Friday, December 2, 2011

Unfinished and ongoing projects 2011

I haven´t posted in a while. I usually have posted when something is more or less done. So the conclusion of that would be that I got a few projects going now that I have not finished. So just to have something to post here on the blog I thought that I could describe a few of them. The main project right now seems to be the remote RX I have online and we are a group of people sharing it. That project deserves a separate post.

These are a few of the projects that I have started and not finished yet. I think I list them in priority order below.

A step attenuator
The first project is a step attenuator. I use 1206 resistors. I have measured the SWR through it (without any attenuation on) and see a rising SWR and at 30 MHz it is 1:13. Quite high? Any readers could give a comment on what could be wrong. Is it just the switches and the zigzag between them that changes the impedance?

I use a box that used to have Mackerel fillet in tomato sauce in it.. :-)
Step attenuator progress

HF Test set
This is a kit that I bought a while ago. It is from the 4 State QRP Group. It will become Frequency Counter, Crystal Oscillator, Wideband Noise Generator, Audio Oscillator, 50 Ohm Dummy Load, RF Probe and Time Domain Reflectometer. I started to build and finished about up to 50% of it and then got diverted into other projects. A got a nice enclosure and a back lit LCD here to be used for the project.
NB6M HF Test Set (not built by me)

Watt meter
AVR with LCD for the AD8307 Watt meter

This project is also finished to about half. The AVR is soldered to the board and LCD is tested as seen in the picture. I was happy that the first time ever I soldered a TQFP32 was success!

I have also done the input part and measured it with the VNA. Next step is the AD8307 IC. I am following the guide here:

10m CW beacon
I got the PCB for the Genesis Radio Q5 transmitter some year ago. What I did not have was the final transistor but I received one of those last month. My idea is to build a beacon for the 10m band. I have built and tested the oscillator. The PA stage is built as can seen on the image, but not tested yet. To be built is the LPF and the beacon keyer. I think I will use an attiny45 together with the code from YACK
I could probably run it on my balcony if I come up with an antenna. Might be a loop.

Genesis Radio Q5 CW transmitter

30m QRSS beacon
QRSS transmitter for 30m
This projects started earlier this year. I bought a few ATTINY13 IC:s and programmed to IC, I thought.   When testing the oscillator it was ok, but no keying from the attiny. I then thought I should get another programmer. I have it here, but I have not got back to the build. It will be later.... Together with this I also started  to build a DCTL antenna after reading about it a . I also got some good advice from Joachim but have not finished it either......

I bought the kit quite a while ago and started the build. Then I thought it would be more fun to build simpler things and not necessarily kit. As the build instuctions did not include any testing along the way, everything just felt like a soldering practice. But I have to finish it. Might be good to have a goal set for summer 2012 so I can run it portable.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Softrock Ensemble II VHF

I finally started to build on one of my Softrock kits that I got lying here. My wife and son was away one Friday night and I could start building and continue uninterrupted for a few hours. It went smooth, apart from a problem soldering the Si570 where I thought that all three pads on each side where to be soldered together. No contact from the AVR to the Si570 so I just had to use the wick to remove some solder.  Two build sessions  after that and I could listen to the local repeater! A big thanks of course to Tony KB9YIG for providing the kits and Robby WB5RBZ for excellent build instructions. I still have some tweaking to do as the image rejection is not 100% but for now I consider this project done. I will now start with a Softrock receiver specially aimed for the Broadcast AM band. I will later make the same kind of enclosure to both these receivers.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

80m BPF

A band-pass filter for 80 meter band.
The simple direct conversion receiver I built a while ago works great when used daytime but on the evenings it will get overloaded by broadcasters. Maybe I can cure that with a better Band-pass filter. So I built one.  I used the values that I found at W8DIZ site, but with some variation to fit what I had in the junk box. As you can see it is built 'ugly' on a PCB. I am using SMA connectors as I was able to buy a large number that probably will last for many years to come.

Tuning and measuring the band pass filter with the MiniVNA Pro

Now using the miniVNA pro and the VNA/J software a can tune and align the filter as I want to have it. The nice thing is that you run the VNA continuously so I see right away on the screen how to filter looks like. This was the end result: 

VNA/J showing the 80 m BPF curve

Summer 2011

A long time since last entry in this blog. A summer with vacation and nice weather is now behind us. Some radio activity also and other news to mention.

Portable: I have been portable a few times during the summer. I have been participating in the Swedish Flora and Fauna activity. If you activate a Nature Reserve you might get a pile up on you which I now have tried for the first time. I also realized this summer that this contest and dx chasing part of this hobby is not a thing that I find important. It is the technical things and building stuff that is fun! But being portable has of course been a good time to try new antennas. I have built a few and I hope to write about them in later blog posts.

Oscilloscope: Some months ago I bought my first oscilloscope. It is a portable called DSO Quad. I have not used it enough so I can give a review, but according to the support forum it does not deliver according to the specification. Hopefully software patches can solve the problems...

Mini VNA Pro: I got a really nice birthday present some months ago, the Mini VNA Pro. An instrument that can measure on antennas, filters etc. The good thing with this one compared to other offerings is that I can use the VNA/J software in Linux.

Others: I have a few projects running now, like some more SDRs and maybe some rx / trx, but still not enough to tell anything about. I also play around with the Atmel AVR microprocessors, that is fun!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

AVR with Eclipse and Ubuntu

I have not been playing that much with microcontrollers at all. I have an Arduino that I tried out some of the basic things with, but have not put it in any project. Now I want to use the AVR directly and in this case the tiny 8 pin attiny13.

I have developed a preference for AVR over PIC that I can not. at this point with so little experience, explain in a technical way why, but it is just more of a feeling. Some of the projects that I have an interest in use AVRs but maybe the main reason is that the Gnu compiler can work with AVR, so a free chain of tools to develop software is available.

I was able to buy quite a lot of these small AVR chips cheaply, but they were SMD, so the first thing I had to do was to solder it to a small pcb board and add a few headers for easy access.

The programmer I use is the 'swiss army knife' kind of tool called the Bus Pirate. A great tool that can be used for so many things. It is only around $30 and the case I put it in is an old DAT tape enclosure. There is a guide on AVRDude and Bus Pirate that I followed. By taking a look in the datasheet of the chip to be programmed, it is easy to hook up the Bus Pirate.

To do AVR development in Ubuntu 10.10 you have to install some packages. I have found a guide on this. It is in Swedish but I think you can understand the key points. You also should install the Oracle Java Distribution. After that, Eclipse Classic can be downloaded and then the AVR Development Plugin can be added.

Here is a screenshot of Eclipse. By taking a close look at the code you can figure out where this is heading.

Ok, so now the AVR is programmed, now over to the building and soldering, so an update on this project in a blog post, hopefully within 2 weeks.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Simple direct conversion receiver - MRX-80

I have built my first analog receiver! This is maybe one of the simplest ones you can build ( a crystal radio might be simpler depending on how you count). The direct conversion receivers basically mixes the incoming signal with the local oscillator and the result is within frequency for our ears. The classic basic combo of ICs, NE602 and LM386 are used. The circuit is from the book "More QRP Power" from ARRL and is called the MRX-80. As you might guess it is for 80 m. 

The build is done inside an old box used for an Ethernet network hub. The BNC connection hole was already there but I had to to use a side of PCB material so I could mount the pots for gain and tuning. Yes, talking about the tuning, it is somewhat limited. I can change crystals and a diode is used as a varactor so a small swing of frequency is allowed, but I have not yet measured how big this is, maybe 1 kHz or so. The build is a mostly with leaded parts built ugly/Manhattan but all resistors are tiny 0805 smd, just because I wanted to try and see if it works. Maybe it does or probably not completely.  The build is not the prettiest, but if you see any bad choices of building other than aesthetic, please comment or if you have any other comments.

When I turned it on, the first thing I did was to measure the voltage out from the regulator. OK! I then turned my small Degen 1103 radio on and listened for the local oscillator. It was loud and clear so OK on that too! Then I connected my signal generator, but nothing heard, apart from noise. I started tapping on some connection and I heard them. So I guess the audio amp was working too.  Hmm, I started double checking other connections and soon found that I had connected earth connections between antenna and gain pot but not to the real earth on board. Then my test signal could be heard. When put in S9 mode it was OK, but not in S1. I wonder about what to expect from this simple thing. The real test will of course be when I try it with a decent antenna and see if I can hear any real on the air signals. 

I might have heard some today, or maybe not, because I never checked if they were present on another receiver. Next weekend I will go out to a 'quiet' place and listen. 

Below is a audio recording. Some signal can be heard, but QRM level is high so much noise. It does not sound as what I am used to what a radio should sound like. Either this is what a direct conversion receiver sounds like or I have some construction errors. I will bet on the last one. 

The sum up, a good build I think. Fun to do and easy. First small steps and more experience in radio homebrewing!

Update 2011-07-15:
The receiver has worked fine and the signal on the recording is SL0FRO by the way SM5-1252 Ullmar told me. 

Softrock Linux software

I have been using my little Softrock lite II SDR receiver on 30 m now for a while together with the SDR-Widget. I can only say that this little setup works great! Initially I tested it with Windows software (see previous post) but I want be in the Linux world. There are different software available to use with the Softrock receiver and the SDR-Widget. So far I have tried two, Quisk and GHPSDR3. As the SDR-Widget is cable of running in different setups (USB Audio version 1/2 and HPSDR) it was a great step forward when a unified firmware was released so that I can flip between them with just a 'reboot' of the SDR-Widget, compared to doing a real reflashing of firmware.

SDR-Widget control software
Below is a screenshot of Quisk with 192 kHz sample rate.
I have also tried the HPSDR protocol and the gHPSDR3 suite of software. The first screenshot is QtRadio, which I think is the most recent software in this still developing suite of software. The great thing with this is that is built for network use. A software called dspserver is running on one computer and the GUI on another (but they could of course be on the same box). Over the network the audio and screen updates is sent. I have also let others try the minimal GUI called jmonitor over the Internet! I will try these software a lot more in the future.

In this case I was using just a wire inside my apartment so a lot of QRM but there are a few CW signals that I am able to listen to.
Ghpsdr is another software:
Finally some pictures of the Softrock in a box  (Ikea as usual):

This is when I tried it at the club station:

Monday, February 21, 2011

Softrock Lite II receiver for 30 m

Finally. I´ve had this SDR kit in my drawer for over 1 year, but now it´s built and seems to be working fine.

Below a few pictures. As it´s late and my antennas is nothing to talk about here in the apartment, 30 meter is dead. So I´m using the signal generator that I described earlier. I of course want to use Linux but as Rocky seems to be the software suggested to start with I wanted to lower the numbers of 'unknowns' and get it running. And it did! The mirror images was easily suppressed. Below is a picture of WRPlus that I tried after Rocky:

Here are two pictures of the temporary test setup...

The SDR-Widget is now housed in a  box, temporarily. I have not flashed the firmware yet to allow 192 kHz usage. Will do that later, when I will try to get it running in Linux.

And to end with, some close up pictures on the board. The coax connection isn´t the prettiest, but it seems to work while testing. I will have do redo that when I put in a permanent box.

My SMD soldering skills has been improved and now I feel confident to go ahead with other bigger project.  

Monday, January 31, 2011

SDR-Widget arrived

The SDR-Widget that I wrote about some months ago arrived today. I just unpacked and here is a few pictures:

I am really looking forward getting into this. The little problem I got is that I do not have any Softrock SDR to use it with right now. So it will be used as a normal sound card for a few days.

But I actually have both the Softrock Lite II and Softrock RXTX 6.3 here to be built. They have been in my drawer now for more than half a year but some days ago I started building again on the lite for 30m and no problems so far. I even managed to solder the SOIC chips ! I have been using the QS1R receiver that is some what more expensive SDR than these for some years now, but I really looking forward to use a radio that I have built myself and using only open source software !

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A 20 W Dummy Load

This time I have built a dummy load. I got this design from Elecraft. It is 8 100 ohm resistors rated for 3 W each. 4 in parallel first that gives 25 ohm and then in serial with another batch, so in total 50 ohm. I can also measure the voltage and use a graph to find the corresponding power. Max power should be 20 W.

Here is a few pictures:

And by the way, the box is from IKEA.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Test equipment - LC and multi

The number of test equipment here continues to grow. This time it is a LC meter. The circuit I built  is more or less similar to this one:

A big thanks to Göran SM5AWU that had a kit with components that I bought. He also had done the PCB and drilled the holes for me.

I have also bought me a new multimeter. It´s the Vichy VC99 made in China. I bought it on Ebay for $30 including shipping. It has a few more features compared to the one I had before, like auto ranging, frequency counter, transistor and diode testing etc. It´s a little bit too plastic to feel really good, but at a good price I guess. I have not used it so much so far, but already found some minor issues, like it beeps very loud when it auto shut downs and the continuity tester is slow compared to the old multimeter. Maybe I can change the first behavior if I read the manual. I will continue to use both of them. A good buy overall!