Wireless Waffle - A whole spectrum of radio related rubbish
Ross Revenge Boat Tripssignal strength
Thursday 31 August, 2017, 14:06 - Broadcasting, Licensed, Pirate/Clandestine
Posted by Administrator
Wireless Waffle recently spotted that boat trips to see Radio Caroline's ship, the Ross Revenge, were available to book from their web-site (follow the link) and so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to don an anorak and set sail. On the day of the visit, the weather was beautiful, sunny, 26C and the sea was calm, but it isn't always like that. Boarding the Razorbill 3 , the tender which takes you from the jetty at West Mersea out to the Ross Revenge, it was a pleasure to see so many families taking advantage of the weather to go crabbing. The ride out took about 25 minutes and was a delight in itself with the cool sea air rushing past.

caroline ross revenge 1Pulling alongside the boat, it looked exactly as it does in all the postcards, though the current mast is a lot smaller than the 100 metre mast that was in use for transmission during Radio Caroline's heyday. Arrival onto the boat was greeted by a cup of tea and a fig roll in the mess and a description of the history of the boat, which turns out to have been a prize Grimsby-based fishing boat originally made as an Icelandic ice-breaker. Much of the tour of the boat is about the Ross Revenge itself, as well as the catastrophic events of October 1987 which saw the original mast collapse in a storm.

caroline ampliphase 50kw transmitterOf course no tour of such an historic ship would be complete without a visit to the studios and the technical facilities such as the engine room, generator room and of course the transmitter room. The 50 kW 'Ampliphase' transmitter consumed nearly 1 tonne of fuel per day to operate so it's no wonder that getting supplies to the boat, including diesel and fresh water, were so critical.

Though the notion of being a pirate at sea may seem romantic, it is clear that the lives of the DJs and other staff must, at times, have been pretty miserable. The cabins below the deck are relatively spartan and if it was blowing a gale, there couldn't have been much to do if you weren't on air.

caroline ross revenge mastThe return from the ship to the shore was equally exhilarating and you left with a lot of respect for those who took to the seas to try and deliver a radio service that filled the gap left by the legal, land-based services.

The tour comes with the Wireless Waffle 'big thumbs up' seal of approval, and is highly recommended. Obviously the weather can not be guaranteed, but an interesting and enlightening day-out is assured.

Recently, Radio Caroline has been awarded a licence by Ofcom to operate a 1 kW medium wave service on the old BBC World Service channel of 648 kHz. Whether the station can hold its own in today's crowded, on-line, market remains to be seen, but there will no doubt be a few anoraks tuning in for old time's sake. And maybe they can re-capture the spirit of those halcyon days without needing sea sick buckets.
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Tune In, Light Up!signal strength
Thursday 27 July, 2017, 14:56 - Radio Randomness, Spectrum Management
Posted by Administrator
Wireless Waffle recently suggested that the high power short-wave transmissions coming from the HAARP site in Alaska were trying to trigger lightning strikes in an attempt to send radio signals strong enough to be received on a remote planet.

airglow flashlightIt seems that they are not the only ones who are generating very high power short-wave transmissions, but that the enormous dish at Arecibo in Puerto Rico has also been turned into a giant transmitter. Experiments taking place right now (from 24 to 31 July 2017) involve transmissions around either 5.125 or 8.175 MHz (the most recent transmissions have been on 5.095 MHz) with an effective radiated power of around 100 MW (MegaWatts).

The purpose of the transmissions is to try and heat up the ionosphere for various experiments, including trying to establish Langmuir waves which excite oxygen atoms sufficiently that they emit light at visible wavelengths and light up the night sky in something known as 'airglow'. You couldn't make this stuff up!

Those strange lights in the night sky that you thought were UFOs... it's just scientists getting their oxygen atoms all excited. Nothing to worry about.
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Clarifying Radio Acronyms Precariouslysignal strength
Tuesday 27 June, 2017, 09:25 - Radio Randomness, Much Ado About Nothing
Posted by Administrator
The world of wireless, spectrum and radio has so many acronyms and abbreviations that Wireless Waffle thought it might be useful to provide an alphabetical glossary of terms to help explain what on Earth is going on in this complex and complicated field of electromagnetic mechanics.
  • cept logo 1CEPT - Considers Every Point Tortuously - A largely technical organisation whose job is to spend so long pontificating over matters that whatever it is they were doing in the first place has been long forgotten by the time they have finished.
  • DAB - Dribble And Bibble - A radio broadcasting technology in which all music and speech, no matter how beautiful, is converted into a stream of incomprehensible bubbling sounds. Not completely dissimilar to GSM.
  • DRM - Dribbles Really Magnificently - Another radio broadcasting technology that converts all sounds into incomprehensible bubbling sounds unless reception is perfect, which, oddly, it is specifically designed never to be.
  • DSA - Doesn't Solve Anything - A method by which spectrum that the owners still need is offered to those who don't want it, in a way that makes it about as attractive as finding a sand-pit in the middle of the Sahara desert.
  • DTT - Defunct Dated Technology - A technology for sending televisual entertainfold across the etheric airwaves to those wishing to watch Laurel and Hardy movies. Often uses SD - Sensual Depreviation - to convince users that it is better than nothing.
  • esa alien logoESA - Egotistical Space Aliens - An organisation which thinks that unless you own real-estate at least 30 km above the surface of the Earth, you can't possibly understand anything that passes through their extra-terrestrial minds.
  • ESOA - Excellent Services Over All - The Platinum sponsor of this useful guide to acronyms and abbreviations, even if their satellites will eventually cause the death of George Clooney and near-death of Sandra Bullock.
  • ETSI - Experts Testing Stupid Ideas - A European organisation that is forced, by law, to produce specifications for any idea that is thrown at it, no matter how outlandish or pointless (see GSM, IoT, UMTS, etc).
  • GSM - Garbled Speech Mumbler - A mobile network which makes voice calls sound like they are coming from 20,000 leagues beneath the sea, so that future technologies can be hailed as being so much better. Also known as '2G' (twice garbled).
  • GSMA - Greedy Spectrum Munching Androids - An organisation hell-bent on gobbling all spectrum in persuit of its end-goal of making all other wireless users kow-tow to its wanton soup.
  • itu logo 1ITU - Insolvent and Terribly Unfashionable - A near-bankrupt agency of the United Nations which fleeces their members and then uses the proceeds to find ways to put those self-same members out of business.
  • IoT - It's Ostensibly Toasters - The future of the internet in which toasters (and kettles and fridge-freezers) need to sent each other gigabytes of data and thus find ways of making you and I pay the mobile operators more money.
  • LSA - Lazy Spectrum Administrations - A method by which regulators who are too lazy to do things properly try to find a back-door method of not having to arse about with auctions or any of that complicated nonsense.
  • LTE - Licences Too Expensive - A mobile network that actually overcomes many of the faults of its predecessors, but for which the necessary spectrum licences require operators to re-mortgage their cell sites twice over.
  • RSPG - Ruthlessley Spouting Pretentious Garbage - A European organisation which waits for other people to come up with ideas about spectrum management (no matter whether good or bad) and then claims them as their own.
  • SETI - Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time - One of those acronyms where the letters don't match the description in English. You have to speak the southern Charon dialect of Borlorks for the acronym to make any more sense than their goals do.
  • TACS - Terrifically Annoying Crackly Sound - A mobile network designed to intersperse voice calls with inane crackling noises making users believe that they are communicating on a system so hi-tech that the calls could come from Mars and be no worse.
  • UMTS - Users Must Type Slowly - A mobile network that delivers internet content at speeds only impressive to those for whom typing is more difficult than remembering how to ask for two beers in Spanish whilst on holiday in Portugal.
  • WSD - Works Sometimes Dmpff'lrrt - A highly risky and unproven way of using radio spectrum that may or may not be clear of other users to connect fridges, kettles and fridge-freezers together (see IoT).
  • ctrl keyCTRL - Click To Release Leprechaun - A button on computer keyboards that most people believe has a technical function but is actually there as a way of allowing the Irish security services to spy on your every move.
OK, so the last one isn't in alphabetical order any more, or even necessarily true. Clearly this is a sign that we should leave it here and move on to something more productive or informative. Like whinging about WiFi or something!
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Whack A Roaming Molesignal strength
Tuesday 20 June, 2017, 08:54 - Radio Randomness, Much Ado About Nothing
Posted by Administrator
The idea of the 'whack-a-mole' game is that each time a mole's head appears above the parapet, you clobber it with a hammer and push it back down, the goal being to keep the playing field clear of moles. But no matter how hard you hit a mole, there always seems to be another one willing to risk being whacked.

whack a roaming moleKeeping your mobile phone bill down is very similar to a game of whack-a-mole. Just as you think that one set of charges has been reduced, some new charges pop-up somewhere else. And so it is with the abolishment of roaming fees in Europe. No longer will you have to pay any more than your standard fees for using your standard call package when travelling within the 28 European Union Member States. Remember though, this only applies to calling and texting home, and to using data. If you want to make a call to the restaurant down the road whilst you are staying in France, this is still an international call from the UK. So which mole is sticking its head above the parapet now?

Prior to the abolition of roaming fees, several mobile operators offered roaming packages which were designed to help travellers keep down the cost of roaming. Take Vodafone as an example. For those travelling to the EU 28, it had a package called 'EuroTraveller' which allowed you to use your home allowances for GBP3 per day. There was a secondary package called 'WorldTraveller' which allowed you to use your home allowances for GBP5 per day in another 60 or so countries. Both of these packages were optional and you could opt in and out willy-nilly. So if you didn't want to use your packaged in full, but just wished to send one text message, you could opt out (ideally before you travelled) and just pay the 30p or so rate for a text instead of GBP3, meaning that low users and high users could select a deal that was best for them.

So as of June 15 when EU roaming is free, Vodafone has introduced two new packages, 'Roam-Free' and Roam-Further'. Roam-Free allows you to use your UK package in the EU28 plus a few non EU-countries such as Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey at no additional charge. Roam-Further allows you to use your UK package in a further 60 countries (largely the same as the previous WorldTraveller package excluding, for some reason, the United Arab Emirates) for GBP5 per day. expensive text messageSo it sounds the same, right? Wrong! The Roam-Further package is NOT optional. This means that if you travel to one of the 60 countries included in the list, such as Australia, Hong Kong, Thailand or the USA, and send a single text message to let someone back home know that you are OK, it will cost you GBP5. There is no way to opt-out of this package. So instead of costing 35p for that text, it will cost GBP5. And there's your new mole, peering out of its hole.

Just when you thought that roaming was going to be cheaper and easier, if you travel anywhere outside of the EU, the operators will now try and recoup their costs from you by charging more for roaming than they did before. Of course if you're a heavy user, not much has changed, but for most holidaymakers who just want to let someone back home know that they are OK, and use WiFi to upload their holiday snaps to Facebook, that little text has become a whole lot more expensive.
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