COMMON FAQ’s

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Cool website! But how does it work? What data drives it?

I wonder if you can tell me where you get the data for Bandconditions.com. I'm familiar with the H.F. interferometry method you describe, but I wonder where you actually get this data from.

A question has been asked regarding the source of the data driving the bandconditions.com page. Could you be a bit more specific?

ANS: First, I can’t say much about this. US Patent Law has changed from first to invent to first to file. There is no longer a grace period before filing for a patent. So if I disclose my invention(s) via a conference, class, technical paper or even a web page, I have given up all control over my invention(s).

So without revealing too much….

The system operating in the background is called "ISIS Gen1" – (I)onospheric (S)canning (I)nferometric (S)ystem Generation 1.

ISIS is a suite of research instruments designed to study the upper layers of the Ionosphere.

ISIS generates the real time numbers, data is mapped on computer models modified for each HF Amateur band, Modeled data is then modified through a Rule Based AI system (i.e. Grayline Data is removed ) and a HTML page is generated and sent to a web server every 30 seconds.

Everything…. Algorithms, Software, and Hardware is custom made and highly proprietary.

More info on the U.S. Patent System:

First to invent (FTI) and First to file (FTF) are legal concepts that define who has the right to the grant of a patent for an invention. The first-to-file system is used in all countries, including the United States, which switched to a first-inventor-to-file system on March 16, 2013 after the enactment of the "America Invents Act".

There is an important difference between the strict nature of the FTF and the FTI system of the US Patent Office. The FTI system affords early disclosers some "grace" time before they need to file a patent, whereas there is NO grace period of early disclosure under the FTF

In a first-to-file system, the right to the grant of a patent for a given invention lies with the first person to race to the patent office and file a patent application for protection of that invention, regardless of the date of actual invention.

Here is a good article on the effect these changes will have on small companies, research organizations and inventors.

http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/230034

America tend to treat it’s inventors rather poorly. Suicide, poverty, and insanity is typically what’s in store for them. Tesla, Armstrong, Farnsworth and thousands more just like them. Cheating them out of royalties and credit and praising them after they died is the American way.


Do you have plans to add/show 12m and 17m?

Why are 60M and 17M left out?

ANS: We have this information but have chosen not to show it for three reasons.

  1. No contests allowed on those bands
  2. Very little QRP activity
  3. Single web page for this band would be too confusing for a quick "drive by".

Having said that, Its clear that 10 meter activity will drop as we head to the bottom of the 11 year solar cycle. Later on this year, the plan is to drop 10 meters from the page display and add 17 meters. This will occur about late summer as time permits.


I like your web page format. Can you tell me more about it?

ANS: This Web Page Format was chosen for simplicity. Unlike "ClickBait" type sites, we choose to show our information in an easy to find and read format. This allows folks to do a quick "Drive By" view to check out band conditions without jumping through all sorts of hoops.

Since we have to send the index.htm file every 30 seconds, we have stripped the HTML code to a bare minimum 2k file so anyone, even those with dialup modems, can access the webpage.

The site was designed so that ANY browser can read it. Our software standard is MS Explorer 4.5 running under Windows 98. If it can’t run on this, then we re-code it until it does.

We could, but don’t use COOKIES, FLASH, JavaScript, Java, or RSS because of the many hacker security and upgrade issues. A straight Browser display is pretty much hacker proof and using stripped down 2k html files makes it impossible for a virus to hide within such a small web page.


What are the raw data demarcation points for amp, no amp, and no prop?

ANS: We use –107 dBm (1uV) and –73 dBM (50 uV) as a starting point and assume a receiver has AGC headroom of about 20 dB. (Modern receiver AGC circuits are actually much better but we assume QRP designs with simpler circuits). Below –107 dBm (1uV) the band is considered dead. Above –107 dBm (1uV) and below –73 dBM (50 uV) is the amp needed range and above –73 dBM (50 uV) is the band open range.

But these are just starting points. Each band is different. QSB and QRN levels change on each band depending on time of day and seasons. This is where 50 years of experience in radio comes into play. Each band is carefully adjusted to take into account all these variations.

Please remember three things.

First the standard is 1 watt - Dipole - 25 feet high. If your station setup is better than this, then things for you are slightly better than the website indicates. If your running 2 kw and Yagi’s then things are a lot better for you.

Second – The 100 band index point is when a 1 watt station sounds exactly the same as a 100 watt station. The band might and often does get better than this point but it’s not shown past the 100. From a QRP’ers point of view, once you hit this point, anything above doesn’t matter.

Third – I built this thing for me. I use it every day. My time is valuable to me and I really don’t want to spend it flogging a dead horse calling CQ on a dead band. If this info is useful to you, then I’m more than happy to share it and save both of use some time.


Is there any particular location to which the data is keyed?

ANS: CONUS stands for Continental U.S. and this page is keyed to this area. It does not include Hawaii, Alaska, Mexico or Canada. A lot of thought (and calculations) went into this page display.

However, it you live in a swamp, you’ll find 160 and 80 comes in better. On a mountain top, 10 and 15 meters would work out better for you. In a valley surrounded by mountains, signals might be come better from certain directions and locations with poor grounding, signals might not come in at all. Everyone’s location is different.

The CONUS display is based on using a 1 watt transmitter connected via RG-8X coax to a halfwave dipole 25 feet high with the major lobe facing East/West with a clear horizon in all directions.

Over the last 10 years, I had jobs that allowed me to travel all over the U.S. This allowed me to setup my little QRP station and do various experiments and keep very careful logs and records.

The best way to use this page is to keep records in your logbook of the blue band index numbers for each QSO. Over time, you will see certain patterns and can quickly determine band conditions in your specific location.


Why does my web browser turns white and your display is gone?

ANS: If you have been using this web site for any length of time, you will notice sooner or later that the web page will be blanked (white) out. This is not me or my code doing that. This is being done by a piece of JavaScript code called "Lexity". The purpose of this code is to track what pages you view and how long you view them.

If that is not enough, Lexity blanks out the web page to make sure you are still sitting in front of your computer. You must hit the "refresh" button to get the screen back.

The host's (YAHOO) web server places this JavaScript code at the very end of my HTML code in a way that makes it hard for Chrome, Explorer or FireFox browsers to find.

One easy answer is to find another web hosting company. I tried and tried but it seems like everyone has some kind version of Lexity tracking code that they automatically paste at the end of the web page and, of course, there is no way to turn the page blanking off.

The problem goes away when you hit the "refresh" key on your browser. How wonderful it would be if your browser could do that automatically for you! Turns out they can, sort of.

If you are using the OPERA browser, this auto-refresh function is built in. If you are using CHROME or FIREFOX I have been told that there are Auto-Refresh plug-ins you can get that provide this feature. I have not tried anything like that but several folks told me it could be done. I am not sure about SAFARI. Several Sites found on Google Search hint there are extensions you can download to do this.

If you are using EXPLORER, there is no built-in Auto-Refresh function and it does not support plug-ins, as far as I know.


Sometimes I see a blue message at the bottom of the page saying "Sorry problems with ATT – Yahoo". What’s that all about?

ANS: The system in Dallas sends the index.htm page to the Yahoo webserver in San Francisco every 30 seconds. It then downloads the page from the server and checks the time stamp and report number. This is referred to by engineers and programmers as a "feedback loop". If it didn’t make it on to the webserver, then a second PC in hibernation is woken up and together, both PC’s try to send the next page through 6 different paths in a "Brute Force" attempt to get it to the webserver anyway it can. At this point the "Sorry" message is generated. When the page finally makes it, then the standby pc goes back into hibernation and the "Sorry" message is removed on the next webpage sent. 98% of the time, the recovery is pretty quick and most seldom see the "Sorry" message.

There are many reasons for it not making it to the server. Weather, NetFlix users sucking bandwidth, Various Denial of Service (DoS) type hacker attacks, Network engineers configuring various parts of the net, even Yahoo programmers playing with the webserver. The list is endless and completely out of my control.


Sometimes I get the page OK but the little icon on the browser keeps spinning. What’s up?

ANS: You’ll see this sometimes late at night. It just means the Yahoo folks are doing automated backups or various other house keeping chores on the server. As the webserver is done sending each JPG file – it also sends a "I’m done sending this JPG file message" to tell the browser it’s done.

The Yahoo folks have figured out they can generate a little more "wiggle room" if they temporarily strip this message out of everyone’s websites. As you noticed – you get all the info being sent – it’s just the little icon keeps spinning. Usually by 5AM PST things return to normal.


Carl Luetzelschwab, K9LA commented: The web site says the reference is a 3-hop path running 1 Watt into a low dipole. I just took a screen shot of the numbers - it's for 9:14 AM here in Fort Wayne, and shows that 160m and 80m are good for 1 W over a 3-hop path in the continental US. I don't believe that.

ANS: Carl has discovered (as have many of you) a unique phenomena which I call a "Micro Band Opening" or just "MO". These MO’s are nothing new. QRPe Operators have been reporting them since the 70’s. Thousand mile CW QSO’s are possible with just a milliwatt or two. Most hams and the ARRL pretty much relegated them to the "honorable society of the tin foil hats".

Skip ahead 40 years later and it’s pretty common to see PSK31 and WSPR stations pulling incredible paths with the same power levels. Their operators will quickly tell you it’s the signal to noise ratio of that particular mode. But if that were true, then they should be able make those QSO’s on demand anytime night or day. But they can’t. It’s because PSK31 and WSPR are automated and can operate 24 hours a day can make a QSO when and if a MO can stay open just long enough.

So how long can an MO stay open? 5 to 15 minutes is common. However, MO’s as short as 200 ms (ISIS’s resolution limit) have been seen although they are very rare. I suspect much shorter MO’s exist but those would be extremely rare.

Long time users know ISIS is calibrated at least once a month and before a scheduled experiment run.


Why does a zero appear from time to time in Yesterday's Band Conditions?

ANS: A number of programs and computers are performing chained mathematical calculations. From time to time we stop computers and/or programs to perform minor software or system upgrades. When one program or computer is stopped, the calculation results are no longer valid. So when any one program or computer is stopped, a software flag is generated and a zero is placed across ALL bands within that hour time frame. Calculations are still being performed in the background but Yesterday's Band Conditions data results are considered invalid for that hour. The zero is removed and data is displayed on the next day's pass at 00:00:00 GMT.


Why do you display band conditions for certain countries but not others?

ANS: We do not have equipment placed in the North or South poles. We do not have equipment in South America or the Caribbean regions. We can not report real time propagation within these areas. We are working on several proposals to expand into these areas.


Why is there a purple Y Icon on the folder tab in my browser?

ANS: Many modern web browsers now allow the placement of small custom Icons. These are called Favicons. Unfortunately, there is no standard HTML command set for all browsers, so each one's different. While the Yahoo folks know which browser and OS you are using, they don't pass this information to us in real time. In order to cover all those browser combinations, we would have to send HTML commands for each of them. We would have to add 12k worth of commands to a 2k web page. Remember, that most sites only change their index page once a week or so. We change ours every 30 seconds. Makes no sense in sending the same commands over and over again to display a small icon on a folder tab.

The Yahoo folks continuously parse our web pages and have noticed we have no Favicon commands. The commands sent to display their Y Icon are very small (since they know your OS/Broswer) and doing so does not impact our goal of a sub-second response time.


I have noticed from time to time that the background color of the main page changes. What gives?

ANS: This is a new feature we have just implemented. As many of you already know, we "broadcast" NOAA SWPC PROPAGATION bulletins at the top and bottom of the hour. You can also read these bulletins anytime by pressing the CURR/PROP link.

Now, our computers are also reading these bulletins as they receive them. If everything is normal, then the background color of the main page remains WHITE. If something is occurring (Like a X or M class flare or CME) then the background color will change to a light YELLOW to caution you that something is going on that "may" affect propagation. If something major is going on that "is" directly affecting propagation, then the background page color will turn to a light RED to warn you to check the bulletins for further information. In this manner, you ONLY have to read the propagation bulletins when something important is going on. This feature is only implemented in the main "CONUS" page at the present.


What is SPEAK2ME and how does it work?

SPEAK2ME is a computer voice app that reads the information being displayed on the CONUS web page to you. The format is on the hour (HH:00 GMT) and 30 minutes past the hour (HH:30 GMT) it tells you the time and reads the latest HF conditions from the NOAA Space Weather Center web site. It will then read the Flash (Bottom) message(s) (if any). On 15 past the hour (HH:15 GMT) and 45 minutes past the hour (HH:45 GMT) it will read only the 3 day forecast that I parsed from the 3 Day Discussion page on the SPC web site.

All other times, it reads the data starting first with the report number and then the band index (Blue Numbers) for each band.

There are a total of three computer voices. One male and two female voices. These are selected at random.

DecTalk2 is being used to generate the voices. This is the same app being used by the National Weather Service VHF Transmitters and Aviation Weather on HF. Many Industrial and Military groups use this technology. If the male voice sounds familiar it's because it's the exact same voice that Stephen Hawking uses to speak.

We then send the audio to the Industrial BROADWAVE server in Australia operated by NCH software and from there it is relayed to your media player app on your browser.

 

I noticed that sometimes the numbers are off by one or two. Why is that?

Hundreds of software processes are being started and stopped every second over a network of 9 Dell Quad Core PC's. We are well past a hobbyist setup and squarely into a mid-range system that you'll find in many corporations. It's not hard to see we will soon exceed even that point and will require IBM z/OS Mainframe and a Hercules emulator to even keep up.

To keep things running smoothly, corporate programmers use "Functional Priority Logic" within their code. Which is a fancy term basically telling the computer which processes are important and which can wait a few machine cycles. The HTML pages have the highest priority and the Speech app has the lowest.

Sometimes, when the band is quickly changing (usually rapid type QSB), the speech app grabs the data to be spoken but by that time, the other computers have moved on to next set of calculations. This is somewhat rare, but when it happens, it's telling you that band conditions are changing very rapidly.

 

I have to reset or refresh my media player very morning. Why?

Microsoft Windows is a horrible OS to program for. Full of memory leaks, bugs, and stuff that is moved around with every version. My app works great for 4 ot 5 days and then locks up. A really good crash. Everything stops. I've checked my code (MS C++) and even installed it in on different model PC's. Same thing, Called Micrsoft dozens of times. They usually answer questions with questions. "Who are you?", "Why do you need to know that?" and the ever popular "Well the problems at your end because our products don't do that".

The answer is simple. We automatically reboot that PC every night at 07:57 GMT. Which is why you have to refresh your media player every morning.

 

I see you have AR NEWSLINE on the CONUS page. Why?

Like many of you, I have hundreds of "Favorites" saved in my browsers. Sometimes, I think I have not heard Newsline in a long time. I search for it in my browser but then something always interrupts me and I go off in a tangent. I am willing to bet the same thing happens to you.

Well the fix is easy, just put up a link. They change it every Friday afternoon. Just the thing to do early Saturday mornings with a hot cup of coffee as you check up on band conditions and the news before the weekend's contest madness begins.

73's and Good Luck in the... well, you know...