Block it !

Most places you go to on the web now, will almost certainly be serving you adverts, or tracking you, or worse, and this is only an basic article about adblocking, Ublock origin in particular, as it’s the one that gets recommended by security analysts and researchers, and i install it in every browser first thing, i watch a fair bit of Youtube like most of us, and i still see many people complaining about adverts, so let’s go.

Youtube pre-rolls and ads have been around for years, but people really like money by doing nothing, and so adverts have bled their way into Youtube, one of the most high profile sites on the web. 
If You’re ready to watch a video, it’s incredibly annoying to have to sit through some unwanted crappy advert about something you hate, using your bandwidth, electricity, hardware and most insidious, your time.

Adblockers are plugins or extensions for your web browser which aim to stop this, they’ve also been around donkeys ages too, but, like every other bit of software, it doesn’t always do what it ‘says on the tin’ and, sometimes it does rather more… some Adblockers actually bring in adverts to your browser (mentioning no names) as they feed you tailored ads, different to what you may otherwise get fed, and for this, the adblock company gets a pay-off. Ad blockers, not blocking ads for money, sweet, no ?

This last year or two, the one everyone has been raving about is Ublock Origin  by Gorhill.
Actually, it’s not just an adblocker, as Gorhill himself says, it’s a wide spectrum blocker. so It’s a little like a java script blocker and firewall too, and a bit more too. but DO NOT confuse “Ublock Origin” with the similar sounding “UBLOCK” use Ublock Origin(al)

Default settings are, of course, pretty conservative, and try not to break anything too much, there’s always a trade-off between security and convenience, and you’re the only one who knows where the balance is for the way you use the web. The ‘tyranny of the default’ is a problem, and most bits of software – of any description, often benefit from a check through the preferences, in some cases, doing so can often turn a pain in the arse program into a pleasant to use and safer thing.

For me, i put all settings pretty much up to maximum, and if a website breaks, then so-be it, it can be whitelisted, turned off or adjusted until the site functions as expected if really needed.
Ublock Origin is available for every browser, FirefoxChrome, Chromium, Brave, Iriduim, Safari and even Edge although You really should try NOT to use Microsoft Edge Browser even if Microsoft have started building it underneath the bonnet from the Google Chromium browser, but if you must, enable WDAG at very least  before you start fixing it..
If You really want to tighten up privacy with Ublock Origin, go into the settings and enable the extra lists and Prevent WebRTC and for extra privacy i  block CSP reports too, although some people criticized Ublock Origin for being over zealous.

Above: i add extra privacy by clicking the “WebRTC” and “Block CSP”

One of the least discussed, but wonderfully useful things i like about some advert, or content blockers, is ‘element hiding’
where you can either temporarily or forever hide unwanted parts of a web page, sometimes it it *extremely* handy and can get you past some casual pay walls or some only-logged-in parts of some sites or remove bulky or screen wasting photos or guff.

 Here is a rather extreme example of element hiding on the same MSN homepage, these 2 pictures are before and after, i spent a couple of minutes hiding bits of the website – by using the mouse and highlighting it, and  i got rather carried away and deleted pretty much everything !

Properly set up, Ublock origin should stop almost all adverts, even Youtube pre-rolls and in video pop ups whilst enhancing your privacy a little bit more, and it might speed up your browsing too and keep websites leaner and faster, but if you get into element hiding, you can extremely easily break a website (for you and that browser only) in a big way, or you might just hide the video, or login button, so you’d have to go into the ptions in ‘my filters’ and delete the filter lines the program has added.


TDMA – what’s that all about then ?

It’s not always obvious when you get into DMR exactly what makes DMR so ‘special’ and why everyone is jumping on the bandwagon, compared to most other types of digital voice modes, one of the coolest things about DMR over most other forms of digital voice modes is TDMA. that’s the secret sauce.

Conventional FM repeaters, along with older FDMA types work very well indeed, but more can be done, especially nowadays. On an FM transmitter, as soon as you transmit, your transmitters PA (RF power Amp) shoots right over to solidly pumping out 100% constant carrier, this is simple to understand, as indeed is a FM repeater’s basic operation, and we’re all used to and happy with that.
However, one conversation on a FM (or FDMA) repeater generally means that you have to wait until the repeater is free before you can use it of course, so if your message is important, you’re stuffed, unless you have another repeater to make the call on.
Imagine though, a repeater which can carry 2 separate conversations at the same time using the same two frequencies an FM repeater would use ? How ?

The answer, is TDMA, Time Division Multiple Access, it has been around years, longer than you might think, but it’s basically a channel access method – a way of data streams sharing the same channel, (because *everything* is data nowadays) and there are different types of channel access too, but as we are discussing DMR really, we’ll stick to that for now. Most of us, back in the 1990s will likely be familiar of the annoying and somewhat unpleasant ‘buzz’ or interference when your old cell phone was near an amplifier or stereo (remember those?) and the rat-a-tat buzz from the 2G Nokia cell phone you had.. that was a TDMA transmission.

Very basically, and because it’s a little abstract, i’ll attempt to give a ‘duffers’ way of imagining it. I know very little, but there seems to be very few write-ups anywhere on the web about it, particularly for hobbyists or folks who aren’t computer whizz kids, there are many DMR websites and discussions on forums and Facebook, but many others, though thorough and correct, require the imagination the size of a planet and a leap of faith to match.

Here goes, if you were to chop your FM transmitter on and off very quickly indeed, you could also imagine that in between your brief TX bursts, and the snapping of your PTT, that someone else, if just as quick, could send their quick TX bursts out too, on the same frequency in-between yours, no-one would be harmed, but you couldn’t speak fast enough to get your voice over could you ? and neither could the station that you’re trying to talk to.
Now, digital radio takes all your TX audio, throws away what it thinks is unneeded, and compresses the rest.
Now your voice is digital and in squeezed into a tiny IC in your radio, we can do fancy things with it, we can, for instance, break it up into blocks and transmit these blocks in, er, blocks, or packets, –  the quick pulses we mentioned earlier, but faster and electronicaly timed and controlled.
The receiver collects these ‘blocks’ and re-constitutes them, back into a whole lump, like adding water to a 1970s Vesta Chow Mein and you’ve got your audio back at the receiver, albeit after a lot of processing, and of course, you can do this through a repeater or simplex. You can even have two concurrent QSOs on simplex, on the same frequency!

A basic one way QSO through a DMR repeater is pretty simple to envisage,
here’s the first of my (sad and tragic) attempts at basic animation in The Gimp, a open source, free software graphics program, (For Windows, Mac & Linux) which i only found out did animation a couple of hours ago, so be kind to my first attempts !

TDMA – the Secret sauce

As you can see above, transmitting one DMR transmission over a DMR repeater all seems to make some kind of sense, you can see the packets arriving at the repeater, and the repeater transmitting them on.

The interesting bit about DMR is whilst they’re nattering on there, we can start up another QSO on the same repeater and the other QSO will be totally unaware, so, if there’s just one QSO on the DMR repeater, it will be sat idle a good proportion of the time, yet still continue to relay a full QSO on one of the slots, but there’s another slot we can play with, lets look at that.

Slots o’ fun

Above, on grubby animation number two, is what the repeater is seeing when someone else calls through the repeater, hugely slowed down, as for a short time it listens in the (lets call it a ‘gap’) and if it hears any valid DMR on the input at that time, it calls that slot 1, then automatically and without waiting, listens again on the same frequency in the other ‘gap’ or slot, and if a valid chunk of tasty DMR comes in at the expected slot 2 time, well, we will call that slot 2 then, and so it goes, back and forth, many times a second, constantly, until both transmissions stop and it can rest. 

So, to recap, there are now two simultaneous QSOs going on in the repeater, and as we can see, as the repeater is easily hearing both transmissions, the DMR repeater is also sending back control information to your radio, stuff like telling both transmitters when to TX their blocks of data back, all DMR receivers expect to hear packets or these blocks of data, so everybody is happy. Win, Win.

It’s a busy, busy busy job …

Above, in crap animation number three, (I’ll stop soon, i promise) – is a very poor attempt to envisage a DMR repeater in the midst of, er, repeating. Two QSOs are taking place on the one repeater at the same time, neither QSO knows or needs to know about the other QSO,

QSO one (slot 1)  is blue, and QSO two (slot 2) is green, neither know or can hear, (or join in with) the other QSO, they’re both completely independent, try doing that without TDMA.

In the crude graphic, massivley slowed down, the repeater is flashing the colour of the QSO it is currently TXing, it really onl haas one transmitter and one receiver really, but as you can see, it switches between both ‘slots’ automatically and very fast indeed, with the effect that the end user can’t tell. congratulations, because instead of having to buy another repeater, you’ve just got a free one by using DMR.

There are more DMR benefits too, stuff that the FM and FDMA stuff can only dream about,Myself, i like the old P25 phase 1 digital, a mostly American emergency service digital system, but it’s old and FDMA, not TDMA and and has only half the capacity of a these two slot TDMA system, bit TDMA is so important in comms, that P25 ‘phase 2’ is now TDMA, because it makes NO SENSE to invest in a poor propriety digital amateur only mode, or really any FDMA nowadays, unless it’s foe low end or retro fun, it’s a technological dead end street now, technology has moved on, some companies thought they’d lock users into substandard and propriety modes and dropped the ball completely or refused to update, as their cash cow was still bringing in the $$$ whilst other, superior standard, industry wide modes, well supported and still in active development continue to offer future development, rather than just at the whim of some proprietary bean counting exec.. but i digress..

One feature we enjoyed when we started playing with DMR, was to de-key each other .. the locals here are an often cruel and cheeky bunch who used to delight in, lets say, if someone was transmitting for a really long time, and listeners were starting to doze off or get bored, we send a DMR command from our rigs to the Guy who is still in waffle mode – still in TX -and  instantly setting the (surprised) waffling station’s rig back into receive mode – whilst they still had their finger on their PTT !   for a while it was a challenge to not be boring or waffle too much, lest you would be remotely de-keyed in mid sentance !

Such is the fun we had, but alas the tumbleweeds have taken over the hobby and i have to get my kicks by writing articles on MBARS 🙂

Next Article:
“Talkgroups what the bloody hell are they then”

Changes are a comin’

We’re trying to diversify a little bit on MBARS here, Digital radio is just one tiny part of the whole electronics and hobby radio thing we’re all addicted to here, so we’re just mixing it up a little bit, as there’s not really enough happening in the DMR or digital voice part of the hobby to inspire me to pen many articles, the hobby is far bigger than just digital, We’re interested in a wider array of hobby radio and electronics.

I have added more areas, with more specific titles to reflect our other interests, and hopefully you’ll not be not forced to scroll and click around endlessly just to browse this (little) site of ours, with all the areas up the top instead, MBARS is only a 2 man effort, and i do most of the waffling and Quack does all of the Admin. If there are any menus or areas you think we should have, tell us !

So much content is on Facebook nowadays, so it’s a little hard not to be drawn into the Quagmire that is Zuckerberg-world (Giggidy) so please don’t expect a huge quantity of material on here, but we do like the idea of quality, and that is instead, what we will strive for, and that is also why joining is pretty much a slightly more tedious ‘send us an email’ type instead of the more usual email-loop – like you get on most other sites, though that may very well change, but it does keep out most of the spam, so there is method in our madness.

I’m no writer, or journalist, but when i have time (or the inclination) i do enjoy writing, especially on MBARS, but I found the digital radio bias rather restrictive, as i’m mostly a HF SSB Guy really, so I have added up some more categories up on the menu where hopefully you can jump to a particulat type of thing, instead of scrolling around, i found navigating the site a chore myself, so i need to make navigation easier and more straightforward.

Stick with us, and i hope we all can develop MBARS a little more, and take away some of the focus from DMR and cater to the far wider interests that we have, yet we still will stay mostly in the Hobby radio domain…


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