Sunday, September 26, 2010

Excalibur Recording from Arctic Norway

A 1250 kHz, 150 second file was recorded at 0400Z this morning, roughly at sunrise. The spectrum covers the Mediumwave, and was recorded with an Excalibur SDR connected to a 250 meter long beverage at 310 degrees bearing. You will hear a mix of eastern and midwest stations from North America, with the odd northerly South America thrown in. The Europeans are mostly of modest strength, but UK, French and Spanish stations are quite strong (and the semi-local Russians).

You will also be able to "enjoy" my local Loran C station, situated 14 km away in the front lobe of the beverage.

The zipped file is 572 MB and can be downloaded here. Do not rename the file. Those who do not own an Excalibur can download the software from this site.

UPDATE! In case some were denied access to the file, here is the reason:
Looks like I need to find someone else to store my files.

The Perseus And Scheduled Recordings

After I found that Splinterware's System Scheduler worked flawlessly with the Excalibur SDR, I became increasingly dissatisfied with the way scheduled (and unattended) RF recordings worked with the Perseus SDR. So I began to experiment with the System Scheduler to see if it could run the Perseus as well.

The TOTH is a small gem of a scheduler, however too often it will fail to start a recording, or it will record only some of the scheduled recordings. Apparently, development was stopped before it had developed into a reliable software. Then there is the Perseus Record Scheduler (PRS) which I have tested briefly, but it is not ideal for recurring multiple recordings for many days (not to say weeks).

The Perseus and the Excalibur differ in two important aspects: Firstly, the Excalibur features keyboard shortcuts for just about any function. If you want to program the Perseus, you need to use mouse clicks to a specific part of the display (buttons, dialog boxes). So you can't move the GUI around on the display - if you do the mouse clicks won't work. Secondly, the Perseus prompts you for a file name prior to recording, while the Excalibur starts recording on the fly.

So, for the System Scheduler to work with the Perseus, you will have to program mouse clicks, and you will need to enter a file name in the dialog box. Fortunately, System Scheduler is powerful enough to let you define dates and/or times as file names, much the same way TOTH does.

A test this morning confirmed that the Perseus can indeed be scheduled by System Scheduler. So at the moment I have my PC recording top of the hours from both the Excalibur and the Perseus, using two events on the software.

The free version of System Scheduler is adequate for the task. The pro version gives you added versatility for USD 30. I haven't yet tested the pro version. By the way, the Help function is comprehensive, and most valuable for those (including me) who know nothing about programming.

There may be an abundance of software out there that do the same, and perhaps even better. I am however quite satisfied with what I got, so I feel no need to look further.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Excalibur And Scheduled Recordings

As is known for those who've read about the Winradio Excalibur, the software lacks the ability to do scheduled DDC recordings. Which is puzzling, since their audio recording scheduler appears to be excellent.

Now, as many are aware of (myself not included), there is an abundance of programs offering scheduling of Windows software. John Smith, G8BUP, in a recent posting to a Winradio reflector pointed towards Splinterware's System Scheduler. I downloaded the free version of the program, and after a bit of investigation found it to be a very good companion to the Excalibur.

What it does, is to open the software, use the keyboard shortcuts for Start DDC Recording and Stop DDC Recording as part of the sendkey line and, if the user so wishes, closes Excalibur. These shortcuts are "Ctrl ¨" and "¨" respectively, and I didn't get them to work on the sendkey line. Luckily, you can define any of the 98 keyboard shortcuts to your own liking, so I chose "O" to start, and "V" to stop. The first "Wait"-command gives the Excalibur software time to "settle". I don't know if it is necessary or not, but better safe than sorry. 5000 is milliseconds, so this pause is 5 seconds.

The second "Wait"-command sets the length of the recording. In the illustration below it is set for 60 seconds. The third "Wait"-command gives the program 2 seconds to save the file until the Alt-F4 command is given for closing the Excalibur.

If you are doing more than one recording, closing the program is necessary, because otherwise the next scheduled recording will open another instance of Excalibur. I don't think 24 instances of the software will run very smoothly...

The scheduler itself has a large variety of options. The illustration below describes how I would use the scheduler for unattended full-hour and half-hour recordings.

As I mentioned, you can't choose the length of the recording in the scheduler, you need to do that in the sendkey line. The times refer to the PC clock, so they are local.

And of course, you need to prepare the Excalibur with the correct DDC bandwidth and the correct centre frequency. The DDC bandwidth can be changed with sendkeys, but I don't think the centre frequency can.

Update Sep 21: I have now made scheduled recordings over several nights, without any problems. This is indeed something you can use with the Excalibur. Thanks John for bringing this to my attention.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Pacific Stations Are Early This Year...

I was rather taken aback by noticing KUAM "Isla 63" Agana, Guam 630 totally alone on the frequency and a very nice signal at 1645 this afternoon. Usually, these islands will not show until October. Well, it's ok with me...

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Modest Evening Opening

At 2000 UTC, the QDFA antenna caught some NHK1 stations during their local ID slot, in addition to most of the common commercial Japan stations, and many Koreans. The listing below are those with a definite ID (updated 14 SEP):

NHK1 JOLK Fukuoka
NHK1 JOAG Nagasaki
NHK1 JOCK Nagoya
NHK1 JOFK Hiroshima
NHK1 JOJK Kanazawa
JOUR Nagasaki Hoso call letter id!
NHK1 JOLG Tottori

And numerous of the more common stations from Korea and Japan not listed here. 

At 1800, several low-band Australians were heard according to OJ Sagdahl, but I wasn't listening at the time. Anyone eager to hear lots of Chinese, Japanese and Korean stations on MW can download the 1600 kHz Perseus file from this site. It is 415 MB in zipped mode. It will be available for a limited time only.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Arctic DX Summit 2010 Report

The ADXS 2010 has been a most pleasant experience, with friendly guests, good food, acceptable weather conditions but not much to listen to (except online from Smøla). Here are some photos from Friday and Saturday in random order. Please notice Jim Solatie's ice-cold swim in the Barents Sea (next land fall: Alaska). Photos: Mostly Jim and Bjarne

Friday, September 03, 2010

QDFA Version 3 - Initial Impressions

OJ Sagdahl and I finished the new "monster" QDFA yesterday. It didn't become quite as monstrous as we hoped, since weather considerations made us reduce the height somewhat, from a theoretical 21.5 ft to around 20. The loops are set up in a "house" pattern rather than a delta or flag, with two 12-ft masts on the loop's ends. The bottom vertical element is roughly 1 meter above ground.

The increased height and shape has provided us with a 5-6 dB extra gain, compared to versions 1 and 2. And most important: The Max-Gain masts are much more sturdy than the angling rods we used last year. But also a lot heavier, so they require good support and guys.

One interesting observation of version 3 is that the sensitivity appears to be identical throughout the MW band, while version 1 and 2 were noticeably less sensitive below 1000 kHz.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Arctic DX Summit 2010 - One Day Left!

Preparing for the upcoming Arctic DX Summit in Kongsfjord this weekend. 10 kg's of king crab is purchased, together with reindeer tenderloin, blueberry syrup, dandelion syrup, extra virgin olive oil with chili, and locally produced wild chives oil. Not to mention the wine, and the beer especially labelled for the occasion. The weather forecast is rather typical for early September.

On Sunday evening, OJ and I will attend the Opera Ball in Berlevåg, featuring some of the best singers and musicians in the kingdom.