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.
Just in time for Cinco de Mayo, let’s celebrate the latest iteration of the K2DLS DV4mini image for the Raspberry Pi 2, 3, and 3+. Thanks to the folks on the Facebook DV4mini support group for pointing out that the November release did not contain code to boot on the new Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+.
This is a fresh build, based upon the latest Raspbian Stretch. ssh and RealVNC are ready to go and it works nicely with the official 7″ touchscreen. The DV4mini console and the Brandmeister XTG Dialer start up automagically.
Default user: pi
Default password: raspberry (please change on first use!)
You’ve probably heard by now that Art Bell, known to radio amateurs as W6OBB, is now a silent key. That’s what us ham ops call a dead guy. Well Art may be physically dead, but I think he is alive somewhere (or many wheres) in time.
My favorite memory of Art goes back to a show he probably did about 20 years ago. I don’t remember the exact date, but he announced one night that if aliens were really trying to contact us we should agree upon a common radio frequency. He threw a frequency out on the air and said that people should listen in case the aliens call. So I listened.
Sure enough, after some time listening to static, someone turned on a transmitter and started playing the sounds from Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I don’t know if it was transmitted by Art himself, but what a prankster.
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.
I had the opportunity to catch up with Mike Carper, WA9PIE, at the Orlando Hamcation today. Mike is one of the two current owners of Ham Radio Deluxe, the incredibly popular software used by radio amateurs to control their radios and handle logging and other tasks. HRD Software LLC went through some rough times in 2016, but Mike reports that 2017 was a great year under reconstituted management.
In 2017, Roger Hardin joined the company as a full-time software developer. In 2018, Mike plans to add several developers to address a backlog of bug reports as well as work on new feature releases. Joining the team on a part-time basis is well known radio amateur Tomas Hood, NW7US. They plan to follow an 80/20 approach. Mike anticipates that 80% of the effort will be devoted to correcting software defects and 20% will be devoted to rolling out new features.
In addition to addressing customer concerns around QSL label printing and Cabrillo contest log generation, there is a planned major change around how rig control definitions are handled. Mike announced at Hamcation that they plan to externalize rig definitions via XML. This means that end users will gain the ability to tweak features and implement their own definitions. Watch for this sometime later in the year.
Mike has also instituted a lot of process around documenting customer reported incidents as well as software development and testing. The process has led to a more transparent approach to product changes. Any customer can now view a change log to see what issues have been addressed in a particular release via the web. The User Manual has also been converted to an online wiki format.
Thanks to Mike for the update. I’m looking forward to continued development of Ham Radio Deluxe.
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.