Saturday, 23 February 2013

Skywaves Chat now on Skype

From today, Skywaves members are able to access the new Skywaves Chat room on Skype. The new room will provide instantaneous DX alerts to all who use it, and that doesn't just include members of the Skywaves Yahoo forums. It's open to non-members worldwide too. There is much to be gained by all users to alert others of impending DX conditions.

Members of the Skywaves Yahoo Groups recently suggested that there should be a chat room, as used to exist several years ago.

There was also a suggestion to open a Skywaves page on Facebook, primarily with a view to providing instant messaging, but also to promote Skywaves and indeed the hobby in general to the DX community. A Facebook group would also provide a much simpler way to share audio and video than that which exists on the current Yahoo Groups. Facebook is not for everybody though. Some people refuse to get involved with Facebook. Personally, I am not a fan myself, in fact I detest the thing, but it does give us a great way to share information and keep in touch with friends. People can to choose who they want to communicate with and who they want to block, should that become necessary. As many people know though, Facebook has a habit of changing how it looks and even altering your personal settings, on quite a regular basis too, so there is a need to keep on top of that. It's the excellent promotional base which Facebook offers, so there is also a lot to be gained from using it. It's completely free to use too.

Skype is another excellent platform which offers instant messaging. Users can share instant DX alerts in several ways too! Either in individual groups or 'globally' to all room users. You can also stream live audio and video to individuals, several chosen users at the same time, or to the entire room, which makes it an even more versatile system. Skype is free to use though may take a little getting used to for some. It's really very easy to use!

The new Chat room has only been operational for 24 hours and we have already seen people from the USA, Turkey and from across the UK and Europe accessing the group. It is also possible to open smaller rooms for people to exchange information on a more localised basis, should a DX opening exist on a much smaller and more localised level which might be irrelevant to users who are along way from the action, but it's clear to see the benefits when we all converge in one global community to share our experiences and friendship.

Just install the latest version of Skype on your computer, mobile phone, etc. and search for "SkywavesDX".

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

My Fantasy VHF Band 2-FM SDR Receiver

After chatting to DX friends about the potential for a Super-DX Receiver for the VHF FM broadcast band (band 2) we accepted the fact that we're not quite close in getting that ideal DX machine. No, we're not quite there yet, but the technology is already here now. We just need the right software.

A good example of good hardware might be the Perseus FM+ add-on to the excellent Perseus SDR receiver. This piece of genius might have the necessary specification and performance a band 2 DXer needs, but the software, as good as it may be, doesn't quite meet our needs. So what do we need?

Speaking personally, I want a receiver which is able to scan up and down the band by itself, automatically storing instances of RDS PI and PS data. I need to be able to set various parameters such as: Continuous recording; Timer recording; Audio triggers for auto-recording; Date; Time; Frequency; Fully programmable scan/search and the ability to 'tick boxes' to select the specific data you wish to 'capture'. Above all, the RDS decoding MUST be highly sensitive and accurate at low signal levels.

Taking this a step further, there will be an internet connection to an online DX cluster such as FM List, where the captured data is automatically uploaded. This data will be cross-referenced to station lists and matched to automatically create loggings, thus producing an online logbook.

There's nothing like sitting in front of the receiver and tuning live, catching the DX as it happens, but during times when I might be away from the receiver or away from home, I would like to have the option to set the receiver recording the band and DXing for me. Before you say anything ... No, I really don't believe this is cheating!

I want to be able to play back the recording of the IF at my leisure so I can DX in real-time. Yes, I know, technically that's not "real-time", but you know what I mean. Such things are already happening in the world of amateur radio with many data modes. With current technology it is possible to record a maximum IF bandwidth of 4MHz of IF, but the VHF band 2 broadcast range is 20MHz wide. Two possible solutions would be: 1. To have the receiver scanning in blocks of of 4MHz, rapidly, like a kind of switched multiplex; 2. The software should be capable of running several instances of the software, simultaneously, without making my computer fall over. SDR# can already achieve the latter with the Climax DTV300 dongle!

Sadly, the DTV300 has fallen short on performance for some DXers, however. looking at the various SDR-control software packages currently available, one would assume the future looks quite rosy for us band 2 DXers. We still have to remind ourselves that this is a very niche little interest in what is already quite a niche hobby. There would be little financial incentive for a company to produce anything suitable on a small scale. In the meantime, we'll just have to rely on those clever programmers in our hobby who might be able to come up with something which exactly suits our needs! I hope we don't have to wait too long before such a fantasy DX machine will be readily available to us.

There might be a few bits and pieces I've forgotten and so I will add things along the way. For now, this is just a quick summary.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Good signal from China 1521

Here is a recording of China Radio International from Urumqi on 1521, made at 18:00 today. Quite a decent signal! Unfortunately I chopped off the ID just after the hour as I was using Mestor to record and and you can't hear what you are recording with Mestor.

Equipment used: Perseus SDR with small garden flag antenna (3m x 7m x 3m), beaming approximately 345 degrees (north-north-west).

Sounds like this afternoon would have been a good one to be out with the beverage!