Friday, November 20, 2015

VK9WA Willis Islets

I decided to give the VK9WA DX pedition a swing out on the middle islet of the 3 islet chain east of Australia.  I listened this morning (Friday) on 80 CW and could barely hear them because of QRN.  It was just at dusk this evening and I was in my office and I decided to check the EHAM  cluster link and Willis was on CW on 15M.  I went into the shack without much hope since my set up on 15 is pretty dismal, a W5GI antenna at 25 ft and a full size 80M vertical were my antenna choices.  I checked which antenna had the best copy and it was the W5GI so I elected this antenna for both receive and transmit.  Here is a shot of the S meter on this antenna

Pretty damn quiet!  VK9WA was solid Q5 but only 5 dB above the noise with a dab of QSB so this could be a tough circuit, given the size of the pileup.  I fired up the amp and tuned up to about 800W and started to analyze the pileup

I had 2 skimmers running and the pile was spread over about 16khz

He was starting to get weaker as sundown had occurred and I knew I better get on the stick.  He was flipping around the pile but he would stop at a spot and work a few before moving on somewhere else.  I grabbed him in 3 calls up 14 or so.

In the few minutes required to write this post he had faded into oblivion at my QTH.  There was still some skimmer activity coming through from the west coast but nada from the Atlantic coast.  Fun times!!  

73  W9OY

Update got them on 17CW in one call using my 80M vert and about 1KW

Nice sized pileup

Really good OP.

73  W9OY

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Full Duplex SSDR v 1.5

SmartSDR now allows for full duplex operation.  In the pic above FDX is turned on.  The top receiver is tuned to W1AW on 40M and the bottom RX is on 30M.  The TX is also on 30M.  The TX antenna is a full size 80M vert tuned to 30M, and the RX ant is a 80M dipole.  Antenna separation is 100ft.  Power is set to 80W.  Included is a video of how the radio operates in full duplex mode 


73  W9OY

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Remote CW part Due

I acquired all the parts to build IW7DMH's Remote Morse Key.  Here is a pic of my Arduino with ethernet that I plug into the key port of my 6500

The finished board consists of a Arduino UNO R3, a HanRun Enc28J60 ethernet shield, a prototype shield, a 4n35 optoisolator a couple of resistors and a DB9 connector and housing from radio shack

The DB9 was particularly nice since I could include the 6.8K resistor and 100nf bypass inside the case and a RCA female connector exactly fit as well, making for a nice tidy construction.

Most of the parts were purchaded from China off ebay. including the Arduino, the Ethernet shield, the Prototype board, and the 4n35.  I used a 8 pin radio shack socket I had in the junk box to socket the 4n35.  All totaled the Chinese parts were $9.69

Arduino  $3.69

HanRun $2.77 with shipping

Prototype $2.17 with shipping

4n35 $0.99

The Arduino came with a USB cable, and the prototype came with a bread board, which I did not use.  It turns out the prototype board has some switches and LED's already on board so I wired up one LED to pin 7 which is the output pin so I could watch my CW as well.

It was interesting to learn how to load a program into the Arduino.  I have programmed raspbury pi and beagle bone black computers in the past, but this was my first swing at a Arduino and I knew absolutely nothing about it.

You start by installing a IDE programming tool downloaded from
Make sure you use as there are 2 competing groups out there and not everything is compatible in both camps.  The libraries used in this project are .cc compatible and I'm not smart enough to modify or debug if things go south.  The code is C/C++ and is straight forward.  I've never used C++ but I was able to
 write and load some little routines to get a feel for how things work.  The point being it ain't very scary.  Once I got ethernet going I was able to configure and ping both fixed IP and DCHP addresses

The remote board requires no connection to a computer, just 5v and a way to the router.  In my shack I have a 5 port switch which connects my computer. my 6300, my 6500 and now this remote CW switch back to my router.

Enzo and Ihad to do a little troubleshoot as I couldn't get any packets to pass in the version of the "sketch" I was using.  (A sketch is what the little program you write is called), but after some chin scratching we got the sucker running.

On the remote computer there is a little program tha connects the keyer to the switch.  I use a little K1EL battery powered K12 keyer to drive the DB9 serial port.  My computer has 2 DB9 serial ports, neither of which would work.  I did have a USB<> serial port in the junkbox so I plugged that in and set the program correctly and it fired right up

What the program does is send out UDP packets on port 6000.  Since I use a lo
cal keyer (K12)  I only use one of the possible 2 connections, specifically CTS or pin 8

With a key output closure from the keyer a L1 packet is generated on port 6000.  When the closure ends a L0 packet is generated.  The arduino sniffs port 6000 looking for L1's and L0's.  When it senses a L1 it turns on the 6500.  When it senses L0  the 6500 turns off.  There is a means to sends Iambic output but I didn't bother with that.  I like having the sidetone, speed controls and memory function/buttons of the keyer local.

How's it work?  It works great!  The lag is considerably less than the winkey remote setup, it's WAY cheaper, and no computer is needed to run the connection.

Included is a video of the keyer in action

I set the 6500 to full breakin, but I turned the power to 0 watts so as not to interfere.  Almost NO lag and perfect code!

My first contact was PV8ADI running a little pileup on 20M  Broke him first call with 100W on a vertical.  Much superior to the WinKey setup for DXing and ragchew.

Here is a pic of my remote CW setup, N3ZN SL-1 paddle and a K1EL K12 keyer in a Altoids tin.  The keyer drives the Remote CW program in my computer via a serial port in the following fashion

Paddle > Keyer > serial port to computer > Remote CW program >   ......Ethernet......  Arduino > 6500 in the shack.

73  W9OY

Friday, August 14, 2015

Remote CW

Well I've been hankering for remote CW using a paddle.  I've developed peripheral neuropathy in my hands and it's completely destroyed my typing speed and accuracy.  I was hoping for a inbred Flex solution, and that may one day come, but so far no go.  There are a couple of choices.  One is the K1EL remote server.  This uses 2 K1EL keyers, one at the transmitter and one remote, and 2 computers, one local to the transmitter and one remote.  There are 2 versions of the keyer that will work, thge USB winkeyer and the serial winkeyer.  You can mix and match.   The keyers are joined by a K1EL program called winkey remote whch sets up a server and client complete with IP addresses 

This is my client.  It connects my winkey V3 at the remote to my winkey V2.2 next to the radio.  The paddle plugs into V3 and V2.2 plugs into the radio.  Here is a video of performance

It's OK for rag chewing or casual DX but too laggy for pileups or contests.  The lag is not due to the Flex.  My lag in the Flex circuit is microseconds.  It's a fairly expensive solution (two  keyers needed) for fairly mediocre performance.  

Another solution suggested by Enzo IW7DMH is a Arduino setup he created.  In this setup he takes a standard Arduino Uno R3 and an Ethernet dongle to connect the remote computer.  The Arduino resides next to the radio and is plugged into the radio's CW port and the local LAN.  On the remote computer the key plugs into a serial port and a little program on the remote computer connects the Arduino to the key.  I haven't built this circuit yet but I have the parts on the way from China.  Total parts cost plus shipping is under $10.  Here is a video of Enzo's creation in action.  

Once I get it working I will update.  In the meantime I'm trolling 40 CW!!

73  W9OY

Friday, August 7, 2015

New 'Puter

I have invested in a couple of cheap computers in the past couple of months.  I bought a PC stick computer called an Iview and a second more robust rig called a Egreat i6.  Both run Intel 2 watt quad core Atom processors with 2 gb soldered in RAM and 32 GB of eMMC SSD.  Both came with Windows 8.1 legally licensed, pre-installed and activated.   The cost was somewhere in the $130-140 range for each computer, about the cost of windows 8.1 alone.  Many of these cheap computers floating around are using a "trial"version of windows and the license then needs to be purchased at pretty much full price so you HAVE to pay close attention to exactly what you are buying.  If you do search diligently you can find a hell of a deal.   The best part of these little gems are totally silent!  NO FAN.  I don't mean a quiet fan I mean NO FAN.  They use a heat sink.  The processor and chipset together generate less than 4 watts THD.  

Shortly after buying the Egreat, my shack computer died.  I had a i7 that was pretty fast but it generated 70w processor power plus whatever else on its own and although the fan wasn't horrible it was very much present.  I decided to look around and see what was out there in a more powerful fanless computer.  It turns out you can spend thousands on fanless computers.  If I'm going to spend thousands it's going to be on radio gear not computers.  Generally my thousands these days go to pay for my kids college so I'm even more behind the eight-ball! 

It turns out China has been manufacturing high performance laptop boards into desktops.  The little Atom computers in fact were actually a version of a cheap laptop boards without screens.  In this country we feast on big deal computers whose cost probably equals several months of salary, for consumers in emerging markets.  They want cheap and complete and they are not super interested in terabytes of storage and fire breathing gaming.  The higher end desktop made from a laptop board is also quite cheap to build.  

The above computer has 2 nics, 3 slots for storage, 2 slots for up to 16gb memory, 300 mb dual band wifi (blue tooth is 4 bux more) 4 usb 3.0, 2 usb 2.0 dual HDMI, Intel HD pro iris video, mic and phones, and a i5 dual core 14nm 15w processor and its fanless!  The cost of this box?  $255 with free shipping.

It was easy to set up.  Memory

I found 4 gB of fast 1600 cas 9 memory for $24 on NewEgg.  Get as fast as the chipset can handle and as low a cas as possible since some of the memory is donated to the video.  


120 gb Samsung module 500mbs speed $35

Windows 8.1 OEM with COA off ebay for $35.

So for $350 I have the latest Broadwell i5 with iris pro HD graphics (also the latest)  

I installed all of this loaded and activated windows.  I installed the Intel drivers from the driver DVD they included at my request.  Make sure you ask f or a driver DVD.  There is nothing funny in this computer.  The processor is Intel, the chipset is intel, the wifi is Broadcom, the NIC is realtek,  Audio is realtek.   All of these are mainstream chips and all of these drivers are readily available but it's nice to have them in one place.  You know what I mean if you ever tried to get some drivers from the Intel site.

I immediately upgraded to windows 10 for free.  I would do this before installing anything else if you are going to do it.  Also you don't need to worry about backing anything up since the install is fresh.  Once windows 10 is installed it will lock itself to your machine and you can do an install off a win10.iso file for a truly pristine installation if you want but the only way that can happen for free is through the  win 7 or win 8.1 path because your machine won't be locked to the windows data base otherwise.  Ya I know, it makes me nervous to be locked to Microsoft too.  The update went without a hitch and the latest win 10 Intel drivers and Realtek drivers were downloaded and updated as well.  

my new desktop

Listening to the WPE contest remote from my office on my new computer

Running SmartCat, SSDR, DDUTIL, FRStack SDR-Bridge and skimmer 

Resources utilized to accomplish all of that.  So far flawless. 

The 6500 is connected to the router through a switch and 120 ft of Ethernet cable.  My computer is connected through a switch to 50 ft of cable to the router.  The computer may be fanless but I'm very much a fan!!  This is my office computer since about a week after the shack computer died the office computer also bit the bullet.   I put a i7 version of this in the shack, with more memory and bigger SSD, but this little gem runs the radio just fine.

73  W9OY 


Saturday, July 4, 2015

Saved my Bacon

I've been posting about the Iview computer.  It's an amazing little box, but I wanted something a little more.  I especially wanted wired Ethernet and the USB to Ethernet was not cutting it.  I brought the stick into the shack which is at the other end of the house from my router, about as far as you can get and the performance had deteriorated.  This is nothing new as I've had a half dozen different wifi setups in this room including external whip antennas and nothing has been satisfactory.  So I searched around for a box running this 4 core Atom Z3735F and there are many Chinese boxes out there.  Microsoft introduced a version of Windows 8.1 called Win 8.1 with Bing.  It is a stripped down version of the full win 8.1 O/S and is competition for Android set top box systems.  I've been playing with these set top box systems for a few years, installing various distros of Linux etc.  It's just another interest of mine.  The set top box runs some version of a ARM (read non intel) processor and while it works it is usually pretty underpowered.  BUT if you live in the third world this my be your only access since it is also very cheap.  I've seen them go for as little as $35 US on ebay.  

The wintel offering like the Iview is more like $100, but I consider it a good trade off since with the 4 core Atom processor you have a real computer that will run real apps (like SSDR!)   Computing around the world is a very different kettle of fish compared to computing in the USA.  In the US you go down to best buy and plop down a few hundred to a couple of thousand on an Acer or a Dell.  When I was in China and Hong Kong last it's very different.  Markets are true markets not prepackaged retail big box stores.  If you want to buy a screw you go to the street where the hardware vendors have their shops and tents and you will see several blocks of people selling screws.  If you know the market you can get a very good deal on screws, or just get the exact one you want.  It's kind of like those food travel shows where the guy goes to buy a squid at an open market and there are a couple hundrend people selling squid.

In Hong Kong one of the computer markets I visited was housed in an 8 story building, and it was row after row of people selling computer hardware/software/accessories.  There wasn't a Dell in sight.  There wasn't a built system in sight.  It was cases motherboards processors hard drives memory and on and on with people 8 deep around each booth trying to buy stuff as cheaply as possible.  These new all in one "boxes" undoubtedly represent the latest variation of what gets sold into the third world.  It's a very interesting market.  

So perusing the possibilities I came up with this box

I has the Atom processor, Ethernet, WIFI, 3 usb ports, jacks for headphones and mic, bluetooth, 2gB of ram, 32 gB eMMC SSD and a slot for a micro SD card.  It runs at 1.33 Ghz but it allows bursts to over 1.6 Ghz.  It has a full version of win 8.1 and is eligible for windows 10.  It's $138 delivered to your door.  Notice the 2 video ports, a HDMI and VGA.  Could this box allow dual monitors??  Also it's fanless and therefore dead silent.

I bought this and it was supposed to arrive on July 12th.  BUT I got a call from DHL on July 2nd letting me know it would be coming on the 3rd.  Amazing.  I guess being close to Orlando airport has its advantages.  

This is a pic of this little beast, smaller than a pen!

I hooked it up and got this nice desk top

Yes Virginia  It will drive 2 monitors!  I have 2 24 inch HD monitors in the shack and it drives both to 1920 x 1080, a total of 3840 x 1080 of screen real estate!   Ethernet gives me sustained 24 mbs downloads perfect.  So I downloaded all my favorite ham radio stuff 

It was fortuitous.  My shack main i7 quadcore computer died July 2nd and I was facing a holiday weekend of no or very limited ham radio.  This system is not un-crunchable.  I can't have 20 windows of Chrome open or I start to run out of memory but I can run SSDR with 2 slices in one pan, DDUTIL, SDR-Bridge, one CW skimmer, and Log4OM and 3 Chrome windows ( 2 emails and a third) and still have horsepower left over.   I have 2 monitors to spread out my programs, and I'm back on the air for the holiday, fully functional in the way I normally operate till my new i7 chassis arrives.  Plus its just fun to play with this stuff

73  W9OY


I read more about the ZF3735F and it's a 2W processor with a total system dissipation peaking at 4 watts.  I've been running it all weekend with a total of ZERO dropped packets on the 6500.   2 watts compares to 65 watts of my i7 system.  There are more of these fanless low power high performance systems in the pipeline as Intel releases new chips.  

Monday, June 29, 2015

More Iview Results

Today I spent some time trying to optimize the system and see performance.   The first thing I tried was a ethernet connection via a cable through a USB to ethernet dongle.  I ran some speed tests and I got about 6 mbs.  I compared to the internal wifi and wifi was about 25 mbs.  This little stick has about the best wifi I have ever used.  I stuck a 64GB microSD in the slot and now have a 64gb D:\ drive for storage.  

I tried 4 open panadapters and that worked FB.  

I opened WriteLog and was able to connect the radio to 4 logging entries and I could change panadapters and TX focus with the up/down arrows. 

I decided to install CW Skimmer which I thought would work not at all, but I was wrong.

Worked fine.  I decided to try Log4OM

That worked too.   I tried 2 slices in one panadapter 

and set up SDR-Bridge to click tune slice B with CW Skimmer, the way I like to run pileups and that worked fine as well.  This little Atom computer is amazing, plus what Flex has done to optimize the code.  I'm listening to a QSO in the background, monitoring the cluster, and typing this blog post.  as well as running CW Skimmer SmartSDR, SmartCAT, DAX, Log4OM, and DDUTIL.  It's pushing the limit but it's not over the line.  Yowza

73  W9OY

Sunday, June 28, 2015


Popular Mechanics video

I watched the blastoff at 10:21 from my back yard, heard the noise from the rocket motors about a minute and a half later and then the above.   I kept saying to myself "where the hell is it, where the hell is it" as the normal course of events is to follow the contrail up from the tree line to the burning propellant escaping from the rocket motor.  Then I realized some of what I was hearing was the explosion.  There was no longer a spacecraft to visualize.  The space industry is a part of my everyday community life.  It's not just a spectacle on TV.  There is the thrill of watching a launch.  Elation at success and deep regret at failure.  These workers and their families are my patients and friends.  I go to church with them and shop with them and have pool parties and Christmas celebration with them.  Their spouses work in my surgery center.  Consider the immensity of the enterprise and those involved as you watch the smoke.  Science lives, in fact it thrives just down the road from my radio station. 

73  W9OY

Saturday, June 27, 2015

2015 FD on a Stick Computer

I recently bought a Iview stick computer which I described in a previous post.

The computer isom 1.3ghz quadcore Intel Atom computer in a 1.5 x 4 inch form factor that plugs into the HDMI port on a monitor or TV.  It is a re-branded version of the Intel stick computer

and runs a version of win 8.1 called win 8.1 with bing.  It is a full version of win 8.1 minus all the crapola generally included on the hard drive.  I chose the Iview version because it was cheapest, around $130.  I decided to give this little computer a whirl running SmartSDR remote/base for field day.  I fully updated window before proceeding.

The Setup

I was going to try to find a light weight contest logger but since I generally use WriteLog with SDR-Bridge so I decided to see how that combo with SSDR would work on this stick computer.  SDR-Bridge and WriteLog are well integrated into the Flex 6000 radios and use the DAX channel and IP to connect to the radio, no CAT necessary.  I wanted a very light foot print since this computer doesn't have tons of processing power basically logging and duping and band/mode data.  I opened WriteLog with only the logging aspect, no band map data or other modules, and SDR-Bridge and was pleasantly surprised the programs didn't use too many CPU clicks

so I connected to my 6500 

and saw this

This may just work!!

I hooked up a pair of Logictech USB headphones and my FlexControl to the USB port expander plus my logitech K400 wireless keyboard and a Logitech M185 wireless mouse and set things up.  Here was my final setup

I had turned on FocusHelper and set it to a very fast 100ms

and proceeded to work some field day using CWX.   To work a station I enter his call and hit F1 with the mouse the contents of F1 are sent while the logger comes back into focus automatically.  I enter the remaining data and hit F2 to send my data.  The rest are for fills and calling CQ.  Not perfect in terms of contest workflow, but much fun.  Once everything stabilized there was nothing to slow me down.  Wifi was typically <1 ms so the wifi in this stick computer runs pretty well.  

One could possibly use this for a fly-in dx-pedition.  The 6300 is about 8 pounds, a Samlex 1223 is about 3 lbs, this computer keyboard and headphones are probably a pound so you could easily stuff some coax and a antenna and the above in a backpack PLUS a code key and have a blast at probably less than 25 lbs.  All you need is a TV with a HDMI at your destination.  You should be able to run the radio from a USB to ethernet converter.  I have one of those on order to see how it plays.  I'm also going to check out some kind of blutooth headset to use with this setup

Aruba anybody?

73  W9OY


Just for grins I signed in on my windows 8.1 i3 box with the same setup, a much more robust experience.

The setup was identical

I made a quick video of remote ops.  

This is a QSO on 20M using my Flex 6500 remote base on my LAN. My setup is the 6500 connected to a little i3 wintel box with on board video. The transmit seems distorted but in reality it is not. The distortion is due to my video capture software In reality without the video capture operation is just the same as being next to the transmitter in the shack.  If you watch the title bar of writelog closely you can see the focus change to SSDR when I press F1 and F3 and nearly immediately switch focus back to writelog so I can enter the data.  A very nifty feature