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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Location
    Tyne and Wear
    Posts
    17,788

    Default Weather fax on netbook + portable sony radio

    The Sony ICF-SW100S radio looks deceptively like a cheap bedside radio but is actually a powerful SW scanner with stable digital tuning and an SSB function. There is a link to it on Amazon here although it is currently out of stock (there is a later model but I've not tried that).

    This radio (and presumably it's successor/other SSB scanners) provide a cheap and portable way to receive 'weather-fax' transmissions which you might need if you are off the beaten track and out of range of mobile broadband (anywhere more than a few miles offshore).

    I downloaded and installed SeaTTY on an Acer Aspire One netbook (you should be able to use almost any laptop) and linked up the sony radio to receive synoptic charts from the UK Northwood transmitter. Here's how:

    The Hardware

    Acer Aspire One netbook
    Sony radio
    Join the line out on the radio to the mic input on the netbook using a stereo 3.5mm jack to jack lead(if you have a line in use that in preference)
    A wire SW antenna came with the radio and I attached one end of this to the radio's telescopic aerial and hauled the other end up a pennant halyard.

    The Software

    SeaTTY (see above)
    Go into the audio settings in 'Windows Control Panel' and turn off any mic boost.
    Go into the audio mixer and unmute the mic and set the level about 1/4 way up in the RECORDING settings.


    There is a good article about weather fax on Frank Singleton's site here. As I am in the UK I tuned to the Northwood transmitter. The frequencies are 2618.5, 4610, 8040 and 11086.5 (all in KHz). The radio tunes to the nearest KHz so I rounded down. Also I read somewhere that as it is SSB to tune 2KHz down (don't know why but it works!) so I tuned 2616, 4608,8038 and 11084 KHZ into memories on the radio and stored them. The radio needs to be set to upper side band (USB).

    Because this is HF there are loads of issues with reception depending on what the sun is doing and what goes on in the atmosphere. In practice I found that I got signals on 4608KHz in the day situated up in Newcastle, your results may differ.

    Before trying to decipher faxes I listened for them coming in on the radio to make sure things were working. The fax starts with a constant tone for about 30 seconds followed by about 30 seconds of chirping followed by about 10 minutes of fax noises then there are some space invader noises, some fast data that's not to do with this which goes on for a few seconds, then some more space invaders, then there is relative silence and after a while the process repeats. Don't be put off if you don't hear anything at first because sometimes there can be gaps of 20 minutes or so when nothing is transmitted.

    At this point I should say that the SW signals are very prone to interference particularly from flourescent lighting and instruments you may have on the boat so try to get things working at least at first with as much switched off as possible. With my setup the biggest killer of signals was if the netbook was on charge so try at first with the netbook or laptop running from it's battery.

    Starting up SeaTTY the defaults were pretty much alright so with the radio connected to the netbook have a look at the oscillogram display to make sure you set the mixer right and that SeaTTY is seeing a signal. If not go back to the mixer settings.

    To receive a fax choose Mode->HF Fax. By default this will start automatically when it hears a fax coming in but if a fax is already going when you start or is not recognised then it is OK to press 'Start' and start manually. You should now have a large window with a screen of possibly corrupt data growing on it.

    Don't necessarily expect that you will get a clean fax straight away. On my netbook everything started out like a broken old fashioned television that was scrolling. To fix the skew there is a slant control on SeaTTY. Click the Slant button then look for lines in the data that might possibly be vertical lines if everything wasn't messed up. Click two points on the line to set the slant compensation and hopefully the data will now skew into something resembling a weather map. You can repeat this to fine tune.

    There is another control which can fix horizontal scrolling if a big chunk of the left of the fax has got chopped off and ended up at the right of the screen. Click this button then click in the fax where you want the edge to be.

    When you get a reasonable fax coming out then fine tune the radio to get the best results and fiddle with the microphone level in the mixer.

    Here are a couple of charts that I got today:

    A surface analysis:



    24 Hour forecast:



    Schedule:



    I plugged the laptop charger in half way through this one:



    Last edited by BruceDanforth; 07-02-10 at 22:49. Reason: Forgot to mention set radio to upper side band
    Onto the ship of fools with a doughnut and a 13mm spanner...

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    up on the moors.
    Posts
    33,293

    Default

    marvellous, many thanks: that must have taken you ages to compile the post.
    I think, therefore I am. I am, therefore I sail.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    Wexford
    Posts
    4,104

    Default

    That's very helpful, the quality of the charts is better than I've managed in the past, I'll give this combination a shot next time I plan something - thanks.

    Cheers, Brian.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    I know how fast I'm going, but not where I am
    Posts
    6,944

    Default

    That Sony radio has been discontinued. The latest Sony offering with SSB and USB selection is their ICF-SW7600GR, which unfortunately is twice the price. I have not tried this particular one, but it seems to have similar features. Amazon have it.

    Someone else here has reported that the DE1103 for £50 also works.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2001
    Location
    Scotland
    Posts
    6,280

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by AngusMcDoon View Post
    That Sony radio has been discontinued. The latest Sony offering with SSB and USB selection is their ICF-SW7600GR, which unfortunately is twice the price. I have not tried this particular one, but it seems to have similar features. Amazon have it.

    Someone else here has reported that the DE1103 for £50 also works.
    There is also a Sony sw 55 but boy does it consume the batteries. It is very good with fine tuning but really needs to be run of an external power source.

    The Icf sw 7600 has been going for a while is a good radio but was always expensive at around £140...
    Eastern Scotland and beyond.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    Woodbridge
    Posts
    29

    Default

    Ed

    With my setup the biggest killer of signals was if the netbook was on charge so try at first with the netbook or laptop running from it's battery.
    Were you running off mains charger or 12 volt "cigar lighter" charger?

    Dave

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Location
    Tyne and Wear
    Posts
    17,788

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by agent leman View Post
    Ed



    Were you running off mains charger or 12 volt "cigar lighter" charger?

    Dave
    I was running off a mains charger.
    Onto the ship of fools with a doughnut and a 13mm spanner...

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Caribbean
    Posts
    728

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by EdBeynon View Post
    Nice intro, bookmarked I recently bought a KAITO KA1103 from the US for this purpose (100 USD approx).

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    up on the moors.
    Posts
    33,293

    Default

    I'm straying into areas of uncharted knowledge...

    Does anyone know if it is possible to use some internet source to "download" short wave broadcasts of the type needed to produce these maps ?

    My thinking is that if the data is available over the web, then SeaTTR software could work over a wifi connection without the need for a separate radio.


    Or should I stick to losing money on sheep ?
    I think, therefore I am. I am, therefore I sail.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Caribbean
    Posts
    728

    Default

    If youre onlinen, you can just get high-resolution GRIB files via zygrib.org

    This is for getting faxes when you haven't got internet

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