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Codec2 Project Asks FCC To Modernize Regulations

Unknown Lamer posted about a year and a half ago | from the .../.-./-/.-/-../-.-./.-/.../-..-./.-./././.-../-. dept.

Communications 89

Bruce Perens writes "The Codec2 project has developed FreeDV, a program to encode digital voice on two-way radio in only 1.125 KHz of bandwidth. But FCC regulations aren't up-to-speed with the challenges of software-defined radio and Open Source. A 24 page FCC filing created by Bruce Perens proposes that FCC allow all digital modulations and published digital codes on ham radio and switch to bandwidth-based regulation."

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89 comments

Blah blah blah (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42590345)

Blah blah blah I'm Bruce Perens and I'm so wonderful. I get such a kick out of submitting my own worthless shit to the front page.

Re:Blah blah blah (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42590355)

Also I'm so awesome I get to get first post on my own worthless submission. I'm glad I didn't have to pay Unknown Lamer too much to post this dribble. I've got no money 'cause no body trusts me any more.

Also I'm still sad I wasn't invited to the "let's sue the shit out of people abusing the Busybox copyrights" party. I could have made it big!

Re:Blah blah blah (2, Informative)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | about a year and a half ago | (#42590565)

Blah blah blah I'm Bruce Perens and I'm so wonderful. I get such a kick out of submitting my own worthless shit to the front page.

The AC got modded down to oblivion for this comment, and given how it was written and how fast some mods pull the trigger, I'm not surprised.

However, you've got to admit that a Slashdot submission that reads "xxx writes: a 24-page FCC created by xxx proposes that..." make xxx appear insufferably conceited and self-obsessed, be xxx Bruce Perens or anybody else.

Re:Blah blah blah (2)

geminidomino (614729) | about a year and a half ago | (#42592395)

However, you've got to admit that a Slashdot submission that reads "xxx writes: a 24-page FCC created by xxx proposes that..." make xxx appear insufferably conceited and self-obsessed

Or maybe it was just written to read like a "news" article rather than a first-person livejournal (facebook? What are the kids using now?) post.

Re:Blah blah blah (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year and a half ago | (#42595375)

However, you've got to admit that a Slashdot submission that reads "xxx writes: a 24-page FCC created by xxx proposes that..." make xxx appear insufferably conceited and self-obsessed, be xxx Bruce Perens or anybody else.

OR, he simply thought the we might have interest in it...and behold, we do! Some of us, at least.

Re:Blah blah blah (1)

Bruce Perens (3872) | about a year and a half ago | (#42596213)

Hi Roscoe,

I want to have my opinions heard. And having notoriety helps. So I do not shy from self-promotion. But the point here is to get people interested in what I wrote, rather than just me.

It might be different if the purpose was just to sell my stuff. This is a non-profit activity.

About Codec2 (4, Interesting)

thatkid_2002 (1529917) | about a year and a half ago | (#42590351)

For those interested in knowing what Codec2 is, there's a video from Linux Conference Australia 2012 which gives a pretty good (and gentle) overview.
http://mirror.linux.org.au/linux.conf.au/2012/Codec_2_Open_Source_Speech_Coding_at_2400_bits_and_Below.ogv [linux.org.au]

Real World Demo (3, Interesting)

pavon (30274) | about a year and a half ago | (#42591767)

And here is a recent demo [youtu.be] of real world performance. Compared to SSB the encoded voice is more artificial sounding, but there is no background noise (hiss and clicks) and it uses less than half the bandwidth to transmit. There is more info and a large playlist of demo/tutorial videos on David Rowe's blog [rowetel.com] (the creator of codec2).

good luck with that (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42590377)

The regulations to move from 25 khz to 12.5 khz just took effect this year which forced many cash strapped agencies and municipalities to buy new radio systems. I don't think there will be much support for further narrowing bandwidth any time soon.

Re:good luck with that (3, Interesting)

Dan Dankleton (1898312) | about a year and a half ago | (#42590437)

This will affect the amateur HF bands, not the agency bands. At the moment, US rules have separate sub-bands for voice, data and image transmissions. This does not really fit with how modern digital schemes transmit - there could be a lot of metadata carried with digital voice signals, for example. What this proposal does is do away with the rules which say where you can transmit voice and replace it with rules which say you can transmit any signal which takes less than X khz bandwidth in this segment.

Re:good luck with that (5, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | about a year and a half ago | (#42590569)

At the moment, US rules have separate sub-bands for voice, data and image transmissions.

Note that the FCC currently regulates by information content, not modulation. I guess a /. analogy is its like classifying networking tech first by layer 2/3 at the bottom as the "fundamental layer", then layer 1, then the upper layers, sorta. Which is obviously wrong. So if I send you a string of ones and zeros in PSK-31 modulation or whatever, that represents speech, we have to go in one subband on HF. Then if I send you ones and zeros representing text data, like this post, we have to QSY to yet another subband. Then if I send you ones and zeros representing a goatse jpeg picture (which would run afoul of the fcc reg against obscenity, but I digress), we have to QSY to yet another frequency... even if its all the same modulation technology, the same "stuff on the airwaves" for the ones and zeros. Maybe another way to put it, is our "MIME-type" is our frequency subband, not something a little more modern or realistic.

Legally/technically if I went on CW (aka morse code) and told you verbally how to draw an amplifier schematic that could be seen as illegal as its obviously image traffic, no worse than if I sent you postscript code or the ones and zeros of a .png file.

There are two killer problems which may or may not be discussed here.

First the proposal claims to promote "paperwork reduction" while installing a whole new crazy array of complicated regs ON TOP OF the existing overall rules for reasonable and prudent and good engineering practice and emergency traffic priority or WTF the exact phrases. In my opinion as a third generation ham with over three decades of experience, what works with the smart people on the VHF/UHF/microwave bands should work with the glorified CBers on the HF bands, which in summary is do whatever the heck you want as long as its good engineering practice and stays within ham band edges (note this is a simplification, but basically correct). Yes I know this is the peak of this solar cycle but when 10M is closed and dead I see no reason my buddy and I shoudn't be able to use 200 KHz of wideband FM on 10M across the city if we please, because it certainly can't hurt anyone. Or do something weird on 160M during the day time in summer, why not? So the most rational bandplan is not this proposal, but is: Do whatever the F you want between 3.5 MHz and 4 MHz as long as it stays in band edges and follows all the other numerous "content and performance based" regulations (like no intentional interference, good engineering standards, content rules wrt obscenity (which is certainly ignored on 80 and to some extent on 20 aka the high tech redneck CB bands, so why can't we accept that we'll ignore bandwidth limits too?), emergency traffic gets priority, blah blah blah)

The other thing carefully not discussed, regardless if true or not, the widely held belief was Bonnie's plan from a decade ago, mentioned in this very proposal, was just the thin edge of the wedge to fill 20M from band edge to band edge with psuedo-commercial winlink traffic. There's two problems with this. The first is it doesn't seem to modify the unattended operation rules but then again its the thin edge, the next proposal will be expanding the unattended operation subbands to 3.5 to 4 MHz for example, etc. The second is, see #1 above, why should anyone care if the vast majority of hams wanted to use winlink, if so, then let them... its not the "SSB-preservation amateur radio service" or the "AM amateur radio service" or for that matter the "CW amateur radio service".

Well, this mostly accurate history lesson outta stir the pot some.

Re:good luck with that (1)

Nethead (1563) | about a year and a half ago | (#42592017)

"... its not the "SSB-preservation amateur radio service" or the "AM amateur radio service" or for that matter the "CW amateur radio service".

And as a D-Star repeater owner I'd like to also say that 2m/73cm is not the FM-preservation ARS. Listening to people bitch sometimes you'd think that the end of experimentation was when they down tuned the HT220 and stuck new xtals in it. No PL board, of course.

Re:good luck with that (2)

Rob Riggs (6418) | about a year and a half ago | (#42593175)

If the D-star repeater is on an amateur band, it is part of the problem. There's no experimentation with D-star. There's just paying for a hunk of proprietary equipment. But, hey, we need yet another repeater on 2m and 70cm. The ones already there are just so overloaded with traffic!

No, what we need is more free space on these bands for experimentation with digital and analog modes, including some wide-band modes. But for that you need to get rid of some of the bandwidth dedicated to unused repeaters.

Re:good luck with that (1)

Nethead (1563) | about a year and a half ago | (#42593757)

In our area the desire for narrow band repeater slots got our coordinators [wwara.org] to clear out some paper repeaters and make 12.5kHz pairs. It's a start. We're also seeing more and more traffic on the D-Star repeaters. Sure it's just barely updated packet radio, but at least people are out there playing with it and getting on the radio. DRats is kinda fun too.

73 de w7com

Re:good luck with that (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42594111)

Amateur experimentation isn't limited to modulation experimentation. Usage experimentation is actually more common -combining different types of equipment, techniques, uses, etc.

Re:good luck with that (2)

Rob Riggs (6418) | about a year and a half ago | (#42594953)

Amateur experimentation isn't limited to modulation experimentation. Usage experimentation is actually more common -combining different types of equipment, techniques, uses, etc.

No, but that sort of experimentation is open to many more amateurs when using open, non-proprietary technologies.

Sub bands as QOS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42593455)

The current sub band system is not totally crazy. Even on the internet we recognise that different types of "data" have different needs for latency and quality. In order to carry on a voice conversation, you must keep the latency low. When sending a file for later reading, you can afford to wait or retry some packets...

Re:good luck with that (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42593799)

CW is allowed on any part of the band. Morse code 4 evar!

Re:good luck with that (1)

Miamicanes (730264) | about a year and a half ago | (#42595549)

> CW is allowed on any part of the band. Morse code 4 evar!

Ah, yes. Especially the ~200wpm computer-generated Morse we innocently and naively splattered across the HF bands as teenagers (back when the mean old guys at the FCC wouldn't let us use packet, Amtor, or RTTY on HF until we got our Morse speeds up to speeds they deemed worthy).

Of course, back then, we thought of a CW carrier the way we thought of rays in geometry (zero width, infinite length from some starting point), and had NO IDEA that turning the carrier on and off fast enough to make the relay buzz recognizable audio tones of differing frequencies (while using it to turn the transmitter itself on and off) actually created real-world AM-like interference as surely as if we'd plugged a mic into the radio and broadcast the sound of the relay buzzing away. Sigh. The joyful summer-vacation innocence of youth :-D

Re:good luck with that (1)

Achra (846023) | about a year and a half ago | (#42598091)

http://www.w8ji.com/cw_bandwidth_described.htm [w8ji.com]

FYI, this is now on at least one of the licensing tests. (I can't recall which one).

Re:good luck with that (2)

Bruce Perens (3872) | about a year and a half ago | (#42596121)

irst the proposal claims to promote "paperwork reduction" while installing a whole new crazy array of complicated regs ON TOP OF the existing overall rules for reasonable and prudent and good engineering practice and emergency traffic priority or WTF the exact phrases.

You may have been confused by the stuff in the right-hand side of the big table. That's all existing FCC rules. I just moved them to where they'd be seen, instead of having them live in a list of footnotes as in the current Part 97.

If we are going to have unattended traffic, there needs to at least be a ham-adminstered band-plan to keep it in a subband. Nobody wins if unattended traffic is a big HF band user in non-emergency operations.

Thanks

Bruce

Re:good luck with that (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42599977)

"Legally/technically if I went on CW (aka morse code) and told you verbally how to draw an amplifier schematic that could be seen as illegal as its obviously image traffic, no worse than if I sent you postscript code or the ones and zeros of a .png file."

That might be what a prosecuting attorney would use as a definition... To most people, I think explaining how to build a schematic would be the same as giving driving directions to someone. Now, does that mean I am sending an image because it could be visualized as a map??!?!!?!?!

How about a funny loophole: Officer, I wasn't transmitting a picture, those beeps are techno music that I enjoy listening to that just happen to also be decoded as an image file ;)

Re:good luck with that (1)

Rob Riggs (6418) | about a year and a half ago | (#42591233)

This will affect the amateur HF bands, not the agency bands.

The proposal affects all amateur bands from my reading, not just HF. I really like this proposal. Someone needs to kick the ARRL in the pants.

Re:good luck with that (2)

Dan Dankleton (1898312) | about a year and a half ago | (#42591409)

The whole proposal covers all the amateur bands - but I think (the FCC are not my radio authority) that the mode issue is something which only affects the HF bands.

I agree that it's a great thing though - I was amazed just the other day when I suggested sending data during silent portions of a voice conversation and was told that this would be against US rules.

Re:good luck with that (2)

tlhIngan (30335) | about a year and a half ago | (#42592359)

The whole proposal covers all the amateur bands - but I think (the FCC are not my radio authority) that the mode issue is something which only affects the HF bands.

I agree that it's a great thing though - I was amazed just the other day when I suggested sending data during silent portions of a voice conversation and was told that this would be against US rules.

For HF bands, mode is a significant issue, and no, the FCC can't actually do a damned thing about it because it's all dictated by the ITU.

Remember, the HF band can reach beyond a country quite easily (after all, people do contests to see the furthest location they can reach on 5W), so it ends up being a whole multinational mess. And the ITU moves very slowly - we're talking on the order of decades to get anything passed because every country is affected.

Far easier on the VHF and UHF+ bands since the signals stay local.

Re:good luck with that (1)

Bruce Perens (3872) | about a year and a half ago | (#42596169)

The 97.309(a) change I suggest effects all international communication. Not just HF but satellite. I hope they go for my standard of "publicly documented in sufficient detail that a knowledgeable programmer can implement a program to encode and decode".

Re:good luck with that (2)

sunderland56 (621843) | about a year and a half ago | (#42590445)

His proposal is for *amateur* radio. Commercial radio would not be affected.

In the amateur radio space, the aim of the only-use-approved-standards legislation is to allow the FCC to monitor amateur communications. If this passes, it would make it far more difficult for the FCC to enforce their regulations, and make it much easier for non-amateurs to illegally use these bands. Hopefully someone will petition the FCC to stop this by playing the "terrorists will use this" card.

Digital communications experimentation is already allowed at UHF frequencies so this proposal really does not gain anything at all. It's not like the amateur bands are over crowded.

Be careful... (5, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year and a half ago | (#42590423)

"Dear economically invisible 'ham radio' users;

  After an exhaustive modernization study underwritten in part by our good friends at Verizon, we have concluded that the future of digital voice should really cost ~$100/month and rely entirely on proprietary hardware and firmware. To this end, we will be lowballing every last scrap of spectrum we can to the nation's incumbent telcos as soon as possible.

XOXOXO,

The FCC"

I applaud modernization efforts, there is no reason why 'ham radio' should be forced to stick to ancient technology for reasons of sheer regulatory inertia when it could be fertile ground for experimentation; but I worry that (given the, um, limited war chests of ham nerds vs. other spectrum users) that perfectly sensible re-examinations of legacy rules might well end up becoming an exercise in malignant entities with better lobbyists using the rexamination of legacy rules to appropriate spectrum that was protected at the cost of a certain amount of anachronism...

Re:Be careful... (2)

vlm (69642) | about a year and a half ago | (#42590601)

appropriate spectrum

I suspect they'd really like 440/902/1296/2304/3456 but this proposal is for HF. Nobody wants to carry an antenna for 160M attached to their shiny new iphone. Or even 10M.

Re:Be careful... (1)

Miamicanes (730264) | about a year and a half ago | (#42595943)

Exactly. The HF bands are almost commercially useless today. If you need reliable commercial communication in the most remote parts of central Africa or the western Amazon, you'd use a satellite phone. You might carry a ham radio with you for social communication, but you'd have to be insane & suicidal to head off into the African jungle or Amazon with nothing but a 20m radio. Even IF the US decided to unilaterally hijack the HF bands and sell them off to commercial users, interference from everyone else in the world would render it almost unusable.

For anyone who needs more proof, witness the stampede of American TV stations AWAY from VHF. 25 years ago, VHF was the beachfront property of the broadcasting world, and UHF was the housing project where the poor local broadcasters got warehoused. Now, nobody wants VHF anymore (esp. channels 2-5), and channels 14-~30 are the hottest and most completely prime channels money can lease.

Re:Be careful... (2)

k6mfw (1182893) | about a year and a half ago | (#42591079)

... there is no reason why 'ham radio' should be forced to stick to ancient technology for reasons of sheer regulatory inertia when it could be fertile ground for experimentation...

There are some hams that are experimenting with other modes besides AM, FM, SSB though amateur radio is an aging community (fewer young people than decades ago). But gotta be careful when promoting new modes such as digital. D-star is a digital mode that claims to be open source but it really is not (only Icom has D-star radios). Just like APCO-25 which they say is also open source. Both are except the vocoder, that's what you got to pay someone to use.

Re:Be careful... (2)

ebunga (95613) | about a year and a half ago | (#42591501)

Did you seriously say "fewer young people"? I'm seeing the exact opposite on every band except 40m. Even the VE sessions tend to be staffed with mostly under-30-year-olds these days. It's a very different hobby than when I was first licensed, mostly for the better.

Re:Be careful... (1)

ai4px (1244212) | about a year and a half ago | (#42592003)

I tried to get my 11 year old daughter to get her ticket before she got interested in boys (you know, that age).... alas she did not pass and happily texts on her cell phone all day long. I'll work on my boy as he comes of age, but so far no interest. It's really difficult to impress kids today with the idea that you can talk to someone around the world or send a packet radio message in this day of universal internet access. To them, ham radio is the hard way to do things.

Re:Be careful... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42594373)

Ham radio always was the hard way to do things. It was always easier to send a telegram or a letter than a radiogram.

Amateur radio's value isn't in convenience.

Re:Be careful... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42595297)

Honestly I think it's the time investment.

I blew my test by 2 questions back before they pulled the morse code requirement, and never got back for a retest due to school and life and other things, but even if I had the initial hardware investment was out of my personal budget (It would've been a father son project, although he passed the test and blew off the morse code testing, rather than get qualified himself, sadly.)

It seems like the software defined recievers might be a better way to get kids interested, and then once hooked, imply to them how much more fun they could have if they could also SEND. Kind of like letting your kid ride shotgun at an autocross, or track day, and then when they're cheering about how exciting it was, telling them how much more fun they could have if they'd just put in the effort to get certified to be in the driver's seat.

Re:Be careful... (1)

Nate B. (2907) | about a year and a half ago | (#42596897)

Please, don't "work" on your son. The last thing he needs is to think that he's obligated to participate in dad's hobby. If/when he shows an interest then guide but don't press him. Pressing can only leave a bad impression of amateur radio on him if he clearly is not interested. Enjoy your participation in the hobby and perhaps he'll find it interesting in its own right. If so, great, if not, don't let your ego get bruised.

Also, amateur radio appeals to those interested in radio for radio's sake and experimenting with technologies on top of that. Comparing it to commercial telecom services really does amateur radio a disservice. The two aren't even in the same universe. Let's get away from repeating the mistake of comparing amateur radio to commercial services.

Re:Be careful... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42595665)

Really?
I can't think I have EVER heard anyone that sounded under 40 on 2 meters and not on HF in a decade at least.

Re:Be careful... (1)

Achra (846023) | about a year and a half ago | (#42591995)

... though amateur radio is an aging community (fewer young people than decades ago).

I'm not sure that this is true any longer. With the advent of removing all morse code requirements from all amateur radio licenses, it really opened the doors to the casually interested technical engineer. I am a third generation ham and from what I have observed, amateur radio basically "skipped a generation" in general. There was a time when electronics MEANT radio. Period. If you were talking about electronics, you were talking about radio. However, that changed in my father's generation to electronics meaning Computers. That generation never became amateur radio operators, because their interest in electronics went in the direction of computers instead of radio. My generation seems to be focused on combining the two. I know a lot of ancient and crusty hams and a lot of fairly young hams. Not so many in-between. I'd be interested to see some real statistical numbers regarding total licenses and ages, if any such exist.

Re:Be careful... (1)

Bruce Perens (3872) | about a year and a half ago | (#42596005)

We are getting a lot of new hams since we got rid of the Morse Code requirement (which I evangelized for years). There are more hams today in the US than there ever have been!

Back in the Real World... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42591811)

The FCC has a keen understanding of the fact that amateur radio operators provide services that economically-motivated corporations cannot. When a hurricane, earthquake, or tornado takes out every cellular network within 100 miles of a populated area full of casualties requiring urgent delivery of specific life-sustaining resources, the monthly economics of routine day-to-day life are irrelevant. Implying that the FCC would dismiss amateur radio as irrelevant reveals a lack of understanding of the active and engaged relationship between the FCC and a large body of disaster responders - amateur radio operators. Additionally, as a lobbying power, the amateur radio community is widely respected and is the envy of many groups because of their organization, focus on key issues, and deep involvement in coordinating rulemaking and regulation. The amateur radio community's war chest is able to achieve more, from a governmental aspect, than most similar groups supporting different types of activities.

Re:Be careful... (2)

ai4px (1244212) | about a year and a half ago | (#42591949)

Bravo... Many modulation modes can't be attempted because of FCC regulations. Heck, even AFSK1200 modems have a CW ID built into their firmware! The commercial interests have bypassed ham radio's wunderland of yesteryear. I hate to say it, but innovation is not where ham radio is now. Didn't I see on QRZ a year ago the FCC was considering allowing spread spectrum for the ham bands? wow. What trailblazers we are.

Re:Be careful... (1)

ai4px (1244212) | about a year and a half ago | (#42592139)

Also, I'll go on a little rant here... Many of the clubs look at their repeater as a "service" and not a base for experimentation or advancing the radio hobby. Case in point... for years I tried to get the club in my area to allow me to put equipment on the repeater that would mute Mic-Encoder packets from the output of the repeater to no avail. They looked at the repeater as a service that could not be interrupted for an instant or tinkered with. So after years of trying in two cities, I gave up. It ain't just the FCC holding us back.

Re:Be careful... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42594243)

There are plenty of experimental repeaters out there. Many of them are simplex, internet linked, micro-repeaters. The tech has to be refined on those before it's shifted to the big, expensive, wide area repeaters that people rely on having 100% uptime.

Re:Be careful... (4, Informative)

Muad'Dave (255648) | about a year and a half ago | (#42592033)

...it could be fertile ground for experimentation...

It is a fertile ground for experimentation! You need look no farther than the recent influx of extremely spectrum-efficient modes developed by K1JT [princeton.edu] . He's developed modes tailored for most any propagation mode/band including meteor scatter, moonbounce, etc.

The newest of the lot, the JT9 modes, are capable of decoding signals as far as 42dB into the noise! [princeton.edu] . The fastest JT9 mode takes 1 minute per transmission but can decode at a S/N of -27dB - that's noise with 500x the power of the signal.

Take a look at the WSPR page [wsprnet.org] - on it you can access a database of WSPR transmissions [wsprnet.org] , some of them at amazingly high km/Watt ratios.

Re:Be careful... (1)

Bruce Perens (3872) | about a year and a half ago | (#42595981)

A great many hams are lawyers. This has some interesting uses for our project, since codecs are one of the more litigious areas of technology. A pile-on defense is actually helpful, since the other side is generally trying to make you broke while you defend yourself. We can turn that around in the Free Software tradition.

And of course it helps with spectrum defense. But there is also an ARRL Spectrum Defense fund to which you are encouraged to donate.

Bruce Perenes (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42590427)

More crap from the shameless promotor Perenes. Glad he took a break from sucking dick for quarters.

From *what* department? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42590499)

What is the SRTADCAS/REELN department?

Re:From *what* department? (1)

derfy (172944) | about a year and a half ago | (#42590509)

I thought it was what you see in web server access logs, just with the /etc/passwd cut off.

Re:From *what* department? (1)

Bruce Perens (3872) | about a year and a half ago | (#42596239)

Maybe he looked up Continental code instead of the International Morse code. I'm not parsing it either.

I agree with the end goal, Bruce (3, Interesting)

Muad'Dave (255648) | about a year and a half ago | (#42590535)

The end goal of moving toward more spectrally-efficient digital modes for all forms of communication is laudable, but I think that there still needs to be some 'semi-official' protection for the traditional SSB phone modes while they're still in widespread use. Most robust digital modulation schemes are fairly immune to interference from adjacent SSB voice transmissions; unfortunately the converse is not true - my Mark I ears are not immune to nearby digital interference. As long as we still have band plans that encourage the separation of all digital modes from the analog modes, I fully support your proposal.

A question, though: How does spread-spectrum fit into your bandwidth-based plan? Do you consider the bandwidth to be what's used by each individual chip or the SS signal over all its carriers?

How do you feel about introducing a CDMA-esque automatic listen-before-transmit rule for computer-based digital modes, particularly with the growth of unattended stations?

PS - There's a typo in item 79 in the 20m, 6kHz section of the proposed bandwidth table - you have the lower limit as 1.150 MHz instead of 14.150 MHz.

73 de K4DET

Re:I agree with the end goal, Bruce (2)

vlm (69642) | about a year and a half ago | (#42590641)

As long as we still have band plans that encourage the separation of all digital modes from the analog modes, I fully support your proposal.

Its important to note that there are a zillion levels of regulation, and the current obsolete rules are the wrong level for the regulation, not just the wrong rules at that level as Bruce's plan claims.

For example, how many contests have you heard lately on the WARC bands? Thats a gentleman's agreement thats held for decades now.

I don't see anything wrong with a gentlemans agreement to never operate USB with a digital station higher in freq than you and never operate digital with a USB station lower in freq than you. Or something similar. It doesn't have to be written into fcc part 97, any more than ending a qso or post with 73 has to be written into part 97.

73 and have a nice day

Re:I agree with the end goal, Bruce (1)

Muad'Dave (255648) | about a year and a half ago | (#42591615)

vlm,

I agree completely. The current 'gentleman's agreements' (aka voluntary band plans) do work and can continue to do so as long as they're also amended to reflect the new bandwidth-based FCC rules and are still recognized by the FCC in instances of interference. A quote from Riley Hollingsworth [ussc.com] : "Band plans are voluntary in nature," Hollingsworth acknowledged in each of the similarly worded letters. He said the FCC depends upon voluntary compliance because it minimizes the necessity for the Commission to be called in to resolve amateur problems. "Where interference results from band plans not being followed," Hollingsworth continued, "the Commission expects substantial justification to be shown by the operators ignoring the band plans."

According to this Wikipedia entry [wikipedia.org] , region 1 already has a bandwidth-driven bandplan and hints that the RSGB's plan (that the UK gov't accepts as official) will too.

The IARU's suggested bandplan for region 2 already has suggested bandwidth limits [iaru-r2.org] and encourages member states to adopt it.

Re:I agree with the end goal, Bruce (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42593891)

Agreed. Many of us are still using rigs from the 90's, some from the earliest days of SSB. These rigs don't necessarily support digital modes. At all. But I can attest they are still fun, and much experimentation revolves around these older rigs, too. SSB is of course by far the biggest consumer of ham bandwidth on HF, only because no one uses FM or AM.

Re:I agree with the end goal, Bruce (1)

lucifuge31337 (529072) | about a year and a half ago | (#42599329)

Agreed. Many of us are still using rigs from the 90's, some from the earliest days of SSB. These rigs don't necessarily support digital modes.

What do you mean, "not necessarily"? I just set up FreeDV and made a contact with a friend using an old PC I have for logging and runnign fldigi and a Yaesu FT-101EE from 1976. Worked just fine.

Re:I agree with the end goal, Bruce (1)

Bruce Perens (3872) | about a year and a half ago | (#42596571)

Oops. Thanks for the typo.

We have had other spread-spectrum rule-makings lately. If you want to experiment with it on HF you should apply for a Special Testing Authority. The problem is, as you obviously already know, getting the existing HF operators to live with it. I didn't specifically address SS, but the bands with wide bandwidth or "Not Specified" can obviously handle it. I thought the document was ambitious enough without talking about spread spectrum.

CSMA doesn't work that well on HF. Sometimes you should be able to share a frequency with distant operators even though they fade in and out, etc. However, it makes sense if you are doing automatic link establishment.

Re:I agree with the end goal, Bruce (1)

Muad'Dave (255648) | about a year and a half ago | (#42601855)

Thanks for the reply, Bruce.

You said, "CSMA doesn't work that well on HF. Sometimes you should be able to share a frequency with distant operators even though they fade in and out, etc. However, it makes sense if you are doing automatic link establishment."

The reason I mentioned a listen-before-transmit was to try and mitigate the unintentional-yet-preventable interference that would undoubtedly occur if SSB and data modes where thrown together cheek by jowl. All it would take would be a DXpedition working split to cause havoc. In the case of an SSB DXPedition, I'd hope that the human ops would be listening on their tx freq to prevent them from transmitting over a data QSO. This does not always happen, I realize. Given that some?/many?/most? data operators have the audio turned down and are busy looking at their rx freq on waterfall instead of actually listening, they could unintentionally QRM an SSB signal as they go "UP UP UP" with the VFO to be heard.

I agree your proposal is ambitious, but I think it's probably the right thing to do given the surge in popularity and utility of the newer data modes.

Re:I agree with the end goal, Bruce (1)

Bruce Perens (3872) | about a year and a half ago | (#42603003)

We can definitely see SSB on our waterfall. And it interferes with us somewhat. This isn't like the ultra-narrow slow digital modes like WSPR or PSK31 where you might not have to care about another station on the frequency. So, I think our operators would generally avoid it.

Re:I agree with the end goal, Bruce (1)

Muad'Dave (255648) | about a year and a half ago | (#42605573)

If it's strong enough you can see SSB. Given the bandwidth, the power is spread pretty thin (it's hard for me to imagine I said that - SSB is wide? Being narrowband was a selling point over AM and FM. How far we've come!).

For the record, I'm also a digital kind of guy, and have made a fair number of JT9-1 contacts recently as well as being an FSK441 lurker.

I think we're in fierce agreement. One of these days I hope to work you on the air. 73, Bruce!

Bruce Perens isn't asking, ARRL is (2)

ebunga (95613) | about a year and a half ago | (#42591175)

Bruce is merely lending his support with a comment. Also, the FCC wants to go that way because it makes the rules simpler. Also, we're already mostly there. Then again, who has actually read all of Part 97?

Re:Bruce Perens isn't asking, ARRL is (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42594467)

I did, back when I first got my license. I usually review it every five years or so, or when I hear there's a particularly significant change.

Re:Bruce Perens isn't asking, ARRL is (2)

Bruce Perens (3872) | about a year and a half ago | (#42596179)

I am indeed asking for a ton of stuff that ARRL did not. I support what ARRL asks for, but the don't ask for enough to explicitly authorize FreeDV.

Who cares about the FCC? (0)

Gordonjcp (186804) | about a year and a half ago | (#42591665)

I'll use any digital codec I want, and the FCC can't do anything about it.

73s de MM0YEQ

Re:Who cares about the FCC? (1)

Dan Dankleton (1898312) | about a year and a half ago | (#42591905)

US based amateurs?

Personally I'm happy with my OFCOM rules though.

MD1CLV

Re:Who cares about the FCC? (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | about a year and a half ago | (#42593381)

Personally I'm happy with my OFCOM rules though.

Yes indeed. For the Americans (and other humour-impaired), over here you can pretty much run what you like as long as you're within band and not making a nuisance of yourself.

Now, back to 50kHz-wide 32kbps data!

spark-gap even? (1)

r00t (33219) | about a year and a half ago | (#42600915)

The FCC won't let us run spark-gap transmitters.

Re:spark-gap even? (1)

makomk (752139) | about a year and a half ago | (#42601529)

Aren't spark-gap transmitters forbidden by international treaty? I doubt you could find many places that allow them.

What's it for? (2, Insightful)

cdrguru (88047) | about a year and a half ago | (#42591799)

The question today that needs to be answered is what is Amateur radio for, and what is it for 10 years from now?

This isn't silly because a large portion of the "social" aspect of HAM radio has moved to the Internet. I don't see much of a movement to keep it alive, either. There is a very small community out there and it is shrinking.

It is true that historically the FCC HAM regulations were designed to keep operators from stepping on each other and from stepping on commercial and government users of the spectrum. What I suspect is most feared by today's HAM operators is the CB-ification of Amateur radio - elimination of licensing in favor of commercially regulated gear. While a lot of today's users would be OK with that, it would change the entire definition and purpose - which brings us back to the original question.

I don't see the FCC signing on to the Open Source Radio Support Act as proposed. Continuing to regulate by content type is silly and it may be silly to try to regulate by modulation type. It is a nice idea to say that transmissions have to universally decodable, but without a lot of standards and regulation to back them up this isn't going to be all that achievable - specifically reception of a bitstream without any definition is going to be pretty much inpenetratable. Just as today if I give you a binary file without any self-defining header and without identification like a file extension it could be pretty much anything and while it could be coded in a publically defined way without knowing which of thousands it could be renders it unreadable. This is similar to saying that an unknown compression scheme is the same as encryption.

I think today's HAM operators need to have a more compelling case why they are going to continue to exist. The home-brew gear of yesteryear is nearly gone and the "experimentation" envisioned with digitial communications might be nice to authorize but unlikely to ever produce anything of value. I would certainly like to see an openness dedicated to satellite communications, but again who is it for and what would it be used for?

Re:What's it for? (2)

GrendelT (252901) | about a year and a half ago | (#42592449)

Just "ham" will do, it's no acronym. No need to capitalize anything in this hobby.

FWIW, I'm a ham experimenter, I homebrew things quite often. Ham radio is, and has always been, about experimentation and learning/discovery- everything else is ancillary. True, the numbers have dropped significantly since the advent of the internet and web but I'd argue that many of those were the "appliance operators" who played with ham radio simply because there was no good, technical alternative.

Today, ham radio operators make up about 1% of the population in the US, Canada and European countries (my own calculations done a couple years ago). The numbers are not staggering, but the technical prowess of this small cadre of hobbyists is huge. While not all in today's ham community are experimenters, in the past not all were experimenters then. Part of the reason of the decline in the DIY movement in ham radio is the obsolescence of through-hole parts for RF circuitry. The "IF can" is one such part I've been searching for recently. Toko, the largest manufacturer of this part, discontinued the line as more and more product manufacturers moved to SMT. Granted, there are plenty of parts to make plenty of radio kits and projects - I'm just citing one example of the trend.

Your assessment of the CB-ification of ham radio is spot on. That is the moment that hams will know the end is nigh. Already with the Morse Code requirement being lifted many old-timers said it would be the death of radio. It actually allowed license numbers to swell (relatively) following that shift. Morse Code as a method of communication is not ideal, but it has its uses as a hobby. There's no need to require anyone to learn Morse Code just as there's no reason to require every would-be programmer to learn Assembly. You can operate at a higher level and still enjoy the experience.

So why is ham radio still relevant? Because society still doesn't know everything about RF and propagation. Because hams are still making discoveries. Because ham radio is one of many outlets for the hardware hacker. Because we don't know what the future holds, but hams will continue to experiment and publish their findings which can be used in industry and further research in physics, astronomy and engineering.

Sure there's market value in the spectrum that has been set aside as a non-profit playground for a bunch of amateur hobbyists, should we sell it off because it's worth money? Why not sell off the National Parks system? They're not all making money hand over fist (if at all). All that land for sale could really make a fortune for the US government. (Imagine the view on those condos peering out over the peak of every hill and dale in Yellowstone - the rent on those things could be a real goldmine!) Selling a finite resource without putting aside some for recreation, enjoyment and research is short-sighted. Financiers swoop in and pay top dollar today for a resource you can never get back. That money is squandered on bureaucracy and waste and in no time the money is gone, yet your public loss of the resource perpetuates into tomorrow. What then? To what end are we willing to sell short tomorrow's playground for today's quick cash?

Re:What's it for? (1)

Alioth (221270) | about a year and a half ago | (#42593093)

Why should surface mount be such a barrier? Lots of non-radio electronics enthusiasts are comfortable with SMD out of necessity, because many interesting devices (for example FPGAs) are only available in fine pitch SMD. I frequently solder fine pitch SMD stuff by hand, once you know how it's done (and there are HUNDREDS of tutorials on YouTube) it's not actually any more difficult than through hole. I've also home made my own PCBs which take 0.4mm pin pitch devices - now that's a bit more time consuming (you have to be very fastidious when doing the toner transfer to the copper clad), it's a long way from being impossible.

Re:What's it for? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42595415)

Probably because many people roll BGA in with SMD components.

Honestly given that there's now hot-air rework stations for under 2-300 dollars, it seems like far less of an issue to handling advanced hardware assembly and repair than it was even 2-3 years ago, when just the station costs would've been prohibitively expensive.

Re:What's it for? (1)

GrendelT (252901) | about a year and a half ago | (#42596185)

No, I'm not lumping BGA in with surface mount.

It's relatively easy but you have to admit it's not as easy to assemble as through hole. If you disagree, you must have never built a through hole project (it's a walk in the park compared to SMD).

Re:What's it for? (1)

Bruce Perens (3872) | about a year and a half ago | (#42596663)

I have a surface mount workstation at home. I've been cheering on Chris Testa [slashdot.org] , whose mobile SDR design is mostly surface mount. He did run into problems with a module socket that was awful to solder.

through-hole is way harder (1)

r00t (33219) | about a year and a half ago | (#42600987)

You need a decent-quality drill press. Without that, you'll be snapping bits like crazy and you'll have the drill bit walk to the wrong spot before it catches the material enough to dig in. Even with a drill press, you'll wear through the bits at an annoying rate.

You need to do something about parts falling out while you solder them. This is because they are upside-down, unless you hold the board over your head with solder dripping on your face.

You need lots more heat because you have lots more solder and bigger leads. You may burn the board or component.

Suggestion: if you are stuck using through-hole components, go with dead-bug construction. This means you place the components upside-down on an unetched board, using the board only as a ground plane. You make point-to-point connections with insulated wires.

Re:What's it for? (1)

chihowa (366380) | about a year and a half ago | (#42596801)

Part of the reason of the decline in the DIY movement in ham radio is the obsolescence of through-hole parts for RF circuitry.

I don't really see where all of the hate for SMT comes from. Through-hole is great for your first little flashing LED kits and certain high power gear, but SMT isn't really much harder work with. Once you're comfortable with it, you are able to design much more complex circuits and lay them out much more easily. You also have access to an enormous stock of ICs for every purpose, simplifying circuit design even more.

I think that SMT is a godsend to radio amateurs. Most of my experimentation is in smallish portable radios and SMDs allow me to make powerful equipment in a reasonable size and weight.

Re:What's it for? (1)

slimjim8094 (941042) | about a year and a half ago | (#42592743)

I'd say this is a troll, but I suspect you're serious. So I'll address your points individually:

The question today that needs to be answered is what is Amateur radio for, and what is it for 10 years from now?

Amateur radio isn't "for" anything. It's for experimentation, recreation, practice, etc. Those never go away.

This isn't silly because a large portion of the "social" aspect of HAM radio has moved to the Internet.

A lot of people looking to avoid paying phone bills to chat overseas have moved to the internet. The hobby is arguably better off without people who wanted to achieve some specific task, as opposed to experiment with radio more generally.

I don't see much of a movement to keep it alive, either. There is a very small community out there and it is shrinking.

Wrong. With the elimination of the code requirements, there's been a sharp uptick in the number of people getting licensed

It is true that historically the FCC HAM regulations were designed to keep operators from stepping on each other and from stepping on commercial and government users of the spectrum. What I suspect is most feared by today's HAM operators is the CB-ification of Amateur radio - elimination of licensing in favor of commercially regulated gear. While a lot of today's users would be OK with that, it would change the entire definition and purpose - which brings us back to the original question.

What? Ignoring the fact that there's treaties requiring licensing to use ham spectrum, there's a lot of hobbyists tweaking their radios or building their own outright (look up QRP on wikipedia). It's the only radio service where that's allowed, and it's not going anywhere.

I don't see the FCC signing on to the Open Source Radio Support Act as proposed. Continuing to regulate by content type is silly and it may be silly to try to regulate by modulation type. It is a nice idea to say that transmissions have to universally decodable, but without a lot of standards and regulation to back them up this isn't going to be all that achievable - specifically reception of a bitstream without any definition is going to be pretty much inpenetratable. Just as today if I give you a binary file without any self-defining header and without identification like a file extension it could be pretty much anything and while it could be coded in a publically defined way without knowing which of thousands it could be renders it unreadable. This is similar to saying that an unknown compression scheme is the same as encryption.

Sure, of course. But that's not really the point - it's to prevent the use of anything like encryption, which would just give the first taxi service to use encryption a free radio channel.

I think today's HAM operators need to have a more compelling case why they are going to continue to exist. The home-brew gear of yesteryear is nearly gone and the "experimentation" envisioned with digitial communications might be nice to authorize but unlikely to ever produce anything of value. I would certainly like to see an openness dedicated to satellite communications, but again who is it for and what would it be used for?

This is so off the mark I'm not sure where to start. A big history of emergency communications probably justifies the amateur service on its own. Homebrew gear isn't going anywhere. The experimentation with digital communications has created many things of value if you wanted to look them up. Not sure what you're saying about satellites.

I think this all comes back to the first thing - the mistaken notion that ham (not HAM) radio has a "point". The "point" is that it's the only radio service for hobbyists, experimenters, etc to use precisely because there's no "point".

73 de KC2YWE

Re:What's it for? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42594197)

I have to agree with you. I got into ham radio last year as a place to learn communications and electronics. I like building radios too. Where else can you build a radio and use it to receive and transmit on the air as a hobby? Or use it to build radio controlled cars?

When I took my Technician class exam last year, I saw lots of people there of different ages. Some kids taking the test too. There were more Volunteer Examiners there than what was needed. Some hams showed up simply to hang out with other hams.

As for the internet, it simply allows hams to more easily communicate their ideas.

The HF bands at night are alive and kicking. I even hear newbies getting on the air for the first time, such as, the Boy Scouts.

After I passed my exam, another ham took me to their car and allowed me to make my first contact on their radio. That was fun.

So, I see amateur radio will continue to be useful for me and others well into the future.

Re:What's it for? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42593111)

One of the main reasons that Amateur Radio still exists is its role in disaster/emergency communication. As was seen after hurricane Kartina, Ham operaters kept communications going into and out of the affected areas when cell towers were down or overloaded, and more complex systems had been mostly destroyed or rendered usless.

The more complex a communication system is, the easier it is to put out of action. Many Amateurs are equiped and prepared to take equipment and go where needed when needed. Many can manufacture effective anennas out of copper wire and a few bits of rope and plastic in just a few minutes.

The FCC has wisely rejected regulation by bandwidth proposals because not all modes that use similar bandwidths are compatible with each other. Potential for interference to adjacent modes must be concidered, as well as other factors.

Re:What's it for? (1)

Hatta (162192) | about a year and a half ago | (#42593465)

I would certainly like to see an openness dedicated to satellite communications, but again who is it for and what would it be used for?

Openness is for everyone.

Re:What's it for? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42593997)

Shrinking? Hardly. There are more licensed hams in the US now than at any time in the past. Geeks and makers are jumping in in droves since the removal of the morse code (CW) requirement a few years ago. They are doing all kinds of valuable experimentation with digital modes and radio construction technique; notably software defined radio, and even learning CW just for the fun of it; it remains a valuable and useful comm mode despite what the FCC or coast guard believes. When your computer goes down, CW will still work, and can be built out of a minimum of components. If I was stuck on a desert island with a downed aircraft, the one personal skill I would want is CW. Freelance radio experimentation has been repeatedly exploited by commercial interests since the beginning of amateur radio; without it you wouldn't have wifi and cell phones, at least not yet. Any geek worth his salt ought to get a license now that it is so easy. For one thing, hams are a community of geeks

Re:What's it for? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42594037)

The Amateur Radio (hams) community is growing in the USA, why just today the ARRL put out an article: 2012 Marks All-Time High for Amateur Radio Licenses

Re:What's it for? (1)

hypergreatthing (254983) | about a year and a half ago | (#42594999)

anything of value

Your entire post is inflammatory. If you knew anything about radio you would know that there has been some amazing things coming out of amateur radio these past few years. Fundongle, softrock sdr kits, sdr in general and lots of homebrew on that. You clearly don't have a single clue what you're talking about.

Re:What's it for? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42599419)

"very small community out there and it is shrinking" Bullshit. Pure bullshit. There are now more hams in the US than EVER before, let alone worldwide.

http://www.arrl.org/news/2012-marks-all-time-high-for-amateur-radio-licenses

From the what department? SRTADCAS/REELN? (2)

GrendelT (252901) | about a year and a half ago | (#42591969)

"from the SRTADCAS/REELN dept"? WTF is that?

C'mon Slashdot, if you're going to use Morse code in the dept line, at least look it up and make something witty. My how things have changed here.

Re:From the what department? SRTADCAS/REELN? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42594149)

Came here for this, not disappointed.

Someone will curiously think parent is offtopic, but I really want to know what SRTADCAS/REELN is supposed to mean.

Re:From the what department? SRTADCAS/REELN? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42594217)

Right? I even tried to consider numerical shorthand, but at best that is 5.018 CAS/REEL 9, which is also nonsensical.

Not an issue in Canada (3, Interesting)

ubergeek65536 (862868) | about a year and a half ago | (#42592011)

In Canada any codec can be used in ham radio as long as the signal fits in the allocated bandwidth for the frequency and no encryption is used. The restriction is that you must publish the method before going on the air.

Re:Not an issue in Canada (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42594465)

That and band plans that are "gentleman's agreements" are much better than the FCC's legally enforceable, but never enforced, version.

mod 04 (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42592175)

and 4iss Rcocktail. for it. I don't

"Pending Radio Legislation" OT? (1)

k6mfw (1182893) | about a year and a half ago | (#42594275)

Well, not sure if applicable but I just gotta post this (some years ago I copied this editorial from magazine, I typed up the content). So here you go with a blast from the past (and yet we hear this same argument since then).

Pending Radio Legislation
from the magazine Radio Age, July 1924

CONGRESS has adjourned without acting either way on pending radio legislation, according to the news dispatches from Washington.

Unless a special session is called, which does not seem likely at this time, radio will be untouched by legal attachments until next year, at least.

The two most important measures which were shelved by the adjournment of the well-meaning but unusually deliberative governmental bodies are the White Bill and the Dill Bill. The first proposes to establish governmental control over radio broadcasting, reception and perhaps the industry eventually. This bill, while not viciously attacked, did not go through because some representatives of the people wanted to know just why such a young and untried industry as radio should suffer the bonds of law so soon. Accordingly, it is unlikely that the White Bill will ever become a law -- so the fans may rest assured they will not be hindered for some time to come in that respect.

The Dill Bill is more far reaching in its scope. It is liberal and fair-minded. It asks that the copyright laws be amended so that copyrighted music can be broadcast without the payment of levies to the music publishers. Although this bill has been opposed at every step by huge organizations and moneyed interests, as well as several prominent music publishers, it was about to be passed with a fair majority when Congress adjourned.

There is still hope for the Dill Bill, then, and we hope that when it finally reaches the President's desk it will represent the result of a fair compromise between the broadcasters and the music publishers, in the interests of the fan who listens to broadcast music and helps the sale of the published article by buying the pieces he likes best.

Government legislation, we believe, appears to be the only means yet suggested which offers any kind of a solution to the bitter enmity between the broadcasters and the so-called music "trust."

Radio's recent jump to prominence in official circles such as Congress is only one indication of its growing importance. Big capital interests, legislators and public spirited citizens are realizing more and more that radio will some day control the destinies of our nation; and accordingly they are setting out to prevent its too sudden growth to an unwieldy influence. Quick government control, the legislators aver, will prevent radio from becoming a menace instead of the help and pleasure it should be.

In a measure these radio-legislators are right. Something must be done to prevent the air from becoming a bedlam of tangled wave lengths. Something must be done to prevent the ether from being clogged with propaganda and useless stuff that will discourage interest in the world's latest miracle.

If legislation works along those lines, it will be beneficial. But if it takes a political trend, this country will see a united uprising of righteously aroused fans -- lovers and promoters of the good in radio.

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