I have good news and bad news. Bad news is that I only started my data collection at around 11.40pm on 27th July, which is later than I was hoping, and good news is that everything is working perfectly!

There are a couple of reasons I ended up starting so late, and one of the reasons is actually because of the other. So, I was originally copying and pasting my files from the Ardmore computer onto my laptop, but this turned out to be very slow and time consuming, so instead I installed the Dropbox and set up SDR# so that it automatically uploaded the files onto it once the signal was recorded. While copying and pasting, I remained connected to the computer, but when I started using the Dropbox, I started disconnecting. This is because the internet connection in Ardmore is generally weak and slow and everything would significantly slow down when I was still connected while the files were uploading. I also installed the Dropbox onto my own laptop and when files arrived, I’d put them into another folder to keep the Dropbox space free, and I’d remain disconnected, waiting for more files to arrive as they were being recorded and uploaded to the Dropbox. However, the files just wouldn’t arrive, so I’d connect again and see that nothing was recorded. This always led me to the conclusion that my settings weren’t good enough and I kept missing the signals, so I would change the settings, wait until a signal was detected and recorded to make sure that the setting was good, and then I would disconnect again, to wait for the files to arrive.

This was the first mistake – even when I had recorded signals before, they were recorded with a different setting, so every time I changed something I was pretty much starting all over again. Now, this went on for a few days – almost a week actually. Then I started to notice a pattern. I’d disconnect overnight, hoping for signals to get recorded and that I’d wake up with a full Dropbox, (because everything I have read about meteors said that most meteors enter our atmosphere between midnight and 7am), and I’d be disappointed every single time, thinking how it doesn’t make sense that there was absolutely nothing overnight (which contradicts my readings), especially when we are nearing a meteor shower. So then I would go on to change the settings, but before I did, I would just stay connected for a little bit and wait to see if anything happened. Now, if my setting was accidentally made so sensitive that even the noise level would trigger recording, then all of a sudden SDR# would start recording almost immediately. This also didn’t make sense to me. Why wasn’t the noise level triggering recording overnight, if it’s doing so now?

After a few days of this happening, no matter what setting I changed to (and honestly, I was running out of ideas of how to combine all the settings in a way that I didn’t try before), it finally clicked. Every time I disconnected, the program basically paused and didn’t record anything. That means, that not only was I constantly changing settings, I wasn’t consistently even recording the signals. This is the big mistake I made in my way of thinking – I assumed that everything was still working after I disconnected. This should have been the first thing I checked, even before starting any recordings. I don’t even want to think about how many signals I’ve missed, how many perfect settings I may have gotten and then changed, and how much sooner my data acquisition would have started if I had just checked this first. I guess this is what research is about and sometimes, something that seems so trivial doesn’t even enter the thought process.

I found a way now to disconnect without stopping the program, and I found a good setting that works perfectly, and everything over the last few days has been exactly the way I expected, with a few minor exceptions. One of those is that the program crashed one time, but luckily SDR# saves the last setting so I just had to restart it (but if there was a signal during those few seconds, it was missed). Another thing that happens a lot is that the whole noise floor jumps up for a split second and triggers recording. The only idea that I have at the moment to reason with this is that there may have been a spark somewhere nearby. This is something I have to look into and ask about. If it’s not a spark, I would like to find out what it is, because sometimes the noise floor only slightly twitches, and then sometimes it jumps up incredibly high. At the moment it seems random, although I will look into it to see if there is a pattern (i.e. maybe it happens every hour, or at the same time every day, etc).

Here is a picture of what I mean, so that it makes more sense:

A representation of where the noise floor normally is and how much stronger the Auckland ZM radio station is on the left, at 91.0MHz.

A representation of where the noise floor normally is and how much stronger the Auckland ZM radio station is on the left, at 91.0MHz.

Noise floor jumping. Notice how it's almost the same height as the Auckland ZM radio station, at 91.0MHz

Noise floor jumping. Note how it’s almost the same height as the Auckland ZM radio station, at 91.0MHz

Anyway, I’m just happy that, although I started later than I was planning to with my data acquisition, I figured it out and got my project back on track, and  now that everything is working with it, I can start to focus on analysing all of it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *