Interesting occasional articles on all things wireless from pirate radio to wireless LAN!
Pirate Radio disposal squad called into action in Surrey
A report recently arrived on the Wireless Waffle newsdesk of the discovery of some kind of (probably illegal) transmitter discovered on land in Surrey next to a military establishment. According to the report:Army bomb disposal experts were called to Camberley on Monday morning to deal with a "suspicious" object that turned out to be a radio device... Shortly before 3pm, Surrey Police said the unit had been confirmed to be a "transmitter or repeater for a citizen or pirate band radio station", and that roads had been reopened and cordons lifted.Of course this piqued the interest of the Wireless Waffle team. Let's look at the possible options:CB RepeaterSuch things do exist but require a great deal of technical skill to install and operate. As CB radio operates at 27 MHz, they generally require large antennas, and as transmitter powers are usually at least 4 Watts, need power supplies the kind of size that wouldn't easily be left lying around in a piec...
More About: Radio , Action , Pirate , Clandestine
Super-Resonant Frequency Memocorders
One major problem facing many authorities across the world, is the transient nature of radio transmissions. For example, tracking down a radio transmitter requires the transmitter to be active in order for its direction to be sensed. Equally, for those bodies (such as the security services) who wish to capture radio transmissions of various sorts, especially those thay may be of short duration, the only way is to place sophisticated and costly wide-bandwidth receivers in a particular location which record everything they receive onto a hard disk, the data from which has to be analysed at great expense.How much simpler it would be, if there were a device or material of some kind which would 'capture' any radio transmission and then store it such that it could be collected at a later date. Such a device should ideally: require no power source to operate; be able to store transmissions for an indefinite period; be deployable and collectable by untrained agents; not look ou...
More About: Super
Regular readers of Wireless Waffle will be familiar with our relentless drive to improve both the availability, performance and aesthetics of antennas that can be used to listen to radio signals in situations where normal aerials are not feasible.The Wireless Waffle Super Signal Holiday HF Antenna Apparel (WWSSHHFAA), a cunning aerial designed to go almost unnoticed on the wearer (though anecdotal evidence suggests that it does cause the wearer to become highly noticeable) which we updated in 2010, is one such solution. Whilst there are many examples of the WWSSHHFAA on beaches across the beaches of the Mediterranean, we have yet to receive an offer from anyone wishing to put it into full commercial production.We were surprised, therefore, to recieve a tip-off about an antenna that, in principle, can surpass the performance of even the WWSSHHFAA in quality of reception, in its ease of application, and its resulting aesthetic manifestation... Go and take a look at the Spray-On Anten...
Make your ADSL connection more reliable!
A while ago on Wireless Waffle, I commented on the daily loss of service that was occuring on my home broadband (ADSL) connection. It seems that this struck a chord with a number of people and remains one of the most commented-on articles on the site.The question is, 'can anything be done to fix this problem'? The answer seems to be, that for a few pounds (a few and a bit Euros, or a few and a half Dollars) you can easily make a device which will provide additional filtering on your ADSL line and help with the problem of interference on the line. This solution is not a 100% guarantee of an improvement but does help and has resulted in an enormous (almost complete) reduction in drop-outs and, to boot, an increase in connection speed on the Wireless Waffle line!The increase in broadband connection speed is perhaps an odd outcome but this is a result of a more stable connection on the line. This is why... The equipment at the exchange sets a target 'signal to noise (...
More About: Connection , Amateur Radio , Adsl , Make
Harmonics - Putting The Record Straight
Over the years, Wireless Waffle has tried to explain and demystify many of the more esoteric technical terms and concepts used in the wireless world such as OFDM, intermodulation and even interpreting ionograms. There is one very straightforward technical concept that is so often misused that it's time the record is set straight. That concept is harmonics.Harmonics should be the easiest concept to understand. Passing any radio (or for that matter audio) signal through anything that is not perfectly linear (and the only things that are perfectly linear are pieces of wire) will produce differing degrees of harmonics. The non-linear device will produce other things as well (such as the aforementioned intermodulation) but harmonics are probably the number one resultant. A harmonic is simply a copy of the original signal but with it's frequency multiplied by an integer. The second harmonic is therefore the original signal but with all it's frequencies doubled.The seco...
More About: Putting , Record
Russia is the Tsar of Pirates
Wireless Waffle has talked extensively about pirate radio in the past, from short-wave music stations, to Brazilian sat-jackers. But it seems that, of all the nations on the planet, the Russia ns hold the baton for being the biggest pirates of them all.This story begins when reading the latest intruder report from the IARU Region 1 Monitoring System. The report indicated that there had been an intrusion into the 80 metre amateur band between 3.5 and 3.6 MHz by Russian pirate stations running AM. Now historically the Voice of Korea (the North Korean broadcaster) has been transmitting in the 80 metre band (or the 75 metre band as it's called in in North America) on 3560 kHz in AM and the immediate assumption was that these new signals couldn't possibly be Russian pirates, but must be the Voice of Korea and perhaps a few other stations trying to jam it. The IARU report, however, says that the carriers are very unstable and that the modulation is voices in Russian.So the only...
More About: Pirates , Pirate , Amateur Radio , Clandestine
BBBBCC Rraaddiioo Ssccoottllaanndd
It seems that it's not just Rraaddiioo Nneeddeerrllaanndd that suffer from an echo on transmissions. It was a dreich day and being concerned for relatives who live in Northern Scotland, last night the Wireless Waffle receiver was tuned to BBC Radio Scotland on 810 kHz. The 810 kHz service is transmitted from three stations, two high powered (Burghead and Westerglen) at 100 kW a piece, and a lower powered fill-in at Redmoss at 5 kW. From the south of England, only the two higher powered stations are audible and during the evening are pretty much at similar strengths and lo! and behold, there was an annoying echo echo on the signal.Where multiple transmitters operate on the same frequency, it is as important that the audio feeds are synchronised as it is that the transmission frequencies are. Where both can be received at similar signal strengths, any difference in frequency between the two causes an audible heterodyne (a.k.a. whistle) to be heard. If the audio is not synchr...
Radio Killer - Don't Let The Music End
Here at Wireless Waffle we're working on something a bit special. A project that will help sufferers of broadband drop-out everywhere. Meanwhile, we thought you might like the latest offering from Romanian groovers Radio Killer , 'Don't Let The Music End' (lovers of 80's hi-fi will enjoy their web-site!)It isn't as good as Lonely Heart which we plugged for chart success earlier in the year (and still think there's a chance it might make it some day), but it's nice to see an inventive video (ie one that isn't just scantily clad ladies a-groovin' and a-grindin'). And Radio Killer singer 'Lee Heart' has a very girl next door kind of look, which again makes a refreshing change from the 'less is less' attire of some other pop stars.One ponderance we had was whether there was just a little plagiarism going on when they thought of the title, as it's precariously similar to 'Don't Let The Music Die...
Another Radio Birthday...
It's been a while since we discussed CB radio here at Wireless Waffle and it's not time to go over old ground now. What it is time for, is to dust of that old rig that's propping up the WiFi routers that are sitting in the corner of your garage, sort yourself out a twig, and join the birthday celebrations.CB radio becomes 30 years old on November 2nd this year, and to commemorate this landmark, there is going to be a party called 'The Big Net'. Set your dial to Channel 30 (UK) or 27.89125 MHz if you prefer, and put out a call between 7pm and 9pm. Wouldn't it be good if the result was the discovery of a few old breakers who you had lost contact with. Or embarrassing if you happen upon a few old seat-covers! A big 10-4 on that one.Keep the lipstick off your dipstick and the smokies off your tail, good buddies. 10-10 'til we do it again.
More About: Radio , Birthday
Happy Birth-DAB Sweet Sixteen
27th September is a good day for birthdays. Not only is it the birthday of Internet Goliath Google, but it's also the date on which DAB radio was launched in the UK.DAB radio was launched with a fanfare in London by the BBC on 27th September 1995 - 16 years ago. At the time, only the BBC multiplex was on-air carrying the existing analogue services. They were soon joined by BBC World Service and then by a rag tag collection of new services such as 5 Live Sports Extra and 6Music. On 15 November 1999 it was joined by the first national multiplex, Digital One.So on the 16th birthday of DAB in the UK, how far has the service progressed? The following promotional script, leaked from the BBC, advertising DAB radio, says it all...Fed up with FM radio? Had it with top presenters and big name artists? Are quality and professionalism beginning to bore you? Is high quality sound too run of the mill? Then maybe DAB radio is for you...Gone are the crackles of FM reception, with DAB, ...
More About: Sweet , Happy , Sweet Sixteen , Birth
Maximise your mobile signal
Ofcom has recently published a leaflet outlining how mobile subscribers can go about maximising their mobile signal with a view to getting the best possible coverage. The leaflet covers issues such as checking coverage first, before buying a phone (shops have on-line coverage checkers available), trying out different operators (by testing different SIM cards) and has a few technical measures such as the use of Femtocells (tiny mobile base stations you can install in your own home) and UMA (carrying your voice traffic over WiFi when you're in the coverage of a suitable hotspot).This is all well and good, and reasonable advice, but it doesn't cover how you might go about getting a better signal if you are stuck in an area with poor coverage. So here's the (new look!) Wireless Waffle guide to practical things you can do to get a better signal (and things that don't work).Get high! By far the best way to improve your chances of getting a good signal is to get your ...
More About: Mobile , Much Ado About Nothing
Radio Killer - Lonely Heart
OK, so a bit of an odd one for Wireless Waffle. The only real connection with our usual topics is in the title of the band 'Radio Killer ' because it contains the word 'Radio'. Anyhow, here's an off-the-wall prediction for a future UK chart topper...This has got to be one of the catchiest dance tunes this year, beating fellow Romanian Alexandra Stan (of Mr. Saxobeat fame) for the best tune of the year so far.It's released in the UK on Sunday August 14th, so we shall see whether Radio Killer can indeed kill all others and make it to the top of the chart. Pop pickers!
More About: Heart
Are Murdoch's Sky Satellites Spy Satellites?
According to an article in last Friday's London Evening Standard, the term 'pinging' means locating a mobile phone by satellite. Now Wireless Waffle has previously explained that GPS satellites can not track your location due to the fact that they only transmit location information, not receive it. So how did the News of the World manage to 'ping' the location of a mobile phone using satellite?As it couldn't have been GPS, the most obvious solution is that the satellites used to deliver Sky television are not just 'Sky satellites' but 'spy satellites' too! For this to work, the satellites concerned would have to be able to receive a signal from the phone being tracked, identify the direction from which the signal was being received, and then triangulate this through measurements from a number of different locations. Let's take these one at a time. A geostationary satellite can 'see' about a third of the surface ar...
More About: Satellites , Much Ado About Nothing
Let's sheikh on it!
Around the short-wave world, mention of 'PsyOps' has recently had reason to reappear. It refers to psychological warfare being conducted by NATO forces to 'scare' Colonel Gadaffi's forces into remission through a variety of activities. One of these activities is the broadcast of semi-threatening, warning messages to troops loyal to Libya's erstwhile leader.These messages have apparently been broadcast from a Lockheed Martin EC-130 aircraft known as Commander Solo overflying the region and are using the frequencies which belong to the 'Great Man Made River Authority' (GMMRA) which is Libya's authority responsible for artificially transporting water from wells in the Sahara desert via a big pipe to population centres in the North. Why NATO would have chosen these frequencies is not known, however there is (or was) apparently an ALE network on these channels that was presumably in regular use and hence there would be several receivers acr...
More About: Pirate , Amateur Radio , Clandestine
Tuning around the 13 MHz broadcast band, Radio Nederland on 13700 kHz being transmitted from Wertachtal in Germany was sounding rather odd. It had a very pronounced echo which made understanding it very difficult (if you could understand Dutch in the first place!)You will note in the brief recording that towards the end the echo becomes less evident and listening over a longer period it was clear that the echo faded in and out. This can only mean one of two possible things:(1) The echo was being caused by transmitting the same material, slightly delayed, from a second transmitter site; or(2) The echo was being caused by receiving duplicated copies of the same material, delayed by some other means.As far as was apparent, there were no other transmitters being used on that frequency by Radio Nederland, though there was meant to be a transmitter in China on the same frequency which might have been erroneously relaying the programme by mistake. But the cause is more likely to be some...
More About: Broadcasting
Spot the Difference!
Driving around London the other day, there was time to have a good old tune through the FM band to see how the various new community radio stations were getting on and whether Ofcom had had much success in shutting down the myriad of pirates. But the job was much more difficult that usual! The difficulty lies in the fact that many of the community stations sound like pirates, and the pirates that are still on air sound almost professional, at least as professional as the community stations that are slowly replacing them.Take Rinse FM (now legally broadcasting on 106.8) as a case in point. Now you might not particularly like the wack-a-jaffa, hardbeat, dirty garage or deep-boom gruffty music that they play (at least that's what it sounded like), but since their move to legality, the main thing which seems to have changed is that the presenters are marginally more professional (some of the street slang used before seems to have been tidied up), can read out a proper phone numb...
More About: Pirate , Spot , Clandestine
Previously on Wireless Waffle we have discussed ways of checking and even gaining some knowledge of the state of propagation of the short-wave bands. But for truly advanced users, there is a way to find out the actual state of propagation for a particular location in real time. Scattered around the world are a series of ionosondes. These ionosondes are rather like radars in that they transmit a signal to the ionosphere and measure the time taken to get a response. They do this across a range of short-wave frequencies.The result is a chart called an ionogram. An ionogram is effectively a radar picture of the height of the ionosphere at the location immediately above the ionosonde as well as providing an indication of its refractivity, over a range of frequencies. An example ionogram taken from the ionosonde in Dourbes, Belgium, is shown below.The ionogram is the ultimate way of assessing short-wave propagation. It tells us exactly what is going on. To help interpret the ionogram...
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Radio Ray Gun
Ever wondered what goes on in those increadibly high frequencies that might almost be called 'nanowave' instead of 'microwave'? Well other than a bit of use for looking at the earth from satellites (a.k.a. earth observation) the main uses tend to be military. This is partly because it becomes quite difficult (and thus expensive) to generate any kind of power at these frequencies but also because even if you do, it doesn't tend to go very far because of the poor propagation characteristics. At these frequencies, signals do not penetrate very far inside solid objects such that even the thinnest membrane will stop them dead in their tracks. Even the thin blue line of atmosphere that surrounds our fragile planet is enough to nobble extra high frequencies.But those clever military people realised that this ability of signals to not penetrate anything very deeply might have an application other than for radio communication, navigation or any of the other uses ...
More About: Radio
When is a radio not a radio?
When is a radio not a radio? When it's a cake? Well obviously, but it wouldn't be a Wireless Waffle article if it was about cake now would it? Waffles perhaps, but cake?Anyhow the correct answer is 'When it's a Feynman Radio '. What, I hear you ask, is a Feynman Radio. In order to answer that we have to step back in time to the works of the Maestro James Clerk Maxwell. His Electromagnetic Wave Equation is the mathematical basis of all radio signals, propagation and so forth and desribes how radio waves travel.Maxwell's equations (in common with many) square numbers before operating on them. One of the key numbers which is in Maxwell's equation is 't' standing for 'time'. The equations describe how Electromagnetic (radio) waves change with time. However, the factor which accounts for time is squared. Now this in itself may not seem important BUT the square of a negative number is the same as the square of a positive one. ...
What are the chances (Part IIa)?
Back in October 2009, Wireless Waffle brought to your attention the HF (short-wave) monitoring data produced on a quarterly basis by the ITU. Within these reports were a number of short-wave pirate stations and the original list of stations brought a lot of interest from these stations, both to see who had been 'caught' and to see how close the ITU had gotten to identifying their exact location. Based on the e-mails that were received following the article, it seems like some had hit the nail a little too closely on the head for comfort.To see how the ITU were getting along, and who had been spotted more recently, a trawl of the montoring reports from January to June 2010 has been conducted and the results presented below. Those stations whose name is shown in CAPITALS were directly identified by the monitoring station concerned. Those in lower case have been identified using the various on-line blogs that report pirate reception. DateTime (UTC)Freq (kHz)Monitoring St...
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Height versus Power
One of the most common questions that the Wireless Waffle team are asked by those setting up radio transmitters is, "How much power do I need to cover an area X miles wide?". Such a question is virtually unanswerable as there are so many factors to take account of including the frequency of operation, the topography of the area, the kind of structures (buildings, trees) which are in the required coverage area, what kind of receivers people are using and much more. The observant will note that these factors are not ones which can necessarily be changed by the person operating the transmitter - unless they fancied chopping down a forest for example. What can be changed at the transmitting site are two relatively simple factors: the height of the antenna, and the power of the transmitter.Such discussions therefore end up focussing on how high the antenna needs to be and what power the transmitter should be. But which is most effective in increasing coverage: height or pow...
More About: Power , Versus
Super Signal Holiday HF Antenna Apparel (Part II)
Last summer, here at Wireless Waffle, we came up with a design for an increadible piece of beach-wear for the short-wave listener which we cristened the 'Wireless Waffle Super Signal Holiday HF Antenna Apparel '. Not only has this become the must have item for improving reception whilst soaking up the sun, devotees have coined the nickname, 'SuSi' and it's an idea that has clearly caught on. At the end of our revelation of this unbelievable breakthrough in summer attire last year, we asked you to submit your own photos of the 'SuSi' which we would then share with other Wireless Waffle readers. And submit them you did! Here we present the 2010 SuSi Snapshot Selection. Together with the original device, it is enthralling to see so many variants in use, however we have our doubts about how effective some of the modified versions might be - so together with your photos, we have also included our view on how well the device pictured might perform.This...
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Most short-wave listeners would probably love to know whether reception conditions are good or not at any given time on any particular band. One way to do this might be to use an on-line tool, such as the one shown on the right, which tries to interpret solar conditions (eg sunspot numbers) to provide an indication of whether specific frequencies are likely to perform well. This is a good start but gives no idea of from which areas signal are being received. Knowing that frequencies below 10 MHz are suject to 'fair' propagation tells you little about whether this is to the East, West, North or some other direction.Another way, therefore, might be to try and tune in to radio broadcasts from specific areas to see what can actually be received. This works pretty well and tools like that provided at short-wave.info can help you find where signals are being transmitted from and thus what else you might be able to hear.But radio broadcasts are not the only short-wave transmiss...
Travelling on the London Underground last week, Wireless Waffle was intrigued by an advertisement for 'GiffGaff which marketed itself as 'the mobile network run by you'. Visions of self installed cell sites connected back to the network infrastructure by home (or business) broadband connections flashed in front of the eyes. Notions of a new style of organic mobile network where coverage is provided by the users themselves caused a twitch of our technology antennae. Sadly, upon visiting the GiffGaff web-site it turns out to be yet another Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) like Virgin Mobile, Tesco Mobile and others - and in this case, one which uses O2's mobile network. The 'network run by you' is simply an incentive to get you to get your friends to use GiffGaff SIM cards, a marketing scam and not a new kind of network at all.But would it be possible to construct a 'network truly run by you'? Believe it or not, the technology to do thi...
Whatever happened to...?
There is endless speculation on the internet as to what became of the many pirate radio ships which sailed the seven seas (or the North Sea more specifically) in the bygone era. Wireless Waffle can exclusively reveal the final resting home of one of these infamous nafarious vessels, having been tipped off by a Government source who wishes to remain anonymous. 'Dave Herrish' for want of a better name (and a complete lack of imagination on our part) has informed us that the rigging that adorned the pirate ship 'The Ross Communidel Amigocado' was removed from the hull at a secret military shipyard somewhere on the southern northern Europe coast and transported, piece by piece, to the facilites of Radio Bulgaria where it was re-assembled and used as a mast for their short-wave monitoring station.Situated between Varna and Dolni Chiflik the antennas are now used as a high gain array for the purposes of intercepting both civil and military radio traffic. But, twice a ...
The Vl'hurgs and the G'gugvuntts
Having seen this... the following somehow came immediately to mind...It is of course well known that careless talk costs lives, but the full scale of the problem is not always appreciated.For instance, at the very moment that it was concluded that 'economically speaking, short-wave listening wins hands down' a freak wormhole opened up in the fabric of the quasi-scientific continuum and carried these words far far across almost infinite reaches of space to a distant office where strange and warlike beings were poised on the brink of a frightful regulatory battle.The two opposing leaders were meeting for the last time.A dreadful silence fell across the conference table as the commander of the RSGB, resplendent with his black jewelled battle antenna, gazed levelly at the Ofcom leader squatting opposite him in a cloud of sweet-smelling spectrum smog, and, with a million sleek and horribly beweaponed lawyers poised to unleash legal hell at his single word of command, challenge...
We're Jammin' (Part III)
First off, let's get a few things straight. GPS works by using a constellation of about 30 medium earth orbit (MEO) satellites run by the US military which go whizzing around the earth twice every day at a height of 20,000 km to transmit position and time information to receivers on the ground. From this information GPS receivers then can work out where they are. This means that the only person who knows your location is you - there is no path back to the satellite which somehow covertly tells the satellite where you are. Thus GPS devices in themselves can not be used to 'track' the location of users. What they do provide is location information which could then be sent on via some other (radio) connection to enable someones location to be tracked. Standard in-car navigation systems do not have such a facility built in and thus using one does not alert the authorities (or anyone else for that matter) to your location.That aside, there are in increasing number of...
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Chill Over and Out
Some of the biggest brains in Europe, as well as hundreds of millions of Euros of public money are being poured into a concept which has the catchy name of the 'Internet of Things'. The concept in itself is a fairly straightforward one - that as well as people being connected together via the Internet, machines and sensors and all sorts of other electrical and mechanical devices will be connected together as well. So it would be possible for your fridge to talk to your lawnmower, and your kettle to have a chat with your central heating system. Actually, this is nowhere near as silly as it sounds. From the perspective of saving energy and hence carbon, one of the main problems facing electricity generators is dealing with the peak load. In the USA this occurs on the hottest day of the year when air conditioning units are working overtime, and in the UK typically occurs mid-winter when heating units and lots of TVs are turned on, especially during commercial breaks when...
What are the chances (Part II)?
A previous article on Wireless Waffle talked about the chances of a pirate radio station being caught focussing on VHF FM pirates. A later one focussed on short-wave pirates and discussed which frequencies to avoid in order to minimise getting the authorities' collective danders up.Over the past 12 months, both Premier Radio (who used 6265 kHz) and Laser Hot Hits (who used 4025 kHz) have had their transmitter sites raided. Bringing together the ethos of the two previous articles, it would make sense that in order for a raid to be worthwhile, even at short-wave, there would have likely been a complaint raised against the station concerned. So we might, therefore, ask, "Who raised these complaints?" It seems unlikely that major international broadcasters such as the BBC World Service or China Radio International would be at all threatened by pirate operators taking their audience away or causing interference, especially as the frequencies being used by the pirates are...
More About: Pirate , Clandestine , Part
Ofcom Sanctions Free RadioMore articles from this author:
Well who would have thought it! According to many pages on the subject across the internet, hang gliders have a special arrangement with Ofcom to allow them easy access to various radio frequencies without needing a licence! Yes, apparently a chap called Rod Buck, the then radio officer of the British Hang Gliding and Parachute Association (BHPA) reached an 'agreement' with the Radio communications Agency some years ago (must have been quite some years as the Agency was disbanded in 2003) that they could use a set of radio frequencies for air to air and air to ground communications and as long as they stuck to them the Agency would 'turn a blind eye'.What are these frequencies? 143.750 to 143.950 MHz in 25 kHz steps. If you don't believe me, take a look here. The top of this frequency range, 143.950 MHz, is the unofficial calling channel and from the Wireless Waffle HQ it is alive most days with chitter chatter from enthusiasts dodging in and out of plane...
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