First Time for Everything: Listening to The Mighty KBC Radio

There’s a first time for everything. For me, it was always inconvenient to listen to The Mighty KBC Radio from the Netherlands (I just didn’t have any time because of work, spending time with friends, or other projects). Like PCJ Media, it is a fairly new and independent broadcast to the shortwave band.

Tonight, I decided to break out my Tecsun PL-660. After lamenting over the cutbacks of some broadcasters on CFOR, I figured to tune to some stations that are left.

Apparently I noticed the Mighty KBC was on-the-air. Surprisingly, the station came in loud-and-clear and played some really great classic rock tunes. Note: This station CANNOT be heard online, but ONLY on shortwave.

I also tuned into WRMI before listening to The Mighty KBC.

Episode 4 – Thomas Witherspoon & Blue Yeti Pro

thumb_cforpodcastartworkContinuing the shortwave discussion from the last episode, Chris talks to Thomas Witherspoon (writer of the SWLing.com blog and founder of Ears To Our World). They talk about the importance of shortwave to the world, despite a lower audience and recent budget cuts. There is also a summary of their favorite shortwave radios.

In Part 2, Chris reviews the microphone used in this podcast since Episode 2. It’s the Blue Yeti Pro Mic.

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Episode 3 – Shortwave Flatline

thumb_cforpodcastartworkSorry for the delay. Sometimes life gets busy. Other times…stormy weather shuts the power off and your work ends up deleted.

Nonetheless, Chris delivers this third episode and talks about the recent disappearance of international broadcasters on shortwave and where they are going (or not going). In Part 2, there is news of upcoming Eton receivers, if you’re not convinced of the “death of shortwave” argument, that SWLs may want to consider.

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Episode 2 – Emulators & Watch Dogs

thumb_cforpodcastartworkIn this second episode of CFOR, Chris talks about new announcements about Google Android and how to take advantage of gaming on the mobile OS and your TV. There is also a quick impressions and review of Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs. So much radio. Wow.

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Episode 1 – An Introduction

Thisthumb_cforpodcastartwork is the first episode of CFOR, aka Chris Freitas On Radio, podcast. Yes, Chris is now producing a talk show of random sorts. In this introductory episode, he walks around Midtown and talks about more about himself and the podcast. It’s also rather short, but filled with some music like live blues from Central BBQ, MC Cullah’s “Blazing Day,” and chiptune sensation Rolemusic with “Death on the battlefield.”

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This’s How I Got Into The Shortwave Hobby

I have an interesting story on how I got into shortwave radio. Let’s hop into the Tardis and go back to 1997. Being 13 years old, a young Chris Freitas was a member of the Boy Scouts.

Because I was a part of this organization, Boy’s Life magazine shipped to my mailbox each month. In the December 1997 issue, there was an article titled “Tune In To The World.” This printed piece literally changed my life.

BoysLife-Shortwave

While reading the article, I was amazed that there were radios capable of receiving global signals. There had to be more information. Thus, I went to the Millington Public Library (Millington is a suburb north of Memphis, TN and my hometown).

Using slow dial-up internet and reading Passport to World Band Radio, I learned more about shortwave radio, international stations, and frequencies. Before buying one at Radio Shack, there was an epiphany.

I already owned a shortwave radio and just realized it at that moment. Months before reading the article, my next-door neighbor friend sold me his radio for $25.

BBC-WorldServiceI thought it was neat. It was my first shortwave radio: the Worldstar Multi Band Receiver MG 6100 sold by Sears.

My first two years as an SWL were amazing. I would sit outside on weekends with my radio and listen to the BBC, RTI, RCI, HCJB, VOA, RNW, and many others.

A QSL collection grew and station stickers littered the top of my radio. I wrote to Boy’s Life about it and they paid me some money for the article.

There were great programs like Musical Mailbag, live sports, DX Partyline, and Play of the Week that I would tune into every week. My parents “loved” it, as I annoyed them with loud static.

Unfortunately with all good things, the band knob on my Worldstar radio broke. However, my father conceded to a birthday wish and bought me a Radio Shack DX-397 (my dad told me that he still has it).

I also bought a book from Radio Shack titled Listening To Shortwave. Even for the late ’90s, it was a bit outdated but there were some interesting tips about shortwave.

It also came packaged with a cassette tape (Yes, I still remember them). It was called “Sounds of Shortwave.” If you want to listen, here’s Side A and Side B.

After three years of shortwave radio listening, it was not long before changing my childhood dream of becoming a TV weatherman (I had a crazy fascination with weather and still do). Instead, I wanted to be a radio announcer (or at least work at a station).

In 2000, the Delta Amateur Radio Club was present at a “Scout Base” on Naval Support Activity Mid-South. It was there that I earned my radio merit badge and perhaps my first on-air appearance.

Since then, I’ve been to college and earned my Bachelor’s of Arts in Communications. I am now working part-time at a local radio station. I have yet worked at an international station, but still pursuing that endeavor.

20140223_131624Several stations like the BBC, Radio Canada, and Radio Netherlands left shortwave in North America. I have also been through various radios including the Grundig Mini World 300 PE, Eton E5, and Sony ICF-7600GR.

As of now, I am using a Tecsun PL-660 and I love it. Although there are fewer stations on shortwave these days, I still enjoy tuning the bands to catch some exciting sounds halfway around the world.

Chris Reviews Final Fantasy VI Android

10250139_10100987630802140_8852009242215364880_nSince its January 2014 release onto Android, I have been extensively playing Final Fantasy VI on Android. It has yet to be completed, but this game has been played through various versions on Super Nintendo, PlayStation, and Game Boy Advance. By far, this is my favorite version.

If anyone hasn’t played through this 20 year-old RPG, then here is a quick spoiler free background. The Gestahlian Empire, led by the crazed mage Kefka, lays siege to various towns worldwide using weapons of magical destruction. Piloting Magitek armor and unaware of her actions, the young Terra plows through the snowy, mountainous Narshe in search of an Esper. She soon gets entangled in quest of finding herself and saving the world.

There have been several tweaks to this classic game. Firstly, the graphics have been redone for high-resolution displays. All sprites and backgrounds are remastered and look sharp and crisp. This version has polarized fans, but I actually like the new design.

The user interface, particularly in battles, have changed as well. The Active Time Battle (ATB) still remains, but instead of a bar the character menus speed up to the top of the screen during battle. Menus have also been optimized to make use of the touch screen. Sadly, Square-Enix has yet to add controller support.1800310_10100953146748460_1115771694_n

In terms of performance, Final Fantasy VI runs well. As long as you have a current Android device like the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, HTC One, or Nexus 7, there will hardly be any hiccups.

While the mobile version has been reworked, the plot remains the same as the GBA version. It carries the same script and extra scenes from that version, which had a better translation. Additionally, the extra summons, skills, and weapons from FF6 GBA can be obtained in the mobile edition.

My only criticism is the high-price point. It currently costs a hefty $15.99 on the Google Play Store, but it is still worth the price of admission. Final Fantasy VI, despite its age, still handles its own against many modern games in its class.

Think Twice Before Illegally Hosting Apps

Two men plead guilty as the Department of Justice investigates the rampant piracy plaging the Google Play Store. Nicholas Anthony Narbone and Thomas Allen Dye are accused of creating an app “black market” called Appbucket.net.

Apparently, over 1 million applications have been illegally obtained and the DOJ is currently looking into other pirated websites.

No news as to whether or not the federal government is tracking down those downloading the files. However, it’s perhaps too little too late to stop the sharing of copyright materials from the Play Store.

Good luck for those trying to get the new Dragon Quest games yet to be released in the U.S.

Related Sources: 

Justice Department lands first ever convictions against mobile app pirates (The Verge: March 24, 2014)

 

Three Years Old: The Tecsun PL-660 Still Rocks

If anyone paid attention to the last blog post, then I mentioned my change in listening habits. To clear the air, I have not & will not abandon the shortwave hobby. 20140223_131624

The article merely points out how shortwave listeners like myself are adjusting their habits. I wanted to gauge how other SWLs felt about the rise of internet radio and if it has (or will) replace the hobby.

While last month’s post seemed negative, there is a lot of fun to have as a shortwave listener. As I am typing this entry, I have my Tecsun PL-660 with me…with intentions to tuning to stations after work. I listen to internet radio more than ever, but I still go back to my shortwave radio every now and then.

This universally acclaimed radio is what this month’s post is all about. When first starting this blog, one of my early articles was about the PL-660.

If readers go to it now, then they will see a dead video. You can thank YouTube trolls for thinking they are Steven Spielberg while posting negative nitpicks on video production (With that, I am not longer doing video reviews, but I’ll upload my catches). However, I had a positive experience using the PL-660 when I first ordered it on Amazon in 2011.

20140223_131653It has been about three years and I am proud to admit that it works the same as it did on Day One. The only problem I had was a broken antenna hinge after it fell on the floor. The antenna has been replaced and there’s no permanent damage to the unit luckily.

Performance is still great across the bands. I can still pick up local stations well and distant ones boom. Even though more international broadcasters have left the air, the remaining ones like Radio Australia, WRMI, and Voice of America are received loud and clear.

Synchronous detection still locks and holds fading signals and audio sounds great for a portable radio. Anyone who is looking for a shortwave radio can find this gem for less than $85. Surprisingly enough, it is about $120 on Amazon, which is roughly $20 more expensive than when I bought mine.

For a radio capable of getting all that you want out of shortwave, the Tescun PL-660 is still a great performer and holds up after three years.

20140223_131715I am content with keeping the Tecsun PL-660 for its lifespan. Even if shortwave “goes away” and the radio inevitably “kicks the bucket,” I will probably replace it with another PL-660 if it’s still in production.

Some of the SWLs reading this post might ask, “What about the Tecsun PL-880?” Surely, it appears to be a fine radio and seems better than the PL-660 in most areas.

I can’t really stack both radios up to comparison because…well, I don’t have the PL-880. I swore to myself that PL-660 will be my last shortwave that I will buy. It’s not because I am giving up on shortwave; but it is probably the best radio I’ve used and most others don’t compare well against it.

Except maybe the Tecsun PL-880, but that’s not on my shopping list until the PL-660 finally breaks down.

Time To Retire From Shortwave Or Not

It has been a while since this issue has come across my mind. As international broadcasters transmitting to North America continue to dwindle, I wonder whether or not if I should still listen to shortwave radio.

Most of the stations I listened to left this medium and have found the internet. To be honest, I’ve found myself listening to internet radio and podcasts more frequently than my shortwave radio. Broadcasters such as the BBC, Radio Australia, Voice of America, and Deutsche Welle can be found on the web.

Instead of grabbing my Tecsun PL-660, I am using my HTC One as my radio. Using apps like TuneIn Radio, iHeartRadio, and PocketCasts, I am listening to content that I would have normally heard on the HF bands as a kid or perhaps would never hear (shows like “Stuff You Should Know “and “Umm Yeah Dude”). Even one of my favorite Radio Netherlands programs, “The State We’re In,” survives not on shortwave but as a podcast.

I rather connect an audio line-in cable to my phone and HD Radio/Phone dock instead of listening to static. Sound quality and content is what matters to me,  not the device I am hearing it on.

With content leaving shortwave, is it even worth listening to anymore? As of this writing, I am tuned to some jazzy tunes on CBC Radio One via TuneIn Radio. Aside from Radio Habana Cuba, extreme right-wing religious broadcasters, ham radio operators, and stations transmissions targeted to regions far from North America…it seems like I should close this fun, exciting chapter of my life.

However, I am not simply giving up on a fascinating hobby just quite yet. Yes, internet radio is awesome but shortwave radio is here to stay for just a little while longer.

There are some smaller stations like PCJ Media that are expanding their HF presence, thanks to the free space in the bands. In addition, I have two big annoyance with internet radio: buffering and connection caps (thanks Comcast). Hence, this is a reason my Tecsun radio is turned on and not my TuneIn Radio app.

Regardless, I find it hard to recommend a shortwave radio to anyone who has not bothered to have an interest in the hobby. For people interested getting into international broadcasting, internet radio works just fine.

I am also set on the Tecsun PL-660 being the last shortwave radio that I’ll ever buy. Aside from listening to local and national stations, I won’t have a use for it as SW broadcasters continue to leave the airwaves. tunein-300x246

I haven’t abandoned the hobby but it’s getting time to “throw in the towel.” It’s been fun and there are some great experiences that will stay with me.

I even have a nice collection of QSL cards, but this 16 year-old hobby has ran its course. It’s time to fully move onto the wonderful world of Internet radio.

Despite the change in my listening habits, I did manage to catch Radio Romania broadcasting on 6145 kHz on 1/20/2014 around 0100 UTC. This transmission is being received in Memphis, TN USA. Sorry for the blue tint as this is recorded from my HTC One, which has a camera glitch that causes a blue tint to most photos and video (not a white balance issue).

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