A stereo/binaural tactical headset

One thing I hate doing when I’m taking down notes at a radio comms event is juggling a hand-microphone and pen/paper/tablet/computer simultaneously. So I tend to prefer a headset for my radios rather than a hand-microphone. Some models (especially Kenwood) have lots of selections available, but some are very much restricted. In particular, I prefer a binaural headset as I find it more difficult to hear a voice on one side than via both sides — particularly in noisy conditions. The only options I could find for Yaesu/Alinco sets were big chunky earmuff headsets — great in those noisy situations, but not so great if you need situational awareness.

The plan thus is to cobble together my own binaural tactical headset. Stereo using my standard headset connection, so I can re-use it elsewhere.

I did have a Kenwood TH-D72A — a good solid performer… but sadly no longer manufactured (neither is its successor, not that Kenwood ever sold that here), and my particular specimen now refuses to have anything to do with the internal battery. I bought an Alinco DJ-G7T as a back-up hand-held for pure voice comms, and more recently a Yaesu FT5DR. I had made my own Kenwood headset adaptor to use with my headsets, but I had nothing equivalent for the Alinco or Yaesu sets.

As it happens, the headset pin-out of the Alinco is nearly identical to that of the earlier Yaesu VX-6/VX-7: 3.5mm threaded TRRS. Both radios put the speaker on the tip, microphone+PTT (in series) on the sleeve-most ring and 0V on the sleeve. Alinco use the tip-most ring for a 3.3V rail, whereas Yaesu use this same ring for a data/clone connection. Maybe it’s a UART which “idles” at 3.3V on Yaesu rigs, but I wouldn’t bet on all Yaesu accessories working on Alinco and vice-versa — however headsets rarely need a 3.3V rail. (Maybe the VOX ones do… not sure.)

The FT5DR is actually compatible with the earlier VX-6/VX-7, however the connector is on the side of the radio, and while the threaded 3.5mm connectors fit, they stick out the side like a sore thumb: a right-angled 3.5mm TRRS is a better “fit”.

Luckily, Amazon have quite a few options that convert these radios to a U94 “Nexus” military-style connector. I managed to pick up a U94 adaptor that works quite well with the Alinco, and does work with the Yaesu (although is mechanically not optimal due to the “straight” style of the plug and side-mounting of the socket).

Tactical headsets come in a few varieties:

  • ear-tube covert-style headsets
  • D-loop style
  • throat-mic headsets
  • “bowman”-style headband headsets
  • earmuff-style headsets
  • motorcycle headsets

The only ones of this list that are binaural out-of-the-box are the earmuff headsets and the motorcycle headsets. I figured I’d pick up a couple of cheap “bowman”-style ones and see if I can cobble two mono headsets into one stereo set. I looked around, and bought two of these.

The adaptor turned up a week or so ago, and the headsets turned up today. There’s two different varieties of pin-out for the U94 connector — the “NATO” standard interleaves the speaker and microphone pins, whereas the “civilian” standard puts the speaker on the sleeve/sleeve-most ring and microphone on the tip-most ring/tip. Both adaptor and headset turned out to be “civilian” standard, so the first hurdle was cleared.

I tested both headsets and confirmed they both worked. I tried the headsets both with voice comms, then tried tuning to a local FM broadcast station to assess audio quality. They work, but audio quality is not what I’d call wonderful. Very tinny, fine for voice comms, but maybe telephone quality at best. Ookay, so using these as a stereo headset can be done — but if I wanted to use them for anything but straight voice comms, I’d want to swap the speakers out for something decent. Tear-down time!

I picked a “victim” and attempted to disassemble it. These units appear to be glued together, so you wind up partially destroying them to get at the speaker:

The speaker is a conventional 8ohm 500mW jobbie, nothing remarkable… and a frequency response that’s truly awful for anything other than voice comms. Fine for the intended task, but as I say, not really sufficient for what I was after.

I’ll see if I can swap this speaker out with one liberated from some headphones and see about replacing the strip of plastic I had to unceremoniously and destructively rip out — this shouldn’t be a difficult job. The other thing that might help is some sound-damping material behind the speaker, which might account for some tinniness.

If I get this headset working acceptably, I’ll do the same mod to the other, then can look at wiring the two together into a stereo set using a DIN-5 matching my other headsets. I can then re-purpose the U94 plug to make an adaptor to convert my other headsets to use with the U94 adaptors.

My thoughts on Twitter

Musk is now bitter
because Twitter is in the shitter.
He’s turned his cash to litter,
and now he wants an arse kisser.

— Stuart Longland (first posted on Ars Technica)

That pretty much sums my thoughts up… about where they’re headed. Elon Musk has been in the news a lot following his purchase of the social media network, Twitter… firing critical staff by mistake… then expecting everyone else left behind to work long hours at high intensity. Effectively, he’s wanting people who are sycophantic enough to put up with the toxic environment they’re now faced with.

Apparently the recent ultimatum delivered to his staff saw nearly half of them walk away with immediate effect… and the latest is he’s demanding screenshots of code to understand how it works.

My guess is there’s likely more code than will fit on a single screen that is critical to Twitter’s operations. In some cases, entire teams responsible for critical functions have left — there’s no one left that could meaningfully explain the components those teams were responsible for. It’s also not like a social media network operates the same as a satellite network or electric vehicle. Completely different animal.

I personally have not touched Twitter … in fact my thoughts on these services have been known for some time. Services like this which are run by individual companies are akin to putting all your eggs in one basket, and as you don’t own the basket, you’ve got no way to defend it! It’s one of the reasons why I’ve stuck to running a blog rather than running over to the walled garden that is Facebook. I’m one of the few in my company that won’t touch these commercial social networks, and I’m not about to change things now.

One thing that particularly irked me is when our state government decides to “announce” things on Twitter, but then doesn’t immediately update their website. I don’t consider Twitter an authoritative source — blue tick or not! As far as I’m concerned, if say, Queensland Health haven’t published a change in COVID-19 rules on a publicly reachable page on a host in the qld.gov.au domain, I do not consider it legitimate.

Would I consider an alternative like Mastodon? Maybe… it can be self-hosted, so I could have my instance right here and you’d be able to follow what I do… but my posts tend to be big and sporadic: not the sort of thing that fits in a tweet or toot. There are times I share links to articles or amusing photos, maybe Mastodon could serve that purpose better than the blog here.

I guess time will tell. One thing is certain though, I’m glad I didn’t bother with Twitter — if I left it to them to keep my history online, it’d be all gone now following the chaotic take-over they’ve had. Also, no way in hell I’d go work for any of Elon Musk’s enterprises. As an Asperger’s person myself, I’d rather work for somebody who doesn’t use his condition as an excuse for bad behaviour.

Yaesu FT5DR: First thoughts

I had a sad day the other day… the old faithful, my Kenwood TH-D72A finally bit the dust. It had been limping along ever since vibration damaged the barrel jack DC connector… I hacked up my own fix and got it going again, and it seemed mostly reliable and that kept it going for a few years… but in the recent downpours, it seems the battery management circuit died. Wouldn’t charge (just reports “Charge Error”) and wouldn’t run off a charged battery.

So… time for a new one. Kenwood basically no longer exist as a manufacturer of radio equipment now — they refused to sell the successor here in Australia and basically have abandoned us. Thus, it’s time for me to move on.

I had a look at a few options, a big issue is the chip shortage has greatly reduced the options available. I mainly use the Kenwood for APRS, it’s nice that it can function as a full-blown AX.25 TNC too, but by far, the feature I use more is APRS. Icom basically only care about D-Star and its DPRS equivalent. There are some DMR-based radios that do what they call “analog APRS” — whatever that is. The mode that gets used in SE Queensland is 1200 baud AFSK: aka Bell 203 modulation. Not the most reliable, and in many ways a dodgy hack, but that’s what everyone else uses. I wound up buying another Yaesu, the FT5DR. In fact, I bought two, just in case my father’s Kenwood bites the dust.

I haven’t put it through its full paces yet, but last night charged the units up, and this morning had mine running just beaconing on APRS and monitoring a local repeater.

General comments

The unit is reasonably lightweight… bright clear screen, the audio isn’t too shabby for something its size. I haven’t tried the C4FM mode yet but FM and WFM reception seemed decent. It’ll even begrudgingly receive AM broadcast — including with a 9kHz offset (unlike my Alinco set), although sensitivity is not great.

Text entry quirks

Set-up wasn’t too difficult, it prompts for a call-sign, which you enter from the touchscreen. Text entry is a little inconsistent, and very reminiscent of late 90s mobile phones: there’s no predictive text and the letters are layed out like they would be on a telephone keypad. To type a Z for instance, you’d look for a button labelled wxyz and hit it 8 times if you want capital Z, or 4 for lower-case. Frustrating if you miss and have to cycle around again. Sometimes touching a different button advances the pointer, sometimes not and it just overwrites the current character.

Repeater settings somewhat buried

The handbook does not discuss repeater settings much at all… which is odd since hand-held radios are not known for their DX range unless you’re up high.

To set up CTCSS, one must hit F-Menu, tap SQTYP, then use the channel knob to select TONE and hit PTT, then hit F-Menu again, go to CODE, and use the same knob to select a CTCSS frequency.

To change a repeater offset, one must long-press the F-Menu, tap CONFIG, then use the knob to scroll down to 15. RPT SHIFT, hit F-Menu, then use the channel knob to select between -, SIMPLEX or + and using PTT to confirm.

I’d have made these a simple toggle from the F-Menu options, but sadly, no.

Bluetooth still useless

I tried Bluetooth on a radio back with the VX-8DR. There, I found it was an incompatible mess… might work great if you buy Yaesu’s headset, but the whole point of Bluetooth is to be interoperable with other Bluetooth headsets which may be in a more suitable form-factor for your use case.

I tried the FT5DR with two headsets, a Behringer BB 560M, and a Logitech Zone Wireless. It could see the Behringer, but would not connect. It flatly refused to even recognise the Zone Wireless.

GPS and APRS working quite well

I’m yet to go mobile with this, but it soon found my position and getting the radio beaconing was not difficult. It lacks some niceties of the Kenwood set (e.g. reporting the frequency of the other band), and sadly no digipeating, but it otherwise is a capable APRS implementation.

SD Card support welcome

This radio can take a MicroSD card for various things, including settings back-up and restore, GPS logging, audio recordings, and even storing pictures if you buy the camera microphone option (I didn’t).

I put a few memory channels into the radio then told it to back-up to the SD card… apparently Yaesu’s own desktop software can read/write these files if you have a Windows PC handy (I don’t). That said, the format doesn’t look complex:

RC=0 stuartl@rikishi /media/sdb1/FT5D_MEMORY-CH $ hexdump -C MEMORY.dat 
00000000  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |................|
*
000012c0  03 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  |................|
000012d0  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  |................|
*
00001350  00 00 00 00 00 03 00 00  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  |................|
00001360  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  |................|
*
00001380  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 03  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  |................|
00001390  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  |................|
*
000013b0  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  00 03 00 00 00 00 03 00  |................|
000013c0  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  |................|
*
000016a0  00 00 00 00 00 00 03 00  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  |................|
000016b0  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  |................|
*
00001710  00 00 00 00 03 03 03 03  03 03 03 03 03 03 03 03  |................|
00001720  03 03 03 03 03 03 03 03  03 03 03 03 03 03 03 03  |................|
*
00001800  02 00 14 50 00 d0 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |...P............|
00001810  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 06 00 0c 00 0d 80 18  |................|
00001820  02 00 14 55 20 00 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |...U ...........|
00001830  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 06 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |................|
00001840  02 00 14 55 20 40 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |...U @..........|
00001850  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 06 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |................|
00001860  02 00 14 55 20 80 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |...U ...........|
00001870  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 06 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |................|
00001880  43 07 43 55 00 c0 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |C.CU............|
00001890  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 50 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |.........P......|
000018a0  43 07 43 55 00 00 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |C.CU............|
000018b0  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 50 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |.........P......|
000018c0  43 07 43 55 00 40 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |C.CU.@..........|
000018d0  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 50 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |.........P......|
000018e0  43 07 43 55 00 80 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |C.CU............|
000018f0  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 50 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |.........P......|
00001900  02 00 14 55 20 c0 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |...U ...........|
00001910  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 06 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |................|
00001920  02 00 14 55 20 00 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |...U ...........|
00001930  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 06 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |................|
00001940  02 00 14 55 20 40 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |...U @..........|
00001950  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 06 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |................|
00001960  02 00 14 55 20 80 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |...U ...........|
00001970  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 06 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |................|
00001980  43 07 43 55 00 c0 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |C.CU............|
00001990  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 50 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |.........P......|
000019a0  43 07 43 55 00 00 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |C.CU............|
000019b0  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 50 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |.........P......|
000019c0  43 07 43 55 00 40 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |C.CU.@..........|
000019d0  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 50 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |.........P......|
000019e0  43 07 43 55 00 80 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |C.CU............|
000019f0  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 50 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |.........P......|
00001a00  02 00 14 55 20 c0 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |...U ...........|
00001a10  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 06 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |................|
00001a20  43 07 43 45 00 c0 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |C.CE............|
00001a30  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 50 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |.........P......|
00001a40  43 07 43 45 00 c2 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |C.CE............|
00001a50  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 50 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |.........P......|
00001a60  43 07 43 45 00 c3 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |C.CE............|
00001a70  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 50 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |.........P......|
00001a80  02 00 14 55 20 e0 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |...U ...........|
00001a90  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 06 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |................|
00001aa0  43 07 43 45 00 e0 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |C.CE............|
00001ab0  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 50 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |.........P......|
00001ac0  02 00 14 48 40 c0 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |...H@...........|
00001ad0  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 06 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |................|
00001ae0  43 07 43 55 00 c0 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |C.CU............|
00001af0  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 50 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |.........P......|
00001b00  07 00 05 25 00 c0 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |...%............|
00001b10  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 00 00 0c 00 0d 00 18  |................|
00001b20  02 00 14 55 20 c0 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |...U ...........|
00001b30  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 06 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |................|
00001b40  07 06 22 25 00 c0 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |.."%............|
00001b50  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 00 00 0c 00 0d 00 18  |................|
00001b60  07 04 85 99 00 c0 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |................|
00001b70  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 00 00 0c 00 0d 00 18  |................|
00001b80  02 00 14 55 20 e0 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |...U ...........|
00001b90  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 06 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |................|
00001ba0  43 07 43 55 00 e0 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |C.CU............|
00001bb0  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 50 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |.........P......|
00001bc0  02 00 14 57 20 c0 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |...W ...........|
00001bd0  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 06 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |................|
00001be0  07 00 05 20 20 c0 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |...  ...........|
00001bf0  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 00 00 0c 00 0d 00 18  |................|
00001c00  02 00 14 50 20 c0 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |...P ...........|
00001c10  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 06 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |................|
00001c20  03 00 43 50 20 c0 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |..CP ...........|
00001c30  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 50 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |.........P......|
00001c40  07 04 85 99 00 c0 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |................|
00001c50  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 00 00 0c 00 0d 00 18  |................|
00001c60  02 00 14 50 20 c0 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |...P ...........|
00001c70  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 06 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |................|
00001c80  43 07 43 50 20 c0 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |C.CP ...........|
00001c90  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 50 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |.........P......|
00001ca0  02 00 14 55 50 60 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |...UP`..........|
00001cb0  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 06 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |................|
00001cc0  43 07 43 56 00 c0 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |C.CV............|
00001cd0  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 50 00 08 00 0d 00 08  |.........P......|
00001ce0  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |................|
*
00002aa0  02 10 14 68 75 c1 00 00  34 44 42 20 52 65 64 6c  |...hu...4DB Redl|
00002ab0  61 6e 64 73 20 32 6d ff  00 06 00 09 00 0d 00 18  |ands 2m.........|
00002ac0  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |................|
*
000030e0  03 17 43 82 00 c1 00 00  34 5a 42 20 42 72 69 73  |..C.....4ZB Bris|
000030f0  62 61 6e 65 20 37 30 63  00 50 00 09 00 0d 00 18  |bane 70c.P......|
00003100  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |................|
*
00003720  02 00 14 75 00 c0 00 00  57 49 43 45 4e 20 32 6d  |...u....WICEN 2m|
00003730  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 06 00 09 00 0d 00 18  |................|
00003740  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |................|
*
000037c0  03 07 43 95 00 d0 00 00  55 48 46 20 53 69 6d 70  |..C.....UHF Simp|
000037d0  6c 65 78 ff ff ff ff ff  00 50 00 0c 00 0d 80 18  |lex......P......|
000037e0  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |................|
*
000094c0  02 00 14 51 75 d0 00 00  41 50 52 53 20 32 6d ff  |...Qu...APRS 2m.|
000094d0  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  00 06 00 0c 00 0d 80 18  |................|
000094e0  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |................|
*
0000a180  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  |................|
*
0000a240  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |................|
0000a250  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  ff ff ff ff ff ff ff ff  |................|
*
0000a280  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  |................|
*
0000ab10  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  00 99 42 8b 00 00 00 00  |..........B.....|
0000ab20  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  00 00 00 00 00 00 00 00  |................|
*
0000ac80

That’s a complete hex dump of the memory back-up… I can see each memory channel is 32 bytes, and the frequency in kHz is given in BCD format:

000030e0  03 17 43 82 00 c1 00 00  34 5a 42 20 42 72 69 73  |..C.....4ZB Bris|
000030f0  62 61 6e 65 20 37 30 63  00 50 00 09 00 0d 00 18  |bane 70c.P......|

That’s the Mt. Coot-tha WICEN repeater VK4RZB (which I’ve labelled as “4ZB Brisbane 70c“); 438.200MHz, 91.5Hz CTCSS, negative 5MHz offset. I put it at memory location 200. I’m not sure how 12.5kHz offsets are encoded… maybe I might try programming some more in when I get time and see what they look like, but even that might be enough to “generate” a file with the repeaters I want. We’ll see.

A building-block for DIY Bluetooth audio devices

I’m a late adopter of Bluetooth, having previously tried Bluetooth in its earlier days, hearing something that sounded like my music was being fed down a drain pipe, and deciding that Bluetooth was rubbish… it wasn’t until I bought a Logitech H830 headset that I found that Bluetooth can actually sound decent… moreover when I bought the Logitech Zone Wireless, that bi-directional Bluetooth can also sound decent.

Now, the Zone Wireless is fine if I’m in the office, or out walking somewhere. It’ll fit underneath the coolie hat if I decide to wear that, otherwise it works with a cap just fine. BUT, if I’m camping or at a WICEN event, I’m often wearing a full-brim hard hat. The headband on the Zone Wireless is a problem.

I really wanted a Bluetooth device that could be put on a lanyard, and I just plug in a regular common-garden variety wired headset. The closest I can get to this is a motorcycle headset — as these have to accommodate a wide variety of helmet styles, the radio module and the headset are actually separate components, and so conceivably, I can make my own compatible adaptor to plug in. Then, it wouldn’t matter… want to wear the hard hat? No problem, I already have modded earmuffs with a headset. Want to use it on the bike? Sure, plug the helmet straight in. Or am I in the office again? No problem, normal headset.

It’d also be nice to share that wired headset with a wired audio device… prime example here is a radio transceiver. Yes, there are devices that will make those do Bluetooth… and there are radios that have Bluetooth. I had one of the latter: Yaesu VX8-DR … it’s Bluetooth was next to useless… idiosyncratic and unreliable.

I see the Sena SR-10 mentioned in a few places as a way to “Bluetooth-enable” a two-way radio… but aside from being pricey, I see three complaints being raised: unreliable/slow pairing, intermittent darlek-like distortion on transmit and a noticeable connection delay on incoming signals.

I pondered doing my own… and I’ve slowly amassed parts to do exactly that. But, the other day, I stumbled on another option: Altronics sell a CSR8635 Bluetooth module. This advertises the ability to talk to two Bluetooth devices, and wideband voice. CSR’s own datasheet seems to give some hints as to how it can be used.

One catch, is the pads on this device are a 1mm spacing — so mounting this on some perfboard is going to be a big challenge. I prefer the minimalism of a module like this over a Raspberry Pi Zero W… a lot less to go wrong, and likely much better battery life.

Extreme Drainage Coverall: Wet weather tests

So… after sitting around for close to 6 months, finally got some decent wet weather to try this gear out in anger. I’d have tried the rain suit in colder weather, but COVID-19 intervened. Wet weather has also seen the state forest at Imbil closed which has meant WICEN hasn’t been doing comms exercises up there. Thus despite receiving the suit a while back, I haven’t had a real opportunity to use it.

We had some pretty heavy rain over this weekend just gone… not “extreme” by any stretch, not like earlier this year where we had over a metre of rain dumped on us in the space of 3 days… but still moderately heavy. I thought worth getting out for the occasion.

It’s worth noting in wet weather gear there’s two schools of thought; one is going light-weight, accepting that weather will seep through, but hopefully your body heat will stop you from getting completely saturated. The other is going heavy-weight, accepting you’ll sweat, but since you haven’t got rain soaking you right through, you’ll at least stay warm.

Hood adjustments

One thing I note with this suit is when you put it on, like with smocks and hooded pull-overs; the hood is automatically on. Furthermore, the opening on this hood at its loosest setting, doesn’t easily pull over your head.

If your head is bare, you can get the hood up and down without too much trouble, but put a cap on and you may have difficulty. I find if I put my full-face mask on (masks are needed for COVID-19 in some situations in SE QLD), I cannot pull the hood off. Similarly, you’re in for a fight if you have a headset on underneath. Given this, I’ve basically come to accept with this outfit: the hood stays up, don’t bother putting it down.

The hood cord exits externally at two points that are set about 6cm apart — this would make sense on a conventional zip-up jacket, but on this sort of outfit, it’s a bit unnatural feeling, so I figured I’d re-locate where the ends of the hood cord exit. Furthermore, to avoid the hood cord getting tangled, I decided to put it internal. To do this, I first removed the toggles, then I used some needle-nose pliers to pierce a small hole either side of a seam on the inside of the hood directly under the chin, then used those same pliers to pull each end of that cord through the new holes.

Then to finish off, I fed both ends of the hood cord through one of the toggles and tied a knot at the very end to prevent the toggle from being pulled off accidentally. This results in an adjustment that feels a lot more like the pull-over hooded jumpers when done up and I find is more comfortable.

I can then pre-set an adjustment by adjusting the toggle and doing a simple half-loop knot which can be easily undone.

Re-locating the exit points of the hood cord to the inside makes things a little more comfortable.

I’ve adjusted the hood for comfort when wearing a helmet for cycling — set the way it is, I’m unable to take the hood off without unzipping and reaching underneath, undoing a knot and loosening the toggle, but it means when I put my helmet on I can pull the hood back to a point where it doesn’t block my periphery vision then slide the helmet on comfortably. When not wearing a helmet or hard hat, the setting there allows me to look around if I wear a cap underneath.

Friday 2022-10-21

Had to go get some dinner, so I threw the suit on, put my helmet on and jumped on the bike for the ~5km round-trip. I suppose this was around 5:30PM or so. Rain was falling moderately at the time… I stayed quite comfortable. Okay, breathability is going to be a problem with something this heavy, and I did perspire, but I didn’t feel hot. I got home with my clothes soaked with sweat, but was not cold from rain saturation.

One bonus with the boots is there was nothing to tangle with the gear train, a common problem with other forms of clothing. The suit I have has steel-capped boots fitted (you can buy them without) and these were quite comfortable to be cycling in.

Situational awareness wasn’t impeded… I could sit the hood far enough back to not block my vision, and while it did muffle sound a little, I could hear what was going on well enough.

Saturday 2022-10-22

The next morning I needed some bread; and so a longer bike ride out to Ashgrove was the answer. Conditions were overcast with intermittent showers. Given how sweaty I got, I decided since the suit covers the whole body and is opaque, I’d keep clothing underneath to the minimum (basically just underwear). In the past I’ve done this and it’s worked quite well.

With minimal clothing underneath, sweat tends to pool rather than soaking through. I was expecting a lot more rain than we actually got that day… I think with heavier conditions, things would be more pleasant but I was noticeably warmer on this occasion. By the time I got to Ashgrove, I could feel the sweat in the gloves and boots.

But here’s one plus side: when I got to my destination, okay I’m walking around with the sweat sloshing around… in the past with previous rain suits and warmer conditions, I’d reach out for something, and sweat would trickle down the sleeve and on to whatever I was reaching for. Similarly, sweat might drip down the legs onto the floor. Not very hygienic for everyone else sharing the space.

Having the gloves there meant that’s where the sweat stopped: it ran down into the glove and stayed there, it did not spill out onto whatever I was grabbing.

I rode home, and as I got towards home, I made a pit-stop at Walton Bridge to get a drink of water, as I was basically still in the sauna and needed to replace fluids I was losing… but otherwise things weren’t too bad.

Sunday 2022-10-23

I needed to do a milk run, and once again, it was predicted to be very wet. At one stage the BoM (sorry, the name “The Bureau” is already taken) were predicting 80-120mm that day. It’s not far so I walked it on this occasion.

Things were still damp from yesterday, but not uncomfortable. I threw some clothes on underneath that I didn’t mind getting soaked, grabbed my bag and went for a walk.

Aside from a comment that I apparently looked like something from “breaking bad” (some television show I think… I know nothing about it), there were no issues.

Airing things out

One downside of this suit is the almost-full-enclosure nature of it means it takes a lot longer to air out. Particularly the boots: it can take 3-5 days to properly dry things out if you had water sloshing around down there. I note Mikko is offering Opalo gear with polar fleece now, but given this fact, and the fact you’ll build up a big sweat if the temperature is even remotely warm… this would not be a good idea in the SE Queensland climate. (It may work further south though.)

Verdict

Would I recommend them? If you deal with heavy rain or crappy weather a lot, definitely they’re worth a look. I’m yet to try them out in colder weather, but if the rain’s falling moderately heavily (i.e. in the region of >10mm/hr), they’re good. I think you’d overheat wearing them in sun-shower situations.

That said, there’s the possibility of getting something similar made in a lighter-weight fabric. I found my regular rain coat (which I often wear in colder weather) is starting to look a bit tatty, so I’ve ordered an extreme two-tone smock, but I’ll be getting it made in lighter-weight Plavitex material with a view to this being something I can wear when going out in cold/wet conditions. I suspect this will turn up around December/January; still in time to try it out in the warmer and damp summer we’re predicted to have this year.

Boomer Boom Box: The Locals

It’s been a while since I last looked at this, basically, real life intervened… but let’s have a look at some local artists… that is, Australia and New Zealand. Bear in mind links can break — stores can withdraw options from sale (or the record companies can ask them to withdraw it), so it’s possible I can post links then have the rug pulled out from underneath me by the supplier.

Of course, if you know an alternate source (that is of new copies, not second-hand), do drop me a line and let me know.

The following are some artists with 10 or more significant tracks that I’ve been able to locate copies of so far.

Bee Gees

This was a very successful group that hails from the Redcliffe area of greater Brisbane, and of course 4KQ featured them very strongly over the decades.

Ultimate Bee Gees

A great start for this band would be the Ultimate Bee Gees compilation. It’s got nearly all of the hits they’re famous for, including their later stuff.

Timeless – The All-Time Greatest Hits

This was actually the first CD of theirs I bought… and it does do pretty well, but it misses Alone and some of their earlier work. BUT, as a budget-conscious option, definitely worth a look!

Other albums worth considering

The above will get you most of the tracks they’re known for… some other options worth considering:

  • Best Of Bee Gees (Vol. 2): includes I.O.I.O and My World — on Z-Digital
  • Mr. Natural: for its title track — on Z-Digital
  • To Whom It May Concern: for the song Road To Alaska — on Z-Digital
  • Life In A Tin Can: for the song Saw A New Morning — on Z-Digital

Daryl Braithwaite

The lead singer of Sherbet.

The Essential Daryl Braithwaite

If you’re looking for Daryl’s work from the 80s onwards, this is worth getting.

Dragon

From the other side of the ditch, Dragon are a great export out of New Zealand.

The Very Best Of Dragon

There are a few compilations out there, but this one is by far the better of the lot. The only song it misses out on in my opinion is Cry (for that, look for Body and The Beat, Cuts From The Tough Times or Snake Eyes on the Paradise: Greatest Hits). Pretty much everything else they’re known for is here.

  • Sanity (seems to be out-of-stock at the time of writing)

John Paul Young

A big name from the Countdown era.

I Hate the Music

This is a compilation of all his significant work over the 40 years or so he’s been releasing music.

Little River Band

The Definitive Collection

Most of the work done by this group from its early beginnings up to the 80s before John Farnham went solo.

Monsoon

This was where Glen Shorrock made his come-back… and is where you’ll find Love Is A Bridge.

(Upcoming) Masterpieces

This isn’t out yet, but it may be worth a look when it is released. It includes No Reins On Me, which does not appear on the other albums.

Skyhooks

Nearly everything from this iconic Melbourne band can be found on two albums.

Hits’n’Riffs

This has most of their hits.

Ego Is Not A Dirty Word

Features the song Love On The Radio.

HTML Email ought to be considered harmful: auDA shows us why

I’m the owner of two domain licenses, longlandclan.id.au and vk4msl.id.au, both purchased for personal use. The former I share with other family members where as the latter I use for my own use. Consequently, I’m on auDA’s mailing lists and receive the occasional email from them. No big deal. Lately, they’ve been pushing .au domains (i.e. dropping the .id bit out), which I’m not worried about myself, but I can see the appeal for businesses.

Anyway… I practice what I preach with regards to email: I do not send email in HTML format — and my email client is set to receive emails in plain text, not HTML, unless there is no plain-text component. This morning, I received what I consider, a textbook example of why I think HTML email is so bad for the Internet today.

From: .au Domain Administration <noreply@auda.com.au>
Subject: Notice: .au Direct Registration
Date: Wed, 10 Aug 2022 23:00:04 +0000
Reply-To: .au Domain Administration <noreply@auda.com.au>
X-Mailer: Mailchimp Mailer - **CID292f65320f63be5c3fcd**

The .au Domain Administration (auDA) recently launched Australia’s newest domain namespace – .au direct.

Dear Stuart Longland,

The .au Domain Administration (https://www.auda.org.au/)  (auDA), recently launched Australia’s newest domain namespace – .au direct. The new namespace provides eligible registrants the option to register domain names directly before the .au for the first time (e.g. forexample.au).

Registrants with an existing .au domain name licence are eligible to apply for a direct match of their .au direct domain name through the Priority Allocation Process (e.g. if you hold forexample.com.au (https://aus01.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fforexample.com.au%2F&data=05%7C01%7Cprivate.address%40auda.org.au%7C95a9271d4eff4973013b08da3240a115%7C81810bc45d6845f6ba4e3d6c9fb37e43%7C0%7C0%7C637877550424818538%7CUnknown%7CTWFpbGZsb3d8eyJWIjoiMC4wLjAwMDAiLCJQIjoiV2luMzIiLCJBTiI6Ik1haWwiLCJXVCI6Mn0%3D%7C3000%7C%7C%7C&sdata=2WhPYMxV3FI9nEpXDEk8KdyJwWGyqcI%2FwRd%2FNc7DQks%3D&reserved=0) , you can apply for Priority Status to register forexample.au). Information about your existing domain name licence is available here:  https://whois.auda.org.au/. The Priority Allocation Process is now open and will close on 20 Sept 2022.

That is the email, as it appeared in my email client (I have censored the unfortunate auDA employee’s email address). I can see what happened:

Someone composed an email (likely in HTML format) that would be part of the marketing campaign they were going to send via MailChimp. The person composing the email for MailChimp clearly is using Microsoft Outlook (or maybe that should be called Microsoft LookOut!). Microsoft’s software saw what it thought was a hyperlink and thought, “I need to ‘protect’ this”, and made it a “safe” link. A link with the user’s email address embedded in it!

Funnily enough, this seems to be the only place where a link was mangled by Microsoft’s mal^H^H^Hsoftware. I think this underscores the importance of verifying that you are indeed sending what you think you are sending — and highlights how difficult HTML (and Microsoft) have made this task.

  1. don’t assume that people will only see the HTML email
  2. don’t assume that what you see in the HTML view is identical to what will be seen in plain text

Might be better to compose the plain text, get that right… then paste that into the HTML view and “make it pretty”… or perhaps don’t bother and just go back to plain-text? KISS principle!

COVID-19: My turn

So, a few weeks back, COVID-19 went through my office at Milton. I had been at work just one day a week — basically I was working in the office on a Wednesday and working from home all other days of the week unless there was a special reason for me to do otherwise.

On the 3rd of July (Sunday), one of my colleagues reported he had tested positive on a rapid antigen test (RAT) after suffering symptoms, and would begin isolation. 2 days later (on the following Tuesday), another colleague reported he too, “had a bit of a cough”. I made the decision to not come in on the Wednesday, on the advice that it was likely better I work from home.

Over the coming days, more reported symptoms, but so far I was safe. Yes, my father and I were regularly going to the local cafés for dinner Monday-Thursday nights, but I was not exposing myself to the office cluster at this point.

I figured that, with all the cases now isolating, and a few days later, it’d be safe on the 13th of this month to work in the office… and so I did so. I think that was my big mistake. Sunday afternoon (17th), a cough started, and on the following Monday, this was the result:

Yes, the “C” is a bit weak but still present, the “T” is unmistakeable!

Some might quibble and say this one is inconclusive because the “T” marker (test result) is way stronger than the “C” marker (control result), but the fact of the matter is, both lines are there, so reason enough to count this as a positive.

A later one done on Wednesday showed more even shading of the lines, so clearly I still have the blasted virus. Even today, I’m a little on the snuffly side and coughing intermittently.

Personal risk factors

It’s worth noting that I’ve had issues with Asthma since the late 80s. My body also has a nasty positive-feedback loop: if I cough, it tends to make my nose run (the vigorous coughing causes bruising of the tissues in my nose)… that has a habit of running down into my lungs, making me cough more, and possibly developing into bronchitis. On one occasion in 2005, that developed further into pneumonia.

Unvented masks for me are bad news too because they seem to trigger my lungs into a coughing fit, which then triggers the above symptoms. Yet, everyone around me insisted that I return to working in the office and generally getting out-and-about.

Vaccination status

I have had two initial shots of the AstraZenica COVID-19 vaccine as well as a shot of the Moderna as a booster. I was looking to get a second booster, but the earliest I could book was on the 27th of July: too late for that now!

So yeah, ATAGI/Australian Health Department/Queensland Health — you can end your age discrimination on COVID-19 vaccination now — #1 undocumented policy goal: “get Stuart Longland infected” can be scratched off your list, and if some of the over 50s have never gotten their first shot by now, they probably never will! Time to stop playing around and just let all the adult population make their own decisions from now on.

China Communist Party (who won’t be able to see this without a VPN but anyway): Fuck you and the horse you rode on. COVID-19 is not the first virus to have jumped from bats via some intermediate animal to humans, won’t be the last, but somehow you managed to ensure that everyone got a share of something none of us want. Donald Trump might actually have a point calling it the “China” virus, I personally would rather call it the Wuhan virus since that’s where COVID-19 was first discovered.

Anyone who’s worked with horses already knows of another member of the Orthornavirae extended family: Hendra virus. The suburb of Hendra still seems to be flourishing, so the name hasn’t been all doom-and-gloom, but we don’t try to hide it. Furthermore, we managed to contain it in the 90s when DNA testing technology wasn’t even available in this country, yet China with far more sophisticated technology in 2019 let this “horse” bolt right out the gate!

Suffice to say, I’m not doing much in the way of development work right now. Software development needs a clear head not a stuffy one, and the bed’s the best place for me to stay warm.

Contact tracing

Well, here’s where I’ve been in the time both before and after infection. This is captured via the GPS logger on my tablet, not the most accurate device for positioning… but since the Queensland Government isn’t doing contact tracing anymore, it’s the best I can offer now.

For the sake of those who I might have come into contact with, here’s where I’ve been (all times are Brisbane Local UTC+10):

Overview of all locations… widely-spaced dots indicate I was mobile (private transport)

Ashgrove Central area

2022-06-28 (20 days before positive test)

  • 18:30 ~ 18:35: Coles Ashgrove, likely a cat food run
  • 18:42 ~ 19:24: Café Tutto, Ashgrove

2022-07-04 (14 days before positive test)

  • 17:47 ~ 18:36: Taj Bengal, Ashgrove

2022-07-05 (13 days before positive test)

  • 18:00 ~ 18:03: Coles Ashgrove
  • 18:20 ~ 18:54: Café Tutto, Ashgrove

2022-07-12 (6 days before positive test)

  • 17:30 ~ 18:33: Taj Bengal, Ashgrove

Ashgrove West area

2022-06-29 (19 days before positive test)

  • 19:05 ~ 19:54: Smokin’ Joe’s, Ashgrove

2022-06-30 (18 days before positive test)

  • 17:43 ~ 18:38: Osaka, Ashgrove

2022-07-07 (11 days before positive test)

  • 17:52 ~ 18:57: Osaka, Ashgrove

2022-07-13 (5 days before positive test)

  • 19:03 ~ 20:04: Osaka, Ashgrove

Keperra area

2022-07-06 (12 days before positive test)

  • 19:27 ~ 20:03: Finnigans Chin, Keperra

Redcliffe Area

2022-07-17 (the day before positive test!)

  • 10:58 ~ 14:40: Moreton Bay Boat Club, Scarborough

Redlands Area

2022-07-17 (the day before positive test!)

  • 16:55 ~ 17:28: Ormiston Dog Park (Small dogs area), Ormiston

Milton Area

2022-06-29 (19 days before positive test)

  • 11:10 ~ 11:12: Makya, Milton

2022-07-13 (5 days before positive test)

  • 11:08 ~ 11:15: Bagel Boys, Milton

The Gap area

2022-07-08 (10 days before positive test)

  • 18:04 ~ 18:22: Siam Garden, The Gap / The Gap Friendly Grocer

2022-07-09 (9 days before positive test)

  • 12:05 ~ 12:13: The Gap Village, The Gap
  • 12:16 ~ 12:21: Brumby’s Bakery, The Gap

2022-07-15 (3 days before positive test)

  • 19:53 ~ 19:59: The Gap Canteen, The Gap

I clearly walked past The Gap Friendly Grocer, but not sure if I went in or not… timestamps suggest probably not.

2022-07-16 (2 days before positive test)

  • 16:51 ~ 16:56: The Gap Friendly Grocer, The Gap

My actions now

So… I’m considering myself in hard lock-down until at least the 26th. That is, no visitors, no deliveries (unless already pending and I’m unable to reschedule them), no leaving the property for any reason.

I’ll be staying put. My father’s left on a big trip through Central Queensland (having tested negative to COVID-19), so I’m home alone, just me and Sam. I won’t be answering the door, for the safety of anyone who knocks. I do not want to spread this to anyone. Hard lock-down for me will be retained until all symptoms have cleared up.

If my symptoms clear up by the 26th, I will remain in soft lock-down until the 1st August: still no leaving the property or any visitors, but I may have some groceries delivered — the local shopping centre delivers for a nominal fee (seriously, you’d spend more in fuel doing it yourself), and I can meet the delivery person on the drive-way (maintaining 3m distance). They can drop the groceries down near the gutter, and when they’ve gone, I’ll go pick them up. Same with dinner deliveries: deliver to the end of the driveway, I’ll pick it up from there.

I will not leave the property until after the 8th August at the very earliest (except for very special circumstances), and there will be no dine-in until at least the 15th. Maybe after the 22nd, I’ll consider whether I resume workplace visits and other activities.

Boomer Boom Box: Compilations worth getting

Boomer Boom Box is a new blog series where I’ll be detailing my efforts to build up my personal music library to replace what I lost on commercial radio. As I know others have a taste for similar music, I’ll document where these albums can be purchased, ideally as CDs or FLAC recordings (which can be converted to CD format).

1960s

Feelin’ Groovy Volume 4: Swinging 60s Singles

If you ever listened to Brent James’ Sunday Morning 60’s, this is more or less a flavour of that in CD form. You won’t get the out-takes, or reminiscing of Brisbane at that time, but it does carry the sound track of that time and was compiled by Brent James himself.

JB HiFi have it for sale on their website (and you can find the track listing there too). Last time I was in the Carseldine store, I did see one or two copies there.

Ultimate 60s

This is available through Sanity (with a long lead time from my experience, they seem to have stock of it now), and includes a decent cross-section of the decade. This was one of the first 60s CD compilations I bought — purchased on a gamble, and it paid off.

1970s

Classic 70s

This is a 5-disc set with a lot of the 70s music featured on stations like 4KQ. Both Sanity and JB HiFi carry this.

Living in the 70s (Vol. 4)

(Not to be confused with the Skyhooks album of the same name!) This series is named after the 4KQ radio show of the same name, also which was hosted by Brent James. There are other volumes which are worth checking out if you can find them, but this is the one I have. I purchased mine through JB HiFi Carseldine, which no longer seem to list it on their website.

Brent James lists the tracks on his website.

70 Hits of the ’70s

This is one I downloaded as FLAC yesterday… and am currently playing it as I type this. I stumbled on this looking for Jeff St. John (who had an incredible voice… especially given he was singing from a wheelchair!), and happened to notice this had a lot of songs that I was looking around for.

Z-Digital offer this in FLAC and MP3 formats. (As of 2022-09-22 it has been withdrawn from Z-Digital.)

  • Includes 4BC Lost Classic (2022-07-11): John Sebastian – Welcome Back (Theme from Welcome Back, Kotter)

One Hit Wonders (Re-recorded)

These are a lot of the one-hit-wonders from the 70s… most of them re-recorded, so they do sound a little different to what they did on the radio, but it’s the same artists, and are faithful to the songs we know.

Z-Digital have this in FLAC and MP3.

  • Includes 4BC Lost Classic (2022-07-13): Alan O’Day – Undercover Angel

Boogie! – Australian Blues, Rn’B & Heavy Rock From The 70’s

I bought this as a digital download for the Spectrum song I’ll Be Gone… but realised it had a lot of the artists that defined the 70s here in Australia, so figured I’d take the plunge on the whole lot. It’s an interesting listen and definitely worth checking out.

Z-Digital have this in FLAC and MP3. (As of 2022-09-22 it has been withdrawn from Z-Digital.)

6 x 6 – The Seventies

This is a deep-dive into the work of 6 iconic (well, 5 and one less iconic) 70s artists:

  • Hot Chocolate
  • Pilot
  • KC & The Sunshine Band
  • Mud
  • Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel
  • Suzi Quatro

Z-Digital have this in FLAC and MP3. (As of 2022-09-22 it has been withdrawn from Z-Digital.) Amazon have it on CD.

1980s

80s H It’s Huge: Rare & Recycled

Not sure if that album title is right… I guess that’s Z-Digital’s interpretation of the cover! This also appears to be a Brent James production, and includes a lot of one-hit-wonders which you don’t often see in compilations. I downloaded mine in FLAC from Z-Digital, it is also available there as MP3 if you’d prefer that. (As of 2022-09-22 it has been withdrawn from Z-Digital.)

80 Hits Of The 80s

This has a decent smattering of music from that decade. My copy was purchased through JB HiFi Carseldine, however it is no longer listed there. A cursory search suggests Warner Music sell this directly, but are out of stock at the time of writing.

Brits In The 80s

It’s no secret that the UK were big in the 80s, and this set highlights a lot of what they were up to.

Z-Digital have this in FLAC and MP3 formats. (As of 2022-09-22 it has been withdrawn from Z-Digital.)

Just The Hits: 80s

The Just The Hits albums are a series of compilations all covering different eras and genres… this particular one covers a cross-section of the 1980s. My copy I think was a Sanity purchase, but I can’t find it online there. That said, Z-Digital do have it as FLAC and MP3.

100 Greatest 80s

This is an online-only release of 100 tracks from the 1980s. Z-Digital offer it in FLAC and MP3. (As of 2022-09-22 it has been withdrawn from Z-Digital.)

Classic 80s

Another multi-disc compilation with a good cross-section of the 80s decade. This can be purchased on CD from Sanity or downloaded in FLAC or MP3 from Z-Digital. (As of 2022-09-22 it has been withdrawn from Z-Digital.)

Update 2022-07-11: So playing this through for the first time today… the track Thompson Twins – Hold Me Now has a goof-up at the end. Someone made it cross-fade to Wang Chung – Dance Hall Days (which otherwise, does not appear on the album, if you want that song, see Just The Hits: 80s above), which is then abruptly cut off… instead of Thompson Twins fading to silence like it ought to have. Annoying… but maybe I can clean this up using the LP of Into The Gap I have.

  • Includes 4BC Lost Classics:
    • (2022-07-12) The Nolans – Gotta Pull Myself Together
    • (2022-07-15) Sharon O’Neil – Maxine

General compilations

101 No.1 Dad

Yeah, I bought this despite still having my virginity intact… this covers a pretty wide spectrum of 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and even some from this century. Sanity sell this one.

Original Artists – Pub Jukebox

I had bought a copy of this for my mother who was wanting Ultravox – Dancing With Tears In My Eyes… but when I had a good look at the track listing, I decided to order a second copy for myself. Again, like the other general compilation, this has a smattering right across the decades.

Amazon Australia sell this. The track listing is viewable on Last.FM.

Molly

This is basically a 3-disc compilation covering some of the work of Molly Meldrum and thus features many artists who made an appearance on the TV show Countdown.

My only gripe with this particular album would be that whilst Murray Head – One Night In Bangkok is featured, they cut off the dramatic introduction! Otherwise it’s a great album.

Amazon Australia sell this, there’s a photo there of the track listing, sadly no one has typed this out.

Demise of 4KQ: one week on

So, it’s been 8 days since we woke up to the non-stop sports yap-trap that we were promised would be coming on the 1st July. Not that I heard much of it. I made a point of staying up and listening to the last of the old station before it went. The final few hours of the broadcast were ad-free and the final things heard on the station were:

  • Don McLean’s American Pie
  • The Beatles The End (from their album, Abbey Road — minus the secret track Her Maj)
  • crickets sound effect — fading out to silence

Then, shortly after… it cut over to the new mob. They just had a playlist going for the first 6 hours, with the cut-over about a minute into Survivor’s Eye Of The Tiger. I put the radio on mute shortly after and got some sleep… at 5AM they were still playing music, but with occasional cut-ins with various announcers mentioning what was coming after 6AM. When 6AM rolled around, I listened for a minute, then switched off for good.

The old website changed to being just a blank page.

Radio personality moves

Not sure where everyone has gone, but here’s what I do know:

  • Bob Gallagher, who some might know from 97.3’s breakfast program, and who chaired 4KQ’s last 4 morning on air… moved over to 4BH.
  • Vanessa Gibson (apologies if I have spelling wrong, I’ve never seen it written), who was one of the more promenant morning news readers at 4KQ has stayed with the 693kHz frequency on SEN-Q
  • 4KQ’s breakfast crew have moved to 4BC — an odd match if ever I saw one given that trio’s love for music and 4BC being a talk-back radio station

Station changes

4BH have switched formats to a “classic hits” format like the old 4KQ with a subset covering 1960 ~ 1989 (inclusive). I say subset because 4KQ in their final days were already playing Seal Crazy (released 1992), Natalie Imbruglia Torn (1997) and Savage Garden The Animal Song (released 1999).

Whether they’re playing any of Brisbane’s “historic” bands remains to be seen.

4BC’s program seems to suggest they’re still sticking with their “news talk” format. Maybe music in the mornings, then the gab-fest begins.

97.3 still don’t acknowledge the existence of anything prior to 1980.

River 94.9 is still a very weak signal into Brisbane — if you’re in the right spot you can get them but otherwise they’re practically inaudible. Odd, since they share the tower at The Knobby with VK4RAI, and I both hear that and can work that repeater quite reliably with far less power than what River 94.9 would be transmitting. Clearly they are still beaming west, and what we hear in Brisbane is just what’s coming off the back of the beam.

How things have changed for me

Well, from my perspective… that Friday morning was quite disorienting. You get used to the time-calls and regular news updates which give you an idea of how time had passed. I put my own music on that morning… and yes, was a minute or two late for my workplace morning stand-up because I wasn’t watching the clock!

A week on, and apparently I’ve broken one of my own music listening records according to Last.FM:

I had gone from listening to just 17 songs in total (most of those would have been the Friday afternoon), to over 1300. In the last 6 weeks of 4KQ I actually stopped listening to a lot of my music: I figured there was plenty of time for that once they went — I wouldn’t have 4KQ to listen to much longer, enjoy them whilst you’ve got them.

I also didn’t do any channel-hopping: previously if Abba came on (it’s a long story, but basically you didn’t want to be found listening to that group in a late 90s high-school), I’d switch stations or switch to my own music, sometimes for hours.

At mid-day I’d ordinarily flip over to Triple-M Classic Rock as they have a Essential Vinyl show which is often an interesting deep-dive into a particular iconic album from past decades, and is often interesting from the perspective of getting to know songs from an artist I might not otherwise know much about. Obscure entities like Buckingham Nicks (basically the precursor to the modern Fleetwood Mac) are in my shopping list thanks to that show. Just like a lot of my present collection can be tracked back to special features put on by 4KQ as well.

This last week… I didn’t do any of that. So where my music listening might’ve at most started at around 10:00AM or later… now basically I’ve been listening to my own music collection from 5:00AM through to to around 7:10PM. I have a cron job that manages it:

# For more information see the manual pages of crontab(5) and cron(8)
# 
# m h  dom mon dow   command
0 5 * * * ( pulsemixer --unmute --id $( pulsemixer -l | grep -F qt-dab | awk '{ print $4 }' | sed 's/,//g' ) )>/tmp/unmute.log 2>&1
0 5 * * * pidof strawberry > /dev/null && env DISPLAY=:0.0 strawberry -p
0 5 * * * ( /usr/bin/amixer -c Generic -- sset Master -36dB )>/dev/null 2>&1
10 5 * * * ( /usr/bin/amixer -c Generic -- sset Master -33dB )>/dev/null 2>&1
20 5 * * * ( /usr/bin/amixer -c Generic -- sset Master -30dB )>/dev/null 2>&1
30 5 * * * ( /usr/bin/amixer -c Generic -- sset Master -27dB )>/dev/null 2>&1
40 5 * * * ( /usr/bin/amixer -c Generic -- sset Master -24dB )>/dev/null 2>&1
50 5 * * * ( /usr/bin/amixer -c Generic -- sset Master -21dB )>/dev/null 2>&1
0 6 * * * ( /usr/bin/amixer -c Generic -- sset Master -18dB )>/dev/null 2>&1
10 6 * * * ( /usr/bin/amixer -c Generic -- sset Master -15dB )>/dev/null 2>&1
0 18 * * * ( /usr/bin/amixer -c Generic -- sset Master -15dB )>/dev/null 2>&1
10 18 * * * ( /usr/bin/amixer -c Generic -- sset Master -18dB )>/dev/null 2>&1
20 18 * * * ( /usr/bin/amixer -c Generic -- sset Master -21dB )>/dev/null 2>&1
30 18 * * * ( /usr/bin/amixer -c Generic -- sset Master -24dB )>/dev/null 2>&1
40 18 * * * ( /usr/bin/amixer -c Generic -- sset Master -27dB )>/dev/null 2>&1
50 18 * * * ( /usr/bin/amixer -c Generic -- sset Master -30dB )>/dev/null 2>&1
0 19 * * * ( /usr/bin/amixer -c Generic -- sset Master -33dB )>/dev/null 2>&1
10 19 * * * pidof strawberry > /dev/null && env DISPLAY=:0.0 strawberry -q
10 19 * * * ( /usr/bin/amixer -c Generic -- sset Master -36dB )>/dev/null 2>&1
20 19 * * * ( /usr/bin/amixer -c Generic -- sset Master -192dB )>/dev/null 2>&1

The amixer calls were there before, and would control the volume. qt-dab would sit on the desktop and receive 24/7. Now, strawberry sits on the desktop, and I’m using its CLI to start and stop: strawberry -p to fire things off in the morning, then strawberry -q to finish playing that last song before going silent.

It’s got a lot to be desired… maybe if I get creative with a text-to-speech engine, I might get some time-calls and a bit of news headlines to replicate some of what I’ve lost, although it’ll be a very poor substitute to what I had on the old station. It might just be “good enough” though… it’ll give me a time reference.

My feelings on this

While I’ve been able to largely “replace” 4KQ on my own stereo… I’m still a bit peeved by the whole experience. There’s a lot of music that’s very hard to get / impossible to get, that they used to play. Railroad Gin’s You Told The World, Do Ya Love Me and The Academy Rock being three that used to play on 4KQ… but so far have proven unobtainium. Other bands like New World, Moscos and Stone, among others… are similarly buried somewhere in record company vaults, never to be seen again.

We’re just left to fight over what few second-hand albums exist in circulation… or pirate.

As to the mess that started this: so the ACMA have a rule that limits the number of radio stations a company can control. Fair enough, they want to promote diversity, and having all the eggs in one basket does not help this. I get where the ACMA is coming from.

Here, There & Everywhere own the Australian Radio Network, who until this year, owned 4KQ. They also own 97.3. Some bright-spark at HT&E saw dollars in buying up rival network Grant Broadcasting who owned various regional stations such as River 94.9 (Ipswich) and Hot Tomato (Gold Coast), and merging them into ARN. That meant ARN were now over the threshold.

That decision to chase the dollar, on the surface of it, seems to me to be nothing less than a complete slap in the face to the Brisbane radio listenership and the staff of 4KQ, the latter of whom had given their working lives to the station. 30 years for a single announcer to work a shift is an Australian record that 4KQ and Laurel Edwards broke. This is how HT&E pay her loyalty. I think that speaks volumes.

Plans now

Immediate plans

The morning crew I used to listen to are back on air on Monday, so perhaps I’ll set up the radio for 4BC, and see how they go.

I expect there’ll be quite a few gaffs from a trio that have been used to saying “4KQ” and “32230693” for decades (Laurel Edwards has been doing that on-air longer than anyone else). Mark Hine got so used to saying 4KQ he accidentally (as ground announcer) blurted “… on Classic Hits 4K-” to the audience at The Gabba… cutting himself off when he realised which workplace he was at.

It’ll be interesting to see how they work music into their news format. That’ll be a deciding factor as to whether I continue listening after the morning stand-up, or whether I switch to my own music until the next morning.

Radio station ideas / aspirations

So to be clear, I’m not going to rush into starting up something myself. While I do have some music knowledge, and that’s probably the subject about running a commercial music radio station I would rate as being strongest — my knowledge has gaps so large a sperm whale could swim through in comfort! If that’s the state of my knowledge in that field, this does not bode well for other critical-knowledge areas.

Really I’d need to team up with people who have some media experience. I have some technical knowledge, but there’s a big difference between a 100W SSB amateur radio station which is small enough to be bicycle-mounted, and a honking big 10kW broadcast MW AM station. I’d also need very deep pockets to commission said station.

Requirements for digital-rights management being imposed by the PPCA make Internet streaming impractical. That would basically just leave DAB+. There may be room there… seems channel 9B has a little more space than 9A does, but who knows? I’d have to ask, find out what their fees and technical requirements are. Then, I’d have to then figure out what the going rate was for advertising slots, and work out the finances from there.

I don’t know how the music needs to be obtained at this point. I’m guessing purchasing MP3s from legal sources (the same that we might as individuals) may be acceptable since they’re fundamentally the same recordings — and we’d have a separate content license that would cover their broadcast. This is a guess though, I might be wrong.

It’s a big job — and not one I’m particularly suited for. I’m happy to sit back and let someone who knows what they’re doing go ahead and do it.

The idea of such a station would be a very loose copy of 4KQ in so far as we’d be playing similar music. Not the same, because to be honest I actually do not know what songs were “hits” in this city. I have some recollections of what I’ve heard, but likely this is just the tip of the iceberg.

I did manage to grab some feature playlists (e.g. Sizzling 70s, Easter Count-down, all-sorts… etc) from 4KQ before the site went offline. Those, when de-duplicated, amount to about 3500 songs, about 70% I already had. I can’t publish these as they belong to the Australian Radio Network (I have contacted ARN about this but not heard anything — I’ll take that as a “no, do not publish”) … but nothing stops me picking through the listings and incorporating the artists mentioned into my library where see them. If I see collections that are readily available, I’ll make note of them here.

What would the format look like? Well, musically it’ll be a mix of the heavier rock that you’d hear on stations like Triple M, and the softer stuff of 4KQ. Not exclusively focused on Brisbane hits, as I don’t have a record of what was popular… I just have a “rough idea” of what artists were popular, and would likely work on that basis. That might change if someone who does have records of this came on-board and could basically guide me on this or take on the music-director role properly.

The first days would likely be ad-free as we try to build up an audience and attract advertisers. Those booking advertising slots would have to organise their own recordings since we wouldn’t have studios to help them with that. The station would be “automatic”: no announcers, news, weather… just music, and later we’d get ad breaks in to help pay the bills and start building up a revenue stream.

If revenue picked up enough, then maybe we could organise to hire studio time and do pre-recorded shows, or perhaps live ones if we can figure out how to link studio and transmitter.

Some ideas for shows that’d work pre-recorded:

  • Classic Artists Today: a look at artists we know from the 60s~90s that are still producing music and what they’re doing these days… for example Jeff Lynne is still doing music with Electric Light Orchestra, The Who and Manfred Mann’s Earth Band did a few new songs in the early part of this century, Fleetwood Mac are still active.
  • Sunday Spotlight: a deep dive into an artist’s work (e.g. a show about George Harrison would start with his role in The Beatles, but then cover solo work and his work in The Traveling Wilburys; Graham Gouldman might cover his early songwriting for The Hollies, The Ohio Express then his later work with 10cc, solo work, and his team-up with Andrew Gold in Wax; Brian Cadd could have enough material to fill several hours I think with Axiom, The Groop and solo work, along with producing for other artists).

This is better done by someone who knows what they’re doing, and I know right now, that is not me, certainly not as a solo act. I suspect this will be at least a year off, likely longer if it happens at all.

A lot will depend on demand. I have a day job that’s paying the bills, there’s no sense of rushing off from that into the great unknown, no matter how much I might feel like a career change after some 20+ years connection with (and subsequent frustration with) the IT industry in one form or another! Time will tell.