My subscription to Life expired, but I still have a subscription to Mad.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

RIP: PopComm, CQ VHF, WorldRadio Online

CQ Communications, Inc. announced today that "Effective with the February 2014 issue of CQ, content from the magazine's three sister publications, Popular Communications, CQ VHF and WorldRadio Online, will be incorporated into CQ's digital edition as a supplement to be called 'CQ Plus.'"

Which means that CQ Communications will no longer publish Popular Communications, CQ VHF, and WorldRadio Online.

I subscribe to all three and enjoy reading them, but I will miss Popular Communications the most. On a monthly basis, I probably read more of PopComm than all the other radio rags I subscribe to put together.

It's too bad.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

New Hardware

Source: Kansas Historical Society (
Two new pieces of hardware showed up at WA1LOU last week.

My sister gifted me with a C.Crane CCRadio 2E Enhanced AM/FM/WX/2-Meter Ham Band receiver.

I gifted myself with a MacBook Pro Retina, 15-inch, Late 2013 laptop computer.

I plan to review both items here real soon now, but I will leave you with my most impressive impressions of both.

The AM radio part of the CCRadio 2E is outstanding and the MacBook Pro is fast!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas in Connecticut

This is nuts! December 22, 2013, the temperature at 2PM is 64 degrees Fahrenheit here on Compounce Mountain.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Two on Thursday

Caught two new ones last night on the high end of the AM broadcast band:

At 2324Z: WKDV on 1460 kHz transmitting 5 kW from Manassas, Virginia, 310 miles to the southwest. The signal strength of the Mexican music varied between an S0 and S4.

At 2338Z: WVON on 1690 kHz transmitting 10 kW from Berwyn, Illinois, 760 miles to the west. The signal strength of the traffic reports varied between an S0 and S2.

Equipment used was a C.Crane CC SW Pocket AM/FM/SW radio and a Terk AM Advantage indoor loop antenna.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


My wife had surgery and I have been busy taking care of her since she came home two weeks ago. As a result, my radio activity has been near zero, but last night, after she went to bed, I got in a little radio time and worked a new station at 0330Z: CHHA on 1610 kc transmitting 6.2 kW out of Toronto about 350 miles to the west-northwest. The signal varied between S1 and S4, while I listened to a man and woman speaking in Spanglish.

Equipment used was a C.Crane CC SW Pocket AM/FM/SW radio and a Terk AM Advantage indoor loop antenna.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

End of Tokyo's Version of "Radio Row"*

"Tokyo's world-famous Akihabara district lost one of its signature stores on Saturday, and with it a piece of the area's rich electronics history faded away.

"The Radio Store, one of the landmarks that gave Akihabara its "Electric Town" nickname, closed its doors for the last time on Saturday evening after 64 years in business."

Read all about it at PC World.

Thank you, Norman Wald, W9VQ, for relaying this story to me.

* New York City's "Radio Row" disappeared in the 1960s.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

STL-SDR for TV-DX Meteor Scatter


By Mike Schaffer, KA3JAW (fn20iq)

This is a follow-up to the October 4, 2013 article titled $20 Multimode Software Defined Radio.

On October 26, 2013 at 22:47 UTC (6:47 pm EDT), a negative 4.00 stellar magnitude meteor (less than a category negative 4.50 magnitude fireball) from the Orionids meteor shower caused by small fragments of comic debris from Halley's Comet streaked between the boroughs of Mountain Top and Freeland, then over Kunkletown, reaching into the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania.

Seconds later, its light yellow flame was seen overhead in Nazareth, then the Delaware River and finally making its way to Marble Hill, New Jersey, while blazing at a velocity of 41 miles per second (67 km/sec).

It was determined the meteor tracked 3.7 miles north of Center Square in Easton, PA.

Closest approach was 3.0 miles to the northeast when it fragmented into smaller pieces while cruising at a 45 degree inclination during its 3.5-second flight journey through Earth's atmosphere.

The Orionids meteor shower was active from October 4 to November 14, 2013. Peak nights occurred on October 21-22. Meteor rates were expected to be 50 to 75 per hour.

At the time of event on October 26, I was home in south Easton with two NTSC analog television sets turned to channel 2 with the volume set at a comfortable listening level waiting for a chance of TV-DX via Sporadic E or F2 propagation. Unfortunately neither occurred.

Something very rare did occur at 6:15 pm EDT, exactly 32 minutes prior to the meteor event stated above overhead near Easton, while hoping to catch the Canadian network CTV, call sign CKCO in Wiarton, Ontario via meteor scatter (Ms) on 55.240 MHz (minus offset) at a distance of 941 miles. Without warning the TV's audio steady background noise rapidly flared producing what sounds similar to a burst of high pressure air leaking through a cracked pipe. That effect instantly startled me for about three seconds.

Later, I realized that sound effect was not the result of a meteor forward scatter mode, but rather the ionized atmospheric gases (plasma) surrounding the meteor while leaving a vapor trail overhead. It seemed as if the meteor was exiting through the TV tube! After nine years of TV-DXing I never experienced this phenomenon!

It was this rare event that inspired me to take a more active roll in finding other techniques in meteor detection --- using the $20 STL-SDR dongle. After some experimentation, I can confirm that this inexpensive device has enough sensitivity to detect, spot and track meteors.

I would like to share snapshot images of what a meteor looks like on the SDR# (SDR Sharp) waterfall display.


The above snapshot shows the STL-SDR device tuned (red dial line) to a frequency of 55.250 MHz. On both sides of this frequency (55.240 and 55.260 MHz) you can see two vertical meteor scatter traces starting at the date/time stamp displayed at the left margin. The first trace (on 55.240) is a moderate signal strength signal from CKCO in Wiarton, Ontario, over 421 air miles distance. The second trace is a weak signal strength signal on 55.260 from CIII in Bancroft, Ontario over 320 air miles distance. More sample images can be found here on Photobucket

To detect meteors via forward scatter propagation there has to be powerful (25 kW or more)radio frequency transmitter at one end point that is on the air 24 hours a day, such as a
full-power TV facility that radiates 100 kW on their video carrier with 10 kW audio. In my technique, I am not concerned with the audio portion of the signal.

The above statement would meet half of our requirements. The US TV broadcast conversion from analog to digital went into effect on June 12, 2009, per Congressional mandate. Unknown to many citizens, there are analog US TV signals on the air since the DTV transition (currently 72 low-powered analog TV stations are on the air in the US). These stations are Class-A , low-powered translators that run from 2 watts up to 3 kW on channel 2. Again, the power is not strong enough for Ms detection.

By now you may be wondering how will we be able to find any full-power 100 kW broadcasters in which to do TV-DX via meteor scatter using the STL-SDR dongle. There is one other option to peruse. Our maple leaf friends up along the Canadian/US border have five analog TV-2 channels that remain active since their DTV analog-to-digital transition went into effect on August 31, 2011. This option has an extra advantage as there will be no US-based high-powered NTSC analog television stations to cause any radio frequency interference issues.

By the way, normal meteor scatter range is up to 1,400 miles.

Good DX!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

I love the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade! The above installment of the parade took place in 1961.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

High Weirdness

I was sound asleep this morning when the doorbell rang at 1:30 AM. My first thought was that it cannot be good and expected the police to be at the door with some bad news.

I went downstairs and looked out the windows of the front door, but no one was there.

Suddenly, a cat hopped down from the porch railing, scooted halfway down the sidewalk, and turned around to look back at me. After a second or two, it moved on.

I was not wearing my eyeglasses, so I could not identify the cat as one of our neighbors' felines, but I have a feeling it was a neighbor's cat named Smudge, who my daughter and I rescued from a tree and babysat for a few days when he was a kitten.

I felt bad for the cat because it was about 20 degrees Fahrenheit at that time with a wind chill factor down in the single digits.

But how did it ring the doorbell? The doorbell is within a cat's reach from the porch railing, but was it just dumb luck or was the cat very intelligent.

And by the way, just as I began typing this, about 15 wild turkeys just crossed our lawn on their way into the woods across the street!

Friday, November 22, 2013


Early last year, I began transitioning my magazine subscriptions from paper to digital format. Among others, I have digital subscriptions to the complete CQ stable of magazines, i.e., CQ, CQ VHF, Popular Communications and WorldRadio Online.

Typically, the monthlies arrive around the first of the month, but this month, CQ and Popular Communications are no-shows. WorldRadio Online arrived around Halloween, but three weeks later, that's all, folks.

I e-mailed CQ, but have not received a reply.

Have any of you received the digital November 2013 issues of CQ and Popular Communications or are you in the same paperless both as I?

UPDATE: Would you believe that the digital November issues of CQ and Popular Communications arrived late this afternoon about four hours after this post was originally published. What a coincidence!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Minotaur Seen in Downtown Wolcott

Space cadet that I am, my eyes lit up when I heard on the local news that a nightime launch of a Minotaur I rocket from Wallops Island, Virginia, might be visible along the East Coast tonight.

I watched the launch on the NASA channel at 8:15 EST and went outside to see what I could see.

Two or three minutes later, I spotted a red light on the south-southwest horizon rising at a 60-degree angle.

I watched it for about two minutes until it disappeared to the south-southeast approximately 45 degrees above the horizon.

When it disappeared, I could not determine whether the light was extinguished or was obscured by a cloud. Probably the latter, but in either case, I did not see the light again.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

WPTF plus four

The week started off very slowly, but ended with five new ones in the log!

1470 kHz, WBTX S0-4 from Broadway-Timberville, VA, 10 kW, 370 miles SW

1660 kHz, WBCN S3 from Charlotte, NC, 5 kW, 610 miles SW

630 kHz, CFCO S2 from Chathan, Ontario, 10 kW, 480 miles W

680 kHz, WCBM S3 from Baltimore, MD, 50 kW, 250 miles SW

680 kHz, WPTF S3 from Raleigh, NC, 50 kW, 500 miles SW (the postcard above depicts the site of WPTF in the late 1920s)

Equipment used was the stock radio and antenna in a 2010 Nissan Rogue.

Friday, November 15, 2013



I did not have much time for radio this week, but I did nab a new one Thursday evening: number 184 in the AM radio log, WTEM on 980 kHz running 50 kW from Hyattsville, Maryland, 280 miles southwest (see Bing Maps image above) with studios located in Washington, D.C. Signal varied from S-ø to S-2 with competition from WILK in Wilkes-Barre, PA.

Equipment used was a C.Crane CC SW Pocket AM/FM/SW radio and and C. Crane CC Twin Coil Ferrite antenna.

Monday, November 11, 2013

AM Update

Thursday night, I added two new stations to my AM radio log:

WIP on 610 kHz running 5 kW from Philadelphia, with an S0 to S2 signal 270 miles to the southwest.

WKFN on 540 kHz running 55 watts from Clarksville, Tennessee, with an S1 to S2 signal 850 miles to the west-southwest.

Equipment used was a C.Crane CC SW Pocket AM/FM/SW radio and a Terk AM Advantage indoor loop antenna.

I was surprised to hear WKFN since it was transmitting only 55 watts 850 miles away. It is one of my better AM radio loggings. And I heard it again on Friday night at about the same time (0430Z).

Friday, November 8, 2013

Long Distance Loggings


After logging a long list of AM radio stations that were a distance of 300 miles or less (much less) from the WA1LOU monitoring posts during the past few months, I logged some long distance last night when I added three new stations to the log:

KBGG transmitting 10 kW on 1700 kHz from Des Moines, IA - 1100 miles west, S0-3

KCJJ transmitting 10 kW on 1630 kHz from Iowa City, IA - 950 miles west, S0-2

WTNI transmitting 10 kW on 1640 kHz from Biloxi, MS - 1200 miles southwest, S0-3

Equipment used was a C.Crane CC SW Pocket AM/FM/SW radio and a Terk AM Advantage indoor loop antenna.

Thank you "Paul S. in CT" from the Ultralight DX Yahoo! group for the heads-up about KCJJ and thank you Google Maps for the image above.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Finding WFTU



In the previous installment of Surfin',  I wrote about adding WFTU to my AM radio log, but mentioned, "Oddly, I can not find a photo of the WFTU transmitter site. Radio-Locator points to 40° 54' 48" N,  72° 39' 16" W, but I don't see any antennas at that location on Google or Bing Maps. Go figure!"

Tom Dunbar, W6ESL, sent me an e-mail that he found the antennas.

"It took some messing around, and peering diligently at the photos provided by Mapper but I finally 'found' the 2 antenna array for this station.

"The two antennas are very difficult to pick out of the overhead photo - they are now\t in a neatly mowed field, but are in trees / scrub / brush where an old Drive In theater once was (according to the Topo map that Mapper allows you to look at).

"If you go to coordinates: N 40 54' 44" W 72 39' 12", and zoom in, you will eventually see two white dots.  The towers them selves are pretty invisible - they are essentially coming straight up into your eye.  However, if you look carefully, you will see the shadows of the two - straight lines coming out of thee two white dots.

"They are hard to see, but they are there."

After reading Tom's e-mail and revisiting the maps, I figured out why I did not find the WFTU towers. The coordinates that Tom provided differed from the coordinates provided by Radio-Locator. Using Tom's coordinates, I found the towers immediately (see the Bing Maps screen capture above), while the Radio-Locator coordinates were off just enough for me to miss the towers.

Now that I know that the documented coordinates are not necessarily dead-on, in the future I will make sure to look around the coordinates if the antennas don’t pop out at me as I did to find the CIWW transmitter site, whose coordinates were off by over a half-mile!

By the way, midday yesterday I added a needed Connecticut AM radio station to my log: the very weak S-0 to S-1 WSTC in Stamford transmitting 800 watts 49 miles southwest. Equipment used was the stock radio and antenna in my 2007 Subaru Outback Sport.

Until next time, keep on Surfin’!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

1310 x 2


During lunch hour on Tuesday, I dialed up the six frequencies occupied by the six stations on my Connecticut AM Radio Stations Needed List and heard nothing but noise on all except 1310 kHz, where needed station WICH operates from Norwich.

The S-5 signal consisted of Spanish music, which did not match the modus operandi of WICH. But my AM radio station app indicated that two other relatively nearby stations might fit the bill: WRVP in Mount Kisco and WORC in Worcester. So I sat on 1310 for 10 minutes until the top of the hour, when the announcer identified the station as WRVP.

Located in the Hudson Valley 53 miles to the west-southwest, WRVP transmits 5 kW and represents the 176th AM station in my log and the first on 1310 kHz, which is usually bombarded by WATR on 1320 kHz.

Driving home from work five hours later, my radio was still tuned to 1310, but WRVP was gone and a very weak station was in its place varying between an S-1 and S-2. When the announcer mentioned 5 degrees in the weather forecast, I decided to sit in my driveway until the top of the hour for station identification since the local weather forecast was about 30 degrees higher!

It was worth the wait when I heard the station ID of CIWW in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, transmitting 50 kW 290 miles to the north-northwest.

Equipment used was the stock radio and antenna in my 2007 Subaru Outback Sport. Photo courtesy of Bing Maps.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Four on the Fourth


After logging WILI on Sunday, I wondered how many other AM stations in Connecticut I could add to my log. So I perused a couple of websites and put together a Connecticut AM Radio Station Needed List consisting of eight stations.

Using the list, I logged two of the needed stations midday today, log entries 172 and 173:

WLAD transmitting 1 kW on 800 kHz from Danbury, CT, 35 miles WSW with a solid S-7.

WNLK transmitting 1 kW on 1350 kHz from Norwalk, CT, 42 miles SW with an S-1 signal competing with another S-1 signal on 1350.

Six to go!

In the evening, I logged entries 174 and 175:

WILK transmitting 5 kW on 980 kHz from Wilkes-Barre, PA, 160 miles W with an S-2 signal.

WDEL transmitting 5 kW on 1150 kHz from Wilmington, DE, 180 miles SW with an S-0 to S-1 signal.

Logged WLAD and WNLK using the stock radio and antenna in my 2007 Subaru Outback Sport. Logged WILK and WDEL using a C. Crane CCRadio-SW receiver and C. Crane CC Twin Coil Ferrite antenna.

(Photo courtesy of Bing Maps.)

Sunday, November 3, 2013


Logged WILI transmitting 1 kW on 1400 KHz from Willimantic, CT, 40 east with a steady S-4 signal. Equipment used a C. Crane CCRadio-SW receiver and C. Crane CC Twin Coil Ferrite antenna.

WILI is number 171 in my AM log. Above image of the WILI transmitter site is courtesy of Bing Maps.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

WFTU and White's Radio Log



Midday Monday, I added my 170th AM radio station to the log: WFTU transmitting 1 kW on 1570 kHz from Riverhead, Long Island, New York, 40 miles to the south. The signal was a steady S-3 during the 10 minutes I monitored the station. Receiving equipment used was the stock radio and antenna in my 2007 Subaru Outback Sport.

Oddly, I can not find a photo of the WFTU transmitter site. Radio-Locator points to 40° 54' 48" N,  72° 39' 16" W, but I don't see any antennas at that location on Google or Bing Maps. Go figure!

Meanwhile, Paul Mulford, KC8YHW, passed along a very cool link from the American Radio History website: online copies in Adobe Acrobat  format (.pdf) of radio log publications from 1922 to 1991 including White's Radio Log, which along with the World Radio TV Handbook were my constant companions during my radio  listening days in the 1960s.

By the way, even though nobody asked, these days I use an Excel spreadsheet for my LW, AM, and FM loggings.

Until next time, keep on Surfin' and go BoSox!

Monday, October 28, 2013



Sunday morning, I added AM radio station number 169 into the log: WKND transmitting 0.5 kW on 1490 kHz from Windsor, Connecticut, 21 miles to the northeast. It was a steady S-4 all the time I monitored it with a C. Crane CCRadio-SW receiver and C. Crane CC Twin Coil Ferrite antenna.

Thursday, October 24, 2013



Montreal AM radio stations were in the air around Downtown Wolcott last evening and I added a new one (#168) to the log at 0010 UTC: Concordia University’s CJLO transmitting 1 kW on 1690 kHz. The transmitter is located in Lachine, an industrial area southwest of Montreal and 260 miles north of here. The signal varied from S3 to S6 during the half hour I monitored the station using a C. Crane CCRadio-SW receiver and C. Crane CC Twin Coil Ferrite antenna.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Logged WPTX on 1690 kHz at the strike of midnight UTC. The Lexington Park, Maryland station is number 167 in my AM radio log; it transmits 10 kilowatts 300 miles to my southwest. The signal varied between S0 and S5, but peaked momentarily at S7 when the station id was announced at the top of the hour. Equipment used were a C. Crane CCRadio-SW receiver and C. Crane CC Twin Coil Ferrite antenna.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Hello Springfield

Logged two new AM radio stations this morning. Both have Springfield, Massachusetts addresses, although one's transmitter is in Agawam.

WACM at 1490 kHz running 470 watts (!) from an island in the Westfield River in Agawam, 35 miles north-northeast of here.

WHLL at 1450 kHz running 1 kilowatt from the bank of the Connecticut River in Springfield, 36 miles north-northeast of here.

They are 166 and 167 in my AM radio log, respectively and they are also the first stations I have logged on their respective frequencies.

Both stations were very weak running 0 to 1 on the S-meter. In fact, while I was monitoring WACM, my wife walked by wondering why I was listening to noise! Equipment used were a C. Crane CCRadio-SW receiver and C. Crane CC Twin Coil Ferrite antenna.

The images above are courtesy of Bing Maps and Google Maps respectively embellished via Photoshop.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Last Call

This is the last call for articles for the Fall 2013 - Post-Digital Communications Conference (DCC) issue of TAPR's quarterly newsletter, PSR.

So, please send your cards, letters, articles, etc., whatever you have, to the editor of PSR, wa1lou (@)


Monday, October 14, 2013

Stamp Marked ARRL’s Big 5-0


I just obtained this item on eBay: a First Day Cover for the U.S. commemorative postage stamp honoring the 50th anniversary of the ARRL in 1964.

Next year, is the 100th anniversary of the ARRL. I wonder if a commemorative stamp will be issued for that event.

UPDATE: I asked and it turns out there will not be a commemorative stamp for the ARRL centennial.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Got OpenAPRS



When I bought my current set of wheels in 2007, I stopped using ham radio in the car except for special occasions because of the difficulty of installing ham radio equipment in a modern vehicle. On those special occasions, that is, my annual roadtrips to the Hamvention in Dayton, I would install a temporary 2-meter APRS set-up with wires and equipment laid out willy-nilly throughout the vehicle. Except for those trips, WA1LOU was off the APRS map.

And so it goes... until recently.

My family gifted me an iPhone 5 for Christmas and I love it. I am not a phone person; I only use the phone when absolutely necessary, so I never bothered owning a cell phone. However, the other capabilities of the iPhone sold me on it; for me, the iPhone is a pocket computer and its phone functions are secondary.

For my trek to Dayton this year, I uninstalled my Tom Tom GPS and replaced it with my iPhone mounted on the dashboard where the GPS used to reside uisng an iOttie HLCRIO104 Easy Flex 2 Windshield Dashboard Car/Desk Mount Holder (it works great and I highly recommend it).

Despite the disparaging reviews of the iPhone Maps app, I used Maps to get me to, from and around Dayton without a hiccup.

Since Hamvention, whenever I am in my car, I put the iPhone in the dashboard mount whether I use Maps or not because it is safer there than on the empty passenger seat or in the empty cup holder. And I have it plugged into a cigarette lighter charger so it is fully charged (or close to it) when I remove it from the dashboard mount.

Studying the iPhone mobile installation awhile back, I thought about running APRS with it. It would not be APRS via ham radio RF, but via cell phone RF, but it would still be APRS and a nice addition to my roadtrips. I searched the App Store to see what APRS apps were available for the iPhone. The App Store found a few, so I read the descriptions and the reviews trying to decide which one to download to my iPhone.

OpenAPRS was my choice. After downloading and registering it, I configured it. In the past, configuring an APRS installation was such a pain the dupa that you could write a book about it! Good news is that OpenAPRS is easy to configure - it took about a minute - and I had it up and running quickly.

After driving to work running OpenAPRS, I checked to see how well OpenAPRS performed and I was very happy to find my route perfectly drawn on the map; APRS via cell phone RF worked just as well as APRS via ham radio RF for that 22-mile trip.

By the way, Verizon is my cell phone RF provider and I am very happy with its service. For what it's worth, while staffing the TAPR booth in the Hara Arena at Hamvention this year, my iPhone had great cell phone RF service, while other people in the booth using iPhones with other cell phone service providers had poor or no service inside the arena.

Getting back to OpenAPRS... it has the following APRS-related screens:

Settings screen - where you push buttons and enter text to set up and control the software

Messaging screen - where you can enter texts to be sent via APRS

Search screen - to find other APRS stations

Objects screen - where you can create an APRS object

Maps screen - to display APRS activity on a map

OpenAPRS also has built-in a compass, a search FCC database function, technical support and help. Also, you can choose from three types of maps: a Google road map, a Google satellite map and a hybrid that combines features of the two.

What I like about the Google satellite map version is that when I zoom into my workplace, the current Google satellite image shows my green Subaru parked in the exact same spot where I usually park it every workday with my APRS station icon overlaid on my vehicle!

How cool is that!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

TAPR Officers and Directors Election Results

On September 19, proceeding the ARRL-TAPR Digital Communications Conference (DCC) in Seattle, the TAPR Board of Directors elected its officers for the following year:

President Steve Bible, N7HPR
Vice President Jeremy McDermond, NH6Z
Treasurer Tom Holmes, N8ZM
Secretary Stan Horzepa, WA1LOU

At the TAPR Annual General Membership Meeting on September 21, nominations for three Board of Directors positions were closed and the three unopposed nominated candidates John Ackermann, N8UR, Jeremy McDermond, NH6Z, and Mark Thompson, WB9QZB, will serve as board members for next three years. Thompson, a former director, fills the slot of Dan Babcock, N4XWE, who steps down as director after serving one three-year term, while Ackermann and McDermond were re-elected as directors.

Friday, October 4, 2013

$20 Multimode Software Defined Radio

By Mike Schaffer, KA3JAW


For this specialized piece of equipment, you will not be familiar with the manufacturers' nameplates as they are not your popular ham radio companies such as Alinco, Kenwood, Yaesu, Icom, JRC, MFJ or WinRadio. To date there are three company manufacturers: Ezcap, Compro and Terratec, along with other no brand clones.

These devices have been used in Western Europe to watch terrestrial Digital Video Broadcasting (DVB-T) since 1998. These 2.75" (L) x 1.0" (W) x 0.5" (H) 0.7 ounce dongle (stick) devices connect to your computer via a USB 2.0 port.

They are useless in North America as we use a different standard called Advanced Television System Committee (ATSC) for digital transmission over terrestrial, cable, and satellite networks. However, they can be adapted as Software Defined Radios (SDR) for ham radio for the 6m (50 MHz), 2m (144 MHz), 1.25m (222 MHz), 70 cm (420 MHz), 33 cm (902 MHz), and 23 cm (1240 MHz) on some models.

There are two major chip sets built into the STL-SDR dongle: RF silicone tuner and the DVB-T COFDM (Coded Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiplexing) demodulator.

Elonics, a global leader in RF technology headquartered in the United Kingdom since 2003, has an E4000 multi-standard CMOS terrestrial RF silicon tuner designed to interface directly to a digital demodulator and contains a fully integrated LNA, programmable RF filter, and RF mixers providing superior real world performance. The front end tuner covers the frequency range from 64 - 1700 MHz. However, reports have confirmed they can be made operable from 50 - 2200 MHz with a 150 MHz gap from 1100-1250 MHz on some models.

The heart of the E4000 is an innovative DigitalTune architecture, which allows the user to adjust the performance of the tuner for optimum linearity or noise figure according to significantly improve reception quality.

The demodulator is a Realtek RTL2832U high-performance DVB-T COFDM that supports a USB 2.0 interface with an 8-MHz bandwidth at an IF (Intermediate Frequency) of 36.125 MHz, low-IF of 4.57 MHz, or Zero-IF output using a 28.8 MHz crystal and includes FM/DAB/DAB+ radio support. Embedded with an advanced ADC (Analog-to-Digital Converter), the RTL2832U features high stability in portable reception.

The state-of-the art tuner features proprietary algorithms including superior channel estimation, co-channel interface rejection, long echo channel reception, and impulse noise cancellation, and provides and ideal solution for a wide range of applications for PC-TV, USB dongle and MiniCard/USB, and embedded system via USB interface.

The SDR/GUI (Software Defined Radio/Graphical User Interface) application software is called SDR# (pronounced as SDR Sharp) and was authored by Youssef Touil in C# programming language. It is being offered as freeware (donation supported) for non-commercial, educational use. This software is a high-performance, fully-featured SDR capable of handling sample rates from kHz level sound cards up to multi-hundred MHz dedicated samplers, thanks to it's multi-core architecture. The application can demodulate NFM, AM, LSB, USB, WFM, DSB and RAW modes. 

What makes this SDR fun to use are the two Fast Fourier Transformation (FFT) display modes: Spectrum Analyzer and Waterfall. FFT is a clever algorithm which can be used to transform a signal from the time domain to the frequency domain.

Youssef's website is Feel free to ask questions on his webpage, SDR# Yahoo! group or  #sdrsharp@freenode.

A video tutorial of the installation process by David Savidge, AF5DN, is here:

And here is a video from Andy, M6PNP, performing an RTL-SDR 2-meter band scan:

So where can you purchase this cutting-edge technological breakthrough product? The answer is eBay or similar on-line auction websites. Since the product comes directly from China or Hong Kong, expect to wait two to three weeks for mail delivery using free shipping.

By the way, the dongle also comes with a portable magnetic base telescopic antenna and USB cable.

Bonus: If you get tired of listening to the ham radio bands, you can tune-in to the FM broadcast band from 88 – 108 MHz in the WFM mode.

Minimum System Requirements:

  • One available USB 2.0 port
  • Pentium 4 CPU
  • 512 MB RAM
  • Graphic card supporting Direct X 9.0C
  • 1 GB HDD space
  • Windows XP/2000, Vista, WIN7, Linux


  1. The product comes with application software on a CD-ROM. You will not need it as you will use the SDR# (SDR Sharp) in its place.
  2. Since they are intended for the Western European market, the antenna socket on the dongle is a 50 ohm female Belling-Lee IEC-16902 (Din) not the North American  75-ohm F-type. So, you will need a Belling-Lee-to-F cable connector adaptor to connect to the antenna.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

WLIM AM 1580


Station number 164 in my AM radio log had a solid S-5 signal when I found it at 1580 kHz on Wednesday afternoon (October 2, 2013). The only problem was that the station was playing back-to-back 1960s-era oldies without any announcements or commercials that could give me a clue as to what I was hearing.

I listened for 15 minutes hoping that there would be a station identification at the top of the hour and I was rewarded when a voice broke in at 1903Z informing me that it was WLIM in Patchogue, Long Island, New York (see Bing Maps screen capture above). WLIM was transmitting 10 kW 49 miles to the south-southwest.

Receiving equipment used was the stock radio and antenna in my 2007 Subaru Outback Sport.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

WSAR AM 1480

Heard a new AM station last night, WSAR transmitting 5 kW on 1480 kHz located 91 miles east of here in Fall River, Massachusetts. The signal varied between S-0 and S-5 while listening to the Red Sox pre-game show.

WSAR's transmitters are located between I-195 and Lee Cove on Mount Hope Bay, as shown in the accompanying photo (Source: Bing Maps).

WSAR is station number 163 in my AM log. Equipment used were a C. Crane CCRadio-SW receiver and C. Crane CC Twin Coil Ferrite antenna.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Scovill Manufacturing Company, Circa 1919

I just added this postcard to my collection. I have over 500 postcards from my hometown, Waterbury, but I have not added anything new in a long time because I already owned just about everything for sale that was reasonably priced. Suddenly, last week, this previously unknown (by me) Waterbury postcard showed up on eBay twice, being auctioned off by two different sellers --- go figure.

The postcard depicts the East End factory complex of one of the largest employers in Waterbury during the 20th Century. Postmarked 1919, the scene looks very different today. The left side of this scene is now the site of a shopping mall; interstate highway I-84 occupies the right side. The only parts of the complex that remain today are the smokestack front left and the building front center, which now serves as the Timexpo Timex Museum.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

ARRL Rewrites History

Compare the fifth paragraph of the September 16 ARRL News article regarding Wayne Green's death with the September 19 ARRL Letter article concerning Wayne's death.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Got Impedance

surfin' surfin655

Roger Eslick, K4RW, passed along this link to a collection of online impedance calculators brought to you courtesy of Montaro Networks, Inc.

Meanwhile, the latest issue of the Make: Newsletter has a must-read article for any maker out there who is considering funding a project via Kickstarter (or something similar): “Six Things About Kickstarting Your Hardware Idea That Will Drive you Insane” by Marie Staver and Jeremy Fryer-Biggs.

Here is another plug for TAPR’s Digital Communications Conference (DCC) coming up the weekend of September 20-22 in Seattle. It looks like another great DCC and I am sorry I will miss it.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Saving AM

Sunday’s The New York Times had an interesting article about an FCC commissioner’s quest to save AM broadcast radio.


Friday, September 6, 2013

Bridge by Radio


I discovered this unique postcard on eBay advertising “Bridge by Radio,” a radio program that urged listeners to “have your cards and players ready at the time scheduled so as to make each bid and play as broadcast and you will find the radio Bridge games played by experts most enjoyable and instructive.” My research indicates that the program aired in the late 1920s originating from Cincinnati’s WSAI and was sponsored by the U.S. Playing Card Company.

The flare in the photo obliterated the call signs of some of the other stations broadcasting the program, but I believe the obliterated call signs are WEAF (New York City), WWJ (Detroit), WSB (Atlanta) and partially obliterated KPRC (Houston).

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

DCC, Sept. 20-22

PSR123 Final preparations are being made for the 32nd Annual TAPR Digital Communications Conference (DCC) to be held on the weekend of September 20-22, 2013 in Seattle, Washington. Early Bird registration has been extended until midnight of Friday the 13th, so go here to sign up.

The following outlines the DCC schedule:

- Friday Day - Paper Presentations, Introductory Presentations, Demonstrations
- Friday Evening - Social (open to all, not just TAPR members)
- Saturday Day - Paper Presentations, Introductory Presentations, Demonstrations
- Saturday Afternoon - TAPR Annual Meeting Banquet,
- Saturday Evening - Banquet, Speaker, Awards, Prizes
- Sunday Morning - Android programming tutorial by Ron Frohne, KL7NA.

The Saturday evening banquet speaker is Tom Van Baak, whose speech is titled “Passion and Precision: Adventures of a Time Nut.”

The following is the list of submitted papers for the DCC. Most of the folks who have submitted papers will be presenting their papers in person at the DCC:

“(CAB) Controllable Altitude Balloon Proposal” by Pedro Converso, LU7ABF

“A Software Defined Radio for Mesh Networks” by John B. Stephensen, KD6OZH

“Applications and Infrastructure for Marathon Support” by Erik Westgard, NY9D

“DATV-Express – a Testing Report” by Art Towslee, WA8RMC and Ken Konechy W6HHC

“Evaluating OLSR and B.A.T.M.A.N over D-STAR” by John Ronan, EI7IG and Darren Long, GØHWW

“Gnuradio Companion module for openHPSDR Hermes / Metis SDR Radio” by Tom McDermott, N5EG

“High Performance BPSK31: Ideas for a New Generation” by John A. Gibbs, NN7F

“Modulation – Demodulation Software Radio” by Alex Schwarz, VE7DXW and Guy Roels, ON6MU

“Narrowband IP over Amateur Radio Networks (NIPARnets): Next-Generation Networking for Amateur Radio” by Timothy J. Salo, ABØDO

“Noise Power Ratio (NPR) Testing of HF Receivers” by Adam Farson, VA7OJ/AB4OJ

“Raspberry Pi Applications in Digital Communications: A Mobile Xastir-Based APRS Station” by John A. Hansen, W2FS

“Whitebox Handheld Software Radio Kit” by Chris Testa, KD2BMH

CU @ DCC !

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Surfin': Tackling Stacking

I do not have a fear of heights. In fact, I love the view from heights like the view from the top of buildings and mountains and airplanes, but I do have a fear of falling from heights.

A ladder collapsed under me once; I fell about five feet and broke two ribs. I don't want to think about falling from higher heights and that's why I don't like working on my 55-foot tower much. It telescopes down to about 20 feet, but that is still something to be wary of, so I pray for a future son-in-law who owns a bucket truck.

KB2HZI  doesn't need no stinkin' bucket truck. Lori Higgins builds Yagis and stacks them on the two towers at her contest station in New York's Catskill Mountains. The photo above is the view from the top of one of Lori's towers and this set of photos shows her working on the stack of her 60-foot tower without chipping a nail!

According to Ray Higgins, W2RE, who alerted me about Lori, "Not only does she do tower work, she runs marathons, bike rides 100 miles a week. Her full-time employment is a nurse. She works part-time for She also operates at multi-ops during ARRLDX and CQWW.

Until next time, keep on surfin'!

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Polish Eagle Show

Sophie and Victor Zembruski
All my grandparents were born in Poland. As a result, the Polish language was the first language in my parent's homes and when they married, they continued speaking Polish in their newlywed home.

When I came along two years later, they were still speaking Polish and as a result, Polish was my first language. English became my second language when television entered our home.

Just as the Polish language was spoken in my home, Polish music was heard on the radio in my home.

We often listened to Andy Szuberla on Saturdays broadcasting from WACE (730 kc) in Chicopee, Massachusetts and Stan Ozmak on WRYM (840 kc) in New Britain, Connecticut, who did his show live from the Polish National Home in Hartford on Sundays. But we religiously listened to the Victor and Sophie Zembruski's "The Polish Eagle Show" every Sunday morning broadcast from WATR (1320 kc) located two blocks from my home in Waterbury.

We were loyal to the Zembruski's radio show. Victor and Sophie Zembruski were distant relatives --- Victor's sister was married to my mother's brother, my Uncle Ray. Also, Victor and his Polka band played at my parent's wedding reception.

Victor started "The Polish Eagle Show" in 1934. Sophie joined Victor on the air soon after.

Victor had a stroke in the early 1960s, so Sophie did the show solo until her 90th birthday in 2008. Victor and Sophie's daughter, Laurie Hoxie, took over and continued spinning polkas from 8 to 10 AM every Sunday for the last five years.

Laurie decided to retire and she pulled the plug on the show yesterday after an amazing 79-year run!

Saturday, August 24, 2013


In case you missed it, Tom Christian, VR6TC, died on July 7 at age 77.

Friday's issue of The New York Times had an article about Tom's life including his radio exploits.

(Thank you Norman, W9VQ, for the heads-up concerning the article.)

Friday, August 23, 2013



Log entry number 162 was a tough one --- not because I could not hear it, but because I could not identify it.

I heard it yesterday at about 1750Z playing continuous 1950s and 1960s oldies without a break between songs for announcements, station identifications, or advertisements.

I waited patiently for 1800Z figuring that there would be an announcement at the top of the hour. I was wrong --- just continuous oldies until I gave up at about 1805Z to return to work.

Today, I found them again at about the same signal strength (S-3) playing continuous oldies, but this time, I was on the radio before 1700Z hoping that I would hear a speaking voice at high noon.

I lucked out and there were a series of speaking voices that definitely identified the station as WALK in Patchogue, Long Island, New York on 1370 KHz transmitting 500 watts 52 miles south-southwest of here. The screen capture above shows the WALK station building and antenna (Source: Bing Maps). By the way, WALK is my fourth logging of a station on 1370 kHz.

Equipment used to receive WALK was the stock radio and antenna in my 2007 Subaru Outback Sport.