Hello all, long time no post. Life has been getting in the way preventing frequent updates to the blog, my apologies, I intend to be more vigilant in posting updates and information about ongoing projects as we move forward.
Some important news, my callsign has changed! I have been tempted for quite some time to request a 1X2 callsign primarily for the prestige and secondly to eliminate the issues with communicating my old callsign via CW. Most times it came back to me as K5DN instead of K5DTE. An easy mistake in the other operators ability to decipher my less than exemplary sending
Along with the callsign change, the address of the blog and my twitter username has changed, both of which I have listed below so you can update any links.
In mid November I sold my Kenwood TS-590 to finance the purchase of an Elecraft KX3 and become a full time QRP operator. One of the advantages of the KX3 is SDR I/Q output, which can be used to drive a panadapter. After some fidling around, I have a configuration that works with the popular NaP3 software and thought I would share the highlights in hope of saving you some effort. This is by no means an exhaustive setup and configuration guide for NaP3, but it should be enough to get you started. Remember you can click on the photos to enlarge them!
For this example I have used the integrated sound card in my PC and have not yet put a ground loop isolator inline which are both opportunities for improvement.
NaP3 Input Soundcard Configuration
We begin by manipulating the input sound card port configuration as shown above. This will vary somewhat from sound card to sound card, but we want to be sure that we are capturing two channels and that the sampling rate is set at the maximum your card supports, which may take some experimentation and is not necessarily the highest sampling rate shown in the drop down.
NaP3 Setup Tab
Here on the setup tab of the NaP3 configuration, we need to select the sound card input we are using and where we would like NaP3 to output decoded audio. Once again we have the option to manipulate the sampling rate, which as you can see is 48k for my sound card. In addition, we need to select “Elecraft K3″ for the Rig Type and specify our CAT parameters. I began this adventure trying to use the “Elecraft KX3″ Rig Type, but I found it to not work very well.
NaP3 IF Tab
Here is the “fun” part, at least it was for me until I started banging my head on the desk. Be sure to set your “Global Offset” to 0 and select “Swap I/Q Channels”. The “IF Frequency Offsets” is where you will have to spend some time playing. The method I used was to tune to WWV in CW mode on the KX3 and determine the differential between the frequency displayed on the KX3 and the panadapter display. I then set the offset to compensate. To configure the offset for USB and LSB modes, I reduced the offset by the amount equal to my CW sidetone. This should get you pretty close, but may still require a little tweaking. Feel free to try my numbers, but I am unsure if they are valid from KX3 to KX3.
If you determine some other method to set the offsets, please let me know as this is the most time consuming portion of the configuration.
NaP3 Spanadapter View
When it is all over, this is similar to what you will end up with, a nice broad view of the spectrum centered on your rigs current frequency!
If you have been following my adventures, specifically with the Etherkit OpenBeacon, you will know that I was investigating a method of triggering WSPR transmissions without leaving it attached to a computer. My requirements were that it be Arduino based, since I am learning about that as well, and have a very stable time source as necessitated by WSPR.
The available options for stable time sources in the Arduino time library include NTP, RTC, and GPS sources, I decided to go a different direction!
While investigating time sources I ran across the WWVBClock Project on Github and thought WWVB would make an interesting time source for this project. The first step was to find a receiver, which are far less common from online shops than I expected, but I was able to find one at my local Wal-Mart in the form of a self setting alarm clock for the reasonable cost of $10.
As soon as I got home I opened it up to ensure that the module was not integrated into the main PCB as that would be of little use and to my delight it was a separate unit as shown below. It is the module on the left hand side of the larger PCB and the antenna is located at the top. A pair of cutters and one minute later, I had a WWVB receiver module.
WWVBTrigger Clock Inside
Locating a datasheet for the module proved a little challenging, but I was able to locate the datasheet for IC used on the module, which is located here.
Having all of the necessary information, it was time to start playing. I breadboarded all of the components as show in the schematic and started hacking apart the code from the WWVB Clock Project.
My initial plan was to use the WWVB receiver and the Arduino time library to set the internal clock with hopes that it would keep accurate time when a WWVB signal wasn’t available. This proved to be a lost cause as it was 4 seconds behind after 90 minutes without a WWVB signal, far beyond the 2 seconds of accuracy required by WSPR.
The second, and current implementation, only transmits when a WWVB signal is available to guarantee accurate timing. The code by default will transmit at 4 minute intervals, but this value is configurable by manipulating the triggerInterval variable. During normal operations the code displays, via the serial port, each time an output signal is sent, enabling you to not only track transmissions, but also the availability of the WWVB signal in your area.
Here are the spots as reported on WSPR for the last 24 hours all of which have been triggered by this project and a short video demonstration of the project.
This project has been a lot of fun and works quite well! A WWVB signal is consistently available here in Central Arkansas, in the Central time zone, from about 7PM through the 10AM, honestly much more than I expected. The code for the project is available on Github, so feel free to use it and experiment!
If you read my Etherkit OpenBeacon post, you will know that I was considering building an external device to trigger it while in WSPR mode. I have managed to put something together which I call the WWVBTrigger. It is Arduino based and uses a WWVB signal to synchronize the time and trigger the OpenBeacon.
Here is a quick video of it in action and in the next few days I will be writing up a detailed post. Enjoy!
I am in the process of learning CW and as many would tell you it is a lifelong process. I decided to get a set of CW paddles that would last just as long, enter the Begali Simplex Professional! I admittedly decided on this set of paddles just as much for looks as the Begali reputation for making very precise paddles and their excellent customer service.
I placed my order on Saturday September 1st, received confirmation from Bruna Begali on Monday the 3rd, and received it on Thursday the 6th. Extraordinary shipping time from Italy you might be thinking, but not quite! As it turns out N2DE, Ulrich Steinberg, stocks a compliment of Begali equipment in the state of New York and luckily for me, he had the paddles I ordered. I received a separate shipment from Bruna containing the aluminum finger pieces that were part of my order and a few extras including a 3.5mm stereo cable and an extra cleaning cloth. To say that I was impressed would be a significant understatement.
Here are a few pictures of the package and their careful packaging.
Begali Outer Box
Begali Inner Box
Begali Box Contents
Out of the box the paddles included black plastic finger pieces which gave it a very subdued and stealthy look which I really enjoyed.
Begali Top View
Begali Side View
After the second package arrived from Bruna, I installed the red finger pieces which gave it just a touch of flash and also improved the feel.
Begali Final Look
I have found that these paddles help me send, in practice that is, much more consistently and provide positive feedback, almost a clicking sensation. Now that I have this wonderful tool, I just need to learn how to use it!
After reading about the interesting capabilities of the Etherkit OpenBeacon I decided it would be an interesting build and ordered one up! The OpenBeacon is a QRP beacon operating in the range of 300mw and is capable of transmitting in multiple modes including CW, QRSS, and WSPR.
It was shipped promptly and I receive it a few short days later. I was very impressed by the packaging and the beautiful blue PCB.
Etherkit OpenBeacon Package
After working on the kit over a few evenings, following the excellent directions on the Etherkit Wiki, it was completed and ready for testing. I found the most difficult task to be winding the toroids and transformer, but that is due to my lack of experience. A more competent kit builder would breeze through the build process.
Completed Etherkit OpenBeacon
To test the kit I installed the appropriate drivers and application and proceeded to configure it with my callsign and locator, a very simple process. A little time is required at this point to align the device which was also rather simple and took maybe five or ten minutes.
Etherkit OpenBeacon Testing
Once I completed the configuration and alignment procedure I connected it to my 30M doublet and to my amazement I was able to see my QRSS signal on W4HBK’s grabber, a system which listens for signals, down in Pensacola, Florida.
I learned very quickly that the recommendations on the Etherkit Wiki in regards to insulating the device to limit temperature fluctuations and improve frequency stability should be followed and placed the OpenBeacon in a polystyrene, aka styrofoam, cooler which greatly improved the frequency stability and made my transmitted QRSS signal look less intoxicated!
W4HBK QRSS Capture
Next came testing the WSPR capabilities of the device. This required a few changes including re-aligning the transmit frequency of the device to the WSPR sub-band, and using the wsprcode binary to generate the data that is transmitted which includes your callsign and locator. Details on this process can be found on the Etherkit Wiki and like the original configuration and alignment shouldn’t take more than five or ten minutes.
The only downside to operating in WSPR mode is that the device must remain attached to a computer as the transmissions must begin on even numbered two minute intervals with +/- two seconds of accuracy. I used a Linux machine running NTP and created a cron job to trigger the transmissions every few minutes.
To my delight I was quickly spotted by other stations around the continental United States and at this point my furthest spot is from France! Not too shabby for a few hundred milliwatts.
Etherkit OpenBeacon WSPR Spots
I enjoyed the build process of the kit, experimenting with different modes, and am considering using an Arduino with a DCF777 receiver as a trigger for WSPR transmissions to remove the computer from the picture. Look for an update on that in the future.
The Softrock Lite II RX, aka Frankenrock, is another kit I chose to build in preparation for building my Elecraft K1. It provided plenty of soldering practice, but not nearly as much toroid winding practice as the Softrock Ensemble II RX kit dished out!
I was able to complete it in two evenings without any trouble and it is working great! Until I gather the components necessary to mount it in an enclosure I will be using test leads with alligator clips to provide connectivity to the antenna and its power source, a standard 9v battery.
It is occasionally online as a grabber for both WSPR and QRSS as I determine the best OS/Software configuration for my needs. I have managed to capture signals from Australia, France, Spain, the Canary Islands, England, and Belgium in the short time it has been active and look forward to what I might see in the future.
Softrock 30M Single Band WSPR Spots
If you are looking for a quick and easy kit to assemble that provides some interesting functionality, be sure to give the Softrock series of kits a look!
After working some stations in the NAQP RTTY contest last weekend and constantly adjusting my filters, I decided it would be nice to be able to adjust the filter bandwidth via a macro in Fldigi.
Fldigi already has this capability utilizing the <FILWID:width> macro statement, but the existing version of the TS-590 RigCat XML file did not have the information necessary to translate this into a command that is sent to the rig.
Last night I spent some time and came up with a modified RigCat xml file capable of controlling the filter bandwidth. The update file can be downloaded from the XML Archives.
Here are two examples:
This macro narrows the filter to 500 and centers the selected signal in the passband of the filter.
This macro completely widens the filter bandwidth and returns to the previous frequency.
Important: You must set the “Sweet Spot” option in the configuration (Misc -> Sweet Spot) to 1500 as that is the center of the passband on the 590.