Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Mexican Governmental Mediumwave List Updated

About a month ago, the Mexican government finally updated their official mediumwave station list, now dated June 30, 2011. Updates to this list do not come very often, perhaps every year or so. The previous list was dated December 31, 2009, 18 months ago. It's been a long time coming.

The list, in .PDF format, documents station location (city and state), owner, call sign, frequency, daytime and nighttime powers, and license expiration date or status. It is unfortunate that actual latitude and longitude coordinates of transmitter sites are not included. However, latitude and longitude can be extracted from the matching entry in the US FCC database if you look carefully and wade through the huge number of redundant and outdated Mexican records to find the right one. I am working on creating a combined list using my Radio Data MW program. That will allow the creation of a list in many forms, sorted at will by call sign, frequency, power, location, signal strength, etc.

To my knowledge, Mexico does not maintain an internet downloadable, official database in file form like the FCC or Industry Canada does. It would be nice if they did.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Mediumwave DX Meets the eReader

We have seen how to create personalized station lists at no cost in the first installment of this series. We can even create a file system of antenna pattern plots. But, as stated, who wants to print all of this and haul it around, not to mention the expense of all the paper and ink?

A couple of ideas come to mind. Save the desired station lists and pattern plots to a flash drive, then take it and our laptop to the field where we will have access to the information. But even a laptop is cumbersome to haul around when you are already carrying radios, headphones, loop antennas, wire, etc. And a laptop generally only has a battery life of a couple of hours before it is dead.

A number of years ago I toyed with the idea of loading text files on a PDA (Personal Data Assistant) device, like a Palm Pilot. There were ways to do this at the time, and you had to be a bit of a geek to figure it out. My idea was to load station lists and other textual documents for reference in the field. But upon further examination, it seemed like reading text on such a tiny device with poor screen resolution was not the way to go. I resisted, waiting for technology to advance. It did.

The dedicated ereader device appeared. At first they were cumbersome to use, and extremely proprietary - having almost no support for anything but books. Finally a couple of years ago the market shifted directions. Manufacturers had at last gotten the word that the public wanted some versatility in their ereader. Text files and .PDF files became compatible and well-supported, along with a host of other common file types like HTML, images, and video.

And with that direction change came the Kindle 3 by Amazon and the Nook Color by Barnes and Noble. I bought a Nook Color. It cost $250. Natively, it will display text files and HTML files, as well as .JPEGs and other image formats. It has a marvelous .PDF viewer. Most of these modes have zoom capability, making viewing easier. Amazon's Kindle 3 ereader device has similar features, though getting .PDFs and text across to them is a little quirky. Tablet computers also abound today, like Apple's iPad2 and the Samsung Galaxy. Virtually all have the ability to handle these same file types.

So, we are set. What we will do is load our saved station reference files to our ereader device. The 7-inch Nook Color ereader is small, the size of a paperback book, and thin, hardly 1/2 inch thick. It is ultimately portable, and can be carried easily wherever we want to go.

The ereader with its 8 gigabyte memory can hold the entire US mediumwave station reference if we choose, and many times over. And that includes the antenna pattern plots if we elect to save them too. No paper, no ink. It can be carried anywhere. Its battery life can be 8 hours (Nook Color, LCD display) to almost a month with one hour per day of reading (Kindle 3 or Barnes and Noble Simple Touch, both e-ink displays). Files are usually searchable. This means that you can locate a frequency or station call sign or format or whatever you are searching for quickly. Not as easy with a 500+ page paper volume.

The only requirement is that we come up with some sort of way to arrange our mediumwave files in an organized fashion so we can have quick access to them. Easily done.

Some ideas on file arranging:

1. Create folders named by frequency or by frequency block (range) to hold station files.
2. Create folders by state name to hold station files from that state.
3. Create folders by city name to hold station files from that city area.
4. Name the files themselves to include call sign and frequency to aid in recognition.

Our master copy folder and file scheme can be created on the laptop and housed there for safe keeping. It will be a simple matter of transferring the master database over to the ereader by dragging and dropping files or folders from one unit to the other when the ereader is cabled to the laptop through the USB port.

For those that have tablet computing devices instead of dedicated ereaders, the procedure would be similar. I am convinced the ereader or tablet device is the way to go for taking mediumwave station lists to the field. Give it some thought.

Also see: Mediumwave DX Meets The Tablet Computer