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There's an App For That
The catch phrase “there’s an app for that” is used for the iPhone, but it obviously applies to the iPod Touch, Android and other mobile devices. While many of the apps are toys or nifty gadgets, there are some that are practical in radio engineering. Here are some that have been suggested by readers.
There’s an app from Media5 called Media5-fone, which is a suite of SIP-based mobile VoIP and Unified Communications softclient applications enabling end users to make VoIP calls using their smartphone with any WLAN and Packet Data networks. It’s available on several smartphone platforms. One reader noted he has used the app for two-way, broadcast-quality audio by connecting to a Comrex Access located at the studio.
AM Search is an iPhone and iPod Touch app that displays a catalog of all US FCC-licensed AM radio stations from 540kHz to1700kHz. It also includes Canadian and Mexican facilities. It links the call sign to a map showing transmitter locations via Google maps. While the app was designed for hobbyists interested in AM radio stations DXing, it could be useful to identify stations in a given area.
Users can enter a location or GPS coordinates and the program shows the nearest AM station frequencies and signal strengths. It also provides format info and station location as well as RF output power info.
Wonder what satellites are visible from where you’re standing? Using augmented reality (AR) – a method of using a phone’s camera (for the reality view) overlayed with data (the augmentation) – an app called Dishpointer AR (for the iPhone and Android) lets you see what’s between you and the satellite. The satellite arc and positions are overlaid on the device’s screen. There is also a Pro version, which allows the user to update the satellite data directly.
After you have used Dishpointer to find a clear view of a satellite, you’ll need to adjust the angle of the receive antenna. Another app for the iPhone and iPad called Clinometer (from Plaincode Products) can do the trick. The app can be used as a bubble level or an inclinometer. The app can be easily calibrated on a device and is said to be accurate within ±0.1 degrees.
For the amateur radio operator there’s an app that puts a ham radio on an iPhone, Droid or Windows PC. Using streaming audio, the program allows worldwide connections to be made between stations or from computer to station.
On Sept. 16, there was a regional Internet outage near Pittsburgh. The problem is being attributed to backhoe fade. While some Internet users may have noticed the problem, it was not severe enough to take down a significant portion of the Internet. The problem took down the Tier 1 infrastructure of XO and maybe Verizon.
Barry Thomas, CPBE CBNT, vice president of radio engineering for Lincoln Financial Media, pointed me to the Internet Health Report website as a convenient way to check for Internet problems and gauge how widespread a problem may be.
Thomas notes that there is a certain irony to using the Internet to check the overall health of the Internet.
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