Citizens of the Imperium

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Spinward Scout June 13th, 2004 02:59 PM

Hi Citizens!

I've been wondering what the different types of communication chatter would sound like. I'm looking for things like:

Navy Space Maneuvers
Ground Troops
System Defense & Customs
Port Authority
Dock Yard

Anyone ever use this for flavor in their games? I've been listening to the CB in my truck, and got curious...



Andrew Boulton June 13th, 2004 03:28 PM

In most cases, you won't be able to eavesdrop on other peoples conversations. Many will be tightbeam, and the rest will either be encrypted or automatically ignored by your comm system.

One exception might be space traffic control messages, which are always broadcast in clear so everybody knows what everybody else is doing.

kaladorn June 13th, 2004 05:50 PM

There are likely to be a lot of Ham type messages - a lot of chatter, but not on the main channels. There will be channels assigned for this kind of chit-chat and it will stay there. Chatter on the emergency channel will get your head handed to you. Traffic control channels are also not a place for chatter.

Most military chatter will be encrypted. But there are probably regulations (a lot like modern HAM radio) that expressly prohibit the use of crypto or data transmission on some of the civilian bands. The messages must be en claire.

I suspect the volume of chatter will also be a squared result of the traffic volume. That is to say, double the traffic volume in any given period, probably multiply chatter by four. Busy areas of space around high pop, high commerce planets will have very busy airwaves.

Tom Schoene June 13th, 2004 08:53 PM

I'd expect to see a lot more communications being effectively cellular, so that you don't hear any chatter not specifically directed at you (either individually or as part of a designated group. This is a much more efficient use of bandwidth, as well as being more secure. (That's why we all carry cell phones, not CB radios

Keklas Rekobah June 13th, 2004 10:37 PM

First, a little background:

I been involved in electronics communications since the late seventies. Since then, I earned 3 different FCC communications licenses. I was in the Navy as an electronics technician, and ran a MARS station as a collateral duty before satellite cellular nearly killed it off. Now I work for a state-run administration that operates toll roads in California, keeping their RFID, RF telemetry, and voice/data communications links running.

Now for some answers:

1) Navy Space Maneuvers: Likely to be spread-spectrum (if RF-based), with frequency-hopping and direct encryption. In the unlikely event that such a signal was intercepted, it would only appear as a slight increase in background noise over a broad band of frequencies - you would only hear a slightly louder static hiss. Even with a broadband FM receiver, the freq-hop and encryption protocols would only yield a lot of 'monkey chatter' as different stations vie for the same bandspace. Laser and meson wave would likely be treated the same.

2) Ground Troops & System Defense: Same as Navy comms, with different emphasis and frequencies.

3) Customs: Simple encryption (if any) with prosigns and buzzwords, like the HF Q-code and the police 10-code. "Thuh-REE delta seven, Two AL-fah wun; XTP your zed on a ten-thirty-three. Break. SO is 'Trader Jim', code NINE-er NINE-er oh-MEE-gah. Break. He's code four. how copy?" "AL-fah wun, delta seven, we copy code four on one 'Trader Jim'." "Roger delta seven..."

(Translation: Trader Jim is declared harmless, and may pass through customs unchallenged.)

4) Port Authority: Usually plain english (galanglic), with navigation instructions to ship, weather conditions, and rules of the road.

5) Dock Yard: "Hey, Mike! Swing that boom over here for a CHT hook-up... and I mean NOW! She leaking crap all over the yard..."

6) Scout: Would likely be mostly telemetry and coded email, with voice traffic requesting clearances, docking instructions, and hotel/dinner reservations. XBoat traffic would be at a higher burst rate, but with essentially the same protocols.

7) Merchant: As per scout, but at lower data rates. Data would consist of manifest numbers, routing information, and inquiries into next outgoing shipments.

8) Civilian: "SHEE-YOOT! Dadjia see the haedlights on her? I bet she could putcher eyes out at twennie parsecks! Day-yam! I like to get my hands on her control systems!"

(Translation: "Nice ship. Impressive gun mounts. I wonder if I can sign on?")

... IMHO.

kaladorn June 13th, 2004 10:54 PM

Interesting points Keklas. I'm a qualified VHF operator and have a bit of background working with airborne navaids as well as experience in public safety RF networks (helped deploy the RCMP's first truly national mobile policing application and write the back end servers to support it). And I spent some time wearing green and slogging through dirt carrying lots of lethal hardware, so I have some idea of the military side of it. And I'm working on getting qualified to Captain a yacht offshore.

Having said all that, your summary is reasonable except:

1. Meson is effectively uninterceptable if I understand it. It doesn't effectively exist between sender and target, and therefore is only decodable at the target (and you hope to hell you know where the target is or they aren't getting it either).

2. Expect XBoat traffic to be heavily encrypted. It is the *mail* and that contains lots of sensitive information.

3. The police nowadays (at least up here) are starting to make heavy use of encrypted voice privacy networks. Hook a normal radio monitor to one of those channels, all you get is a buzz. The data channels are going heavily encrypted (to prevent people like organized crime from hacking them and finding out tactical deployments and committing session hijacks to screw with national police DBs etc).

4. Selective jamming can bugger up even spread-spectrum stuff and if the enemy can work his was inside your frequency hopping algorithm or session, it may be possible for him to track your hops and save your transmission to attempt to decrypt them. The best comms is using this kind of tech with the same discipline you would with a one-time pad - use the fancy comms, but still encode your message with a one-time pad, keep it short, and your enemy won't be decoding it... ever.

Otherwise, you've pretty much hit it on the nose. But civilians will chatter, and the more of them and the merchant marine there are in a system, the more chatter you'll get. The reason that it won't matter too much is 1) you'll tightly allocate channels with the available technologies and so there will be plenty available and 2) chatter isn't about point-to-point. A lot of the time it is a social thing (CBers and HAMs will know what I mean) and hence will be just as useful broadcast as point-to-point.

Remember, we like to gloss over it, but laser, maser and meson require a fairly accurate location fix on your target, and he has to stay that way. I think if he starts doing evasive manouvers, running ECM or other jammers, or goes stealthy, you may have trouble with these methods. (Or not, its fanta-tech anyway, so maybe they can work around this with uber computers).

Keklas Rekobah June 14th, 2004 11:43 AM


Thanx for the correction on high-tech LOS. As for the chatter, I live within scanner range of the Port of Los Angeles and the channel between Catalina Island and the mainland. Some of those yachties make most CB'ers seem downright civil, especially on long holiday weekends.

The Coast Guard keeps tight reign on the calling and emergency channels, but the rest of the non-commercial freqs seem to be filled with civilians just 'playing sailor' for a few hours.

Amateur radio in the L.A. area seems to consist of old men talking about the good old days when people still built their own rigs; younger folks bragging about the size, power, and expense of their equipment; munchkins asking if anyone can hear them; and some occassional emergency traffic.

There are scanners that can follow trunked radio calls, such as what the Public Safety people use. Some of the voice info is 'inverted' rather than encrypted, but this too is easily overcome.

IMHO: I would add that below TL7 (?), there would be a lot of telegraphy, while above TL8 (?) there would be more CDMA / cellular / spread-spectrum traffic. Above TL6 (?) would be an increasing use of digital modes. This may vary IYTU.

The Tech Levels might differ depending on other factors, such as Law Level and Government type - the more restrictive forms would be VERY concerned about sophisticated high-tech communications equipment in civilian hands.


Andrew Boulton June 14th, 2004 01:35 PM

With lasercomms, you probably start off with radios to establish each others approximate location, then scan the laser back and forth until you find the receiver. (And once you've found the exact location, you can swich to mesoncomm, if you have one). Course changes aren't a problem - you simply tell the other ship your new course first (or rather, the navcomp does it automatically).

Keklas Rekobah June 14th, 2004 04:22 PM

[QUOTE]"... then scan the laser back and forth until you find the receiver." - Andrew Boulton.

A high-speed 'raster' scan, no doubt.

Corrections for course vector could be automatically sent over the link, and then fed into the navcomp.

Burocrate June 14th, 2004 07:32 PM

And now for a broad-brush answer:

IF you can listen in. IMTU the chatter would be so heavy with internal slang and anacrynoms an outsider would be hard pressed to pull anything useful from the transcript. Also, "informal" communications would be present, "India Mike Niner, 10-9 base, over." Then add in tone of voice for realism.

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