Only the Strong

The title has been borrowed from a wonderful ‘Oils track. Inspired by Jamie, who found significant differences in sensitivity between DVB-T receivers, a sensitivity test was conducted with two Strong High Definition DVB-T receivers. This amateur test focussed on the two weakest multiplexes (226.5 MHz and 599.5 MHz) at this location. F-type attenuators were progressively added in-line to kill the signal. To maintain accuracy, the same antenna was used and no splitter was used. Surprisingly, the winner was the Strong SRT-5430.

Let’s start with ABC News 24, which many consider to be a taxpayer funded disappointment. Apparently the channel was going to be called ABC Reruns from earlier but this name was too cumbersome.

Piss easy on both receivers.

A decode of 31 Digital was not possible using the SRT-5405 set top box, as the still below illustrates.

A faithful decode of 31 Digital was possible using the SRT-5430 set top box. Hot dog, we have a winner.

This blogger was aghast to find that no two DVB-T tuners offered equivalent sensitivity, in a small sample of four receivers under ownership! A LG DR-386D DVB-T recorder also significantly outperforms the Strong SRT-5405 DVB-T receiver. The DVB-T tuner with the weakest sensitivity was integrated into a Tevion AC-19LHC2 High Definition LCD television. Quality consumer-grade signal preamplifiers (costing between $50 and $100) may improve the sensitivity of lacklustre DVB-T receivers.

Now if only the broadcast of the Lions home game last weekend on 7mate was not full of digital artifacts (perfect reception but poor quality broadcast feed) these devices could be useful for actually watching television as opposed to trying to obtain long distance VHF/UHF reception. Hey, channel seven, note no artifacts were evident on One which was airing the netball at the same time! 🙂

The video was recorded using a Pioneer DVR-540H. The snap shots were created using Virtual Dub Mod

Thompson distances himself from Smooth FM

This satirical article originally appeared on the now-defunct dbrmuz blog.

Here at the Institute of the Brain Dead, our peer-reviewed research and focus groups have determined that the highest rating commercial stations in the capital cities across Australia’s eastern seaboard are abominably superficial and bland. We also have reservations about the accuracy of the radio ratings system itself.

DMG Radio could have come up with something as good as Mix 94.5 when the network yesterday launched Smooth after much anticipation. Mix 94.5 is not only the most popular station in Perth, the Music Director of Mix actually programmes good music! Unfortunately, we know DMG Radio actually have some talented employees because they previously brewed good Koffee, so the expectations here at Brain Dead were quite high. Smooth simultaneously launched in the key Australian radio markets of Hobart and Darwin under the stewardship of Music Director Craig Thompson.

In a move unanticipated by commercial radio executives, Craig Thompson (pictured) held an emotional press conference distancing himself from what media analysts see as the impending failure of Smooth FM which had only launched at 7 am earlier in the day. At the conference, Craig professed his innocence at allegations that he was responsible for the new format. He blamed union officials for ‘doctoring the playlist’. Key union individuals, including union secretary Jackie Ho broke into DMG studios in the early hours and hacked the playlist according to Craig. Ho and other officials dismissed Craig’s allegations as ‘fanciful’.

Craig Thompson dumps his load at the Smooth press conference (Fairfax Media)

Recording peculiarity

To record clips when mobile, this blogger uses a Creative Zen V Plus or Samsung Yepp recorder. The devices encode recordings in 160 kbps WMA and 160 kbps MP3 format respectively. When using the Zen to record line level audio from the Sony XDR-S10HDip or Blaupunkt Daytona, the WMA resultant audio clips exhibit a distinctive ‘chugging’ noise in the background which can be heard whilst listening to the recordings via headphones. These clips were recorded at moderately low volume (ie. in the green region on the VU recording meter). The noise does not affect recordings made on a component tuner or the Dabbler’s Dream portable receiver. The noise is present on recordings of both quieting signals and weak signals although in the latter case it is more noticeable.

The symptom could be due to:

  • recording not performed at a high enough level (ie. peaking in the red region on the VU recording meter) which perhaps increases the propensity of artifacts or
  • the effect of the FM signal preamplifier whilst using particular receivers that employ DSP algorithms.
  • The chugging does not seem to be caused by interference from the Zen, otherwise it would also appear on recordings made on the Tecsun radio, surely? The above possibilities will be eliminated (eventually, if time permits!) and indeed the Yepp might be completely immune, but someone out there might have some ideas.

    If none of the above makes sense, these links might make the peculiarity a little easier to understand! 🙂

    Recording quality on the 2U4U DMR-300 WMA Player

    Chugging noise from PC Soundcard

    The answer would appear to be the first explanation (only the Zen does it… and at low recording levels only). Here is a reward for suffering through this entry, being an example. If others can’t hear the chugging it must be the (excellent) imagination of this blogger. Please don’t deliberately taunt me! 😉

    Future of Financial Advice

    The Future of Financial Advice (FOFA) reforms have been finalized in federal parliament. FOFA is designed to address potential instances of conflicted remuneration models amongst financial planning licensees. Any benefit that could give rise to a potential conflict of interest in the financial recommendations provided to retail clients is banned.

    The legislation does not explicitly deal with professional negligence. For example, allegations of inappropriate or aggressive use of leverage (in the context of the 2008 global financial crisis) by Townsville company Storm Financial are at the forefront of retail clients’ minds. The company’s collapse resulted in lawsuits by the aggrieved investors and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), which enforces the Corporations Act on behalf of investors. Investors also allege the Commonwealth Bank subsidiaries failed to exercise the necessary duties to Storm clients in the provision of margin loans. According to journalist Mike Taylor:

    Indeed, recent events within Parliamentary Committees have raised serious questions about what, precisely, the regulators knew about Storm Financial and Trio Capital, and the actions they decided to pursue thereafter.

    According to academic Warren McKeown, CFP:

    The advice was based around “double gearing” – by borrowing against the client’s house and then using margin lending to invest heavily in the sharemarket. The undoing of this strategy was the global financial crisis when share values fell heavily and the lenders called in loans – both against the shares and against the client’s house. Yet Storm had complied with procedural requirements of the law at the time. The model used by Storm could exist in the future for some clients, except for a modification to the remuneration method.

    Union-affiliated Industry superannuation funds utilize a large advertising budget. Throughout their respective political careers, union interests have been associated with the minister in charge of FOFA, Bill Shorten (pictured) and the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. Industry funds may offer lower fees because financial advice including portfolio construction research is not available to prospective members.

    Notably, the federal Liberal National coalition introduced Super Choice in 2007, a form of market deregulation, which allowed employees access to corporate funds – not just industry funds. Accordingly, some commentators see the FOFA reforms as the incumbent ALP government ‘restoring the balance’ more towards industry funds rather than strengthening statutory protection for investors. Columnist David Potts says FOFA will:

    …Come in several legislative instalments, naturally containing more regulations and red tape, the highlight of which is banning commissions to financial planners. Or, same thing, giving union-run industry super funds a leg-up.

    Similarly, accountants have historically implemented self-managed superannuation funds for clients for tax purposes. Typically, accountants may generally act in a limited capacity without an Australian Financial Services (AFS) license from ASIC, due to exemptions under the Corporations Act.

    Both the industry fund sector and accountants indirectly compete with financial planners for clients without the expense of an AFS license, nor regulation. Naturally, sectors which compete for client assets have a vested interest in criticizing the existing regulatory framework and oversimplifying the value in the provision of ongoing financial advice for prospective clients. In this interview, Peeyush Gupta, executive in residence at the Australian School of Business at UNSW, suggests:

    Australia already has the most onerous legislation around the disclosure of interest, and has done for some years. Unlike the US, Canada, the UK and others, Australian advisers have to put in writing whatever compensation they will receive from commissions and fees, both in dollar terms and percentage terms.

    Regulatory guide 146 ‘Licensing: Training of financial product advisers’ (RG146) is the minimum training required under the Corporations Act for financial planners. According to CPA Australia:

    For example, a financial planner who only advises on superannuation may need to complete RG146 compliant courses in financial planning, superannuation and probably managed investments. However, a financial planner who offers a complete financial planning service to clients would need to be compliant in all specialist knowledge areas.

    Despite the minimum training standards enacted under RG146 through the Corporations Act, statistics from employers (also known as principals or licensees) supplied to Money Management indicate that the overwhelming majority of currently-employed financial planners have earned post graduate qualifications. Universities offering Masters include Curtin, Deakin, Latrobe, UNSW & UWS. Seventeen universities offer undergraduate degrees in financial planning.

    An undergraduate degree in a relevant discipline (presumably an economics or commerce degree would qualify) is the minimum requirement for membership to the Financial Planning Association (FPA), the peak representative body for the financial planning industry. Since 2003, the FPA has required prospective applicants into its Certified Financial Planner (CFP) programme to hold a degree, according to the Australian Financial Review. Applicants must also be experienced practitioners.

    The Financial literacy and behaviourial change report was compiled by ASIC in 2011. In this report, ASIC cited a Financial Literacy Foundation study in 2007 which found that “54% of Australians aged 18 and over had used a financial adviser for information or advice”. It is estimated that only 37% of Australians over 14 years of age “had ever met an adviser” based on Roy Morgan Single Source data in 2009, according to the ASIC report.

    Licensees face additional compliance costs as a result of this new federal legislation. Accordingly, the cost of financial advice may rise for prospective investors. Investment Trends senior analyst Recep Peker told Money Management, “Australians are not willing to pay as much for financial advice, which makes the low-cost advice provided by super funds more attractive”. SuperPartners is one example of super funds now providing limited advice. According to journalist Leng Yeow:

    The cost is borne out of administration fees. The retail sector has been critical of the MySuper intra-fund advice concessions because it creates an unequal playing field. They also argue the basic, limited nature of the advice fails to understand and address the member’s total situation and needs.

    Yeow cited a recent CoreData report which suggested this advice offered restrictive options to members. Accordingly, Industry Fund Financial Planning (through its administrator SuperPartners) rated poorly in comparison to independent and bank-aligned financial planning practices.

    This burden of red tape is potentially a concern for financial planning licensees, whose employees must comply with FOFA reforms by July 1, 2013 in the context of a unstable European markets. The federal opposition have now indicated they will reverse the more onerous aspects of FOFA, citing legislative bias to union interests.

    This is an updated version of an entry originally published on May 9th.

    How do I play audio clips outside the PC?

    This was a question a subscriber asked recently. To download unencrypted video or audio clips from on any website, please use the Mozilla Firefox plugin Download Helper.

    If using a browser unsupported by Helper, such as the wonderful Opera there are alternative methods. Simply add “” or “” before the URL (internet address). Some examples:

    Type the URL into the Address Bar in your browser and press Enter. File size, format and quality (e.g. video resolution, audio sampling rate) can be displayed and indeed chosen for sites such as Youtube. These are two alternatives of dozens available. Both appear to be robust solutions that do not potentially invade network privacy or increase susceptibility to viruses.

    Google Chrome (requires Windows XP, Mac OS X 10.5 or Linux) is a browser that appears to capture Flash streams straight ‘out of the box’. Please note that only Helper & Real Player will capture videos created by Dbrmuz as far as this blogger can tell!

    Once the FLV or MP4 video is downloaded, the final step required is to extract video and audio without any transcoding using open source extraction software.

    It’s awesome to be able to download an informational video such as this and just extract the audio for playback on the MP3 player in the car.

    Thank you to Dbrmuz (aka I Used to be a Nobody) for assistance in compiling this entry.

    Portable FM recorders

    Here is an incomplete list of portable receivers and media players that record FM radio. The list is in order of FM tuner sensitivity.

    Degen De1121

    Featured in the video captured by a Japanese enthusiast, this receiver is ‘rebadged’ as the Kaito Ka1121 in the Americas. Notably, it is the only radio listed with a telescoping monopole antenna.

    128 Kbps MP3 44kHz

    Sandisk Sansa Fuze

    768 kbps WAV 22kHz

    Creative Zen Neeon

    192 Kbps MP3 44kHz

    Samsung Yepp YP-T7

    192 Kbps MP3 44kHz

    An alternative method is to couple an existing portable FM receiver (e.g. the Dabbler’s Dream) to an external recorder (e.g. Creative Zen V Plus) via a 3.5 mm stereo cable. Big problem! The microprocessors in the external recorders (i.e. Samsung Yepp & Creative Zen series) cause significant interference to a weak or moderate strength FM signal being received on the radio. For this blogger, this means that this method is unsuitable for recording long distance FM signals in the field, hence the compilation of the above list. A number of round cable ferrite suppression sleeves (priced from $9.20 at Jaycar Electronics) attached to the 3.5 mm stereo cable may reduce the interference.

    Just can’t get enough?

    Just can’t accumulate enough Dabbler’s Dream™ portable receivers? Curious about the new model releases? Check out the blog from the Cosmos Monitor II. Until about a year ago, the Monitor was also blogging on WordPress.

    Mark discusses the (one & only) Dabbler’s Dream™ in this blogger’s possession in this entry. Using this beast, troposcatter and tropospheric ducting is discussed in this entry. Sporadic E is discussed in this entry. The modified Degen De1121 exhibits better selectivity and sensitivity for everyday use. On the downside, that radio exhibits slightly inferior strong signal immunity, as the design is older, without the benefit of R&D associated with the Silicon Labs’ integrated circuit inside the Dabbler’s Dream™ & other ‘rebadged’ equivalent receivers.

    Popular portable receivers

    Let’s examine the portable receivers used by active European FM enthusiasts!

    Where an enthusiast uses multiple portable receivers at any one location, all their chosen portable equipment is included. Due to their size or weight, some of these receivers may be less ‘portable’ than others. These portable receivers may be modified by enthusiasts to increase FM selectivity, that is, the separation between FM stations. For example, this blogger has replaced the second 180 kHz Asian-made filter in his Degen De1121 with a 56 kHz Murata filter, whilst leaving the first FM filter intact. Incidentally, the integrated circuits used in the FM section of the De1121 are virtually identical to the very popular De1103.

    The radios pictured above & below are amongst the most popular portable receivers suitable for long distance FM reception.

    These polls are merely intended to provide a superficial snapshot. The sample size (10) and the rules for inclusion (above) may skew results.

    De Fine Print

    Data is compiled from tropospheric & meteoric loggings submitted to Peter Schwarz for the April 2012 edition of German-language Reflexion magazine (edition number 243). Enthusiasts who provided loggings reside in Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Holland, Italy & Poland. Four enthusiasts did not provide details of the equipment used with their loggings, thus restricting the sample size. A two-year subscription to the electronic version of Reflexion magazine costs approximately $38 when paid via foreign draft. Graph created by Online Chart Generator, one of 22 Useful Online Chart & Graph Generators.

    The next polls to be included will cover the most popular external FM antennas & component FM tuners used in Europe.