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 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.

QO100 sort-of success

Overcast today so I made time to try to align the dish a little better. One long Ethernet cable got the laptop under the dish and with SDR Console looking at the beacon I did manage to peak it a bit but I think I can do better yet. Oddly, no amount of moving the POTY in or out or skewing it made any noticeable difference. I did note however that the rain cover I made only makes a tiny bit of difference. The sky is a little overcast today so maybe signals are down because of the cloud cover.

Anyway, I made a test CQ call and could hear my voice coming via the WebSDR nicely, so I made a couple of CQ calls but got no reply. I think I chased everyone away because after this there was very little activity. So, at least I know I am getting out and so a success at least in part.

One thing though, the tuning is going to take some getting used to yet. The basic frequency conversion between the 10GHz band, the 2.4GHz transmit and 739MHz receive is 10GHz – 9750 = 739MHz rx frequency, and 10GHz – 8089.5 = 2.4GHz tx frequency. With my setup the receive frequency needed for SDR Console to get the same audio tone as found via the WebSDR is 6.8kHz higher but the transmit frequency is 21.8kHz higher. These offsets are repeatable in that if I chose a signal on the WebSDR I can reliably find it via the Pluto if I use the offset.

So, maybe a bit more dish alignment but also I do still need to sort out the frequency lock for the Pluto.

Cookie consent box strangeness

Just recently I noticed that Google has changed the way the cookie consent reminder works. In the past it used to count down and then attempt to force you into the consent process but clearing the cookies reset this. Now there is no way past. I’ve not used Google for searches for some time now but Google Maps is handy sometimes. The iPhone app does not do this so presumably that has some other consent mechanism.

Dilbert, which I always visit daily has also started now to throw up a consent screen that one cannot get past. I wonder if these are both as a result of Schrems II. I have not checked what Google set but the Dilbert website sets 17 cookies while asking for consent to set cookies. As I use a cookie cruncher on the Mac that deletes cookies that I have not flagged as wanted every minute this is a minor issue and I always now clear cookies before visiting other websites to avoid them tracking me across sites.

On the iPhone I have all cookies blocked and so clicking on any ‘accept’ button makes no difference but does usually get past the screens. Google is interesting though because here, Google pops up the consent screen and it them immediately vanishes. I expect that will be ‘fixed’ soon though.

One small step…

(updated) I finally had all the bits in one place to sort out the power supplies for my QO100 box. I managed to assemble the ‘filtered S-band driver/amp’ and the ‘QO100 5W amp’ kits from AMSAT UK and learned a lot about SMDs like (a) I don’t like them (!) and (b) I find it far easier, being short sighted to just look up close than use magnifiers. Anyway, the kits both went together as planned and passed the basic test relating to current draw so I was hopeful that I had actually not managed to mess them up. I also had much fun assembling the LMR600 coax with memories of central heating installation!

Finally, with a 12V PSU, a 12V to 5V module and as 12V to 24V module from eBay and tie wraps to hold stuff in place I managed to get volts where needed and gingerly turned it all on. The Pluto found the Ethernet, the GPSDO lit up and SDR Console found QO100. Nothing odd in that because it was all working before but is now assembled into a box.

On the left (the door) are the two voltage converters and the GPSDO, and on the right the Pluto (LHS), the bias tee (central) and the 2.4Ghz amp (RHS) with the driver/amp above. The most awkward bit is the USB to Ethernet adapter. The LNB input, 25MHz output and the GPSDO input cables enter from underneath and go out to the dish via the white conduit, and the LMR600 enters through the side into a short piece of LMR195. There is a 12V PSU mounted on the outside of the door in a separate box.

But does the transmit side work? That’s all new. With a Windows laptop running SDR Console and the MacBook looking at the WebSDR both sitting on the freezer in the garage (so I could see if the QO100 box caught fire!!) I managed two very short test transmissions. It works! The audio was a bit naff but that is probably down to me not yet familiarising myself with SDR Console and using the mic in the laptop.

So, after ages and ages of getting bits together and everything else getting in the way it’s almost done. Signals are still down compared to other, more successful setups out there but at least now it seems all I need do is properly align the dish and sort the audio side out. And tidy the wiring. Oh yes, and sort out the GPSDO locking for the Pluto.

4m FT8, a first for me

Had my first 70MHz FT8 QSO today, and I think the third anything on 4m because there’s little activity here on FM and I only just got the transverter. There was a surprising spot at -23db and 1,443km to Poland but then an actual QSO with a Welsh station at 126km. So the converted ‘FM radio’ dipole in the loft works, as does the transverter.

D’oh!

Having a stupid morning. I wanted to check the output from my new transverter off air so wired up the RSP2 and CubicSDR on the Mac. I did all this yesterday when I first installed the transverter but wanted to check again now I’ve been stuffing FT8 out of it for a while.

Good peak, nicely on frequency. No modulation! Ah. Ok, check everything. No change. Try QSYing and SSB. No modulation. Power off and on. Nope. Shout at the rig. No change.

Set CubicSDR to SSB… ugh! All fine of course, it defaulted to FM… as it did yesterday but today I forgot!

New toy

I have an Anyone AT588 4m set but currently only a horizontal dipole in the loft made out of an old FM radio dipole. But I did want to go multimode, preferably without the expense of an IC7300. Anyway, I set my sights on a Spectrum Communications TRC4-10sL transverter and one turned up on eBay.

It slotted in neatly between the FT450D and the YT1200 and with an AB antenna switch (I don’t like these things but hey) it’s all wired up. I am hoping for at least some FT8 activity but nothing yet.

WSJT-X has a configuration where you enter an offset for given frequencies so for 70Mhz this is -42 (MHz), giving 28MHz = 70MHz, so WSJT-X sets the rig correctly.

Now I just need to ensure I always set things up correctly, i.e. switch to B, transporter on, rig turned down to 5W. I usually run 30W which is the maximum the YT1200 will take in data mode. I can see me leaving the rig at 5W and wondering why no-one answers, but then again I may surprise myself at how far 5W will go – after all I managed the Falkland Islands and Cuba on a PSK mode on 10W before I passed the intermediate. But I suspect a large print crib sheet will be appearing next to the rig shortly because 30W into the transverter would be a very bad idea!

Now I want one for 2m! Oh and the 588 will go in the car at some stage – I really must get mobile.

Edit: no reception yet on FT8 or otherwise, but 4m was always a bit dead around here. But I was spotted on FT8 via pskreporter on the 27th at 90km N and +3db and on the 28th 120km SE and -17db, both by G stations, and on the 29th 126km SW and -19db by a GW. Both stations look to have decent antenna arrays but still not too bad for my bit of wet string here. Of course, with said bit of wet string they may well have replied but not been picked up here, evidenced by a couple of unlikely decodes at -24.