Friday, August 10, 2018

HDSDR Version 2.80 Public Beta

When July ends, our Arctic nights are not sunlit anymore. A sign that it's time to think about the coming MW DX season. For those who want updated SDR software, it may be worth noting that HDSDR has now come in public beta. As per now, beta no. 9 is available on their website

I have followed the work on version 2.80 with suggestions and alfa- and beta testing, and version 2.80 is indeed an improvement over the latest release version 2.76a. Both visually (see below) and with regards to functions.  I have written a combined changelog (though not guaranteed to cover every change that was made) and a review of the changes.

Version 2.80 (left), vs. 2.76a - Graphical User Interface

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Remote Control Of My SDR PCs: Another Change

In February, 2016 I moved away from long-time favourite LogMeIn Pro to Teamviewer. LMI was charging more and more, and Teamviewer had a free account for non-commercial customers. For me, it was a no-brainer. You can read more about it here.

I would live well with the regular and rather persisting calls to buy a license, like everytime I closed a session. But then one day, Teamviewer informed me that they had "discovered" that my account was in commercial use. So they stripped my access to one minute per session. "Pay up, or get lost". Well, they didn't put it quite like that, but I got the message. A license covering my PCs would be around USD 800 a year, around the same as LogMeIn Pro. What it was they discovered was "commercial" is beyond me. I suspect that the algorithm was: "Many PCs, surely a business!"

Message of doom from Teamviewer: "Upgrade to a professional licence to continue"

Time to look around for alternatives. I tested a few, and to cut a long evening short, I ended up with Splashtop. It's not free, but control of 10 PCs (I have 8 all in all) is only USD 60 per year. It has good quality audio, contrary to many competitors which have no audio at all! The user interface is good, almost on par with Teamviewer and LMI, and no worries about IP addresses and firewalls. Splashtop offers a 7-day trial with full functionality, so no wasted money should you find out that Splashtop doesn't meet your needs. Regrettably, I spent USD 7 for RemotePC only to find out it was mute.

Initially, Splashtop seems more complicated than their premium-priced competitors, in that you have to install two software packages: First Streamer, which takes care of the server bit in the remote PC, and then Splashtop Business, which is the interface you work with to connect to the remote PC. After installing Streamer you can more or less forget about it after checking and/or selecting some settings.

Streamer. Review and/or edit the parameters, and forget about it.

Splashtop Business is installed in the PCs you use to access remote PCs. This could be a single PC, or all of them, depending on your need. Like LMI and Teamviewer, this interface lists the PCs you have in your account, and the status - offline, available or connected.

The link between you and your remote PCs.

When a PC is selected (like the one above), connection takes a few seconds (a bit more than Teamviewer), and this is what you see:

Some basic controls (far fewer than Teamviewer) are in the red rectangle on top. Audio quality is very good, comparable to sitting in front of it except a little loss in the below 100 Hz spectrum, which is really an advantage. Audio latency is very low, and without the pops and occasional high (up to 2 seconds) audio latency I had with Teamviewer. Video quality is good, but not quite on par with Teamviewer and LMI. However, if the remote PC has a GeForce Nvidia graphics board, Streamer will utilise this to present excellent video, comparable to sitting in front of it! There is a downside here though, because if you are using SDR Console, you need to disable CUDA to prevent Console from freezing. They use the same resources. Alternatively, you can disable GeForce from Streamer.

Splashtop has received mixed ratings, mostly because of limited functionality. However these limitations do not apply for the dedicated DX-er, so for our use I'd say this is as good as it gets for the price tag. I am still on my 7-day trial, but I will buy. Even if Teamviewer accepts my appeal.

Saturday, July 07, 2018

FM DX With the SDRPlay RSP1A, or: My Debut As an FM DX-er

Admittedly, I'm a MW DX-er, and have done very little FM DX in my 47 years as a DX-er. However, when I got my RSP1A with up to 10 MHz sampling rate in late 2017, I decided that I wanted to test its FM capabilities this summer. I had already noticed that it seemed to be quite sensitive on the FM band.

I set up a three-element FM antenna in the attic in my DX HQ in Kongsfjord, pointing south. Now, FM DX is a lot more common on lower latitudes than my 71 degrees north, so to be fair I didn't have hope of receiving much. I monitored the FM band to and from every day from mid-May, but I had forgot to check when FM-DX ace Ole Forr messaged me on the evening of June 25.

When I connected to Kongsfjord via Teamviewer, it was the start of an E-skip stint which would evolve into a super evening!

I had set the RSP1A to 8 MHz sampling because 10 MHz seemed to be to much for the software or hardware to handle. Still, 8 MHz covers quite a bit of the FM band. I used SDR Console to record the IQ stream into an 8 TB hard drive, and changed centre frequencies so I could cover the entire band at one time or another. It soon emerged that every 100 kHz had at least one signal, many had three or four.

At one point, the combined signal levels were so high, I had to throttle back a bit on the RSP1A's gain to avoid overloading.

After reviewing the recordings, I ended up with a log of 200 FM stations. Most of them ID'd by RDS, a few by announcements since the RDS wouldn't lock.  13 countries were logged: Russia, Belarus, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Netherlands, United Kingdom and Faroe Islands. Denmark, Sweden, Poland and Lithuania dominated the log. Stations from 908 til 2411 km away were heard, and the lowest powered were 100 watts. The FMLIST map below shows all stations logged. I did hear two unidentified German stations, and one with an Austrian accent, so more countries were there.

The RSP1A performed very well. Of course, I don't know how it would compare to a dedicated FM tuner, but on the face of it, it seems to be a very capable FM receiver.  And no dedicated FM tuner will ever listen to an 8 (or 10) MHz of spectrum at one go! SDR Console also worked well, and RDS data with the all-important PI code showed up with little delay, even for signals not in the clear.
FM e-skip from Arctic Norway on June 25, 2018.

Friday, June 08, 2018

AM Stations in Major Canadian Markets

Numeris, which monitors Canada’s media landscape, recently published their spring ratings in major markets, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Toronto and Montreal. I took a look at the numbers, to see how the AM stations fared. Only commercial and CBC stations are listed, so a religious station like CJCA Edmonton 930 is not there.

AM listening seems to be «alive and well», all things considered, with CBU-690 and CKNW-980 on the top two spots with 16.0 and 11.6 % share respectively. On the bottom though is 50-kW CFTE-1410 with 0.2 %. CKST-1050, CHMJ-1320 and CISL-650 don’t do too well either, 1.8, 1.0 and 1.2 %.

Not much difference from Vancouver. Two AM stations top the list, CHQR-770 with 9.4 % and CBR-1010 with 9 %.  CKMX-1060 is at the bottom of the AM list with 1.8 %.

More FM dominance here. CBX-740 is no. 3 with 7.5 %, CHED-630 no. 4, 7.4 %. CHQT-880 seems to struggle with only 1.3 %.

It seems like the further east, the worse AM performance. CFRB-1010 is no. 5 in the Toronto market with a share of 6.6 %. The high-powered CHUM-1050 can’t make much money with a 0.4 % share.

AM is all but dead among the French-speaking listeners, as even the two English-speaking AM stations CJAD-800 and CKGM-690 have higher ratings than the French-speaking stations! CHRF-980 is the best French-speaking AM station in the French market with 0.3 %, CKAC is 0.1 %. Will they survive? In the English market, CJAD-800 has a stunning 30.6 % market share, while CKGM-690 has only 2.1 %.

The news stations mostly seem to do well in these markets. The sports stations however, is a sad story. But I suppose they may be cheaper to run.

Potential death list, ratings 2 % or lower:
Vancouver: CFTE-1410, CHMJ-1320, CISL-650, CKST-1040.
Calgary: CKMX-1060.
Edmonton: CHQT-880.
Toronto: CHUM-1050.
Montreal: CKAC-730, CHRF-980.

Saturday, June 02, 2018

Will We See The RFSpace CloudSDR This Year?

The excellent 0-56 MHz Cloud-IQ has been out for quite some time, and will likely have HDSDR support in not too long, along with the NetSDR. Its "big brother", the CloudSDR, was expected to arrive not much later, but apparently has been delayed. Recent tweets from RFSpace may indicate that it may be on its way. Their web page state Q4-2018 for release.

The CloudSDR uses a 122.88 MHz ADC for the HF part up to 56 MHz, and a silicon tuner above, up to 1000 MHz or more. It may look like the HF is part is just another Cloud-IQ, but its spurious-free dynamic range is 7 dB better, and it has 3 dB better SNR. Sensitivity claims are identical.

The I/Q sampling on the tweet images is 2048000 Hz, a bit more than the Cloud-IQ which stops at 1807058 Hz (1536 kHz alias-free). I guess VHF DX-ers would love to be able to sample a lot more. but there is no indication of that so far.

There are separate antenna inputs for HF and VHF/UHF use. I  have been wondering if the CloudSDR would offer the same dual-antenna, software-selectable input as the Cloud-IQ has. The latest 3D model may suggest such a solution, as an "Aux RF" input has been added. It would be very cool to be able to change antennas via software

There are two other inputs as well, one for 10-MHz reference, and one trigger input, neither found on its smaller brother.

Input voltage will be 5VDC, and preliminary specs suggest that it needs 1.3mA, a little less than the NetSDR. The Cloud-IQ can be powered from a USB 3.0 port (even a good-quality USB 2.0 port), which makes it a perfect SDR for a mobile setup with a PC connected to a 12VDC battery. I hope that the CloudSDR's final design will require a little less current.

The MSRP is USD 999. We'll see if it ends up there.
All images from RFSpace.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

QSL: WLIK Newport TN 1270

"WLIK, The Smokies Oldies!"  This was the surprising announcement mixing with WXYT one morning in early January on Smøla island. A most friendly email response was received today, thanks OJ Sagdahl for v/s info.

Upcoming HDSDR Support For The RFSpace NetSDR

HDSDR has evolved into a flexible and powerful SDR interface, yet easy on your PC's CPU and memory. While I use Jaguar almost exclusively together with my four Perseus SDRs, I tend to want to use HDSDR for my other SDRs. However, the RFSpace range of SDRs have been unsupported. But that is about to change.

During the first days of May, German programmer Hayati Aygüen worked on the ExtIO dll, and I tested the dlls on my NetSDR. After a few versions, it was rated good enough for Hayati to publish the dll on Github. It's not finished yet, but it does work, with 21 different sample rates from 2 MHz to 12.5 kHz. It will likely be fully developed this summer.

Hopefully, it will be possible to make a dll for the Cloud-IQ as well. And maybe for the CloudSDR, when it enters the market.

The picture below shows the NetSDR sampling 1 MHz . The poor signal levels was propagation, not the radio...

Monday, May 07, 2018

QSL: WMCA New York NY 570

WMCA is heard from time to time at Smøla island. An early January log was sent off to the CE, who confirmed my reception this afternoon.

QSL: 2SM Sydney NSW, 1269

This 5-kW station had a great signal one April evening in 2017. It was a bit difficult to find someone who would find interest in my report, but I received a very friendly email response today.

Friday, April 27, 2018

QSL: WRMN Elgin IL 1410

There are some strange radio formats in the US. One is Beatles-only (KJME 890), and then there is the radio shopping format, found on KHSP 1400 (heard in 2013), and also on WRMN. Everything for revenue, I suppose.
WRMN was heard the last day in March, and a brief but friendly email  confirmed my reception today.