An anonymous reader quotes a report from New Scientist: [The U.S. Air Force has plans to improve radio communication over long distances by detonating plasma bombs in the upper atmosphere using a fleet of micro satellites. It's not the first time we've tried to improve radio communication by tinkering with the ionosphere. HAARP, the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program in Alaska, stimulates the ionosphere with radiation from ground-based antennas to produce radio-reflecting plasma.] Now the USAF wants to do this more efficiently, with tiny satellites -- such as CubeSats -- carrying large volumes of ionized gas directly into the ionosphere. As well as increasing the range of radio signals, the USAF says it wants to smooth out the effects of solar winds, which can knock out GPS, and also investigate the possibility of blocking communication from enemy satellites. [There are at least two major challenges. One is building a plasma generator small enough to fit on a CubeSat -- roughly 10 centimeters cubed. Then there's the problem of controlling exactly how the plasma will disperse once it is released. The USAF has awarded three contracts to teams who are sketching out ways to tackle the approach. The best proposal will be selected for a second phase in which plasma generators will be tested in vacuum chambers and exploratory space flights.]
mspohr writes: A few years ago, a Kickstarter was set up to develop a locator tag powered by free radio frequency (RF) energy harvested from the environment. This was called a scam here on Slashdot and was shut down before it was funded on Kickstarter. However, it now appears that the concept is not as far-fetched as some predicted. A UK company CleanSpace has developed a carbon monoxide (CO) sensor which is powered by free RF. A review of the product has been posted on YouTube. It uses Freevolt technology to keep a battery charged and the CO sensor running. Since they have several thousand of these devices collecting data, they do appear to work and it seems to be in the 'not a scam' department.
An anonymous reader writes: Astronomers at Cornell University predict based off estimates that alien contact is unlikely for another 1,500 years. MSN reports: "According to the astronomers, signals from Earth would need to reach half of all the solar systems in the Milky Way in order to be picked up by an intelligent life form. Given that signals from TV and radio were first sent into space as a byproduct of broadcasting 80 years ago, it will take around 1,500 more years for aliens to receive, decode and respond to the signals." A co-author of the paper who will present it at the American Astronomical Society's meeting on June 16, Evan Solomonides, said, "We haven't heard from aliens yet, as space is a big place -- but that doesn't mean no one is out there. It's possible to hear any time at all, but it becomes likely we will have heard around 1,500 years from now. Until then, it is possible that we appear to be alone -- even if we are not. But if we stop listening or looking, we may miss the signals. So we should keep looking." Stephen Hawking and Russian entrepreneur Yuri Milner announced a $100 million research program in April to send robotic probes the size of postage stamps to nearby stars within a generation.
Chris O'Brien, reporting for VentureBeat: Making one of his biggest public appearances since returning to Pandora as CEO, Tim Westergren struck a defiant tone -- insisting that the company is not for sale and is, in fact, on the cusp of a reinventing itself. "We are on a path to do something big and something for the long-term," Westergren said when asked on stage about sale rumors. "Tha's why I got back in the saddle, so no plans for that." Pandora, with its Internet radio format, has been a music streaming pioneer. Founded in 2000, it survived the dot-com bust and enjoyed explosive growth following the introduction of the iPhone in 2007 and the ensuing smartphone era. Pandora's rise was capped by a big IPO in 2011. But as a public company, Pandora has struggled to show consistent profits and growth. It is often buffeted on one side by artists who claim they are not being paid fairly and on the other by new entrants such as Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon who offer on-demand streaming services.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Science Daily: Transmitting the contents of a conventional DVD in under ten seconds by radio transmission is incredibly fast -- and a new world record in wireless data transmission. With a data rate of 6 Gigabit per second over a distance of 37 kilometers, a collaborative project with the participation of researchers from the University of Stuttgart and the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Solid State Physics IAF exceeded the state of the art by a factor of 10. The extremely high data rates of 6 Gbit/s was achieved by the group through efficient transmitters and receivers at a radio frequency of 71-76 GHz in the so-called E band, regulated for terrestrial and satellite broadcasting. The circuits are based on two innovative transistor technologies developed and manufactured by the project partner Fraunhofer IAF. In the transmitter the broadband signals are amplified to a comparatively high transmission power of up to 1 W with the help of power amplifiers on the basis of the novel compound semiconductor gallium-nitride. A highly directive parabolic antenna emits the signals. Built into the receiver are low-noise amplifiers on the basis of high-speed transistors using indium-gallium-arsenide-semiconductor layers with very high electron mobility. They ensure the detection of the weak signals at high distance. The transmission of high quantities of data by radio over large distances serves a high number of important application areas: the next generation of satellite communication requires an ever-increasing data offload from earth observation satellites down to earth. Supplying the rural area and remote regions with fast Internet is possible as shown in the trial. Earlier this year, engineers at the University of Illinois were able to set a record for fiber-optic data transmission, transmitting 57Gbps of error-free data at room temperature.
An anonymous reader cites an article on CBC: Your smartphone may include an FM radio chip but, chances are, it doesn't work. Now, an online campaign has launched in Canada, putting pressure on telecoms and manufacturers to turn on the radio hidden in many cellphones. Titled, "free radio on my phone," the campaign says that most Android smartphones have a built-in FM receiver which doesn't require data or Wi-Fi to operate. The U.S. arm of the campaign believes iPhones also have a built-in radio chip but that it can't be activated. Apple wouldn't confirm this detail. The radio chip in many Android phones also lies dormant. But the campaign says it can easily be activated -- if telecom providers ask the manufacturers to do it. In Canada, however, most of the telecoms haven't made the move to get the radio turned on. They'd prefer that you stream your audio, depleting your phone's costly data plan, claims campaign organizer, Barry Rooke.
MojoKid quotes a report from HotHardware: Researchers at Disney Research and Carnegie Mellon University have been toying around with radio frequency identification (RFID) tags. RFID tags are typically used for high-tech inventory management in a variety of industries, but researchers concocted a way to make RFID technology feasible for interactive games using physical objects. Using a framework the researchers developed called RapID, they showed how inexpensive RFID tags can sense when a physical object is moved or touched in near real-time. The research team demonstrated a handful of use case scenarios. One included a tic-tac-toe board that mirrors the physical game on a computer monitor with added sound effects, while another demonstration showed users playing a Pong clone using real wooden sliders to control the onscreen action. What the researchers have done is no small feat. RFID was never intended for interactive toys, and wasn't built for real-time or near real-time responsiveness. RapID interprets the signals by weighing possibilities instead of waiting on confirmation from RFID tags. Most importantly, it reduces typical lag times from 2 seconds all the way down to 200 milliseconds.
K7DAN writes: Just as the demise of terrestrial radio has been greatly exaggerated, so has the assumed parallel death of pirate radio. Due to the failure of licensed stations to meet the needs of many niche communities, pirate radio continues to increase in popularity. Helping facilitate this growth is the weakening power of the FCC to stop it, reports the Associated Press. Rogue stations can cover up to several square miles thanks largely in part to cheaper technology. The appeal? "The DJs sound like you and they talk about things that you're interested in," said Jay Blessed, an online DJ who has listened to various unlicensed stations since she moved from Trinidad to Brooklyn more than a decade ago. "You call them up and say, 'I want to hear this song,' and they play it for you," Blessed said. "It's interactive. It's engaging. It's communal." It's upsetting many congressional members who are urging the FCC to do more about the "unprecedented growth of pirate radio operations." They're accusing said pirates of undermining licensed minority stations while ignoring consumer protection laws that guard against indecency and false advertising.
An anonymous reader writes: Google Play Music could add a hub for podcasts on Monday, April 18. The speculation comes as news outlets spotted a leaked NPR email member-only newsletter which claims that the company 'worked with Google to ensure that public radio is represented in the Google Play environment' and reveals the launch date. Google announced plans to add podcasts to Google Play Music app in October last year. It's a welcome move -- whenever it actually happens. Google, unlike Apple and Microsoft, as of today doesn't offer any built-in app in its mobile operating system which could allow users to subscribe and listen to their favorite podcasts. And podcasts are increasingly becoming popular.
mask.of.sanity writes: Thieves can hijack $28,000 professional drones used widely across the law enforcement, emergency, and private sectors using $40 worth of hardware. The quadcopters can be hijacked from up to two kilometers away thanks to a lack of encryption, which is not present due to latency overheads. Attackers can commandeer radio links to the drones from up to two kilometers away, and block operators from reconnecting to the craft. With the targeted Xbee chip being very common in drones, IBM security guy Nils Rodday says it is likely many more aircraft are open to compromise.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmag: One of the most hotly contested bits of real estate today is one you can't see. As we move into an increasingly wireless-connected world, staking out a piece of the crowded electromagnetic spectrum becomes more important. DARPA is hoping to help solve this issue with its latest Grand Challenge, which calls for the use of machine-learning technologies to enable devices to share bandwidth. The Spectrum Collaboration Challenge (SC2) is based on the idea that wireless devices would work better if they cooperated with one another rather than fought for bandwidth. Since not all devices are active at all times, the agency says, it should be possible through the use of artificial intelligence machine-learning algorithms to allow them to figure out how to share the spectrum with a minimum of conflict. DARPA announced the competition in front of 8000 engineers on Wednesday at the International Wireless Communications Expo (IWCE) in Las Vegas. SC2 will run from 2017 through 2020 with teams competing to create radios that can collaborate most effectively with other radios. The competition will end with a live event and the prize is $2 million.
schwit1 writes: A new directive issued by China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has said that companies which have foreign ownership (at least, in part) will be stopped from publishing words, pictures, maps, games, animation and sound of an 'informational and thoughtful nature' unless they have approval from the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television.
An anonymous reader writes: An investigation by Reuters has uncovered a radio station located just outside Washington, D.C. that broadcasts dedicated Chinese propaganda to the U.S. capital and the surrounding area. In 2009, under new ownership, Virginia-based station WAGE erected new broadcast towers, amplifying its signal by ten times, and changed its call letters to WCRW, for "China Radio Washington." All WCRW programming shares a common theme, with newscasts that avoid any criticism of China and are critical of Beijing's political enemies; for example, a report on pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong last year did not explain why people were in the streets, and said only that the demonstrations had "failed without support." WCRW's American owners claim they have no input on content and are only rebroadcasting programming provided to them by a state-sponsored Chinese company to which they lease the airtime. U.S. law requires that anyone seeking to influence American policy or public opinion on behalf of a foreign government must register with the Department of Justice, but according to Reuters, government officials didn't even know WCRW existed until Reuters told them about it.
Zothecula writes For the first time in history, a prototype radio has been created that is claimed to be completely digital, generating high-frequency radio waves purely through the use of integrated circuits and a set of patented algorithms without using conventional analog radio circuits in any way whatsoever. This breakthrough technology promises to vastly improve the wireless communications capabilities of everything from 5G mobile technology to the multitude devices aimed at supporting the Internet of Things (IoT).
Bruce Perens writes Chris Testa KD2BMH and I have been working for years on a software-defined transceiver that would be FCC-legal and could communicate using essentially any mode and protocol up to 1 MHz wide on frequencies between 50 and 1000 MHz. It's been discussed here before, most recently when Chris taught gate-array programming in Python. We are about to submit the third generation of the design for PCB fabrication, and hope that this version will be salable as a "developer board" and later as a packaged walkie-talkie, mobile, and base station. This radio is unique in that it uses your smartphone for the GUI, uses apps to provide communication modes, contains an on-board FLASH-based gate-array and a ucLinux system. We intend to go for FSF "Respects Your Freedom" certification for the device. My slide show contains 20 pages of schematics and is full of ham jargon ("HT" means "handi-talkie", an old Motorola product name and the hams word for "walkie talkie") but many non-hams should be able to parse it with some help from search engines. Bruce Perens K6BP