Monday, April 30, 2007

V2a On 17478 @ 1600

Recent improvements in propagation have made V2a's morning (our time) skeds audible here in The Land That Shortwave Forgot. No PSK mode is being used today as of 1630. We seem to be in a pattern where voice is used early in the week, PSK later.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

USCG Seeking Input on HF Services

Here we go again. The frequently threatened HF services from the US Coast Guard are once again up for review. Users are requested to let the CG know how they use the service, and presumably if there is insufficient interest the services will be discontinued.

Reason given is that the equipment has reached the end of its service life, and new stuff costs money.

The following notice was recently published in that US Government catch all called the Federal Register:

Notice [USCG– 2007– 27656] in Federal Register / Vol. 72, No. 80 / Thursday, April 26, 2007

"High Frequency (HF) Radio Broadcasts of Marine Weather Forecasts and Warnings" (Summary below) for complete text, see: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/marine/waisgate.pdf

This is a necessary step in the Coast Guard's justification of
recapitalizing their HF equipment for continued operations.

Details of USCG weather broadcasts via HF radiofacsimile, voice and SITOR may be found at: http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/marine/home.htm#dissemination

As a service to mariners, please inform potentially affected users of this Notice. It is very important that mariners reply via the Docket Management system or postal mail as called for in the Notice, or their input will not be taken into account.

Federal Register: April 26, 2007 (Volume 72, Number 80)] [Notices] [Page 20863-20865] From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov] [DOCID:fr26ap07-72]


And here's the accompanying letter from the Coast Guard:

DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY

Coast Guard

[USCG-2007-27656]


High Frequency (HF) Radio Broadcasts of Marine Weather Forecasts and Warnings

AGENCY: Coast Guard, DHS.

ACTION: Notice; request for public comments.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

SUMMARY: The Coast Guard is soliciting public comment on the need to continue providing high frequency (HF) radio broadcasts of weather forecasts and warnings. Public comment is necessary in order to assess the demand for the HF radio broadcasts of weather forecasts in each of three forms: (1) Radiofacsimile; (2) voice; and, (3) Simplex Teletype Over Radio (SITOR), also known as Narrow Band Direct Printing (NBDP). The infrastructure necessary to provide these services has exceeded its life expectancy; the equipment is no longer manufactured, repairs are difficult to accomplish, and spare parts generally are not available. Because of the very significant costs involved to continue these specific HF radio services, the Coast Guard requires information on the extent to which these services are used by the public and what alternative services are being used or are available to obtain weather forecasts and warnings.

DATES: Comments and related material must reach the Docket Management Facility on or before August 24, 2007.
for complete text see a copy of the Notice at:
http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/marine/waisgate.pdf



As we have seen before, the fate of USCG HF broadcasts is now in the hands of the users. The fax/weather/MSI you save will be your own.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Solar Flux Is Up

After a dismal couple of weeks, solar flux has jumped to 81, with an immediate effect on HF propagation. At 0345 UTC, Hawaii is still S9 on 20 meters.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

SK01 up at 1701 on 17436

Signal is weak here in The Noise Capital of the World, but it's definitely in there.
Mode sounds like PSK220F again.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

SK01 up at 1721 in PSK220F

After being absent for a few days, SK01 is in progress right now with cut numbers (letters) and regular figures (numbers) on 17436.0 in PSK220F.

Signal is fading, but strong on peaks, and Multipsk decodes it just fine. Look for a buzzy noise centered around 1000 Hz. Speed is 220 baud, much faster than PSK31.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Northwood UK Fax Via DX-Tuners

DX-Tuners is a global network of receivers tunable by the Internet. A couple of these are free, then you get a lot more by subscribing at different levels. A few of these are "DX" receivers, with good antennas and audio of sufficient quality to achieve good decode of many digital modes. HF weather FAX, for example, is a snap. [I know, FAX is analog, but you get the point.]

Here's an especially good surface weather chart from the UK Royal Navy, received on 8038 kHz USB dial reading on a large wire antenna in Alma, Sweden, then sent over the net to my computer here in The Land That Shortwave Forgot:

Friday, April 13, 2007

New Drippy Pirate Beacon

A pirate beacon on 6626.0 kHz (dial freq in USB mode) has been reported. It produces a low chirping noise approximately 3 times per second. It is said to sound like a quickly dripping faucet.

The beacon is audible here right now, way down in the noise that has been S5 ever since yesterday's wind storm. Propagation points to the usual SW US location, perhaps the California or Arizona desert.

UPDATE 15 Apr: All bets are off on this signal. It's being heard in places where propagation would simply not happen from the SW US at that time of day on 6 Mhz. One person suggested it's a Link-11 that is so weak all you hear is the pong, pong, pong tone of the bursts. However, most Link-11 has different burst lengths, and this one's regular.

Gander Takes Over Canadian NAT-D Control

NAT-D is a North Atlantic Major World Air Route Area (MWARA) net for aircraft flying over the Arctic regions. Its frequencies are 2971, 4675, 8891, 11279, and 13291 kHz USB. A good map appears at Arcticpeak.com.

Effective March 15, NAV Canada, the agency responsible for Canadian communication on this net, has dropped HF services from Cambridge Bay and Iqaluit. It was decided that operation could be more efficient combining everything in a master station at Gander. Aircraft are being told that Cambridge Bay and Iqaluit must now be called on VHF.

Here's the text:

ICAO High Frequencies and Remote Communications Outlet
North Bay, Ontario
Change of Ground Station

NAV CANADA, the country’s provider of air navigation services, recently reviewed the provision of ICAO High Frequencies (HF) and Remote Communications Outlets (RCO) provided by the North Bay Flight Information Centre (FIC). The review concluded that the ICAO 4 HF frequencies (2971, 4675, 8891, 11279) at Cambridge Bay and Iqaluit and the 1 RCO frequency (126.9 MHz) at Iqaluit could be provided more efficiently from the Gander International Flight Service Station (IFSS).

Accordingly, Gander Radio will serve as the Ground Station and provide the ICAO 4 HF frequency monitoring at Cambridge Bay and 1 RCO (126.9 MHz) and 4 HF coverage at Iqaluit.

This change will take effect March 15th, 2007 at 09:01 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). Amendments will be made to the appropriate aeronautical publications.

For further information, please contact:

Marcel Pinon
Manager, Level of Service and Aeronautical Studies – East
NAV CANADA
77 Metcalfe Street
Ottawa, ON
K1P 5L6

Phone: (613) 563-5630
Fax: (613) 563-5602
pinonm@navcanada.ca

Monday, April 09, 2007

Bad Dream

I keep trying to like Digital Radio Mondiale. A couple of broadcasts are pretty loud into The Land That Shortwave Forgot aka California. They sound really cool. They don't use IBOC, so there's no analog signal at all. It sounds like the old SELSCAN tones they used to use on the COTHEN net, only more so.

Good ute DXers refuse to be told they cannot extract intelligence from every weird noise out there, so of course I went looking to see what I'd need to hear the digital quality audio on my own little short wave radio. I found out that what I'd need is to modify the radio to send a 12 MHz IF directly to the computer. No thanks. I like my NRD-545 the way it is. Thank you.

If it is true that the implementation of DRM that the industry intends to use is completely incompatible, and there will never be a US $29.95 converter board for analog receivers that can be installed with two wires and an AA battery, we have a problem. Every short wave receiver in the world may someday be useless. This bodes ill for the future of the medium, since the installed receiver base in places like Africa is all that keeps it alive. People who use wind-up radios because they cannot afford batteries are not going to afford new radios either. Bye bye shortwave broadcasting.

And then, of course, there is digital SSTV.

I heard someone complaining on the digital SSTV frequency that he can never decode the pictures. No matter how loud the signal is, he misses segments and everything goes blooey. They asked him what program he was using, and laughed when it wasn't EasyPAL Lite, since that's all they ever use.

Since EasyPAL Lite seems to have a new version out every couple of weeks, I downloaded today's beta (literally dated 4/8), and started it up. Crash-o-rama. I guess it's improving, though. It doesn't hang the computer any more. It just tries to write to nonexistent addresses, and goes quietly.

Sometimes, I am told, things improve if you turn off hyperthreading. Unfortunately, I am very much of the old school, and will go to my grave convinced that good programmers do not ask their users to make BIOS changes. I guess that leaves Digtrx and HamDRM as the working programs, and I will have to be content with sending files to myself.

C'est le guerre.

Friday, April 06, 2007

V2a In Voice Today

At 1711 UTC, the Cuban transmission remains standard voice V2a, on 17436.0 kHz AM. The signal is fading badly in California, but I imagine I should be glad to hear it at all. Some kind of weird QRM or ???? keeps cutting in and out.

Listening...

Cuban PSK Tries New Mode (PSK220F)

On April 5, the 1600 and 1700 UTC schedules of the new Cuban numbers using phase-shift keying gave us yet another surprise. The transmissions were in a relatively unknown mode named PSK220F, not the more normal PSK31 used by amateurs. The main difference is that PSK220F is much faster. As a result, the transmission was in both ordinary numbers and the "cut" numbers where letters are substituted.

The frequency used at 1600 UTC was 17478.0 kHz, and at 1700 UTC it was 17436.0 kHz.

A brief transmission in computer generated voice using the normal V2 mode preceded these PSK220F skeds, as if to let receiving stations know that something new was going to happen. Perhaps this other callup was a coded announcement.

Most amateur freeware does not decode PSK220F. One that I know does is the latest version (4.2) of MultiPSK. This is an amazing program for free. Don't let the old-school user interface fool you. It does a creditable job on a huge number of modes, with only a few of its advanced features disabled until it's paid for. MultiPSK is available at a couple of sites. The main site is F6CTE, with a US mirror at N8KBR, and UK here.