Sunday, April 28, 2013

Grunge 3, VOA Radiogram 0

Southern California is called "The Land that Short Wave Forgot" for a reason.  Europe is too far most of the time.  The East Coast goes to sleep earlier, and wakes up before we get propagation.

That leaves Asia and the Pacific.  Asia is far away, and much of it is trans-auroral.  The Pacific has many little islands, most with radios, but the rest is salt water.  The fish couldn't transmit even if they wanted to.  They're on audio frequency.  The boats transmit, but mostly up into space.

What does this have to do with VOA Radiogram?  Plenty, especially this past weekend.  Basically, in plain non-technical language, the reception sucks on a good day and this week it sucked worse.

We open our tale of woe on 17860.  We are told that this frequency uses a venerable SWBC transmitter with something like 80 kW output to a mighty curtain array aimed towards Europe.  Given the good reception in Europe, and the truly abysmal reception in California, I have no reason to doubt this spec.

17860 kHz, 27 April, 1600 sked, MFSK/Flamp demo:

File : VOA_PhoneSats_FlampX2.html
<MISSING 80 0B64>{69D6}3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 

Not good.

Typically, 5745 kHz saves the day.  I get a nice clean SDR recording, and I'm off to massage data.


This week was not typical.  All went well until almost the exact second the MFSK128/ Flamp demo started.  That's when SailMail in San Diego had some traffic to move, a few kHz down.  While North Carolina is not a good path on 5 meg at 0255 UTC, San Diego is a very good path.  The resulting waterfall looks like a losing game of Space Invaders.

Also losing was the MFSK/ Flamp demo:

File : VOA_PhoneSats_FlampX2.html
<MISSING 68 06DE>{69D6}1 2 3 4 5 7 9 10 11 12 13 15 16 17 18 20 22 23 25 26 27 28 29

Better, but uhhhhhhhh...... no.  That's a "PSE RPT ALL ALL BK" in anyone's mode.

And so, for the first time ever, we dropped back and punted to the third schedule.  Sometime around sunrise on a Sunday morning, a great time to hear Asia, an SDR came awake and tried to hear North Carolina instead.

The playback shows that Asia won.  Big.  KBS World Broadcasting, Korea, was 20 over S9, with a female announcing dismal pop ballads in English.   Everything else was adjacent-channel splatter.  VOA Radiogram was not there AT ALL.

There's probably no point in bothering with the last sked either.  

Well, fans, I gave it the college try.

Friday, April 26, 2013

VOA Radiogram Includes PSK63F, Thor, and Flamp

Dr. Kim Andrew Elliott writes:

VOA Radiogram for April 27/28 includes Thor50x2, PSK63F, and Flamp

Apologies for not updating this website since the April 20/21 VOA Radiogram. I have been diverted by deadlines connected to my other full-time job, audience research analyst for the International Broadcasting Bureau.

Thanks to all who sent reception reports, screenshots, audio samples, and other materials from the past weekend’s program. MFSK held off a challenge from the Thor modes and remains the most successful of the modes we have tested.

However, because your producer omitted the Thor 50x2 mode — a mode that might prove to be robust — from that program, VOA Radiogram on April 27/28 will include a “make good” transmission of Thor 50x2. And a transmission of Thor 50x1 for comparison.

There will also be a transmission of the PSK63F mode. This rather slow mode performed well during VOA Radiogram 1, but we only gave it a minute. There will be a longer transmission of PSK63F this weekend to allow a better evaluation.

The last text transmission this weekend will be in the Flamp format. If you don’t already have it, please download Flamp from

[I got a Norton false positive, as I do with many radio files on the PC. It was rejected for something to do with the file having a bad reputation, whatever that means.  Just restore it from Norton's warning window.  I installed and ran the program, with no ill effects. -Hugh]

Flamp divides a text file into several blocks, each with a specific number of characters. If any block is received without the correct number of characters, that block is rejected. The missing block can be picked up during the repeat transmission. Flamp might be useful for those text transmissions that are received at about 90% copy, when occasional deep fades prevent 100% copy. In Flamp, under Configure, check both of the Auto sync boxes.

Here is the lineup for the April 27/28 VOA Radiogram:

MFSK16 (58 wpm) program preview
PSK63F (55 wpm), 2:50
MFSK32 text (120 wpm) and image, 4:28
Thor50x1 (180wpm), 1:48
Thor50x2 (180wpm), 1:46
MFSK64 (240 wpm), 2:16
MFSK128* in Flamp X2 format, 3:46
MFSK32 image

*Probably a good idea to set the MFSK128 mode manually rather than depend on the RSID [Yes, a very good idea. -Hugh]

All modes will be centered on 1500 Hz.
Each mode will be introduced by a brief MFSK16 transmission, same as last weekend.
Please send reception reports to
Twitter: @VOARadiogram

VOA Radiogram transmission schedule
(all days and times UTC)
Sat 1600-1630 17860 kHz
Sun 0230-0300 5745 kHz
Sun 1300-1330 6095 kHz
Sun 1930-2000 15670 kHz
All via the Edward R. Murrow transmitting station in North Carolina.

Monday, April 22, 2013

US Civil Air Patrol Sends Cease & Desist Letter to

On April 19, 2013, the general counsel for the United States Civil Air Patrol sent a "cease and desist" letter to Lindsay C. Blanton, founder and CEO of This site has a discussion forum, and a highly regarded frequency database used by most people in the radio hobby.

The matter concerns a CAP communications plan document which was made available by a poster to the forum some time ago. This document was and is considered to be  Unclassified - For Official Use Only (FOUO).

Here is the forum announcement from Lindsay Blanton, RR's founder and CEO:

RadioReference receives a Cease and Desist Demand from the Civil Air Patrol

We received a Cease and Desist demand from the Civil Air Patrol to remove a post that had a PDF attached of a CAP communications plan.

We've complied with the request for now pending further review of the legalities of the request.

This is followed by links to two pdf documents:

The 4/19 letter is NOT about government censorship, at least not on the surface. It refers to statutory protection of all CAP materials and documents from unauthorized commercial use:

As set forth in 36 USC §40306, Civil Air Patrol has the "exclusive right to name, insignia, copyrights, emblems, badges, marks, and words" the corporation adopts. Therefore, we reiterate that you are hereby directed to cease and desist in your use, publication, dissemination, distribution or reference to said document or file and refrain from the use or reference to the CAP name, logos, insignia, emblems, badges, marks and words or the use of any and all CAP e-mail lists for any commercial purposes. 

It is the prior email, from CAP Chief of Communications Malcolm C Kyser Jr, that has major ramifications for the radio hobby, by broadly invoking FOUO on content as well as delivery.  One part reads:

The reason for my concern is that the frequencies we use are granted to us by the Air Force and the DoD considers them “For Official Use Only”.


I know your readers are interested in monitoring the Civil Air Patrol but I’m sure none of them want to put our frequency support in peril. For this reason I am officially requesting on behalf of our organization that you delete the document from public view.

These word choices would seem to indicate that the CAP is claiming some official cloak of secrecy over the frequencies. While this sounds to your editor like bureaucratic butt-covering, the matter has still forced Utility World to exercise the "abundance of caution" that we're hearing so much about lately.

Therefore, the CAP frequency list, despite its being obtained completely by monitoring ALE soundings, has been temporarily deleted from this column's ALE list. It will be restored when and if the matter with has been further clarified.

It is understood that this decision is likely a total over-reaction, having little or nothing to do with the issues raised in these letters concerning sensitivity of unclassified official documents. Even so, the present national security climate dictates that over-reaction is preferable to no reaction at all.

We hope that readers will understand the reasons for this action.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Correction to April 20-21 weekend's VOA Radiogram

Too late to cover the first transmission at 1600 UTC, but in time for the rest:

In this weekend's VOA Radiogram, the Thor 50x2 mode is missing, even though it is mentioned in the preview.

When the MFSK16 mode ID tells you this...

Next on VOA Radiogram, THOR50x2 (~180 wpm)

...please proceed directly to MFSK64.  The RSID will guide you to the correct mode.

Sorry for the inconvenience.

Truly wretched band conditions to the East Coast precluded good decodes of the first transmission. It appears that THOR held its own, even at high speeds, but deep fades took the signal out completely.

Friday, April 19, 2013

VOA Radiogram April 20-21 will feature Thor modes

VOA Radiogram April 20-21 will feature Thor modes

During the weekend of April 20 and 21, the featured mode of VOA Radiogram will be Thor. We will use the faster versions of Thor, which can be decoded using an updated version of Fldigi from MFSK modes will also be transmitted for comparison.

Here is the menu (all modes centered on 1500 Hertz):
MFSK16 introduction (58 wpm)
THOR22 (~75 wpm)
MFSK22 (80 wpm)
THOR25x4 (~90 wpm)
MFSK32 (120 wpm)
MFSK16 image
THOR50x1 (~180 wpm)
THOR50x2 (~180 wpm)
MFSK64 (240 wpm)
THOR100 (~360 wpm)
MFSK128 plain text (480 wpm)
MFSK128 Flmsg format
MFSK32 text and image

Last weekend’s broadcast and the results so far

Thanks to everyone who has reception reports, audio samples, screenshots, and other interesting materials. After the program on the weekend of April 13-14, featuring the Olivia modes, we heard from listeners in Austria, Belgium, Canada (BC and Ontario), Colombia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Sweden, UK, and Ukraine, as well as from the US states of Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

The results, after five weekends of VOA Radiogram, indicate that, for use in analog amplitude modulated shortwave broadcasting, the PSK modes are good, the MT63 and Olivia modes very good, and the MFSK modes are excellent. MFSK has so far outperformed the other families of modes. This weekend, MFSK faces one more “competitor,” the Thor mode.

QSL cards

The process of producing and printing the QSL cars is moving along slowly. If you requested a QSL card, it will be sent eventually. Thanks for your patience.

VOA Radiogram transmission schedule
(all days and times UTC)
Sat 1600-1630 17860 kHz
Sun 0230-0300 5745 kHz
Sun 1300-1330 6095 kHz
Sun 1930-2000 15670 kHz
All via the Edward R. Murrow transmitting station in North Carolina.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Utility World Has a YouTube Channel

It's new and still growing, but it's there.  Latest addition is a screen shot of Fldigi decoding VOA Radiogram under tough (and, ultimately, impossible) conditions.

It's at:

It's Olivia Week for VOA, Others

Olivia is a ham MFSK digital mode with a known robustness.  It's logical that it be compared with straight MFSK, and that's just what's happening in about 45 minutes.


VOA Radiogram on 13/14 April 2013 will feature Olivia modes

VOA Radiogram for the weekend of 13/14 April 2013 will feature the Olivia modes, with MFSK modes also transmitted for comparison.

The modes will be transmitted in groups of three, and all will be centered on an audio frequency of 1500 Hertz, except where indicated:

Olivia 8-1000, 58 WPM, 1:32 (program menu)
MFSK 16,  58 WPM, 1:52
Olivia 8-1000, 58 WPM, 1:44

Olivia 32-2000, 50 WPM, 2:09
MFSK 22, 80 WPM, 1:50
Olivia 16-2000, 80 WPM, 1:51

MFSK 32, 120WPM, 2:04
Olivia 8-2000, 120WPM, 2:04
Olivia 4-2000, 160WPM, 1:40

Olivia 16-1000 (centered on 2000 Hz) versus music, 2:03

MFSK 32 closing text and image,  :51

Reception reports with (if possible) sample audio and screenshots would be appreciated. Audio files from outside the United States are especially helpful.
Twitter: @VOARadiogram

Here is the VOA Radiogram broadcast schedule:
(all days and times UTC)
Sat 1600-1630 17860 kHz
Sun 0230-0300 5745 kHz
Sun 1300-1330 6095 kHz
Sun 1930-2000 15670 kHz
All via the Edward R. Murrow transmitting station in North Carolina.


The Mighty KBC and PCJ Radio also transmitting Olivia text this weekend

In addition to the Olivia mode transmissions this weekend on VOA Radiogram, two other shortwave broadcasters will be sending content in Olivia.

The Mighty KBC will, as usual, include digital text modes in its North America broadcast, 14 April 2013, 0000-0200 UTC, on 7375 kHz via Nauen, Germany. At about 0133 UTC, Olivia 8-1000 will be centered on 1000 Hertz, and MFSK 16 on 2000 Hertz. Both modes are slow (less than 60 WPM) but robust. At just before 0200, a Flmsg formatted message in Olivia 8-2000 will be centered on 1500 Hertz. (To make Flmsg work, in Fldigi: Configure > Misc > NBEMS > under Reception of flmsg file check Open with flmsg and Open in browser, and under that state where your Flmsg file is located.)

PCJ Radio, based in Taiwan, will again transmit text on 14 April 2013 at 0227 UTC via WRMI, Radio Miami International, 9955 kHz. The mode will be Olivia 8-1000.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Spectrogram of Entire VOA Radiogram Show of March 31

Entire VOA Radiogram show of 3/31/13 made by the Editor. Click to see full size.

From left to right:
Short music
Voice, announcing the following:
MFSK4 - 1500 Hz center
MFSK16 - 1500 Hz
MFSK32 - 1000 Hz
MFSK32 - 2500 Hz
PSKR125 - 2500 Hz
PSKR250 - 2500 Hz
MFSK64 - 2500 Hz
MFSK64, Flmsg formatted - 2500 Hz
PSKR500 - 2000 Hz
MFSK128 - 2000 Hz
MFSK32 image - 2000 Hz
MFSK32 image - 1500 Hz
Carrier drops

VOA Radiogram on 6-7 April will feature MT63 modes

From :

VOA Radiogram for the weekend of 6 and 7 April 2013 will feature MT63 modes, comparing them to MFSK modes at similar speeds.

Here’s the menu, showing mode, center audio frequency, and duration (minutes:seconds):

    MFSK16, 750 Hz, 1:56
    MT63-500, 750 Hz, 2:14
    MFSK32, 1000 Hz, 2:12
    MT63-1000, 1000 Hz, 2:47
    MFSK64, 1500 Hz, 1:44
    MT63-2000, 1500 Hz, 2:12
    MT63-2000, 1500 Hz, 3:20 (Flmsg formatted)
    MFSK32, 1500 Hz, 1:20 (image)

The MT63 modes are long interleave. In Fldigi, Configure > Modems > MT63 > check 64-bit (long) interleave.

To view the Flmsg transmission as a web page, in Fldigi, Configure > Misc > NBEMS > under Reception of Flmsg files, check Open with Flmsg and Open in browser, and below that indicate where your Flmsg file is located.

See VOA Radiogram: how to decode the modes.

Here is the VOA Radiogram transmission schedule:

(All days and times UTC)
Sat 1600-1630 17860 kHz
Sun 0230-0300 5745 kHz
Sun 1300-1330 6095 kHz
Sun 1930-2000 15670 kHz
All via the IBB Edward R. Murrow transmitting station in North Carolina.

Reception reports with, if possible, audio samples, screenshots, and other attachments, would be appreciated.

E-mail to

Twitter: @voaradiogram