Tag Archives: Decoder

ALE [MIL-STD-188-141A]: Which one is the best Decoder?

This is an update from my post two days ago. I have expanded the number of test signals and added some hints.

Does your decoder read this track? Buried in noise and plagued by multipath fading, the recordings below will separate the wheat from the whaff.

Often I am asked – and sometimes even asking myself! – “Which one is the best decoder for ALE?” This means: Which one delivers the best decoding under demanding conditions?

To test this, I made a recording of twelve stations “on the air” plus one weak signal, buried in Additive White Gaussian Noise, AWGN. All signals are correctly tuned, no one invers. All were read by at leastby one of my decoders “in a row”.

To test your decoders, you should download this WAV file of 131 seconds length and play it. It can be either directly opened by some decoder, or feed it via virtual audio cable (VAC) into a decoder. I used Audacity for this.

I am as interested in the results as you are – so please drop me a line to dk8ok [at] gmx.net. I like to encourage you to try all ALE decoders you have at hand – the more, the better.

Already the first results were surprising. This concerned both, the decoding ability of the decoders and the repeatability of the test. So far, the following decoders had participated: go2monitor, Krypto500, MARS-ALE, MultiPSK, Sorcerer, and W-Code. Steve, N2CKH, had written some valuable hints to optimize his MARS-ALE software for SIGINT purposes – please see his comment.


This WAV file contains the calls of thirteen ALE stations. Download and save this file (point to the icon, press right mouse button …). Then feed it to your decoders. Copy the results and send them to me. Have fun!

GMDSS & Display Launcher: Monitoring seven Channels in parallel

DiplayLauncher_4

GMDSS-Display reading decoded data streams from seven MultiPSK’s instances in parallel, presenting all information neatly in one database.

GMDSS is a system of ship-coast and coast-ship digital communications on six main HF channels. At an average location in Germany, you will receive about 5000 messages altogether during 24 hours.

In the past, I mostly used the excellent and free YaDD software to decode all channels in parallel (yes, YaDD can be opened in multi instances, each one in a separate folder).

During HFDL monitoring, I came across Mike Simpson’s free software Display Launcher which neatly collects now up to 24 different data streams, coming from up to 24 HFDL channels in a clear database format.
Mike’s software also contains a module called “GMDSS-Display” which now works similar in collecting datastream from up to seven GMDSS data streams, decoded by MultiPSK software.

Yes, also MultiPSK can be opened in many instances, each one in a sperate folder. By this way, it accepts e.g. the audio input of seven different GMDSS channels from an SDR via each different VACs, and decodes each of them.
To do so, the decoded data of each MultiSPK instance has to be backed up regularly:
Configuration -> Regular back-up -> 20 sec
Then, decoded data is automatically written into the appropriate QSO.txt file. This, in turn, is read by GMDSS-Display. Of course you first have to set the paths to guide the software to the appropriate sources.

It takes a bit time of setting it all up, but then you may run this combination until a Windows’ update forces the PC to re-boot 😉

With Mike’s development, you have a unique and mighty tool at hand for a 360° view now also in the field of GMDSS – thank you very much!

Please find below the results of a 24 hours’ session on all seven GMDSS HF channels – coast stations only, automatically drawn onto DX Atlas. All stations received in Germany with SDR FDM-S2 and MD300DX, an active vertical Megadipole of just 2 x 2.5 m of stunning performance.

DXAtlas_5

Received coastal stations on all GMDSS channel/HF during 24 hours in Germany world-wide and …

DXAtlas_6

… those with a focus onto Europe.

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!

AirSpy: How to listen to DAB+ Broadcast

It’s pure fun to listen to N-Joy, a North-German broadcaster, in DAB+. This digital mode should replace all classical FM broadcast, and has already done this in some countries where others offer both – like Germany.

DAB+ takes place in former TV bands. Several stations are bundled in a bouqet. In Germany, one usually is in comfortable reach of at least one of these bunches, see footprint on a map, with stations around my location:

map

Footprint of DAB+ broadcasts in Germany. Pin = my location. In the list you see the stations plus the channel (“bouquet”), here 5C omnidirectional from Hannover with 10 kW and 6C, also from Hannover, but pointed to the east, with 8 kW.

As AirSpy is covering also these frequencies with high sensitivity and a decent dynamic range, I gave it a try.

First software used is called Welle (English: wave) by a team around Albrecht Lohofener. I use it on a PC/W10. It’s easy to install, and then start it by the usual double-click. An MS-DOS windows opens, starting a routine for searching and opening the AirsSpy connected to your PC. This window informs you on all steps the software is doing.

Then the graphical user interface starts. First you have to scan the bands: click “Sendersuchlauf -> Start” (the software detects on what country code your OS is running and switches automatically to e.g. English), see screenshot:

Welle

The scan is running, 13 stations have been found so far. With expert mode (“Expertenmodus”) activated, you see the spectrum of the frequncy set being scanned.

From the spectrum (right), you might see if HF gain ius ok, or that you should go from automatic (“Auto HF-Verstärkung”) to manual gain control (“Manuelle Versätrkung”) to either imporve sensitivity or to avoid distortion due to strong transmitters nearby. With me, “Auto” drives fine.

After finishing the scan, “Welle”  comes down with the bouquets in reach:

Sputnik

Just click your station from the list on the left, and the station will be heard. Many of them provice additonal information, as here MDR Sputnik with weather. On the right you again see the spectrum of the whole bouquet (6B, 183,648 MHz) plus additional information an the quality.

Secondly, a more technical approach is offered by Jan van Katwijk with also free Qt-DAB. I also use it on my PC/W10. After downloading the suite, containing also other intersting software, just start “qt-dab-0.999”. An MS-DOS windows opens, followed after some seconds by the GUI. Here you have to define the receiver from a drop-down list, choose the boquet (5C, in this case), and scanning serves you the stations’ list. You may have up to five different windows open – from the MS-DOS window to more detailed technical data, including a QPSK phase window, right from the spectrum.

QT_2

Qt-DAB presents you with up to five windows: MS-DOS on top; gain control main window and technical data below, and spectrum plus QPSK phase constellation at the bottom. “Klassik Radio” on 173,352 MHz playing Bach: “What God does that is done well”. Not to talk of what the authors of the DAB software had done …

Thanks to both, Albrecht and Jan, to have developed this fine piece to software, free of charge!

SDR Transceiver Zeus ZS-1 and Digimode Software FLDIGI

A strong combination: State-of-the-Art SDR transceiver Zeus ZS-1 and digimode software FLDIGI. with this insutrction, the combination of both with audio in/out, keying and freqeuncy transfer is easy.

A strong combination: State-of-the-Art SDR transceiver Zeus ZS-1 and digimode software FLDIGI. With a step-by-step instruction, the combination of both with audio in/out, keying and freqeuncy transfer is easy.

With software-defined radio or SDRs, also ham radio has made a considerable leap forward. SDR transceivers are around for many years but failed to have a major impact until now. Among these transceivers, Russian and German-made Zeus ZS-1 is an outstanding example, covering each amateur radio band from 160 m to 10 m with up to 15 watt output. It received enthusiastic reviews around the world, e.g. by RadCOM of RSGB and QST of ARRL with excellent ratings.

Recently, I again bought on ZS-1 to re-vitalize my amateur radio activity with also again a focus on QRP and digital modes. For this purpose, ZS-1 with its outstanding clean signal under transmit and Receiver plus tidy interface is almost ideal. BUt Ehen I needed a fool-proof instruction to set up the combination of ZS-1 and a multimode software like FLDIGI, I didn’t found what I need: a step-by-step approach.

This was the reason for writing such an instruction by myself. I concentrate on the combination of ZS-1 and FLDIGI which in a PDF is laid out in detail and with instructive screenshots. In an appendix, I go also through some other digimode software like FreeDV and EasyPal. To my own disappointment, I couldn’t get work WSJT/WSPR. So your help is very appreciated!

You can download the 20-paged PDF with its 24 screenshots right here.

 

PC-HFDL Display: Receive, decode and analyze the biggest net on HF!

HFDL is a net for data communications between airplanes and ground. The results can be shown on Google Earth . This screenshot shows a part of 29.000+ entries, received and processed on August 15th, 2016.

HFDL is a net for data communications between airplanes and ground. The results can be shown on Google Earth. This screenshot shows a part of 29.000+ entries, received and processed on August 15th, 2016.

 

Communications between air and ground is mostly done on VHF, UHF and SHF. But if an aircraft is out of reach of a ground station station due to the limited “radio horizon” of these bands, it has to maintain communications by either satellite or HF. This HFDL net is in fact the most massive professional user of HF right now. Within 24 hours, I get more than 40.000 live messages with a modest equipment.

With his software Display Launcher, Mike Simpson from Australia provides a most valuable tool to analyze up to nine channels in parallel. His software also draws positions and routes onto Google Earth. Mike has spent much energy on coping with many inconsistencies of transmitted data before it all really goes smoothly.

This free software is the vital part of a monitoring project to receive, demodulate and analyze live up to nine HFDL channels in parallel. Other ingredients you need is a software-defined radio (SDR), nine virtual audio cables (in fact, a piece of software) and a decoder software. Don’t forget an antenna and a PC …

This setup comprises a semi-professional monitoring station which will allow you to receive and track many of the nearly 3.000 airplanes using HFDL. This also covers the military, business jets, helicopters and some other delicate users. It maybe used as an important complement to Flightradar24’s web service, whenever their VHF/UHF/SHF-based net is out of range of the aircraft. This is particularly true over vast water masses like oceans and sparsely populated land masses. Furthermore, Flightradar24 erases some sensible flights from the raw material before publication on their website. This is clearly no “censorship”, but some thoughtfulness in regard to those countries where reception and publication of HFDL data is more tolerated than explicitly encouraged by the government.

In a 9-page PDF, I published a step-by-step recipe on how to set up such an HF monitoring station for up to nine parallel HFDL channel. You can download it here.

Wake up – ICAO Selcals

If you ever had an ear on the aero bands, you are already familiar with ICAO Selcalls. With this 2 x 2 tone signal lasting for about 2,2 seconds, a Ground Station alerts a specific airplane to open up for communications. The short video on top of this page shows a typical initial contact, where Ground an Air are testing the Selcal.

This paper (click this hyperlink) describes on three pages with nine illustrations, one video and one audio the procedure and gives some background information. These may improve correct decoding of the somewhat delicate signals, as it will show how to look up the Selcal and follow the flight. BTW: It is planned to extend the pool of 16 tones to 32 tones by September 1st, 2016.

P.S. Remember to save the PDF and open it with a recent version of Acrobat Reader. Otherwise the multimedia (video, audio) will not work!

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