Tag Archives: RFI

A little off-line, off-grid camping

You might have noticed a lack of posts this weekend and that would be because I was completely off-grid and off-line, camping with two good friends in Pisgah National Forest.

It was brilliant, actually. I got to hang with friends I’ve known for over 30 years, test my new one person backpack tent (a.k.a. the “Bear Burrito”–the one on the right above), and of course I played a bit of radio.

Black bears are a fact of life here in the mountains of western North Carolina and we spotted three hanging out within 25 meters of our campsite.

By the way: the trick when camping with bears? Don’t put food in your tent, else that whole “bear burrito” thing becomes a reality.

I had a fabulous time putting my Elecraft KX1 “Ruby” on the air. I made perhaps 15 contacts in CW (Morse Code) with 3 watts of power.

One of the cool things about the KX1 is you can change the mode to SSB and actually tune through several shortwave broadcast bands (if you have the three or four band version of the KX1). Of course, I had to do a little SWLing.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’m also a proper coffee snob and I firmly believe coffee tastes better when brewed outdoors. Yesterday morning, I brewed a pot of Rock Creek French Roast.

Off-grid, off-line camping recharges my internal batteries and it’s for this reason, I’ll be doing a lot more this year with my family.

It’s is also a brilliant way to experience an environment without any forms of radio interference (QRM or RFI). If you want to do some proper DXing, take your radio on some primitive camping experiences. It’ll remind you what life was like before switching power supplies ruled the world!

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Radio Waves: BBC License Fee Frozen, Battling RFI, Warning to RTL-SDR Users in Ukraine, and WRD Special Broadcast

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!


BBC’s funding system under fire (Marketplace)

In the United Kingdom, you need a license to drive a car, fly a plane, practice medicine and watch TV.

The “TV license” is what Brits call their system for funding their world-famous broadcaster, the BBC. Currently, it costs the equivalent of $216 a year and is compulsory. Anyone in the U.K. caught watching or recording programs broadcast on any television channel or livestreamed on an online platform without a license is likely to be prosecuted.

The BBC — the Beeb, as it’s known — derives around $5 billion a year from this source. That’s 75% of the total revenue it needs to run a vast media empire, comprising 10 national TV channels and 10 national and 40 local radio stations as well as its World Service broadcasts and a global news website.

Full disclosure: The Beeb is a content partner for Marketplace.

But the license fee is under attack. The government just announced that it’s freezing the fee at the current level for two years and not increasing it in line with inflation — a decision that could cost the corporation nearly $400 million. The government has also hinted that it would like to eventually scrap the license fee altogether. [Continue reading at Marketplace…]

RF Interference (Nuts and Volts)

It’s everywhere! It’s everywhere! Fortunately, you can take a bite out of RFI.

RF interference — is it interference to you? Is it interference by you? Possibly both! What does this interference consist of? And how can you tell what type is present? A topic that starts off with so many questions is bound to cover a lot of ground, so let’s get started. Continue reading

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The conclusion to “Off the Shortwaves: Unhappy & Despondent”


From SWLing Post contributor, Troy Riedel:

I’d like to thank the SWLing Post Nation for their input re: my EMI/RFI issue (see: this previous post). It’s been a long 4-months and I’d like to share the results and outcome of my situation.

I will pick up where the last post ended and if anyone needs a review of the situation you can re-read the link to the original post in the previous paragraph.

At my expense, I hired an independent Master Electrician outside of the pool contractor. He and I reviewed everyone’s suggestions (I hope I’ve remembered to capture them all below but if not, rest assured it was fully explored and investigated). I have copied reader comments exactly as they left them back in October: Continue reading

Radio Waves: Eiffel Tower Radio 100 Years Ago, Raspberry Pi Radio Time Machine, Barrie ARC Thrives in Pandemic, and The Voice of Ganymede via JUNO

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 Dan Srebnick, the Southgate ARC and Geneva Witherspoon for the following tips:


Signal of strength: Eiffel Tower celebrates a centenary of radio broadcast (RFI)

A hundred years ago this week, France’s most famous landmark, the Eiffel Tower, was first used as an antenna for radio programmes. Looming high above the city’s uniform skyline, the tower was an obvious choice to pioneer public radio in France, proving the country’s prowess in broadcast technology.

On 22 December 1921, just three years after the end of WWI, “Radio Tour Eiffel” broadcast its first ever show, a live performance featuring legendary singers.

The trial was the beginning of a long series of broadcasts that continues today, with 45 television stations and 32 FM stations – including RFI – broadcasting from the Eiffel Tower.

According to the Lille-based publication Le Réveil du Nord of 24 December 2021, “a concert by wireless telephony took place at the Lille Theatre”.

Famous artists of that era, the legendary Sacha Guitry, the soprano Jeanne Hatto, the tenor Maurice Dutreix and others sang in a microphone in a room in the Eiffel Tower, from where it was broadcast to a “wireless phone set” in the hall of the Lille theatre.

“A large audience attended this session,” according to the dispatch. [Continue reading…]

Nostalgic Raspberry Pi Radio Tunes to Music From Past Decades (Tom’s Hardware)

The Raspberry Pi makes an excellent gift on its own, but getting one in a custom Time Machine Radio is remarkably fulfilling. This holiday, a maker known as Byte-rider created a custom Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W-powered radio for his father. Continue reading

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Off the Shortwaves: Unhappy & Despondent

Guest Post by Troy Riedel

Every radio enthusiast or ham operator knows this definition – something we all dread.  Electromagnetic interference – also known as radio-frequency interference when in the radio frequency spectrum – is a disturbance generated by an external source that affects an electrical circuit by electromagnetic induction, electrostatic coupling, or conduction (Source: Wikipedia).

I’ve been “off the shortwaves” (in fact, off ALL bands!) for a few weeks (a reminder to those who do not remember – I’m an SWL’er, I’m not a ham operator so I’m a listener only).  Here’s my story:

My house was built in 2004 thus the home’s electrical is “modern era”.  I’ve never, ever had a significant problem with RFI … except when the dishwasher is running (if it’s running, I have ZERO reception).

I didn’t want this (I acquiesced only in an attempt to become grandfather of the year), but an in-ground (vinyl liner) pool has been installed in my backyard (yeah, I’ve probably lost everyone’s sympathy with this statement).  If it’s any consolation, construction started long before the summer and won’t be fully completed until [hopefully] next Spring (and what’s left of my yard is a disaster zone and something that will cost a fortune to mitigate – maybe I’ve gained back just a little bit of sympathy?).

Pools are required to be bonded (the process by which the electrical and metallic components of the pool are joined together with a wire to form a non-resistive path between the components. The goal of bonding is to connect, contain and prevent the transmission of any harmful electrical voltage to pool equipment, people and pets).

I’m not an electrician, but essentially the pool is grounded by a copper wire … and a copper wire “ring” encircles the pool (now covered by the concrete pool deck).  The copper wire runs underground and resurfaces where the pump & filter are installed.  That copper bonding/grounding connects to the remote master switch at the pump & filter (pictured here – note where the copper line connects to and grounds the unit):

Electrical power line(s) run underground from the pump/filter area until resurfacing just outside the garage wall where they enter my home’s main breaker box inside the garage.

There is an unfinished electrical component.  A conduit was installed to add a pool light when the project is completed next Spring (see below), but at this point there’s nothing connected thus a “pool light” is not yet present.

Throughout the dig, installation of the steel walls, pouring the concrete bottom & steps, liner installation, the bonding, and covering the bonding “ring” with the concrete pool deck – all of this had zero negative effects on my SWLing.

Once the pool electrician connected power (connected the pump/filter) to the house, ALL radio bands were knocked out due to very extreme RFI.  All bands – the complete spectrum (choose your letters … AM/MW, FM, SW, VHF, UHF – all bands).

I’ve easily spent double-digit hours trying to isolate the EMI.  This is what I’ve done & discovered:

(1) Disconnected the pool grounding: no effect.

(2) [Only] Powered-off the two main breakers for the pool pump & filter: no effect (the pool equipment was tested, then the pool was winterized so nothing has been running).

(3) We used a handheld EMI detector over every inch of the interior and exterior of the house.  Yes, there are sources but nothing to the level that should cause a radio blackout.

(4) Turned off the main breaker, all power to the house: this is the only thing that eliminated the EMI/RFI.

(5) Multiple times, I’ve painstakingly turned-on one breaker at a time (isolating each circuit, on/off then proceeding to the next breaker).  I’ve found that for whatever reason, extreme RFI returns (and is present) on these three circuits: (upstairs) Master Bedroom (my Listening Post), the other upstairs bedrooms (combined on another circuit), and the (downstairs) Family Room circuit.  Note: Even if everything is unplugged on one of these circuits, just turning on the breaker introduces the extreme RFI (thus it must be coming from the breaker & not introduced from a device plugged-in).  Ferrite chokes have been installed on nearly everything plugged-in to outlets on the three “trouble” circuits.  I’m not saying the house was an RFI-free zone before the pool – but these three circuits only produced light-to-manageable RFI prior to the pool equipment being connected to the house’s main breaker box.  After 6000+ days of living in this house with no significant RFI issues, I’ve been in a complete radio blackout with very extreme RFI since the moment the live electrical line was connected between my pool pump/filter and my main breaker box.

And before you ask: No, there have not been any new electronics, no new devices, no new appliances, no LED lights, and all big screen TVs and other notorious RFI unfriendly devices are unplugged – nothing new has been plugged-in or added to the household except for the pool equipment.  There have been no new utilities in my area that could have caused a coincidental problem (no DSL, no fiber optic – nothing).  I cannot see how this situ could be caused by a neighbor, because the problem ceases when my power is off.  And “no”, I can’t move my Listening Post because even though the majority of the RFI is introduced over those three circuits, the entire house is impacted and it’s a complete radio blackout.

To reiterate, I had no radio-related problems during the entire construction (I listened to my radios as I pleased) and the problem did not start until the pool’s electrical line was connected to the main breaker.

Could the new wiring – at/inside the breaker box – be improperly shielded?  Could something be touching(?) that shouldn’t be?  Could something be loose inside the breaker box?  The three circuit breakers that are introducing the extreme RFI are in close proximity to each other in the breaker box and in close proximity to the two new pool breakers – could there be contamination from one to another?

I don’t make it a habit to play with electricity.  The pool company could frankly care less about my radio woes (it’s my problem, not theirs).  My power company supposedly checked their utility line coming into my house (I didn’t see them here, but they said the problem is not on their end).   And local electricians all essentially say, “[from their prospective] EMI sources are hard – if not impossible – to find”.

I have an electrician lined-up but we both thought it might be best to “put this out there” because someone may have an idea that he hasn’t thought of. Thus far, I’ve done almost everything myself that they stated they would do (minus opening-up the breaker box).  I’m hoping to solicit ideas from the SWLing Post Nation before I put the electrician on the clock.  And on the clock = $$$.

Thanks in advance for your input.  If I can’t get this mitigated, a liquidation event may be in my future.

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Radio Waves: Broadcast v Ham Radio, Marjorie Stetson’s Secret Wartime Work, Czech Republic MW Switch-Off, and PV RFI

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!


Alike, but Not Alike: Broadcast vs. Ham Radio (Radio World)

Experience in amateur radio can be a boon to the radio engineer

Starting in the 1920s and through the ’60s, almost every broadcast engineer was a licensed amateur radio operator. That has changed a bit, but the importance of being a ham has not.

Both environments involve getting an RF signal from Point A to Point B. But it is interesting to note that radio broadcast and amateur radio are similar and yet so different.

For those who don’t know much about ham radio, I’ll tell you that communicating locally or internationally, via licensed amateur radio, can be a fascinating and challenging hobby. There are about 700,000 hams in the U.S. and an equal number worldwide.

Physics

Broadcast and amateur radio operate under the same laws of science. Transmitters, transmission lines, antennas and receivers make up an RF path to convey a message.

Broadcast engineers know that signal propagation on AM and FM bands is dramatically different. It is because our FM band is roughly 100 times the frequency and 1/100th the RF wavelength of that on the AM band. Engineers also know that 950 MHz STL signals are line-of-sight and roughly a 10-times jump in frequency from FM broadcast frequencies. Each band has its own challenges in getting a useable signal through. [Continue reading…]

A Canadian opens up about her secret wartime work — eavesdropping on Japan (CBC)

Retired sergeant remembers what it was like on the ‘front line of the radio war’

At age 97, Marjorie Stetson has never told anyone her secret code number — until now.

That’s the identity code — 225 — that she typed on every page of her highly classified work for the Canadian Armed Forces during the Second World War.

The retired sergeant’s wartime work was so covert, she said, she had to sign 15 separate copies of Canada’s Official Secrets Act.

“Nobody knew where I worked,” Stetson told CBC News from her home in Massachusetts ahead of Remembrance Day. “Nobody knew what we did. Even my parents never knew what I did in the service.”

Her husband, an American sailor she met at a celebration marking the end of the war, passed away a decade ago. She never told him what she really did during the war.

Today, Stetson herself is only now learning about the true scope of her role and the significance of all those sheets of white paper she filled with encrypted messages from Japan. [Continue reading…]

Czech Republic: MW Switch-Off by 2021 (Radio Reporter)

Czech public radio ‘?eský Rozhlas‘ is stepping up its information campaign for listeners receiving mediumwave programmes, ahead of the planned switch-off of transmitters by the end of 2021. Since 1 November, more announcements have been broadcast to warn users and a call centre has been set up to explain the possible listening alternatives (from FM to DAB). In the run-up to Christmas, public radio will launch an intensive advertising campaign in the print media and online magazines on 22 November to promote the purchase of digital DAB receivers to replace analogue radio. [Continue reading…]

The impact of photovoltaics (Southgate ARC)

Seamus Ei8EP reports on the IARU Region 1 website that the 358 page Final Report on the Study on the evaluation of the Electromagnetic Compatibility Directive has now been published.

It is publicly available, free of charge, from the Publications Office of the European Union. The Political Relations Committee of the IARU Region 1 responded recently to a European Commission Roadmap on the environmental impact of photovoltaics.

The radio spectrum is an important finite natural resource which must be protected. While PV technology of itself is to be welcomed, the IARU submission pointed out the inherent problems of non-compliant installations, particularly the installation or retro-fitting of optimisers which can produce significant spectrum pollution for very limited efficiency increase.


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Radio Waves: Extreme 2001 Geo Storm, Media Ownership Rules Loosened, Germany Bans RFI-Spewing Device, Blue Jays Radio, and L-Band Patch Antenna Review

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, Dave Zantow, NT, Wilbur Forcier, and Rob for the following tips:


20 Years Ago, An Extreme Geomagnetic Storm (Spaceweather.com)

Unlike today’s blank sun, the solar disk 20 years ago was peppered with sunspots, including a monster named “AR9393.” The biggest sunspot of Solar Cycle 23, AR9393 was a truly impressive sight, visible to the naked eye at sunset and crackling with X-class solar flares.

On March 29, 2001, AR9393 hurled a pair of CMEs directly toward Earth. The first one struck during the early hours of March 31, 2001. The leading edge of the shock front was dense (~150 protons/cc) and strongly magnetized — traits that give rise to powerful geomagnetic disturbances. Within hours, an extreme geomagnetic storm was underway, registering the maximum value of G5 on NOAA storm scales.

“I was fortunate to witness and photograph the event when I was just a teenager,” recalls Lukasz Gornisiewicz, who watched the show from Medicine Hat, Alberta:

In the hours that followed, Northern Lights spread as far south as Mexico. In 20 year old notes, Dr. Tony Phillips of Spaceweather.com describes “red and green auroras dancing for hours” over the Sierra Nevada mountains of California at latitude +37 degrees. Similar displays were seen in Houston, Texas; Denver Colorado; and San Diego, California.

“Here in Payson, Arizona, red curtains and green streamers were pulsating all across the sky,” wrote Dawn Schur when she submitted this picture to Spaceweather.com 20 years ago:

“We have seen some auroras here before, but this display was really special,” she wrote.

A second CME struck at ~2200 UT on March 31th. Instead of firing up the storm, however, the impact quenched it. When the CME passed Earth the interplanetary magnetic field surrounding our planet suddenly turned north — an unfavorable direction for geomagnetic activity.

Indeed, the quenching action of the second CME may have saved power grids and other technological systems from damage. The storm’s intensity (-Dst=367 nT) stopped just short of the famous March 14, 1989, event that caused the Quebec Blackout (-Dst=565 nT) and it was only a fraction of the powerful Carrington Event of 1859 (-Dst=~900 nT).

The whole episode lasted barely 24 hours, brief but intense. Visit Spaceweather.com archives for March 30, 31st and April 1, 2001, to re-live the event. Our photo gallery from 20 years ago is a must-see; almost all the pictures were taken on film! [Read more at Spaceweather.com…]

U.S. Supreme Court permits FCC to loosen media ownership rules (Reuters.com)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday allowed the Federal Communication Commission to loosen local media ownership restrictions, handing a victory to broadcasters in a ruling that could facilitate industry consolidation as consumers increasingly move online.

In a 9-0 ruling authored by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the justices overturned a lower court decision that had blocked the FCC’s repeal of some media ownership regulations in 2017 for failing to consider the effects on ownership by racial minorities and women. Critics of the industry have said further consolidation could limit media choices for consumers.

The justices acted in appeals by the FCC, companies including News Corp, Fox Corp and Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc and the National Association of Broadcasters.

The associations for other broadcast networks’ local affiliates, including ABC, NBC and CBS, backed the appeals, arguing that consolidation would help ensure the economic survival of local television amid heavy competition from internet companies that provide video content. Broadcast television stations have said they are increasingly losing advertising dollars to digital platforms.[]

Germany bans ‘water vitalizer’ over radio interference (AP News)

BERLIN (AP) — German authorities on Friday banned the sale and use of a New Age ‘water vitalizer’ device amid concerns that it is interfering with amateur radio signals.

The Federal Network Agency said it had received numerous reports that the device, sold by Swiss company Wassermatrix AG as a way to “activate” the body’s self-healing powers, was transmitting on the frequencies allocated for ham radio users.

The agency said owners of the 8,000-euro ($9,540) device, which has been sold more than 2,400 times in Germany, are allowed to keep but not use it.

Wassermatrix AG didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.[]

Rush’s Geddy Lee is unhappy about lack of Blue Jays radio for 2021 (Yahoo Sports Canada)

Canadian rock star Geddy Lee is less than thrilled with Sportsnet’s decision to cut their dedicated radio broadcast of the Toronto Blue Jays for the 2021 season.

Sportsnet won’t directly broadcast a separate radio feed and will instead simulcast their television broadcast over the airwaves for the 2021 season, becoming the first MLB team to do so. The decision was made to minimize travel and closely adhere to team, league, and government protocols related to the pandemic, Sportsnet said in a press release.

Lee, the lead singer for Rush, spoke about the importance of preserving a radio feed during an interview earlier in March.

Lee has been avid Blue Jays fan for years, throwing out the first pitch during the 2013 Blue Jays opener, and was a regular attendee at home games for decades.

It would be easy enough to spin this into “old man yells at cloud” in defence of a slightly outdated medium, but the sports media business is tough enough as it is, and the radio broadcast does indeed have charms that television simply can’t replicate, which is especially important for the visually impaired.[]

L-Band Patch Antenna review (Frugal Radio via YouTube)


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