Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Privacy, You, Social Networking, and Little Brother

I am not often driven to words here. This is my first real post in months. This is the medium of such luminaries (and my favorites on the web and in print) Cory Doctorow , Neil Gaiman, and John Scalzi to name my three favorites. I am no competitor to them to say the least and feel that it would take more hours than I have to become good enough to not be embarrassed by my efforts held up in comparison to theirs . But on this occasion I am impelled to add my voice.

They are all influential people on the internet, in print, and in social media.
@doctorow, @neilhimself, and @scalzi are all on twitter. It is how I learned more about all of them. If it was their goal to use twitter and other "social networking" tools as marketing tools (even if only partially as motivation), I view it as a success. It is completely clear to me that they "get it" and enjoy the banter on twitter.

From Scalzi: "
Deleting e-mails from strangers asking for Google Wave invites."

From Doctorow: "
Cydwoqs may be the coolest men's shoes on the planet, e.g., http://tinyurl.com/y9mc4vy http://tinyurl.com/yewpc6m"

and lastly from Gaiman in response to a tweet sent to him by "jolieminkbikini":

From Gaiman: "
@jolieminkbikini I know. @amandapalmer always tells me to travel with snacks. And I should."

It is clear, after looking for a single day, they enjoy it. They enjoy the give and take with their fans/followers in this nearly safe environment. You get trolls but with a single click you can block them, report them as abuser, and twitter.com has NO MERCY. It works.

Witness the recent launch of Imogen Heap's new album
Ellipse (which she twittered about for months as @imogenheap and allowed her followers to actively participate in the making of Ellipse). It was brilliant, cost her a few dollars, and a few hours a week. It was much better than touring through small clubs and exhausting herself. She managed to build a house, have a life, AND do the album. She agonized over every detail, but with the support of her 1,000,000+ followers. And she follows us as well, not all do. Stephen Fry does as well. Heap's Ellipse enjoyed a #5 opening on the billboard charts. Her record label did VERY little advertisement and after the fact, helped her get a spot on the Letterman Show (too bad it was before his big announcement, his ratings are through the roof).

This leads one immediately to speculation and hopes. It would be a great day indeed if these great artists can market themselves effectively with their small efficient staffs (all of these artists are showing us the way) and at the same time, deliver their offerings to us directly without the need for what is surely seen by all of them as inefficient intermediary dinosaurs. I think all of them are beginning to push the technology. Heap has allowed us to see all of her tunes without a single mention of paying to get a listen. Yet she debuts at #5 on billboard and is selling well still.

Doctorow gives away his book under an "open license". He still sells books, does tours, has a day job informing us about our web world. He is one of the most influential writers on the web. He does other neat things for activist supporters who believe his writing is important. He allows us to donate copies of his works, fiction and nonfiction, to the causes we support.

Gaiman does speaking tours everywhere and in spite of the fact that he
gives away readings from his tours and promotions, his books sell like hotcakes. He wins big awards, and is beloved by his fans. He has shared his budding relationship with Amanda Palmer on twitter.

I could go on and I have started this line of argument before. The need has grown to the point that a serious effort is required to provide the new user an entry level introduction to all of this social networking and how to use it to meet your needs (and how you can allowed to invent new ways to use it).

For now, it is very important to understand that while the available tools are very exciting we must be aware of the potential loss of privacy these tools and others in our online lives subject us to. Remember the old time worn adage: "Just because you are paranoid does not mean no one is out to get you". Never has that been more true. Not all of the reasons are nefarious. Many are an attempt to provide you the end user with services tailored to your particular desires and to guess your needs. That can be good for you. It is certainly good for those who are gathering the data. So while not necessarily evil, they certainly have the potential for becoming so.

Recently I read Doctorow's novel
Little Brother. I love books. I read hundreds of them a year, some not completely before I have from them what I need (technical books for my job), some non-fiction, but most by far are novels. I love the well turned phrase and the mental imagery the talented have. Doctorow has an abundance of ability and it has grown over time. His writing on the internet are well known and many rate him in their top ten list of most important writers on the internet. I could care less about ratings. What I care about is that his impact on my thinking has been profound. Nothing he has done has had more impact that this novel.

The plot line is simple. San Francisco, the town where our protagonist Marcus lives is attacked by terrorists. Ostensibly it is the omnipresent Al Qaeda. Yet it quickly evolves into a damning look at the typical overreaction by security organization and politicians. We had the terrorists a victory when we decide that the freedoms upon which we have joined the US American democratic experiment (with a little d).

I URGE all people to read this book.

Then you should go and look at the damage being done by Music, Movie, and e-book industries to your freedoms and right to due process in the US and around the world. The last trade agreement gave us the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and just stay tuned for much worse. You are about to get much much worse. In the trade agreements being supported by the Obama adminstration right now, you can forget due process. Three ACCUSATIONS of copyright infringement is all that is needed to have you banned from connecting to the "web" for an indefinite period. Just like confiscation of property without a trial, you can now sacrifice your right to access the modern world with a trial, without hearing the evidence, with seeing your accuser. Recently, the British government tried to pass laws "in the middle of the night" until the same Cory Doctorow who wrote Little Brother, raised hell in Boing Boing. The Obama administrations trade negotiator is in the same meetings that led to this law being proposed in Britain.

We CANNOT allow sacrifice of basic rights to guarantee security, to protect artists and studio and publisher rights.

Stay tuned. I have more rants to follow.

Please join EFF. This is not an organization of trouble making rabble rousing goofs. They are a group that is determined to stand in the way of this assault on YOUR freedom. They are refuse to listen to the argument (specious at best) that goes something like "I have nothing to hide and those who do, should beware". Just try this on for size when you areFALSELY ACCUSED and have no due process to protect you from the assault by the mighty.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

A Contest for Geeks!

Doug Grant, K1DG and Tim Duffy, K3LR, both very active contesters and members of the CQ contest committee have led the committee to make a startling change in the contest rules for CW and SSB contests this coming CQ contest season. Doug came to the SDR forum at Dayton Hamvention this year and proposed the Xtreme Class for CQ WW major contests this year.

Doug wrote to me and asked me to allow him to speak and to trust him in that it would be of interest to software defined radio types. It was. I also learned that Tim Duffy, K3LR, has completely embraced SDR as a tool. He has a rack full of Perseus Receivers tied to CW Skimmer to look across the entire CW band during contests, and decode all signals. These signals are then introduced to regular contest logging software as "spots" in the same way that packet sends spots.

The big difference is that the Perseus/CW Skimmer spots are GUARANTEED to be audible by the station since they were collected from a receiver operating on site. Tim and others have become very impressed by what we geeks are offering to the contester. Please allow me to put the entire announcement from K1DG here:

"This year at Dayton, the new CQWW Xtreme categories were announced.

These new categories (single-operator and multi-operator) have been
established to allow amateurs to participate in the CQ WW Contest
while experimenting creatively with Internet-linked stations and other
new technologies that currently are not permitted in any of the
existing contest categories. The full rules for the new Xtreme
Category, as approved by the CQ WW Contest Committee, appear in June
CQ magazine and also at:


This PDF file may be copied and re-posted to other Web sites as long
as this text is included: "Reprinted with permission from the June
2009 issue of CQ magazine; copyright CQ Communications, Inc."

Please forward this email to your local club reflectors and newsletters.

The new categories are effective with the 2009 CQ WW Contest later this year.

In essence, (almost) anything goes! The "almost" part means that you
must obey the rules of your country, including power (up to the CQWW
1500W maximum), licensing, and remote operation (if you use it).

It is permitted to use multiple transmitting sites with one callsign
(if legal in your country), but all transmitting sites must be located
in the same country and CQ zone, and only one signal is permitted on a
band at any time. Single-ops with packet, Skimmer, robot stations,
on-line databases, etc. are OK! Multiops with remote operators and
remote receiving sites around the world...OK!

The initial response at both the Contesting Forum and SDR Forum at
Dayton was very positive, with some of the SDR Forum attendees
actually challenging each other in public! This is a chance for
experimenters to see which technology innovations actually work best
in competitive situations.

If you have questions about the rules, please send them to Xtreme@cqww.com

There is an also email reflector (Xtreme-talk@contesting.com) set up
for discussions relating to these new categories. You can subscribe by
sending email to Xtreme-talk-request@contesting.com with the word
SUBSCRIBE in the subject line and message text, or go here:
(thanks, K5TR)

K3LR has stepped up and is sponsoring the K3TUP Memorial Trophies for
the winners of the single-op and multi-op Xtreme categories.

73, and let the Xtreme Contesting Games begin!

Doug K1DG"

Thank you Doug and the entire CQ Contest committee. This is an impressive and thoughtful first attempt. I urge all to think about doing this. Flex users, HPSDR users, QS1R, Peseus, etc. can all make a valiant effort and with "innovation" being 50% of the score, a great single operator super star is not required to be a significant placeholder in this. Let's go!

Friday, April 03, 2009

Vuze, uPnP, Media Companies, and Freedom

I am wondering when media companies will be convinced that people will not pay for lousy service and crappy content. Freedom is the only way forward and people WILL PAY FOR CONVENIENCE AND NOT CONTENT. If the artists tailor their approach to this, they benefit and when the drip turns into the flood THEY WIN. As much as I support the right of artists to be compensated fairly for their work, the entire system built to support them, screws every person who does not sit in the middle, artist and consumer, people who should be peers and are not. Who has not felt raped by Ticketmaster, or Sony (embedding theft protection malware in the audio CD) or the horrors of DRM.

Some artists get this, but I fear most are too lazy or too stupid to understand that with action (concerted to be sure) on their part, we have reached the golden age.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Adaptive Signal Processing, Polyphase Filter Banks, for the old and new

Recently I have spent enough time on adaptive signal processing algorithms to have driven my friends crazy (yes, I do have friends). Everyone wants the polyphase filter bank code. I completely sympathize. While I am not a Dionysius (a Greek king), I invite you to be Damocles and feel the sword as you sit in my chair for a few sentences and then I won't bore you any more with this.

The polyphase filter bank code is "done". It has been for months. The implementation of the filter banks in question? A completely trivial matter for someone with as much digital signal processing experience as I have suffered, err uhh, enjoyed. There is a problem. The problem is significant and I am absolutely determined to solve it. Polyphase filter banks should be everywhere, ubiquitous if you will. They should be easily used, and easy to get right. This is a major problem but it really is the only one I am interested in pursuing to the end. I find that all of the major players, from my new friends and colleagues, to those I have never had the pleasure of meeting, have failed to address an overall structure.

The structure in question is how to do all of this in a completely automated way. You give me a few design parameters, ones that are obvious, I give you back a pointer to a filter bank object and from that moment on, you give me signal, and I give you output. What is difficult about this? The filter bank's signal performance is completely determined by the filters and the filter performance is determined by the size of the computer word. If you ask me to implement a filterbank with brick wall edges and 100 dB adjacent channel suppression, the filter design and the flow of signal through the filter bank needs new work done by fred harris and I (soon to be published). If you need perfect reconstruction with these parameters (the channelization is reversible to high accuracy through a synthesis operation), I return with a "you are a fool" and tell you the best you can hope for is ...... The nature of the filters inside depends on whether or not you want linear phase or not and .......

The construction of all of this filter determination code has been the object of study for brains better than mine for decades (Julius O. Smith comes to mind) but it is not all collected into one object. I am determined to crack this nut once and for all. Irrespective of how much respect I have for my filter bank colleagues, they have written enough papers on one-off designs. They have charged enough money for one-off consulting. Through the power of doing this right and then giving it away GPL and probably publishing a treatise, I am determined to make this a sea change, once and for all.

The work done by fred harris and I needs publication approval from my masters. These are the ones that feed my children, send them to school, and allow me to drive a fancy sports car and go to Broadway twice a month. The approval is coming. The filter bank FILTER DESIGN work is being done and we will all have it soon.

Thank you for your patience. Understand that I do the other things knowing they are not as important as the filter bank code. They are nevertheless necessary. They show off the differences between these sdr signal processing chains and what is possible in traditional "narrow band high performance radios" to the SIGNIFICANT advantage of the SDR's. I may be mad, but there is method to my aggravating pace.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Image Rejection along A Road Less Traveled.

"I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference" (Frost)

Some time ago we began the process of studying, learning, suffering, failing, and then succeeding that always accompanies the creative process. Many wrong paths were taken. Life always intervenes as ruts in any roads taken. I write this for all those who have suffered with us, demonstrating the utmost patience and most especially to tell our long suffering European friends (with HF broadcaster images) that relief has arrived.

We have known for some time the mathematics of fixing the image suppression due to amplitude and phase imbalance in the QSD. Alex Shavkoplyas has done a fantastic job of following down one road in Rocky. It is a beautiful thing and my favorite cattle prod, Phil Harman, asked me very pointedly "What is the matter with you on this?" I explained and it immediately began to gnaw at me how can we do this. My apologies in advance for it haven taken so long to reach a place of an acceptable algorithm. I wrote a paper that I put in DCC (replete with errors). I followed that up with an article for QEX. I am grateful it was never published. Now the good one will be.

Unlike Rocky, we cannot take more than seconds, much less minutes and hours to converge to a useful image suppression result. Once rocky learns on a particular piece of hardware with its ROCK-bound frequency, it only needs to tweak for changes in temperature, age of crystal components, etc. You the user would be quite unhappy if it were commanded by Big Brother (Flex, DttSP) that you could not tune your radio but once a day! I suspect that amateur radio operator Winston Smith would be in rebellion and Gerald "OBrien" Youngblood could not even torture you to accept it. I know my Julia (Shann N2HPE) has suffered the torture of this with me. I am eternally grateful for her partnership. The ministry of truth has convinced you to be patient. For this I thank you.

Knowing the theory and mathematical equations necessary to accomplish a task does not make it easy to accomplish this in an algorithm. Image present is the result of nonlinearities in the QSD, RFIC, or any SSB mixer (IQ mixer). So nonlinearity must be present in the correct fix up. Nonlinearity introduced on purpose in a system hailed by all for the linearity and signal handling capability of its front end seems at best contradictory, at worst, immolation! Nevertheless, it is required. The application of these nonlinear processes must be done with some care.

Our first attempts at deriving an algorithm that would work in DttSP and PowerSDR succeeded. But they were calibration dependent. Calibration at the factory means man hours and increasing costs to Flex the manufacturer. We accepted the less than acceptable status quo until a month ago because we just didn't have a useful plan to do otherwise. Doubts, internal as well as external, began to consume. The realist among us went "who cares". The idealist averred as to how this was unacceptable. Shouldn't there be a middle way?

Traveling to Austin to work on an implementation of the image suppression algorithm became the top of the list of myriad demands on my time. The top of the heap being the work that is being done by Flex for my employer and sponsor. Knowing the mathematics as described above allows one to write down an iterative procedure where sequential estimation is used to estimate the solution (based on approximations to Newton's algorithm in an application of the fixed point theorem to real life).

The TEN LINES OF CODE were written in an hour. They were working immediately. It was clear that we needed to use something like this but it was unclear how to use it in the system as a whole. It will cause some dislocation to manufacturing, require dislocation to calibration, and require dislocation to the user access to those pieces that the user, heretofore, had come to expect. Klaus Lohman, in expert testing, pointed out an issue which seems troubling but in the end, isn't. But this had to be addressed. We learned that some of the parameters of our search algorithm were wrong. These resulted in occasional numerical instability. We did not have a plan on how to roll this out at all, but we knew we must.

Last week I returned to Austin and the magic of working in a partnership filled with respect but constant questioning allowed by mutual trust, Eric and I worked out a way to use this in any system that would attempt to use it. It is not enough to have the right algorithm in DttSP. The correct application is dependent ON THE USER not the algorithm designer so it requires knowledge of how one correctly uses it in a system for it to be effective.

So eight weeks ago, I added the math to DttSP v3.0. Four weeks ago I put a version in PowerSDR. Last week Eric Wachsmann and I made it practical. The practical comes in asking simply how can this mathematical magic be made useful to the user. It turned out to be remarkably simple. When you tune the radio and you tune it far enough that you change the synthesizer frequency, the algorithm starts a retraining cycle. This must be made stable. So, it starts VERY fast so that the image is almost suppressed completely in about 50ms but then it begins a step by step decrease in gain in the algorithm and at the end of the about 500ms, it has converged. So we can just turn it off then right? Wrong. The algorithm even works on noise BUT its answer is off because loud signal is a better input than noise. So we could not turn the algorithm off completely. We learned we need to leave it turned on at a low convergence rate. Then we ran into the problem that again, you Winston Smith, are not going to allow OBrien dictate to you what to do and think. You are going to tune rapidly and foul this learning algorithm up and the stack would run dry! That too turned out to be relatively easy to fix. If you change the DDS, the convergence algorithm is stopped and restarted and that is done in a thread safe manner.

Now that this lengthy TMI (too much information) account is done, we encourage you to use it. This information is provided for one reason only. So you who have suffered the long wait with us understand something of the creative process and why that MUST be married with the practical.

branches/n4hy/iqtest/bin/Release contains the new code.

I have been experimenting with fixes to the ANF and NR algorithm and I have fixed the complex but separable versions in this branch as well. The ANF and NR is most decidedly not stable code as it will continue to receive work all week long until we have convergence to the acceptable algorithm there as well.

The necessary steps to see this in the trunk must be done in stages. We need resampling in the IQ processing chain. We need to turn the receive training algorithm off when you are transmitting so that transmit training algorithm will run with the benefit of the perfectly adjusted receiver. All of this must be seamless. We learn from experience that you are mostly uninterested in how, you just want the damn thing to work.

Following this, the entire IQ imbalance conversation concerning Flex, QSD, etc. should be long gone. This will be useful for RFIC's, QSD, etc. It will work on RX and TX if you have full duplex hardware (Flex 3000,5000, RFX boards for GnuRadio). It will work on RX on the oldest and meanest of our hardware applications (for example, it will work on SDR-1000) and an appliqué for Flex 5000 and Flex 3000 will allow it to train the transmitter image to the noise floor in YOUR OWN RECEIVER not to mention your ionospheric neighbors.

I will tell you that success is sweet. But I am entirely aware of how long it took. I reject any gratitude because at the end of the process I am really quite critical of my having taken so long to arrive at what, in the end, amounts to no more than 20 lines of code and I had to have excellent help getting there.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Beagle Board in a case

Dear reader:

As you know from my ramblings, there is great interest in achieving high performance with low power in an easily programmable chip in order to do software radio. That is, I can order it to be an HD radio, FM stereo receiver, police band scanner, HDTV receiver, etc. just by changing the software.

While this may seem extreme, rapid progress IS being made.

Texas Instruments released the OMAP family and many of us have become interested in pursuing the bleeding edge of technologies, including the OMAP family. In particular many of us have built up systems using the Beagle Board. The Beagle Board is nice, but you still have to download a bill of materials, screw driver the thing together, and pray it will do the right thing.

Stop the presses, this is no longer required. Though one can put together a system that is less expensive than the Always Innovating offerings, one would still have to buy parts, assemble, and then cross your fingers. With the Always Innovating computers, this is no longer necessary. Go check them out.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Imogen and Web 2.0

A long awaited album entitled Polyfilla is almost finished for Imogen Heap. Thank goodness she is active and sharing eye candy and other tunes such as

Blanket (with Urban Species)

One gets the feeling in the undercurrents in her Web 2.0 submissions on blog, twitter, myspace, facebook, twitpix, 12seconds and so much more that she thrives on the slightly more than tenuous connection and interaction with her fans. For us it is a LOT better than a quick autograph from a sweaty hand, tired from the act, only wanting to escape our clutches unscathed. She has volunteered all of this surely for her own motives. But so what? It serves some of our needs. That is the give and take. It is interactive to the extent they wish it to be.

The clear message in the sharing with her followers is that she derives not only pleasure or amusement, but some kind of connection of her psyche to those who interact and follow. Without the pain of supporting the demands and needs of a lover or demands for time from a friend or acquaintance, this large collection of other psyche's constitutes a sort of muse or maybe just a release valve; helpful in either case it seems.

She is not the only artist, writer, actor, politician or just good old public figure to find this an inspirational or emotionally helpful interaction. Stephen Fry, Neal Gaiman, and even Jane Fonda all seem to derive exactly the same thing from twitter. All of them using the laptops or smartphones can twitter, blog, and share pictures with all who follow them minute by minute, blow by blow.

This connection, as tenuous as it is, is like the torrent going over Niagara Falls in comparison to the silent unheard voices of what surely used to be their isolation inside their circle of handlers or neurotic needy friends and associates. They seemingly do it because they appear to derive something they need from it and further, they personally control the level and degree without a NO NO NO publicity agent, lawyer, company, their phobias or neuroses, etc. meddling with their heads and needs.

We have watched Stephen Fry twitter his way to great acclaim in several venues, lose weight, and become 10 years younger before our eyes. Neil Gaiman shares freely in his achievements, one after another, and his family life with his daughter, loyal assistant and even all the way down to the sufferings and redemption of his own favorite white German shepherd. Gaiman feeds our voyeuristic cravings for the tidbits of our idols and in return, gets one of the greatest of marketing tools ever. He uses it as such with a true sense of decorum by twittering, blogging and more, aided by the word of mouth of fan boys like me Have you seen what is going on with Gaiman?" Their exhibitionism and our voyeurism, sanitized with these tools, like a condom if you will giving excellent safe fan-dom, allows us to share in their blow by blow to fulfill our needs. In turn, we derive entertainment, information, inspiration, or something else entirely as needed. We shower them with praise, sympathy, adoration, disgust, whatever ... to our hearts content, so long as it is 140 characters or less! No long winded, uncontrolled, fan girl squealing in their ears and seeping gushing noxious fumes of suffocating fandom tinged with jealousy.

If it all becomes too much or they lose focus, the Imogen solution is a simple click away: "Sorting out video/ live/ budgets/ schedule/ meetings...shite! I haven't finished it yet! Need to refocus, shut it out and make music today." After feeding the battery, it is charged and can be put to use off the mains without connection to the fuel the masses have been providing until it is time for recharging again.

Watch this and see the creation process in action on Polyfilla.

This sharing and the feedback which follows in other media mentioned mitigate in favor of the premise put forward here quite clearly. Then it dawns on you, this is just one artist (as fabulous as she is). Then you remember that even septuagenarian actresses are doing the Web 2.0 dance. Sharing with us their illnesses, joys, glee at those other famous friends attending her new play . Hmm. This is getting interesting. So..... What about ..... so and so? Hit Google and find them. Search for them on twitter, facebook, myspace, or whatever. It is a revolution and a great one. But wait, I am doing it here (not that many care but it is fun)!

Web 2.0 is the potential of the internet finally beginning to reveal itself in a glorious way. It is oh so much better than television because it is interactive to a much greater degree. It is not (yet?) quite as satisfying as feeling the insides of Raskolnikov or Humbert Humbert rot before you in your mind's eye. And it certainly is not based on decades of writing, no, struggling whilst neglecting Nora and the kids, just so Bloom can live a single day in our imagination for the rest of our lives. You don't need to read well, have a great vocabulary, or even just the time to read the novel .... but it is fascinating, entertaining. It is getting there.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


Stephen King's Nishere.com player:

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The King (Honda S2000) is Dead. Long Live the King

Honda has decided to stop producing the S2000.

You may see here this is before I put dustless pads on it (dust from standard brake pads is seen to discolor the beautiful rims).

The S2000 story is a bit of fairy tail apocrypha. The anecdotes go that the engineers wanted to take the V-Tec engine and make a hand built serious sports car for the Honda enthusiasts. They were allowed to and in 1999 they sold a few. There grew a ground swell of demand for the award winning, high performance, fantastic driving, hand assembled car that sold for UNDER $40000.

My favorite single day in it was driving to see my mother in Alabama. I was coming from Orlando and this was a "pit stop", only slightly out of the way, on my way back to NJ.

I hit an infamous many mile stretch of back road that is about as straight as they come. I hit 150 mph and I was still accelerating and not at red line. It felt like I was doing 70 on the interstate.

I love this car as I never believed I could love a car. The story goes that Honda lost money on every one they ever built. So it makes sense that it is a 10 year vanity statement for Honda that needs to go, especially in these times.

110000 were made and sold, last month they sold 1000-ish world wide. Of the total, over half were to the USA (surprise!). Mine will rot into the ground before I give it up since that is how I have used every automobile I've ever purchased. Those would be the ones that I gave my kids when they wanted a new BMW convertible!

Many roads to go down, I chose one, and that made all the difference

May Frost forgive me.

I have written in these pages about the Intel ATOM 330 and its instantiation in an Intel Motherboard, the D945GCLF and D945GCLF2. Both of these boards have really good performance for a mobo costing $90 or less!

Always, there comes along a better mousetrap. Nvidia has done itself proud it would seem with the ION. The ION addresses what are, in my opinion, the worst shortcomings of the Intel mobo offerings

The ION has DDR3, 2 GB built in. The D945GCLFx has a slot for memory and will only use DDR2.

The ION has GeoForce 9400M. The Intel has Intel 945 graphics chip. The 9400M is by all sorts of measurements "ten times faster".

The ION mobo and small box have much better connector support for IO and have only external SATA drive support. This is better.

Some other recent work shows that the JFS appears to seriously outperform ext3 for Linux file systems in many ways. Since I want to upgrade my mass storage drive on my (current) main Linux development system to 1.5+ TB from 250 MB and an older drive using EXT3, I will do the work there to test. Should that work, I will back up the home directories and other /usr/local and /opt directories and copy the main drive to another large disk using JFS. There appears to be much better dynamic control over inodes in JFS rather than attempting one size fits all (pun intended).

We are back in old man winter after a brief respite. This makes it easy not to do outside work that needs doing and to read another novel. I could not remember much of A Separate Peace by John Knowles so I decided to polish off this novel(la?) yesterday and today.

Soeaking of today, Tom Rondeau and I made a pitch to Dr. Saltman, director of CCR and Dr. Boyack, director of computing CCR about two labs we need to efficiently do our software radio and cogntive radio work. They bought all of the arguments and told us to draw up a list of things we need, procedures for transferring code to and fro, etc. It was a nice meeting.

Frank Brickle gave a nice talk today at work on SDR, CR, VR, ... etc. It was great.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

White Space (NOT a rascist remark)

White Space is the term broadly applied by technologist's and the FCC to the vast spectrum spaces, especially in urban areas, which are wastelands. For now, we will concentrate on the frequencies currently allocated solely to television stations. Since there are only a few channels occupied in even the most populous cities, coupled with the fact that the primary propagation mode for these frequencies is line of sight, much of the spectrum for TV channels is completely unoccupied even in these cities.

We need spectrum to increase the amount available to wireless devices. The FCC realizes this and in November of 2008, issues rules allowing this. CTVR at Trinity College Dublin has been interested in this concept for a while. A prominent DARPA project manager, Preston Marshall, a leading person in DySpan has long been interested, personally and professionally in White Spaces (a Dynamic Spectrum hot spot issue, pun intended). Preston is getting his Ph. D. from CTVR.

Tom Rondeau, hired by my employer, with my being the primary instigator, finished his Ph.D. thesis for Charles Bostian at Virginia Tech while working at CTVR. He then did a short post-doc before joining us. While Tom was at CTVR, with Keith Nolan, also of CTVR did a cross country tour following the SDR Forum meeting in Denver Colorado in Oct. 2007 and did a survey of white space while doing their drive.

This will be of increasing interest in the coming years with a lot of support for this coming from a consortium including Microsoft and Google.

Friday, February 06, 2009


Neil Gaman's Coraline opens in theaters today in 3D if your theater does it. I paid for 50 3D glasses with "lovely" designs all over them for a viewing party for family, friends (strangers, drunks, .....). Thank goodness they only cost $20 (plus shipping and handling of course).

It is a beautifully written book with enough illustrations to allow you to get an idea of Gaman's imagination when he sees his story. I recommend the movie release version of the book because it contains an interview with Gaman, Henry Selick (director) who did Nightmare before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach. This version also contains excerpts from the movie screenplay, illustrating some differences from the book (such as a new character). I love stop action animation done with class. Selick is clearly capable.


Wednesday, February 04, 2009


The Microwave Engineering Project, referred to in earlier entries, has pushed ahead with a multi-pronged approach building hardware for the testing of the overall design elements of the communications system to flow from the project.

Beagle Boards and Intel ATOM computers, using ARM/NEON/TMS320C64X and Intel Atom 330 respectively, will vie for control of the user interface and digitization and playback of user signals. The BB is lower power and much more compact using podcast and is here directly.

Michelle Thompson, W5NYV (MEP fearless leader) has 3 each beagle board and ATOM 330 mobos to play with.

Suitsat 2

Suitsat 2 has moved in fits and spurts and not even close to a straight line towards its goal. During the past few days, we have pushed on and received movement in several areas. I believe working hardware for this can and will be produced and that leadership will exert direct influence on this path. I am NOT in a leadership position but a grunt trying to get some of the pieces done.

I worked a plan with project management tonight (Feb. 4) to provide some serious documentation leadership so we can get the tough interconnection pieces done in a timely fashion and then glue the experiments together.

Suitsat was a big success the first time and it was fun being the first to "get" the picture and identify what it was. It was decided that Suitsat 2 should be undertaken but be more ambitious in its scope as can be seen here and here. The project is based on the use of Microchip's dsPIC33 as a low power SDR capable dsp engine. ARISS is an international program who mission is to promote use of amateur radio on the International Space Station.

The transmissions from this package will be receivable by anyone with some simple equipment and my fingers are crossed for its eventual success.

Filter Design Book recommendations

Followers of the work of Frank Brickle and I know that Frank has for years followed and promoted the work of Julius O. Smith. I subscribe to this support. Fortunately, JOS has done a lot of publishing his work online for years. And he is winnowing down into books such as

Introduction to Digital Filters with Audio Applications (at Amazon)


Introduction to Digital Filters with Audio Applications (at Barnes and Noble)

as well as his awesome treatment of Mathematics of Discrete Fourier Transforms belongs on the signal processor's shelf.

I have also looked through quite a few other books and have purchased these and wish to recommend them:

Introduction to Digital Signal Processing Filter Design by B.A. Shenoi


Digital Filters Basics and Design by Dietrich Schlichthärle

With these books on my shelf, I am able to make very good progress on my longer term goals of rending "fdatool for free as in beer" for Octave and SciPy.

The Wrestler

Filmed in a grainy looking format with what feels like a hand held digital camera, the cinematography brilliantly sets up an ambiance of decay, seediness, and failure.

Mickey Rourke enters into a semi-autobiographical role and does not pull a single punch in showing a life of one time success, but a complete failure of meeting responsibilities to those around them, and ultimately, to himself. Rourke could not possibly play this role better. The toughest part of his performance is knowing that he has lived this life already. You can hear in his breathing the respiratory degradation he currently suffers. In his face, not covered with a single bit of makeup, you can see the marks of a life poorly led.

Marisa Tomei plays her role beautifully. As an aging stripper, with a kid to raise, and Rourke's love interest, dealing with facing the facts that she is no longer capable of playing the role she must play as stripper, she takes her multilayer character and shows us all the layers with what seems perfect identification with each.

I do not know if Rourke can win over Penn and the other great roles nominated, but certainly, his role deserves the Academy Award nomination it has received.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Travel and Weather

I can get just a bit harried and I did not check my tickets carefully this morning. I had specifically asked for train tickets to and from Princeton Jct. on Amtrak. I watched as the train pulled away from Pct. Jct. 15 minutes before I was supposed to board ...... in Trenton.

I will check more carefully from now on.

The skies are opened and white stuff is falling but the temperature is above freezing and nothing adding to the road.

Why is having this lousy weather renewing my interest in a touring motorcycle? Weird.

I am working remotely on the dual cell broad band engine server at LTS. I am also continuing to hack on DSP code for all sorts of things. When I run out of mental fuel for one, I jump to the other. It has always worked and appears to continue to. Go figure!

Some views from today's "near miss" Nor'easter:

Anyone for a swim?

If it weren't so much trouble and mess, you could like this beauty.

My BigIR vertical and part of my NVIS array under the weight of the snow

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Reading Steinbeck, Working on DSP/SDR, Playing with toys on a warmer day

Just finished Steinbeck's "The Moon is Down". One of the most intimate portraits of occupation by and resistance to an occupying army. May I suggest that this be mandatory reading in all war colleges all over the world?

Continuing today on filter design software and more, both stand alone, and for application to polyphase filter banks. This is sheer tedium but it must be done, correctly, and in GPL software so people like me do not have to waste their bloody time ever looking for it again. I am determined to make fdatool for Octave and scipy.

I am playing with different coffees these days. My most recent "trial" was on Jacu bird coffee from Brazil. It is euphemistically listed as "bird selected". It bears no relation other than that to the horrible and expensive Kopi Luwak which is "civet selected". My favorite continues to be Sumatra Lintong. I have found another green bean company besides SweetMarias.

I also like several Ecuadorian, Panamanian in addition to the expensive Jamaican and Hawaiian coffees. For every day, the latter are just a bit over the top in price. My coffee roaster, an Iroast2, has easily paid for itself many times over. The green beans are considerably cheaper per pound, even in small quantity, than "grocery store" ground swill. My brewer is a Technivorm and is carefully controlled to brew at exactly 93C/200F. Ummm, Mmmm, GOOD!

I recently purchased one of the "Chinese electronic wonders" that cost 10% of what the same American or German made instruments cost 10-15 years ago. I purchased a Vector charging system. It cost $120. The cheapest thing I had seen before it that claimed to do what it can do was nearly $1000. It will charge at 2, 10, 20, or 40 amps. It will also pulse rapidly at high amperage/voltage to recondition badly handled batteries. I have 320 amps hours in series 24 AGM deep discharge batteries. I neglected them horribly for a year. They were all in bad shape. The difference nowadays is they cost well over $200 each. I recovered two of the cells to over 1/2 capacity with two treatments, up to five are useful. One of the cells is beginning to show life after two treatments, so I hold out hope. One is dead. So the unit has easily payed for itself in one set of savings. I paid 1/3 what these batteries cost now.

Winter is letting go a bit. It is 10C/50F. Quite comfy in a sweater, and sunny as well.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Interesting projects

These days with RFIC's coming along, interesting ways to make stable microwave oscillators, there are a couple of interesting projects for the radio amateur. Both are moving a little slowly but with help from you gentle reader they could move a lot faster:

Microwave Engineering Project adroitly led by Michelle Thompson, W5NYV and uWSDR led by several good folks. Both are worth investing some time with to see if you can help/enjoy this kind of development. Both are peopled by very strong engineers, hardware and software.

Cheers, N4HY

Thursday, January 29, 2009

No Limits

I joined No Limits for Hillary.

Bayesian Nets, MDL, MCMC, Visual Studio 2008

Today my employer and I agreed to engage Frank Brickle as a consultant for the purposes of working on the application of Bayesian Nets, Minimum Description Length, Monte Carlo for Markov Chains to the problems of cognitive radio. A large bibliography is being prepared for our efforts by several people.

I helped Eric Wachsmann of Flex Radio to port their PowerSDR from MS Visual Studio 2003 .NET to Visual Studio 2008 and to use .NET 3.5.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

OMAP processor/ Beagle Board

The Beagle Board is beginning to gain some push from inside TI. That is good news. In addition to the recently release free version of Code Composer Studio for these OMAP parts, we find ARM releasing library support, including NEON code (bottom of page) and TI releasing library support for the TMS320C64x . I am assured that more is soon to follow.

Good news! These processors are more than capable of running DttSP SDR core and that port will begin.

Monday, January 26, 2009

At work and play

At work and at play, I am building the infrastructure for filtering and polyphase filter banks in pretty great generality. I have offered to uwSDR that I will be working on devices to do SDR narrow band computation which will enable portable and/or low power computing devices for their use.

My Intel Atom 330 is showing itself nicely. It is also pointing out ugly hot spots in the DttSP core that require the use of resampling to greatly reduce the computational complexity. I HATE to keep giving Microsoft any credit but ... Netflix built a player around Silverlight. It is clear Silverlight is a competitor to flash in some sense. It really is smooth and a great replacement for the Windows multimedia CRAP they had before.

My design of the W8JI eight circle receive antenna for 160m at the home station of Joel Harrison's W5ZN is working out amazingly well. Joel is a real believer now and my design work and construction work appear to be right on the money. Joel has been a fantastic partner in this. He has been continuously comparing his new receive array against his long beverages and finds there is no comparison. He can now hear what he could not detect before. WHEW! One does not want to make the president of the ARRL unhappy!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Social Commentary

The most inspired social and political commentary of our times: Wazzup

Friday, January 23, 2009

Winter, Second Order Sections

Winter blows! I am not a skier. I am a Southerner. Twenty nine years of living north of Mason-Dixon is not enough to like these winters. On the other hand, I hope it puts a dent into the bug population.

This morning I am putting second order sections into GnuRadio trunk. I cannot believe this and other IIR filtering gadgets are not present.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Back at work

I am back at work in NJ. I am working primarily on two things. The first is the wrap up of my polyphase filter bank code. This will wind up in GnuRadio, DttSP, HPSDR, and more. Next, with Tom Rondeau, we are trying to get a killer app together for the Cell processor in general, but the PS3 in particular. If we do not succeed, I plan on giving up on the Cell altogether (just as IBM has done in my opinion).

The problem with the Cell is two-fold. First, it is too difficult to program and it is not commodity priced. The former has led to the latter. Graphics cards and GPU's are here to stay. They will be here long after everyone forgets the name Cell BE and they are going to be fast. It is a shame that IBM had so little real interest in pushing this forward and each step of the way I consider major mistakes to have been made that prevented it from catching on. My guess is that the Cell BE 2 will be at best a small make over of the Cell BE and at worst, tossed over the side and handed off to Sony to utterly ruin.

I think the best option overall, for serious high performance software radio computing is the new AMD Phenom, Intel I7, and Nvidia GPU cards sitting in PCIe-16x slots. These will be programmable, with the fast hardware usable by compiling in function calls and/or intrinsics. This will not be optimal, but it will be immediate. It takes over a month just to get linux installed, Cell SDK installed, learn enough to do anything, and then you have to deal with DMA, memory that is too damn small, and very expensive pricing for anything but broken versions (6 SPE versions of Cell in PS3) and their horrible GigE support because we can't have DRM/Video/BlueRay thingy's stolen now can we? BlueRay will also fail to be a big money maker like DVD's. Streaming media is going to nail it to the floor.

Enough prognostication. Back to work!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Imperfections in the sublime

The Flex 5000 is one of those pieces of engineering for which I hold great admiration. This is quite natural. My grandfather, a true man of vision, believed strongly in taking things on and owning the issue. I worshiped him until he died before my teenage years. He often asked me, when I was half assing something if I "knew the difference between interested and committed? The chicken that gave you the egg for breakfast was interested. The pig that gave the bacon was committed!" To SDR I am committed, and the Flex Radio company is, to a large extent, responsible. My work was also strongly encouraged by my life long friend, Tom Clark, NASA astronomer, avid amateur, and a fantastic polymath.

The Flex 5000 has my fingerprints all over it. I did not pick the parts that established the circuit functionality in it, but I was most definitely involved in its design. It was a serious step towards a radio device that would meet my needs and allow me to establish certain goals for radio equipment of this type. Gerald Youngblood has been and continues to be a great friend.

Now with all of that behind us, one should never be afraid to admit that there is a thorn on the rose. The quadrature sampling detector is a marvel. It is not perfect, but its perfection is achievable in so many ways with hardware modifications and software additions, it will cause the world to sit up and take notice. It already has and it is 20 dB from its ultimate physical limits of performance.

The quadrature sampling exciter is and will be a mistake. Its imperfections, also correctable, are much more difficult to achieve for many reasons. Slight imperfections, amplified by multi kilowatt amplifiers, are glaring. These are also fixable, primarily in software, but there is no need.

Penelope and any other D/A driven digital up converter is the appropriate foundational element for excellent exciters.

I worked for hours today to put into place a fix for a wart in the 5000 QSE based exciter. It works. But again, this work is putting a band aid, albeit a brilliant one, on an existing device in an existing code base, rather than inventing the new or implementing the "known needed algorithms".

I am sure this message is getting through.

Inauguration Day

Watching the inauguration on television, and feeling good about today, full of hope and good wishes for our new president.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

Yesterday I worked fairly hard on the wideband IQ imbalance mitigation problem. It is clear that the correct approach to this problem is to make the performance of the radio better and to ignore the primarily pyschological issue of the sensitive spectrum analyzer display.

The figure below shows the IQ correction for receive strictly limited to the passband of our receiver for the 7 MHz amateur band.

The next figures shows the necessary correction to IQ balance the entire IF passband at one frequency, 7.150 MHz in the Flex 5000. This will be a truly painstaking set of data collection to try and fix the entire wideband problem so the spectral display looks nice when what we should care about is improving the performance of the radio in the passband of the receiver. To do that across the entire 40m band (for example) can be trivially done from the data in the first figure.

The data collection and the new training algorithm will be installed in the PowerSDR code base before I leave. We then take the slower approach to mitigate the perceived wideband problem, which has NO impact on receiver performance but impacts the display. The wideband IQ correction will not easily lower the image to the noise floor across all frequencies. It can and should lower it to near the noise floor and to a greater extent than we currently do.

Yesterday I read most of Neal Stephensen's Snow Crash. He takes a road that combines the troublesome aspects of technology aptly shown in Gibson's Neuromancer and the biting social commentary of Pynchon's Vineland . I am very sorry I have not read him before now. Most place him in cyberpunk. This is not an adequate label.

Tomorrow Eric Wachsmann and begin adding the new IQ algorithms into production, including addressing all of the ugly issues that comes with supporting a large user base.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Intel Atom 330, Travel

I am done completely with set up of Intel Atom 330. It is pretty amazing. I suspect that every manufacturer of computers is pretty unhappy with Intel. This is an amazing capable quad thread (dual core HT) machine EM64T. I am running both Windows XP64 and Ubuntu amd64 (x86_64) on it. It will be my dedicated SDR and multimedia TV machine. MythTV, streamer for windows required services (SCREW DRM!!) such as Netflix and Rhapsody, hulu.com, and more.

I think Blu-Ray is a diller a dollar a ten o'clock scholar. Streaming HDTV streams vitiates any market for Blu-Ray (and large book shelves to store the media).

Off to Austin, Tx tomorrow for a week of SDR work at Flex. This week is dealing almost exclusive with adaptive filtering for all sorts of impediments.

Intel Atom 330

Have completed installing OS's, updating the BIOS, and running several applications on my Intel Atom 330 screwdriver job. I got it on an Intel D945GCLF2 motherboard. The entire computer cost $200 and it outperforms my desktop (old P4 HT), plays excellent quality graphics into my 52" Sony Bravia. The GigE appears to have excellent support under Windows XP and Ubuntu Linux. Both are 64 bit OS's. I am just amazed. It should make for an excellent low end software defined radio dedicated computer as well as streaming machine for my television center.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Blackberry Storm

For Christmas I purchased a BlackBerry Storm for my daughter. She updated her phone to version blah.blah.blah.75 and since then there has been nothing but bloody problems. The phone shuts itself off and a battery removal has to be done to recover. This is a damn $500 phone. How in the hell can Blackberry release firmware with this kind of effing mess up in it?

We know this because there are reports of it on Crackberry. We went to Verizon to replace the phone today and they gave us a new one in the box, having blah.blah.blah.75 in it and it has done it TWICE since we got it home.

I am TOTALLY pissed at BlackBerry and Verizon over this stupidity