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Methods for improving 60kHz RF signal (WWVB)?

Started by Frnak McKenney March 13, 2014
I have two "atomic clocks": one is a La Crosse LCD unit, the other an
"analog" wall clock whose hands are driven by a WWVB-sync 1xAA-powered
mechanism.  Following the recent "let's screw with everybody's clocks"
cycle neither of my "atomic clocks" caught it, and I was reminded that
I was Going To Fix This Problem last time.  And the time before...
<grin!>

After some years I've discovered that, if I place my clocks near the
west-most window and leave them for a few days, they will usually
re-sync with the current WWVB time; if I don't do this it may be weeks
or months before they pick up a strong enough signal to reset.  This
isn't a particularly onerous task, but it's only slightly less effort
than pushing buttons in some arcane sequence to manually update a
clock.

Is there some simple way of strengthening the WWVB signal so my clocks
will reset themselves automatically, preferably one that doesn't
involve stringing wires to each device?

The main axis of the house is a few degrees clockwise from a true E-W
line.  What I picture is an antenna near the westernmost window to
pick up, amplify slightly (no kilowatt linears! <grin>) and and
rebroadcast the WWVB signal directionally "down" (east) the house so
that every device would get a stronger signal.  Is there some
commercial gadget that does this? Or would I need to roll my own?

And, if I have to build it, what would be a good unidirectional LF
antenna type? I have two neighbors to my SW and NW, and I really don't
want to mess up their equipment. <grin!>

I don't seem to be the only one with this problem, as these threads
indicate:

  <http://comments.gmane.org/gmane.org.user-groups.linux.blu.hardware/589>
  <http://doityourselfchristmas.com/forums/showthread.php?11305-60-khz-Transmitter>
  <https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/rec.radio.broadcasting/x8WnIcRO__o>

Suggestions welcome.


Frank McKenney
-- 

  Apologizing for our past sins may reveal character and for a time
  lessen anti-Americanism abroad, but if it is done without
  acknowledging that the sins of America are the sins of mankind, and
  that our remedies are so often exceptional, then it only earns
  transtory applause -- and a more lasting contempt that we ourselves
  do not believe in the values we profess.

      -- Victor Davis Hanson / The Father of Us All: War and History
-- 
Frank McKenney, McKenney Associates
Richmond, Virginia / (804) 320-4887
Munged E-mail: frank uscore mckenney aatt mindspring ddoott com

On Thu, 13 Mar 2014 09:51:15 -0500, Frnak McKenney
<frnak@far.from.the.madding.crowd.com> wrote:

>I have two "atomic clocks": one is a La Crosse LCD unit, the other an >"analog" wall clock whose hands are driven by a WWVB-sync 1xAA-powered >mechanism. Following the recent "let's screw with everybody's clocks" >cycle neither of my "atomic clocks" caught it, and I was reminded that >I was Going To Fix This Problem last time. And the time before... ><grin!> > >After some years I've discovered that, if I place my clocks near the >west-most window and leave them for a few days, they will usually >re-sync with the current WWVB time; if I don't do this it may be weeks >or months before they pick up a strong enough signal to reset. This >isn't a particularly onerous task, but it's only slightly less effort >than pushing buttons in some arcane sequence to manually update a >clock. > >Is there some simple way of strengthening the WWVB signal so my clocks >will reset themselves automatically, preferably one that doesn't >involve stringing wires to each device? > >The main axis of the house is a few degrees clockwise from a true E-W >line. What I picture is an antenna near the westernmost window to >pick up, amplify slightly (no kilowatt linears! <grin>) and and >rebroadcast the WWVB signal directionally "down" (east) the house so >that every device would get a stronger signal. Is there some >commercial gadget that does this? Or would I need to roll my own? > >And, if I have to build it, what would be a good unidirectional LF >antenna type? I have two neighbors to my SW and NW, and I really don't >want to mess up their equipment. <grin!> > >I don't seem to be the only one with this problem, as these threads >indicate: > > <http://comments.gmane.org/gmane.org.user-groups.linux.blu.hardware/589> > <http://doityourselfchristmas.com/forums/showthread.php?11305-60-khz-Transmitter> > <https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/rec.radio.broadcasting/x8WnIcRO__o> > >Suggestions welcome. > > >Frank McKenney >-- > > Apologizing for our past sins may reveal character and for a time > lessen anti-Americanism abroad, but if it is done without > acknowledging that the sins of America are the sins of mankind, and > that our remedies are so often exceptional, then it only earns > transtory applause -- and a more lasting contempt that we ourselves > do not believe in the values we profess. > > -- Victor Davis Hanson / The Father of Us All: War and History
When I designed this for Bowmar... <http://www.analog-innovations.com/SED/WWVB-Schematic+Data.pdf> I used a multi-turn 8" loop antenna encased in 1/2" copper pipe (with a fiber joint to avoid a shorted turn. At the time I found fluorescent lighting to be the main PITA that obscured the signal. So get as far away from fluorescent as you can. Perhaps make a huge parasitic tuned loop to boost the signal strength? For my PC's I use... <file:///C:/Program%20Files/RoboMagic/SocketWatch/help/swhelp.htm> Perhaps you can use that and your own transmitter (as one of your own links mentioned) to re-sync your clocks. Now that I'm located well outside the city noise maybe I should take a look at the 60kHz signal strength here. ...Jim Thompson -- | James E.Thompson | mens | | Analog Innovations | et | | Analog/Mixed-Signal ASIC's and Discrete Systems | manus | | San Tan Valley, AZ 85142 Skype: Contacts Only | | | Voice:(480)460-2350 Fax: Available upon request | Brass Rat | | E-mail Icon at http://www.analog-innovations.com | 1962 | I love to cook with wine. Sometimes I even put it in the food.
On Thu, 13 Mar 2014 09:51:15 -0500, Frnak McKenney
<frnak@far.from.the.madding.crowd.com> wrote:

>Is there some simple way of strengthening the WWVB signal so my clocks >will reset themselves automatically, preferably one that doesn't >involve stringing wires to each device?
From the timenuts mailing list: On 01/03/2014 03:25 PM, Clint Turner wrote: Sometime in the late 1990s, a friend of mine who works for a local city government asked me if there was something that I could do about some WWVB clocks located in a conference room, downtown, on a middle floor of an office building amongst computers and fluorescent lights that never managed to get the correct time. Together, we built this: http://ka7oei.blogspot.com/2013/03/getting-atomic-wwvb-clocks-to-work.html John John DeArmond http://www.neon-john.com http://www.fluxeon.com Tellico Plains, Occupied TN See website for email address
On Thu, 13 Mar 2014 09:51:15 -0500, Frnak McKenney
<frnak@far.from.the.madding.crowd.com> wrote:

>After some years I've discovered that, if I place my clocks near the >west-most window and leave them for a few days, they will usually >re-sync with the current WWVB time; if I don't do this it may be weeks >or months before they pick up a strong enough signal to reset. This >isn't a particularly onerous task, but it's only slightly less effort >than pushing buttons in some arcane sequence to manually update a >clock.
The real problem with various LF signals these days is the interference from all kinds of electric gadgets such as SMPS. I live at the edge (1600 km) of the Mayflingen (Frankfurt Germany) 77.5 kHz transmitter range and have a lot of problems receiving it in an city apartment building, even when located at the window, far away from any electric circuits. However, I use to take the clock for a "walk in a park" after dark and it synchronize within half an hour. At my summer cottage, the clock will track the normal/summer time change usually in a few minutes. While I do not have a clock for the 16 kHz Rugby UK station, I have monitored the signal (distance 1850 km) with an LF receiver and a wire hanging in a few trees at my summer cottage and the signal sounded quite clean even during daytime in the summer.
>What I picture is an antenna near the westernmost window to >pick up, amplify slightly (no kilowatt linears! <grin>) and and >rebroadcast the WWVB signal directionally "down" (east) the house so >that every device would get a stronger signal. Is there some >commercial gadget that does this? Or would I need to roll my own?
Since the essential thing is keeping the noise level down at the primary receiver. One idea would be to use a _battery_powered_ receiver far from any electric wiring or electronic gadgets feeding the extracted signal to a Bluetooth or similar narrow band link with perhaps 1 mW of transmitter power and hence long battery life, especially if operated only a few minutes each hour. In the house, use the received Bluetooth signal to amplitude modulate a local 60 kHz oscillator radiating a few meters to the receivers. Of course, you must be careful to avoid any feedback from your in-doors transmitter to the primary receiver, since both operate on the same frequency.
On a sunny day (Fri, 14 Mar 2014 00:31:25 +0200) it happened
upsidedown@downunder.com wrote in
<aqb4i9548nsarb1ujmugg8b3eptq75hhiv@4ax.com>:

>I live at the edge (1600 km) of the Mayflingen (Frankfurt Germany) >77.5 kHz transmitter
Helsinki?
On Thu, 13 Mar 2014 08:11:58 -0700, Jim Thompson <To-Email-Use-The-Envelope-Icon@On-My-Web-Site.com> wrote:
> On Thu, 13 Mar 2014 09:51:15 -0500, Frnak McKenney ><frnak@far.from.the.madding.crowd.com> wrote: > >>I have two "atomic clocks": one is a La Crosse LCD unit, the other an >>"analog" wall clock whose hands are driven by a WWVB-sync 1xAA-powered >>mechanism. Following the recent "let's screw with everybody's clocks" >>cycle neither of my "atomic clocks" caught it, and I was reminded that >>I was Going To Fix This Problem last time. And the time before... >><grin!> >> >>After some years I've discovered that, if I place my clocks near the >>west-most window and leave them for a few days, they will usually >>re-sync with the current WWVB time; if I don't do this it may be weeks >>or months before they pick up a strong enough signal to reset. This >>isn't a particularly onerous task, but it's only slightly less effort >>than pushing buttons in some arcane sequence to manually update a >>clock. >> >>Is there some simple way of strengthening the WWVB signal so my clocks >>will reset themselves automatically, preferably one that doesn't >>involve stringing wires to each device?
Hi, Jim. Thanks for responding.
> When I designed this for Bowmar... > > <http://www.analog-innovations.com/SED/WWVB-Schematic+Data.pdf> > > I used a multi-turn 8" loop antenna encased in 1/2" copper pipe > (with a fiber joint to avoid a shorted turn.
Square/rectangular, yes? Or is there some easy way to bend Cu pipe into a nice, pretty circle? <grin!> I've seen coils of coax used for the same purpose. ( But I'm letting myself get distracted. )
> At the time I found fluorescent lighting to be the main PITA that > obscured the signal. > > So get as far away from fluorescent as you can.
As far as Congress will let me (which isn't all that far). A decade back I had one fluorescent fixture over my kitchen sink (west wall) and one over my workbench in the basement (east wall less a few feet). Now I have two in the kitchen, three in the den, one in the main hall and bathroom, and more somewhere else. Still, our Congress wouldn't have mandated replacing incandescents with fluorescents without setting a noise standard low enough so the new bulbs couldn't _possibly_ interfere with WWVB, yes? ( As an aside, I just replaced a 20W fluorescent in a basement overhead recessed fixture and found I'd dated the old one "30JUN2013". Nine months -- maybe I'll make up the losses in volume. Sigh. )
> Perhaps make a huge parasitic tuned loop to boost the signal strength? > > For my PC's I use... > > <file:///C:/Program%20Files/RoboMagic/SocketWatch/help/swhelp.htm>
When I attempted to access that file on your computer the NSA told me to use this one instead: http://www.robomagic.com/swatch.htm ( To guote Foghorn Leghorn, "Thatssa _jowk_, suhn." <grin!> )
> Perhaps you can use that and your own transmitter (as one of your own > links mentioned) to re-sync your clocks. > > Now that I'm located well outside the city noise maybe I should take a > look at the 60kHz signal strength here.
I'll be curious to hear what you find. Must be nice to be away from a large city. ... Hm. If strip mining techniques can level a mountain and heap it up elsewhere, how hard would it be to use the same approach to relocate a city like, say, Washington, DC? We could put it out in some out-of-the-way location such as, say, Death Valley... Wouldn't solve my WWVB problem, but it might be nice anyway. <grin!> Frank -- If you look up "human error" in the professional literature, you will find that it has been largely replaced with the term "human reliability." This is not mere political correctness; it stems from the realization that mistakes are an irreducible subset of performance. On this earth, humankind is only perfectable up to a point; designing your systems on the assumption of uniform excellence is to offer up your whole enterprise as a hostage to fallability. -- Michael and Ellen Kaplan / Bozo Sapiens: Why to Err is Human -- Frank McKenney, McKenney Associates Richmond, Virginia / (804) 320-4887 Munged E-mail: frank uscore mckenney aatt mindspring ddoott com
On Thu, 13 Mar 2014 11:49:20 -0400, Neon John <no@never.com> wrote:
> On Thu, 13 Mar 2014 09:51:15 -0500, Frnak McKenney ><frnak@far.from.the.madding.crowd.com> wrote: > >>Is there some simple way of strengthening the WWVB signal so my clocks >>will reset themselves automatically, preferably one that doesn't >>involve stringing wires to each device? > > From the timenuts mailing list: > > On 01/03/2014 03:25 PM, Clint Turner wrote: > > Sometime in the late 1990s, a friend of mine who works for a local > city government asked me if there was something that I could do about > some WWVB clocks located in a conference room, downtown, on a middle > floor of an office building amongst computers and fluorescent lights > that never managed to get the correct time. > > Together, we built this: > > http://ka7oei.blogspot.com/2013/03/getting-atomic-wwvb-clocks-to-work.html > John > John DeArmond > http://www.neon-john.com > http://www.fluxeon.com > Tellico Plains, Occupied TN > See website for email address
Wonderful! And not just for the schematic; the detailed writeup and construction photos answer a number of questions I hadn't come up with yet. I wish I had started on this a decade back when my father -- whose WWV _and_ WWVB reception both had problems -- could have enjoyed the results. The opamp with eight connections in the schematic confused me for a bit, but once I magnified it to see it was an LM386 and then checked the datasheet it made sense. The idea of drilling holes so I could route the coax between the antenna/amplfier and the radiating loops didn't appeal to me, but then I realized that I could use my built-for-leprechauns attic and "cheat": 1) Mount the receiving antenna at the west end of my attic and shove the rebroadcasting coils under the attic floorboards. This would put them within a couple of feet of the clocks' current locations. 2) Reduce the amplifier's gain as required to -- as the writeup warns -- prevent the signal from the radiating coils from feeding back into the receiving antenna. Gee. An LM386 as an RF amplifier. The mind boggles. <grin!> Thank you for pointing me at this, and thanks to both of you for effort you put into writing it up. Frank -- Evolution did not set us on a trajectory toward the _perfect_ brain, the best possible brain, or even, arguably, a decent brain. Rather we got the amateur version, the unendingly fiddled-with version, a flawed instrument just good enough to get us through to reproductive age. After that achievement, evolution occurs ( or not ) without a central mission, which might explain the onset of loopy eccentricity in middle-aged aunts and uncles. -- Jack Hitt / Bunch of Amateurs -- Frank McKenney, McKenney Associates Richmond, Virginia / (804) 320-4887 Munged E-mail: frank uscore mckenney aatt mindspring ddoott com
On Fri, 14 Mar 2014 10:16:45 -0500, Frnak McKenney
<frnak@far.from.the.madding.crowd.com> wrote:

>On Thu, 13 Mar 2014 08:11:58 -0700, Jim Thompson <To-Email-Use-The-Envelope-Icon@On-My-Web-Site.com> wrote: >> On Thu, 13 Mar 2014 09:51:15 -0500, Frnak McKenney >><frnak@far.from.the.madding.crowd.com> wrote: >> >>>I have two "atomic clocks": one is a La Crosse LCD unit, the other an >>>"analog" wall clock whose hands are driven by a WWVB-sync 1xAA-powered >>>mechanism. Following the recent "let's screw with everybody's clocks" >>>cycle neither of my "atomic clocks" caught it, and I was reminded that >>>I was Going To Fix This Problem last time. And the time before... >>><grin!> >>> >>>After some years I've discovered that, if I place my clocks near the >>>west-most window and leave them for a few days, they will usually >>>re-sync with the current WWVB time; if I don't do this it may be weeks >>>or months before they pick up a strong enough signal to reset. This >>>isn't a particularly onerous task, but it's only slightly less effort >>>than pushing buttons in some arcane sequence to manually update a >>>clock. >>> >>>Is there some simple way of strengthening the WWVB signal so my clocks >>>will reset themselves automatically, preferably one that doesn't >>>involve stringing wires to each device? > >Hi, Jim. > >Thanks for responding. > >> When I designed this for Bowmar... >> >> <http://www.analog-innovations.com/SED/WWVB-Schematic+Data.pdf> >> >> I used a multi-turn 8" loop antenna encased in 1/2" copper pipe >> (with a fiber joint to avoid a shorted turn. > >Square/rectangular, yes? Or is there some easy way to bend Cu pipe >into a nice, pretty circle? <grin!>
You need a friend who has a sheet metal roller that has a tubular slot in it ;-) (I'm of that old era where boys were required to take shop courses in Jr. High and High School, so I know how to run all that equipment. I was one of the very few students at MIT granted authorization to use the shop machines in MIT's Building 20.)
> >I've seen coils of coax used for the same purpose. ( But I'm letting >myself get distracted. ) > >> At the time I found fluorescent lighting to be the main PITA that >> obscured the signal. >> >> So get as far away from fluorescent as you can. > >As far as Congress will let me (which isn't all that far). A decade >back I had one fluorescent fixture over my kitchen sink (west wall) >and one over my workbench in the basement (east wall less a few feet). >Now I have two in the kitchen, three in the den, one in the main hall >and bathroom, and more somewhere else. Still, our Congress wouldn't >have mandated replacing incandescents with fluorescents without >setting a noise standard low enough so the new bulbs couldn't >_possibly_ interfere with WWVB, yes? > >( As an aside, I just replaced a 20W fluorescent in a basement > overhead recessed fixture and found I'd dated the old one > "30JUN2013". Nine months -- maybe I'll make up the losses in > volume. Sigh. ) > >> Perhaps make a huge parasitic tuned loop to boost the signal strength? >> >> For my PC's I use... >> >> <file:///C:/Program%20Files/RoboMagic/SocketWatch/help/swhelp.htm> > >When I attempted to access that file on your computer the NSA told me >to use this one instead: > > http://www.robomagic.com/swatch.htm > >( To guote Foghorn Leghorn, "Thatssa _jowk_, suhn." <grin!> ) > >> Perhaps you can use that and your own transmitter (as one of your own >> links mentioned) to re-sync your clocks. >> >> Now that I'm located well outside the city noise maybe I should take a >> look at the 60kHz signal strength here. > >I'll be curious to hear what you find. Must be nice to be away from a >large city. ... Hm. If strip mining techniques can level a mountain >and heap it up elsewhere, how hard would it be to use the same >approach to relocate a city like, say, Washington, DC? We could put it >out in some out-of-the-way location such as, say, Death Valley... > >Wouldn't solve my WWVB problem, but it might be nice anyway. <grin!> > > >Frank >-- > If you look up "human error" in the professional literature, you will > find that it has been largely replaced with the term "human > reliability." This is not mere political correctness; it stems from the > realization that mistakes are an irreducible subset of performance. > On this earth, humankind is only perfectable up to a point; designing > your systems on the assumption of uniform excellence is to offer up your > whole enterprise as a hostage to fallability. > -- Michael and Ellen Kaplan / Bozo Sapiens: Why to Err is Human
...Jim Thompson -- | James E.Thompson | mens | | Analog Innovations | et | | Analog/Mixed-Signal ASIC's and Discrete Systems | manus | | San Tan Valley, AZ 85142 Skype: Contacts Only | | | Voice:(480)460-2350 Fax: Available upon request | Brass Rat | | E-mail Icon at http://www.analog-innovations.com | 1962 | I love to cook with wine. Sometimes I even put it in the food.
On Fri, 14 Mar 2014 00:31:25 +0200, upsidedown@downunder.com <upsidedown@downunder.com> wrote:
> On Thu, 13 Mar 2014 09:51:15 -0500, Frnak McKenney ><frnak@far.from.the.madding.crowd.com> wrote: > >>After some years I've discovered that, if I place my clocks near the >>west-most window and leave them for a few days, they will usually >>re-sync with the current WWVB time; if I don't do this it may be weeks >>or months before they pick up a strong enough signal to reset. This >>isn't a particularly onerous task, but it's only slightly less effort >>than pushing buttons in some arcane sequence to manually update a >>clock. > > The real problem with various LF signals these days is the > interference from all kinds of electric gadgets such as SMPS.
What about the massive influx of Compact Fluorescent bulbs? Or has Germany avoided the U.S. effort to Replace The Evil Incandescent?
> I live at the edge (1600 km) of the Mayflingen (Frankfurt Germany) > 77.5 kHz transmitter range and have a lot of problems receiving it in > an city apartment building, even when located at the window, far away > from any electric circuits. However, I use to take the clock for a > "walk in a park" after dark and it synchronize within half an hour. At > my summer cottage, the clock will track the normal/summer time change > usually in a few minutes.
Thank you for the image of you taking your electronics for a walk in the park... and being included in a George Seurat painting. <grin!>
> While I do not have a clock for the 16 kHz Rugby UK station, I have > monitored the signal (distance 1850 km) with an LF receiver and a wire > hanging in a few trees at my summer cottage and the signal sounded > quite clean even during daytime in the summer. > >>What I picture is an antenna near the westernmost window to >>pick up, amplify slightly (no kilowatt linears! <grin>) and and >>rebroadcast the WWVB signal directionally "down" (east) the house so >>that every device would get a stronger signal. Is there some >>commercial gadget that does this? Or would I need to roll my own? > > Since the essential thing is keeping the noise level down at the > primary receiver. One idea would be to use a _battery_powered_ > receiver far from any electric wiring or electronic gadgets feeding > the extracted signal to a Bluetooth or similar narrow band link with > perhaps 1 mW of transmitter power and hence long battery life, > especially if operated only a few minutes each hour. > > In the house, use the received Bluetooth signal to amplitude modulate > a local 60 kHz oscillator radiating a few meters to the receivers. > > Of course, you must be careful to avoid any feedback from your > in-doors transmitter to the primary receiver, since both operate on > the same frequency.
Ah. Interesting: LF receiver ==> HF transmitter, then HF receivers ==> LF transmitters. That approach gets me around the problem of running coax -- and, more importantly, crawling around in my attic -- but adds a bit of overall cost: last time I checked, 3x Bluetooth modules would run me about $90US. Still, it's a nice idea. Thank you. I need to think about this a bit. Frank -- The belief that human tastes are reversible cultural preferences has led social planners to write off people's enjoyment of ornament, natural light, and human scale, and force millions of people to live in drab cement boxes. The romantic notion that all evil is a product of society has justified the release of dangerous psychopaths who promptly murdered innocent people. And the conviction that humanity could be reshaped by massive social engineering projects led to some of the greatest atrocities in history. -- Steven Pinker, Preface to "The Blank Slate" -- Frank McKenney, McKenney Associates Richmond, Virginia / (804) 320-4887 Munged E-mail: frank uscore mckenney aatt mindspring ddoott com
On Thu, 13 Mar 2014 11:49:20 -0400, Neon John <no@never.com> wrote:

>On Thu, 13 Mar 2014 09:51:15 -0500, Frnak McKenney ><frnak@far.from.the.madding.crowd.com> wrote: > >>Is there some simple way of strengthening the WWVB signal so my clocks >>will reset themselves automatically, preferably one that doesn't >>involve stringing wires to each device? > >From the timenuts mailing list: > >On 01/03/2014 03:25 PM, Clint Turner wrote: > >Sometime in the late 1990s, a friend of mine who works for a local >city government asked me if there was something that I could do about >some WWVB clocks located in a conference room, downtown, on a middle >floor of an office building amongst computers and fluorescent lights >that never managed to get the correct time. > >Together, we built this: > >http://ka7oei.blogspot.com/2013/03/getting-atomic-wwvb-clocks-to-work.html >John >John DeArmond >http://www.neon-john.com >http://www.fluxeon.com >Tellico Plains, Occupied TN >See website for email address
Nice! ...Jim Thompson -- | James E.Thompson | mens | | Analog Innovations | et | | Analog/Mixed-Signal ASIC's and Discrete Systems | manus | | San Tan Valley, AZ 85142 Skype: Contacts Only | | | Voice:(480)460-2350 Fax: Available upon request | Brass Rat | | E-mail Icon at http://www.analog-innovations.com | 1962 | I love to cook with wine. Sometimes I even put it in the food.