As a CW op I have found the RBN to be a very valuable tool. It usually finds me within a minute or so which can be a big time saver on summits, particularly where the mobile phone footprint is patchy.
I had come to rely on it on all bands, but on my last 3 activations I have found that, in the UK, we seem no longer to have skimmer coverage on the 60m band. So I resorted to sending a text to Andy’s magic telephone number.
Don’t quote me on this, but I think 60m coverage in the UK may have been mainly through the websdr run by Mark G4FPH. Mark has reconfigured his set up for 80m only. I don’t know the reason for this or whether 60m coverage will return at his QTH.
Incidentally, conditions were rather strange yesterday when you were on Tosson Hill G/SB-007. Your signals were very strong on 30m and 40m, but barely copyable on 60m. In part this will be down to my local noise level, but the difference was considerable.
I did work a DL and F on 60m but yes I agree, I have relied on G4FPH for UK skimmer on 60. So as I suspected I now need to self spot 60m with phone text.
Yes propagation was strange, I only worked 11 stations on 40 wheras I worked 41 on 30m.
I can’t help thinking that there might be more skimmers scattered around the globe if the entry cost (and energy cost) were lower. That’s not much of a problem in NA or Western Europe (or Japan?), but other parts of the world are less well covered. Of course it may be that one high quality may be worth more to RBN than many “budget” ones, but even so there’s a minimum coverage below which the system’s usefulness fades to grey.
First, you need a quite capable SDR receiver that can listen to several bands at the same time with high dynamic and low intermodulation…
Second you need a software that can decode signals in real time and extract the amateur radio callsigns from the noise at different speeds.
Third you need a location with reasonable noise level so that you have a chance to hear weak signals, and a multi-band antenna system.
Today, that limits you to QS1R (now very diifficult to find) or Red Pitaya + CW Skimmer server.
The shareware licence of the CW Skimmer server is by far the cheapest part.
Now if some people were able and willing to write such a complex piece of software and give it for free while some other would develop and sell a cheap high performance receiver compatible with that software, I am pretty sure there would be a lot of interest.
Not all RBN skimmers cover all bands. A fair few seem to cover just one at a time, and I’ve noticed some which seem to hop between bands as takes their fancy. A low-cost node that could skim only a portion of one band might still add value to the network if it covered the right bit of a band from a good location. There are, of course, trade-offs. One of the main headaches is probably being reasonably confident that all the skimmers are more or less equal. Having them all run the same skimmer software probably goes some way towards that.
By way of a counter-example, there are a number of networks of automated meteor-spotting cameras operating around the globe. They aim to track meteors by analysing images taken from multiple locations, so the hard work is done on centralised servers, but they need a well distributed network of cameras. To be part of some you need to spend a few thousand ($,€,£) on a camera system. Others have a lower entry cost, down to two or three hundred ($,€,£) per camera. Guess which ones get the better sky coverage, and, consequently, the greater number of matched observations.
Further to my earlier post, Mark G4FPH has advised that the reason that he is currently only running an SDR on 80m is down to a major update of his kit to reduce running costs. He hopes to be able to get his system back to covering more bands in due course. Of course, running costs are unlikely to be at the forefront of our mind when we use or benefit from online systems such as WebSDR and the RBN.
Very understandable… my own changes to shack computers that are on 24/7 should see savings around £16/month with current prices. The biggest saving comes from replacing the x86 Linux computer that was always on providing a way for me to SSH in to the computers at home when away with a Raspberry Pi Zero W. That means instead of a small PC using about 30W continuously I have a tiny board using about 0.75W. The router is always on and the Pi is plugged into a USB port on the router for power. That and the retirement of the old NAS.
There’ll be a lot of people who had stuff that was on 24/7 now only having it on part of the time with the way energy prices have moved.