Test gear expansion

I am (still) gathering microwave test gear and have now acquired a rather nice HP frequency counter, good to 18GHz (but apparently tested to 20GHz). This will help once I begin constructing the numerous kits waiting their turn, in particular a 10GHz transverter.

Microwaves have interested me since my school days, not because of school but because I remember being interested and being at school. Actually, the interest probably dates further back to me seeing various microwave towers around the place and my grandfather telling me what they were.

Anyway, having something means trying it out… so here it is with a HT keyed on 145.5, and more interestingly to me a 6cm FPV transmitter held close by (until I realised it was getting hot!). The meter had not even warmed up for the 6cm test – me being impatient!

Now, I just need a signal generator and a spectrum analyser…

Potential activities

I suddenly developed an interest in POTA and SOTA. Not sure why, I never seem to go anywhere other than the railway once a week, or shopping. But there you are. So far I have been active as a hunter and although I have only one confirmed QSO it’s still more than zero.

The QSO format seems to suit me too. I do prefer digital modes due to having naff hearing but this should get me onto the voice modes.

Testcards

I’ve been meaning to set up something to generate a testcard via composite video for a while and, as is typical of me the ideal solution was sitting there in a BATC magazine on my bookshelf. CQ-TV No 270 has the details of one such setup using a Raspberry Pi Zero. I don’t have one of those and Pi systems are hard to come by these days but surprisingly I had a 3B not doing anything. Software downloaded, 4-way jack to RCA plugged in and connected to a TV and, nothing. Well, a buzz. Checked the cable, all ok. Checked what the Pi wants…

…why does the Pi have to have the connections different from what appears to be a standard hi-fi 4-way to RCA lead? Or, rather, why does the hi-fi 4-way lead I have have to have different connections? Grumble.

Ok. I wanted to test this seeing I had it all sitting in one of the bedrooms attached to a TV. Stripping down a 4-way jack lead that I never needed and which was far too short to be of use I made a lead. It would last probably half a second in normal use but worked sufficiently well to prove the setup.

It is of course a waste of a ‘whole’ 3B, but until I get a Zero this at least lets me push a testcard out when I need one. The alternative has been to use the rather clunky Sandisk device that can present an SD card or other media to an a/v output, as used in my first 5.6GHz setup https://m0rvb.uk/index.php/2021/05/22/5-6ghz-experiments/ – this way is a whole lot neater!

Microsoft time

You know the thing… installing stuff on Windows where it counts down, and sometimes up again, then gets to 100% and seems to wait for ages. Our washing machine seems to run on Microsoft time too.

Well, so too it seems does our old MacBook. This is a 2015 or so 13″ MacBook Pro and is no longer used so sits on a shelf. I had it set up as me for testing but wanted to clean it all out so it can be sold. That’s where things went a tad wrong.

For some reason it took ages to even log in – very unusual as these generally boot in seconds. Then, after the reset it would not boot at all. Long story cut…

I set it going doing a restore over the Internet. It began saying it would take 2 hours. Ok. This changed to 12 hours and seemed to come down ok, 11, then 10 each taking about an hour. Then it got down to 9 hours and dropped to 12 minutes! After an hour at 12 minutes left it went to 21 minutes and showed the Apple logo. After another hour it apparently had less than a minute to go. After 2 hours of that I gave up and rebooted it. It went straight back to 29 minutes, then 1 and sat there again. Hmmm.

So I downloaded MacOS onto a USB stick and booted the Mac that way. This fired up and said 4 hours (from an attached USB??) but dropped to a few minutes. I left it running but those few minutes became an hour before it finally finished.

It is not a happy Mac…

FUNcube dongle

I grabbed one of these a few days ago, in part because there are a couple of dashboards for the telemetry of a couple of cubesats, but also because of the RF range vs the cheap SDR dongles I already had (SDRPlay RSP2pro excepted, not cheap and very useful, but also, not a dongle!).

I failed to get anything off of AO-73 on a good pass via waving the Arrow II at the window – almost got it, just insufficient waving / pointing vs the window blinds, wall, shelves…!

But the dongle sometimes dies. I read that this can be because of the USB post so I need to work on that – I have a powered USB hub to try. Anyway, another toy. Maybe it’s time to invest in a reasonable laptop (the MacBook is getting old now and being a 15″ model is a tad unwieldy) and go outdoors.

Update: a powered hub seems to have cured the lock-up as I had the AO-73 telemetry dashboard running from mid-day on 30th to mid-morning on the 31st. It also stands the dongle up rather than it drooping in the socket when horizontal. No luck with AO-73 telemetry though…

Yet another new toy

I acquired a DTX1 DATV transmitter. Although this is rather dated now it is still a useful tx capable of transmitting between 350 and 1350MHz. As a test setup over my usual 6″ or so transmission path here it is on 437MHz transmitting a test card (yes the test card is all wrong but at least has the callsign and it is unlikely to propagate beyond the garden).

The test card is coming from a little device that reads an SD card (and other formats) and sends a selected image. I did try an old digital camera I have which has video output but which refused to do anything, not even when plugged into a TV. Anyway it proves the DTX1 works.

IT(s) all going against me…

What fun. I had a diminutive Lenovo PC running Lubuntu as a server here that did all sorts of things. It ran a web server that hosts my personal home page and gathered various data about central heating temperatures, the weather station, and the temperatures of the various Raspberry Pi systems. It also presented pics from our security cameras and some other stuff. It was tucked away with the network switches, the NVR and the NAS and sat happily doing its thing.

A while ago it had a disk error. The disk is a 2.5″ one, 1TB, and after a decent go at fsck there were no further problems. So I thought no more about it until a reboot after a software update gave it a far greater headache. This time fsck had to repair dozens of things and the server ended up missing the ssh server and numerous other packages. Huh.

So… out with the old Stone i7 PC, on with a fresh Lubuntu and a bit of fiddling loading packages. I’ve always kept a record of everything that gets installed along with any configuration data, copies of crontabs etc. and all user files are backed up to a NAS nightly. So no huge worries and it gave me a chance to rationalise things. But this PC is a whole lot bigger. Fortunately it just fits on the shelf where the Lenovo was. Just. Ok, it hangs 2 inches over the edge, but whose counting.

I suppose I was asking a lot of the Lenovo box and the tiny hard disk which would have been active all the time with everything going on. It had all become overcomplicated with the various Pi systems saving temperature data etc. via NFS and one of the cameras downloading data every second. I’ve ditched NFS this time and simply use ssh to gather temperature data every minute having set up ssh keys.

Here is the poor old beastie having been dragged out of the cupboard into the light… nice little system. I now have two for sale!

Projects…

I seem to have a lot of stalled projects currently. And then I got a kit of parts to build another Minitiouner… so I did that, and still have the same number of stalled projects! Oh well…

The build went as well as the first one I constructed, very easy to put together and test. When connected to the Windows PC the test software all runs fine. This will go into the box I had for the previous Minitiouner the board of which is now inside the (stalled!) Portsdown.

Printing blues

Recently our ageing HP 1022 printer has been misleading paper. There is a solenoid on the righthand side which controls the feed and the associated spring gets weak. I have stretched it three times so far, each time curing the issue for a while. A new spring is needed and, of course although I have a number of these they are all safely stored in the workshop never to be found!

Coupled to the desire to print in colour and on reasonably thick paper – I’m thinking short ranges of ‘special’ QSL cards here – after a bit of research I chose a Xerox printer. Reasonable cost and – although as is typical with these things new toner costs more than the printer – aftermarket toner is affordable.

The printer duly arrived and I set up the networking and it tried a test print. This failed to eject all the way and the printer announced it had a paper jam. Ok… try again. Nope. If I eased the sheet out as it was printing all was fine, but it never managed by itself.

I did the usual things. Swearing at the printer failed to cure the issue as I had hoped. DuckDuckGo’ing for answers threw up other people with the same issue but none of their cures worked for me. But it’s now, so off to the supplier who helpfully told me the contact number for Xerox. I had already registered the printer via Xerox’s own mechanism so all would be fine.

Nope.

After being cut off the first time I spoke to someone who said that although they could see that I had registered the printer their internal systems did not realise and I could not be connected to technical support. I needed to send a proof of purchase, which I did. Some hours later I had a reply that they cannot work with said proof and needed a sales invoice. But it’s a private sale – I mean, who these days buys something via the web using PayPal and expects a sales invoice? You get a receipt for payment, then a message about what you are buying, a despatch note etc. I’ve not seen a sales invoice since I retired.

Anyway, I sent everything I had and have yet to receive a reply that I am allowed to contact their technical people about their printer which arrived faulty. Meanwhile I found the fix on the web using more flowery search terms and the printer now works fine.

Good grief.

Q secondary locator

As I have a NOV that allows the use of Q as a regional secondary locator I actually had an SSB QSO on 40m today – first time using the Q and first time on SSB voice for some time now, for over a year it’s all been FT8. Excellent signal reports both ways (I had wound the wick up to 50W). I really must start talking to people again!

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