Friday, September 13, 2019

My next iPhone is an older iPhone SE, but I'm happy

Last time I upgraded iPhones I decided to lease the iPhone X rather than buying outright. This spreads the expense out over two years. After watching the latest iPhone launch, none of the new models attracted me and I already find the X too big in my pocket.

Looking around eBay I saw some second hand iPhone SEs at decent prices and I was lucky enough to get a 64GB model for AU$180. The colour is ugly (to me) rose gold but it was in excellent condition and the battery health is 99%. I was lucky, but even at $250, these are a good buy.

The iPhone SE is compact in the hand and pocket. The A9 processor is decent and it seems quite snappy running iOS 13 GM. (I'm in the developer program so have early access).

Although I'll miss the extra screen realestate of the iPhone X, I don't miss the size of the body and I prefer TouchID to FaceID. I love that I can wake the device with my finger when it's lying flat on a table.

Battery life isn't as good as the X although it's a fresh install and the Photos app is hammering the CPU doing all sorts of analysis so I expect this to continue for a day or two. Interestingly, Siri is using 20% of battery so far, so I've turned that off for now.

I returned the iPhone X to Telstra today. My goodness that SEBEL system is a dog! Poor Telstra shop staff. I'm saving $30 a month on a "bring your own device" plan but I know I can do better, perhaps on Aldi Mobile but I'll leave it a month or two before making more changes.

The sales woman was puzzled that I thought that $50 for 15GB was too much and explained that I was getting "unlimited" data. Oh, I said, 10 Terabytes? She had to explain that mobile phone operators mean something different by the word "unlimited".

I'm not alone in my enthusiasm for the iPhone SE, check out BuzzFeed's "Tim Cook Will Have To Pry My iPhone SE From My Cold, Tiny Hands".

There are a few apps, including ones from Apple, that don't handle the small screen too well. Happily, my WSPR Watch app has always been tested on the iPhone SE size screen so I'm not embarrassed there.

iOS 13 seems solid despite a rocky beta period. I think they've wisely taken out the things that were causing trouble and deferred them to 13.1.

Apple should make a phone the physical size of the SE, but with the edge to edge screen. I'm waiting for in-screen TouchID to appear, or perhaps FaceID could be made to work at very high angles?

Friday, August 30, 2019

The rise of shortwave broadcasting from China

On recent drive across Australia I was struck by the amount of shortwave broadcasting from China that could be heard.

There is some data available from the HFCC - International Broadcasting Delivery.

The files are fixed width fields which list broadcasts by frequency along with start time, end time, which days of the week, the country, the broadcaster and more.

Countries may have multiple broadcasts on different frequencies at the same time.

To measure output, I calculated the minutes on air of each listed broadcast and multiplied it by the number of days in each week that it's on and aggregated them by country.

Here are the top broadcasters as at August 2019. (Click for larger view).



Here's 2010. It's China, USA, Russia...



Here's 2000. Russia, USA, China. How times have changed.



Here's the changes amongst the top broadcasters now over this period. China is clearly on the rise.



There are many flaws in my simple analysis:

  • Shortwave is used within large countries such as India and China for internal consumption.
  • Different power levels and transmitter site and antenna direction should be taken in to account.
  • The data may not cover all broadcasts "At present about 85 percent of the overall amount of global shortwave frequency requirements used for broadcasting is kept in this database. The missing 15 percent comprises some smaller stations in Africa and Latin America, as well as stations in the so called tropical broadcasting zone that employ shortwave transmissions for local listeners and are not interested in international co-ordination."
  • Some transmitters use more than one antenna system at a time (beaming in different directions), currently I count those as two broadcasts.
  • Radio New Zealand International provides programs which are broadcast in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu but I'm counting those as broadcasts from the administration countries rather than NZ.
  • Several people have commented that the UK seems under represented in this data.
  • There are, of course, other options including satellite, FM relay, and internet streaming but this post isn't about those.

I note with sadness that in 2010, Australia was placed 12th, in 2019 we are 57th.

Please let me know if someone else has done any analysis in this area. My thanks to HFCC - International Broadcasting Delivery for making this valuable data freely available.

Monday, August 26, 2019

WSPR Watch iOS app now reads from PSKReporter

After playing with PSKReporter recently, and being impressed with its speed and features, I've updated the WSPR Watch app so that you can switch between reading WSPRnet and PSKReporter.

There is so much FT8 traffic these days that just listening for CQ calls is a good way to get a reading on the propagation around the world. I note that, compared to WSPR spots, there are many different stations so the map looks busier.


If you have an iOS device, grab the app, (it's free). In settings you can switch to use PSKReporter.


Here's how the list looks now.



My thanks to John Landry, AA7US and Ross, VK1UN for encouragement, ideas, and testing.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

PSKReporter could replace WSPRnet

WSPRnet is a great service but frustratingly it's sometimes slow or down. Recently I've discovered that the PSKReporter site provides a similar service and seems to be very reliable. WSJT-X can be set to send reception reports to it very easily and you get a map view like this:


This shows FT8 reception by me here in Sydney on 40m. To enable reporting back to PSKReporter, go to settings and just turn it on.


The site's domain name is PSKReporter but it's much more flexible than that and currently lists a huge number of modes:

FT4, FT8, JS8, CW, SIM31, PSK, PSK31, IFKP, OPERA, JT65, JT, JT65B, OLIVIA-4, RTTY, ROS, PI4, MSK144, OLIVIA 8, OLIVIA, JT9, FM, PSK63, SSB, PSK125, FSK441, JT4, CONTESTI, OLIVIA 4, QPSK31, OLIVIA 1, PSK62, OLIVIA-3, SSTV, WSPR, THOR11, THOR8, MFSK16, PSK32, OLIVIA 3, JT6M, SIM63, OLIVIA-1, MFSK32, THOR, THOR22, THRB, MFSK8, T10, DOMINO, MFSK4, FSQ, FAX, RTTY-45 , FREQCAL, JTMS, HELL, 8PSK125, QRA64, SSS, THOR4, THOR16, PKT, FMHELL, -FT8,

Data can be downloaded in ADIF files that look like this:

This data comes from http://PSKReporter.info 3.0.4http://pskreporter.info$Id: cgi-bin/pskdata.pl $
7.07574012703.8FT8VK2TPMQF56of6220190822021029-1VK4REAustralia150QG62jjNIL1
7.075405229245.7FT8VK2TPMQF56of6220190822031214-18VK1DCAustralia150QF44nt93NIL1

This is Amateur Data Interchange Format. Submissions from software is fully documented and they provide a library for Windows developers.

I'm really impressed with the work done on this site. A very professional job.

I've started work on adding PSKReporter to the WSPR Watch iOS app. They don't have all of the information that's on WSPRnet but enough to be useful.


There is lots of FT8 activity so it's a good data set to view.


I'll have this up on TestFlight in a few days and hopefully in the App Store soon.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Faithful Maytag washing machine gives up after 30 years

Our Maytag washing machine made screeching noises and smelt of burning this morning after 30 years of hard service.

I think we've had it serviced twice in that time. It's been moved a few times and bashed about a bit in the process.

This machine has handled the nappies and clothes from two babies and given reliable service along the way. Recently I put some bleach in the bleach input and noticed that it drained out on the floor.



Do washing machines even have settings for Permanent Press any more? I enquired about repairs and the bloke that took the call laughed and said "you've had a good run". Spares are difficult to get and service people aren't keen to open them up.


Made in Newton Iowa, USA. Max working pressure: 10 bars. I doubt the replacement will last 30 years, mind you.. I may not either.

The replacement has arrived. I wonder if the touch sensitive buttons will last as long as the mechanical knobs did. Great that it shows how long to go.


Where's the permanent press cycle?


Hmm, sounds ominous.

Manly to Spit bridge Sydney walk

It was cool but sunny. A spectacular day to do the walk from Manly to the Spit bridge on Sunday with Peter, VK2EMU.


There are spectacular harbour views along the way. (Click to enlarge).


The city looks great too.


We did the walk pretty quickly and it does involve some steps up and down.


I felt pretty tired and sore the next morning but would recommend this walk to anyone visiting Sydney. A great way to do it is to start by catching the ferry to Manly.

Friday, August 09, 2019

NSW house sale prices data for free

I have a new interest in the prices that houses in my state have sold for recently. Searching for this data turns up many services that provide it but generally they ask for a fee or even a subscription to give access. It seemed to me that surely this is public information that the government has for stamp duty or other reasons.

The information is available on a weekly basis from Property NSW on the Bulk property sales information page. The data "is available under open access licensing as part of the NSW Government Open Data Policy and is subject to the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Licence". Great stuff!

Each of the blue buttons is a zip file of .DAT files with sales data in them, the format is a little inconvenient but is well documented here.

To make use of this data, by loading it into a spreadsheet, I've written a little python 3 program that takes a folder with downloaded zip files, extracts the .DAT files, parses them and outputs tab delimited CSV files that will open in a spreadsheet.

# Read house price data files from: https://valuation.property.nsw.gov.au/embed/propertySalesInformation
# B;001;4229165;5;20190805 01:00;;;86;MAURICE RD;POKOLBIN;2320;1.038;H;20190613;20190725;850000;;R;RESIDENCE;;;;0;AP418234;

# Directory that contains the zip files
DOWNLOAD_DIR = "Downloads"
FIELD_NAMES = ["Record Type",
"District Code",
"Property Id.",
"Sale Counter",
"Download Date / Time",
"Property Name",
"Property Unit Number",
"Property House Number",
"Property Street Name",
"Property Locality",
"Property Post Code",
"Area",
"Area Type",
"Contract Date",
"Settlement Date",
"Purchase Price",
"Zoning",
"Nature of Property",
"Primary Purpose",
"Strata Lot Number",
"Component code",
"Sale Code",
"% Interest of Sale",
"Dealing Number"]

import os
import zipfile

def main():
printFieldHeaders()
files = os.listdir(DOWNLOAD_DIR)
for azipfile in files:
zip_file_path = os.path.join(DOWNLOAD_DIR, azipfile)
archive = zipfile.ZipFile(zip_file_path)
data_file_list = archive.namelist()
for data_file in data_file_list:
if data_file.endswith(".DAT"):
for line in archive.open(data_file):
lineStr = line.decode('UTF-8')
if lineStr.startswith("B"):
fields = lineStr.strip().split(";")
for field in fields:
print("%s\t" %field, end='')
print()


def printFieldHeaders():
for fieldName in FIELD_NAMES:
print("%s\t" %fieldName, end='')
print()

if __name__ == "__main__":
main()

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Van "house" battery has died

My first trip in the van since returning from crossing Australia. The battery that powers the fridge and  lights was no longer holding charge. While driving the fridge would run but as soon as I stopped the voltage dived to 8V and the fridge would turn itself off.

When I took a closer look there was melted plastic on both sides of the battery. It looks like some cells have short circuited. The battery has been in use either in my shed or in the van for ten years so it's no surprise that it has given up the ghost.

I haven't seen a battery fail this way and it's pretty alarming.


I've replaced it with a 120AH deep cycle battery which will hopefully last me at least four years.

Slow scan activity on 20m

PSK31 activity used to be common on 20m but it has been killed off by FT8 in recent years. Stephen, VK2BLQ, tipped me off that there's quite a lot of SSTV activity on 14.230.

I'm using the Windows MMSSTV which seems capable but a little cryptic to operate. Here's how VK2BLQ looks at my place.


Here's how I reply back to him:


For some reason I can't get MMSSTV to automatically log received pictures (Update: I found the history images in C:\Ham\MMSSTV\History) but here's a few I've grabbed just this morning. ZL2CC:



VK3HJV


VK6AAL (who, I might add, is a very entertaining SSTVer)



ZL2CC


Catch you on 14.230 SSTV! Here's a few more.












Thursday, July 18, 2019

Upgraded home Wifi to Google Wifi

Stories of home router vulnerabilities prompted me to check for updates to my home TP-Link router. In my case the router works well but there have been no updates for more than three years. Although the house is well covered, I sometimes notice pauses in streaming and I thought it was time to try something new.

Friend, and neighbour, John recently switched to the Google Wifi mesh network system and spoke very highly of them.

Researching online I found that the price for the three pack varies from AU$499 down to AU$347 at David Jones. Of course they don't have any stock locally but I was able to get another store to price match.

The hardware is nicely presented and designed. I would say it's Apple level industrial design. The pucks have two gigabit ethernet ports and USB-C power. The status light can be dimmed via the app for bedroom use.

Setup was smooth using the iOS app which discovers the devices as you plug them in via Bluetooth and configures the mesh. I had trouble with one device which didn't complete setup but I walked away and perhaps got out of Bluetooth range.

The iOS app is good and includes useful tools for measuring and testing both your internet connection right on the router and the mesh strength.




Wifi signal strength is uniformly strong throughout the house now, previously there were some small drops in signal. Measured internet speed over Wifi to a laptop running chrome is slightly lower than with the previous setup but it might be an anomaly.


I'm pretty happy with this performance. We are on NBN over HFC here.

The network is 192.168.86.0 and so I had to restart a bunch of devices to get them to update their addresses.

The device serves a web page on 192.168.86.1, with a mDNS hostname of http://testwifi.here which simply shows that it's online and offers links to the Android and iOS apps. It would be nice if there was a bit more that could be done through the web interface but I guess the phone app is the right focus.

There is also a web server at http://on.here which lets users control Philips Hue devices apparently.

The following ports are listening:

nmap -p- 192.168.86.1
Starting Nmap 7.70 ( https://nmap.org ) at 2019-07-25 10:02 AEST
Nmap scan report for testwifi.here (192.168.86.1)
Host is up (0.0096s latency).
Not shown: 65530 closed ports
PORT     STATE SERVICE
53/tcp   open  domain
80/tcp   open  http
5000/tcp open  upnp
8080/tcp open  http-proxy
8081/tcp open  blackice-icecap


Nmap done: 1 IP address (1 host up) scanned in 5.36 seconds

Port 8080 shows this:

 Port 8081 shows this:


The hardware is impressive, a quad-core ARM CPU running at up to 710MHz, 512MB RAM and 4GB eMMC storage. AC1200 2x2 Wave 2 Wi-Fi, Simultaneous dual-band Wifi (2.4 GHz/5 GHz) supporting IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, and transmit beam forming.

The devices implement the IEEE 802.11s mesh networking standard (along with some Google innovations, they say).

Note that the Google router sets the DNS to Google's 8.8.8.8 it would be nice if I was told this rather than having to find out by drilling into the settings.

Note that ethernet is still faster than wireless. Here's a speed test over ethernet.


Here's a speed test over Wifi.


After being in use for a week it has gathered a log of internet speeds:



It's a pity that Apple has left the home networking market but I feel that quality alternatives now exist such as Google Wifi.