Category Archives: Software

TDoA Direction Finding: First Experiences on the KiwiSDR Net

6465_5

With some iteration, as described in the PDF, the former unknown site of a CIS-12 transmission on 6.465 kHz has been disclosed as the Russian Navy from Baltysk, Kaliningrad.

The stunning direction finding tool on the KiwiSDR net has hit the community. Most people are enthusiastic about the new horizons, some some smart people had opened for free.

A few people, however, reported some disappointment as they couldn’t pinpoint each and every transmitter with expected high precision.

To avoid this disappointment, you have to know what you are doing. The TDoA tool for direction finding indeed delivers automatically stunning results. But you have to think a bit about the setup, and also do some iteration.

I wrapped up my first experiences with TDoA in this PDF. You may simply download it by double-clicking the link, and open it in a PDF reader. It consists of 22 pages and 37 instructive figures. I greatly stressed the practical part of direction finding with this tool – with 13 explicit case studies from 2,6 MHz to 15,6 MHz.

The idea is to have more fun by getting the most reliable results.

SDR Console V3: New and indispensable Software

V3_Dimtsi

“Living Sonagram”: On the right window, you see a part of a 24 h recording at 6,1 MHz bandwidth (ca. 2 TB) with 1 line/second. Tagged is the sign on of Dimtsi Hafash which is received by the undocked “Receive” panel of V3’s GUI. At the bottom: signal strength on 7180 kHz over 24 hours reveals e.g. s/on, s/off and fade in.

Just a small note on a real real big event: Simon Brown, G4ELI, has published V3 of his indispensable SDR Console software on June 18th, 2018 – after three and a half years of heavy coding. Download it here and donate. Or vice versa.

V3 is a quite universal software for most SDRs on the market. For all, it provides the same graphical user interface (GUI) and the same functions (plus those specific to some devices).

All

DXer’s delight: On top the sonagram to visually catch signals (here: JDG from Diego Garcia; tagged). Bottom, from left to right: receive GUI for fine tuning, decoder W-Code showing “JDG”, below this “Playback” panel for controlling the recording (back/forward, e.g.), and on the right a database.

There are many unique functions and modules which will take DXing with SDRs to the next step. For now, let me mention just two of them:

  • 24 parallel demodulators within the SDR’s bandwidth – fully independent in e.g. mode, bandwidth and AGC to receive, record and decode 24 signals/channels in parallel.
  • a sophisticated File Analyser  which presents a recorded band as “living sonagram” – whre you see and click to a signal which then is played via the basic GUI
6pane

Up to six parallel demodulators can be seen on the main screen (from up to 24 possible).

 

1520

1520 kHz from 18:00 to 05:00 UTC (local SR/SS: 19:43/02:58 UTC) with 100 Hz bandwidth and 0,0031 Hz resolution (= +65 dB over 10 kHz!) reveals at least 27 stations and their offsets.

Each of these just two features mentioned will open new worlds for DXing and even serious professional monitoring. I will be happy to come back to some applications of V3 in more detail.

Thank you very much, Simon, for providing this excellent tool for free!

4800

4’800 kHz: First CNR1 with sign on at 20:15 UTC and fade out, then AIR Hyderabad with the same, but s/on around 00:06 UTC.

 

7435kHz

You may export levels over time on one frequency or level over frequencies at a given time. This graph visualizes the activity on 7435 kHz with 86’400 levels (on per second over 24 h). The data had been exported to QtiPlot for further investigation.

Einführung SDR: Kompakt, praxisnah, verständlich

Wer eine konzentrierte, praxisnahe und verständliche Einführung in die Technik Software-definierter Empfänger (SDR) sucht, der findet alles dazu in einem 28-seitigen und deutschsprachigen PDF von Hayati Ayguen.

Nach der spannenden Lektüre kennt man die Chancen ebenso wie die Grenzen von SDRs, kann die Prospektdaten und vollmundigen Werbeversprechen vor allem der großen Hersteller von Amateurfunkgeräten besser einordnen und lernt somit auch die Leistung sowie den Funktionsumfang der Produkte kleinerer Hersteller noch stärker schätzen.

Einen ersten Überblick bietet Hayati auch auf Folien.

INMARSAT: Decoding 12 Aero-channels in parallel

Jaero12

Action: Free software allows for decoding twelve INMARSAT in parallel

A recent post in Carl’s rtl-sdr-blog informed about the ebay-lability of some surplus Outernet patch antennas for just – see here. For just 29 US-$, I got this small antenna with integrated SAW filter (1525 – 1559 MHz) plus LNA. A real bait for me to jump over the limit of 30 MHz reception! Soon I fired up my AirSpy R2 receiver, providing the LNA with power supply (Bias-Tee). It worked fine, and I received a whole bunch of excellent signals by this setup.

As I wanted to receive some aircraft information, so I downloaded free JAERO decoder of Jonathan “Jonti” Olds, also from New Zealand. This fine software can be opened in many instances. In combination with the up to 24 decoders of SDR-Console V3 of Simon Brown, this modest setup turned into a multi-channel satellite reception post.

AeroGUI

Here 12 decoders had been assigned – one on each INMARSAT channel. You see also quite good SNRs from the Outernet patch antenna.

Next steps worked as usual with the mutli-channel approach:

  • make up 12 channels in SDR-Console and tune each channel to a different signal. Mode must be USB, and as bandwidth I choose 1200 Hz for 600 bps and 2400 Hz for 1200 bps channels. That’s a bit wider than necessary, but doing so there is some room for the AFC in JAERO decoder always to stick to the signal even if the SDR should drift a bit over 24 h or so
  • The output of each channel is then routed to a different Virtual Audio Cable, or VAC 1-12.
  • Then you have to install twelve instances of JAERO software in different folders, e.g. JAERO 1-12. You should name each JAERO.exe file accordingly, e.g. JAERO_1.exe to JAERO12.exe.
  • Open JAERO_1.exe, assign its input to VAC 1, and set the matching speed of the signal. If all is ok, you will be rewarded by a sharp phase constellation, and soon decoding will start.
  • Repeat the above steps until you have reached JAERO_12.exe, connected to VAC 12.
12Matrix

The “Matrix” of SDR-Console V3 shows the twelve channels with different signal strengths and width, depending on the data rate (600bps/narrow, 1200bps/wide).

The result can bee seen from the screenshot at the top of this page. The whole setup ran stable and unattended for hours.

Thanks for all smart people having developed the smart software and hardware!

Offset/SNR: Some Ideas for Medium Wave DXing

Offset_5

Offset-DXing “on the fly” shows four different stations (spectrogram) on one nominal channel, namely 801 kHz. The window is baout 30 Hz wide and shows the carrier on HF level.

Although I use Simon Brown’s excellent software SDR Console V3 for years, I only now discovered a feature, being most valuable for medium wave DX.

Nearly each medium wave channel is populated by a couple of stations which mostly have a slight difference from each other, called offset. This often is specific to specific stations. It even reveals stations too weak to be heard. Software V3 will show these carriers of HF level during normal listening, being live or from an HF recording.

Read MW-Notes, to get some information on “how-to” on 6 pages, with 12 screenshots. There you will find also a hint for a method with even much more resolution (but: not “on the fly”) plus some information on how to measure signal strength and estimate/calculate the SNR of speech/music, rather than that of just the carrier.

You have to distinguish between absolute and relative frequency accuracy; the first is best achieved with a GPS-disciplined oscillator, the letter the normal case.

P.S. I started with these things back in 1997 with an evaluation board from Motorola, followed by sound card & software on audio level (“Soundtechnology zeigt Signale: Sieh’, wie es klingt!”, funk magazine 6/1998), to be continued on HF level from 2006, first with RFSpace’s groundbreaking SDR-14. Three years later, I published a survey of each and every 9- and 10-kHz-channel on medium wave by this method. After Apple closed their web service, these pages had gone astray, and the information is now not up-to-date anymore. State-of-the-Art now is the method described in the paper.

GRAVES: Reflections out of the blue

A GRAVES reflection from a meteor trail, August 21st, 2017 at 10:51 UTC. Received with FDM-S2 from Elad, a discone antenna and software V3 from Simon Brown

Undoubtly, a Graves is a fine French wine from the Bordeaux region in western France. So it is so surprise that also GRAVES is an extraordinary Radar station. It was built to detect and follow satellites and their debris. They sequentially cover from 90° to 270° azimut in five big sectors A to D, and change from sector to sector each 19,2 seconds. Each of this sector is further divided into 6 segments of 7,5° width, covered for 3,2 seconds each.

They are transmitting on 143,050 MHz. If you are in Europe and tune into 143.049,0 kHz USB, you probably will hear/see some reflections of meteors, airplanes and even spacecraft. The distance between the transmitter and my location is about 630 km, and for their southly directed transmissions, there most of the time is no direct reception.

So, if you tune into 143.049,0 kHz, you will see just a blue spectrogram: noise. If you wait for a while, some signals will appear out of this blue; see screenshot on the top. With Simon Brown’s free software Version 3 you may also take a level diagram in smallest time steps of just 50 milliseconds:

A level diagram of the meteor trail reflection from the spectrogram at the top, visualized qith QtiPlot.

This level diagram shows the big advantage of SDRs, working on the signals on HF level, rather than of audio level as with legacy radios. The latter additionally introduce e.g. noise and phase errors. Of course, you may also listen to this signal:

From this audio, in turn, you may do an audio spectrogram, possibly revealing further details of e.g. of the trilling sound like that from a ricocheting bullet: The Searchers (the 1956’er Western film by John Ford, not the British boy group from 1960 …) on VHF.

Audio spectrogram of the sound, revealing “packets” of sound which result in the trilling audio. At start, these packet show a width of about 42 milliseconds to be reduced to 37 milliseconds.

P.S. If you want to donate: my favourite Graves is from Domaine de Chevalier, blanc …

SDR-Transceiver-Netz des DARC e.V.?

Weiter gibt es Ungereimtheiten beim seit einigen Jahren groß angekündigten Remote-Transceiver-Netz des DARC e.V., das seine Fördermitglieder schon mit jeder Menge Geld vorfinanziert haben. Offenbar wird es nur von zwei Personen getragen, wobei man für die komplette Software sogar auf ein Nicht-Mitglied des “Bundesverbandes für den Amateurfunkdienst” zurückgreifen musste – der somit einem Kreis entstammt, der das Netz nach dem Willen des Vorstandes nicht einmal wird nutzen dürfen …

Den Stand der Dinge habe ich nach öffentlich zugänglichen Informationen in der Juli-Ausgabe der Fachzeitschrift “Funktelegramm” zusammengefasst. DARC-Noch-Mitglied DL7AG hat diesen Text mit Erlaubnis von Joachim Kraft, Herausgeber und Chefredakteur des “Funktelegramm”, auf seine Website gestellt.

Wie inzwischen weiter bekannt wurde, hat allein das DARC-Mitglied des Entwickler-Duos, Helmut Goebkes, für das Projekt 25.382,70 Euro erhalten. Der Auftrag wurde ihm freihändig und ohne Ausschreibung vom DARC-Vorstand zugeschoben. Der Software-Entwickler Stefan Görg – kein DARC-Mitglied – ging hingegen leer aus. Er hatte auch niemals Geld verlangt.

Überdies nehmen die Ungereimtheiten innerhalb des DARC darüber zu, wer dieses Netz eines Tages überhaupt wird benutzen dürfen: nur DARC-Mitglieder oder jeder Funkamateur? Der DARC-Vorstand möchte es exklusiv seinen zahlenden Mitgliedern zur Verfügung stellen – wobei der Zutritt zum Verein nicht diskriminierungsfrei ist. Viele andere Funkamateure – darunter sogar Betreiber des Netzes! – teilen jedoch diese restriktive Sicht des DARC-Vorstandes nicht und setzen sich für einen wahren Ham Spirit ein: „Die Ausbreitungsbedingungen sowie die eigene Aussendung können mit der neuen Technologie von Funkamateuren aus der ganzen Welt beobachtet werden. Die intensive, ja wissenschaftliche Auseinandersetzung mit einem großen Frequenzspektrum ist damit jedermann möglich“, heißt es etwa von den Betreibern aus Bad Honnef, die sich im Gegensatz zu ihrem Vereinsvorstand ein für alle Funkamateure weltweit offenes System wünschen.

Noch aber ist es nicht so weit. Denn, so Hardware-Mann Helmut Goebkes: “Der Aufbau der Infrastruktur eines solchen Vorhabens erfordert schon noch ein bisserl mehr als nur irgendwo eine Hardware ins Netz zu stellen.”

Beispielsweise erfordert es eine Klärung der amateurfunk-genehmlichen Rechtslage, die der DARC auch im vierten Projektjahr immer noch nicht erreichen konnte. Der erhoffte sich übrigens für seinen Verlagsableger ein Geschäft mit der Hardware und warb mit großer Tröte dafür, dass die Transceiver über die DARC GmbH beziehbar sein werden. Auch das hat sich trotz vollmundiger Ankündigungen noch nicht materialisiert.

Haken soll die Inbetriebnahme des Transceiver-Netzes zudem noch daran, so DARC-Mann Goebkes, dass “entsprechende sendefähige Breitbandantennen (!) am Aufstellort vorhanden sein” müssten. Aber nur schwer vorstellbar, dass dem nach einer langen Bewerbungsphase für die 15, 18 oder 19 Standorte nicht ist. Denn, so der DARC, diese mussten sich ja in einem Bewerbungsverfahren unter den mehr als 1.000 Ortsvereinen “durchsetzen”. Und selbstverständlich wird eine der Bedingungen für den ersehnten Zuschlag gewesen sein, für die entsprechende Infrastruktur zu sorgen – wie sie im übrigen schon an vielen Standorten vorhanden ist.

 

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