Fiddling with APRS

I’ve been fiddling recently with trying to receive satellites but without all the going outside and waving yagi antennas around… I’ve heard a few QSOs on DIWATA 2 and there is a very good pass in a day or so where I may be able to get a call in. This is using the Trio TR-9130 as receiver as it has a horizontal dipole connected, and the FTM100DE as transmitter, though so far without success on transmit.

Anyway, I remembered the FTM100 has APRS built in and the ISS often sends and receives this in 145.825 and so I’ve been leaving the radio switched on. Today I noticed it did indeed receive packets from the ISS.

I also downloaded UISS by ON6MU which seems to ‘just work’ – nice that, I downloaded it and ran it and it found the sound card and returned an APRS message on a later ISS pass. Oddly, the FTM100D did not decode that message (the squelch is set to 0). It comes with a module called SoundModem by UZ7HO which seems pretty comprehensive. Another package to play with…

Boxing day

A minor project requires a metal enclosure so I got one off eBay. I have a 5V PSU and three Pi’s to install to keep these all nice and tidy. The enclosure is sized to take the PSU and has ample room for the Pi’s and a fan.

The enclosure arrived and is surprisingly well made for the price. It has plastic surrounds front and back. The front and rear panels are held with screws and the top comes off. There are two metal runners inside to maintain the structure with the top removed. Not a bad little case.

The only odd thing is the description. Apparently the features of the case are ‘surface mounted’, ok I expect this means ‘sat on a desk’, and ‘underground electrical enclosure switch junction box’. Not so sure on that one!

Correcting the panoptic vision

Data retention – those laws requiring providers to retain communications metadata – has come under attack again from the CJEU. After a chain of legislation fell foul to data protection laws over the decades the latest and greatest Investigatory Powers Act is now on very thin ice.

The punchline in Case C‑623/17 was twofold. First, the court determined that “national legislation enabling a State authority to require providers of electronic communications services to forward traffic data and location data to the security and intelligence agencies for the purpose of safeguarding national security” falls under data protection legislation. And second, it found that the legislation precludes “national legislation enabling a State authority to require providers of electronic communications services to carry out the general and indiscriminate transmission of traffic data and location data to the security and intelligence agencies for the purpose of safeguarding national security.”

Mind you, given the government’s actions of late including enacting legislation which is technically illegal, one wonders what difference it will make. Throwing Brexit into the mix may not actually help Them out here because unless changes are made this will greatly affect the UKs ability to transfer personal data as a third country to the EU. Perhaps Schrems, the destroyer of Safe Harbor and Privacy Shield will turn his attention on the UK!

Agriculture Bill

I never expected today to be reading the draft Agriculture Bill but on the 12th it appears that the Commons voted down an amendment by the House of Lords aimed at protecting our food standards with regard to imports. The Lords had amended the Bill by adding the “Requirement for agricultural and food imports to meet domestic standards“ as their amendment 16. The aim of the amendment was to ensure that any future trade agreement cannot be made unless any food supplied to us under such an agreement meets our standards.

It was argued in the Commons that this means that any country supplying food to us “would require other countries to abide by exactly the regulations that we have in this country”. [70] Well, yes. And? The argument continued “We have high standards in this country, of which we are justly proud, and there is no way the Government will reduce those standards.” Ok… but? “It is important that our future trade agreements uphold those high standards.” Yes, you seem to be in agreement then with the Lords amendment.

Then it starts on a slippery slope. The amendment “could create a long list of new conditions that imports under trade agreements would have to meet”. [73] Well, yes, but isn’t that what you’ve been saying anyway?

Here we go. If the amendment is in place then “trading partners would be extremely unlikely to agree to all the potential new requirements”. [73] Now we’re getting to the meat (sorry!) of the issue. The Conservatives really want that chlorinated chicken!

I’m not going to bore you with the whole debate – you can find it in Hansard – but there was some very neat support of the amendment in that it would strengthen our hand in negotiations, allowing us to “get the kind of deal that is good for British farmers, for the environment and for animal welfare.” [79] It was suggested that “[t]he only reason that the Government would resist the enforcement of minimum standards in the Bill is if they wanted to allow themselves the freedom—the wriggle room—to sell out our farmers.” [80]

And that’s what they have done. Amendment 16 was voted down, 332 to 279. Needless to say the Yes (i.e. kill it) voters were nearly all Conservative (327 Conservative, 3 DUP, 1 independent), with 14 Conservatives and everyone else against.

Ref: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2020-10-12/debates/23E1C827-D8C0-481D-9D97-40920456BBB4/AgricultureBill [brackets are column numbers]

QO100 dish alignment experiments

After some fiddling I now have a decent amount of signal coming down from QO100, but also questions. The azimuth was already correct and I had adjusted that to maximum signal strength on a TV channel with a GT Media V8 Finder. But the elevation is numerically wrong, or the markings on the dish are wrong, which is more likely. Fiddling with elevation got the strongest beacon signal at about 26db and 26 degrees marked, but the AMSAT info says it should be around 23 degrees at my QTH. Mind you, for all I know the garage wall is not perfectly vertical! All SSB signals look good now except for one or two that are difficult to hear.

However, having got that far, no adjustment to the position of the POTY in the arm or its skew make any noticeable difference, so I’ve left that one.

Also, when transmitting a tone from SDR Console it actually peaks higher than the beacon so I had to reduce the drive appropriately. An SSB signal test showed very poor audio and no adjustments in SDR Console got it to where it needed to be. Turning the mic gain up in Windows itself cured that and gives me a decent looking envelope when viewing the returned signal in SDR Console.

I just need to force myself to take it all to bits again and sort out the GPSDO input to the Pluto…

ATVo6″

Since I built the Minitiouner I’ve had nothing to test it with except a quick test on the Astra satellite to prove it actually worked. Not any more. I now have a Portsdown ATV transmitter setup thanks to a recent advert for one for sale (saved me having to get all the bits). No PA, no antennas or anything else here yet, but I did at least manage to send a test card from it to the Minitiouner over 23cm and at the grand distance of 6 inches.

It all needs a nice case yet but it’s a good start. This might even persuade me to bung my 23cm yagi on the chimney and see if I can actually receive GB3YT – it’s not too far away but there is a house in the way.

Exams

Scary stuff. The RSGB announced (yesterday I think) that the full licence exam will be available to be booked online from today. I’ve booked for mid-november to give me time to actually learn this stuff… (yeah, I know… probably not that bad though because I have an electronics background so it’s more a matter of making sure I don’t miss anything daft).

QO100 success

Got myself a Heil headset for the laptop as the built-in mic picked up room noise. So, I figured it was time to try a QSO on QO100 even with the floating (frequency wise) Pluto. And – success! I had a short QSO with a German station.

Just waiting for some small signal diodes to arrive before I glue the GPSDO output to the Pluto. There is a modification that involves removing the 40MHz TCXO and connecting an external source but the Leo Bodnar GPSDO output is 3.3V, too much for the chip in the Pluto. The mod involves two diodes in antiparallel to earth, plus a capacitor between the Pluto chip and the diodes, and another between the diodes and GPSDO. Hopefully that will work and the surgery on the Pluto does not consign it to the scrap pile! The GPSDO I have has two outputs, one 25MHz to the LNB, and one 40MHz for the Pluto.

I still need to sort the dish as signal strengths are still below where I expected. I am also concerned at the filter/pre-amp because it does not draw as much current as it is supposed to – it works but I wonder if there is enough drive. It may be perfectly ok but the next step has to be locking the Pluto so it doesn’t wander all over the place.

Someone having issues on QO100

Caught sight of this today. At first I thought it was my kit but the QO100 WebSDR showed the same. It started before 10:29 UTC (the first photo, below was taken at 10:29) to 11:37 UTC (it went on after that and I did not record the end).

10:29 UTC, sounded a bit like a fast data transmission.
10:30 UTC, a short burst of the same followed by a much wider band transmission.
10:31 UTC and something tuning up perhaps? The signal strength plot (no screenshot) looked like a strong carrier and lots of harmonics, kind of like you see when keying a handled near an SDR.
This one definitely sounded like a data transmission. I can’t remember the mode but lots of tones and quite ‘musical’.

To be or not to beta…

The BBC reported today ( https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-54172222 ) that the planned Brexit freight system due to go live by the 1st January 2021 will be a ‘beta’ version. But it’s ok because, as reported by the  BBC the government state that ‘beta’ “is a standard labelling practice for a digital service that is fully operational”.

This is news to me because outside the open source arena, where we always said that everything was ‘always beta’, production, or ‘live’ systems are those which have successfully passed through the various development stages, the last of which being ‘beta’. So, live != beta.

But let’s run with the statement that ‘beta’ is the label assigned to a fully operational digital service. Enter gov.uk – a fully operational digital service. It has a search, and the first hit on ‘beta’ release that when digital services are launched or redesigned in a beta phase “services are continually tested and improved”. It continues “The beta label is displayed on a new service to show it’s being tested – it may not work for everyone” and explains that “Successful beta services eventually become ‘live’ and replace any older services that perform the same task.”

So, by their own claim the Brexit mega car park for trucks scheme will not work for everyone due to it being beta and still under development, rather than it  being live. Will there be a huge ’beta’ sign? After all, you are using the digital services model here for things called beta being fully functional even though your own digital service does not make such a claim.