Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Single-Hop Propagation

I'm about to hop the pond for 2 weeks in London. This blog will probably be pretty slow until I get back.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

That QRN Was A Solar Burst

Remember sunspots? They were quite the thing about 10 years ago, then they seemed to go away on an extended vacation.

A couple of days back, something absolutely whomped on the Japanese fax I was trying to copy on 22 MHz. No big deal, just the noise came up about 15 dB. I thought the neighbors had turned on some new consumer electronic device.

The neighbor had, but it was our neighboring star. It was a solar radio burst caused by energetic electrons from a large sunspot group (Region 1057) exciting plasmas in the sun's corona.

2010 has had only 6 days with no sunspots so far, compared to 2009 when there were 260.

There's more at http://www.spaceweather.com/ .

10255 Vietnamese Numbers Continue Daily

The Vietnamese numbers station on 10255 has settled into something of a routine. First callup is usually right at 1558 UTC. Perhaps someone's clock is a bit off. Transmissions are repeated, but on an irregular schedule. Today, we had three repetitions right together. This seems to be the most common.

The signal is very strong (S9 +10 dB today) on the West Coast, conditions permitting, and weaker in Europe.

This is one of the more compelling "numbers" finds in quite a while. It's daily, on 10255 kHz USB. We really need a speaker of Vietnamese to hear the recordings and figure this out. My own recording has been sent to Monitoring Times and will appear on the magazine's web site at some unknown time in the future.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

RSGB Challenges UK Ofcom Regarding Home Powerline Telecom

For the first time, the Radio Society of Great Britain (RSGB) has directly challenged the UK's Office of Communication (Ofcom), regarding its technical standards and regulatory policies in the matter of home power line communication (PLA/PLT) interference to licensed radio services.

In a letter written to Ofcom Chairman Colette Bowe, over the signature of RSGB Director Donald F. Beattie, the RSGB gives a detailed response to Ofcom's official statement made last September. RSGB takes issue with some of the Ofcom assertions in the September statement, and asks for clarification in a number of other areas.

Excerpts:

"Ofcom believes the electromagnetic disturbance produced by this technology is an inevitable by‐product of its operation and not attributed to poor design or manufacturing."

We disagree ‐ there is poor design involved here. The trade‐off between headline data rate and emission level is wrongly set. It is only an inevitable by‐product of its operation if that operation is aimed at transmitting an unreasonably high data rate.

...

Emissions are an inevitable consequence of an unsuitable technology.

...

Our underlying concern is that the invaluable asset of the radio spectrum is being progressively sacrificed to allow a polluting technology to flourish, based on the mistaken argument that there is public good involved. Arguments are being mustered to support this strategy, which have little or no basis in fact. We see the inevitable consequence of the current policy as being the consignment of the High Frequency Radio Spectrum to history. Once this has happened, it will not be possible to reverse matters. International standards exist to provide for sensible coexistence of services, and the RSGB contends that the setting aside of such standards for expediency is not in the long‐term public interest.

The full text of this letter, with plenty of numbers, cites, and technical details, is available at the RSGB web site. One can also find details regarding the RSGB Spectrum Defence Fund.

Expect this controversy to heat up. Due to the ever-higher data speeds required in new broadband plans, manufacturers of next-generation PLT units are using much wider RF bandwidths, well into VHF. It's not just about HF any more.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Passport to World Band Radio to Shut Down Web Site

2009 was the last edition of Larry Magne's excellent Passport to World Band Radio series of books. This highly respected publication lasted 25 years, with definitive broadcast schedules and radio reviews. The usual reasons were given, such as Internet and the closing of many large government broadcasting operations.

Now we learn from the blog that the Passport web site will also be shutting down soon. While the home page hadn't been updated in quite a while, the blog had continued with absolutely topnotch radio reviews and information that's hard to get anywhere else. It will be missed.

The blog post is here.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

EasyPal Issue Resolved As Norton False Positive

After talking to knowledgeable people on the digital SSTV group, I have decided that the "virus" detected by Norton is a legitimate file distributed with the program.

The confusion seems to be stemming from Norton's detection of a file called loop.zip, which contains a Windows library file called loop.dll. Loop.dll has been around for a few years, and it contains routines that are sometimes used with SDRs. However, another file named loop.exe is associated with several known Trojans.

This leaves only the odd question of why loop.zip would be recreated whenever EasyPal ran. After I completely uninstalled EasyPal, this behavior stopped, so there's no evidence that the system is doing it.

I have not tested the latest version of EasyPal, which is only a few weeks old, to see whether it, too stops this behavior. However, I now once again consider it excellent software.

Apologies to the programmers of EasyPal, who have really done a nice job bringing hams a more reliable way to use a complex mode.

Other discussions have centered on the widely known fact that there are probably better anti-virus packages on the market than Norton. While my version is better than the previous two or so, it's still pretty bloated and prone to causing issues such as this one with EasyPal.

Sorry about that.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Possible Issue With EasyPal

Some people might have noticed that the glowing review of the EasyPal software has been deleted from this blog. This is because of various strange virus detection issues that many users, myself included, have gotten since the start of 2010 while using this program.

A rather spirited discussion of this subject is on QRZ. There's another on the DigiSSTV Yahoo! group.

The areas of agreement are as follows:

1. EasyPal detects as clear of malware on all checkers when its files are scanned on first installation.

2. At some point after the first picture is viewed, various different virus checkers start to show various different Trojan loaders in EasyPal's directories. MalwareBytes seems to do this the most often. (There is no agreement on whether or not these are false positives.)

3. After this detection, EasyPal still shows as clear. The alleged virus is in a more recently created file that was not distributed with the original package.


Such a behavior is common to some types of dropper programs, which will download the malware later while not making code changes that will be detected. Sometimes anti-virus programs find the new bad stuff before it runs, and sometimes they don't.

Unfortunately, it is also typical of false positives, given the huge complexity of virus detection lists.

In my own case, running EasyPal would create a zip file named loop.zip, which Norton would "quarantine" as containing a rare Trojan which logs keystrokes and steals all your passwords. I would delete the zip archive, but it would reappear on every subsequent running of EasyPal.

The suspect file inside loop.zip is called loop.dll. Searches show one old (~2008) reference to a QRZ forum thread mentioning a file with this name associated with ham radio software. Perhaps it creates a local loopback so a simplex sound card can feed multiple programs.

There is no other mention of this file anywhere detectable on Google, and a full disk search of my computer (which has at least 30 ham radio programs), finds nothing.

Therefore, there are two main possibilities:

1. Norton is confusing loop.dll with loop.exe, a program dropped by many Trojan loaders to capture keystrokes.

2. Norton is finding malicious code that somehow gets into the EasyPal directory hierarchy via file transfers on the air, or an infected utility which is called on the fly when pictures are viewed. (If so, this is a good reason to transfer them to Irfan View, the way DIGTRX does.)


Everyone will have to draw their own conclusion. In my own case, I am far, far from certain that there is any problem with EasyPal. I still really like it a lot. However, I won't put any version of it back on any of my computers until the issue is resolved one way or the other.

Perhaps I'm erring on the safe side, but that's what I do.

Friday, March 12, 2010

More 2010 SDR Hits #3

WebSDR at U. of Twente, Netherlands:

3579.1 CW DARC Propagation Beacon: "DK0WCY BEACON 1/11/N/N," and into long space weather bulletin. 01/25/10 0719

3595.0 ALE ZHEL German Customs, also ZLST clg ZSHO; ZLST wkg ZHEL, ALE and data modem, poss secure voice 02/09/10 0458

3752.0 PSK Unid Link-11 or similar tadil 02/09/10 0526

7002.0 PSK Unid Link-11 02/06/10 0630

7175.0 ISB? Unid Carrier + 2 sidebands sounding like PSK, but each out 5 kHz 02/09/10 0423

10063.0 HFDL 0B ARINC ground stn 0B, Albrook, Panama, squitters and working flights CM0750, CO1037, UP0403, AVA061, FX0524, AVA992, AVA933, CM0447, CM0203, XL0538, CM0294, AS0743 02/23/10 2258

10075.0 HFDL 15 ARINC ground stn 0x15, Al Muharraq, Bahrain, squitters and working flights SA0264 (ZS-SXB), SIA334 (9V-SKB, ICAO 76CD62), SU0110 (VP-BDM, 4000FB), SU0228 (VP-BWG , 400155), CO0049 (N78013), SU0248 (424944), QR0265 (A7-ADZ, 06A067), SA0265 (ZS-SXC, 00B1F1), ETD275 (A6-EIG, 8003D4), IT0008 (800497), QR0251 (06A05F0, 6E0523 (VT-INL, 800424), 6E0000 (ICAO 8001F7), CLX785 (4D010B), 6E02007 (VT-INK), left fq at 0000 02/23/10 1953

10081.0 HFDL AC0095 D/L w/posn for Molokai 03/09/10 0659

10084.0 HFDL 05, ARINC ground station, Auckland, NZ, squitters and logging on ICAO 8850B0, then d/l from RJA613 & QFA11 w/posns 02/10/10 0655

10126.0 USB Unid RR/2 OMs 02/24/10 0011

14024.2 ? 12 PSK tones, 2.5 kHz wide, poss. high pilot tone 02/05/10 0716

14099.1 CW "I"? Beacon/marker/? 03/09/10 0748

More 2010 SDR Hits #2

WebSDR at U. of Twente, Netherlands:

491.1 CW WNY NDB 02/06/10 0512

492.0 MCW TBV NDB, Trebova, Czech Republic 01/21/10 0450

494.0 MCW KN NDB, Oksywie, Poland 01/22/10 0632

495.0 MCW PA NDB, Pancevo, Serbia, tone and ID 03/09/10 2341

500.0 CW ? QRSS (3 sec dit): "SK6RUD" and faster "VVV BEACON DE SK6RUD = QTH JO67KI = WST RPRT TO WWW.RADIORUD.SE =" 03/10/10 0445

505.06 CW OK0EMW QRSS "OK0EMW JN88KS," temporary experimental beacon, Czech Republic, 1W 03/10/10 0500

505.2 CW DE2AM ID "DE2AM" QRSS3 and fast CW w/ coordinates and QSL info VVV DE2AM 54.08N 12.05E QSA? DE2AM AT WEB.DE = 01/21/10 0532

508.0 MCW "Z" Beacon/marker, long interval between IDs 02/09/10 0415

514.6 MCW "LA" NDB beacon 03/09/10 2334

517.0 MCW ARD NDB, Arad, Romania 02/06/10 0457

518.0 Sitor-B F UGE, Arkhangelsk, Russia, Navtex in EE, FA02, nav warning for Arkhangelsk 01/21/10 0454

518.0 Sitor-B G GCC, Cullercoats Radio, UK, Idler, then NAVTEX EE wngs for navaids on offshore platforms in North Sea, followed by NAVAREA I wngs 01/21/10 0500

518.0 Sitor-B R Prob. Puerto Rico NAVTEX, WX for USVI 01/22/10 0615

518.0 Sitor-B O GPK, Portpatrick, Scotland, NAVTEX, came on at 0620, obliterating PR, w/ WX for UK and Iceland waters 01/22/10 0620

518.0 Sitor-B J LZW, Varna Radio, Bulgaria, Navtex, wx & warnings for Baltic & Germany 01/23/10 0534

518.0 Sitor-B K GNI, Niton Radio, UK, Navtex, weak, in FF and (mostly) EE 01/23/10 0540

518.0 Sitor-B P PBK, Netherlands Coast Guard, Navtex, EE, "Netherlands Coastguard" warnings, full stop between msgs 02/05/10 0630

518.0 Sitor-B E GNI, Niton Radio, UK, Navtex, EE, probably UK Coast Guard, warnings 02/06/10 0440 (also 0344 2/16)

518.0 Sitor-B F UGE, Arkhangelsk Radio, Russia, Navtex, EE, gale warning for Arkhangelsk, wx 02/06/10 0451

518.0 Sitor-B G GCC, Cullercoats Radio, UK, Navtex, like 1/21 02/06/10 0500 (Also 0343 on 2/16)

518.0 Sitor-B Q 9AS, Split Radio (self-identified), Croatia, Navtex, WX for Adriatic 02/12/10 0645

518.0 Sitor-B S DDH51, Hamburg Meteo, Germany, Navtex, wngs fm NCC-Hamburg 02/12/10 0700

518.0 Sitor-B T OST, Oostende Radio, Belgium, Navtex, wngs 02/12/10 0710
ZCZC TA55
271635 UTC DEC =
OOSTENDERADIO - INFO 333/09 =
ANCHOR LOST BY MV TORM MARIANNE IN POS.
51-24.3)N 002-34.30E.+
NNNN

518.0 Sitor-B M Navtex wngs for England 03/03/10 0600-0605

518.0 Sitor-B ? Underneath M, brief copy after M s/off 03/03/10 0605

518.0 Sitor-B R IAR, Roma Radio, Italy, wngs for Ligurian Sea (Italy/Monaco/France/Corsica), cut 2300 03/09/10 2255

518.0 Sitor-B S DEU, Hamburg Meteo, Germany, Navtex, wngs fm NCC-Hamburg, fading 03/09/10 2300

518.0 Sitor-B T OST, Oostende Radio, Belgium, Navtex, wngs 03/09/10 2310

~524.0 FSK? WRW NDB?, buzzy sounding 01/21/10 0518

525.0 MCW CH NDB, Cherniakhiv, Ukraine, sends "CH CH" every 30 sec 02/16/10 0329

525.0 CW PL NDB, Pulkovo, Russia, ID 02/16/10 0329

More 2010 SDR Hits #1

Using the WebSDR at U. of Twente, Netherlands:

468.0 MCW FTZ NDB, Fritzlar, Germany, ID and tones 01/22/10 0658

473.0 MCW FHA NDB, Freidrichshafen, Germany, ID 03/10/10

474.0 MCW BIA NDB 02/16/10 0359

477.0 MCW RP NDB, Malacky, Slovakia, ID 02/16/10 0358

480.0 MCW VIB NDB, Viterbo, Italy, ID 02/16/10 0350

484.0 MCW HOF NDB, Hof Plauen, Germany, 50° 17' 04.66" N x 11.761394 E 02/06/10 0516

485.0 MCW IA NDB, Indija, Serbia, long dash & ID 01/06/10 0509

488.0 MCW ILM NDB, Illesheim, Germany 02/06/10 0500

489.0 MCW NPR NDB, 500 Hz tone 02/06/10 0514

490.0 Sitor-B E FRC, CROSS Corsen, NAVTEX in FF, EL22, MSI from AVURNAV BREST regarding artillery exercise hazard 01/21/10 0447

490.0 Sitor-B G CTV, Monsanto Radio, Portugal, Navtex in EE and PP, coastal WX obs 01/21/10 0510

490.0 Sitor-B S FRL, CROSS La Garde, Navtex in EE, wngs & wx for "German Bight" from NCC-Hamburg 01/22/10 0700-0705

490.0 Sitor-B S FRL, CROSS La Garde, Navtex in FF, 01/22/10 0708-0709

490.0 Sitor-B I Niton Radio, UK, Navtex in EE, coastal wx for UK region 02/06/10 0524

490.0 Sitor-B T GNI, Niton Radio, UK, Navtex in FF, wx & wngs fm Origine Meteo-France 02/12/10 0710

490.0 Sitor-B U GCC, Cullercoats Radio, UK, Navtex, wx in EE for UK region 02/12/10 0720

490.0 Sitor-B T GNI, Niton Radio, UK, Navtex in FF,wngs fm Avurnav Cherboug 03/09/10 2315

491.0 CW Unk Rpt character "-.-.-" 01/22/10 0630

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Getting to Bletchley Park

Bletchley Park, as most utility people already know, is a museum at the preserved historical site where ENIGMA and other German encryption schemes were broken. This truly inspired work, which among other things involved the first true modern computer (Colossus) using 1500 vacuum tubes ("valves"), is said to have shortened World War II in Europe by 1-3 years.

Directions in a recent Monitoring Times (not MY column!) on how to get there from London appear to be erroneous. Long time contributor Ken Maltz writes about how he made a recent trip:

... coming up from London, Bletchley is a local stop on the National Rail system. Either take a local train to Bletchley or take an Express train to Milton Keynes and then a local train southbound for just one stop to Bletchley. Once you get to the Bletchley station, there are signs directing you to Bletchley Park; less than a 5-minute walk.

My own visit to London, including a day trip to Bletchley, is a few weeks off. Research has confirmed that Ken's directions do seem to be accurate. There are something like four trains per hour, one of which is an express and stops only at Milton Keynes, so you change trains. Either way, you end up at a station very close to Bletchley.

There's a lot there. More after I see it!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

New Vietnamese Numbers Station on 10255!

A new "numbers" station has begun regular broadcasting on 10255 kHz USB at approximately 1600 UTC. Transmissions are in Vietnamese.

Leif Dehio, in Germany, made the first discovery in late February. Since then, it has been heard in the Western US, and other places.

The schedule, if that's what it can be called, is a bit irregular. If there's going to be a transmission at all, it starts sometime between 1555 and 1615, though one person reported a transmission at 1700.

Male and female voices have been heard. These sound live. A typical transmission goes as follows:

Callup #1
First message, in 5-figure groups
Callup #2
Message #2
Announcement
End of transmission

It is not known whether this broadcast is for spies, or coded messages to the fishery. ENIGMA2000 is on the case.

More when we get it.