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.