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Weather fax on netbook + portable sony radio

BruceDanforth

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Joined
13 Mar 2004
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17,911
Location
Tyne and Wear
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:

sarabande

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6 May 2005
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34,681
marvellous, many thanks: that must have taken you ages to compile the post.
 

Wandering Star

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8 Feb 2009
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Dorset
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.
 

AngusMcDoon

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20 Oct 2004
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I know how fast I'm going, but not where I am
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.
 

Bilgediver

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6 Jun 2001
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6,828
Location
Scotland
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...
 

agent leman

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30 Dec 2009
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Location
Woodbridge
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
 

sarabande

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6 May 2005
Messages
34,681
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 ?
 

idpnd

Member
Joined
13 Jun 2009
Messages
728
Location
Caribbean
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 ;)
 

BruceDanforth

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Joined
13 Mar 2004
Messages
17,911
Location
Tyne and Wear
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 ?
There's about as much met as you can possibly eat here including the latest versions of these charts.
 

simonjk

New member
Joined
6 Mar 2003
Messages
2,333
Great to see you using RTTY and FAX. These are much ignored and are superb sources of information, especially for those going further afield.

Wheber I am asked what weather kit to take on board I always say.

1. Barometer
2. Barograph
3. WeatherFAX/RTTY
4. Fancy stuff!

Simon
 

Porthandbuoy

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27 Apr 2003
Messages
4,209
Location
The Gareloch
Weather fax

On reading your post I dug out my old Sony ICF-SW7600G and hooked it up to my laptop as you describe. After a bit of faffing around I can recieve and display the charts but not automatically. I keep getteing "ATP Tone found" followed a few seconds later by "False ATP Ignored". If I start manually at that point the chart comes in no problem.
Any ideas?

Tuned to 518 khz and get Navtex okay.

Edit
Ignore plea for help. Cracked it. I thought I had to straddle a peak with the two red lines on the spectrograph. Wrong. You have to align the red lines with TWO peaks; one of which is barely visible except at the start and end of transmission.
 
Last edited:

AngusMcDoon

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I know how fast I'm going, but not where I am
Have you tried it with that model?

It would be useful to have a list of radios that it is known to work with. So far I think we have...

Sony ICF-SW100S discontinued though
Sony ICF-SW7600G approx £100
Degen DE1103 / Kaito KA1103 approx £50, can only find on EBay in UK
Nasa HF3/W with ancient DOS software £175

Any others?

Does this help?
https://www.ogormans.co.uk/Shortwave.htm

The Eton E5 with SSB is £89
 

BruceDanforth

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Joined
13 Mar 2004
Messages
17,911
Location
Tyne and Wear
On reading your post I dug out my old Sony ICF-SW7600G and hooked it up to my laptop as you describe. After a bit of faffing around I can recieve and display the charts but not automatically. I keep getteing "ATP Tone found" followed a few seconds later by "False ATP Ignored". If I start manually at that point the chart comes in no problem.
Any ideas?

Tuned to 518 khz and get Navtex okay.

Edit
Ignore plea for help. Cracked it. I thought I had to straddle a peak with the two red lines on the spectrograph. Wrong. You have to align the red lines with TWO peaks; one of which is barely visible except at the start and end of transmission.
I didn't have to change the lines from their default on my setup.
 

Jmolan

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Joined
5 Sep 2009
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Location
Alaska/Mexico/Oregon
I use the Kaito ka1103. I believe the Degen is the China version.

http://www.eham.net/reviews/detail/5071

I bought this radio because of all the rav reviews it received at the ham radio sites. I don' pretend to be a radio nut, but I have had great success with this little radio. I use it in Mexico to pick up the daily radio nets on the SSB side. They discuss weather for thousands of miles on the cruising nets. My little radio will pull them in mast every day. For under $100 I am very happy....:)

Oh yea the weather fax feature is no problem, but I get lazy with the sailing nets.
 

Porthandbuoy

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Joined
27 Apr 2003
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4,209
Location
The Gareloch
I didn't have to change the lines from their default on my setup.
The Sony has an SSB fine tuning dial. I used that to align the spectrograph peaks with the red lines. Once aligned the AFC in SeaTTY seams to keep things in sync. I found I can do this anywhere between 4608 and 4610 kHz on the Sony.
 

emnick

Member
Joined
30 Sep 2003
Messages
707
Location
Essex
Weather on Radio

Hi,
Sorry to sound stupid but I cant get my head round how you connect the radio to the computer. Do some come with usb connectors or is it via the headphone adaptor? If so how does the computer 'hear' the weather fax sounds??

Are the radios supplied with software to connect or web addresses to do so.

Thanks for any help
 
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