Thursday, July 31, 2008

More On PLC Trouble in Portugal

More ominous news from Portugal via UKQRM:

Hi everybody,

I'm Joe, SWL CT0347 and CT4AN, Amateur for several decades and space telecom researcher. Thanks to the owner and moderators for giving me the opportunity to be a member of your Group.

I am very worry about the situation of using main power lines (inside houses or not) with other kind of signals not beeing 50Hz.In my country, Portugal, we have now a new big problem with that kind of signal on wide & broadband TV distribution and Internet services. A few years ago, we had our Power Company trying to establish BPL but, with the strong oposition of SWL, Ham operators and CB's, we finished their business.

Now we have PLC distribution inside the houses, for MEO services (broadband Internet, TV and phone) made by Portuguese Telecom PT, using [law suit avoidance mode -hugh] plc boxes; we are beeing all blocked on HF - all short wave listening, CB band, Amateur HF Bands, etc are getting impossible with the noise produced by those equipments, covering on full data-streem all HF from 2MHz till 35 MHz. It's a junk ... and THE END OF OUR SHORTWAVES.

Even with "gaps" on it's spectrum, located only in some Amateur HF Bands, the QRM is very-very strong, with levels of >80 dB/uV detected in a distance of 200 meters from the focus. The "notch" (when in operation ...) have 40dB of attenuation in the best, that is insuficient to preserve the noise-floor level needed for DX communications on Shortwave Bands (-110dBm minimum). That's a mess ...I would like to hear from you about your PLC experiences in your countries, with your PTT's Authorities, with your Clubs and Associations, and exchange information and possible common solutions and strifes.

GOOD DX'S BUT ... WITHOUT PLC AND OTHER DECREPIT TECHNOLOGY !!
J.F.// CT4AN

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

PLC Interference Spreads to Portugal

Posting from the UKQRM list. If you want HF to be for radio communications, not for some corporation's stupid idea for quick and dirty data networking that can be done several other ways with only a tiny bit more work, you will want to join this list and get involved. The alternative, as I continue to assure you, is that HF will be unusable in most cities and many rural areas within 10 years.

As in the UK, the problem seems to be with plug-in power line networking adapters provided with home Internet video systems to send continuous data streams the "last mile" (really on the order of tens of feet) from the net hub to televisions in other rooms of homes. This seems to be the consumer technology of the moment in Europe, where it competes with direct satellite for the non-government commercial programming market.

No attempt has been made to change the translation into "better" English. It communicates just fine the way it is, as posted to the list:

Hello. PLC strikes in Portugal. Some domestic tv box services is sailing in Portugal and works with PLC technologies causes a qrm in most amateur band and broadcasting receives stations. Costumer buy the service 3play in tv-net-phone and doesn't know the new service causes a qrm from a domestic PLC.The PLC modems i found in most costumers are by [omitted - I hate lawsuits, even when I win them - hugh] .

[] has a notch filters for use in IARU Region 1 but this filters in most cases dont work probaly and a strong interference can heard inside of amateurs band.

The specifications of [] are 2-34Mhz with a pwr about -56dBm and can syncronizate about 300meters distance.

In most cases qrm afects many amateur radio bands from 80m to 10m and in one case to 40mhz with signals about s9+30db in all modes.

Portuguese amateurs radio complaint to ANACOM (Anacom is the same as FCC is for usa) to resolve this problem but we wait to much time,Anacom is silent about this problem and the cicle solar [year?] has come.

.......................SAYS NO TO PLC TECNHOLOGIES..........73.

73 from Hugo Barata CT2HMX

Friday, July 25, 2008

Propagation: NASA Finds Cause for Auroral Substorms

Polar substorms are sudden fluctuations in the aurora caused by bursts of charged particles in periods of solar-terrestrial disturbance. These cause sudden changes in already disturbed radio propagation, as terrestrial magnetic fields and currents redistribute themselves.

NASA's new THEMIS, a five-satellite constellation that takes data on the earth's magnetosphere, has provided evidence that these substorms come from shifts and re-connections of the disturbed magnetosphere, far out from the planet.

Researchers have discovered that an explosion of magnetic energy a third of the way to the moon powers substorms, sudden brightenings and rapid movements of the aurora borealis, called the Northern Lights.

The culprit turns out to be magnetic reconnection, a common process that occurs throughout the universe when stressed magnetic field lines suddenly "snap" to a new shape, like a rubber band that's been stretched too far.


...

These observations confirm for the first time that magnetic reconnection triggers the onset of substorms. The discovery supports the reconnection model of substorms, which asserts a substorm starting to occur follows a particular pattern. This pattern consists of a period of reconnection, followed by rapid auroral brightening and rapid expansion of the aurora toward the poles. This culminates in a redistribution of the electrical currents flowing in space around Earth.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Dolly Now A Hurricane (Advisory #10)

ZCZC MIATCPAT4 ALL
TTAA00 KNHC DDHHMM
BULLETIN
HURRICANE DOLLY ADVISORY NUMBER 10
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL AL042008
400 PM CDT TUE JUL 22 2008

...DOLLY BECOMES A HURRICANE...THE SECOND OF THE 2008 HURRICANE SEASON...

A HURRICANE WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FOR THE COAST OF TEXAS FROM BROWNSVILLE TO CORPUS CHRISTI...AND FOR THE NORTHEAST COAST OF MEXICO FROM RIO SAN FERNANDO NORTHWARD TO THE BORDER BETWEEN MEXICO AND THE UNITED STATES. PREPARATIONS TO PROTECT LIFE AND PROPERTY SHOULD BE RUSHED TO COMPLETION.

A TROPICAL STORM WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM NORTH OF CORPUS CHRISTI TO SAN LUIS PASS.

A TROPICAL STORM WARNING AND A HURRICANE WATCH IS IN EFFECT FROM LA PESCA TO SOUTH OF RIO SAN FERNANDO.

FOR STORM INFORMATION SPECIFIC TO YOUR AREA...INCLUDING POSSIBLE INLAND WATCHES AND WARNINGS...PLEASE MONITOR PRODUCTS ISSUED BY YOUR LOCAL WEATHER OFFICE.

AT 400 PM CDT...2100Z...THE CENTER OF HURRICANE DOLLY WAS LOCATED NEAR LATITUDE 24.6 NORTH...LONGITUDE 95.3 WEST OR ABOUT 165 MILES... 265 KM...EAST-SOUTHEAST OF BROWNSVILLE TEXAS.

DOLLY IS MOVING TOWARD THE NORTHWEST NEAR 10 MPH...17 KM/HR. THIS MOTION SHOULD BRING THE CORE OF DOLLY NEAR NORTHEASTERN MEXICO OR EXTREME SOUTHERN TEXAS ON WEDNESDAY.

MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS HAVE INCREASED TO NEAR 75 MPH...120 KM/HR...WITH HIGHER GUSTS. DOLLY IS A CATEGORY ONE HURRICANE ON THE SAFFIR-SIMPSON SCALE. SOME STRENGTHENING IS FORECAST BEFORE LANDFALL.

HURRICANE FORCE WINDS EXTEND OUTWARD UP TO 15 MILES...30 KM...FROM THE CENTER...AND TROPICAL STORM FORCE WINDS EXTEND OUTWARD UP TO 160 MILES...260 KM. TROPICAL STORM FORCE WINDS SHOULD BEGIN TO REACH THE COASTS OF NORTHEAST MEXICO AND SOUTHERN TEXAS LATER TONIGHT.

MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE REPORTED BY A HURRICANE HUNTER AIRCRAFT WAS 986 MB...29.12 INCHES.

DOLLY IS EXPECTED TO PRODUCE TOTAL RAIN ACCUMULATIONS OF 6 TO 10 INCHES...WITH ISOLATED AMOUNTS OF 15 INCHES...OVER MUCH OF SOUTH TEXAS AND NORTHEASTERN MEXICO OVER THE NEXT FEW DAYS.

COASTAL STORM SURGE FLOODING OF 4 TO 6 FEET ABOVE NORMAL TIDE LEVELS...ALONG WITH LARGE AND DANGEROUS BATTERING WAVES...CAN BE EXPECTED NEAR AND TO THE NORTH OF WHERE THE CENTER MAKES LANDFALL.

A FEW TORNADOES ARE POSSIBLE OVERNIGHT ACROSS THE LOWER AND MIDDLE TEXAS COASTS.

REPEATING THE 400 PM CDT POSITION...24.6 N...95.3 W. MOVEMENT TOWARD...NORTHWEST NEAR 10 MPH. MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS...75 MPH. MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE...986 MB.

AN INTERMEDIATE ADVISORY WILL BE ISSUED BY THE NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER AT 700 PM CDT FOLLOWED BY THE NEXT COMPLETE ADVISORY AT 1000 PM CDT.
$$
FORECASTER AVILA

NNNN

No Dolly Air Taskings Wednesday

000
NOUS42 KNHC 221430
WEATHER RECONNAISSANCE FLIGHTS
CARCAH, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER, MIAMI, FL.
1030 AM EDT TUE 22 JULY 2008
SUBJECT: TROPICAL CYCLONE PLAN OF THE DAY (TCPOD)
VALID 23/1100Z TO 24/1100Z JULY 2008
TCPOD NUMBER.....08-052

I. ATLANTIC REQUIREMENTS
1. NEGATIVE RECONNAISSANCE REQUIREMENTS.
2. SUCCEEDING DAY OUTLOOK.....NEGATIVE.
3. REMARKS: G-IV MISSION (TEAL 49) FOR 23/0000Z
CANCELED BY NHC AT 22/1230Z. ALL OTHER MISSIONS ON
DOLLY WILL OPERATE AS PLANNED ON TCPOD 08-051.

11. PACIFIC REQUIREMENTS
1. NEGATIVE RECONNAISSANCE REQUIREMENTS.
2. 0UTLOOK FOR SUCCEEDING DAY.....NEGATIVE.
JWP

14325 Hurricane Watch Net Tentatively Activating Tuesday

Seen on HWN Web Site:

The Hurricane Watch Net provides communications to and from the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida during times of hurricane emergencies. The net (a gathering of amateur radio operators missioned to support the National Hurricane Center) convenes as an organized network of emergency communicators on the frequency of 14.325 Mhz when a hurricane is forecast to be within 300 statute miles from landfall on any inhabited land mass in the Caribbean Sea, Central America, and U.S. Mainland including the Gulf of Mexico coastal areas.

As of 11am EDT (1500UTC), Monday, July 21, we have announced a tentative net activation plan in response to TS Dolly which is forecast to be a Cat 1 hurricane on the Texas/Mexico border on Wednesday of this week. Our plan is to activate the net at 1400EDT (1800UTC) on Tuesday, July 22, and to remain until the 20-meter band closes on Tuesday night. Our primary purpose during that session will be to disseminate Tropical Advisory information and to identify and list reporting stations in the affected area in the path of the storm who can be available on Wednesday as the storm is forecast to make landfall.

On Wednesday morning, we plan to activate the net at first band opening (estimated 0800CDT) for the purpose of collecting observed and/or measured weather informaiton in the affected area. We will secure net operations only after the storm has been downgraded from Hurricane status..

It is requested that you monitor the status of Dolly through information presented here in our web site.

Please remember to visit this page frequently for the latest information.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Expanded Dolly Aircraft Taskings for 7/22

Hot off the wire:

000
NOUS42 KNHC 211545
WEATHER RECONNAISSANCE FLIGHTS
CARCAH, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER, MIAMI, FL.
11145 AM EDT MON 21 JULY 2008
SUBJECT: TROPICAL CYCLONE PLAN OF THE DAY (TCPOD)
VALID 22/1100Z TO 23/1100Z JULY 2008
TCPOD NUMBER.....08-051
I. ATLANTIC REQUIREMENTS

1. TROPICAL STORM DOLLY
FLIGHT ONE -- TEAL 70 FLIGHT TWO -- NOAA 49
A. 22/18Z,21Z, & 23/00Z A. 23/0000Z
B. AFXXX 1604 DOLLY B. NOAA9 1704A DOLLY
C. 22/1515Z C. 22/1730Z
D. 24.7N 94.5W D. NA
E. 22/1700Z TO 23/0000Z E. NA
F. SFC TO 10,000 FT F. 41000 TO 45,000 FT

FLIGHT THREE -- NOAA 43 FLIGHT FOUR -- TEAL 71
A. 23/0000Z A. 23/03Z, 06Z, 09Z
B. NOAA3 1804A DOLLY B. AFXXX 1904A DOLLY
C. 22/2030Z C. 23/0001Z
D. 25.2N 95.2 W D. 25.3N 95.5W
E. 22/2230Z TO 23/0300Z E. 23/0200Z TO 23/0900Z
F. SFC TO 14,000 FT F. SFC TO 10,000 FT

FLIGHT FIVE -- NOAA 42 FLIGHT SIX -- TEAL 72
A. 23/1200Z A. 23/12Z,15Z,18Z
B. NOAA2 2004A DOLLY B. AFXXX 2104A DOLLY
C. 23/0900Z C. 23/0900Z
D. 25.9N 96.4W D. 25.9N 96.4W
E. 23/1100Z TO 23/1530Z E. 23/1100Z TO 23/1800Z
F. SFC TO 14,000 FT F. SFC TO 10,000 FT

2. SUCCEEDING DAY OUTLOOK; CONTINUE 3-HRLY FIXES.

3. REMARKS: TASKING ON CRISTOBAL CANCELED AT 21/07Z

II. PACIFIC REQUIREMENTS
1. NEGATIVE RECONNAISSANCE REQUIREMENTS
2. OUTLOOK FOR SUCCEEDING DAY.....NEGATIVE.
JWP

Some Hurricane Season Links

National Hurricane Center
This year the NHC has a new interactive map that gives information when you mouse over tropical features. This should prove to be a real time saver in what's shaping up as a busy season.

TCPOD (Tropical Cyclone Plan of the Day)
This is the daily CARCAH (Chief, Aerial Reconnaissance Coordination, All Hurricanes) product ordering air recon for the next day. Good to see who's going to be up. CARCAH is a small (3-person) office at NHC. Here's what it looks like.

Air Recon Data
More than anyone will ever need to know. Note that these are the raw observations and need to be combined with other data by the National Hurricane Center before they are safe for use in decisions regarding life and property.

NHC Advisory Archive
Good for tracking data or to see if an area had been affected on previous days.

53rd Weather Recon Site
Official web site for the Air Force Reserve "Hurricane Hunters" out of Biloxi, MS. Radio callsign is TEAL. It is likely that GULL either never existed or was used just briefly enough to create perpetual Internet folklore. TEAL is the one they use. Most comm is by satellite, but the front end can be heard on aero frequencies and the back end running patches through Air Force MARS on 13927 kHz.

NOAA Aircraft Operations Center
NOAA's WP-3D aircraft also do the "Hurricane Hunter" dropsonde missions inside the storms. They also operate a Gulfstream IV-SP which can drop instruments from high above hurricanes.

Hurricane tracking maps at Accuweather
Last year I got pretty good at tracking hurricanes just in Adobe Acrobat Pro, by layering line graphics over the PDF files of NHC's blank tracking maps from their site. This is kind of an expensive way to do it, though, if you don't already have the software for something else. Well, whatever. Anyway, this site has a lot of maps of smaller areas than the large "official" ones of entire oceans, allowing more detailed plotting as the hurricane nears landfall. You can get really Weather Channel on this stuff, though it's just as easy really to watch it on the Weather Channel.

U of W Tropical Cyclones
A comprehensive web page that pulls together links to a lot of satellite images, charts, and other hurricane products.

Weather Underground Tropical Page
Like the one above, only slicker and somewhat more "commercial" looking. Not saying this is good or bad, just saying it is. It also pulls together a lot of information.

Tropical Storm Dolly Advisory #5

000
WTNT34 KNHC 211454
TCPAT4
BULLETIN
TROPICAL STORM DOLLY ADVISORY NUMBER 5
NWS TPC/NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER MIAMI FL AL042008
1100 AM EDT MON JUL 21 2008

...DOLLY NOW OVER THE WARM WATERS OF THE GULF OF MEXICO...

AT 1100 AM EDT...1500 UTC...A HURRICANE WATCH IS ISSUED FOR THE TEXAS COAST FROM BROWNSVILLE NORTHWARD TO PORT O'CONNOR. A HURRICANE WATCH MEANS THAT HURRICANE CONDITIONS ARE POSSIBLE WITHIN THE WATCH AREA...GENERALLY WITHIN 36 HOURS.

AT 1100 AM EDT...A TROPICAL STORM WATCH IS ISSUED FOR THE TEXAS COAST FROM NORTH OF PORT O'CONNOR TO SAN LUIS PASS. A TROPICAL STORM WATCH MEANS THAT TROPICAL STORM CONDITIONS ARE POSSIBLE WITHIN THE WATCH AREA...GENERALLY WITHIN 36 HOURS.

AT 1100 AM EDT...THE GOVERNMENT OF MEXICO HAS ISSUED A HURRICANE WATCH FROM RIO SAN FERNANDO MEXICO NORTHWARD TO THE U.S. BORDER...AND A TROPICAL STORM WATCH FROM LA PESCA MEXICO NORTHWARD TO RIO SAN FERNANDO.

A TROPICAL STORM WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FOR THE YUCATAN PENINSULA OF MEXICO FROM THE BORDER WITH BELIZE TO CAMPECHE MEXICO.

FOR STORM INFORMATION SPECIFIC TO YOUR AREA...INCLUDING POSSIBLE INLAND WATCHES AND WARNINGS...PLEASE MONITOR PRODUCTS ISSUED BY YOUR LOCAL WEATHER OFFICE.

AT 1100 AM EDT...1500Z...THE CENTER OF TROPICAL STORM DOLLY WAS LOCATED NEAR LATITUDE 22.1 NORTH...LONGITUDE 89.5 WEST OR ABOUT 55 MILES... 90 KM...NORTH-NORTHEAST OF PROGRESO MEXICO.

DOLLY IS MOVING TOWARD THE WEST-NORTHWEST NEAR 18 MPH...30 KM/HR. A GRADUAL DECREASE IN FORWARD SPEED IS FORECAST DURING THE NEXT COUPLE OF DAYS...WITH LITTLE CHANGE IN THE DIRECTION OF MOTION. ON THIS TRACK...DOLLY WILL BE APPROACHING THE COAST OF THE WESTERN GULF OF MEXICO BY WEDNESDAY.

MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS ARE NEAR 50 MPH...85 KM/HR...WITH HIGHER GUSTS. STRENGTHENING IS FORECAST...AND DOLLY COULD BECOME A HURRICANE BY TOMORROW.

TROPICAL STORM FORCE WINDS EXTEND OUTWARD UP TO 175 MILES...280 KM FROM THE CENTER.

THE ESTIMATED MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE BASED ON RECENT AIRCRAFT DATA IS 1005 MB...29.68 INCHES.

DOLLY IS EXPECTED TO PRODUCE TOTAL RAIN ACCUMULATIONS OF TWO TO FOUR INCHES ACROSS THE NORTHERN YUCATAN PENINSULA OF MEXICO WITH ISOLATED MAXIMUM AMOUNTS UP TO SIX INCHES.

REPEATING THE 1100 AM EDT POSITION...22.1 N...89.5 W. MOVEMENT TOWARD...WEST-NORTHWEST NEAR 18 MPH. MAXIMUM SUSTAINED WINDS...50 MPH. MINIMUM CENTRAL PRESSURE...1005 MB.

AN INTERMEDIATE ADVISORY WILL BE ISSUED BY THE NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER AT 200 PM EDT FOLLOWED BY THE NEXT COMPLETE ADVISORY AT 500 PM EDT.

$$
FORECASTER KNABB

Friday, July 18, 2008

Wednesday's Solar Flux Was NOT the Lowest!

An important correction to all the speculation on Wednesday's solar flux comes from the mailing list of Thomas F. Giella (KN4LF). After searching the data (available here), he's come up with a daily uncorrected 10.7 cm solar radio flux of 62.6 on November 3, 1954.

Personal examination of the data confirms this.

Of course, there is some debate regarding the validity of direct comparisons. Several variables exist, which are way too technical to get into here.

Yesterday's discussion of why solar fluxes adjust higher in summer and lower in winter still holds. The Earth's orbit is still at aphelion in July. That makes a November daily flux of 62.6 even more remarkable, since it adjusted downward to a phenomenal 61.6. No wonder the formula for flux vs sunspot numbers should be considered an approximation, since it doesn't allow anything lower than 67!!!

Those seeking any predictive value from Wednesday's low solar flux would be cautioned that less than four years later, in 1958, came the start of the highest solar maximum ever measured, with many uncorrected daily fluxes in the high 300's. While this does not change the fact that Cycle 24 is VERY late, we should remember that the sun will do what it wants to do.

"Digital" Mode of the Week: Slow-Scan TV

Like HF FAX, the rather misnamed "Slow Scan Television" mode is actually analog. However, it appears in most multimode packages intended for digital reception, and it is also one of the more fun things you can do with a radio and a computer.

I can't imagine anyone actually using SSTV to send continuous video frames, though the simpler black and white versions would at least be able to do a couple of these per minute rather than a couple of minutes per frame. The major use for SSTV is for amateurs to swap still photos. In fact, I can't think of any commercial applications for the SSTV mode on the radio. The closest would be the pictures sometimes sent down by ham radios on the International Space Station.

Old B/W SSTV was a kind of scaled-down (320x240), sped-up version of FAX. It, too, used frequency or audio-frequency modulation of a single carrier or tone over 800 Hz, with black at 1500 and white at 2300. For digital, the grey scale is quantized to 256 levels (8 bits), which are plenty.

One of the first innovations was to add color. This was first done by sending the three color channels sequentially in full frame. This didn't show the true colors until all three frames were received, a rather slow process. A later innovation was line-sequential mode. It typically sends each line three times, with one 1200-Hz, 5-ms, sync pulse at the start of the red line.

One of the early color modes was Robot, as originally done in dedicated hardware boxes with a huge "ROBOT" logo on the front. It really looked like something from science fiction, and cost like it too.

Out of the 30-some common SSTV modes still in existence, nearly all transmissions are in Martin 1 (114 sec for a 320x256 frame), Martin 2 (58 sec), Scottie 1 (110 sec), Scottie 2 (71 sec), and Scottie DX (268 sec). Martin 1 and 2 were developed by amateur Martin Emmerson, G3OQD, and they are common in Europe. Scottie was developed by another British ham, Eddie ("Scottie") Murphy, GM3SBC. Its modes are dominant in the United States and Japan.

SSTV can be tuned the same way as FAX, by centering the audio between the high and low lines on the computer display. It's trickier, but you can also center the sync pulse as close to 1200 as you can get it. Most programs have AFC if you're off a few hertz. The little picture will start to scan down its part of the screen. One of the nice things about most analog transfer modes is you can start in the middle, and that's possible here too.

SSTV software can auto-start, and also it can auto-mode, either by measuring the interval between sync pulses or reading a start burst called a VIS signal. The VIS consists of a 1200-Hz marker followed by a mode designator in FSK between 1100 and 1300 Hz. A similar optional code is sent at the end of a picture.

SSTV, like FAX, will be slanted proportional to the difference between your clock frequency and that of the sending station. Various programs cope with slant correction in various ways, usually by buffering the picture and allowing its adjustment in real time during reception. This can be manual or automatic. One program, MMSSTV, allows you to click on a happy face when you get a straight picture from a "trusted" station, locking in this correction.

By far the most active SSTV frequency is 14230 kHz USB, which really lights up on weekends, going also to 14228 when there's QRM. When 20 dies, there's lesser activity on 7171 kHz LSB, +/- a kHz or so. There's also spotty activity on 6 and 2 meter VHF. Oh, and some parts of the world have pirate SSTV networks outside the amateur bands, which exchange pictures that are far more X-rated than anything amateurs can get away with.

You might have heard of the even more misnamed "digital SSTV." It uses file transfer software to exchange data, which in this case just happens to be pictures. It's typically on 14233 kHz USB, using one particular, rather fussy and esoteric program. It looks great, but it requires a very high signal to noise and almost no fading.

One of the programs designed for this purpose is the same DIGTRX that the Cuban SK01 numbers station uses to send its weird little files. Woe betide any ham who transmits with this one on 14233, though, since it is not the OFFICIAL program mentioned above. You'll think you had a visit from the Wouff Hong. Don't hate ham radio, just come back to good old grungy noisy easy and fun analog.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Lowest Solar Flux Ever Measured?

Scientists can't decide if this depressing solar cycle just recorded the most depressingly low solar radio flux ever measured.

July 16's reading was a staggeringly low 64.2 sfu (solar flux units), according to the Canadian observatory which makes this measurement. If this holds up, it will be the lowest since this data series began around 1950.

The "Solar Flux" we talk about is an uncorrected measurement of solar radio noise taken three times daily, on a standard frequency of 2800 MHz (10.7 cm). This is an important frequency in radio astronomy, as it comes from a certain hyperfine quantum transition in hydrogen gas excited by solar magnetic flux that also causes "sunspots." It is a much newer data series than the "sunspot number" which is derived from a number of amateur observers worldwide who literally count spots on the sun's disk.

They haven't had much to count recently, as the sun is still in a very deep minimum at the end of a very long cycle (#23).

The most commonly used formula relating solar flux to sunspot numbers in an average case does not allow values lower than around 67, which is considered a completely quiet sun. However, lower values do occur in the daily uncorrected observations. Before this summer's reading, the record low was a 64.7 observed on July 18, 1996.

What's up here? Well, note that both lows were in mid-July, when the Earth is at aphelion (the farthest point from the sun). This wouldn't be an issue if the Earth's orbit were completely circular, but of course like most orbits it's slightly elliptical. Therefore the greatest downward deviation from the average quiet sun case is in summer - and that's when we read these low uncorrected solar fluxes. It's also why the solar flux is corrected to take the Earth's orbit into account.

Presumably when the corrected flux comes out, it'll be a little less depressing. Not a lot, but just a little.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

HF Jamming Network Adapters Now in US

Belkin has introduced the US version of the power line communications adapter that has been causing catastrophic HF interference in Europe and South America.

They're still claiming the 200 MB speed, which is dreaming for any real-world situations these things will ever be used in. While this borders on false advertising, it will sell a lot of these adapters to geeks.

More here.

The choice before this hobby is stark: get organized NOW or lose HF.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

New WLO Frequencies for Night of Nights IX

WLO

WLO will transmit on 2055.5, 4343.0, 8658.0, 12992.0 and 17022.5kc (no MF for WLO this year)

WLO will listen for calls from ships HF Channel 3 (see KPH listing for frequencies).

Reception reports may be sent to:

WLO Radio
7700 RINLA AVENUE
MOBILE, ALABAMA 36619
USA

Full details here

Friday, July 11, 2008

Latest UK PLC News

The situation is evolving fast with regard to home Ethernet power line adapters which create massive interference to HF in the UK.

"Mike in West Sussex" has finally made a connection with a real live human being someplace other than the Asian call center who works for BT and knows something:

Just had a phone call from one Julie O Sullivan who may be the BT Chairman's PA. She was calling in regard to the letter I sent him just yesterday!

Stated, very unusual never heard of this before, I am going to make some enquiries within BT.

I said that she may like to Google the problem in which case it would become apparent how wide spread it was.

She was insistent that I took her name and number down!

So finally I got a shot into the BT heart.

I'll keep you posted on any more developments.

Meantime, if anyone else here is suffering this QRM please report it today to Ofcom and write a letter to the BT Chairman about it. Do it today so that we all ride the storm its clearly stirring up!


BT is, of course, the big British telecom provider, following privatisation of what used to (I believe) be a government telcom company. Now, it's a huge communication conglomerate with a global reach, like any other big company. Those who deal with them report that it has essentially replaced a government bureaucracy with a corporate bureaucracy.

Ofcom is the British FCC, created when the regulation of telecom was removed from the old department within the Post Office. As with our FCC, its mandate seems to be evolving away from preventing harmful interference to licensed radio services, and towards doing whatever maximizes free competition in the marketplace.

By way of background, the BT Home Hub is the home router/modem for their high speed Internet connection service. The trouble is caused by the wall wart adapters that are sold with BT's video service, which sends on-demand video from the Home Hub to TVs elsewhere in the home. Some of these use the DS2 chipset, which can be notched to exclude ham bands, but is otherwise the most efficient HF jammer ever invented. It is completely out of compliance with European EMC regulations, and it has caused problems throughout the UK.

Apparently, BT will replace these, but the customer has to ask. Then the older ones show up on eBay, since at 99 British pounds a pair when new, they're not exactly throwaways.

It is becoming evident that the problem is caused by short wave listeners who do not want to become involved. The BPL/PLC "industry" is able to argue that its equipment is clean because "nobody complains." Obviously, people with problems have not made them known to the FCC and the companies behind this badly designed and misbegotten technology. I realize that HF utility listeners in particular tend to be very low-profile, given the various secrecy of communications laws. However, the stakes here involve the survival of the entire pastime. It's best to fight now, before it's all over.

Night Of Nights IX is THIS WEEKEND!

Night of Nights IX Information

HISTORIC MORSE CODE RADIO STATIONS RETURN TO THE AIR FOR "NIGHT OF NIGHTS IX"

o Stations KPH and KFS will return to the air!

o MRHS station KSM will be on the air.

o Coast Stations WLO, KLB, NMC, NOJ and NMN may join in.

o Amateur station K6KPH, with commercial operators at the key, will be QRV for signal reports.

o Operations begin at 1701pdt 12 July, 0001gmt 13 July. We usually continue two way operations for about 6 hours but broadcasts on the commercial stations KPH, KFS and KSM may continue after that.


Here is the frequency list:

KPH

KPH will transmit on 426, 500, 4247.0, 6477.5, 8642.0, 12808.5, 17016.8 and 22477.5kc. Transmitters on all HF channels except 22Mc will be classic 1950s vintage RCA sets.

These frequencies have been made available through the generous cooperation of Globe Wireless, the current owner of the KPH and KFS licenses.

KPH operators will listen for calls from ships on ITU Channel 3 in all bands. The Channel 3 frequencies are 4184.0, 6276.0, 8368.0, 12552.0, 16736.0 and 22280.5kc on HF and 500kc on MF.

Reception reports may be sent to:

Ms. DA Stoops
P.O. Box 381
Bolinas CA 94924-0381
USA

Denice is a former KPH operator and was the first female telegrapher hired at the station.

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

KFS

KFS will transmit on 12695.5 and 17026.0kc. The transmitter for 12Mc will be a 1940s vintage Press Wireless PW-15.

KFS will listen for calls from ships on HF Channel 3 (see KPH listing for frequencies).

Reception reports may be sent to:

Ms. DA Stoops
P.O. Box 381
Bolinas CA 94924-0381
USA

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

KSM

KSM will transmit on 426, 500, 6474.0, 8438.3 and 12993.0kc.

(We don't have enough antennas to accommodate the other KSM frequencies when KPH and KFS are on the air)

KSM will listen for calls from ships on 500kc and HF Channel 3 (see KPH listing for frequencies).

Reception reports may be sent to:

Ms. DA Stoops
P.O. Box 381
Bolinas CA 94924-0381
USA

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

WLO

WLO will transmit on 438, 500 (MF not yet confirmed), 4343.0, 8658.0, 12992.0kc

WLO will listen for calls from ships on 500kc (not confirmed) and HF Channel 3 (see KPH listing for frequencies).

Reception reports may be sent to:

WLO Radio
7700 RINLA AVENUE
MOBILE, ALABAMA 36619
USA

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

KLB

KLB will transmit on 488, 500 (A1 & A2), 2063.0 and 8582.5kc

KLB will listen for calls from ships on 500kc and 8368.0kc.

Reception reports may be sent to:

WLO Radio
7700 RINLA AVENUE
MOBILE, ALABAMA 36619
USA

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

NMN

NMN will transmit on 448, 468, 500, 8471.0, 12718.5 and 16976.0kc

NMN will listen for calls from ships on 500kc and HF Channel 3 (see KPH listing for frequencies).

Reception reports may be sent to:

COMMANDING OFFICER
U. S. COAST GUARD COMMUNICATION AREA MASTER
STATION ATLANTIC (CAMSLANT)
4720 DOUGLAS A. MUNRO ROAD
CHESAPEAKE, VIRGINIA, USA 23322
ATTN: CWO VERN TUSS

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

NMC

NMC will transmit on 448, 472, 500, 6383.0, 8574.0 and 17220.5kc

NMC will listen for calls from ships on 500kc and HF Channel 3 (see KPH listing for frequencies).

Reception reports may be sent to:

COMMANDING OFFICER
ATTN: ITC ERIC SIMMONS
COMMUNICATIONS AREA MASTER STATION PACIFIC
17000 SIR FRANCIS DRAKE BLVD
POINT REYES STATION, CALIFORNIA 94956-0560
USA

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

NOJ

NOJ will transmit on 416, 470, 500, 8650.0, 12889.5 and 16909.7kc and 16909.7kc.

NOJ will listen for calls from ships on Channel 3 (see KPH listing for frequencies).

Reception reports may be sent to:

COMMANDING OFFICER
ATTN: OSCM DAN LAWLER
US COAST GUARD COMMUNICATIONS STATION KODIAK
PO BOX 190017
KODIAK, ALASKA 99619
USA

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

K6KPH

Amateur station K6KPH will transmit and listen on 3550, 7050 and 14050kc for KPH, KFS and KSM reception reports.

Professional operators will be at the key and commercial procedures will be used. But please don't hesitate to call, no matter what your code speed or experience level may be.

[In practice, the main surprise for hams is that "DE" means about the same thing as "QRZ?" The op sends DE when he/she wants to hear your callsign again. You don't have to send theirs. Kind of like DX pileup procedure.]


K6KPH verification reports may be sent to:

Ms. DA Stoops
P.O. Box 381
Bolinas CA 94924-0381
USA

[DO get their QSL, on the radiogram blank...]

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

More Google Earth Fun

We haven't done this in a while.

34.571709,33.005896
This is yet another candidate for the Lincolnshire Poacher site on Cyprus. Thanks to Simon Mason for these coordinates. They put you inside a fenced compound with radomes to the southwest and apparent antenna towers everywhere else. As always, antennas don't really show up well, but their shadows do.

Most interesting is the building at the northeast which appears connected to an amazing log periodic farm. I found seven huge beam antennas, and an eighth might be dimly visible. One feeder obviously goes under the fence and continues to two of these towers.


26.982789,-80.107938
Simon Mason's numbers radio site provided these coordinates too. They are bang in the middle of the Jonathan-Dickinson Missile Tracking Annex, an Eastern Test Range activity using a number of high-gain dishes to pick up telemetry from birds leaving Cape Canaveral. More interesting are the two antenna towers next to the largest building, and a number of other masts around the facility. Some of these are undoubtedly for lightning protection.

Most interesting of all, though, is the large feeder that comes out of the ground due east of this building. It leads eastward for a good distance across a swampy area, crosses SE Pinegrove St., and finally ends up at a fenced-off triangular area right next to the main highway. Here, there's a tall tower, again visible mostly from its shadow, though obstruction paint can also be made out. This is most likely the infamous Jupiter Inlet site that was suggested by the late Havana Moon and others as one source of the now defunct E5 "Cynthia" numbers broadcasts in 4-number groups with the test count at the beginning. These haven't been heard since 2003.


32.593841,-117.127399
Look quick, it's the giant AN/FRD-10 US Navy Wullenweber CDAA antenna at the Imperial Beach site. You can see this thing for miles up and down the Coronado Strand. It was decommissioned in 1999, and it may not be up for very much longer.

The antenna was used for direction finding in the cold war. Judging from the current photo taken in 2003, it's now used mostly for a parking lot. These huge arrays were built all over the world. Many have been taken down, leaving huge circles in the ground. These are now mistaken by Google Earth users for crop circles, weird Pagan religious sites, and ?????. I wonder what archaeologists will think when they stumble upon them 1000 years hence.


46°31'48.97"N,30°33'39.07"E
Russia's version of the CDAA is the Krug, also for direction finding. Here's a nice one outside Odessa.


40°40'41.48"N,105° 2'46.93"W
WWV, north of Ft. Collins, CO, in between several small lakes. The building to the southwest is for WWVB's two transmitters, each feeding a separate diamond-shaped antenna held up by four tall towers each, supporting two large, top-loaded, wire top-hat verticals for 60 kHz. The radiating elements to this aren't visible, but the two matching-coil doghouses with the loopy roads leading out from the building are. I'll bet the residential areas around here don't have any trouble getting their "atomic" clocks to acquire a signal!

The building to the northeast with two satellite dishes in front is for WWV. Feeders lead out to various towers supporting omnidirectional counterpoised verticals for 2.5, 5, 10, 15, and 20 MHz. Yes, there are more than 5 antennas visible. ??????

Sunday, July 06, 2008

PLC Links - Get Educated and Fight!

A new Yahoo! group and mailing list have been established for BT Vision/ HomePlug/ PLC interference victims in the UK, and anyone else worldwide who wants to help formulate strategies for preserving the HF listening hobby in all countries. It is at:
http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/UKQRM/

Other Links:

British Telecom
BT Vision (all this trouble for us, so people can watch Desperate Housewives in the bedroom)
BT Group Wiki Entry (we're a long way from the post office!)
BT Vision Wiki Entry
Typical UK interference problem
British OfCom Investigations
Taiwanese mfr of the DH-10PF
AcBel spec sheet
Why the 200 MB claim by the mfr AND in the BT web store is false advertising
The BPL/PLC industry's side of the story
What the interference sounds like
OfCom complaint web page
Severe interference in Hobart, Australia (YouTube video)

Friday, July 04, 2008

HomePlug/ PLC no stranger to ARRL

It appears that certain modest efforts have been made to protect US amateurs from this assault on HF radio. Unfortunately, these do not cover the rest of HF, and also (according to UK listeners), they don't prevent all of the noise, just the loudest stuff.

Here's something from ARRL:

Even if measurements are made correctly at 30 meters, the absolute maximum limits in the Part 15 rules are high enough that harmful interference is likely. Those S9+ level signals from otherwise legal Part 15 radiators would cause harmful interference to almost all received amateur signals.

Although a manufacturer is responsible only for meeting those limits, in many cases, they end up assuming some responsible for harmful interference on behalf of their customers. As a minimum, there are very real costs associated with dealing with interference complaints, and as word of mouth about widespread interference spreads, it could well have an effect on product sales.
Many trade associations for similar products have recognized the need to offer additional protection to radio services that might be found near their products. For systems deployed in residential neighborhoods, it is quite likely that these systems will have nearby amateur radio operators.

Over the past few years, ARRL has worked closely and productively with several of these organizations. As a result of joint testing performed with ARRL, HomePlug has chosen to include a spectral mask (notches) in the HF ham bands. (There were a number of amateurs on the HomePlug working groups who well understood why it was in their employer’s best interests to avoid widespread interference from their products.)

Although there is still some potential for interference, the specification has reduced their signal levels in the ham bands about 30 dB below what is required under Part 15. HomePlug chose to add the spectral masks to avoid the potential for widespread harmful interference to Amateur Radio in areas near HomePlug systems.


It seems evident that we must now create a similar problem for these manufacturers. It is NOT OK to shift the problem onto other radio services that aren't as well organized. We need this technology OFF HF!

More on the enemy - it's the Universal Powerline Assn

Here's what we are up against. Thanks to Wikipedia (boldface mine):

The BT Vision Box is a rebranded Philips DIT9719 operating Microsoft Mediaroom software, and requires the BT Home Hub and BT Broadband internet. That said, a number of customers are using alternatives to the BT Home Hub without problems[citation needed].

The set-top box is connected to the hub via an ethernet cable either connected directly to the BT Home Hub, or to one of a pair of Comtrend UPA (Universal Powerline Association) compliant Ethernet adapters. The Comtrend UPA adaptors use the mains wiring in a house to create an ethernet network. A second adaptor is plugged into the mains and connected to the BT Home Hub via an ethernet cable. These plugs are provided as part of the BT Vision package. Additional Comtrend adaptors are available from BT so that a local area network can be created in the users home.


Anyone who thinks this trend is peculiar to the UK has not been following developments in this technology. Hundreds of thousands of these adapters are being deployed all over Europe.

From Eurocom:

15 October, 2007 13:59

Comtrend delivers 590,000 PLC solutions for Europe in 2007

Comtrend Corporation, a network solutions manufacturer and broadband, VoIP and data networks technologies specialist, has announced the delivery of 590,000 200-Mbps PLC Ethernet adapters, the PowerGrid DH-10PF, by the end of 2007. The solutions will be supplied to the English, Spanish and Portuguese markets respectively, making Comtrend the first international manufacturer capable of delivering such a high volume of PLC Ethernet adapters.

[Similar problems are reported by radio users in Spain and Portugal. -hugh]

In 2006, Comtrend Corporation also opened an office in Central Europe and confirmed its development in several countries within Northern Europe.

Developed in partnership with DS2, a PLC solutions specialist, Comtrend's PowerGrid DH-10PF establishes broadband home networks for sharing data, sound and high-definition TV content. In compliance with the 200-Mbps PLC standard supported by the UPA (Universal Powerline Association), to which Comtrend and DS2 belong, the DS2 PLC technology built into the PowerGrid DH-10PF helps to provide a solution cutting out dead spots, while delivering the speed and quality of service required for distributing video throughout the home.


Here's more on the UPA, which is the enemy:


• Universal Powerline Association (UPA)
– The Universal Powerline Association (UPA) is an International association working to harmonize global standards and regulations in the fast developing power line communications market. Power Line Communications (PLC) is a technology that utilizes existing electrical distribution lines, whether in-building or out in the
utility’s distribution system, for delivering high-speed communications services
– www.upaplc.org

• Wide Alliance of Industry Support
– Predominantly used in Europe and South America
– Single source vendor today (DS2)
– Alliance consist of silicon manufacture, system operators and system integrators

• Field Proven Home Networking Technology
– Over one million PLC chips shipped
– Selected by Belgacom, British Telecom, Telecom Italia & Telefonica as the main home networking technology


Here is the FAQ on the UPA's own site. It makes the magnitude of the struggle facing us only too stark.

It should be obvious to everyone that this technology is starting to deploy worldwide. While we worried about power companies putting RF into their lines, we missed telephone companies putting it into home wiring. We have catching up to do. It is best that we do it, or there will be no more HF.

HF: Defend It or Lose It!

I have never been more serious than right now. The use of HF radio is OVER unless all of us organize and fight with a single voice.

The situation:

Everyone wants high speed Internet access and digital video on demand. The current Internet cannot carry all this information. Whoever solves this problem will become very wealthy indeed, and will also have made a major contribution.

Unfortunately, in the rush to open up new information pipelines, a number of ill-conceived or self-serving schemes have emerged. For our purposes in the radio hobby, the worst of these is communication using power lines, which almost always involves putting wideband RF energy into ready-made antennas by any other name.

We haven't learned to live with BPL (Broadband Over Power Lines) yet, but now there is a far worse problem. It's PLC (Power Line Communication), and it's taking off like wildfire in Europe and South America. It's supported by the United Powerline Association, a global industry association with several very powerful and influential corporate members.

The first I knew that anything had gone badly, nightmarishly wrong was when two of this column's contributors in the UK suddenly stopped doing radio altogether. They reported huge blasts of high-pitched noise, hash, and general crud blanketing everything pretty much from DC to daylight.

Since this was new to the UK, it took a while to figure out what was going on there. What's happening is that British Telecom (BT; a phone company that also operates HF comm sites, and thus should know better) is providing its customers with power line adapters which send Ethernet through the house wiring. Not the power company's lines, but the wires in your house.

You plug one adapter from the Internet/Video on Demand box (called a BT Home Hub) into the power line, and plug in the second one near a television you want to use for the video.

It is probably well known to most technically aware people that Ethernet is basically RF. These adapters are broadband HF transmitters which turn your house into a giant radio station which can radiate hundreds of feet.

These are being made by the usual companies, and being widely promoted as the solution to the previous expense of running Ethernet cables through homes. These things will undoubtedly spread worldwide if they are not stopped right now.


The future:

It's not hard to imagine the result of millions of these gadgets being installed all over populated areas. The side effect will be the worldwide deployment the most effective HF jammer ever invented. It will create vast areas in our populated regions that are little more than HF exclusion zones. The HF spectrum, which used to belong to the public by way of its national and international licensing bodies, will have been hijacked!

As long as there's a buck to be made, there will be influential people and companies seeking to send RF through any available conductors for computer networking and digital media. Wires were designed to conduct electricity, fence off property, etc etc. They were never intended to be used in place of cable or Cat5 twisted pair. When used in this manner, they become antennas. It's simple physics.


The only conclusion:

HF is over unless we fight for it. As a hobby, we must become as united as the corporations we need to fight. We must make it clear that denying the use of internationally regulated radio services so that someone else can profit from cheap, badly designed consumer electronics is NEVER all right - EVER.

Let's get started.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

No New HFDL Ground Station

I'm receiving New York squitters now, but there is no mention of a new ground station, and others report that it is no longer being sent. Perhaps confusion in the HFDL system, now resolved?

New HFDL Ground Station?

Nothing from ARINC, but several HFDL ground stations are mentioning a new ground station called UNKNOWN in their squitters. Unfortunately, the closest one to The Land That Short Wave Forgot is New York, and there's not propagation from there yet. We'll try to get some more information.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

CW Night of Nights in 11 days!

The annual Maritime Radio Historical Society "Night of Nights" event is less than one month [two weeks now -hugh] away.

Every year on 12 July (US time) many famous coast stations return to the air to commemorate the closure of commercial Morse in the USA. This year stations KPH, KFS, KSM and KLB have confirmed they will be on the air. We hope that US Coast Guard stations NMC, NOJ and NMN will join us as they did last year.

Amateur station K6KPH will guard 3550, 7050 and 14050kc for reception reports.

Preliminary information has been posted on the MRHS Web site: http://www.radiomarine.org

Check back often for updated information as it becomes available.

If you would like to receive announcements like this and are not already a member of our mailing list just send a message to: radiomarine-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

VY 73,

RD

=================================
Richard Dillman, W6AWO
Chief Operator, Coast Station KSM
Maritime Radio Historical Society
http://www.radiomarine.org
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