Longtime Slashdot reader Bruce Perens writes: David Rowe VK5DGR has been working on ultra-low-bandwidth digital voice codecs for years, and his latest quest has been to come up with a digital codec that would compete well with single-sideband modulation used by ham contesters to score the longest-distance communications using HF radio. A new codec records clear, but not hi-fi, voice in 700 bits per second -- that's 88 bytes per second. Connected to an already-existing Open Source digital modem, it might beat SSB. Obviously there are other uses for recording voice at ultra-low-bandwidth. Many smartphones could record your voice for your entire life using their existing storage. A single IP packet could carry 15 seconds of speech. Ultra-low-bandwidth codecs don't help conventional VoIP, though. The payload size for low-latency voice is only a few bytes, and the packet overhead will be at least 10 times that size.
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Norway is set to become the first country to switch off its FM radio network next week, as it takes the unpopular leap to digital technology. Reuters reports: Critics say the government is rushing the move and many people may miss warnings on emergencies that have until now been broadcast via the radio. Of particular concern are the 2 million cars on Norway's roads that are not equipped with Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) receivers, they say. Sixty-six percent of Norwegians oppose switching off FM, with just 17 percent in favor and the rest undecided, according to an opinion poll published by the daily Dagbladet last month. Nevertheless, parliament gave the final go-ahead for the move last month, swayed by the fact that digital networks can carry more radio channels. By the end of the year, all national FM broadcasts will be closed in favor of DAB, which backers say carries less hiss and clearer sound throughout the large nation of 5 million people cut by fjords and mountains. Torvmark said cars were the "biggest challenge" - a good digital adapter for an FM car radio costs 1,500 Norwegian crowns ($174.70), he said. For the same cost, digital radio in Norway allows eight times more radio stations than FM. The current system of parallel FM and digital networks, each of which cost about 250 million crowns ($29 million), saps investments in programs.
New submitter Netdoctor writes: Fast Radio Bursts (FRB) are massively powerful short-lived radio bursts from far-away sources, and so far a number of theories exist on what generates them. Recently several were detected in the same general location, which adds to the mystery, as any of these pulses would be powerful enough to destroy a source. Since this group of FRBs were detected with single radio telescope dishes, the exact location was difficult to pinpoint. BBC reports here with results from the Very Large Array in New Mexico being trained on the source. From the report: "Outlining their work at a major conference, astronomers say they have now traced the source of one of these bursts to a different galaxy. Dr Chatterjee, from Cornell University, New York, and colleagues used a multi-antenna radio telescope called the Very Large Array (VLA), which had sufficient resolution to precisely determine the location of a flash known as FRB 121102. In 83 hours of observing time over six months in 2016, the VLA detected nine bursts from FRB 121102. In addition to detecting the bright bursts from FRB 121102, the team's observations also revealed an ongoing, persistent source of weaker radio emission in the same region. The flashes and the persistent source must be within 100 light-years of each other, and scientists think they are likely to be either the same object or physically associated with one another. He said some features of the radio source resembled those associated with large black holes. But he said these were typically found only in large galaxies."
Gandalf_the_Beardy quotes a report from The Register: The Register reports on the story of Jim Giercyk, an amateur radio enthusiast who had his copy of the popular Ham Radio Deluxe (HRD) software revoked after posting a negative review. Other radio hams have followed up with us regarding claims that this was not an isolated incident and others may have had their license keys blacklisted for being publicly critical of the company. And just to be clear: by blackballing keys, installed copies of the software stop working. Giercyk, a professional musician in South Carolina, U.S., says that after his dealings with HRD Software (which has since reinstated his software key) and the statement made by the developer's co-owner Dr Michael Carper, he takes issue with claims made by the company. Giercyk, aka N2SUB, told us on Tuesday: "The issue is not the refusal of service, the issue is that HRD disabled my software, and then offered to enable it in exchange for the removal of an online review of their product. It's extortion, not refusal of service." Giercyk also said that since he went public about his blacklisting last week, he has received messages from other users who have stories of their software keys being revoked by HRD without their knowledge for speaking up about having a bad support experience. A number of other readers pointed out a collection of bad reviews posted on hobbyist site eHam by customers who had their license keys blacklisted. HRD told us some of those users could have written their assessments after requesting a refund and deactivating their software, thus their licenses will appear revoked. Meanwhile, Reddit threads and follow-up discussions to Giercyk's catalyst forum post reveal similar stories of keys being revoked after critical comments about Ham Radio Deluxe have appeared online. Other sources allege some amateur radio forums have in the past deleted posts critical of HRD.
Georg Szalai, reporting for Hollywood Reporter: "The BBC makes the best radio in the world," says director general Tony Hall. British public broadcaster BBC plans to launch a "Netflix of the spoken word" to take its radio content beyond the U.K. Director general Tony Hall in a London speech on Wednesday said that the BBC plans to offer all of its audio content, in addition to its BBC World Service programming to people in foreign markets. He didn't immediately provide further details, including about whether the BBC would charge international users. The BBC is funded via a license fee covered by British taxpayers. "With our world-class content, we could use our current output and the richness of our archive to create a Netflix of the spoken word," the BBC quoted Hall as saying. "The BBC makes the best radio in the world. It is one of our crown jewels, and we have an extraordinary wealth of audio riches at our disposal." He added: "It's one of the things that will help the BBC carry the full weight of Britain's culture and values, knowledge and know-how to the world in the years ahead, and say something really important about modern Britain."
Microsoft has partnered with networking equipment manufacturer D-Link to deliver speedier Wi-Fi to rural communities around the world. From a report on ZDNet:Dubbed "Super Wi-Fi", the wireless infrastructure is set to be based on the 802.11af protocol, and will take advantage of unused bandwidth in the lower-frequency white spaces between television channel frequencies where signals travel further than at higher frequencies. A pilot of the first phase is commencing in an unnamed American state, with trials also slated to run in three other countries. "D-Link sees ourselves at the very heart of this kind of technical innovation and development. We also acknowledge that we have a role to play in helping all countries and future generations better connect," said Sydney-based D-Link managing director for ANZ Graeme Reardon. "Our goal is to use all of our 30 years' experience and expertise and our global footprint to help deliver Super Wi-Fi as a technological platform for growth to the world's underdeveloped regions."
An anonymous reader writes: Facebook's Connectivity Lab has announced that it has achieved data transmission rates of 20Gbps over the millimetre-wave (MMW) section of the radio spectrum; however, the transceiving stations need to be incredibly tightly calibrated to each other, with the team describing the margin for error as equivalent to 'a baseball pitcher aiming for a strike zone the size of a quarter'.
Let's face it, tracking down a lost bag at the airport is a pain-in-the-ass. While airlines will often compensate you with money and new clothes for your troubles, the experience is certainly not pleasant. Delta is now attempting to further reduce the number of lost bags through its real-time luggage tracker in the latest version of its mobile app. The Next Web reports: The feature apparently cost $50 million to build. It allows you to see where your stuff is -- provided that it's at one of the 84 airports that support Delta's new tracking tech. Here's how it works. All bags will get a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tag. This allows Delta to track them in real-time using radio waves. Scanners positioned throughout the baggage system will allow Delta to monitor where the bag is, and relay that information to the passenger. Delta has traditionally been one of the best airlines when it comes to handling baggage. During 2012, it lost only 200,000 bags. That sounds like a lot, but bear in mind it carried 98 million passengers during the same period. You can try the feature on your next Delta flight by grabbing the app from Google Play and the App Store.
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNNMoney: Researchers at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory have developed a device that uses radio waves to detect whether someone is happy, sad, angry or excited. The breakthrough makes it easier to accomplish what scientists have tried to do for years with machines: sense human emotions. The researchers believe tracking a person's feelings is a step toward improving their overall emotional well-being. The technology isn't invasive; it works in the background without a person having to do anything, like wearing a device. The device called EQ-Radio, which was detailed in a paper published online Tuesday, resembles a shoebox, as of now. It works by bouncing wireless signals off a person. These signals are impacted by motion, such as breathing and heartbeats. When the heart pumps blood, a force is exerted onto our bodies, and the skin vibrates ever so slightly. After the radio waves are impacted by these vibrations, they return to the device. A computer then analyzes the signals to identify changes in heartbeat and breathing. The researchers demonstrated their system detects emotions on par with an electrocardiogram (EKG), a common wearable device medical professionals use to monitor the human heart. The machine's analysis of the radio waves relies on artificial intelligence, which learns how various heartbeats indicate certain emotions. As a part of the testing, the machine bounced radio waves off actors who recreated a range of emotions. The more emotions the machine experienced, the better it identified what signals, such as a fast heartbeat, gave away their true feelings. By monitoring radio waves reflected off people who are happy, the machine is exposed to certain signs -- such as heart rate or a type of breathing -- associated with being in good spirits.
An anonymous reader writes: Reportedly, in a national campaign aided by more than 30,000 airwave monitors, in over past six months, more than 500 sets of equipment for making unauthorised radio broadcasts were seized in China. The campaign, launched on February 15 by the State Council, resulted in 1,796 cases related to illegal radio stations, after 301,840 hours of monitoring from February to July, according to an online statement by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. The number of incidents was down by 50 per cent from April to August, the China Daily quoted the statement as saying. So-called pirate radios have appeared in most parts of China since 2015 and this "has been a channel for criminals to defraud and promote aphrodisiacs, along with counterfeit and poor-quality medicine," according to the Ministry of Public Security's Criminal Investigation Department. The operating cost of a pirate radio is low, but profit can be high. A pirate radio station that broadcasts advertisements for aphrodisiacs can pocket more than 70,000 yuan ($10,500) a month, with an overhead cost of no more than 10,000 yuan, investigators said in a post on Sina Weibo. It said most spare parts for broadcasting equipment can be bought on the internet.
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.