Category: Ham Radio

Raspberry Pi and PSK31: A work in progress

300px-RaspberryPiI spent some time up at the Voice of America club station working on getting one of my 256MB Raspberry Pi Model B working with fldigi.  The results left something to be desired…

I started with a clean copy of the latest version of Raspbian, loaded onto a brand new 8 GB Class 10 SD card.  Nothing new there.  Things went very smoothly!  My hub, keyboard, mouse and wlan USB adapter worked fine.  I loaded all of the Raspbian updates, and got fldigi to load without a hitch. Things seemed to be going swimmingly.  In Ham Radio, as in life, when things seem to be going too well, disaster is bound to strike, and this was a classic example of that.

I hooked up my Tigertronics SignaLink USB sound card interface, and things started going south.  Apparently adding this was a bit too much for the Pi to power, because the keyboard and mouse started behaving very erratically. This was easily solved by switching to a powered USB hub.

To see if the Pi had recognized the SignaLink, I typed:

$ aplay -l

And sure enough, the USB sound card was listed. Cool Beans!

Launching into fldigi, everything looked as normal – the waterfall was flowing down the bottom of my screen, everything was responding seemingly well.  We turned on the radio, and started to receive signals into the Pi…and, well, got a bunch of gibberish.  Signals appeared OK in the waterfall, but what I received in the text window was…unintelligible.

An hour’s playing around was fruitless.  Changing settings in fldigi to match the Pi’s puny processing power, fiddling with settings on the USB interface to optimize the sound to the Pi, twiddling knobs on the radio to adjust levels, and even overclocking the tiny computer to its limits, all proved futile.  A quick search on the internet showed that I’m not the only one with this issue – apparently the complexity of the calculations involved is just too much for the Raspberry Pi to handle in its current form.

I’m going to keep at it – but in the meantime, if you’ve had any luck with getting your Pi to work with the Amateur digital modes, please let me know!

OS X Field Day / Contest Logger

buystrip-imac-20090420I’m starting to design a Amateur Radio Contest Logging program for Mac OS X.

So, in essence, this is a shout-out to any Amateur Radio Operators out there who use OS X…what features are important in a contest logger.  What features would be on your “nice to have” list?

I definitely will be working on features important for Field Day usage, but what other contests do Mac users participate in?

My intent is for this to be a no-cost, open-source program. Please keep in mind that I will be starting out slowly, then building in more complex features later.

Geeking out the Amateur Radio Way…

Ok, so I admit that last night wasn’t the kind of geeking out that most hams dream of. I didn’t contact a ham in a far-off-place, nor did I participate via HF in a search and rescue operation in the Grand Tetons.

It was fun, though!

N8MIQ (Karl) and I were playing around with the PSK31 digital mode on 2m SSB last night. He lives about 15 miles away. He had his rig set at ONE watt, and I had mine at it’s lowest setting of 5 watts.

We copied each other 100%, the signal floating in on the ether just fine.  Never mind that if we were working FM 2 meters, we likely wouldn’t have been able to hear each other.  I sent him a link to Ham Radio Deluxe and to the Feld Hell Club, and we’ll likely be exploring those (and other!) modes in the very near future.

A radio purchase!

I bought a real ham radio today!  Not the radio, but at least something…

My old (1994 vintage Icom Z-1A) HT was on the fritz, and I’ve been desperately seeking some way to be active…so I got myself a Yaesu FT-2800M 2-meter FM mobile.

$129.95 at R & L Electronics, a decent amount of bells & whistles, and good output power – not a bad deal!

To the moon! (and back again)

So it would seem that my almost seven year-old daughter Jessica is really enjoying Amateur Radio. I just joined a local club, and she’s been attending meetings and events with me. This serves a dual purpose: it eliminates the need for a babysitter, AND it allows me to expose her to my newly rediscovered hobby. This past Monday, she came with me to the West Chester Amateur Radio Association’s August meeting. Knowing that the best defense against a cranky kid is ACTIVITIES, I came loaded for bear. Jessica was carrying a backpack containing a couple of books, a Nintendo DS, gummy worms, the toy from her McDonald’s Happy Meal, and her MP3 player. She was amazingly good, quietly and contentedly sitting there through the entire 90 minute meeting. Afterwards, she wanted to go up to the club hamshack and “play some radio.”

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Rig Redux: Decisions and first purchases…

Yaesu FT-897DAfter much pondering, research, and a hard look at my budget, I have made some decisions about my soon-to-be ham rig!  I have settled on the Yaesu FT-897d as my primary rig.  I think I’m going to be purchasing a G5RV mini antenna (it’s cheap, tuneable, and should get me on multiple bands) for a starter HF antenna.

I have gotten tired of waiting forever to make a purchase, so today I decided to make a small step forward: I bought an auto-tuner designed for the FT-897d! This auto-tuner has great reviews, seems to be able to tune a wet shoestring (not to say that using a wet shoestring will work well!), and is cheaper than the Yaesu-made alternative.  For me – a ham on a budget – this seems to be a great little product!  (I’ll provide reviews when I get on the air finally!)

I’m going to make a visit to R & L Electronics this coming week to check out some other accessories for the rig as it’s currently designed.  Purchasing of the radio itself will take place after my birthday and receipt of birthday funds!