Saturday, December 25, 2010

WinradHD becomes HDSDR

I have been using WinradHD with my Softrock Ensemble RX since my build, today I checked the download web site and found a new update along with a name change.

The new WinradHD name is HDSDR


Monday, December 20, 2010


Tonight after midnight (PST), which is actually Dec 21, 2010 at 08:17 UT, there will be a Total Lunar Eclipse.


As normal, with clear weather and assuming it is dark at 08:17 UT at your location, it should be easily seen by all.

Next year, 2011, there will be two Total Lunar Eclipse events, but my location will be on the wrong side of the earth for each.

I was just thinking and wondering;
  • Is the background noise for moon bounce communication minimized during an eclipse?
  • Can a Glint of light be detected from the reflectors left on the moon, where the eclipsing moon appears on our horizon? - Now, that would be QRP signal from a QRO source!


Saturday, December 18, 2010


As of today, I have a few more frequencies to explore, as:

I think this is now one of the world longest calls, . . well. maybe depending on font width :-)

Note: for those that do not know, the "/AE" suffix means that I just passed the "Amateur Radio Extra Exam" and now awaiting official acknowledgement from the FCC. After acknowledgement, the suffix can again be removed.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

FT-817ND - My First Modification

OK, I have had my FT-817ND for a few days, and I just love the Rig.

Now it is time for my first modification (yeah, right!) - my fat fingers and thumbs do not fit the knobs very well. That is OK, I knew that was going to be a problem before ordering.

I like the idea and feel of VFO Tuning and Menu Selection with my right hand thumb, but the little depression on the tuning knob is; far too small, and too close to the axis of the knob, to provide the leverage necessary to be effective.

A Google search provided links to the "Kranker Knob" and other accessories - but, I did not want the additional expense and did not (really) want to modify my new FT-817.

What is needed; is a crank (nib) for the original stock knob.

The solution was found in the sewing kit. A hat pin, cut to about 3/8 inch, was carefully pushed between the original plastic knob-center and the outer rubber knob band - a tight fit keeps it in place.

The results:  the "Knib Knob" (c) was invented.

FT-817ND - VFO Tuning via the -  Knib Knob

And, They Come in Designer Colours
Note: only the red pin has been cut to the required length

The modification looks and feels very natural. With your right thumb-pad resting on the Knib Knob, it is easy to spin the knob, pick a menu item, or do fine tuning of the VFO, with very little effort.

The Knib Knob is a QRP size modification for a QRP size Rig.

Note: Thinking about it, a "U" shaped bent pin may provide even more Knib Knob stability - something I may try.  Also, a more permanent installation could include a small hole in the edge of the knob to press fit the pin.

Orders for the Knib Knob will soon be accepted on this Site
Return here for details
( and, I also have a large bridge for sale :-)

All Knib Knob product reviews will be published.

Seriously, this simple little thing, just works Great! - Talk to the (x)YL, and try it!


Thursday, December 9, 2010

FT-817ND Received

I received my new FT-817ND yesterday (it could not wait for Christmas to be opened) and I have been reading, listening and playing with it since.

The menu system and operation is going to take a while to appreciate. So far I have mostly been listening and practice receiving code.  I did make one SSB QSO with Ryan - KI6SHE in San Diego 59.


Ham Logging

With my FT-817ND radio I want to do a better job of Logging OSO's, I decided to explore the use of "on-line logging", the two potential methods that I found are:
I think HRDLOG requires Ham Radio Deluxe to be installed amd running to do the logging, while a normal web page form can be used with HAMLOG.

My goal is to find something that works with an obituary computer and/or my HTC Droid Phone. I have concidered Google Docs with a Form, but that would not have the additional nice web links to QRZ and other logs.

I need something that is more flexable than a special program would require - for now my main activity will be working with HAMLOG.

But, over the next few days, I will try them both (and any others that I find).

I now have a new TAB Link at the top of this blog, for my Online Ham Log.

With this radio, there is still a lot to be learned.

Dang!  I just noticed that is now running a Ham LogBook, with a web interface. But for others to see my log they have to "login", this will not be a problem for most Hams, but I don't see a way to publish excerpts (or the last few entries) of the log on this blog (or any other web page) - I need to do more research.

Reading the QRZ forums suggest that users are have difficulties with this LogBook, the free access has; limits on lookups, lost log entries, etc.

It looks like most of the problems with the QRZ LogBook is associated with not Subscribing to full service. I think I will continue to look elsewhere.


Monday, December 6, 2010

Move Over SA612, for a Newcomer

There may be a newcomer on the direct conversion receiver block, check it out.

LTM9004 - 14-Bit Direct Conversion Receiver Subsystem
  • Integrated Dual 14-Bit, High-Speed ADC, Lowpass
  • Filter, Differential Gain Stages and I/Q Demodulator
  • Lowpass Filter for Each ADC Channel
  • RF Input Frequency Range: 0.8GHz to 2.7GHz
  • 50Ω Single-Ended RF and LO Ports
  • I/Q Gain Mismatch: 0.2dB Typical
  • I/Q Phase Mismatch: 1.5 Deg Typical

  • if we can only figure out how to use this at lower frequencies, 
  • if the price and availability is right, 
  • if we Homebrewers can figure out how to solder this thing


Saturday, December 4, 2010

New DipTrace PCB Tutorial

The good news:
Recently the DipTrace PCB Design Software group has created their first of (hopefully) many tutorials.

This far, I have struggled with just written complex documentation or mute tutorials for my learning process. This new tutorial is easy to follow, with voice over, and the ability to expand to full screen makes for easy viewing. See:

I have been using DipTrace for several years, all of my projects contained within this blog have be created with DipTrace, with this new tutorial, I found several new things that will make my PCB Design Projects much easier.

Now the bad news:
I like DipTrace, but because the software appeared to have stalled in development, I have lately been looking for other software packages that may promise better use. But, yet nothing I have found works as well for my Projects ( details are a long list ).

There are still a few things that I think DipTrace needs to address in future releases, all of which I have provided feedback to the software design group:
  1. Better Library Management, Access and Browsing
  2. Easier Selection of items from the Design area - you must click on the unseen boarder of a object to move or modify (for example a VIA)
  3. Clicking on the Copper Pour is problematic (again you can only select it via its boarder).
  4. Automatic Mode Switching while routine always seems to get my intentions wrong.
  5. Move to modern practices, include interactive 3D output within PCB layout.
  6. Provide Hot key Management and Scripting.
I am looking forward to any New DipTrace PCB Software Updates ( but, will continue to explore others).

My difficulty with selecting/picking parts within the design window may be because of timing and the method used, the Tutorial implies that "hover" on a desired pick point changes modes as necessary for most tasks - I may have not been waiting long enough to effect the "hover" mode change! I will be working on this idea!

I am continually amazed of the effectiveness of watching someone for 10 minutes doing something vs hours of reading the manual - technique are best communicated via observation, details are best communicated via reading the manual.


Friday, December 3, 2010


Well, finally after 6 months of wrangling around, head scratching, talking about, and trying to decide to (or NOT) buy a FT-817ND with Z-817 ATU - I did it, it is on order!

This is my second impulse buy of the year, and it only took 6 months!!

Now, I only have to wait the required few days for the postal service for delivery,  .  .  but, do I have to wait even longer to open it on Christmas day?  .  .  .  -  Nah!

I'll soon be calling CQ

Now, where was that 817 yahoo group??


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Shack and Shop Progress

The last few weeks I have been working on my Shack and Shop, and therefore very little time has been available to work on Electronic and Ham Radio projects.

The Shop wall insulation has been installed and covered, and major power distribution runs and breaker panels are complete. Power to the; Lathe, Mill, and Welders are connected, but the 3-Phase rotatory power converter is yet to be connected or installed (for the Drill-Mill). A new distribution power breaker panel is installed in the Shack (Loft), where there will be abundant power for my QRP Rigs  :-)

Many storage shelves have been installed around the Machine Shop and the Electronic Shop. Now it is my task to unpack and organize the shelves contents.

More work and weather proofing is needed to close the gap at the bottom of the large Shop Doors. This winter the Shop should be a warm pleasant place to work on small or large projects.

In a few weeks, or so, my blog, e-projects and interests should be back to normal.


Monday, October 11, 2010

Impressive HB in Russian

Bruce Baxter, provided links via one of his notes on the "Homebrew_PCBs" list server that was very impressive, video narrative is Russian but, Homebrew is a universal language.

With permission, a copy of Baxter's original note/email text is provided here (normally, I would just link to the original note, but it contains many links that I want to capture here for future reference)

> See this --à Russian site, but with
> google translate is you will know everything.
While Looking at your reference, I noticed the statement" "There is still everyone's favorite FGK-120".
I couldn't find any availability of the product in the US. However, from the photos of the Chinese marketers, I recognized it as a Tamerica LP-120 which is sold in the US for about $51. This is the laminator I use and it does a great job with toner transfer.
During my search for the FGK-120, I came across this URL,
Although this is a bit off topic, The second video discusses a PCB tinning method using citric acid, boiling water and some metallic particles called alloy Rose. The process seems quite simple without any bad chemicals. A bit of searching identified alloy Rose as a low temperature solder (203-212 deg F) called Rose's metal or Rose's alloy composed of bismuth, tin and lead,
You can make your own,
or buy it,
The McMaster-Carr product seems to have the lowest melting point (203 deg F) with
Bismuth = 52.5%
Tin = 15.5%
Lead = 32.0%
wikipedia-Solder has this to say about Bismuth alloys,
"Bismuth significantly lowers the melting point and improves wettability. In presence of sufficient lead and tin, bismuth forms crystals of Sn16Pb32Bi52 with melting point of only 95 °C, which diffuses along the grain boundaries and may cause a joint failure at relatively low temperatures. A high-power part pre-tinned with an alloy of lead can therefore desolder under load when soldered with a bismuth-containing solder. Such joints are also prone to cracking. Alloys with more than 47% Bi expand upon cooling, which may be used to offset thermal expansion mismatch stresses. Retards growth of tin whiskers. Relatively expensive, limited availability."
Based upon this, Rose's alloy may of limited utility for DIY PCB tinning. However, With the low melting temperature, it seems almost as useful as polymorph (friendly) plastic for prototyping parts .


I have tried to obtain Bismuth from locations around Seattle, so far I have NOT located a source - Green (no-lead) Sinkers and Green Shotgun Shot has not sold well enough to stock it locally. Because of it's weight, an Internet purchase may be prohibitive for medium (e.g., 10lbs) quantities.


I now, have some Bismuth on order from Rotometals in San Francisco.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

HomeBrew in Russian

I just added another Blog Link to the right side bar, "Easy Electronics" - it is written in Russian, but Hobby HomeBrew Electronic is a universal language - and Google Translates will help with the details.

After reading several of the posts, I think I will really enjoy this link.


A Special Day

Today is a Special Day for many reasons, but three reasons are special to me.

  • At one moment in time, today's time can be written as: 2010-10-10 10:10:10.1010, for a Geek this has to be a special point in time.
  • This would have been my Father's Birthday (89) and in his honor each year I declare this day as Hero Day. My Father is my favorite Hero (see previous posts). I celebrated his Birthday today at 10:10:10.1010am local, he would have liked that, even without computers, he was very much a Geek of his time.
  • Because I use Ubuntu for most of my computing needs, today is also special, because of the new revision of Ubuntu was released. Note: this new release was specially timed to coincide with this day of Oct 10th. Normally, release numbers reflect the year and the month, coincidently this year it ALSO reflect the month and the day! More than likely, this contrived coincidence will not happen again. Normally, releases come out about once each six months. The last release was Ubuntu 10.04, representing Apr 2010. But, maybe they will slip the scheduled release of 11.10 to November?  . . .  Nah.


Sunday, October 3, 2010


I could not sleep about 4AM,  so I got up to listen to my Softrock RX Ensemble SDR via MS XP, tuning to 10.1387MHz for both the LO and the Tune frequency provides the 1300 to 1600Hz audio signal for both the QRSS and WSPR decoders.

Normally, the audio would be decode by additional processes like ARGO (1300 to 1400Hz) for QRSS, and the WSPR program (1400 to 1600Hz) for WSPR. To re-route the audio to those two programs requires an additional sound card, or a "virtual audio cable" (VAC). SDR and the two decode programs can run concurrently, assuming WSPR is configured for receive only. The SDR audio bandpass filter makes it very easy to select the desired signals.

I do not have VAC and my second sound card was not working, so I slowed down the SDR audio water fall, and averaged two adjacent scans, and then was able to visually decode "KC7VHS" on QRSS. Several other QRSS signal were seen, but I was not able to decode them. Also, WSPR signals were seen, but obviously I could only observe.

My gaol is to reestablish my QRSS Grabber and report WSPR Spots with this receiver (at yet another location), but time for; an antenna installation, and a disk replacement tasks, are holding up progress. The computer system will be Ubuntu, as it provides multiple virtual X displays that the decode programs can run in. ARGO requires it's own unobstructed window as it uses "screen scrapes" to obtain images that are published by an Internet Grabber Server. Pop-ups makes using MS Windows to run ARGO some what difficult on a remote system, especially when the desire is to have more windows displayed than space on the screen.


Sunday, September 26, 2010

More QR Code

Here are just a "few" QR-Codes that I found via Google, they are apparently everywhere, if you know where to look.,17315,23628,23670,25834,26328,26569,26751,26762&sugexp=ldymls&tok=wJPNdc6pYq78MMGEUwH2Bw&xhr=t&q=qr+code&cp=2&um=1&ie=UTF-8&source=univ&ei=pSSgTOTxMZSisQOYrP3VAQ&sa=X&oi=image_result_group&ct=title&resnum=7&sqi=2&ved=0CFsQsAQwBg&biw=1059&bih=705

All of the above very long URL is contained in the following QR-Code image.
The Above URL

The reason that I started noticing QR-Codes, is because QR-Codes are the method of choice for sharing data; contacts, URLs, Apps, and more, between the Android Smart Phones. One phone displays the QR-Code, the second scans the first phone's display and decodes the results , effectively transferring information.

Using a "Bar Code App", any QR-Code can be decoded, regardless of  it size, location, and display device, assuming that it can be seen via phone camera. The image can be on a small stamp, or the side of a blimp - if it can be photographed, it can be decoded. Apparently, QR-Codes are used extensively in Japan, on everything from small products, to large Billboards and Neon signs.

If you have an Android Smart Phone, you too can easily read the above code and jump to the web page. Note; maybe other phones can do the same thing? For Android, see the app:

There is a Google Chrome Plugin that coverts any URL line to a QR-Code, which makes it easy to share an arbitrary page to a phone. Other online apps can be used to decode QR-Codes for any PC.

So, . . what does this have anything to do with Ham Radio? . . . Well, a lot, . . . as my new HTC Android Phone also contains several good Ham Radio Apps;  like EchoLink,  Exam Test Questions, APRS, CW Trainer, GPS Maping and a lot more. Oh, by the way, it can also receive and place phone calls  :-)  !!!

This mode of image communication may have a place in Ham Radio. Maybe a new form of QRSS or MEPT??

Update, yes it has now been done, See:

I plan on creating a QR-Code image for the back of my van, but so far, I have not thought of a good choice for content :-)

So, who will be the first to decode the secret word in the QR-Code of my previous post ???


Link to some QR Code history (thanks to, Colin - G6AVK):

-- Home Page:

Saturday, September 25, 2010

For The Geek in Me

For all of the Geeks - here is todays post:
As you can see by the time stamp below, I have been up, much too late.


I did not expect a QR-Code reply :-), but At 12:13AM, Jeff - KO7M, Replied with:


Thursday, September 16, 2010

In PIC Heaven

OK, I am now in PIC Heaven.

Long ago, I have used the Microchip 12C509 for many projects, but it is time to update.

In an attempt to find a PIC for some future projects, I ordered and received a few of the most popular.
  • Texas Instruments - MSP430 Launch Pad, Development and Evaluation Board = $4.30 with shipping at Mouser (how can they afford that!!!)
  • PJRC - Teensy USB Development Board - $18.00

Each Kit has a lot to offer; these are my initial reactions:
  • Microchip - has a lot of supporting chips and I think they have be around longer. Multiple programs to install and/or download. This should be easy, but I am have a hard time getting anything to work.  The Docs and Examples refers to different PIC than received?
  • ATmel Arduino - is VERY easy to program and it is quick to have something useful running. Just download one ZIP file and execute the main program.  The program contains links to read-only example files and a link to your project work space - very nice!
  • Solarbotics Ardweeny - is very small and the same ease of use as the Arduino and can be reduced to just the chip. A 6-pin programmer is needed, that is - a special USB to Serial Adapter (now on order).
  • Texas Instrument  MSP430 - Very inexpensive (evaluation board most function per $) - a little more difficult to program, but the chip has many built-in features, like on chip temperature. Two software packages are necessary to download and install; C and the Assembler. Demo code is a little difficult to find and set up - I will have to learn more.
  • PJRC Teensy - USB Development Board - It has onboard USB for programming and data transfer (I have this board on order)
Each of the above can be reduced to just an inexpensive PIC, for inclusion into a final project. Most PIC's are less than $2.00 - $3.00, availability, support (i.e., demo code), and easy-of-use (i.e., programming) will be the deciding factors.

I will update this post as I learn more.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Advancements DLP to PCB

It looks like there has been some major advancements for Mark's Direct Laser Printer (DLP) to PCB for homebrew hobbyist. See my previous posts.

Most experiments attempting to laser print directly onto PCB material evolves modifying the printer (cutting and removing parts) to straighten the paper (or PCB) path through the printer. Also, this normally requires the toner fuser to be removed, because it often contains slight "S" turns which is normally used to maximize heat transfer. Stiff PCB material will not pass through without modifications. A different method of image "affixing" is necessary.

In general; Jim KI6MZ's modification to the "carrier" makes for better image prints onto the PCB by grounding. As before the image is very fragile and require simi-melting in a 400 deg oven to affix the image before etching.

And now, Jim has also found a way to affix the image WITHOUT heat!

Jim suggests that the image can be affixed by placing the PCB with image in a container of Acetone Vapors for about two minutes. Removing it gently, air drying and it is ready for etch .

This sounds too good to be true, I am going to have to try this !!

Links to the details and thread are here.
I will report my progress using this method.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

WinradHD Running on Ubuntu 10.04 via Wine

Until recently I had been listening to my Softrock RX Ensemble on my one-and-only Windows XP Desktop Computer, all of my other computers have been converted to Ubuntu Linux.

Today I found out that "WinradHD" I/Q Decoder will run via "Wine" on Ubuntu 10.04. I have Ubuntu on my HP Pavilion Laptop, which has a Stereo Mic Input Jack (a surprise to me). The Laptop decodes the SDR I/Q signals very nicely, with a very low noise floor.

My initial test configuration used two computers; one (window XP) to changed the Ensemble LO Frequency via a USB connection, and the second (the laptop) to run WinradHD and provide audio output.

Then, via the Internet, I found the "usbsoftrock" deamon for Linux, which is a kind of driver/program for the Si570. It is like a command-line version of a combination of  "USB Driver", "CFGSR", and "SRDLL" as used on Windows XP, and  as previously described. Usbsoftrock runs on Ubuntu along with WinradHD.

Usbsoftrock allows changes to the Si570 frequency via a command-line command on the Ubuntu Laptop, for example:
$ usbsoftrock set freq 10.140
Status can be listed via:
$ usbsoftrock status
I need to find the magic to control the Si570 via "usbsoftrock" directly from "WinradHD" on Ubuntu. Using the keyboard to set a Frequency is not exactly fun.

Note: A pre-compiled "usbsoftrock" Ubuntu package can be found as described on Steve Conklin, AI4QR web page and which was created by Jonathan, AF6YF (now N6JU) - Thanks Jonathan.


Friday, September 3, 2010

USB Mini-B Connector Received

Just received the USB Mini-B connectors (P/N 538-54819-0572) from Mouser. Hopefully sometime soon I will have time to modify the artwork to include this connector for my Marker/Beacon/CW project. See previous post.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Project Connectors - Old USB Standard

The world of USB Connectors has gotten a whole lot bigger, or smaller, depending on your prospective.

I need a connector for a new project that I am planning. The connector must be as small as possible as there is very little space on a 1 x 1.2 inch PCB.

  • On the PCB there will be; a stereo audio connector (for CW Keying), a push button switch, a crystal, and a 4 (or 5) pin connector which will occupy the majority of the space. The rest of the space will be used for; the Voltage Regulator and Decoupling Caps, 2N3904 RF Oscillator and Trimmer, PIC FSK Modulator, Status LED, Power Connector, and Antenna Connection. 
  • Most of the resistors will be of size 0603, and cap's will be 0804 mils, most traces will be 8/8 mils.
Proposed Project
  • The project is similar to my other 9 Volt Battery Frequency Markers, but this will be a smart QRSS Beacon. The required connector for; beacon mode, speed and message content programming. This thing will be used in stand-alone Beacon mode and casual interactive CW use.  My goals is to provide project documents so other, like minded people, can try their hand at this micro-circuit.
Why not make the PCB larger you ask?     Well, . . . I just like to make things as small as I can - just because I think I can.

The two connectors that I am considering using for this project are; the "Mini" or the "Micro" USB connectors. These are the smallest connectors that I have found. I know this will violate the "standards", by using them in this way, but it is my personal project and I will just have to not plug them into a standard USB fixture or cable.

In researching these connectors, I have learned a lot about the USB standards, and what that means for use with our smart phones and personal devices. A couple of things that I have learned are:
  • We have China to thank for requiring the "standard" "Micro" charger and data transfer connectors on our new cell phones (and personal devices), they said make the charger standard or do not try to sell it in China (Why couldn't we have done that?). And yes, the standard is the new smaller "Micro" connector and not the "Mini" connector that is currently found on our "slightly" older personal devices.
  • The first (and much larger) standard USB "A" and "B" connectors use four wires; +5 Volts, Gnd, +Data and -Data. The large flat "A" connector is normal found on the side of computers, and the smaller almost square "B" connector is normally used on peripherals. The connector establish the "Master/Slave" communication protocol.
Typically Found on Computers

Typically Found on Peripherals
  • Adapters cables with one large "A" connector are available for connection to a second small "Mini" and "Micro" connectors. These smaller connectors have five (5) pins for connection, the first four (4) are the same as the larger USB "A" and "B" connectors, on some hardware the fifth pin is shorted to ground to indicate which device is to be, "Master" or "Slave" ( I don't remember the details of which is which). Also, the standard requires that only one data connector is allowed on any new personal device (Note, a second connector is allowed, but it can only be used for additional power). UPDATE: the new pin was added at position number 4, old pin 4 became pin five, see the wikipedia doc.
USB - Mini AB
Previous Generation Standard

USB - Mini B
Previous Generation Standard
Note: the Corner Notches

  • The designators for these "Mini" and "Micro" connectors are "AB" and "B". The "AB" connector is rectangular and accepts both the "AB" and "B" male plugs, The "B" connector accepts the "B" plug and has corner notches as to reject the "AB" male plug.
  • The current China Standard is the "Micro" connector (below) for all new personal devices. It is similar to the "Mini" connector (above), but about 1/2 the size (unlike the included drawings would imply).
USB - Micro AB
Current Standard
USB - Micro B
Current Standard

The good news is; because the USB connector is not only for data transfer, it also used for device battery "charging", so we now have a "auto and home" charging standard for personal devices - we are no longer condemned to multiple charger-cord hell. Now we have one charging cord plug standard for all new personal devices. I have been told that many new cars now have USB charging connectors as standard equipment.

The Current Standard
A, B and Micro

What does this mean for my project; "Mini" cables and Connectors are available in surplus and new stock, and because they are no longer new, and now a deprecated standard,  . . .  so now - I am going to use them in my projects!

This HomeBrew project (and similar follow-on projects) will be used as an Transmit Exciter for the QRP HF PA as planned in a previous post.

I will provide more details as my Home Brew Project continues.

Note: For my future project reference, the Drawings and Photos were obtained from the Molex Catalog and Product Guides, at the following link:

The "Mini" and "Micro" USB connectors can be found on Catalog Page 1252


Friday, August 27, 2010

Ensemble - Config Info

This is my build adventures and recommendation for using the Softrock Ensemble SDR.

Note: my computer is an MS XP with SP3 - works for me details for other configurations may vary.

This is my best recollection of my build and test process, others can help by providing corrections, Thanks.

Note: not all Review Edits and Corrections have been made.

The following information is NOT anything new, it is just documented here for easy access.

In general, without any of the following software installed, the first time the Softrock Ensemble is plugged into the computer via the USB cable, it will request for a "new driver" and will ask where it should be found. This simple request for a "new driver" is good news - it means the computer has recognized new hardware. Note: only the USB cable is needed, the normal 12 Volt Power Cable, Antenna and Audio cables are not necessary for these initial LO tests.

Unplug the Softrock Ensemble from the Computer, so that is will wake up again for the following steps, after the initial programs are installed.

Links to programs and most of this information can be found in the Softrock Ensemble Build Instruction (down about 4 pages).

The following software is necessary:

USB Driver = A USB Driver for the onboard ATTiny85 CPU
  • Download the above ZIP'd file and de-compress it into a folder, you will need to know the path to the folder for the next step.
  • Re-plug in the Softrock Ensemble via the USB, it (as before) will request for "new driver" and where it should look to find it - supply the path to the above saved folder.
  • If all goes well, it will install and complete.
  • You should be able to un-plug and re-plug in the Softrock Ensemble with out errors or warning, you should hear the Standard MS Windows "ba-blink" or "ba-blonk" sound when plugging in or out.

CFGSR  = Configure Software Radio - Used to test Manual control of the Si570 Local Oscillator
SRDLL = Software Radio DLL - Used with CFGSR
  • Create a folder called CFGSR  some place, I suggest: C:\Program Files\CFGSR
  • Save above two downloads into this new folder, they must be in the same folder together.
  • I suggest: create a short-cut to the CFGSR.exe file for your Desktop, it will be handy for now and later testing.
  • Execute CFGSR.exe, the Si570 "control panel" will appear, which will allow you to set the Si570 Local Oscillator frequency, test as requested in the build instructions, Or, tune to a known radio frequency that you can monitor - you should hear the LO quite your receiver.
  • Follow the remaining build instructions -    . . .  You know, all of those dang filter toroids! - for the love of Ham Radio.
  • Note: after the initial testing of the Si570 Local Oscillator, these two programs will not normally be used. But they are good to keep around for trouble shooting.

WinradHD = A User Interface Program for Normal SDR Operation.
ExtIO_Si570.dll   = A Si570 IO DLL for programmatic control
  • Download and install "WinradHD"
  • Download and move the "ExtIO_Si570.dll" file into the "WinradHD" folder, normally found at C:\Program Files\Winradhd\
  • Note: a copy of this "ExtIO_Si570.dll" file may be needed in each of folders of any other SDR User Interface Programs that you may want to try.
  • Create a Short-cut link for the Desktop to the WinradHD.exe  program.
  • I suggest, right click on the link, edit properties add "-wv -as" to the execution line. The "-wv" allows WinradHD to be displayed in a normal (movable) Desktop window, and the "-as"  does an auto-start, see WinRadHD Home Page.
  • Note: you may need to select a "sound card" and the "Si570" IO from the WinradHD configuration controls.
Update: as of Dec 23, 2010 WinradHD changed name to HDSDR see:

Now, it is time for having some fun with SDR SWL.


Saturday, August 14, 2010

More, Fun With SDR

If you have followed my build of the Softrock Ensemble SDR Kit, you may want to re-review my previous posts - a lot of "updates" have been included as I have learn much more.

Thanks to ALL of the many e-mails, links, tips and tricks.


Friday, August 13, 2010

Fun With SDR

OK, so I am still new to Software Defined Radio (SDR) and the Softrock Ensemble Kit - I am still learning things that maybe I should have known? But, the following are things that I have found interesting:
  • On my PC I can run multiple copies of the I/Q Decoders and listen to multiple QSOs at the same time. I have room for three Decoders on the screen at the same time. I use; one to follow a conversation or net,  a second for waiting for a fading QSO to return, and the third to explore pop-up signals that I may want to listen to later. The only requirement is that the stations must be within 40kHz of each other, with a more expensive sound card that can be increased. Note: the multiple decoders can be all the same program, ran multiple times, or yet another program for other purposes. 
  • We all have had to listened to that annoying station just up the band from our intended QSO, and other than filters we could do nothing about it. With SDR you have very sharp built-in filters, and you can listen to multiple "selected" conversation at the same time - a new multi-tasking mode. Each Decoder can be set to mute (stop mode) if desired. I know, it sounds complex, but it is much more useful than you might think.
  • I checked the stability of the SDR, it is good enough for a QRSS Grabber. The ARGO Grabber program is just another I/Q decoder. The Ensemble is cheep enough that it could be dedicated to the task. I think it could also be used for Receive Only WSPR - more investigation needed.
More SDR to learn!


Ensemble - A Recruitment Tool

I am impressed with "Softrock RX Ensemble Kit" !  -  It is a great tool for Amateur Radio Recruitment

I know this sounds like an advertisement (I get nothing, I am only a user), but I am EXCITED by what this could mean for kids!

If you have a friend, or a young adult, that likes computers and wants to get involved with Radio, and Shortwave Listening (SWL), the Ensemble Kit is a great start.

Computer controlled SWL from 1 to 30mHz (optimized for the Ham Bands)

All that is needed is:
  • The Ensemble Kit - $58
  • A Computer - ( it should have a reasonably good sound card)
  • A 9 or 12 Volt Battery
  • And an Antenna
I think most people will already have the computer.

Many, many years ago, my first good SWL Radio cost me about $600 (if I remember correctly), today, the above Kit provides much more flexibility and potentially holds more interest.

The only two down-sides are:
  • It is a "Kit", with some very small parts that requires some special soldering skills.
  • The Kits are only available when listed on Tony Parks web site,  his production runs are sold out fast, check the link often.
But what great fun it is -  to see a "lump of circuit board" on your desk, with only 4 connecting wires, while listening to QSOs around the world - That is the "magic" that starts a new recruit into a life long love of Ham Radio!


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Softrock RX Ensemble Kit - Complete

I finished building the "Softrock RX Ensemble Kit" - it works!

I have been listening around the bands, mostly 20m, 40m and WWV.

There are some things that I have learned about SDR systems - I think all of this is correct, but I will correct it as I learn more:
  • A few SDR programs control the Receivers Local Oscillator and Decode the I/Q signals for display and for listening.
  • Many of the SRD programs are only Decoders of the received I/Q signals, and require a second program to set the Si570 LO - That was really NEWs to me.
  • I am going to be experimenting with other software for use with this radio.
  • Listening to a segment of the band while watching the water fall display is enjoyable and makes for quick frequency changes.
  • UPDATE: Some I/Q Decoders can control the Si570 LO, it is just not obvious.  I discovered that Rocky can control the LO, but it does it via a menu pick table - a little hard to use but it works.
  • I need to investigate each Decoder for LO control.
The configuration that seems to work best (so far) is "WinradHD" for the I/Q Decoder and "CFGSR" for controlling the Local Oscillator (Si570). It is necessary to set the frequency with CFGSR and then type the same frequency into WinRadHD, so that the displayed frequency scale is correct. I hope I am missing something here, and I hope this works better as I learn more.

WinradHD - Tuned to WWV

CFGSR - Si570 Control

Normally you set the LO to a frequency within 20KkHz of your desired listening frequency. I have been using about 6KHz difference for a start.

UPDATE - Correction: Thanks to Chris's email and the Internet, my previous understanding was WRONG. WinRadHD can control the LO directly as indicated below,  - Thanks to the very helpful folks on the Internet.

Hi Eldon,
Regarding your Ensemble II build and your use of WinradHD which I read on your blog. WinradHD can controll the softrock directly without using CFGSR, please ignore if you already know the following: Download this DLL file ( and place it in the WinradHD program folder (typically C:\program files\WinradHD\). Then start WinradHD and click on the options menu, under 'select input' you should now have an option for the SoftRock, click this and WinradHD will now control the LO as you navigate WinradHD around the bands.
Kind regards, 

 The "Rocky" Decoder was my next introduction to SDR Decoders.

Rocky SDR

I have looked at "PowerSDR-IQ", but have not got it to work correctly. UPDATE: Patrick York - KF4LMZ, sent me the following link - I need to review it as it describes the how to use PowerSDR-IQ with the Ensemble.

I am currently powering the Ensemble with a 9 Volt Battery and therefore it has little or no induced line noise (and/or ground loops). If you read this blog much, what else would you expected from me, I always use 9 Volt Batteries for my projects.

I recently found "M0KGK SDR Decoder" which looks very good and easy to use.


It is interesting that it is possible to run multiple Decoders, at the sometime on the PC - each can be turned OFF and ON to access the audio channel for operational comparison.

I also found the SDRADIO Decoder - which also looks very good, setting frequency and the audio band pass filter is "mouse click" obvious - I like it!


Note: This Decoder does not have as much of a problem displaying and decoding the centre LO frequency as the others appear, it must use some new math.

Now, maybe too many to try to use!?

See more follow up configuration information.

Note: I obtained the above images from the Internet, I hope the original owner will not mind, for each I have provided a link to their home page, via image click.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

HomeBrew HF PA for QRP

This is one of my current projects. I am in the process of designing and building my Next Generation (3rd) HomeBrew HF PA for QRP.  As before, the plan is to use all Surface Mount Devices (SMD). It will be used with one of my 9 Volt Beacons or QRSS Transmitters.

The design supports both FSK and CW.

The Design is in Progress:

Proposed Circuit

This initial trial will not have an output harmonic filter, it maybe an add-on or incorporated onto the PCB for the Next Generation.

Proposed PCB

For the actual etched version of the is board, the holes will be filled, and only surface mounted components will be used

With out additional modifications or additions, the resulting PCB should be about 3x1.5 inches. The PCB will be, as before, created with the Toner Transfer Method. Parts are generally 1206 size, traces will be about 8mil's.

The Previous Generations of this design worked well, but I had to add too many Ugly parts just hanging on it - this new design should be a "cleanup", and  with a few new ideas. Note: I could not find a photo of the Second Generation of this project.

The "First Generation" of this  HF PA


The Ensemble Build Continues

My "Softrock RX Ensemble Kit" Build Progress (see previous post):

  • DC Power and 5 Volt Reg components Installed
  • USB circuit and Si570 components Installed
  • Initial Voltage Tests - 5 Volt and 3.3 Volt - OK
  • XP USB Driver Installed - OK
  • Downloaded and Installed "CFGSR" and "SRDLL" - OK
  • Initial Test Local Oscillator Si570 Tests - OK
  • I can hear the Si570 when it is set to an aviation frequency on my Aviation Radio. - OK
  • The 160m Band Pass Filter is installed and continuity tested - OK
  • The other three filters are wound, installed and continuity tested - OK
  • I have listened to 40 metres and WWV
  • Now for some calibration and performance testing


Monday, August 9, 2010

Another Trip to Mt Pilchuck

Jeff - KO7M and I went to Mt Pilchuck for another great Radios on the Mountain Trip. We had several interesting QSO's - more later.


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Noise on 30m QRSS and WSPR Freq

Ross from the QRP-L list pointed out S9 noise on the 30m QRSS and WSPR Freq, I did a quick look at the University of Twente WebSDR at 03:00Z, and this is the results:

A very strong signal shown from 10.138mHz to 10.145mHz, I did another quick check at the WSPR Map Web page and apparently 30m WSPR signals are still get through - I wonder how?

It is great to have WebSDR's around the world to check.

The S9 Signal is gone, at 04:00Z - Good.


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Return Trip to Mt Pilchuck

A email to local HAMs

I am planning a return trip to Mt Pilchuck (because it is there) to work some Phone, CW and Laser Line-Of-Site (LOS) contacts. The preferred operating site is at the 2600 ft level on the West side of the mountain.
For LOS, I am planning on taking Binoculars, a Small Keyed Laser Pointer, Tripod and a Key. UPDATE: to avoid public laser concerns, I will leave the laser at home and do the LOS experiment with a normal flash light or signal mirror.
For RF, I am planning on taking HF IC-730.
Local HAMs that have a clear view of the mountain and want to participate in a Laser LOS contact should send me their GRID square with at least eight digits of resolution. Zoom in and click on the following map to find your LOS operating GRID square:
Zoom in even closer to get Ten Digits of GRID location resolution. 
Note: my location on Mt Pilchuck will be at the other end of the provided line on the map.
Here is the Map SkyLine View of Horizon from the Mt Pilchuck Bench;, Note: the view to the East is eclipse by the mountain, as expected.

I am trying to arrange to be on Mt Pilchuck on Aug 7th or maybe the 8th.
Anyone interested on going on the trip should let me know. For access to this special operating location, a higher than normal clearance vehicle is required, but the upper level can be access with a normal car, but with more BUGs.
It should be a fun day.
Eldon - WA0UWH

I am planning on leaving one of my; 9 Volt, 30m, 43uW, QRSS Beacons -  hidden on the mountain for a few days, details will be provided.

If I can find a good hiding spot, with supports for the Beacon and Antenna, the Beacon will be in the centre insulator of a 30m 1/2 wave dipole (see previous post), otherwise I may use just a stub antenna.

Planning on working mostly the following bands near the frequencies indicated:
  • 40m -   7.030mHz,   7.240mHz
  • 20m - 14.060mHz, 14.240mHz
  • 30m - 10.136mHz
I have cleared my schedule and ready to go for Saturday Aug 7, so I will be on Mt Pilchuck and should be setup before 11:30AM.


Friday, July 30, 2010

Ensemble Kit Build Re-Started

As part of a group project, a lot of the members of the Puget Sound QRP Group (pQRP) are building the "Softrock RX Ensemble Kit" for our group exploration of Software Defined Radios (SDR).

As reported in a previous post, I had a false start of my build while at Salmoncon. My goal was to get it started, finished and tested before leaving the event, but that did not happen. With more time now, I plan to continue the project.

Wednesday night, while at our last pQRP P&C (Pie and Coffee) Meeting, Alen asked a few questions about my build process and progress, he asked;

Could Reflow Techniques be used to build the Kit?
  • That Depends, If you want to follow the build instruction the answer is probable - NO. 
  • The instuctions include intermediate voltage and current tests before successive parts are installed. Also parts are installed on both sides of the PCB with through hole and SMT parts added for each test. 
What size of Soldering Iron should be used?
  • My glib answer was; If you can see the tip, use the next size smaller! 
  • But it depends, on the technique used for soldering. To use flood solder with solder wick clean up larger tip (maybe 1/16 inch) could be used. Flood Solder is where you drag a puddle of solder and lots of flux across a group of pins, then remove excess with solder wick. 
  • I use single pin soldering with very little solder wick clean up. I use a small 1/64 inch tip for most of my SMT work. 
As per the instruction, I have the 12 Volt Power Supply, USB, Local Oscillator (Si570) and Control Circuits installed. The next steps include; down loading Firmware to the PIC, loading Software onto the PC and doing some initial tests for proper oscillator operations. I just need some time to do the tasks.

At the P&C meeting, Charlie - took the following incredible photo of my partially completed board. Note, this photo was taken with a hand held camera while setting at the table, with the board propped up on a coffee mug, a setting sun beam provided the light.

Si570 Local Oscillator and USB Circuit

Charlie with his Cannon S90 camera takes great photos in very adverse conditions.

If I had known that a photo was going to be taken, I would have cleaned the board with alcohol, to at least remove rosin splatters. I am looking forward to a completed board photo.


Friday, July 23, 2010

One Year Anniversary Blog

Today is the one-year anniversary of this Blog, it was started on July 23, 2009. This entry is the 120th - that makes an average of 10 entries per month. About 4900 unique reader have been logged for the year. None of this was part of a goal, but only the results.

My Goal for this Blog was to provide a place to capture my Ideas and Links for my HAM Radio Operations and Projects, but maybe readers have found something entertaining or informative.

This first year was with some "Ups" and "Downs", but only some of the "Ups" will be highlighted here, in no particular order.

My Marker Beacon Family Photo
A fun 30m Dipole Insulator QRSS Transmitter Experiment and Die Hard Test
An Interesting Signal Hunt
From one of the re-occurring therms it is obvious that I still need to learn the Code faster
This is my entry for Bill Meara's of fame, "ET Phone Home - Work a Like" contest.
Here is my Heroes List
I enjoyed hosting the eBuild-a-thon and BBQ's, maybe I will be able to do it again.
I have a real interest in small trace HomeBrew circuts


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Salmoncon 2010

This is a late posting of our Puget Sound QRP SalmonCon weekend of July 9th, 10th and 11th.

I went to Salmoncon with the idea of working some QRSS and WSPR on my IC-730 in the fresh air and camping environment. Most attendees were there to work SSB and CW with a little PSK, and attend the technical lectures. There were two or three K3's, an SDR, many other commercial rigs and some HomeBrew equipment all available for use.

I also, took the parts and projects of my QRSS and Marker Beacons along with my intended project to put together - a "Softrock RX Ensemble Kit". My goal was to get it started, finished and tested before leaving the event - Boy, was I wrong! - I should have known better.

The technical talks where very interesting, entertaining and occupied most of the day. Afterwards, chatting with friends about HAM Radio occupied the evening. There were too many great conversation to enjoy and with so many people with ideas and experiences to attend.

I finally settle down to do some real "Kit" building. The "Softrock RX Ensemble Kit" represents the project that I have had on my minds drawing board for several month as a HomeBrew project. When this Kit was found and revieled it's block diagram and schematic, I just had to have one! The HomeBrew Project I was planning was the same, only I did not have all of the parts and values worked out - this Kit is Great!

Well, . . the first part went in, the second, third and forth. Then I noticed the first part was in backwards - a 1N4007 Diode! - What was I thinking! - It had to come out!

I worked for the next hour taking that one part out, I did not want to damage the board - so I worked very carefully. Unfortanatlly, I did not take my PCB vice with me on this trip. Removal of the "one" part was difficult - holes are small and I wanted to salvage the part. The part was removed and the board was not damaged or marred.

Afterwards, I decided to plan on a new replacement as the top of the diode hairpin loop is a test point that will be used later. The old cut part would not work and provide the test point in the right part of the circuit. Note: the photo shows the correct installation from the manual page.

This set back, dampened my spirits and killed all hope of getting this Kit on the air during Salmoncon. I decided to abandon the effort, and wait until I return home with more time to work the problem.

This is now July 20th - I have not returned to the Kit yet, but maybe soon.

BTW: I now recommend that you read ahead in a kits construction instruction manual - I wonder if I can follow my own advice!


Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Trip to Mt Pilchuck

Yesterday, Jeff - K07M, and I went to Mt Pilchuck as planed in the previous post. The road into the selected spot was reasonable, with the standard large mud puddles but mostly dry. The one bad spot on the road-spur was a short run of large down-slopping moguls near the end. Going down the moguls is easy, coming back out will be fun.

On the way in, Jeff related a poem that one of his relatives kept to remind himself of his work and adventures on the long rugged Alaska Highway - similar to the road-spur that we were on;

Winding in, and winding out,
Leaves my mind, in serious doubt,
As to whether the man, who built this route,
Was going to Hell, or coming out.
by: Troy Hise, a pioneer on the Alaska Highway
(as per Google)

When we arrived around 11AM, the up-slope fog was damp, chilly, and obscured the view.

The first activity was to erect Jeff's fiberglass 42 foot vertical and cut and install six, 60 foot radials. They were laid out only on the east side of the base, because the brushy cliff side did not provide access. Jeff used a 1:4 balun at the feed point.

We now have a long pointed wire sicking straight up, on a landing, at the edge of a cliff, I remember thinking; "what would I be doing if I wanted to attract lightning to this place? . . . Nah,   just don't think about it!"

It is hard to see, but the 42 foot vertical is shown in the next photo (upper left), on the edge of the brush which is near the edge of the 1000 foot cliff. We had to find a place where there was enough top soil into which we could drive the "T" post support.

Note: only on the "Terrain" view of the included google map link is the significants of the cliff shown (see upper right display mode on the map).

The operations table was setup and my IC-730 was connected to the 12 Volt battery and the vertical, which by the resulting sound, provided a promise of good contacts.

The other 30m vertical (with 4 radials) was installed and Jeff's other radios were connected for some serious radio work - or for us just setting in the fog.

About an hour after arrival, the fog thinned, the sun came out, and it was too hot to stay in coats, and without a sun shade. We installed a pop-up cover, and spent the rest of the day chatting, working the radios, and looking at the Breath-Taking View.

Late in the day we had a few Bugs, but very tolerable.

Jeff is much better than I at this "contact and contest" stuff, as I normally use my radios for impersonal digital QRSS and WSPR work, where the computer does most of the control.

Via his Yaesu FT-817, Jeff reported our GRID square (CN98bb) for several local pileups on 6 and 2 meters. On other bands he worked other spots around the world, using only two watts (I think).

I spent my time listening and trying to work 40 and 20 meters on the IC-730.

The radios were connected to a 95 Amp/Hr Deep Cycle Battery,  it started out at 12.65 Volts and went down to 12.26 Volts by the end of the day - not bad for a days use!

Next time we will plan to instrument the battery-use better.

Tess, my dog, enjoyed the trip and spent most of the day guarding and playing with her Tennis Ball, only occasionally diverting her attention to alerted us to hikers or campers coming down the road.

I think we packed-up and left for home about 8PM - it was a Great Day in the Sun, with Radios, and a Great View. These photos do NOT do this location's view justice.

While leaving, driving back up the moguls was not that bad, but it was necessary to carefully drive the crests.

Note: the included QTH/GRID map links are provided by the good folks at - Thanks.

Our radio contact list will soon be added.

A follow-up e-mail from Jeff to our pQRP group:

Sorry for the late posting, but I had a great time up on Pilchuck last Saturday. We set up at the 2600' level. I brought my FT817ND and eldon had his IC730. We had two verticals, Eldon's copper pipe vertical that he brought to Salmoncon and my fibreglass 43' pole.
The bands were not bad at all and the location was super. We had an operating station with nearly a 180 degree panoramic view of the valley to the south-west. The day started in the clouds but as the morning wore on, the clouds subsided and we had a gorgeous, albeit hazy view.
My operations focused on 17 and 20 metres earlier in the day an then switched to 6 and 2 metres in the afternoon. We were a hot commodity given the grid square (CN98BB) for the VHF contest going on that same weekend.
First contact was my neighbor, Jeff W7BRS in Fall City. He was booming in on 20 metres. I then worked the USS Midway in San Diego on 7 watts on 14.325.
I heard a lot of CW beacons on 10, 6 and 2 metres.
On 17 metres I did pretty good using the FT817 at 2.5 watts.
  • IK4UPI - Santo in N. Italy near Parma 
  • KH6CB - James 16 Mi from Honolulu 
  • JA6RCH 
  • XE1WFG 
  • JA2JRE 
  • JA1HHP 
  • AE7EV - Tor in Lake Stevens. We could see lake stevens from our site. 
  • ZP6CW - DJ in Paraguay 
On 6 metres (50.125 USB) I worked the following:
  • VE7DXG Gabor CN88 
  • N6ZE/rover Peter CN88 
  • W7CE Clayton CN87 
  • WB7FJG Mike CN87 
  • K7CW Paul CN87 
  • KB7GQH CN87 
  • W7FI James CN87 
  • VE7CP Lawrence CN88 
  • VE7LSE Devan CN88 
  • N6LB Lisa CN88 
  • K7YDL Greg CN85 - CW 
On 2 metres (144.200 USB) I worked the following
  • VE7DXG Gabor CN88 
  • W7PG Paul DN76 
  • K7JX Ed CN87 
All-in-all a great day out. Thanks Eldon!
Jeff ko7m