“The Spectrum Monitor” – some thoughts on content and readability

coverAfter a series of fits & starts I (and other subscribers) were finally able to download the first issue of The Spectrum Monitor.

At 85 pages, the issue is chock full of content and, in keeping with the Monitoring Times tradition, it is all meat and no fluff. You won’t be besieged by numerous ads – if you bought the subscription for useful and interesting content, you’ll be happy to know you’ll be getting it in abundance if the first issue is any indication of how TSM will be.

It is impossible for me to talk about TSM without referencing Monitoring Times, especially since that magazine is mentioned several times in various introductory columns in this month’s TSM. With that in mind, let me mention what I liked about MT that separated it from all other radio hobby magazines:

  • I considered MT a collection of specialists writing for a general magazine. Normally, I would think of a magazine that covers too broad a subject matter as a good indication that, due to the generalization, all topics will be watered-down and shallow versions of what they might otherwise be. Think of a restaurant named “Luigi’s Sushi and Pit BBQ”. The ikura’s gonna suck and so is the brisket. Specialists are required for each food to be its best and they won’t exist under the same roof. But somehow, MT collected experts for each subject matter they cover and allowed them to present the results of their expertise in the same magazine month after month. TSM has most of the same well-informed columnists.
  • There are how-to articles that show me new ways to use what I already have. For example, an old issue of MT detailed how to use a program to plot solar noise over a period of time. This in turn could be used to display my antenna’s response as the sun moved across the sky or to display anomalies like SIDs or flares. This month’s issue of TSM mentions a way of snagging an elusive AM broadcast station without the need to be awake in the wee hours of the night.
  • The range of topics covered means that all levels of expertise are addressed. If an article or column appears too basic, maybe it’s because you yourself are fairly knowledgeable on that topic. If this is the case, just turn the page and you’re almost guaranteed to find a topic you know far less about. Contrast this with QST or CQ Magazine with most all of their content being basic to anyone who’s been in the hobby for more than a decade.

If, like me, you equate “being informed” with “being entertained”, you’ll probably enjoy TSM. There are new developments happening all the time in the business and technical aspects of that broad and all-encompassing thing known as the RF spectrum and TSM seems to have all the ingredients and know-how to keep you up to speed on them.

No doubt other reviews will be written about this new magazine but the best way to proceed if you’re undecided about subscribing is to simply download an issue, each of which will eventually be available for $3.

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Since TSM is a pdf publication, a lot of a reader’s opinion of it will lie in how it is presented. I very rarely buy paper-&-ink books anymore having long since given in to Kindle. Most of my books are read curled up with my Nexus 7.

When I first downloaded and opened TSM with Adobe Reader, I knew that something had to change. Unlike with books, I don’t read magazines in order – I skip around, browse and like to bend pages over on particularly interesting topics. None of this is possible in Adobe Reader, which opened up on the first page of TSM every time I decided to start reading again.

After trying several other e-readers I finally settled on eBookDroid which remembers where I was from one reading session to the next (even if I reboot the tablet) and lets me make bookmarks with names of my choosing.

If you do subscribe to TSM, experiment with various free e-readers to see which one works best for you.

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  2 comments for ““The Spectrum Monitor” – some thoughts on content and readability

  1. David Ryeburn
    December 22, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    You wrote: “When I first downloaded and opened TSM with Adobe Reader, I knew that something had to change. Unlike with books, I don’t read magazines in order – I skip around, browse and like to bend pages over on particularly interesting topics. None of this is possible in Adobe Reader, which opened up on the first page of TSM every time I decided to start reading again.”

    I don’t know how Adobe Reader works on Windows machines. On Macs, if you go to the Documents section of Adobe Reader Preferences and tick “Restore last view settings when reopening documents” the document will open to wherever it was when you closed it. This survives restarts of Adobe Reader and restarts of the computer. Try it.

    I can close the document in Adobe Reader and open it in Preview, look at a different page, and close it there. If I later open it in Adobe Reader, it will open to where it was when closed in Adobe Reader. If opened in Preview, it will open to where it was in Preview. Opening it in both applications at the same time is a recipe for trouble! This tells me that the settings for where it is to open next time are stored in the auxiliary files for the application, not in the document itself.

    I didn’t try this with The Spectrum Monitor files (which I don’t have) but with other PDF files. If their files meet standards, they should behave the same way.

    David, VE7EZM and AF7BZ

    • December 22, 2013 at 1:59 pm

      Thanks for the comment, David. I’m using an Android device but will test Adobe Reader on my PC when I continue with the TSM file there.

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