Monday, August 31, 2009

Moved my QRSS Receiver to the DataCenter

This AM, I came to the Data Center to find that the router stopped working, I am not sure what happened - a reboot of it fixed the problem. I hope this not going to be a standard reoccurring problem.

As a test, I took my QRSS SA602 Direct Conversion Receiver to the Data Center (where this Web Server is located). The system, grabber and Argo uploads are working well, but without a good antenna I do not see any QRSS signals.

I am not sure what I am going to do for the next step.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

New Web Server Location

For the last pasted year, I used my home Web Server for posting my QRSS Grabber images. The problem is, my home Web Server is on my side of my Satellite Internet connection - and therefore it is very slow for other web user - it was so slow that it is/was unreliable.

This weekend I moved the Web Server to a new location, with better access to the Internet. The one slite problem, is that the system will be using a Dynamic IP Address, but that should not be a real problem as I will be using "" for serving my systems IP address.

The OLD grabber address was:

My NEW grabber will be at:

I think my ISP provider blocks the default web port :80 for my address - therefore my grabber will be on port :8080, which should not be a problem as most people use bookmarks or links and do not type URL's that much.  Now normal port :80 should work.

Currently only my base grabber page is installed on the server. Now all I have to do is figure out the best way to transfer my home based receiver grabber images to this new server.

I have considered moving my SA602 Direct Conversion 30m receiver to the server location, so that image transfer would not be a problem. This would also allow me to transmit from my home QTH on 30m without overloading the grabber receiver.

While typing this post, this PM, I noticed that my new grabber URL is not working!! Dang, I will have to check it out this next AM.

I hope this server move was not a mistake.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Building PCB's - Laser Printer Transfer Method

These are some photos of my current PCB Build Process using the Laser Print Transfer Method and PCB FAB-in-a-BOX transfer materials.

The Goal is Quick and Easy PCBs - From Computer Art to finished PCB was about 20 minutes.

Starting with Art printed on a Laser Printer, this is a simple SMD project.
Cover the page with another piece of paper.

With tape, place a piece of FAB-in-a-BOX Transfer Paper over the Art.
Put the new page into the printer, and print the Art again.
Now, Ready for the Laminator.

- - - - More Laminator information goes here!! - - - -

Now, Getting ready to Laminate the FAB-in-a-BOX Green Film

First pass through the Laminator
I use a Folded Teflon Sheet as a Carrier

Second pass, at a different angle.

NOTE: After many experiments, nothing that I have used works better than the GBC H-65 Laminator from Fab-in-a-BOX!!!

Its all about pressure, at the right temperature, at the right time. Other laminators over heat, then roll after a short time lag, this is due to the heating section and rollers are a short distance apart inside the laminator.

GBH Laminator "heats via the rollers", therefore Heat and Pressure is applied at the same time.

Ready for Etch
I use Ferric Cloride. For this size of board - about a 1/4 thimble full on a soft sponge brush. I have found that it fast and it undercuts much less than the other alternative acid method.

- - - - A lot more information goes here!! - - - -

Examples of the Results

Before Etch
After Cut to size, Holes Drilled and Solder Wipe
Ready for part loading

The bottom board is a finished PCB - ready for SMD components.

This is a previous attempt and example of Direct Paper to PCB transfer, It worked great, but I lost the magic of how to do it correct! I am not sure which; Paper, Temperature and Pressure that I used. Darn.

This is a more recent High Resolution Toner Transfer Project.


Ian, A New Would-Be HAM

My Grand Nephew, Ian (9y) is working his a project. So far he has designed the project, picked the parts and soldered them together.

It is a battery, switch and light, and it works! He did all of the soldering himself.

He will be a Great Engineer someday.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A New QRSS Project

I have started a new QRSS project, so far I have a breadboard small part count oscillator working which is very stable. It is ruining on 9 volts at 8ma with output of 100mV into 50 ohm load - which is 35uW.

I plan to provide a switch selectable ID via CW or FSK, all via two 8-pin chips. This is not a "minimalist" project but it should be very functional. Later I may find a way to include WSPR output. I also may include a PA to pump up the output to 150mW.

One of my goals; is to use my new "PCB Design Tools" skills, to build the finished project, although I have not decided on which software package I like best. For now it will be built "Ugly Style" and/or on a breadboard.

As progress continues, I will provide photos.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Looking at other PCB Tools

I started looking at other PBC Layout Tools. In addition to DipTrace (so far) I have tried the following. I will include only the important points that I used to decide if I will use the tool.

My target production environment is Hobby Toner Transfer.

These are only my opinions.

I will update this as more points are noted.

DipTrace (Demo);
  • Windows program, but runs nicely via Wine on Linux
  • Nice Copper Pour, lots of options
  • Free copy, Limited Pin Count - 250
  • Part Lib is Extensive but hard to find simple things.

KiCad (Free);
  • Runs native on Linux
  • Full Project oriented
  • Has a nice 3D Completed Board View
  • Mouse Zoom is NOT smooth - only zoom multiples of 2X or X/2
  • Does NOT support Un-do!!!!

gEDA (Free);
  • Runs native on Linux
  • Pads are associated with schematic at a intermediate step
  • Copper Pour is easy to use, but low quality
PCB Designer (Free) (not started review yet);

ExpressPCB (Free) (not started review yet);

AutoTRAX (Demo)
  • This could have be my favourite, but normal single layer auto-routing and copper pour is a must, maybe it is there, I just could not find it.
  • license is not expensive
  • seems easy to use
  • project structure
  • schematic and PCB bi-directional linked
  • easy to use library, did not check for completeness.
  • schematic parts and PCB patterns are linked in library
  • it looks like it has a nice 3D proto viewer.
  • Free copy, Limited Pin Count - 250, but license is not expensive
  • Auto router used grid cross linked horizontal and vertical traces on two or more layers
  • Did not find a fast way to rotate parts like the space bar - but did not do an exhaustive search for hot keys.
  • Very poor copper pour, low resolution, no option for cross-hatch pour.


Friday, August 21, 2009

Code Practices

On a previous blog I indicated that I need to do more Code Practices, well so far I haven't. So, I have now put a reminder on may Calendar with a 2 minute Popup reminder. Now I have no excuse for forgetting the time and frequency.

The ARRL W1AW practices schedule is here, at first I am going for the Slow Speed sessions.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Learning DipTrace

The last few days I have been playing with a Demo copy of DipTrace - A Schematic and PCB Design Package. I have looked at it before, but did not have time to understand enough about it to appreciate its ease-of-use and its functions.

After now taking some time - it looks like I can use it for most things that I need for my PCB building process. The print output provide camera ready art for Laser Printer direct toner-contact-etch-resist or photo etch processing. For more professional projects, Gerber and other output formats are available.

Several of the really nice things are; its blended use of the "auto router" with easy manual edits, and its "Copper Pour" abilities. For some circuits, (i.e., an RF Sections) manual routing is almost always desired.

The Demo copy allows for two sided boards and a maximum of 250 pins - which is enough for most ham hobby projects. DipTrace Lite with 500 pins is $145.00 and available for download.

I will provide information and photos of my future projects.

For my use, I use the Windows version of DipTrace 2.0.06 via "wine" on my Ubuntu 8.10 Linux workstation.

Google for DipTrace for download and more information.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

eBuild-A-Thon and BBQ

On Saturday I held the first "eBuild-A-Thon and BBQ" in my shop, two local HAMs were present to build and chat about their HAM projects.

Brendan N0BML worked on his ALT DC supply/charger of his Blackberry. He is planning for a transmitter, receiver kit or other project for the future.

Brendan - N0BML

Roger K7RXV and I worked with the FDSP antenna program to plan my FDSP antenna for 30m, I have the parts but could not find the optimum configuration - thanks to Roger, I now have something to build for QRSS, WSPR, and PropNet.

Roger - K7RXV

To get things started for the "eBuild-A-Thon and BBQ", we plan to meet at my shop, on the third Saturday of each month at 10AM, - with more expected attendance we will plan as required.

My sister, Carolyn, did a great job of food prep and making sure we were fed. My son, Chip, cooked the Burgers and Bratwurst - Thanks Carolyn and Chip!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Back Online

My QRSS Grabber, WSPR and PropNet station is back online, but still I have not heard my PropNet Transmission report from anyone, I am reporting those that I hear. I must still have problems with PropNet.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Web Info on PropNet

My QRSS Grabber, WSPR system and PropNet reports have not been up and running today - we had a power outage this AM and I have not had time to restart everything.

I have been watching on the Web that several people have been having problems with PropNet and that some new revisions will be coming out soon. I do not know if they will address my problem - but I will have to wait and see.

I went to the Puget Sound pQRP group P&C (pie and coffee) meeting tonight - there was a lot of good technical discussions.