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760Looking for Skimmer "Reverse Beacons"

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  • Pete Smith
    Mar 30, 2008
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      PY1NB is developing a server to handle data from a worldwide network of
      "reverse beacons" utilizing VE3NEA's CW Skimmer. Now that Alex has
      released version 1.1, which incorporates a Telnet server, there is an
      opportunity for users of CW Skimmer world-wide to help with this
      potentially fascinating development.

      For those who came late to the subject, a "reverse beacon" is a CW Skimmer
      combined with a wide-band receiver (such as a SoftRock Lite) capable of
      receiving a wide swath of a CW band. My experimental reverse beacon,
      operating on 20 meters for the last several weeks, is a conceptual test of
      the idea. It is currently chugging along, at a telnet address of
      24.126.38.27 port 7300, sending out "spots" of everything it hears on the
      band. Anyone with a telnet client, including virtually all the current
      general and contest logging programs, can connect to it just like a DX
      cluster node.

      The purpose of the aggregator or "hub server" is to provide a single point
      to which users of the future "reverse beacon" network can connect. Direct
      connections to any individual CW Skimmer will probably quickly overload the
      computer CPU, although I have had as many as 13 simultaneous telnet
      connections with a relatively busy band to report on. It's not hard to
      conceive of several hundred simultaneous users, hence the need for the server.

      Even more important, the hub server will support a variety of queries. For
      example, you will be able to transmit a CQ on any band, wait a few seconds,
      and then ask the server, "Where am I being heard?" Similarly, you will be
      able to ask the server, "What bands is Station X being heard on, and at
      what locations." Spots will be archived in a database, so that you can ask
      retrospective questions like "When did Station X begin operation on 20
      meters yesterday." There will undoubtedly be many fascinating uses that
      can be made of the data, either displaying it cartographically or in
      response to complex queries like this.

      But first, we need Skimmer owners to serve as "reverse beacons." If you
      have CW Skimmer 1.1 working, are using a broadband receiver of any sort to
      feed it with 48 KHz or more of any CW band, and you have an "always on"
      connection to the Internet, then you can be part of this effort.

      You don't have to commit to 24/7 availability of your CWSkimmer
      station. Mine will be shut down when thunderstorms are in my area this
      spring and summer, for example; the server is smart enough to resume
      receiving spots from a "reverse beacon" when it returns to
      action. Obviously, though, the more stations that are available at any
      given time, the better the network will be.

      If you'd like to get involved, drop me a note, and I'll help you get
      started. You can download a full-featured 30-day trial copy of CW Skimmer
      1.1 from www.dxatlas.com. Even if you initially downloaded the trial
      version of 1.0, and your trial has ended, version 1.1 offers a new trial
      period.

      The prototype hub server is located at http://skimmer.dxwatch.com It is
      not receiving spots currently, pending the end of WPXSSB, but should be up
      and running again soon after that. In the meantime, you can get the flavor
      by contacting my CW Skimmer at 24.126.38.27 port 7300. Check the
      instructions of your logging program or telnet client to learn how to
      designate the port - typically, there are already DX clusters on the node
      list of your software that are using explicitly designated ports, so you
      can follow their example.

      See you on the network?

      73, Pete N4ZR