Wireless Waffle - A whole spectrum of radio related rubbish
Fjarskip taste of nunsignal strength
Monday 4 June, 2012, 21:29 - Much Ado About Nothing
Posted by Administrator
A friend recently alerted us to the fact that 'fjarskiptastofnun' is the Icelandic word for 'telecommunications'. Is this the best word for 'telecommunications' you have ever heard? Maybe, then again maybe not. Here are Wireless Waffle's favourite foreign phrases for the word 'telecommunications'.

Armenian: Հեռահաղորդակցման
Finnish: tietoliikenne
Georgian: სატელეკომუნიკაციო
Hungarian: távközlés
Irish: teileachumarsáide
Maltese: telekomunikazzjonijiet
Nonsense: dreskidooloo beepbeep
Swahili: mawasiliano ya simu
Vietnamese: viễn thông
Welsh: telathrebu by there, see?
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Pirate Radio disposal squad called into action in Surreysignal strength
Sunday 27 May, 2012, 17:50 - Pirate/Clandestine
Posted by Administrator
A report recently arrived on the Wireless Waffle newsdesk of the discovery of some kind of (probably illegal) transmitter discovered on land in Surrey next to a military establishment. According to the report:
Army bomb disposal experts were called to Camberley on Monday morning to deal with a "suspicious" object that turned out to be a radio device... Shortly before 3pm, Surrey Police said the unit had been confirmed to be a "transmitter or repeater for a citizen or pirate band radio station", and that roads had been reopened and cordons lifted.

Of course this piqued the interest of the Wireless Waffle team. Let's look at the possible options:

CB Repeater
Such things do exist but require a great deal of technical skill to install and operate. As CB radio operates at 27 MHz, they generally require large antennas, and as transmitter powers are usually at least 4 Watts, need power supplies the kind of size that wouldn't easily be left lying around in a piece of woodland.
Probability rating: ***** (2 out of 5)

Pirate Repeater
Not something that is often heard of, in fact, do a 'google' search and nothing of any substance comes up. One possibility is that it could have been a PMR446 repeater which, whilst not strictly legal, is not fully pirate as it operates on an unlicensed basis. Such devices would (sensibly) be located on high ground, though they could be operated from batteries for some time. Ideally, they would be high off the ground too (the news report does not indicate whether the so-called repeater was on the floor or up a tree).
Probability rating: ***** (1 out of 5)

FM Pirate Transmitter
piratelistenerMost FM pirate stations in the UK use transmitters on top of tower-blocks. The area in question is clearly not one bedecked with such skyscrapers, it is woodland. It is not unheard of for pirates to put transmitters up trees but there are better places, especially those with power and somewhere dry to put the transmitter. There aren't that many pirates in this area, Point Blank FM was one which used to broadcast specifically to the area but it hasn't been on air in that part of the world for many months. Pressure FM (also known as 'Presha') is another station in that part of the world. It is possible they would use a site such as that, but if they were locals, presumably they would know the area was largely military and steer clear of it?
Probability rating: ***** (4 out of 5)

Short-Wave Pirate Transmitter
Short-wave pirates are almost uniquely confined to woodlands in order to string up the large antennas necessary given the frequencies they use. They often use hidden battery powered equipment. On the face of it then, this is exactly the kind of place you would expect to find such a transmitter. The bigger question is whether any such pirates operate from that part of the country, the answer to which is, of course, 'who knows?' Certainly there is some history in the area including Radio Fax which used to operate from Surrey in the late 1980s, and of course, the infamous Radio Jackie which used to operate from the London end of Surrey. There's also a vague recollection of a maildrop for short-wave pirates that was in that part of the world (though my memory is a bit hazy on that). Anyhow, it's not impossible but the number of UK-based short-wave pirates seems very much in decline.
Probability rating: **** (3 out of 5)

Our conclusion then - probably an FM pirate - but a bit of a stupid one to go so near to ministry of defence land!
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Super-Resonant Frequency Memocorderssignal strength
Sunday 1 April, 2012, 18:59 - Radio Randomness
Posted by Administrator
One major problem facing many authorities across the world, is the transient nature of radio transmissions. For example, tracking down a radio transmitter requires the transmitter to be active in order for its direction to be sensed. Equally, for those bodies (such as the security services) who wish to capture radio transmissions of various sorts, especially those thay may be of short duration, the only way is to place sophisticated and costly wide-bandwidth receivers in a particular location which record everything they receive onto a hard disk, the data from which has to be analysed at great expense.

How much simpler it would be, if there were a device or material of some kind which would 'capture' any radio transmission and then store it such that it could be collected at a later date. Such a device should ideally:
  • require no power source to operate;
  • be able to store transmissions for an indefinite period;
  • be deployable and collectable by untrained agents;
  • not look out of the ordinary such that it does not arouse suspicion;
  • capture even the shortest burst of transmissions.
After having spent much time thinking about these issues, Prof. A. Lilo at the University of Travnja in Croatia (home, incidentally, to radio industry legend Nikola Tesla) has developed a device called a 'super-resonant frequency memocorder'.

Professor Lilo and team of the University of Travnja in Croatia
Professor Lilo and his team
The concept is not difficult to grasp. Imagine, if you would, a set of tubular orchestral bells or chimes. When struck, each chime resonates at a frequency which depends upon it's length (and on other factors such as the material it is made of). The chime would go on resonating forever (and thus producing the same note) if it could be suspended in a way which incurred no friction between the chime and its mount, and was in a frictionless environment (such as a vacuum). The only reason the chimes stop ringing is because of the method and medium in which they are mounted.

It is also not necessary to actually strike the chime for it to begin resonating. If a tuning fork which produces the same tone as a chime is held next to it, the chime will 'super-resonate' with the tuning fork and begin to reproduce the tone. If a tuning fork were held next to a chime in a frictionless environment, the chime would continue to produce the tone indefinitely, long after the tuning fork were removed from the area.

Using this concept, Professor Lilo has developed the 'super-resonant frequency memocorder' (or Spereo Quemord for short). The concept is almost identical. A dipole antenna mounted in a frictionless radio environment, which is one in which no alternative electromagnetic fields can 'usurp' or 'slurp' the energy contained in the dipole (known as an 'anti-uslurp field' such as that found in certain Faraday cages) will continue to resonate and thus repeat and store any signals which excite it. The difficulty is coupling the dipole to the outside world whilst maintaining the anti-uslurp field and it is this element of the 'Spereo Quemord' which is still under wraps.

By using a number of Spereo Quemords of different but similar sizes, it is possible to store and record radio transmissions over a range of frequencies. Retrieving any signals stored is simply a case of removing the anti-uslurp field at which point the stored signals are re-radiated from the dipoles directly replicating the transmission which originally excited the Quemords.

spereo quemord prototypeThe first prototype of the device was built unobtrusively into a piece of chair-shaped lounge furniture and placed into the waiting room in the University's health centre. At the end of the day, the device was taken back to the laboratory where the elements of the device which generate the all-important anti-uslurp field were removed. The team at the University were able to recover some 2G and 3G mobile signals as well as several hours of WiFi, a number of short transmissions from a passing security van and even the lunchtime news on the local community television station, 'Travnja budale šala TV' (TBS).

spereo quemord 2Flushed with their success, Professor Lilo and his colleagues have gone on to build a piece of furniture made exclusively of Spereo Quemords which they have used to demonstrate its capabilities at various venues. Their greatest achievement to date was to record and reproduce very weak signals from GPS satellites causing all the GPS devices in the room to show their position as being that where the device was originally located (and where it recorded the signals) and not in the room in which it was being demonstrated!

The next stage is to attempt to reduce the size of the Quemords which Professor Lilo believes will be possible using room-temperature super-conductors which will allow the dipoles and the anti-uslurp field generators to be made almost infinitely small. They believe that it should be possible to develop a device which records and stores all transmissions on all frequencies in a unit no larger than a typical mobile phone, or small piece of fruit.

As always, Wireless Waffle likes to keep you up to date with the latest developments in radio technology. Rest assured that as soon as there is any further news on this exciting piece of radio technology, you will here about it here first.
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Spray-On Antennasignal strength
Monday 27 February, 2012, 14:13 - Radio Randomness
Posted by Administrator
Regular readers of Wireless Waffle will be familiar with our relentless drive to improve both the availability, performance and aesthetics of antennas that can be used to listen to radio signals in situations where normal aerials are not feasible.

The Wireless Waffle Super Signal Holiday HF Antenna Apparel (WWSSHHFAA), a cunning aerial designed to go almost unnoticed on the wearer (though anecdotal evidence suggests that it does cause the wearer to become highly noticeable) which we updated in 2010, is one such solution. Whilst there are many examples of the WWSSHHFAA on beaches across the beaches of the Mediterranean, we have yet to receive an offer from anyone wishing to put it into full commercial production.

spray on antenna kitWe were surprised, therefore, to recieve a tip-off about an antenna that, in principle, can surpass the performance of even the WWSSHHFAA in quality of reception, in its ease of application, and its resulting aesthetic manifestation... Go and take a look at the Spray-On Antenna!

The Spray-On Antenna is, in essence, a metallised spray which coats whatever it is sprayed on with... metal. As metal conducts electricity, it can, of course act as an antenna. Thus by spraying any everyday thing with metal paint it will become an antenna. If the resulting metallised object is connected directly to the transmitter (the tools for which appear to be provided with the spray-on antenna kit) it can be used as an antenna. If it isn't it can still be useful as a reflector. A reflector on an antenna is just like a reflector on a flashlight or car headlight, it refocuses emissions that would otherwise have been heading out in the wrong direction and points them in the right direction. Putting a reflector behind a transmitting antenna therefore focuses power in the opposite direction. How effective it is depends on a number of important factors such as:biquad antenna
  • The relationship between the size of the object that has been sprayed and the wavelength of the frequency being used - ideally the two would be harmonically related, or at least the antenna/reflector would be larger in wavelength than the frequency being used.
  • The distance between the reflector and the transmitting antenna (if used as a reflector instead of an antenna).
  • The specific shape of the antenna or reflector. For antennas, a line (like a wire) is good. For a reflector, parabols are good (as with satellite dishes), flat panels can work (see picture), otherwise a thin line will work as long as it is the same polarisation as the transmitting aerial.
pretzel antennaSo just about any object could be used to enhance reception. On the left here is a 'pretzeltennna'. The pretzeltenna, if placed at exactly the right distance behind, for example, a cell-phone could act as a reflector and boost signals in one direction. Alternatively two pretzeltennas could be used to form a 'dipretzel', centre-fed with coax cable. The advantage of a dipretzel is that, if you get hungty, you can feed yourself with it too (though the metal spray might poison you).

For those on holiday with no way of stringing up antennas (the problem that the original WWSSHHFAA was designed to overcome), the concept of using a spray-on antenna provides a new and interesting way ahead. A comparison of the two solutions is shown below. On the left, the original WWSSHHFAA, with hidden wires acting as an antenna stretched across the supporting structure. On the right, a spray-on antenna on a similar supporting structure. We have been unable to test the spray-on antenna in this configuration, though we would expect that it would significantly enhance reception given its larger conductive surface area.
wireless waffle holiday hf antenna apparel spray on antenna
Original Wireless Waffle Holiday HF Antenna Apparel Similar supporting structure with Spray-On Antenna

Post Script: We have received a message from Timothy Matthews from Polzeath, Cornwall. Timothy writes,
"I got, like, a can of spray-on antenna from, like, a local 'craft' shop and zizzed it on a few 's'pportin' structures'. I tried, like, tappin' in to the structures to extend my 'antenna' but all I 'received' was an extension to my overdraft, large, innit."

Well, Timothy, any kind of antenna of this type requires very delicate adjustment and we recommend that in the future, you 'leperately twelt them over the hish with a squench' as admirably described on the ropium web-site which is full of useless tips which make about as much sense as your e-mail.
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