Thought I’d do some philosophical stuff today instead of technical stuff today. Beware.
One of the things that first fascinated me as a little kid (besides baseball and before women) was radio. Specifically short wave radio. We had a world band radio in the house and it had the TV audio band. I used to think that was so cool. Then along came Citizens Band (CB) radio. Oh God how I loved that. I really find that odd because now at my advanced age of 57, and the fact I’m a licensed Ham, I really don’t care to talk.
But oh how I love to listen. I almost don’t care what I’m listening to as long as I’m LISTENING.
I’ve lived back in the USA about 5 years and now lived through my 2nd Atlantic Hurricane. Florence put a whooping on New Bern in 2018 and Dorian which just passed was a NEAR miss on New Bern. We caught the very edge of it.
But every big life event like this teaches you some things. One of the biggest lessons that I learned was that the news Hurricane coverage just was not up to date. You could be awake at 3 AM and check the news web sites and their latest updates were 2-3 hours old. In a fast moving hurricane, headed for you, 2-3 hour old news is age old.
Prior to the storm I set up a GOES satellite receiver which pulls down data from GOES-16 EAST. The data looks like this:
Just a quick blog for showing how to hook up the NooElec Sawbird GOES Barebones for those of you trying to decode NOAA GOES satellites. Oddly enough I couldn’t find a data sheet or manual for it. And its a bit of a head scratcher if it is your first go-round with such items. So I’m here to make it easy.
Their webpage merely says this which gives you the info you need to hook it up:
Each module allows for 3 different power options, but you should only power with one option at any given time! The recommended power input through the SMA output port (for bias-tee capable SDRs like the NESDR SMArTee XTR) is 3V-5V DC.
Above you working silently are Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites (GOES). They are operated by NOAA and are essentially weather satellites.
Now here’s the current configuration above. Seeing as how I live on the East Coast of the US I aim at GOES-16 or GOES East. Getting the signal is a bit of a challenge and requires some special hardware.
One of my favorite hobbies of course is radio. I own a few.
I think the most interesting “radios” are RTL-SDR devices. The RTL stands for Realtek (which is the chipset) and SDR stands for Software Defined Radio.
They only cost a few bucks for a “generic” one and there are more sensitive and selective ones that cost bigger bucks.
Essentially if it is a radio signal of some kind, with a $20 USB Software Defined Radio you can listen to or decode a multitude of radio traffic/chatter. In fact it seems darn near illegal, and sometimes it is. I have other blog pages with this information but I’m just going to re-hash what I’ve been up to this week.
Everybody over at the Facebook SDRPlay message board is having fun decoding L band ACARS and STD-C messages. One of the SDRPlay guys, Mr Mike Ladd, put together an excellent guide on using the RSP devices to decode L band traffic. It has invigorated that Facebook community somewhat and I’m excited to see everyone trying it out and posting their results/questions. Mike posts excellent tutorials and videos and if you fancy yourself an SDR enthusiast or hobbyist you owe it to yourself to check out his videos.
ACARS AERO messages are for, you guessed it, Aircraft, and Enhanced Group Call (EGC) messages are Maritime notices and warnings. These messages are from Inmarsat Satellites and the one I use specifically is Inmarsat 4-F3. Clicking on the image will show you that its geosynchronous orbit covers North and South America.
Inmarsat (click to enlarge)
Inmarsat 4-F3 is located at 97.6 West. Strongly recommended to get an app called Dish Align to locate the satellite.
So to pull this off you need:
An RTL-SDR device capable of delivering Bias T voltage to the antenna. For today I used an SDRPlay RSPDuo. There are certainly cheaper devices out there though.
An L band antenna such as this one or an old Othernet L Band Patch antenna from the old version 2 hardware. I had one of the old L Band Patch antennas laying around already. You might be able to find one on eBay or of course make your own..
A Windows laptop with a little bit of OOMPH
Software such as SDRUno if you are using an SDRPlay device or SDR# if you may be using an Airspy device.
Batten down the hatches and store food. The end is near. I bought a Windows Device and I am going to review it.
Let’s be clear. I F’n-ing hate Windows. I have been using Linux and Mac way before it was cool to do so. Windows is an abomination. That being said I have long since owned a Vinyl Sign Cutting machine. The very best software for it runs on Windows. Also recently I bought an SDRPlay RSPDuo and the only real software to exploit it properly is called SDRUno and it is Windows only.
This is a review for a Chuwi HI10 Air Tablet . I bought it EXCLUSIVELY for using RTL-SDR radios on. If you are looking for a review of how well this tablet does ANYTHING besides RTL-SDR, then by golly you are in the wrong place.
I travel a lot and I love listening to radio signals and like it or not I just need to carry around a Windows device.
Sure I can run Windows in a Virtual environment but I’m kind of king of the low power devices (read: CHEAP) and the things I try to do require more power and speed than what I typically carry around.
UPDATE: I’ve been catching a little heat for this review. I have gotten several emails explaining very succinctly to me why this antenna is not very good and I’ve been slammed for promoting a Chinese knock off. However, know this……….It is INEXPENSIVE. Like China or hate China, because this loop is a fraction of the price of other loops for sale it is going to get some attention. Also, I’m sorry, I don’t care what the specs say…………The antenna receives pretty good. Is it the end all, be all…………….no. God no. But it’s not that bad and it doesn’t cost $300.
I live in an HOA which limits what kind of an antenna I can use for Short Wave Listening. There are a few options of which one of the best is a Magnetic Loop antenna. It has a relatively small profile and can even be kept below fence level and still perform wonderfully.
One of the problems with a Magnetic Loop is that they are fairly expensive. Like in the $250 or higher range. Most old timers or skilled antenna builders will tell you there is $60 worth of parts in the $250 antenna and that you should just hunker down, get smart, and build one yourself.
Enter the Chinese made MLA-30 MegaLoop and damnit this is my blog so it’ll from here on out be known as the MAGALoop. That’s what I’m calling it.