To boost resilience, some commands are turning to high-frequency communications.

During the presentations “Lost Art of HF” and the “Rebirth of Shortwave in a Digital World,” Denisowski explained that HF is making a comeback in local and global communications. This renaissance comes as the result of improvements in a range of fields, including antenna design, digital modulation schemes and improved understanding of propagation.

The market is also helped by reductions in size, weight and power requirements as well as the introduction of wideband data, enhanced encryption algorithms and interoperability with legacy HF sets, he said.

“This means end users are now benefiting from easier-to-use and cheaper solutions featuring improved data performance, audio quality, availability and operation. And because of a lack of infrastructure, HF is less expensive and relatively robust, although solar events may temporarily disrupt HF communications,” he said. Specific upgrades include “Adaptive HF,” which comprises automatic selection of frequency and the establishment of communication through automatic link establishment, or ALE, technology.

The latest technology of its type — 4G ALE — is capable of supporting wideband HF communications, or WBHF for short, providing end users with the ability to “negotiate bandwidth, modulation type, error correction and the number of sub-carriers,” Denisowski explained.

“ALE selects frequencies using link quality analysis, which allows it to listen and determine if a channel is in use and adapt if conditions change,” he said.

He added that HF can now support data rates up to 240 kilobytes per second on a 48-kilohertz channel, particularly useful for more robust communications in hostile environments.

“WBHF has already [been] used in military trials. It’s a technology which is most definitely here and now,” Denisowski said.

[…]The report explained how the U.S. Army and European NATO partners explored such scenarios during a series of joint exercises in 2019 and 2020. “A new need arrives for alternative communication skills, justified through the increasing vulnerability from SATCOM jamming as well as the potential failure of SATCOM as a result of attacks on spacecraft or through the use of anti-satellite surface-to-air missiles,” the report’s author, Jan Pätzold, told C4ISRNET. “The development of alternative skills is important to reduce dependence on SATCOM.”

According to Pätzold, so-called Skywave HF, which bounces signals off the ionosphere, enables beyond line-of-sight communications across “thousands of kilometers” without requirements. HF communications is also ideally suited to supporting local network coverage. “This offers advantages over SATCOM in urban areas, but also in mountainous areas or far north latitudes where no line of sight to existing satellites is possible,” Pätzold said

Click here to read the full story at C4ISR.net.


My comment: What’s old is new again

As I’ve said in previous posts:

The shortwaves–which is to say, the high-frequency portion of the radio spectrum–will never disappear, even though international broadcasters may eventually fade into history. I often think of the shortwave spectrum as a global resource that will always be here, even if we humans are not. But on a brighter note, I expect the shortwave spectrum will be used for centuries to come, as we implement various technologies that find ways to make use of the medium.

HF communications require so little infrastructure to be effective. It’s a global communications medium that carries messages and data at the speed of light with no regard for national borders. Sure, there are reliability issues with HF propagation, but even amateur radio enthusiasts employ weak-signal digital modes that almost seem to defy propagation. I’m certain with the backing of the military, even more robust digital modes will be used (above and beyond ALE).

Even the business world sees opportunity. Case in point: we’ve seen stock traders set up point-to-point HF communications to edge out their competitors who rely on fiber optics.

HF systems are more durable and easier to harden to endure times of intense space weather events that affect our sat networks as well.

But then again, I’m preaching to the choir.

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Last week, Earth dodged a powerful X-Class solar flare

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Michael Guerin, who shares this article at CNN by Dr. Don Lincoln, a senior physicist at Fermilab and researcher at the Large Hadron Collider:

Earth dodges a cosmic bullet — for now

Solar flares and related phenomena could cause tremendous damage to the Earth’s electric grids, writes Don Lincoln Read the full story

(CNN) Mother Nature has had a hectic past couple of weeks of hurricanes, an earthquake, wildfires and flooding. But while our attention has been turned to these humanitarian crises, Earth ducked a cosmic bullet the likes of which could have crippled human technological civilization.

Over the last week or so, the sun has experienced a series of solar flares, including the most energetic one in a decade. A solar flare occurs when magnetic energy in the vicinity of a sunspot is released, resulting in a bright spot on the sun that takes place over a time scale of perhaps 10 minutes — or even less.

[…]While solar flares can interfere with satellites, an even more dangerous phenomenon is called a coronal mass ejection (or CME). CMEs often accompany a flare and occur when some of the sun’s highly ionized material is ejected into space. Because a CME consists of matter and not the electromagnetic radiation of a flare, it can take a day or even more to travel from the sun to the Earth. Indeed, last week’s flares were accompanied by a CME, but it didn’t hit the Earth with its full fury.

If a CME happens to be aimed directly at Earth, the ionized particles can slam into the magnetic field that surrounds the Earth and distort its shape, a process called a geomagnetic storm. That’s when things can get dangerous. Moving magnetic fields can induce electrical currents on the Earth’s surface and damage equipment.

In 1989, a CME hit the Earth and knocked out power in Quebec and the northeast United States for nine hours. And in 1859, an enormous CME hit the Earth. Called the Carrington Event, after Richard Carrington, who observed and recorded it, this geomagnetic storm caused telegraph pylons and railroad rails to spark, shocked telegraph operators and was responsible for auroras visible at least as far south as Havana, Cuba, with some claims of auroras being observed near the Earth’s equator.

[…]A report by Lloyd’s of London in 2013 estimated that the damage to the US grid from a repeat of the Carrington Event would be in the range of $0.6-$2.3 trillion dollars and would require four to 10 years to repair.

“The total U.S. population at risk of extended power outage from a Carrington-level storm is between 20-40 million, with durations of 16 days to 1-2 years,” the Lloyd’s report said.[…]

Read this full article at CNN…

Many thanks as well to Mike Hansgen (K8RAT) who also shares the latest space weather news from Tamitha Skov, reiterating how fortunate we were to miss this last barrage from our local star:

Click here to watch on YouTube.

EMP article incoming…

One additional note: I’m currently in the process of writing a lengthy article about how to protect your gear from an EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse) emanating from an event like this. In the past two weeks, I’ve had an uptick in inquiries about this, so I thought it best to consult an expert and produce a post. I’ll hopefully have this article published within a week or so. I’ll post it with the tag: EMP.

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The role of radio intelligence before the Pearl Harbor attack

Photograph taken from a Japanese plane during the torpedo attack on ships moored on both sides of Ford Island shortly after the beginning of the Pearl Harbor attack. (Source: WikiMedia Commons, Public Domain)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Michael Guerin, who writes:

Interesting article from the US Naval Institute on the role of radio intelligence before and during the December 7 attack.

“The key to the success of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor-specifically, what enabled the Pearl Harbor Striking Force to reach its launch point undetected (and totally unsuspected) by the Americans-was Tokyo’s radio denial-and-deception actions. Significantly, these activities simply were not just a “bag of tricks” meant to bemuse U.S. naval radio intelligence. Rather, they constituted a function of the change in Japanese strategy and were meant to convince the Americans that there had been no change from defensive to offensive intentions.”

See “How the Japanese Did It”

http://m.usni.org/magazines/navalhistory/2009-12/how-japanese-did-it

Fascinating read! Thank you for sharing this bit of WWII history, Michael.

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QSL: International Radio for Disaster Relief (IRDR)

SWLing Post reader, Michael Guerin, writes:

“Just received [this QSL card] from HFCC in Czech Republic. Heard Radio Australia’s test program with fair copy. Sent report by mail the next day to both HFCC and RA.”

IRDR-QSL-Michael-Front

IRDR-QSL-Michael-Back

Many thanks for sharing this card, Michael! I’m impressed the HFCC issued them so quickly.

Did you miss the IRDR test broadcast?  Stay tuned–I’m hopeful they’ll repeat this test in the future.

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