Saturday, June 17, 2017

VOA Radiogram Is Dead, Long Live Shortwave Radiogram

Kim Andrew Elliott is retiring, and that means no more VOA Radiogram.  The last one airs this weekend. However, Kim will continue this innovative effort on a new transmitter, WRMI in Miami. The new program is called Shortwave Radiogram, and the format is just like the old one.

The time/frequency schedule changes considerably, and next weekend will be something of a new set of variables in this summer's iffy HF propagation.  I assume that Kim will need a lot of reports.  Here are the new addresses:

OLD
NEW
Email address
Website
Twitter
@VOARadiogram
@SWRadiogram

And here is the new schedule:



Sunday
0600-0630
7730*
WRMI Florida
Americas
Asia-Pacific, Europe
Sunday
2030-2100
11580*
WRMI Florida
Europe
Americas, Asia-Pacific
Sunday
2330-2400
11580*
WRMI Florida
Americas
Europe, Asia-Pacific

* WRMI transmissions will continue as Shortwave Radiogram beginning June 25.


Some might wonder why a utility column spends so much time on a broadcast program.  The reason is that we are radio amateurs, and one of our major functions is to innovate communications technology.  VOA Radiogram, at its start 4 years ago, was a major innovation. It has pioneered techniques by which HF broadcasting can begin to adapt itself to a digital age, without having to replace all the equipment on both the transmit and receive sides.

At first, many people thought the whole idea was daft.  How does one send digital modes designed for amateur SSB transceivers over analog HF transmitters in double-sideband AM?  It's somewhat against common sense, but remember that these modes are essentially audio.  They're generated as audio, and the amateur transceiver turns them into SSB.  The receiver then turns them back into audio for decode by external equipment.  The transmitter and receiver in the middle can be AM.  Same flow.

The major technical challenges dealt with the nature of HF broadcast audio, which is heavily processed and compressed.  There were various issues with levels, hum in the old transmitters, audio harmonics, and duty cycles.  MFSK, with its 100% duty cycle, became, somewhat counter-intuitively, the best-received mode.  Olivia works too, but at its slowest speeds and largest bandwidths.

Later on, the receiving software was given a real workout. The show had more or less standardized on fldigi, a ham program, and the partnership led to the technical evolution of both. It became clear that digital modes on analog HF transmitters could increase their coverage. The concept also suggested means of penetrating jamming, and even sending text, however slowly, to countries where the Internet had been blocked by censors.  Many foreign languages with non-Latin alphabets were tried, and they all worked. MFSK images, which work a bit like SSTV, were also given a good test. They're noisy with typically lousy band conditions, but they're good enough .  Now they are a staple.

More recently, we have seen adaptations of fldigi for receiving by the technically untrained. This is obviously important if HF broadcasting is to evolve. First, a version of flmsg for Android phones was issued, and then another adaptation (TIVAR) made copying on smartphones a breeze.  I've done it here.  You set the phone near a speaker, start the program, and away you go.

Let's give Kim a Bravo Zulu on his retirement, and work with him to continue advancing the state of world communication.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Last VOA Radiogram is 17-18 June

Many thanks to Kim Elliott for this innovative program!

 ----

Hello friends,

The last VOA Radiogram is this weekend. The successor to VOA Radiogram is Shortwave Radiogram, which will be broadcast for the first time on 25 June on the WRMI times and frequencies in the schedule below. 

To help us keep in touch after the migration from the old Radiogram to the new Radiogram, please note the following changes …


OLD
NEW
Email address
Website
Twitter
@VOARadiogram
@SWRadiogram

This weekend’s VOA Radiogram will be all MFSK32 and will include seven images, including one optical illusion.

Here is the lineup for VOA Radiogram, program 222, 17-18 June 2017, all in MFSK32 centered on 1500 Hz …

 1:54  Program preview
 2:59  Transition to Shortwave Radiogram*
 7:48  Digitizing old reel-to-reel tapes*
10:57  Thanks to W1HKJ and the Murrow station*
20:48  Thanks to listeners*
23:10  Closing announcements*

* with image(s)

Please send reception reports to radiogram@voanews.com.

See and submit results on Twitter: @VOARadiogram

VOA Radiogram Transmission Schedule
UTC Day
UTC Time
kHz
Transmitter
Target
Also try in …
Saturday
0930-1000
5745
North Carolina
Americas
Asia-Pacific, Europe
Saturday
1600-1630
17580**
North Carolina
Europe
Americas, Asia-Pacific
Sunday
0230-0300
5745
North Carolina
Americas
Europe
Sunday
0600-0630
7730*
WRMI Florida
Americas
Asia-Pacific, Europe
Sunday
1930-2000
15670
North Carolina
Europe
Americas, Asia-Pacific
Sunday
2030-2100
11580*
WRMI Florida
Europe
Americas, Asia-Pacific
Sunday
2330-2400
11580*
WRMI Florida
Americas
Europe, Asia-Pacific

* WRMI transmissions will continue as Shortwave Radiogram beginning June 25.
** Listen for the mystery MFSK32 station just before and after this VOA Radiogram, also on 17580 kHz. It has been reported in recent weeks.

The Mighty KBC transmits to Europe Saturdays at 1500-1530 UTC on 9400 kHz (via Bulgaria), with the minute of MFSK at about 1530 UTC (if you are outside of Europe, listen via websdr.ewi.utwente.nl:8901/ ).  And to North America Sundays at 0000-0200 UTC (Saturday 8-10 pm EDT) on 9925 kHz, via Germany. The minute of MFSK is at about 0130 UTC.  Reports to Eric: themightykbc@gmail.com . See also http://www.kbcradio.eu/ and https://www.facebook.com/TheMightyKbc/

Italian Broadcasting Corporation (IBC)  For the complete IBC transmission schedule visit  http://ibcradio.webs.com/  Five minutes of MFSK32 is at the end of the 30-minute English-language “Shortwave Panorama,” per the schedule below:
WEDNESDAY  18.55 UTC  6070 KHZ TO EUROPE
                        19.55 UTC  1584 KHZ TO EUROPE
THURSDAY     02.55 UTC  1584 KHZ TO EUROPE
FRIDAY           01.25 UTC  9955 KHZ TO CENTRAL/SOUTH AMERICA
SATURDAY     01.55 UTC 11580 KHZ TO NORTH AMERICA
                        20.25 UTC  1584 KHZ TO SOUTH EUROPE
SUNDAY          00.55 UTC  7730 KHZ TO NORTH AMERICA
                        10.55 UTC  6070 KHZ TO EUROPE

Thank you for your support during the four-plus years of VOA Radiogram!  

I hope you can tune in and write in this weekend.

Kim

Kim Andrew Elliott, KD9XB
Producer and Presenter
VOA Radiogram
voaradiogram.net
Twitter: @VOARadiogram  (especially active just before, during, and after broadcasts)

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Nothing's ever simple in the USA

The saga of the HFDL System Table continues.

As of mid June, San Francisco and Riverhead, NY are using table 50, hexadecimal 32.  Everyone else seems to be using table 49, although I haven't checked Barrow, which at one point was still on #48. If you're confused, join the club. This seems like an odd way to operate a radio system in which users fly all over the planet.

Aircraft detect the mismatch and load the appropriate table, asking the ground for it if necessary.  Our programs do no such thing.  It is best to maintain separate backup files for PC-HFDL in a folder outside the one it uses for configs. The appropriate table is often sent to an aircraft, as happened yesterday with #50 from San Francisco. This causes PC-HFDL to overwrite its pchfdl.dat file.




Nothing happens fast in the USA

Good news: the new amateur bands were published in the Federal Register. Bad news: you still can't use them.

 ARRL Letter:

The FCC Report and Order (R&O) spelling out operational rules to allow secondary Amateur Radio access to 630 meters and 2,200 meters now has appeared in the Federal Register, but radio amateurs still may not access the new bands. That's because specific procedures specific procedures, now under development, to detail how radio amateurs will notify the Utilities Technology Council (UTC) of their proposed station location prior to commencing operation, still must undergo approval. The FCC said the notification requirement is necessary to confirm that a station is not located within 1 kilometer of an active power line communication (PLC) system.

"While the R&O has been published in the Federal Register, amateurs may not begin using the new bands until after the FCC's Wireless Telecommunications Bureau issues a Public Notice outlining necessary procedures to notify UTC of pending operation, as the new rules require," ARRL Regulatory Information Manager Dan Henderson, N1ND, said. "There is no timetable for that Public Notice to be released. Amateurs need to practice patience."

The FCC said the notification requirements it adopted "seek to strike a balance between amateur operations used for experimental purposes and PLC operation used by electric utilities for the reliability and security of electric service to the public." Once notification procedures are in place, radio amateurs intending to operate on either band will notify UTC of their geographical location. If UTC does not object within 30 days, amateur operation may commence. The FCC turned away an ARRL request for direct access to the PLC database that UTC maintains.

Once UTC has developed the new information collection procedures, the FCC must submit them for review to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). "The Commission will publish a separate notice in the Federal Register, inviting comment on the new information collection requirements adopted herein," the FCC said in the R&O. "The requirements will not go into effect until OMB has approved [the notification procedures] and the Commission has published a notice announcing the effective date of the information collection requirements."

In an unrelated action, the FCC allocated 1,900-2,000 kHz to the maritime mobile service (MMS) on a primary basis for non-Federal use in ITU Regions 2 and 3, and limited the use of this allocation to radio buoys on the open sea and the Great Lakes. Amateur Radio was upgraded from secondary to primary in the 1900-2000 kHz segment in 2015.

Friday, June 09, 2017

Penultimate VOA Radiogram for 10-11 June

Hello friends,

Shortwave Radiogram will be the name of the show that will replace VOA Radiogram, starting 24 June. "Shortwave Radiogram" is not as creative as most of the names suggested by VOA Radiogram listeners. Thanks for those ideas!

The new website will be http://www.swradiogram.net , the new email radiogram@verizon.net , and the new Twitter account @SWRadiogram .


Last weekend's new transmission via WRMI Florida, Sunday 0600-0630 on 7730 kHz, was, to my surprise,  audible in Europe, at least via http://websdr.ewi.utwente.nl:8901 in the Netherlands. Reception was marginal at my house in Virginia (and I was only marginally awake at 2:00 am local time). I received a great signal using an SDR in Hawaii and a good signal via Australia.

This weekend is the penultimate (always wanted to use that word in a sentence) VOA Radiogram, so please tune in if you can. The entire program will be in MFSK32. It will include some Arabic text, that prints from right to left. You will need the UTF-8 character set for the Arabic text to display correctly. There will also be two images of the North Carolina transmitting site.



 1:47  Program preview
 2:53  Bus-train hybrid drives on painted tracks*
 6:27  India launches heavy satellite*
12:57  Arabic text from Alhurra * **
16:33  Three photos*
24:49  Closing announcements*

* with image

**  Use UTF-8 character set

Please send reception reports to radiogram@voanews.com.


See and submit results on Twitter: @VOARadiogram



VOA Radiogram Transmission Schedule

UTC Day
UTC Time
kHz
Transmitter
Target
Also try in …
Saturday
0930-1000
5745
North Carolina
Americas
Asia-Pacific, Europe
Saturday
1600-1630
17580
North Carolina
Europe
Americas, Asia-Pacific
Sunday
0230-0300
5745
North Carolina
Americas
Europe
Sunday
0600-0630
7730*
WRMI Florida
Americas
Asia-Pacific, Europe
Sunday
1930-2000
15670
North Carolina
Europe
Americas, Asia-Pacific
Sunday
2030-2100
11580*
WRMI Florida
Europe
Americas, Asia-Pacific
Sunday
2330-2400
11580*
WRMI Florida
Americas
Europe, Asia-Pacific

* WRMI transmissions will continue as Shortwave Radiogram beginning June 24.


The Mighty KBC transmits to Europe Saturdays at 1500-1530 UTC on 9400 kHz (via Bulgaria), with the minute of MFSK at about 1530 UTC (if you are outside of Europe, listen via websdr.ewi.utwente.nl:8901/ ).  And to North America Sundays at 0000-0200 UTC (Saturday 8-10 pm EDT) on 9925 kHz, via Germany. The minute of MFSK is at about 0130 UTC. On 9400 kHz,  Reports to Eric: themightykbc@gmail.com . See also http://www.kbcradio.eu/ and https://www.facebook.com/TheMightyKbc/

Italian Broadcasting Corporation (IBC)  For the complete IBC transmission schedule visit  http://ibcradio.webs.com/  Five minutes of MFSK32 is at the end of the 30-minute English-language “Shortwave Panorama,” per the schedule below:
WEDNESDAY  18.55 UTC  6070 KHZ TO EUROPE
                        19.55 UTC  1584 KHZ TO EUROPE
THURSDAY     02.55 UTC  1584 KHZ TO EUROPE
FRIDAY           01.25 UTC  9955 KHZ TO CENTRAL/SOUTH AMERICA
SATURDAY     01.55 UTC 11580 KHZ TO NORTH AMERICA
                        20.25 UTC  1584 KHZ TO SOUTH EUROPE
SUNDAY          00.55 UTC  7730 KHZ TO NORTH AMERICA
                        10.55 UTC  6070 KHZ TO EUROPE

Thank you for your reception reports from last weekend! 

I hope you can tune in and write in this weekend.

Kim

Kim Andrew Elliott, KD9XB
Producer and Presenter
VOA Radiogram
voaradiogram.net
Twitter: @VOARadiogram  (especially active just before, during, and after broadcasts)

Friday, June 02, 2017

The VOA Radiograms Dwindle Down to a Precious Few

From Kim Andrew Elliott:


Hello friends,

This weekend, VOA Radiogram will add a new transmission this weekend, Sunday, 0600-0630 UTC, 7730 kHz via WRMI Florida. See the schedule below. In that schedule, the three WRMI broadcasts will be the schedule for the successor to VOA Radiogram starting the weekend of June 24-25.

I have yet to decide on a name for  the successor to VOA Radiogram.  Your ideas and suggestions are welcome!

Thanks for your kind words of support as the VOA Radiogram project draws to a close (last show is the weekend of June 17-18) and its replacement is developed, first on WRMI and perhaps later other transmitters. I will answer your emails as soon as I can. I am now responding to reception reports from last weekend.


See the voaradiogram.net website for this news about Roger in Germany decoding text from the fourth(!) audio harmonic.

This weekend's VOA Radiogram is, as usual, mostly in MFSK32, with some MFSK16. There is also some text in Amharic, the main language of Ethiopia. You will need the UTF-8 character set for the Amharic to display correctly. In Fldigi, UTF-8 is the default character set, but you can check to make sure via Configure  > Colors & Fonts. In TIVAR, UTF-8 is the only available character set.

Here is the lineup for VOA Radiogram, program 218, 3-4 June 2017, all in MFSK32 except where noted:

   1:49  Program preview
 3:03  Hypersonic space plane*
 7:30  India opens longest bridge in its northeast*
14:37  Ethiopia cuts off internet during exams * **
20:24  MFSK16: WSPR from Canadian C3 voyage
24:40  MFSK32: Image* and closing announcements

* with image

** use UTF-8 character set for Amharic

Please send reception reports to radiogram@voanews.com






VOA Radiogram Transmission Schedule


UTC Day
UTC Time
kHz
Transmitter
Target
Also try in …
Saturday
0930-1000
5745
North Carolina
Americas
Asia-Pacific, Europe
Saturday
1600-1630
17580
North Carolina
Europe
Americas, Asia-Pacific
Sunday
0230-0300
5745
North Carolina
Americas
Europe
Sunday
0600-0630 NEW
7730
WRMI Florida
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Sunday
1930-2000
15670
North Carolina
Europe
Americas, Asia-Pacific
Sunday
2030-2100
11580
WRMI Florida
Europe
Americas, Asia-Pacific
Sunday
2330-2400
11580
WRMI Florida
Americas
Europe, Asia-Pacific


The Mighty KBC transmits to Europe Saturdays at 1500-1530 UTC on 9400 kHz (via Bulgaria), with the minute of MFSK at about 1530 UTC (if you are outside of Europe, listen via websdr.ewi.utwente.nl:8901/ ).  And to North America Sundays at 0000-0200 UTC (Saturday 8-10 pm EDT) on 9925 kHz, via Germany. The minute of MFSK is at about 0130 UTC. On 9400 kHz,  Reports to Eric: themightykbc@gmail.com . See also http://www.kbcradio.eu/ and https://www.facebook.com/TheMightyKbc/

Italian Broadcasting Corporation (IBC)  For the complete IBC transmission schedule visit  http://ibcradio.webs.com/  Five minutes of MFSK32 is at the end of the 30-minute English-language “Shortwave Panorama,” per the schedule below:
WEDNESDAY  18.55 UTC  6070 KHZ TO EUROPE
                        19.55 UTC  1584 KHZ TO EUROPE
THURSDAY     02.55 UTC  1584 KHZ TO EUROPE
FRIDAY           01.25 UTC  9955 KHZ TO CENTRAL/SOUTH AMERICA
SATURDAY     01.55 UTC 11580 KHZ TO NORTH AMERICA
                        20.25 UTC  1584 KHZ TO SOUTH EUROPE
SUNDAY          00.55 UTC  7730 KHZ TO NORTH AMERICA
                        10.55 UTC  6070 KHZ TO EUROPE

Thank you for your reception reports from last weekend! 

I hope you can tune in and write in this weekend.

Kim

Kim Andrew Elliott, KD9XB
Producer and Presenter
VOA Radiogram
voaradiogram.net
Twitter: @VOARadiogram  (especially active just before, during, and after broadcasts)