Friday, June 26, 2015

RBN Entering the Science Mainstream - Who Woulda Thought It?

Almost without anyone's noticing, The RBN has begun participating in real honest-to-goodness SCIENCE!  It's not just for spotting any more, or antenna testing, or site selection for WRTC 2014. Instead, its unique capabilities are being applied to the study of space weather.

The work has been undertaken by a far-flung team of ionospheric scientists from Virginia Tech, the Applied Physics Laboratory of Johns Hopkins University,and SRI, supported by the RBN team, as well as Alex Shovkoplyas, VE3NEA, author of the Skimmer series of CW and RTTY software. A first study based on RBN data, titled "Ionospheric Sounding Using Real-Time Amateur Radio Reporting Networks", was featured in Space Weather Quarterly early this year,

The article demonstrates the scientific potential of the RBN by comparing HF propagation data from the RBN  with observations of an X-class solar flare by the GOES 15 satellite. You can see the table of contents of the issue here, or download a complete PDF of the article here.

Building on this experience, the scientists have just begun feasibility tests that could lead to the deployment of RBN receiving stations across SuperDARN (a network of HF ionospheric radars coordinated by Virginia Tech and operated by research organizations).  A QS1R receiver and DX Engineering active vertical antenna have been installed at Virginia Tech's Blackstone radar, to assess what measures may be required to isolate the receiver from the SuperDARN radar's HF transmissions. This is not easy - the radar transmits about a kilowatt of RF, ferquency-hopping from 8-18 MHz, Presumably, band-pass filters for the amateur bands can provide the necessary isolation.

Stay tuned for more news about the HamSCI initiative, as it's called.  We'll keep you updated.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

How to Avoid Self-spotting on RTTY

Both CW Skimmer and Skimmer Server have built-in protection against self-spotting, so long as you enter your callsign on the Operator tab in either GUI.  Because of the change in the design of RTTY Skimmer Server, this easy solution is not available.  Happily, there are two quick and easy solutions:

1.  Enter your own call in the Bad Call list on the Filters tab of the Aggregator.
2.  Add your call to the black.lst text file found in C:\Users\[your login]\Appdata\Roaming\Afreet\Reference\

Better safe than otherwise.

73, Pete N4ZR

Friday, January 23, 2015

Can't See The Map?

Recently we have had several complaints from users whose map display was either entirely absent or just terribly slow.  We may have a problem with our new server setup, but two, using Firefox and Chrome, have reported that the problem went away when they disabled ad-blocking software add-ons for their browsers.  Worth a try if you are running AdAware, AdBlock or MalwareBytes.

73, Pete N4ZR 

Monday, January 19, 2015

FAQ - Why Does Your Map Show My QTH Incorrectly?

Every week I get a couple of e-mails asking "How come you map my QTH in Missouri (or Ontario, or central instead of eastern Russia).  Here's the answer - 

IWhen we go to plot a dot on the map for a station that has been spotted, we query QRZ.com.  Most of the time that returns a location we can use, but occasionally it doesn't.  In that case the website defaults to an arbitrary location for the center of the country as determined by the prefix.  For performance reasons (imagine a busy contest weekend) and to avoid wearing out our welcome at QRZ.com, we cache station locations for a week or so before doing another lookup.  If a station is active, its location will generally be corrected by the next query after the cache has expired.

News: Big Changes Under the Surface of the RBN

I'm pleased to report that there have been some big changes at the RBN mother ship over the past month.  We've gone from one server, which was heavily tested during major contests, to two faster ones, one dedicated solely to database functions and the other doing everything else.  The transition went pretty smoothly, thanks to our server gurus PY1NB, F5VIH/SV3SJ and KM3T.  The performance stats we're watching look very good.

73, Pete N4ZR

Running RTTY and CW SkimServs On the RBN at the Same Time

I'm embarrassed by the delay but relieved to report that RBN contributors (current or prospective)  can now get everything they need on line to be able to send CW and RTTY SkimServ spots to the RBN using a single Aggregator and a single QS1R.  The information, plus a new Aggregator is all on the RBN web site at http://www.reversebeacon.net/pages/Aggregator+19 In three relatively small downloadsAll you'll need in addition is copies of CW and RTTY Skimmer Servers, both available on a 30-day free trial at http://dxatlas.com

73, Pete N4ZR

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

News: First RBN Node in North Africa operational; RTTY Skimserv nearing release

Ash, 3V/KF5EYY, who is an operator at 3V8SS and 3V8BB, put the first RBN node in North Africa on the air today (November 19), from his home.  He is using an SDR-IQ receiver, CW Skimmer by VE3NEA, W3OA's SkinScan, and a simple dipole antenna.  We're excited to see what he hears differently from more northerly stations, while still being close to Europe..

As many readers may be aware,  for a couple of months a few of us have been testing RTTY Skimserv, a new programming effort by Alex, VE3NEA.  He has evolved the callsign detection and other aspects of the program considerably, and while public release hasn't yet been scheduled, it looks to me to be ready.  The prospect of adding a major new community to the RBN family is very exciting, particularly in the context of major RTTY contests.

One other key contribution deserves special mention.  Petr Paryzek, software maven at OL5Q, has developed an extension of his CWSL series freeware to permit using the same QS1R receiver simultaneously with both CW Skimserv and RTTY Skimserv.  Broadband simultaneous decoding of RTTY takes a substantial amount of computer power, but during ordinary (non-contest times) it should be routinely possible to run both at once, providing a big assist to RTTY DXers.  See OL5Q's web site for CWSL_Tee.dll.  For the moment, you'll need to ask Petr for the CWSL_SkimSrv.dll, but we're sure it will be available on the website soon.  In the meantime, you can e-mail him at PetrParyzek@seznam.cz .

We're also happy that DL4RCK's pioneering RCKSkimmer will continue to be available and supported, providing BPSK spots for users of that mode to the RBN and also distributing them on his RCK - Digital-Cluster-System.  The whole story is at his website

Now if only NSA would declassify their SSB Skimmer, we'd be all set!

73, Pete N4ZR