Life Stations Log

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iberiadx
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Life Stations Log

Post by iberiadx »

I realised that I do not have a life list for my LW/MW o FM stations and I should. How about yours? Which columns do you include.

One of my doubts is that... May I log each station just once (the very first one I heard it) with a column to show other dates when I recorded it; or maybe log a station every time that I record it? (but this would be a full stations log, wouldn't be?).

73!
Jorge Garzón. EB7EFA / EA1036 SWL
IN83ag Cantabria (Spain) / 43°15'N • 3°56'W
--
Rx: RSP1A/AirSpy HF+/Lowe HF 150/Sony SA3-ES-EE
Ant.: Fanfare FM-2G/Wellbrook 1530LN/5el SKT Yagi
Blog: http://iberiadx.wordpress.com

pauldbnut
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Re: Life Stations Log

Post by pauldbnut »

Good post, Jorge!

Let me say first, I'm not a regular SWL but have spent a little time listening on and off for the last 60 years. And I haven't kept any logs from those times. And I don't actually know what you mean by "log" or "life list", or whether you are talking about a personal log or submissions to an online forum. But I do have some thoughts to share. Not so much for the benefit of others :oops:, but because this has been a source of immense frustration to me over the years and it would be great to get it off my chest :).

For me, the central problem is lack of computer-based logging software that matches my approach to listening, recording and analysis. That has led me (several times in my life) to try designing my own logging system, but I always gave up. A large part of the reason for that is because I want a comprehensive way to assemble evidence and a disciplined way to draw conclusions about received station identification. And another part has a lot to do with lack of other vital facilities:
  • Comprehensive/unified database of frequency assignments/schedules.
  • Library management of received data (I-Q) files.
  • Library management of audio files.
  • Online resources of listener reports to a high and compatible standard.
Those are just words, of course, but let me give you just a flavour of the kinds of thing I would like to be able to do.

Given any historic audio or data recording, or note, look up the frequency in all available assignments/schedules for that period, and either side. Historic assignments/schedules are an important part of the story - including for a lacking match in the current period, when prior records may give a clue to as-yet unannounced changes. In other words, never throw away old (computer records of) schedules: consolidate them all under one interface and use filtering and/or searching to locate the record(s) relevant for the present exercise and referenced as evidence for identification. [And on that subject, I am bitterly disappointed that neither official nor enthusiast schedule databases include unique record IDs to distinguish one period (or period/version) from another; nor even record date created/updated.]

A good logging system will allow recording in a way that matches our listening patterns. In my case (if i had the time, tools and logger), I would start with a band survey to get a feel for the current conditions: noise levels, proportion of channels with discernible signals, typical SNR (or any similar measure such as peak carrier above noise), perhaps a rough estimate of global distribution (e.g. transatlantic DX on MW). Those metrics could be logged together with any available propagation and "weather" data.

After a band survey might come a first-cut channel survey, noting the main occupants and any evidence of weaker stations in the background. For this purpose, a lovely tool is an ultra-high resolution waterfall - centred on the nominal frequency and zoom-able from channel spacing down to around 1% of that. Unfortunately, most SDR software cannot deliver this in real time. Comparing the current occupancy with previous logs (filtered by season and time of day) can give important information about conditions that may influence the decision whether to proceed to the next stage, a detailed study of every signal.

For the detailed stage we need access to the history of logs on that channel, with all the evidence used to support identification. We may decide to skip signals we have good grounds to believe are highly confident station identifications from earlier. Otherwise we may want to focus on trying to reinforce earlier "doubtfuls" or seek out new stations. This is perhaps the biggest difference between traditional, time-linear logs and the type imagined here. No single "log" may be enough to produce the near-certainty that would satisfy me. But over several (or even many) sessions, the evidence can accumulate to convince me.

The logging system would hold session experience of earlier candidate station evidence, among these being I-Q and audio file links for selective replay and comparison with current reception. That would be a lost cause without some kind of library management system to locate the correct session files and replay/loop* from the appropriate start times (and at the appropriate frequency for I-Q). And, as an aside, an audio database of signature tunes, jingles, announcements and language samples will be created (one day) with amazingly clever indexing...

* I just realised, I don't know any SDR software that allows recording replay concurrently with live listening. Any ideas?

As far as I can tell, Internet Radio has not yet become an essential resource for SWL. It should be (several times it has confirmed radio reception for me), but does have its own problems. Links seem to go out of date annoyingly quickly and it seems many aggregators or hosting servers are involved, so reliable access is a problem. Also, many stations understandably want to limit listening from their own website, a barrier to "instant connection".

Whether current or historic, listener reports can be every bit as important as (and sometimes more than) official schedules. It is probably too much to hope that anyone will create a listener report aggregator, so again we have to manage with separate websites. We also have the same uniqueness problem: a unique record link should be available in our logging system. Perhaps a work-around would be to copy the report text into the logging system but this is inefficient, breaks the link to the original and loses context.

Listener reports do tend to have a bias towards highlighting new stations, whereas I think going off-air is just as important. Maybe one day a better balance can be achieved. A notable exception seems to be fmscan.org which makes a point of removing entries for stations that appear to have closed down. However, the focus is still on what can be heard now: my preference would be a complete listing with dates first heard and last heard (and suitable filtering options).

So, if it is not already clear, my interest spans a "Life List" (is that what you mean, Jorge?) of logging and ideally the ability to replay historic experiences. In practice, data storage costs and long-term durability/readability/compatibility will detract from that ambition. However SWL across a few seasons should be easily accessible, especially because the evidence from one session is not always conclusive. Evidence needs to accumulate to be convincing (never mind QSLs ;)).

That brings me to my sort-of final point. What is left over from the current session, or brought forward from earlier sessions, can be moulded into an actions list - even a schedule. It should be the logging system's job to help us go searching for a special language audio sample; track down an internet radio station; post a question in a Skywaves DX forum; schedule a recording spanning some station's sign-on and/or sign-off times every day for the next week.

I'm not an expert in any of these listener activities, in using fancy analysis tools, or applying propagation data to expectations of signal reception. All those things take practice to learn, and I've had too little practice. But I've also had too little opportunity to learn from my little experience and that is partly because I don't have a "good" logging system and supporting databases.

Yes, I'm obsessed with detail and I want to record that when it suits me. I also believe that good recording and referring back to it is an effective and efficient way to learn, and (lacking the kind of brain that remembers all the detail) easy recognition of past identifications maximises focus on signals that may produce the next "first". To make that happen, I need a clever logging system with a channel-filtered view window containing station identifications with their confidence levels. Right underneath CSV User List Browser or equivalent.

So, thanks Jorge. I've got this off my chest, sort-of. This has been a ramble, not a logical presentation, and from my head instead of reams of notes, so heaven knows how much sense it will make to you, how much significant stuff was missed out, or how many times I contradicted myself! And maybe it has nothing much to do with your original question!!!

Good listening.
Paul White (Grumpy Old Git)

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John Faulkner, Skegness
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Re: Life Stations Log

Post by John Faulkner, Skegness »

Hello Paul (and Jorge!). Great topic.

There's so much I would love to respond to in this thread but I will have to restrict myself today due to the workload I have mysteriously acquired this week. (When I will I get time to listen to my overnight recordings. !!!)

Each listener will have their own needs when it comes to keeping records. I know somebody who has year's worth of logging notes scribbled on bits of paper. I try to keep records on my blog, on here and in my own website, but that's just too much hassle these days to manage all three.

Some groups have very strict rules about what constitutes a 'proper' logging, and it's good to set high standards, but this is just a 'hobby', so views on this will very hugely. One DX club won't accept loggings unless a QSL has been received from the station to confirm that reception! I did not know about this until this week. That seems a little OTT, in my humble opinion. So when it comes to keeping records, it's just got to be entirely up to the individual to keep records how they want. Standards are good, but how can standards be agreed over a wide range of interests and with widely varying opinions?

Admittedly, I rushed through your reply and it deserves more time to digest, but I see some great points in there and this is a topic which interests me. I hope you will get s=some more replies on this, but I can only conclude with this: Just do what you enjoy doing and don't make it a chore like I have.

pauldbnut
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Re: Life Stations Log

Post by pauldbnut »

Hello John.
Well, for all your limited time, you have managed to cram a lot of heavy stuff into a single off-the-cuff post. Thanks!!!

I probably didn't make it clear enough that my logging "ideal model in gestation for decades" really, really is a personal preference that aims to help with a particularly obsessive approach to listening :). It certainly doesn't imply my verification standards are higher than anyone else's. And, thinking about that, I suppose all I'm doing is trying to capture a history/pattern of pieces of lesser quality evidence around highly uncertain identifications.

Many listeners have started to make serious use of remote SDRs (e.g. Kiwi) and internet radio, and hopefully indexing and access to these will improve in the future. Both figured last night listening to an Icelandic Kiwi on 531, hoping to hear Faeroe Islands and finding it all but inaudible underneath Algeria. Eventually "aaah", listening in parallel to Faeroe on internet radio.

I do think it's a shame we haven't got better access to historical schedules. That's not the fault of listener standards, it just seems the providers have not seen the need to publish and retain time-dependent records.

It's ironic when you say "Just do what you enjoy doing and don't make it a chore like I have". Using conventional logging became the chore for me because of the difficulty of cross-referencing (and other facilities). Obsessively repeated searches would be far less of a chore for me, given a "better" :twisted: logging system ;).
Paul White (Grumpy Old Git)

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iberiadx
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Re: Life Stations Log

Post by iberiadx »

Hi again Pauls 😁,
Yes, the answer exceedes my question, but that's the most interesting, stretches out the rope (not sure about this expression! ).

My aim (step 1 of probably an endless way) is being able to know certainly... Did I hear that station before? when, know details, and even hear my recordings with just a click or two.

I understand your brilliant exposition and I am delighted to confirm the complexity of the human knowledge but we are not thinking at a same level. What I am maybe thinking is having a well structured and ordered simpler log system, and I guess you are proposing a complex and much more important logging and listening whole library. Mine is unexpensive, yours not; mine is oneself-satisfying, yours is a complex heritage relational database for future researching; mine is definitely something clutter, but yours is an useful tool for keep alive the radiolistening memory for future generations.

But it is also something of human nature. I am a person who trends to perfectibility, but I am not a perfectionist! A perfectionist sets unreachable goals and most of the times that gives back frustration as we are just humans. I am just a passionate hobbyist that aspires to get a better way to organize my logfiles relatively messy after the years. Now for myself and perhaps in the future for other people interested in the DXing activity.

In the meantime I will keep listening and getting what I think are real challenges these days: using small portables to get difficult stations, or trying to get worldwide LPAM's with better SDR and aerial capabilities.

¡73 y Buen DX!
Jorge
Jorge Garzón. EB7EFA / EA1036 SWL
IN83ag Cantabria (Spain) / 43°15'N • 3°56'W
--
Rx: RSP1A/AirSpy HF+/Lowe HF 150/Sony SA3-ES-EE
Ant.: Fanfare FM-2G/Wellbrook 1530LN/5el SKT Yagi
Blog: http://iberiadx.wordpress.com

pauldbnut
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Re: Life Stations Log

Post by pauldbnut »

Hi, Jorge, thanks for taking the trouble to comment - it was great fun!

You know, we are not so far apart. I just dream of ways to achieve what you are hoping to do. Even browsing the history of a station you heard in the past, and clicking through to recordings, is not a trivial task :).

Good luck, my friend.
Paul White (Grumpy Old Git)

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Re: Life Stations Log

Post by John Faulkner, Skegness »

A complex heritage relational database indeed! Jorge, you say that your needs are much simpler. It doesn't matter how simple or complicated this will be, it is about getting it right and finding something to suit our own needs.

A friend suggested Google Sheets as an option for this. My own idea was to involve a little bit of programming and incorporate Ajax. There was a superb system involving Ajax where the table existed in a web page, or a blog, where the user would be able to add data in the web page itself, as if it was a form. This system also made it possible to add users and give them the capability to enter data themselves. I assume that system still exists and maybe it it even better today.

I have reservations about Google Sheets in that it destroyed one of my all time FM logs, as can be seen here: http://www.g1vvp.co.uk/fm-log-sutton-in ... lative.php Note that the columns became detached, so WDR4 is now from Norway, YLE3 is now from Hungary and the UK now have FM outlets of DR-P2, France Musique and Deutschland Radio Berlin! Google Sheets can be found here: https://www.google.com/sheets/about/ and I would imagine that it is better these days ..... maybe. Keep backups and you'll be safe! I did but the hard drive which stored the information died.

I am pleased to see that you included a description of the term 'Perfectionist'. I have been surprised over the years by how many people think that the word means 'Perfect', so I have always been reluctant to use the term. It does of course mean that you strive to achieve something which is of a high standard but never quite get there.

Maybe the answers to your original question, Jorge, are too complicated, or not quite relevant, but some points to consider in along the way, hopefully. One thing which would be useful would be to give this a demo run first, whatever kind of system you choose, as you will learn along the way and see if it fits your needs.

I am about to embark on the large task of updating my all-time MW log. I have all copies of Medium Wave News going back to 1977 when I joined. I wasn't going to include my old Nottinghamshire loggings in the current east coast log, but after much thought I really don't see why I shouldn't.

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Re: Life Stations Log

Post by John Faulkner, Skegness »

Would something like this be any good? http://www.g1vvp.co.uk/test.php

Obviously this is a test page/document, but already I am sensing that Google Docs has not moved on at all in the last few years.

* Column resizing seems to have a mind of its own.
* Refreshing the page or the table itself produces tables of slightly differing sizes, though not always.
* There's an annoying cache issue where the page sometimes displays a previously saved version of the table.

Weird!

For now, I will use this for simply adding entries. It's a database after all and so should be useful in that sense at least, but it's not quite what I am looking for in terms of wanting to create separate tables for each continent, then being able to select ALL together, etc. I see too many limitations and quirks with this. Alison is a dab hand (Nothing to do with D.A.B.!) in the field of database management, so I know that she will be able to help me create something usable, then I have to consider how I can fashion this into a web page.

pauldbnut
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Re: Life Stations Log

Post by pauldbnut »

John, Google Sheets is not a serious contender for a web app of the sort you envisage.
Think long before you decide static web pages are not good enough for you, because Ajax is another layer of complexity.
I have used DataTable before -- worked well with static HTML tables.
Or perhaps jQuery Table Sorter is more up-to-date? Not sure which is more capable.
Certainly those should get you a more "stable" performance than is possible with Google Docs.
Anyway, do use a proper database (like MySQL) for the data back-end.
And perhaps prototype with MS Access as it's far more flexible for design changes?
I wouldn't spend months messing with web design until the data layer was firm.
As for separate continent (HTML) tables, why not just filter a single table in response to user input?
Paul White (Grumpy Old Git)

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Re: Life Stations Log

Post by John Faulkner, Skegness »

Thanks Paul. Some good advice there.

I decided to begin entering the data now so I have something to play with, but another dedicated MySQL database needs to be created at the server.

I haven't used the JQuery Table Sorter so that's something I need to investigate. I was familiar with Ajax tables some years ago, but in the meantime there's no reason why I shouldn't begin to enter the data now, as long as I remember to do regular backups in case it all goes wrong.

That test page I began is now displaying the data I have entered so far, and that's just 1978 at the moment. There weren't many loggings back then. I am also relying on my oldest issues of Medium Wave News. It's a minor pain in the wotsits to have to wade through everything like this, but once it's done, it's done. Sadly, my original early DX logbook has gone. I have an idea where, but after a thorough search of my store cupboards and loft I realise that I don't have that anymore.

I will look at the Ajax side of things in that gap between Christmas day and the new year.

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Re: Life Stations Log

Post by John Faulkner, Skegness »

Interesting to see that there is no presence of a scroll bar in the embedded Google Sheets document. Another drawback. I think it's safe to say that Sheets is well worth avoiding.

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Re: Life Stations Log

Post by pauldbnut »

I'm really impressed you still have as many old records as you do, John. Such as they were, mine were just annotations on Newnes, Wireless World, et al frequency lists and (later) a few WRTHs. No proper date/time or signal reports, I just wanted to tick them off. Besides, all the joy was in listening.

I remember the markings were all colour-coded (whatever for???), in the country section as well as the frequency list. With a badly uncalibrated HRO, parallel channels were a godsend. Broke my heart when, many years later, I realised all those books had been binned.

"no reason why I shouldn't begin to enter the data now"
Absolutely. And helps to spot flaws in the data structures.

"Sheets is well worth avoiding" :D.
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iberiadx
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Re: Life Stations Log

Post by iberiadx »

I will come back here from Tuesday as these coming days I will be plenty of time ;-)
73
Jorge
Jorge Garzón. EB7EFA / EA1036 SWL
IN83ag Cantabria (Spain) / 43°15'N • 3°56'W
--
Rx: RSP1A/AirSpy HF+/Lowe HF 150/Sony SA3-ES-EE
Ant.: Fanfare FM-2G/Wellbrook 1530LN/5el SKT Yagi
Blog: http://iberiadx.wordpress.com

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