I was recently in search of a small, low power HT that has dual band (2m/70cm) capability. A bit of interwebs reading pointed me in the direction of the now discontinued Baofeng UV-3R+. For less than $25 each, including slow boat shipping from China, I grabbed a pair from Ali Express during the recent 11.11 sales.
The form factor of the radio is just right for my XYL’s purse, so she will carry it as an emergency radio. She also has a tiny Puxing PX2R purchased years ago via eBay, but it is UHF only and we wanted dual band capability so that she could hit KC2GOW’s new machine near her work QTH.
However, programming via software was quite difficult. It turned out that both the native software and CHIRP fail to adequately handle repeater offsets. A bit of reading came up with a couple of references to using .006 MHz rather than .600 as the VHF offset and then using .05 rather than 5.0 as the UHF offset. As you can see, the value has been shifted two decimal places to the left. Anyway, this is how it works with CHIRP.
Even worse is Baofeng’s own software, which requires entry of separate transmit and receive frequencies, rather than an offset. So, for a repeater which transmits of 146.76 and receives on 146.16, the Baofeng software needs a transmit frequency of (146.76 – .006) or 146.754 MHz.
OK, the radio is cheap. It is worth what I paid. But it is no Yaesu or even Alinco. Caveat amateur!
OBi, now owned by Polycom, seems to be in the midst of a major technical failure. Users are unable to provision both newly purchased devices as well as re-provision existing devices to correct issues such as the inability to receive Google Voice Calls.
OBi markets devices that provide the capability to have Google Voice ring an actual hardline telephone. In recent weeks, according to posts on their user forums, their provisioning process via the obitalk.com portal has been regularly failing.
Numerous tickets opened by users have not been resolved. If you were thinking of purchasing an OBi device, while I normally recommend them highly, I’d think twice until this is resolved.
In one support thread, SteveInWA — who is a “Hero Member & Beta Tester” states that, “According to Polycom, they are continuing to investigate this problem; it is intermittent, and so meanwhile, their recommendation is to keep trying, and it should eventually work.” This was posted yesterday morning, so there seems to be a distinct lack of progress.
Where there is “Fake News”, is “Fake Weather” likely to follow? Google doesn’t seem to know where I am. At least the Google News homepage no longer knows. Allow me to explain.
I use Google News as my web browser homepage. For many years, near the upper right hand side of the page there has been a box that presents my local weather forecast. Some weeks ago, the box started presenting the weather for another part of my state. I provided Google with web feedback and some days later noticed that the caption changed to “Your Local Weather”.
A number of days passed and we were experiencing the umpteenth heatwave of Summer 2018. However, the outside temperature reported by Google appeared to be way too mild for our local reality. I clicked the link below, which took me to weather.com, and learned that Google News thinks I am in Dearing, KS. Interestingly, this is near the geographic center of the continental United States and is often used to represent a geographical location for the USA when no other details are known.
On the other hand, my Google Home devices all seem to know my location and report the correct weather (well, their understanding of the correct weather) for my location. Chromecast, however, is as confused as the Google website.
I’ve reported this issue via the Google web feedback mechanism and hopefully I will again be able to get my real weather instead of Google’s “Fake Weather”.
In the meantime, I am living the dream. Google is doing a bad job of tracking me and I can always claim I was in Dearborn, KS should the need arise!
I recently posted a message in an online technical forum run by Google about an issue I’m having making outbound voice calls with the “Home” devices. Within an hour, I received several messages from different forum “members”, all saying that I should call technical support at 1-855-332-0777 for further assistance.
I “Googled” the number, and it seems to come up as a technical support contact number for every software and hardware product ever created. Too good to be true? Oh yes, especially this reference in a Microsoft forum.
Naturally, I called to see what kind of scam this is. The background sounded like a typical noisy offshore call center with the agent accent to match (yes — I know I am making a broad assumption here). I started to explain my issue and it was clear that the agent did not know a Google Home device from a Palm Pilot. I gave him a simplistic overview of my problem but terminated the call as soon as he started asking for my name and other identifying information.
So, be aware of any scams that refer to the number in question, or any other suspicious responses that you receive to support queries, even in reputable manufacturer sponsored forums. The responders were reported as spammers and their responses removed.
Information security professionals often examine “third-party risk”. Simply put, associations with business partners and contractors can present outside risks to the data, financial, and/or physical security of an organization. The risk may be contractors with access to secure areas or sensitive business processes. The risk can be shared data in the temporary custody of a partner. The risk can be virtual access to a network or a facility without adequate audit.
Today I was informed by Facebook that my privacy could have been compromised because “friends” of mine used an application platform profiling app called “This is Your Digital Life”. I wish I could tell you more or show you the notification, but in typical arrogant Facebook fashion, the notification was a fly-by. It was presented on the screen of my smart mobile device. I put the phone in my pocket and headed to my office to compose this piece, but once the Facebook feed refreshed I can no longer find it. It is not on my notification list. So much for transparency. So much for ease of use. Now you see it, now you don’t.
So what does this mean? Well, in this case Facebook allowed a third party that I did not authorize to access my profile data. They allowed the third party because a second party (my Facebook friends) accessed an application that pulled the data. They allowed this even though I opted out of the Facebook application platform and therefore had a reasonable expectation of data privacy. Facebook fails. And my mom was right. You are impacted by the actions of your friends.
What is the answer? Take ’em down. Let’s see a class action lawsuit financially impact Facebook. There are enough of us in this potential class that have, by Facebook’s own admission, suffered harm. Congress is not likely to impose a satisfactory regulatory solution any time soon. So let’s take it to the courts and show companies that a willful direct and careless violation of our data privacy will be the most expensive mistake that their companies can make.
The Raspberry Pi Foundation has announced the new Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+. This incremental design improvement provides some interesting features.
1.4GHz 64-bit quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 CPU
Dual-band 802.11ac wireless LAN and Bluetooth 4.2
Faster Ethernet (Gigabit Ethernet over USB 2.0)
Power-over-Ethernet support (with separate PoE HAT)
Improved PXE network and USB mass-storage booting
Improved thermal management
The 5 GHz wifi and power over ethernet capabilities are especially interesting improvements. The Raspberry Pi is a great experimenter’s computer. Many amateur radio operators and makers are using them in purpose built applications such as digital hotspots and home control. You can see more here.
Update: 03/19/2018 — One difference that I failed to note betwee the RPI 3 Model B and the B+ is that while the RPi 3 Model B sported 1 GB of RAM, the B+ cuts it back down to 512 MB. While 512 MB may be enough for your application, if it is not, you may with to stick with the original RPi 3 Model B.
Update: 05/03/2018 — I have verified that RPi 3 Model B+ does still have 1 GB of RAM. The reference to 512 MB RAM came from the specifications listed on the RPi Foundation web page when originally released.
If you attended my presentation, thank you for your interest. If you have never attended a Winter SWL Fest and are interested in any aspect of radio reception, consider attending next year. All frequencies from DC to Daylight are fair game.
Note: This article was originally published in March 2017. I’ve revisited and updated it in preparation for a talk that I’ll be giving at the 2018 Winter SWL Fest. I’ve simplified the installation process. While doing so, I learned that Google now requires an API key for the application to have access to their maps. My github fork of the dump 1090 code has been updated to account for this development.
A key component of next generation air traffic control is Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast (ADS-B). The current FAA mandate is for all included aircraft to output ADB-B transmissions no later than January 1, 2020. But you don’t have to wait to receive and map ADS-B. There is a lot of air traffic to be seen.
Some folks are using complete downloadable images that are set up to feed flight tracking services such as FlightAware. If you’re interested in doing this, The SWLing Post featured an article that you’ll enjoy. I wanted to explore whether I could use some items already on hand to see a map of overhead aircraft on any computer on my home network.
I pulled out an older Raspberry Pi Model B and a 4 GB SD-Card and installed a copy of Raspbian Stretch Lite. The Model B has been retroactively called a Raspberry Pi 1 Model B. It is equipped with 512 MB of RAM, two USB ports and a 100mb Ethernet port.
I decided to use a spare older RTL-SDR stick based on the RTL2832U and R820T chips. This USB device comes with a small antenna that I hoped would be good enough to get me started. It is not in any way optimized for the 1090 MHz signals that are used by ADS-B and is roughly 19 parts per million (ppm) off frequency. It cost a bit over $10 at a hamfest a couple of years ago. The designs have improved since the early models were offered. Newer models include a TCXO (thermally compensated crystal oscillator) for stability and accuracy.
I needed software to take signals from the RTL-SDR stick and plot them on a map. That software is “dump1090”, originally written by Salvatore Sanfilippo. I added an install stanza to the Makefile, along with a systemd service file, for a smooth system install. I also needed to install the RTL-SDR USB drivers. The complete installation runs “headless”, meaning no monitor, keyboard or mouse need be connected. Remote management can be done via ssh.
There is a security change that comes along with Stretch. ssh is now disabled by default. After copying the initial Stretch image to the SD card and BEFORE removing it to place the Raspberry Pi, mount the boot partition and create an empty file named “ssh”. If you are not using ethernet, you could also pre-configure wifi settings.
First, bring the Raspbian Stretch installation up to date.
–quiet runs in the background
–net starts a webserver so that you can access via a web browser
–lat set to YOUR decimal latitude (negative for South)
–lon set to YOUR decimal latitude (negative for West)
–ppm if you know the ppm tolerance of your device (otherwise omit)
–gain -10 which sets gain automatically
A full parameter list can be reviewed by typing dump1090 --help.
With an antenna connected you can perform a quick device check by typing dump1090 --interactive. If all is well you’ll see a screen like this:
Hex Mode Sqwk Flight Alt Spd Hdg Lat Long Sig Msgs Ti/
A39D11 S 6 1 4
A25D36 S 1775 7 4 3
AAA593 S 2575 205 075 7 2 7
A25238 S 4 1 12
A0480B S 19650 8 28 3
ACF4DD S 3825 7 2 14
A41F61 S FDX3018 2800 211 025 40.428 -74.332 23 83 0
A6FFFE S 1753 LXJ550 30475 371 226 8 63 0
C060B3 S 4625 6 14 1
ACF69B S 23250 6 25 1
A2D27C S 24000 13 42 2
A0BF90 S 9500 249 257 5 3 9
A7D30A S 40000 8 111 1
AE0192 S SPAR958 32675 22 93 0
ACC040 S 7825 8 146 2
ACA5DF S 26600 6 79 0
A80C7B S 4550 9 108 1
A7CC00 S 7825 35 123 0
ACF841 S 1507 14425 50 132 0
A8C802 S NKS149 23575 332 216 39.995 -74.262 12 160 0
A61949 S UAL1105 2725 14 60 0
AC2E20 S 1006 19925 22 130 0
AB766A S DAL1526 8525 216 038 40.444 -74.213 81 249 0
AA4440 S 5400 253 066 6 6 13
Control-C exits this screen.
Now start the dump1090.service.
sudo systemctl start dump1090.service
If all goes well, a netstat -an will show that there is a binding to port 8080.
tcp 0 0 0.0.0.0:8080 0.0.0.0:* LISTEN
Now you can start up a web browser from any computer on your home network and see a map of planes overhead. If your router supports internal dynamic DNS you can name the RPi and access via something like http://skynet:8080. Alternatively, use the IP address, which can be obtained via ifconfig.
In this case, the URL would be http://192.168.1.123:8080.
Once the map appears, re-position it to your part of the world and enjoy learning about what is flying overhead. You can enhance your enjoyment by listening to your closest airport tower or air traffic control frequencies on a scanner. These transmissions use amplitude modulation (AM) and can be monitored an another RTL-SDR stick or a scanner, even a relatively old model.
I’ve been a fan of internet radio appliances ever since the AE1 hit the market in 2006. I still find them to be more convenient than using a smartphone paired with a bluetooth speaker. However, my Grace models, a few years old now, stopped working with Sirius a couple of years ago. It was the same with a Logitech Squeezebox. Google Home provides a decent way to access Pandora and TuneIn, but not Sirius.
Our kitchen counter has added a new Kelement WiFi Internet Radio and I like it. It is an appliance based upon an Android screen and familiar apps, along with two speakers and a subwoofer. No, the sound won’t blast you away, but it is fine for the $80 I paid during Black Friday/Cyber Monday. The price on Amazon is now $90, but I would still recommend it at that price.
It is nice to be able to again listen to Sirius while downstairs and the Android touch screen interface makes sense.