Its chilly in here

I’m going to use it as an excuse but really it isn’t….The shack is cold (Its a garage really) and the thought of going in there really wasn’t that appealing. We’ve had some pretty miserable weather since the end of November and its been a full time effort just to go out and walk the dog. I’d also taken on the mechanical build of the SatNOGS project as part of the club project and that took up way more time that I thought. Now that’s finished it was time to get on with a few things of my own.

First things first, looking at the Minima digiatl board it seemed like something that could be built and tested in an afternoon. I was nearly right, in the interim I had lost / put in a safe place, the LM1117 3.3v regulator and didn’t have a spare (Like I keep spares of stuff like that, I’m not a professional you know).

Minima Digital Board

Built what I could and here is the result. Stone me it actually powered on an worked first time, but there isn’t any power to the Si570 and that’s a whole different ball of solder.

Onwards and upwards

Open Web RX

If, like me you have an rtl dongle, there is another ‘thing’ you can do with them that I bet you never knew. Ok you did but I’ll bet all of you didn’t know. Its called OpenWebRX


You can also arm yourself with one of those old netbooks you’ve got loafing about in the corner and put it to use into the bargain.

To tell the truth I’d not heard about it until Daniel, 2E0DNX mentioned something in passing as I was driving him back from the club night last Monday. I can’t remember what started it but we got onto the subject of putting receivers on the web a la WebSDR and the well known Hack Green SDR. This time, as we are both cheapskates, it was around the use of the cheapo dongles.

So, after downloading a copy of Lubuntu (A lightweight ubuntu distro) I installed it onto an old netbook. I thought I followed the instructions on the website and but I hadn’t and after a false start with some rubbish spelling had a receiver running on the local host. I did get some pretty speedy support from the developer though who helped to narrow down my incompetence.

Getting it on line is a little more complicated and needs a bit of fettling. In order to get it listed on the site it needs a web presence. To get that you can pay for it and host it or you can be a cheapskate and use a service like N0-IP.  Guess which route I went? They provide a web address that you can use and some really handy instructions for linux installations, if, like me, its not a natural environment to work in but you can largely follow instructions.

After all instructions followed correctly (there are no spelling mistakes in your config file 😉 ) then the last thing to do is make sure your router lets the traffic through (port forwarding). This can be a pain if you’re on BT like me and can lead to no end of frustration that was eventually fixed with a new, non BT router. I’ve got my head round this and will now look to set up a more permanent installation, perhaps with a RPi2 if its got the right mojo.

All in all you’ve got to hand it to people who set out these environments as they are becoming a great way of distributing amateur radio to a wider audience. Thanks Andras, HA7ILM and well done!

Christmas project

What’s the use of holidays if you just do nowt? It’s never going to happen in our house. So I decided to do something with one of he old netbooks I have. Remember them? Mine is an Advent 4211 that my lad decided to pull the keys off and eat them whilst our backs were turned and he was a less mobile menace 😉

Anyway. A media server is something we’ve been missing since our NAS decided to go on a ‘go slow’. After 20 mins Googling I ended up with OpenMediaVault. Impressed eh?

An all in one server is almost on us. I did the usual and downloaded the iso, burnt it to a USB stick with Rufus and installed it on the machine. As expected the installation was simple and I used this tutorial to help. Needless to say the 20 mins Googling the right software was the quick bit.

The MiniDLNA bit was what I was after and after a few ‘Uh’s’ and a quick trip round the internet and back and it looks like its going to serve me nicely. Did you see what I did there? serve? server? Oh well never mind. Here’s to you internet and your ability to give me ideas for stuff to do in the holidays whilst I’m waiting for stuff to arrive from China……Now what’s next on eBay?

New antenna

My shack is fairly spartan. Just the IC7000 as a main rig. The antenna farm is equally so with all antennas in the loft bar a 2m & 70cm colinear.

Its a fairly spacious loft mind you. Enough room for a Watson 80 plus 2 dipole (Which they don’t seem to make any more) with extra elements for 30m and a 4 element 10m band yagi. But 80m is really not working for me.

So with a few hours to spare this weekend and a bit if ladder line I pulled together a W3EDP antenna. Its nothing new and a very cost effective antenna. So without going through all the detail it was either that or nothing at all for 80m. I just simply don’t have the space for a windom ( which is what I would have preferred) and  G7FEK limited space antenna would have meant more stuff in the garden to annoy the XYL.

Needless to say I got the chance to try it out, firstly with the Hack Green SDR and shortly afterwards a nice QSO with Peter, G4LHI in Huntingdon.

So for a couple of hours work I can recommend the W3EDP. Noting of course the current at the end and need for a good counterpoise / earth. I can also say that even in a lash up configuration it withstood some pretty big winds here in IO84 this weekend.

So where to find out more:

STEALTH_bigWell a simple Google will give you most of the info you need but you could do worse than invest in the the Stealth Antennas book. I have a copy of the older version,
I see the new one has a different cover, I’m not sure if there was much change in the insides between editions but there’s something in there for everyone. From ultra small weird looking things to some old favourites like loops and verticals all the way to ultra cheapo types.

Its not all good news though. The XYL isn’t happy with the wire. The Watson 80 plus 2 (whose inspiration came from the G4ILO section of this book) didn’t quite meet my expectations and I didn’t quite get the G7FEK constructed. Maybe next time.

If you’re stealthier on 80m then I’m sure I won’t be the only one who is interested in finding out how you did it. If not then lucky you for having enough garden and don’t forget to listen out for the weak signals. 😉

Autumn = projects time

I usually cycle to work. Wow I hear you say, what a guy….Well thanks but I hadn’t finished the introduction. Cycling means you notice the seasons a lot more than if you drive. Its still the season for shorts and after some very mild days we’re definitely heading towards fully developed autumn. So what?

Well its time to spend fewer hours outside (because you’ll be blown across the street) and more time preparing for those murky days when projects are preferable to souwesters.

This year I have got a couple of PCB’s that need populating. 1 of them is the Budd Churchward Morseduino. The other is the Minima Transceiver.

Budd created a neat little barebones arduino and morse code decoder and he kindly gave me the gerbers. It is essentially a very simple device that will allow audio to pass through and it will give a reasonable decode of CW. I say reasonable because it is never going to be as good as your purists ears but it’ll help get the less talented on the air (hopefully). This video gives you a flavour

Project 2 it the Minima Transceiver, by Ashran Farhan of BitX fame. It is my first foray into complete rig build for the experimenter so I’m expecting some tinker time. Essentially it is a Arduino controlled simple transceiver (Any spot the link here?). This will be a lot more involved and I’m just getting my head around the schematic.

There seems to be a lot of useful information about so if I get stuck then google will no doubt be my friend! Here’s a little taster.