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Louisville Ham Radio

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Amateur Radio Offerings Sparse at CES 2015

CES logoAs usual, amateur radio gear was conspicuously absent from the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) again this year.  Icom and Yaesu had no presence and, although Kenwood showed up, their focus was mainly almost exclusively focused on automotive stereo systems.  There were a couple of vendors/distributors  exhibiting their line cards that included off-the-shelf antennas that you can probably find easier and cheaper on Amazon.  I didn’t even see the aftermarket Baofeng battery makers I found last year.

Cobra was on hand with some VHF radios of the marine variety (like the 25-watt, NOAA enabled MR F45 – available now, and the new MR F57 and MR F77 – which will be available this month.  They also showcased their rugged hand-held two-way radios like the CXT 545 and their latest in this category: the CXT 645, which claims a 35-mile range on top of the usual features of this type of radio.  Another near-miss on ham radio gear was their 11-meter equipment – A/K/A CB radios.  In this line, they were showing their new 29 LX BT radio,  which allows operators to pair their smart phone to their CB radio, allowing users to make and receive phone calls through the radio without touching their phone.  The 29 LX BT featurse one-touch Bluetooth operation, Caller ID with on-radio display and voice announcement of incoming callers, and text-to-speech that enables listening to incoming email messages and responding by voice transcription.

Midland was also present with their usual offerings of FRS/GMRS radios.  They also had their line of NOAA weather radio receivers.  Although everyone should have an NOAA receiver in their home (especially hams and even more especially so hams involved with SKYWARN), I have weather radios coming out of my ears, so I didn’t linger too long here.

TV TunersOne interesting thing that did catch my attention was a new line of USB-based TV tuners aimed at smart phones and tablets from MyGica.  As exciting as the prospect of live TV on my phone with the ATSC tuner is, my mind immediately went to a cleaner solution for mobile SDR listening with the DVB-T tuners.

The non-native-English-speaking booth staff looked at me like I had just sprouted a second head when I asked what kind of chip it had in it or if it would be compatible with SDR software and, unfortunately, this product line hasn’t been brought to the market just yet to get one to try out.  MyGica, however, does have a few other pretty nifty products that are already available like their Android-based streaming boxes that “turn any TV into a smart TV, including (in decreasing order of price), the ATV 582, ATV 1200 and ATV 520e as well as a USB TV tuner to get HDTV over-the-air on your desktop or laptop (hello, DIY DVR).  Maybe this is the first step into convincing the I-don’t-need-a-radio-because-I-have-a-cell-phone people that their phone is a radio.

FCC Chairman Wheeler Speaks on Net Neutrality, Spectrum Auction

While the show was pretty much a bust on scoping out new ham gear, I did also get the chance to sit in on the One-on-One with FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler session.  While they spent the bulk of the session discussing net neutrality – which pols are already making noise about, they did get around to discussing the upcoming spectrum auction.  During this latter portion, Chairman Wheeler’s wireless roots showed through, calling broadcasters – like our low-power pals over at the Advanced Television Broadcasting Alliance – “disappointing” and indicated that their auction-delaying lawsuit was without merit.  Wheeler indicated that the incentive auction will be happening and it will be happening in 2016.  He went on to say that the future of the spectrum was in spectrum sharing.

Below is the CEA video of the talk:

Low Power FM Broadcast is Alive in Louisville

Thanks in part to various interests of mine, Low-Power FM radio (LPFM) is near and dear to me.  As such, I was happy to see the Radio Free Louisville article in LEO.

Since its inception in the early part of the 20th century, radio has commanded an unparalleled place of cultural power. The narrative of the apocalyptic radio broadcast — a staple in our contemporary “prepper” zombified zeitgeist — reveres radio as the most imminently durable and reliable technology. In countless pop culture references (from “Under the Dome” to “Walking Dead”), radio is the last voice of the people, the last available communication tool capable of saving civilization.

With four local stations recently awarded their FM broadcast licenses, Louisville is finally seeing the effects of the 2011 Local Community Radio Act, which made dial space accessible to Low Power FM (LPFM) stations and opened up the playing field to voices outside corporate and National Public Radio. That it has taken so long for the airwaves to become available to diverse public voices speaks to the economy of a medium long outpriced and regulated beyond grassroots reach.

Finish reading the article here and, if you’re the LPFM guy I talked to at the Vette City hamfest, get in touch with me!

Radio Hams Keep ‘Queen Mary’ Wireless on the Air

Mike O’Sullivan
VOA News

LOS ANGELES— The Queen Mary, an ocean liner that once sailed the North Atlantic, is now permanently berthed in Long Beach, California, where it’s a tourist attraction and hotel. In one of the rooms aboard the ship, the tradition of ship-to-shore wireless operations is continued and visitors are introduced to the hobby of ham radio.

A young visitor recently got an introduction to Morse code, the system of dots and dashes once used for wireless communication. Amateur radio operators, called “hams,” still use it today.

The Queen Mary was the pride of the Cunard Line after its 1936 launch, and is now a popular tourist attraction.

The wireless room preserves the ocean liner’s communications hub. Queen Mary Commodore Everette Hoard said it was a lifeline in emergencies, providing two-way messages — ship to shore.

“And not only did they carry several transmitters for transmitting the ship’s business, they also, even in 1936, had radio-telephone service,” said Hoard.   Continue reading

Rely on a Smartphone? New NASA Satellites Do.

NASASuzanne Presto
VOA News

Smartphones. We carry them in our pockets, toss them in our tote bags and have them at the ready whenever we want directions to a destination or to snap a picture or to call a friend.

Perhaps we’re often guilty of taking the gadgets’ microprocessing powers for granted. Not so with NASA, which just sent three smartphones into space as low-cost satellites.

PhoneSats

When Orbital Sciences’ Antares rocket launched from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on its first test flight Sunday, the privately built booster carried a payload to simulate the cargo craft that will one day dock with the International Space Station.

But Antares also placed into orbit several new mini-satellites built mainly with smartphone components, which the U.S. space agency is calling their PhoneSats.

The three so-called PhoneSats are named ‘Alexander,’ ‘Graham,’ and ‘Bell,’ after the inventor of the telephone.

The PhoneSats are small cubes, each about the size of a beverage mug and weighing a little more than a kilogram. At the core of each is a Google-HTC Nexus One phone, whose zippy little microprocessor — running the Android operating system — serves as the onboard computer.

Operating in Orbit

Jim Cockrell, the PhoneSat Project Manager at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California, described the project in a video broadcast on NASA TV ahead of the Antares launch.

“Someone here asked the question, ‘Can we fly a cell phone as the avionics for a satellite and have something that’s very capable but really, really inexpensive?’ So PhoneSat was launched to try to answer that question,” he said.

NASA says the three PhoneSats are Continue reading

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