Active Hula Hoop Loop Antenna

My primary HF antenna is a horizontal sky loop, with a perimeter of about 670 feet, I also have a 500 ft long beverage aimed toward Europe which is primarily used on the 48 meter band for Europirates. In addition I have a sloping folded dipole for the 43/48 meter band, although that antenna does not get a lot of use. These antenna work great on the lower end of the HF band, but as you might imagine are not ideal for the upper end, especially the 11 meter band which I like to listen to when there are openings to Europe.

I’ve been interested in building an active loop antenna for some time, and recently came across the Active Antenna Amplifier made by LZ1AQ. This amplifier has very good reviews, and LZ1AQ’s site has a wealth of technical information, including suggested designs. Originally I was planning on building a 2/4 crossed parallel loop (and still may one day), but as that is a major product (each of the four loops is 1 meter on a side), I decided to start with something easier to build, the two loops in orthogonal planes, which is described in section 3.4 of this document on his site.

Here is a photograph of my build of the antenna:

It was constructed with two old hula hoops. And yes, it’s not an optical illusion, one is slightly larger than the other. Each loop was wrapped with aluminum foil, to create a large diameter loop, with low inductance. The foil is not wrapped around the entire hoop, there is a small gap of about two inches.

As you can see hookup wire is wrapped around the aluminum foil, and twisted so it is tight and making good electrical contact. They are later covered with tape to be weatherproof. Wire ties are used to secure the loops to an 8 foot long piece of pressure treated 1″ by 2″ furring strip that I happened to have laying around. These wires then go to the amplifier board.

The loop amplifier uses shielded CAT-5e ethernet cable for the connection to the control board back in the shack. This cable carries the power for the board, control signals for switching the loop inputs, as well as the amplifier RF output which eventually goes to the radio. I used some more tape to seal the hole for the ethernet cable, to keep out moisture as well as insects. After the photo was taken, I added a small support arm, made of wood, and attached the ethernet cable to it with a tie wrap, to provide some mechanical support, and remove the strain from the ethernet jack on the amplifier PCB.

This is the rather crude enclosure I made for the control board, using an old plastic enclosure I had laying around.

The functionality of the control board is more completely explained on LZ1AQ’s site, but to summarize:

The first toggle switch selects either dipole or loop mode for the amplifier. I have mostly used loop more in my tests so far, but will experiment with dipole mode eventually. In dipole mode, each loop is used as one arm of an electrical dipole, rather than as a loop antenna.

The second switch selects either loop A or B, when only one loop is used.

The third switch enables crossed mode, when both loops are used at the same time. This can provide some relief from fading, as the two loops are orthogonal to each other. Otherwise, only one loop is used. On the LW and MW bands, this provides different directionality patterns, and works quite well. For example on 1490 AM I can completely switch between two different stations. Obviously this is dependent on the directions to the particular stations on a given frequency. If they are roughly 90 degrees apart and aligned with the loops, you get excellent directionality. If on the other hand they are at 45 degree angles with respect to the loops, you won’t get any.

The last switch is for power.

Below is a waterfall of part of the MW band. Half way through, I switched from loop B to loop A. On many of the channels you can see a significant change in the signal strength, sometimes stronger, sometimes weaker. You can click on the image to view it full size.

It even does a good job on the lower end of the LW band, here is WWVB:

I’m quite pleased with the performance of this antenna, especially on the 11 meter band. And the directionality on the MW band is a bonus. On the lower HF frequencies, the full sized sky loop and beverage antennas perform much better, as you would expect. Still, this is a respectable antenna for the size, and would be very useful for someone with limited space that precludes the use of large antennas.

If you like my loop antenna, you might enjoy some of my radio related Apps

Project: Exterminate Yellow Jackets

For several years, yellow jackets made it extremely unpleasant, and often downright impossible, to enjoy sitting outside during the summer on the deck. As everyone who has experienced yellow jackets knows, these are extremely aggressive and downright hostile insects. While bees are generally peaceful and useful creatures, helping to pollinate, yellow jackets don’t pollinate, and are generally pure evil. My goal now every spring is to do my best to completely eradicate them from the area. Many of the yellow jackets found in the United States are not even native, but invasive species from Europe, if you need additional incentive to obliterate them. Again, to repeat. Yellow jackets are mean and nasty wasps. They do not pollinate flowers and help fruit grow. They are not critical to the ecosystem of your back yard. You can do your best to completely eradicate them from your yard, and feel no guilt doing so.

Most people wait until they are being bother by yellow jackets to put up a trap or two in the summer. By then, it is far too late. Yellow jacket nests can have several thousand wasps by mid summer, and you may well have multiple nests in or near your yard. It is simply impossible to trap them all by this time, in fact their nests will probably increase in population faster than you can trap and kill them. You’ll find it impossible to sit outside and enjoy summer, being forced to hide inside and watch reruns of old TV shows.

But it turns out, there is a solution. You need to act now. Yellow jacket nests are annual, only the queen survives winter. Once the weather warms up (as in right now) the queens emerge, to establish the new nests for this summer. While later in the season they have their evil minions to do their bidding, gathering food and generally making your life miserable, right now they have to do the dirty work. Which means this is your opportunity to trap and kill every single queen you possibly can. And it’s not that difficult to do.

After experimenting with various commercial yellow jacket traps, most of which used expensive pheromone based lures that had to be replaced often, and often did not even work very well, I stumbled on this style trap made by Victor:

The trap is a plastic bottle with a top that screws on. The top has small holes in it, under the yellow top (which keeps out the rain), which the wasps can fly into. But due to their erratic flying pattern, they have a difficult time escaping from the trap. So they are stuck inside, and finally die.

I bait the traps with a grape juice / cranberry juice mix, I find this works best, although you can try plain grape juice or other juices, and see what works best for you:

I pour a small amount of juice into each trap, this lures the yellow jackets into the trap, where their meet their demise:

I purchased a dozen traps several years ago, and place them in various locations around the perimeter of my yard. You can probably get by with just a few, if you have a small yard. You do want to find the ideal locations to place them, which depends on where the likely yellow jacket nests are located. I find that placing them on the sides of my yard near the woods captures the most wasps, which makes sense. After a few years of using them, I now know where they should be located, but to get started you can experiment by spacing the traps near the most likely areas, and then seeing which traps capture the most wasps, and which capture few, or even none. Move the traps away from areas that are not productive to those that are, of course it may take a season to completely figure it out, but even with non optimal locations, you will likely capture and kill many queens.

You need to periodically examine the traps to check for dead wasps, as well as refill with more juice as needed. Obviously you want to carefully examine the trap before opening it, to make sure all the wasps are dead, or in poor enough shape that you can kill them after dumping out the contents. Queens are fairly easy to identify, they are much larger than the usual yellow jackets you see.

There are plans online for building your own trap from a 2 liter soda bottle. I’ve tried this, and have not had much success, but you might want to give it a try and see how it works for you.

Again, it is imperative to get your traps out now, so you can capture and kill every queen yellow jacket possible. Each queen you kill means one fewer nest, which means thousands fewer yellow jackets invading your barbecues this summer.

Shortwave Pirate Radio 2016 – A Year In Review

Overall, 2016 was another great year for shortwave pirate radio listeners. If you’re interested in hearing pirates, the best ways to keep up to date on what is being heard is via the message board, as well as the real time Ryver chat. Rather than finding out about a transmission after it is over, you can tune in while it is still on the air.

And of course, your loggings and other posts on the HF Underground are most welcome! This is how we find out what stations are being heard. I’m looking forward to see what new and interesting pirate radio programming 2017 brings us. Happy DX!

To gauge shortwave pirate radio activity in 2016, I analyzed the Shortwave Pirate loggings forum of the HF Underground ( A computer script parsed the message thread titles, as well as the timestamps of the messages. This information was used to produce some statistics about the level of pirate radio activity. Of course, as Mark Twain has written: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Still, let’s see what we can learn.

There were 13,860 messages posted to 2,398 unique threads, compared to 13,944 messages posted to 2,183 unique threads in 2015. Activity levels are essentially flat, but still at historically high levels. Back in the 1990s, it was not uncommon for an entire month to go by with only a handful of pirate stations logged. If you want to know when the “golden age” of shortwave pirate radio was, I would say it is right now.

Ideally, each thread represents an individual pirate station transmission. Also ideally, each message posted to a thread represents one logging. In reality, there is some error involved.

First, we can look at the transmission mode used:
AM 1,083
USB 1,139
LSB 73
CW 18
FM 17
UNKNOWN 62 (no mention of the mode in the posting)

USB barely beat out AM this year. If we assume (as likely) that the cases where no mode was reported were one of these, AM and USB account for virtually all of the transmissions. Cold Country Canada is a major user of LSB, along with Peskie Party Radio.

Next, we can see how much activity there is for each day of the week:

Sunday 512 (21%)
Monday 237 (10%)
Tuesday 196 (8%)
Wednesday 192 (8%)
Thursday 240 (10%)
Friday 379 (16%)
Saturday 642 (27%)

The percentages for each day in 2016 are virtually unchanged from 2015. As one might expect, Saturday and Sunday are the big winners, with Friday in third place. But don’t give up on weekday listening! Over a third of all transmissions are on a Monday through Thursday.

We can also look at the number of logging threads per month, to gauge activity:

This chart clearly shows the typical summer slump in pirate radio activity, presumably caused by high static levels, and people doing other things than listening to the radio (or transmitting on the radio). There was a bump in July, however.

Here’s a graph showing the number of broadcasts per day of the year that were logged, please click on the image to see it full sized:

Holidays are, as usual, a great opportunity to hear pirate stations.

We might be interested in knowing the best time of the day to try to hear a pirate station. Here’s a plot of the start times of the logged broadcasts, binned
by UTC hour of the day:

As you might expect, evening Eastern Time is the best, roughly 2300-0200 UTC, with a broader peak of lower activity from roughly 2000-0500 UTC. There is some activity in the morning to afternoon time period, and very little during the wee hours.

The next question is where to tune. As one might expect, 6925 kHz was the clear winner:

3375 kHz: 4
3387 kHz: 1
3440 kHz: 3
3495 kHz: 2
4015 kHz: 1
4020 kHz: 5
4025 kHz: 2
4030 kHz: 1
4060 kHz: 1
4070 kHz: 2
4865 kHz: 1
4875 kHz: 1
4920 kHz: 1
5110 kHz: 2
5120 kHz: 3
5125 kHz: 1
5150 kHz: 77
5790 kHz: 1
6030 kHz: 1
6150 kHz: 33
6170 kHz: 5
6200 kHz: 1
6205 kHz: 3
6210 kHz: 7
6240 kHz: 2
6275 kHz: 2
6282 kHz: 2
6295 kHz: 1
6340 kHz: 2
6375 kHz: 1
6770 kHz: 109
6780 kHz: 4
6850 kHz: 10
6873 kHz: 13
6874 kHz: 1
6875 kHz: 13
6876 kHz: 23
6880 kHz: 3
6885 kHz: 3
6888 kHz: 1
6899 kHz: 1
6900 kHz: 21
6905 kHz: 1
6910 kHz: 2
6914 kHz: 1
6915 kHz: 2
6919 kHz: 1
6920 kHz: 5
6922 kHz: 1
6923 kHz: 3
6924 kHz: 46
6925 kHz: 808
6926 kHz: 17
6927 kHz: 7
6928 kHz: 1
6929 kHz: 16
6930 kHz: 245
6931 kHz: 1
6932 kHz: 8
6933 kHz: 5
6935 kHz: 201
6936 kHz: 1
6937 kHz: 4
6939 kHz: 2
6940 kHz: 59
6941 kHz: 1
6943 kHz: 2
6945 kHz: 37
6946 kHz: 2
6949 kHz: 22
6950 kHz: 207
6951 kHz: 10
6952 kHz: 6
6954 kHz: 6
6955 kHz: 101
6956 kHz: 12
6957 kHz: 2
6958 kHz: 2
6959 kHz: 1
6960 kHz: 22
6961 kHz: 1
6963 kHz: 1
6964 kHz: 3
6965 kHz: 8
6967 kHz: 1
6969 kHz: 28
6970 kHz: 3
6974 kHz: 1
6975 kHz: 7
6976 kHz: 15
6977 kHz: 2
6980 kHz: 1
6995 kHz: 1
7335 kHz: 1
7405 kHz: 2
7410 kHz: 2
7515 kHz: 1
7519 kHz: 1
7520 kHz: 1
7530 kHz: 5
7590 kHz: 1
7595 kHz: 1
7610 kHz: 26
7940 kHz: 1
8020 kHz: 1
8040 kHz: 7
8055 kHz: 6
8060 kHz: 9
8065 kHz: 3
8070 kHz: 9
8485 kHz: 1
11640 kHz: 1
12286 kHz: 1
13855 kHz: 1
15050 kHz: 1
15100 kHz: 1
25925 kHz: 1

6925, along with 6924 and 6926 kHz, account for about 36% of logged transmissions. Last year they accounted for 40% and the year before that 50%, so there has been some movement to other frequencies. Also worth considering is that Old Time Radio’s use of 6770 kHz accounts for about 5% of the broadcast threads, and Relay Station 5150 on, curiously enough 5150 kHz. Still, virtually all activity occurs within the 43 meter band, 6850-7000 kHz.

There has been some movement to the lower bands, 3, 4, and 5 MHz, due to 43 meters “going long” and being unusable for short distance (NVIS) reception at night. Whether or not this trend will continue remains to be seen. It’s a great band for nighttime use, but not as many listeners check it out, or have decent antennas for 90 meters.

The most popular station logged is of course “UNID”, short for unidentified. In the world of shortwave pirate radio, there’s a number of transmissions where no ID is given. There’s also cases where no ID could be heard, due to poor conditions. This year, 888 out of 2,398 threads were UNID, or about 37 percent, the same percentage as last year. For 2014, there were 651 threads with 2,788 loggings where no station ID was given – that’s almost 33 percent of the threads.

Here’s the complete list of all stations with two or more logging threads:
UNID (888)
Moonlight Radio (171)
Old Time Radio (107)
Amphetamine Radio (92)
PeeWee Radio (84)
Liquid Radio (61)
Radio Free Whatever (48)
Radio Azteca (47)
Radio Illuminati (40)
Radio Zed (39)
Captain Morgan (32)
Wolverine Radio (30)
XLR8 (30)
Channel Z (27)
WJD (27)
Cold Country Canada (24)
The Crystal Ship (19)
WREC (18)
Pirate Radio Boston (16)
Insane Radio (14)
XFM (13)
Boombox Radio (13)
Rave On Radio (12)
Radio Ga Ga (12)
Fab Four Radio Show (12)
WAZU (11)
YHWH (11)
Burn It Down Radio (11)
Skippy Radio (11)
Cool AM (10)
Pseudo Radio (9)
KCPR (9)
Red Beacon Radio (9)
CWCW (8)
Northwoods Radio (7)
Radio Free Euphoria (7)
Sousa Station (7)
WORK (7)
KIPM (6)
Radio True North (6)
Undercover Radio (6)
Radio Paisano (6)
Happy Hanukkah Radio (6)
Radio Fusion Radio (6)
WEEK (6)
X 2 (6)
Renegade Radio (5)
Blue Ocean Radio (5)
Toynbee Radio (5)
Black Cat Radio (5)
Partial India Radio (5)
WJFK (5)
Drunken DJ Radio (5)
The Bangalore Poacher (5)
Canadian Radio After Dark (5)
Ghost Shortwave (5)
BBC Pirate Radio (5)
Voice of Uncle Don (5)
The Fox (5)
Sycko Radio (5)
WEAK (4)
Radio Trump (4)
Howdy Doody Radio (4)
How Sweet It Is Radio (4)
Newport Pirate Radio (4)
Radio Free Ramones (4)
Doctor Detroit (4)
WBOG (3)
WHYP (3)
WEAK Radio (3)
Vo Pancho Villa (3)
The yodeler (3)
Network 51 (3)
Brockett 99 (3)
Voice Of Greece (3)
Celtic Music Radio (3)
SEKIO Radio (3)
Nuttin’ On Shortwave (3)
Electric Circus Shortwave (3)
WGAY (3)
Old Classic Radio Plays (3)
Radio AV (3)
KFBN Fly By Night Radio (3)
KMUD (2)
WMPR (2)
Radio Jamba International (2)
Radio Free Mars Radio (2)
Radio First Termer (2)
WHJR (2)
WFUQ (2)
LTO Radio (2)
WLIS (2)
Pumpkin Patch Radio (2)
WAHR (2)
Witch City Radio (2)
Radio Halloween (2)
Amelia Earhart Comms (2)
CKUT Relay (2)
KVR (2)
WPIG (2)
Girl Scout Radio (2)
Up Against The Wall Radio (2)
Radio Enterhaken (2)
KROW (2)
WYDX (2)
The Voice of Shortwave Radio (2)
The Gas Man Show (2)
Radio Metallica Worldwide (2)
No Coast Pirate Radio (2)
Bat Country Radio (2)
Radio Three (2)
Sonic Death Shortwave (2)
Cosmic Dust Shortwave (2)
RFF Radio (2)
Radio Free Do Whatever (2)

This gives us a guide as to which stations were most active in 2016.

Another thing we can look at are the total number of posts in all logging threads for each station, as a rough guide to how many listeners heard a particular station. There’s duplication of course, as the same listener likely reported several broadcasts for each station:
Moonlight Radio (917)
PeeWee Radio (627)
Amphetamine Radio (605)
Wolverine Radio (497)
Radio Free Whatever (442)
RELAY STATION 5150 (317)
Old Time Radio (315)
XLR8 (286)
Radio Azteca (281)
Liquid Radio (259)
WJD (259)
Radio Illuminati (249)
The Crystal Ship (210)
XFM (194)
Radio Zed (191)
Burn It Down Radio (158)
Channel Z (154)
Captain Morgan (153)
Cold Country Canada (134)
Insane Radio (116)
Skippy Radio (116)
WREC (109)
Boombox Radio (104)
Radio Ga Ga (93)
Pirate Radio Boston (91)
Drunken DJ Radio (88)
Northwoods Radio (81)
Fab Four Radio Show (77)
WEEK (69)
Undercover Radio (64)
WAZU (63)
Radio True North (61)
Cool AM (61)
Blue Ocean Radio (58)
Renegade Radio (55)
Red Beacon Radio (52)
Black Cat Radio (51)
CWCW (51)
Ghost Shortwave (48)
KIPM (47)
Rave On Radio (47)
The Fox (46)
Partial India Radio (45)
Voice of Uncle Don (44)
Radio Free Ramones (38)
Sousa Station (37)
Witch City Radio (36)
YHWH (36)
KCPR (35)
Canadian Radio After Dark (35)
Radio Paisano (34)
Radio Trump (33)
WORK (33)
X 2 (32)
Old Classic Radio Plays (32)
Happy Hanukkah Radio (31)
Doctor Detroit (31)
Radio Free Euphoria (30)
Brockett 99 (30)
WFUQ (29)
Radio Fusion Radio (29)
KMUD (28)
WBOG (28)
WGAY (28)
WHYP (26)
XEROX (26)
Pseudo Radio (26)
SEKIO Radio (26)
Bat Country Radio (26)
WEAK (25)
Newport Pirate Radio (24)
How Sweet It Is Radio (23)
Radio Free Mars Radio (22)
WJFK (22)
KFBN Fly By Night Radio (22)
LTO Radio (21)
Howdy Doody Radio (21)
Sycko Radio (21)
Nuttin’ On Shortwave (20)
BBC Pirate Radio (18)
Electric Circus Shortwave (18)
WEAK Radio (16)
The Bangalore Poacher (16)
Girl Scout Radio (16)
CPRRS (16)
Radio Enterhaken (16)
The Gas Man Show (16)
Up Against The Wall Radio (15)
KROW (15)
No Coast Pirate Radio (15)
Amelia Earhart Comms (14)
The yodeler (14)
WHJR (13)
Radio AV (13)
Toynbee Radio (12)
CKUT Relay (12)
Network 51 (12)
Radio Three (12)
Cosmic Dust Shortwave (12)
WMPR (10)
Radio First Termer (10)
Vo Pancho Villa (10)
Pumpkin Patch Radio (10)
Radio Halloween (10)
The Voice of Shortwave Radio (10)
Radio Metallica Worldwide (10)
Voice Of Greece (9)
Radio Jamba International (8)
RFF Radio (7)
WLIS (6)
KVR (6)
WPIG (6)
WYDX (6)
WAHR (5)
Radio Free Do Whatever (5)
Celtic Music Radio (4)
Sonic Death Shortwave (4)

Next we can calculate the ratio of logging messages per thread, to gauge, in general, how many people reported hearing each station:

Moonlight Radio 917 171 5.36257
PeeWee Radio 627 84 7.46429
Amphetamine Radio 605 92 6.57609
Wolverine Radio 497 30 16.5667
Radio Free Whatever 442 48 9.20833
RELAY STATION 5150 317 66 4.80303
Old Time Radio 315 107 2.94393
XLR8 286 30 9.53333
Radio Azteca 281 47 5.97872
Liquid Radio 259 61 4.2459
WJD 259 27 9.59259
Radio Illuminati 249 40 6.225
The Crystal Ship 210 19 11.0526
XFM 194 13 14.9231
Radio Zed 191 39 4.89744
Burn It Down Radio 158 11 14.3636
Channel Z 154 27 5.7037
Captain Morgan 153 32 4.78125
Cold Country Canada 134 24 5.58333
Insane Radio 116 14 8.28571
Skippy Radio 116 11 10.5455
WREC 109 18 6.05556
Boombox Radio 104 13 8
Radio Ga Ga 93 12 7.75
Pirate Radio Boston 91 16 5.6875
Drunken DJ Radio 88 5 17.6
Northwoods Radio 81 7 11.5714
Fab Four Radio Show 77 12 6.41667
WEEK 69 6 11.5
Undercover Radio 64 6 10.6667
WAZU 63 11 5.72727
Radio True North 61 6 10.1667
Cool AM 61 10 6.1
Blue Ocean Radio 58 5 11.6
Renegade Radio 55 5 11
Red Beacon Radio 52 9 5.77778
Black Cat Radio 51 5 10.2
CWCW 51 8 6.375
Ghost Shortwave 48 5 9.6
KIPM 47 6 7.83333
Rave On Radio 47 12 3.91667
The Fox 46 5 9.2
Partial India Radio 45 5 9
Voice of Uncle Don 44 5 8.8
Radio Free Ramones 38 4 9.5
Sousa Station 37 7 5.28571
Witch City Radio 36 2 18
YHWH 36 11 3.27273
KCPR 35 9 3.88889
Canadian Radio After Dark 35 5 7
Radio Paisano 34 6 5.66667
Radio Trump 33 4 8.25
WORK 33 7 4.71429
X 2 32 6 5.33333
Old Classic Radio Plays 32 3 10.6667
Happy Hanukkah Radio 31 6 5.16667
Doctor Detroit 31 4 7.75
Radio Free Euphoria 30 7 4.28571
Brockett 99 30 3 10
WFUQ 29 2 14.5
Radio Fusion Radio 29 6 4.83333
KMUD 28 2 14
WBOG 28 3 9.33333
WGAY 28 3 9.33333
WHYP 26 3 8.66667
XEROX 26 3 8.66667
Pseudo Radio 26 9 2.88889
SEKIO Radio 26 3 8.66667
Bat Country Radio 26 2 13
WEAK 25 4 6.25
Newport Pirate Radio 24 4 6
How Sweet It Is Radio 23 4 5.75
Radio Free Mars Radio 22 2 11
WJFK 22 5 4.4
KFBN Fly By Night Radio 22 3 7.33333
LTO Radio 21 2 10.5
Howdy Doody Radio 21 4 5.25
Sycko Radio 21 5 4.2
Giles Letourneau Relay 21 1 21
Nuttin' On Shortwave 20 3 6.66667
Voice of Helium 19 1 19
BBC Pirate Radio 18 5 3.6
Electric Circus Shortwave 18 3 6
WEAK Radio 16 3 5.33333
Radio Casablanca 16 1 16
The Bangalore Poacher 16 5 3.2
Chairman Of The Board Radio 16 1 16
COOLAM 16 2 8
Girl Scout Radio 16 2 8
CPRRS 16 3 5.33333
Radio Enterhaken 16 2 8
The Gas Man Show 16 2 8
Up Against The Wall Radio 15 2 7.5
KROW 15 2 7.5
Brownie Radio 15 1 15
No Coast Pirate Radio 15 2 7.5
Amelia Earhart Comms 14 2 7
The yodeler 14 3 4.66667
Kid From Brooklyn 14 1 14
WHJR 13 2 6.5
Radio AV 13 3 4.33333
Toynbee Radio 12 5 2.4
Make Your Liver Quiver Radio 12 1 12
CKUT Relay 12 2 6
Network 51 12 3 4
Radio Three 12 2 6
Cosmic Dust Shortwave 12 2 6
Voice of Portugal 12 1 12
MAC Shortwave 11 1 11
Hit Parade Radio 11 1 11
Left Lane Radio 11 1 11
Mouth of Mohammed 11 1 11
WGXC 11 1 11
WNPP 11 1 11
Radio Free Furry 11 1 11
Euro Temptations Shortwave 11 1 11
WMPR 10 2 5
Kracker Radio 10 1 10
Radio First Termer 10 2 5
Vo Pancho Villa 10 3 3.33333
Radio Cinco De Mayo 10 1 10
Pumpkin Patch Radio 10 2 5
Radio Halloween 10 2 5
The Voice of Shortwave Radio 10 2 5
Radio Metallica Worldwide 10 2 5
Urea Radio 10 1 10
Cradle Rock Radio 10 1 10
Spy Numbers Relay 10 1 10
Voice Of Greece 9 3 3
KULP 9 1 9
Radio Jamba International 8 2 4
Peskie Party Radio 8 1 8
Radio Merlin International Relay 8 1 8
WTKY 8 1 8
Chamber Pot Radio 7 1 7
Fruitcake Station 7 1 7
WCTU 7 1 7
RFF Radio 7 2 3.5
Radio Morania 6 1 6
WLIS 6 2 3
Artem Radio 6 1 6
KVR 6 2 3
WPIG 6 2 3
WYDX 6 2 3
WRIR Relay 6 1 6
Auld Lang Syne Radio 6 1 6
Radio KEN 5 1 5
Germany Calling 5 1 5
KAMP 5 1 5
WAHR 5 2 2.5
IBC Radio 5 1 5
Old Turkey Radio 5 1 5
KDST 5 1 5
Radio Free Do Whatever 5 2 2.5
WBCQ Relay 5 1 5
WGWR 4 1 4
WRRI 4 1 4
Native Radio 4 1 4
Big Johnson Radio 4 1 4
Celtic Music Radio 4 3 1.33333
Lee County Radio 4 1 4
Ride of the Valkries 4 1 4
Sonic Death Shortwave 4 2 2
Union City Radio 4 1 4
Radio Saxophone 4 1 4
Fake UVB33 Numbers 4 1 4
International Free Radio Service 4 1 4
Radio Clandestine 3 1 3
WOLF 3 1 3
Hobart Radio 3 1 3
X 1 3 1 3
Radio Indiana 3 1 3
Potato Pirate 3 1 3
Bird Calls 3 1 3
He Man Radio 3 1 3
Pirate Radio Wilson 3 1 3
Mushroom Radio 2 1 2
Radio Gallifrey Intergalactic 2 1 2
Rcok and Roll Radio 2 1 2
Son of the Lincolnshire Poacher 2 1 2
NRUI 2 1 2
WGOD 2 1 2
Brother Stair Numbers 2 1 2
Indira Calling 1 1 1
Vivian Girls Radio 1 1 1
Friday Night Radio 1 1 1
Radio Tambour 1 1 1
Echo Radio 1 1 1
Radio Airplane 1 1 1
Soft Rock Radio Relay 1 1 1
Not For FCC Airplay Radio 1 1 1

For each station, the first number is the total number of reports, the second is the number of threads, the third is the ratio. One risk here is that the same transmission could be logged in two, or even more, threads, which would reduce this ratio. This gives us a very rough estimate of how well heard, or reported, anyway, each station is.

We can then sort these by that ratio:
21,Giles Letourneau Relay
19,Voice of Helium
18,Witch City Radio
17.6,Drunken DJ Radio
16.5667,Wolverine Radio
16,Radio Casablanca
16,Chairman Of The Board Radio
15,Brownie Radio
14.3636,Burn It Down Radio
14,Kid From Brooklyn
13,Bat Country Radio
12,Make Your Liver Quiver Radio
12,Voice of Portugal
11.6,Blue Ocean Radio
11.5714,Northwoods Radio
11.0526,The Crystal Ship
11,Renegade Radio
11,MAC Shortwave
11,Radio Free Mars Radio
11,Hit Parade Radio
11,Left Lane Radio
11,Mouth of Mohammed
11,Radio Free Furry
11,Euro Temptations Shortwave
10.6667,Undercover Radio
10.6667,Old Classic Radio Plays
10.5455,Skippy Radio
10.5,LTO Radio
10.2,Black Cat Radio
10.1667,Radio True North
10,Kracker Radio
10,Radio Cinco De Mayo
10,Brockett 99
10,Urea Radio
10,Cradle Rock Radio
10,Spy Numbers Relay
9.6,Ghost Shortwave
9.5,Radio Free Ramones
9.20833,Radio Free Whatever
9.2,The Fox
9,Partial India Radio
8.8,Voice of Uncle Don
8.66667,SEKIO Radio
8.28571,Insane Radio
8.25,Radio Trump
8,Boombox Radio
8,Peskie Party Radio
8,Girl Scout Radio
8,Radio Enterhaken
8,The Gas Man Show
8,Radio Merlin International Relay
7.75,Radio Ga Ga
7.75,Doctor Detroit
7.5,Up Against The Wall Radio
7.5,No Coast Pirate Radio
7.46429,PeeWee Radio
7.33333,KFBN Fly By Night Radio
7,Chamber Pot Radio
7,Fruitcake Station
7,Amelia Earhart Comms
7,Canadian Radio After Dark
6.66667,Nuttin’ On Shortwave
6.57609,Amphetamine Radio
6.41667,Fab Four Radio Show
6.225,Radio Illuminati
6.1,Cool AM
6,Radio Morania
6,Artem Radio
6,CKUT Relay
6,Newport Pirate Radio
6,Electric Circus Shortwave
6,Radio Three
6,Cosmic Dust Shortwave
6,WRIR Relay
6,Auld Lang Syne Radio
5.97872,Radio Azteca
5.77778,Red Beacon Radio
5.75,How Sweet It Is Radio
5.7037,Channel Z
5.6875,Pirate Radio Boston
5.66667,Radio Paisano
5.58333,Cold Country Canada
5.36257,Moonlight Radio
5.33333,WEAK Radio
5.33333,X 2
5.28571,Sousa Station
5.25,Howdy Doody Radio
5.16667,Happy Hanukkah Radio
5,Radio KEN
5,Germany Calling
5,Radio First Termer
5,Pumpkin Patch Radio
5,Radio Halloween
5,IBC Radio
5,The Voice of Shortwave Radio
5,Radio Metallica Worldwide
5,Old Turkey Radio
5,WBCQ Relay
4.89744,Radio Zed
4.83333,Radio Fusion Radio
4.80303,RELAY STATION 5150
4.78125,Captain Morgan
4.66667,The yodeler
4.33333,Radio AV
4.28571,Radio Free Euphoria
4.2459,Liquid Radio
4.2,Sycko Radio
4,Radio Jamba International
4,Network 51
4,Native Radio
4,Big Johnson Radio
4,Lee County Radio
4,Ride of the Valkries
4,Union City Radio
4,Radio Saxophone
4,Fake UVB33 Numbers
4,International Free Radio Service
3.91667,Rave On Radio
3.6,BBC Pirate Radio
3.5,RFF Radio
3.33333,Vo Pancho Villa
3.2,The Bangalore Poacher
3,Radio Clandestine
3,Hobart Radio
3,Voice Of Greece
3,X 1
3,Radio Indiana
3,Potato Pirate
3,Bird Calls
3,He Man Radio
3,Pirate Radio Wilson
2.94393,Old Time Radio
2.88889,Pseudo Radio
2.5,Radio Free Do Whatever
2.4,Toynbee Radio
2,Mushroom Radio
2,Radio Gallifrey Intergalactic
2,Rcok and Roll Radio
2,Son of the Lincolnshire Poacher
2,Sonic Death Shortwave
2,Brother Stair Numbers
1.33333,Celtic Music Radio
1,Indira Calling
1,Vivian Girls Radio
1,Friday Night Radio
1,Radio Tambour
1,Echo Radio
1,Radio Airplane
1,Soft Rock Radio Relay
1,Not For FCC Airplay Radio

Average Ratio 6.77086

Ferrite Core 1, RFI 0

Once again, a giant ferrite toroid coil saves the day. I have a random wire antenna (about 100 foot long) running into the basement workshop, fed with RG-6 coax (the coax shield is left floating at the antenna end). Reception was horrible, I could barely hear anything, even SWBC stations. I considered that maybe it wasn’t a lack of signal problem so much a signal to noise problem, so I located a large ferrite toroid coil from the junkbox, wrapped as many turns of coax around it as I could (about a dozen), and placed that in series with the incoming coax, just before the radio. Voila, the noise/hash was gone. The choke helps to reduce RFI flowing as currents on the shield of the coax.

The ferrite core was a Fair-Rite 5943003801, 61 mm toroid, type 43 ferrite. I buy mine from Mouser for about $4 each:

Here’s a photo showing how the coax is wrapped around the toroid core:

And here are some before and after video recordings. The gap about half way through each is when I disconnected the incoming coax to the radio, and inserted the choke, and then reconnected the coax:

More adventures in filtering the power supply for an AFE-822 SDR

I frequency monitor and record the 285-325 kHz DGPS band, looking for DX beacons. Recently, I noticed a noise source centered around 315 kHz, almost 10 kHz wide, on my AFE 822 SDR with a 500 ft beverage antenna:

I tried hunting around the house with a portable radio, looking for it, but could never find it. I then checked on my netSDR, with a 670 ft sky loop antenna, and it was not visible there. Very curious. I then tried the beverage antenna, and could still not observe it. But it was there with the AFE822, with either antenna. This made me suspect noise was entering the AFE-822 through the power supply. I was use the USB input for power, and previously wrote about my attempts to reduce the noise from the power supply. This noise source was new since then, possible due to something else added to the shack.

I decided to put together a filtered DC power supply, using linear wall transformer, and adding filtering via capacitors and an inductor.

The circuit itself is fairly simple:

The output of the transformer I used is about 10 volts under load. I chose a 5 ohm power resistor to place in series, which dropped 2.5 volts, so the resulting DC power supplied to the AFE 822 is 7.5 volts. The value of this resistor depends on the output voltage from the DC supply. The AFE-822 draws 0.5 amps, Ohms Law can be used to calculate the desired resistance. The AFE822 has a voltage regulator inside it (it appears to be an LM7805 variant, possibly low drop out), so it can tolerate a wide range, the AFE 822 website specifies 7 to 10 volts.

The inductor is from the junk box, I don’t know what the value is. While I’m telling myself it helps to filter, I might try to find a known, larger value. The 1000 uF electrolytic capacitors provide low frequency filtering, the 0.047 uF ceramic caps provide RF filtering.

The filter circuit was constructed dead bug style on the lid of a small metal can:

Here it is mounted on the can:

And now the spectrum, with the new power supply. Certainly an improvement:

Yet Another !&*%$! Noise Source

The past few days, I have noticed higher than usual noise levels, generally on the lower frequencies, and particularly on the longwave band, including the 285-325 kHz DGPS band, where I run nightly SDR recordings, to later process the data and decode and detect DX DGPS stations using my Amalgamated DGPS app.

Thinking back to what new electronics devices have been added to the house, two came to mind, a new cable modem, and a new ethernet switch. The switch is up here in the shack, so it seemed to be a likely candidate. The switch is a D-Link DES-1008E 8-Port 10/100 Unmanaged Desktop Switch. It uses a mini USB port for power, using either the included AC adapter, or power from a USB port. When I installed it, I decided to not use the AC adapter, but rather a USB port on my UPS, figuring it was better to not add yet another potentially noisy switching power supply to the mix.

The test was easy, I just unplugged the power to the switch. Sure enough, the noise vanished. Great, the switch is a RFI generator. Or is it? As another test, I plugged it into a port on a USB hub. No noise. Hmm… so it seems that the noise is indeed from the USB port on the UPS. I did not notice any increase in the noise floor when I got the UPS a few months ago, but It’s something I should look into again, just to be sure. The UPS is a CyberPower CP1350PFCLCD.

Here’s a waterfall from the SDR, showing the DGPS band, 280-330 kHz. You can see where I changed the power to the switch from the UPS USB port to the USB hub, the bottom part of the waterfall is when the switch was still powered by the UPS (click to enlarge it):

I still have a noise source just above 305 kHz to hunt down.


I decided to see what I could do to improve things, and reduce the noise floor.

Here is the baseline, after no longer powering the switch from the UPS:

First, I relocated the AFE822 away from the computer and rats nest of assorted cables behind it, powered from an HTC USB charger:

The squiggly noise around 305 kHz vanished!

I then switched to an Apple USB charger / power supply, as their products tend to be a bit better made:

Another improvement, the overall noise floor is a bit less now.

But can we do better? I then switched to an older USB hub for power to the AFE822, that I thought might be better filtered:

I then changed to a linear supply plugged directly into the AFE822. I don’t notice any obvious improvement? Maybe it even looks like a little more noise? Difficult to tell. You can see a DGPS station popped up on 304 kHz while I was switching things around, between the last two tests, it was likely Mequon, WI.

Winter 2016-2017 Snowfall

On Parr’s Ridge in northern Carroll County, MD.

Guess The Amount of Snow At Casa De Smolinski

Seasonal Snowfall Contest Entries

  2.2	Ok_now_3-2-1_DANK-HANK
  3.2	Pamsm
  4.4	I love Kate
  5.0	hee hee
  7.5	Questsnow
 12.5	83worldtraveler
 19.7	Groveton
 23.6	Snowbi-wan Kenobi
 25.7	wadejg
 26.2	Kate commenting
 27.0	taylort2
 29.4	Autumn_Forge
 29.7	heroine.chic
 31.6	cameraman
 31.7	Rex Block
 33.3	bob919
 35.1	Xtrain21
 36.5	walter-in-fallschurch
 38.4  	pct_atc
 43.2	NorthArlington101
 45.6	Terpiecat
 50.2	eric654
 53.4	AndrewinStafford
 54.5	chrisofthebeagles
 57.3	BigCountry
 57.9	slamslam
 79.0	surewhynot
120.0	The Adorable Miniature Snowplows
201.7	Days Of Weather Past

Saturday November 19, 2016:
Sleet. Changed to light snow before ending.

Sunday November 20, 2016:
Snow flurries.

November Total: 0.0″

Sunday December 11, 2016:
0.1″ Snow.

Saturday December 17, 2016:
0.5″ Snow and sleet, then 0.2″ freezing rain.

December Total: 0.6″

Friday January 6, 2017:
2.8″ Snow.

Saturday January 7, 2017:
Light snow, no accumulation.

Tuesday January 10, 2017:
Light snow, 0.1″ accumulation.

Wednesday January 11, 2017:
0.07″ of freezing rain, accumulation on the ground and road surfaces only, due to above freezing air temperatures.

Saturday January 14, 2017:
Sleet, light snow, freezing rain.

Friday January 27, 2017:
Snow flurries.

Saturday January 28, 2017:
Snow flurries.

Sunday January 29, 2017:
Snow flurries.

Monday January 30, 2017:
0.5″ of snow from a quick squall.

January Total: 3.4″

Thursday February 9, 2017:
3.0″ of snow after rain.

Wednesday February 15, 2017:
Snow flurries and graupel.

February Total: 3.0″

Friday March 3, 2017:
Light snow, 0.1″ accumulation.

Friday March 10, 2017:
Light snow, 2.8″ accumulation.

Tuesday March 4, 2017:
11.0″ of heavy but not wet snow.

A view of one of the ponds. Sadly there are frog eggs under all that snow:

I hope the Lilac makes it:

Saturday March 18 – Sunday March 19, 2017:
2.0″ of snow.

March Total: 15.9″

Friday April 7, 2017:
Light snow for about an hour, no accumulation as it was 41F.

April Total: 0.0″

2016-2017 Season To Date Total: 22.9″

Summary of Halloween 2016 Shortwave Pirate Radio Activity in North America

After a slow start, Halloween 2016 pirate radio activity over the extended weekend picked up, especially Sunday and Monday evening. At one point on Monday there were at least four stations on at the same time.

I counted 68 broadcasts that were logged, and have summarized them below in chronological order, each linked to the corresponding logging thread on the shortwave pirate radio message forum. Hopefully I haven’t made any typos.

A big thanks to all the stations that gave us listeners lots of programs to listen to!

Here’s the list:

Friday, October 28, 2016:
RELAY STATION 5150 on 5150 AM at 1359 UTC.
An UNID on 6925.5 AM at 1813 UTC.
Radio AV was testing on 6925 AM at 2102 UTC.
Old Time Radio on 6770 AM at 2245 UTC.
Moonlight Radio on 6929 LSB at 2351 UTC.

Saturday, October 29, 2016 (including Friday night):
An UNID on 6925 USB at 0015 UTC.
Bat Country Radio on 6955 USB at 0022 UTC
Another UNID on 6935 USB at 0055 UTC.
PeeWee Radio on 6955 USB at 0128 UTC.
WAHR (Automated Halloween Radio) on 6955 USB at 0300 UTC.
Yet another UNID on 6955 USB at 0348 UTC.
Amphetamine Radio on 6925 USB at 1514 UTC.
An UNID on 6925 USB and then AM at 1900 UTC.
Another UNID on 6930 AM at 2139 UTC.
Radio Illuminati on 6150 AM at 2206 UTC.
Pumpkin Patch Radio on 6930 USB at 2252 UTC.
Old Time Radio on 6770 AM at 2225 UTC.
Radio Free Furry on 6945 USB at 2352 UTC.

Sunday, October 30, 2016 (including Saturday night):
Moonlight Radio on 6930 USB at 0002 UTC.
Pee Wee Radio on 6955 USB at 0133 UTC.
An UNID on 6950 AM at 0204 UTC.
Another UNID on 6925 USB at 0215 UTC.
Another UNID on 6925.1 AM at 0218 UTC.
Yet another UNID on 6925 AM then USB then LSB at 0342 UTC.
Radio Halloween on 6925 AM at 1156 UTC.
One more UNID on 6930 AM at 1248 UTC.
Radio Halloween on 6925.4 AM at 1526 UTC.
An UNID on 6963 LSB at 1542 UTC.
Radio AV on 6925.7 AM at 1616 UTC.
An UNID on 6930 USB at 1635 UTC.
RELAY STATION 5150 on 5150 AM at 1901 UTC.
Radio Merlin via RELAY STATION 5150 on 5150 AM at 2014 UTC.
Witch City Radio 6925 AM at 2039 UTC.
Radio Merlin International relay on 6925 AM at 2128 UTC.
Radio Fusion Radio on 6930 USB at 2143 UTC.
Captain Morgan Shortwave on 6924 AM at 2155 UTC.
An UNID on 6950 AM at 2157 UTC.
Old Time Radio on 6770 AM at 2205 UTC.
The Yodeler on 6930 USB at 2228 UTC.
RELAY STATION 5150 on 5150 AM at 2234 UTC.
The Yodeler on 6925 USB at 2236 UTC.
Radio Fusion Radio on 6925 USB at 2242 UTC.
Rave On Radio on 6935 USB at 2300 UTC.
The Yodeler on 6930 USB at 2312 UTC.

Monday, October 31, 2016 (including Sunday night):
RELAY STATION 5150 on 5150 AM (received in Brazil) at 0018 UTC.
An UNID on 6924.7 USB at 0013 UTC.
NRUI (Amelia Earhart callsign) on 6925 CW at 0204 UTC.
WAHR (Automated Halloween Radio) on 6925 USB at 0216 UTC.
An UNID on 6925 USB at 0235 UTC.
An UNID on 6925 USB at 1524 UTC.
Amphetamine Radio on 6925 USB at 1753 UTC.
Radio AV on 6925 AM at 1916 UTC.
Amphetamine Radio on 6923 USB at 2053 UTC.
Old Time Radio on 6770 AM at 2205 UTC.
Doctor Detroit on 6935 AM at 2237 UTC.
Moonlight Radio on 6930 USB at 2254 UTC.
An UNID on 6925 USB at 2304 UTC.
Witch City Radio on 6873.4 AM at 2309 UTC.
An UNID on 6940 LSB at 2338 UTC.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016 (including Monday/Halloween night):
An UNID on 6925 USB at 0008 UTC.
Wolverine Radio on 6935 USB at 0013 UTC.
Pumpkin Patch Radio on 6925 USB at 0034 UTC.
XFM on 6960 AM at 0042 UTC.
An UNID on 6950 USB at 0046 UTC.
Canadian Radio After Dark on 6950 USB at 0048 UTC.
Undercover Radio on 6975 USB at 0058 UTC.
Renegade Radio on 6925 at USB.
WJD on 6930 USB at 0130 UTC.

Only one Europirate was logged on this side of the pond: Enterprise Radio was on 6950 AM at 2200 UTC on the 31st They sent an SSTV image, which I was able to receive with poor quality:

RainBrandy from Germany had better reception, as you might imagine:

Those Wacky Pescadores

Pescadore is the term used by Pirate DXers to refer to a fishermen operating on the 43 meter band, the plural is pescadores, often abbreviated as peskies. While they can turn up anywhere on the band (or outside it), 6925 LSB seems to be the most common frequency, which can cause QRM to pirates operating on 6925 AM. They also turn up on 6933 LSB fairly often.

Usually you hear them chatting with each other; informal QSOs. Sometimes however they have been known to play music, or engage in other activities fairly close to broadcasting. They can actually be entertaining to listen to.

Here is a recording of them from the other night, starting just before 0000 UTC on 21 September, 2016.

Pescadores have even inspired a pirate radio station named Pesky Party Radio, most recently heard last month. This station plays Spanish language covers of popular songs, and is rather hilarious.

Decoding the Entire DGPS Band At Once, Part 2

In my earlier post, I introduced a new program that decodes the entire DGPS band at once, from SDR recording files. This allows you to record the band overnight, then process the recordings in the morning, to see what stations were received.

I’ve since re-written the app, with a few additions.

The big change is the ability to decode from regular WAVE audio files, if you do not have an SDR. The app can decode from multiple DGPS channels in the same WAVE file, as many as fit in the bandwidth. So if, for example, your radio is tuned to 300 kHz USB with a bandwidth of 6 kHz, then 301 to 305 kHz fit inside and will be decoded. You could of course tune to say 299.5 kHz and squeeze in another channel. Or make the bandwidth wider. Or both!

The graph window now shows a red graph at the top, which indicates the total number of messages per minute being decoded. It can be handy as a rough guide as to how well band conditions are.

I have also added support for a few other formats of SDR recordings, Studio1, ELAD, and Sdr-Radio, in addition to SdrDx / RF Space and Perseus formats. Note that I do not have all of these programs, so testing was done with files provided by others. I think it is all working correctly, but you never know.

The app is still Mac only, but the changes to this version (which is close to a complete re-write) move me closer to being able to release a Windows version. It can be downloaded here: