Waves and planes, herbs and spices

While the human world is full of isolation and suffering, the natural world is coming out of winter and going into spring. Snowdrops are out, the dawn chorus is coming back, and it's warm enough to go outside in a t-shirt. On the other hand, it never seems to stop raining, which has been great for my sleep.

It's not everyone's cup of tea, but I've been doing more radio stuff this week. I guess it's a hobby that suits lockdown. Radio Nights on Mondays are becoming a regular feature in this blog. For this week, we attempted to get a stream of data from Kipz's NooElec SDR plugged into his OpenWrt router to my computer 30km away over the internet. He sent me over a shell script to pull and run a Docker image for OpenWebRX, which we then portmapped and hooked up to an SSH tunnel back to his router. On my machine I could run either OpenWebRX inside the container, or gqrx on my desktop, and connect to port on my machine. From there I could scan the bands as though I was using the SDR directly, finding data streams on the amateur bands or just listening to how I sound on GB3BS. Later in the week all I needed to do to scan around the bands in Bristol was to open a tunnel and run gqrx. Fun.

Later in the week, we had our regular CDARC training and Richard G4AWP told us a little bit about air scatter. Typically, this involves improving the propagation of radio waves by bouncing them off the body of an aeroplane in flight. Programs such as AirScout calculate a propagation path between two stations using elevation and other data. It then allows the radio operator to follow the aircraft crossing that path in real time. In another window operators often have ON4KST, a chat service which integrates with DX clusters and maps on various bands. There are demonstrations of the technique on AirScout's homepage showing contacts far further than you'd expect otherwise. There are plenty of hills around here, but this might be a fun thing to try out in the summer. There was also a brief discussion about weak signal modes which reminded me of when I was messing around with WSJT a few years ago, sending out little bursts of data on shortwave and seeing where they turned up on PSK Reporter. Once you've hooked up your computer to your radio, there's a lot of stuff you can do.

I have been put in charge of the herb garden at the farm next to me. It consists of three huge planters full of herbs, overlooked by my office window. Back in the summer I visited my friends in Yorkshire, and we'd grab mint, rosemary and thyme from the garden to go in our dinners. I'm looking forward to doing the same. The same friends sent me a bottle of Secret Aardvark habanero sauce this week too. The habanero name makes it sound like one of those sauces whose only function is to show off how spicy a sauce you can take, but in fact the heat is pretty moderate. It contains mustard, carrots and roasted tomatoes, so there's a bit of a pickle flavour there. I warmed up a purposely-bland carrot soup, put some purposely-bland pasta in it. Then I put some of this on, and it tasted really good. By the end of the week I'd used half the bottle.

So, what with one thing and another, I've no real plans this week. Last year I had really got into Dark (2017-2020), but by the time the third series came out I had forgotten all that I needed to remember to be following it properly. So, this week begins the re-watch. I'm also going to make a start on reading fiction again, starting with William Gibson's Neuromancer. I enjoy reading before bed but need to get back into the habit. Besides all that, I might even go outside for some exercise! To whoever is out there reading this, have a good week.