(updated) As I am learning morse, well, in theory anyway, I wanted a decent morse key. I think a straight key will be best but I want something decent and not naff looking or ex-military. I like the look of the Bencher (probably because it’s shiny!) but I have no idea of the feel of any of these keys and looking around for comments shows that everyone likes their own – to be expected of course.
Back in December 2020 I had actually ordered one that gets good reviews but it never came. After three emails to three separate contacts and never getting a reply I turned to PayPal and got a full refund within two days. Two months was long enough to wait for the key to fail to arrive. I suspect the order was messed up by our rather stupid exit from the EU and the resultant complexities… but to not receive any reply, well, that’s just not good customer service.
For a while now I’ve been pondering whether to get a Windows PC. For starters, SDR Console needs it as do other SDR packages. But other than watching them come and go on eBay I never took the plunge. However, as I’ve taken all the electronics out of the workshop due to it always being damp I had a spare Lenovo ThinkCentre PC, one of the very small things. I already use one as the home server but this other one was destined to run a DCC setup for a model railway that is still just a pile of bits.
It ran Ubuntu but when I got it it came with Windows 10. All I had done was swap hard disks, keeping the Windows one just in case I ever needed it. Well…
…it is now in the shack and SDR Console has been installed and all is well. We had a screen lying around which is full HD, a much better display option than the old laptop I had been using. And with it being a fresh Windows 10 it’s not (yet!) cluttered up.
One strange thing though. I set up SDR Console just as I had on the laptop along with the recommended offsets etc. But on the laptop I had to adjust the offsets to set it correct, e.g. for the lower beacon to actually appear where it should. But now, with the published offsets it is in the right place with no further adjustment. Another oddity is that when I boot this PC and run SDR Console up having shut it down with the SDR receiving the lower beacon, it comes right back. On the laptop it was always somewhat off and would drift. Not sure how that happens given it’s all in the digital domain. I must have set something up odd on the laptop, but no idea what. Anyway, it works.
The Lenovo only has the one set of audio jacks, those on the front. And only 4 USBs, two at the back in use for the mouse and keyboard. In order to get audio into the mixer I will need to use a USB sound card, not an issue except that will need to plug in the front and I like to keep cables out of the way. Maybe it’s time for another wireless keyboard and mouse, after all the current keyboard does rather dwarf the tiny PC!
After a long delay (other work, life getting in the way, general laziness etc) I ran some more tests on the Pibox. With the fans disconnected (actually, one disconnected itself!) and the case assembled I’ve been running the box to see how bad the temperatures get. With two of the three Pi cards operating, and all 3 powered up, pi-star, which is on top due to the DVMEGA hat settles at 60 degrees C, and the utility Pi which has a Discone attached settles at 50. So not actually bad. I think what I will do is go back to Plan C or whatever it was and run the fans via a transistor hanging off the GPIO port of one of the cards so the fan comes on if it is getting a bit steamy. For now, at least it means I can run pi-star 24/7 again, especially as I had to upgrade it by hand as it has missed a lot of the overnight updates.
And it saves me having to run mains power into the loft.
I managed a couple of rather poor grabs from the ISS SSTV event of the 28th and 29th January. Nothing to write home about, my setup is not suitable being simply a loft mounted colinear. However, this one fragment was interesting because when received the ISS was over the middle of Poland.
Not too bad for around 800 miles or so. In fact, I received another fragment after this…
And two further grabs on the 29th, the first over the English channel and the second as it passed over Poland.
It’s snowing fairly heavily here today and I wondered what effect, if any this would have on my QO100 reception. Very little it seems. There is no loss of signal strength when viewing the lower beacon, but the noise floor has raised a little.
There’s not a great deal on the dish but then it’s pretty much vertical. There is a wedge of snow at the bottom of the POTY rain cover.
Clearing the snow off made no noticeable difference to the signal. It’s snowing less now and still nothing noticeable. I need to compare with a clear sky… which we had the next morning. There is actually very little difference, the noise floor appears better but it’s very hard to say by how much and indeed if this is even real. The signal strength appears very slightly better. Without proper measuring methods it seems the snow and ice made hardly any difference.
A combination of things finally came together. I’ve never played with digital SSTV before, plus I had some time to fiddle about and wanted to see if I could decode some of the digital stuff from QO100. Finally, I received a couple of nice digital pictures of the Dakar rally from F6HA, neatly incorporating my previous main love of motorsport! My setup is far from perfect (read, a series of accidentally cobbled together bits): Windows 10 laptop running the excellent SDR Console and connected to my QO100 transceiver via Ethernet, audio mixer feeding from the laptop and to the Linux PC, and QSSTV on the Linux PC. There is a lot of noise in my QO100 setup that I need to figure out because it really messes up analogue SSTV and seems to have made these digital modes even more fiddly. This is probably not helped by the audio running round the shack. In an ideal world I’d have a decent Windows PC with two screens and a virtual cable. That needs to wait until we sort out what is to happen with an older PC desktop here as if it is to be replaced I will nab it and repurpose it as the shack PC, dual-booting Windows and Linux.
Next step will be to try and transmit, though I will start with analogue SSTV. And this will definitely wait until I get a Windows desktop because running transmit audio around the desk will make a further mess. KISS rules here.
Two good captures early this morning, again on the FTM100DE and its co-linear. These are pictures 12 (received at 04:30 UTC) and 1 (04:47 UTC) of the series:
There was another pass just now and I wanted to try the FT450D plus its 144/28 transverter and loft mounted horizontal dipole. A bit disappointing but the pass was a lot further south and the pic was received with the ISS still over the Atlantic. Anyway, this is number 9 of the series, received at 09:33 UTC:
I am rather late for this event which runs from the 24th to 31st December 2020. Due to all manner of things, Christmas included, I only managed to have a go at receiving the images on the night of the 28th. The ISS pass was in the early hours so I just left things running. Among several partial images including identifiable bits of 3 of the 12 images I found this one:
Not too bad for a co-linear mounted inside the loft with a snow covered roof. I actually saw another image arriving from the ISS while approaching Spain at around 10:25 on the 29th.
Typically, in my rush last night to set everything up I forgot to tick the ‘Auto slant’ setting in QSSTV…
The PiBox is almost completed. It’s taken far too long due to all sorts of silly things like having to get fans because a dry run indicated the poor little boards were getting a bit hot, having to get bolts for the fans because I had none long enough, and having to get a connector for the 1-wire (actually 3 wires!) lead from the central heating sensors.
So, there is is. Two fans on the left, 5V PSU bottom right, gigabit Ethernet switch above that, then the Pi’s: top is the PiStar with the DVMega board which has coax to the rear panel and then a dummy load, middle is the ASD-B and central heating monitor Pi, and the bottom is a general purpose one with various bits on such as rtl_tcp. The lower two boards have USB-A sockets on the rear of the case for the two SDR sticks, one for the ADS-B antenna and one to attach to a Discone for general use.
But there is an issue. I had originally intended this to sit in the shack but those fans are just too annoying. Not loud, but constant. I suspect the box will end up in the loft. Or maybe a re-think. I may fiddle with running the fans from one (or two) of the Pi’s and set up some temperature control to turn them on and off. It may even be that I am rather too ‘sensitive’ to the temperature range as others seem happy running their boards a lot hotter than I do mine.